Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
A/N: Because so many of you have been asking when Hermione will be more involved.
Character Development Arcs & Outline:
Introduction of all themes and conflicts
Ron Weasley-Starting out on his own
Harry Potter-The Nox Wrack Mission [Current]
Hermione Granger- The Centaur Trip [Coming Next]
The Weasley Family- Set during the Death Eater Trials & The Werewolf Initiative
The Final Part: Cannot Say without giving away spoilers, but all the pieces tie together.
Hope this answers more questions than it brings up
Chapter 18: Tattoos
Ron slipped out of Grimmauld place while Harry and Hermione were sleeping. He'd promised Tonks and Keegan a means of getting in and he only had about eight hours to do so. Luckily Ron where he needed to go, Leif snuggled in his front pocket.
Manchester had few wizards. It was considered muggle territory, and no one had ever really settled out there. It was too far away from the more magically inclined lands. Which is why Ron was taking the muggle train. He'd never seen Manchester and so didn't have the option of apparating to the place. No ability to picture a place in your mind meant a guaranteed splinching and Ron had suffered more than his fair share in one life time, thank you very much.
Despite it being one in the morning when he arrived, the door opened instantly. A stocky shadow opened the door, an aura of humor and hard lines twisting about in wild delight. Ron grinned, knowing who it was before they ever opened their mouths.
"Well aren't you a handsome fella… where'd you put the ugly one?" Jane Putman demanded, dragging him into a bear hug.
"Locked up in a glamor like the boggart it is," Ron laughed. "Odin in?"
"Passed out like a worn out pup on my bed, drooling all over my favorite pillow."
"Wake able?" Ron asked.
The woman made a sound in her throat that could have been either agreement or denial.
"Only got back a few hours ago, so who knows what he'd been up to," Jane muttered. She dragged him into the house, arm locked around his own, acting as a half-hazard like guide for him up the stairs.
They opened the door and Ron blinked at a giant shield around one corner of the room, surrounding a familiar shadow figure. The magic flowed in layers, snatching something invisible in the air. Ron's staff hit the floor and Ron watched in fascination as a ripple spread across the barrier before that invisible object was once more snatched up.
"Is this a sound blocker?" Ron asked.
"Is what a sound blocker?"
"Oh, right, I meant did he cast a sound barrier around himself to sleep?"
"HEY! DUMBASS! DID YOU CAST A SOUND BARRIER!"
Ron flinched, glaring at the beta, but Odin didn't stir one bit.
"Suppose he must have, eh?" Ron could hear the smirk in her voice. He felt Jane move away from him, no doubt going to shake Odin awake, but Ron grabbed her arm, indicating for her to hold on. She shrugged and stood back, a sly grin forming on her face.
"You're bad for his heart," Ron grinned.
"You're bad for my sexual tension," she replied, voice sly, he felt her press her boobs against his back.
"Stop that," Ron snickered.
"Said no man ever."
But she removed herself, sighing in annoyance. Ron turned back to the magical barrier, pulling out his wand and eyeing the way the spell worked, almost like a dream catcher. The lines of magic weaving across one another like string. He'd always thought that spells used to block magic worked like shields, but this spell work was absorbing the sounds rather than bouncing them back. That meant that rather than crack like a shield, it needed to collapse in on itself in order to break.
Ron tugged at the magic with his wand, but it only pulled back like a fishing net. Unlike a defensive barrier, Ron didn't need to take down the whole thing. He only needed one small opening for sound to get through. He slowly moved the tip of his wand in circle, allowing it to form a burning hot magic, before focusing in on one of the small openings. The single spot shuddered and contorted, but held.
He changed tactics. Moving his wand rapidly from side to side, the tip of his wand cooling as he formed cutting magic instead. He jabbed at the net like magic and watched in satisfaction as it instantly snapped the line. Ron grinned in satisfaction.
"Your ability at non-verbal magic is ridiculous," He heard Jane mutter.
Ron hurriedly put a finger to his lips. Shushing her. He cleared his throat as quietly as possible and said in his best impersonation of Miss. Hufflepuff:
"Lying about at this hour!"
Odin Sage popped up like a deranged daisy, arm coming out in front of him holding a none existent wand.
"I weren't doin' no such thing!" He cried out.
Ron and Jane roared with laughter. He heard the werewolf leap from the bed, feet hitting the floor, the soft thud of pillows slipping onto wood. The shadow figure stalked over to them and Ron straightened his face and stood straight, fighting a grin.
"You come here in the middle of the night and raise me from the dead after a long hard day's work, you better have a good excuse."
"I need a tattoo."
"That's what I'm talking about!" Jane roared in approval, clapping him hard on the back.
"I need a Nox Merchant Tattoo."
"What?" Odin hissed.
"Tonks asked me to get a team of Aurors in."
"That's not what I'm talking about," Jane turned mulish. "How about a nice boggart on your arse or a fire fairy on your neck for Leif to glare at?"
" 'Ello Leif, didn't see you inside that pocket," Jane teased.
"Giving you a tattoo would compromise our own operations," Odin ignored his Beta's muttering. "Unless you can promise me it will be a quiet operation…"
"In and out, just information gathering," Ron promised. "They're looking for someone specific. Besides, I can get the scope on the higher levels while I'm there. Get the Quaffle and the Snitch, sort of speak."
"Doesn't really seem as if you can do much sightseeing nowadays," Odin pointed out. The Shadow figure did something directly in front of him, Ron guessed to point out his less than stellar sight.
"More important than seeing the merchants and trade, I'll be able to see the magic," Ron told them. "I've been experimenting with different spells and the different wards in Parse Terrae for the last few months. I can see what sort of barriers and wards they have about the place and try to find a means of breaking them. Bit useful, for what your trying to do."
Odin grumbled, and Ron knew he'd won his argument.
"I'll do this for you, but only if you let me give you a real tattoo." Odin's voice had turned savage at the end, Ron groaned as he realized he wasn't getting out of it.
"Only if we take care of business first," he unwillingly promised.
The tattoo on his left wrist stating he was a black-market dealer was just another scar on his body. He grimaced, looking at it, the Lestrange's crest on his skin an odd itch he wanted to tear at. The incantation was inside the ink, making the ghastly visage fully visible to him.
"We killed six Deaths to get our hands on the incantation for that," Odin growled, stepping away. "I don't need to tell you to use caution and to not waste it."
It was wrapped quickly. A salve dabbed on and the bandage tightened. Odin had added an aging spell while he worked so he knew that tattoo would look as if it had been on there for years within a few hours.
"Have you thought about what you want?" Odin asked quietly. He could hear the man touching up the tattoo applications.
Ron leaned back against the living room's couch. There was very little magic in the household. Not like average wizarding families, anyways. Just a touch here and there. He thought back to another time. Another place. Of a light.
Ever since Ron had his sight ripped from him by Voldemort, he'd lived in a world of darkness. Months into his dark imprisonment, when he and Remus had been taken to Bristol for execution, there was a moment… the dark lord's voice taunting him, the feel of Bellatrix Lestrange's grip on his arm and Rabastan Lestrange at his back, when he saw a glimpse of light.
Then he was tumbling forward. His feet hitting air. Plummeting downwards faster and faster, the air whipping passed him too fast to take in a breath. Hitting the water below had not been a soft penetration of body gliding beneath the surface, instead it was like falling off the moving staircase at Hogwarts and slamming into the marble floor. Ice swallowed him. His body stiffening ramrod straight from the cold.
He took a breath.
Water leaped into his throat. He was drowning. He was dying. He'd tried to reached forward, to swim, but his arms were tied securely behind him. His foot ached, his stub felt numb. And it wasn't so bad.
He stopped flailing. His lungs burned and it was the only awareness he had. It was too cold and too dark. He felt the tiny jerks of his body seizing, lungs failing to take in oxygen, water flooding the lungs.
And it wasn't so bad.
Not compared to everything else. He blinked into darkness, feeling the ice beginning to freeze over him, incasing him in a prison of eternal darkness and cold. Huh. There it was again. A light. Maybe the light.
For a single moment, Ron looked upon the full figure before him and recognized it for what it truly was, and then that moment was over. The light hit the water and then it hit him. Suddenly Ron wasn't cold. He was hot. He was burning alive. There was fire along his skin and inside his chest and then the world exploded.
The ropes around his arms burned to ash and with a rush of power not his own, Ron found himself clawing through the quickly melting ice to the surface. One moment he was in the center of a lake coated heavily with magic and the next he was on the shore. His eyes blown wide as he took in the magic surrounding him, illuminating both the lake and the surrounding area.
Water spewed from his mouth, shaking and burning, Ron turned wildly on his knees, taking in the sight of the lake and the cliff and the trees. Their visages wild greens of life and sparking daggers of death. Ron could see! Months in the darkness and he could see! He twisted until he was on his backside, staring at everything.
It took a few long moments to realize the ugly truth. He blinked at the pitch black sky and the large chunks of scenario invisible to his eyes. He looked down at his hands, but he could not see them. Instead there was shadow with black lines and fire running along an arm like shape. He could see something, but what in Merlin's name was it?
And then he came back to himself and the situation.
"Remus!" Ron screamed.
He crawled towards the ice again. There was no trace of where Ron had entered the lake. He slid across completely frozen over water. The dagger like layer digging into his legs, as if they wanted to take him underneath.
He slammed his fists into the ice, eyes wildly searching the frozen surface for his friend, but it did not crack. There was no sound. Even his own echo was strangely silent in this place. He whirled around, looking for the light he'd seen only moments before hand.
"FAWKES! FAWKES, PLEASE, SAVE REMUS! FAWKES!"
The phoenix was no where though. Ron was alone. For whatever reason the bird had chosen to save Ron and then disappear. He had chosen Ronald Weasley over Remus Lupin. The phoenix had let Remus die beneath the lake and had abandoned Ron to live on top of it.
"Please. Please…" He whispered.
No one responded.
Ron had been left alone. Fixed in a way. Though he wasn't willing to admit it had been Fawkes who was the light. Because it meant that Fawkes had abandoned Remus in favor of him. It meant that the bird, the inspiration for the Order of the Phoenix had partially healed Ron before disappearing.
And Ron was left with a sick sort of feeling. That the bird had died, a final death, in that ice. That it had given its life force to drag Ron not just from the abyss of eternal ice, but from the madness haunting his mind at having his soul ripped in two. Ron wasn't sure how it was possible, for him to be brought back from that, or for Fawkes to die.
Even now he could feel a small burning warmth in his chest. As if the phoenix had carved itself a place behind his ribs and had settled there. Periodically burning to ash and unfurling in a twisted cycle inside of him. Warring constantly with the darkness that had tried to murder him inside the cells.
He didn't deserve such sacrifice.
"Lil' Spitfire?" Odin pushed at his knee. "You with me?"
Ron pressed his lips together before nodding slowly.
"A phoenix," Ron said finally. "A phoenix fighting against a dark circle around it."
"That's very specific."
The outside should reflect the inside."
"Your light and darkness?"
"Not just mine."
A phoenix and the touch of Voldemort.
He did not say those things out loud though. Because if he spoke about his concerns and fears out loud, then it made them real. Besides, it wasn't as if an actual phoenix were inside of his chest. Just its magic. And Ron had been half mad when he'd been tossed off that clip. He doubted his ability to tell his hands from his feet by that point. The idea that Fawkes had traveled so far and done so much for him… was unlikely. The delusions of an unintentional traitor grasping onto hope.
Because Fawkes had represented goodness and if a creature of life and death saw Ron as something worth saving then maybe there was still something worth salvaging. So he let Odin work his magic along his back. Creating a permanent symbol to all the turmoil and horror swirling in his chest. And maybe… if it were all true. Then Ron wouldn't just be salvaging his soul when he destroyed his Hocrux.
Maybe he would be freeing Fawkes too.
Ron never thought he'd be the type of person that had connections, never mind someone who could haggle his way through the underbelly of the wizarding world's most notorious criminals, yet here he was. Over the last six months he'd been himself among the rowdy inhabitants of Parse Terrae. A little too blunt, a little too harsh, with a swig of wit and a dash of hopeless.
He fit right in.
A lot more magical folk had taken to Ron than he'd ever imagined. It had taken only a little wheedling before he found himself in a dark shop a few towns over and with the name of a reference outside of Ben who people trusted. Ron tapped his staff on the floor of the shop, allowing a large couple to pass him by, catching whiff of something foul. Ron watched one of them closely, their magical aura possessing a brown murkiness to it that was attacking a separate pure purple aura.
"A terminal curse," a gruff, deep voice answered.
Ron blinked at the grey like magical aura, a personality like a summer storm in the middle of a dry heat, both relieving and suffocating in its humidity. He stood, holding out his hand in her general direction. Rough, calloused fingers took it.
"Brandy?" Ron clarified.
"This would be a tad awkward if I wasn't."
The grey shadow turned and Ron caught whiff of overly powerful perfume unsuccessfully masking body odor. Heat beat at the shops inside's in waves and Ron had to marvel at how the woman could stand it, or what she sold, exactly, that caused it. He glanced around but found most of the shop hidden from his sight. Not much magic being employed then.
"What do ya need?" Brandy called. Her voice suggested she took to the pipe more often than not and hadn't bothered with the periodic healer appointments that were required of such a habit. Or, more likely, was on too many wanted posters to be able to go to a healer.
"Messis," Ron answered, following as quickly as he could behind her. Metal slid into metal ahead of him. Ron tilted his head to try to gauge the sound better. Something large lifted from below, he could hear it moving from floor to floor. An elevator? A shaft?
It slid into place in front of them and as it did so, Ron saw the outline of a door appear. Powered by magic then. He marched in after her and was thrown off when everything around him began to drop.
He grabbed for the railings, but found there were none, and cursed as he braced against the corners. Brandy laughed at him. Ron sent her a glare.
"And what will you do that will be worth my wild?"
"You told your sister that you're in desperate need of Hydroponic leaves," Ron said casually. He pulled out a large jar, full to the brim with floating, magical coated leaves. He heard Brandy's breath hitch the smallest bit. Felt her fingers apply pressure to the glass he was holding out.
"Bloody brilliant. How'd you get ahold of these? There only grown in Nepal."
"If I gave you my sources then they'd soon become yours, wouldn't they?"
She huffed, but made a noise in her throat that was agreement.
"How much do you need?"
"One batch and the jars yours."
Today was the day.
Infiltrating Nox Wrack had been the talk of the department for weeks. This break in the case would help take down not just Elone, but a huge chunk of the black-market network. Today was information gathering for the team of four. About stealth rather than force.
It wasn't long before Harry noticed that Keegan had brought a fifth set of clothing, one which he was giving to Ron, and Ron was getting into them. His practically blind best friend was getting into a disguise that would allow them to sneak into one of the most notoriously dangerous black markets Great Britain had to offer.
"What do you think you're doing?" Harry hissed.
Ron adjusted his shirt, strapping on the quick draw wand holster to his arm before pulling the sleeve down. Ron glanced in his general direction, his eyes not quite focusing on his form before looking away.
Ron was very good at hiding how badly damaged his vision was. Even now that Harry knew, it was difficult to keep in mind, he had to actively remind himself that Ron couldn't see him. The more he paid attention to this fact, the more confused he became.
"This is work for Aurors," Harry pressed, emphasizing his last word. "In case you've forgotten, you're a civilian."
"And how exactly do you think a bunch of Aurors," Ron mocked without pause, are going to get into the black market?" Ron asked, he gestured at the lot of them, as if he could see them. "By your dashing good looks and charm?"
"Keegan!" Harry snapped, gesturing to Ron. "What is this?"
"Tonks garnered Ron a badge of sorts: civilian liaison to the Auror Department. As long as one of us is with him for the duration of the mission, he is able to come on missions with us," Keegan told him.
"Are you out of your mind?"
"Quite within it, thanks, Potter. Ronald Weasley has a set of skills and contacts geared towards infiltration and espionage missions. He may not be trained in the law, but he is in the underworld and that's exactly what we need right now."
"Infiltration and espionage? Have you met him?!" Harry growled angrily. "He's using a walking stick for Merlin's sake!"
"Staff," Ron muttered mulishly.
"He has a horrible limp! He can't run if its needed. You're dragging him into danger he can't escape!"
"I've escaped worse with less," Ron defended himself.
"What is he going to do if the mission goes south? Rely on the fairy?"
"Oi! Stop talking about me as if I'm not here, you four-eyed midget!"
"He's going," Keegan said firmly. "The only question is, are you?"
Harry glared mutinously about him. Ferris and Aiden were watching the three of them as if it were a quidditch game. It was probably more words from Harry than they'd heard in the last six months.
Ron tapped his glamour charm. His features contorting into a seemingly different person. Long, black hair, and a nose much smaller on his face. A scar appeared over his right eye, as if someone had slashed straight through it. All in all. It was a few changes but just enough to make Ron look completely different.
"Why aren't you having Polyjuice like the rest of us?" Harry questioned.
Ron held up his wrist where a bandage lay.
"I pulled some strings with a feral beast who sleeps naked, you should thank you. Bare witnessing such an atrocity has scarred me for life."
"You got the merchant mark then?" Aiden called, looking impressed.
"And it never comes off. I'll have to cover it with a tattoo or something," Ron sighed, dragging his sleeves down to cover the bandages.
'I'm sure Hermione would love that,' Harry thought. Hermione had hung on to his every word these last few days, listening as he spoke of Ron. He'd stroked her hair as they sat on the couch, her head against his shoulder, Kreacher popping in and out, adding far too many longs to the fire and magically reheating them when the wood threatened to suffocate the flames. When Harry had mentioned that they wouldn't be there all night, the response was short and clipped.
"But I will, Mr. Potter, and Kreacher does not like cold floors on bare feet."
He really couldn't argue with that. He'd considered offering the house elf shoes but was pretty sure the ancient creature would die of a fear induced heart attack. He already dealt with the angry kitchen messes left behind after Hermione insisted on offering Kreature wages.
Hermione would break any day now. She'd already begun collecting every clip that so much as mentioned Ron's name and had it compiling on the living room wall. Good. Bad. Or otherwise. Even Harry's aware ceremonies didn't make it on that wall. She seemed to be holding out for Ron's birthday, but Harry suspected the wait was driving her mental.
"Alright," Keegan called, bringing the attention back to himself. "This is a strong batch of Polyjuice potions. We'll have three hours, tops, to gather information on the security and length of Nox Wrack. This is a stealth mission into a black market so remember, no matter what you see, illegal or horrible, leave it be. A premature, attack on Nox Wrack is not only reckless and suicidal, it will also lose us the opportunity to do any good. Those who run black markets have back up plans upon black up plans for relocation and dismantling of current operations. If we blow our covers, Nox Wrack will no longer exist by this time tomorrow."
Keegan nodded, looking each of his Aurors in the eye.
"Down the hatch then."
Harry knocked back his potion, seeing Ron removing the bandage out of the corner of his eye, glaring down at the tattoo there. Harry didn't have much time to ponder the sight though because his body was contorting. Lengthening and broadening until he was someone much bigger. Harry groaned as his bones creaked under the treatment.
"Right," Ron muttered, he tugged badges out of pocket, simple white buttons that looked like nothing special. He clipped one on to Harry's larger Polyjuice frame before doing the same to the others. "These are just for me. I'm never gonna remember your new faces. These will tell me that your part of the team I'm on."
'Said the blind man?'
There had to be something else to all of this. Ron seemed to be able to see some things, but not others. It was truly the strangest sort of blindness Harry had ever encountered and he knew that it was probably something simple he was missing.
'You could just ask him,' his mind told him reasonably. Now wasn't the time though. They were seconds away from port keying to Numberland to infiltrate a black market. 'Sounds like a conversation that should definitely be had before marching into a dangerous mission.'
He dismissed his common sense.
"Ron will be sticking with me for the duration of the mission," Keegan called.
Harry's head whipped up. Technically, he was aware he would be working with Aiden and Ferris on this mission, but he hadn't considered that it meant he wouldn't be partnering with Ron. Harry looked over at Ron, gesturing at something unseen. Leif appeared, quickly zooming into his pocket and securing herself.
Keegan had pulled out his wand and was gesturing to a small disk with five handles attached to it.
"On three, grab the port key. One…"
"Wait," Harry called, wondering if Ron was even able to see the contraption.
This was such a terrible idea.
Harry grabbed his ring.