QLFC, round 9 - Arrows CHASER 1: Gloves: Write about a witch or wizard protecting someone. Prompts: (song) Hall of Fame - The Script, (emotion) disappointment, (colour) lime green
A/N A block is a defensive tactic in chess in which a piece protects the other from being captured, or they protect each other.
~Walking a step behind~
One's hands, Ron couldn't but notice with a cringe as he reached for a chicken leg, were always right in front of them whether they ate or wrote or clasped their best friend's shoulder.
He studied his own — big, freckled, and a bit callused, but still smooth — then glanced at Harry who was putting some lime green sauce on his chicken with his left hand, the other hidden under the table like it had always been in the last few days.
That could mean only one thing, and that realization made Ron shift uncomfortably in his seat and sigh.
Suddenly, Harry's bright eyes were on his own, searching for something.
"I'm just —"
"Don't," Harry said through gritted teeth, his left hand so tense and rigid that its bones could be seen. "Please?"
Ron reached under the table and squeezed Harry's right hand, trying to push back the guilty that blossomed in his chest upon feeling the scar on the back of it. The familiar and unpleasant sense of unease that had been twisting his stomach, making him almost nauseous, didn't leave him, though. It hadn't for some months now, but ignoring it was easier when he knew Harry was safe — well, safer.
There had always been something incredibly wrong and excruciating in seeing Harry suffering alone, without Ron by his side, suffering with him. Or instead of him.
It was not that Ron enjoyed being hurt in any way, but by playing chess, he had also learned that some battles were not meant to be fought alone; any important piece — such as Harry — needed to be protected through a block. And, in all modesty, Ron was a master of those; no piece of his had ever been left open to attack.
Nor would Harry.
Not when Ron was there and could protect his friend. After all, he thought as he looked down, his hands were not as important as Harry's; he was not as important as Harry — his friends and family would always come first. Plus, Harry needed his right hand to hold his wand, to fight, to teach, to catch the Snitch — to win.
And Ron? His hands looked big and strong — he had always thought they were so — but the Quaffle had slipped right through them so many times that something inside him had broken too.
He had had a dream long time ago, a glorious dream that had been part of him almost in the same way as his flaming red hair and his clear blue eyes defined him. He had always and from the depths of his soul dreamed to become, one day, a hero. It had been a good dream — one worth dreaming — and he had believed it, had believed he would stop being invisible some day.
Then, he had met Harry on the Hogwarts Express, and suddenly, he had had to re-evaluate his desires because now, Ron had a friend; someone in whose eyes he came first and who truly saw him, and he didn't want to lose that for his old, stupid ambition. Not when the cost was so high.
If Ron hadn't been such a neglecting friend lately, Harry wouldn't have yet another scar — all because of his need to practice Quidditch in secret just to prove… what? Ron didn't know anymore. Maybe it was just to show Harry that he hadn't been wrong when he had chosen a Weasley over a Malfoy that day.
Ron shook his head. Stupid stupid stupid.
His stomach twisted painfully once more as shame and disappointment for himself bubbled in it, hot and scratchy.
He had been there, he had been the first one to discover Harry's secret, but apart from showing some righteous indignation, he hadn't done nothing.
Ron didn't believe he had ever felt worse in his whole life; helplessness, uselessness, and weakness crashed down on him — so useless, so incapable.
Because of him, Harry had even being stripped of Quidditch.
But Ron was sure there was something he could do about it to spare his friend more pain.
Ron wouldn't lose Harry to Umbridge.
Come to think of it, the solution might be easier than he expected, and he wondered why he hadn't thought about it before.
Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny he had had to rule out. He knew they would all get angry at him for taking the choice from their hands and be disappointed they couldn't help Harry too, but he didn't want to cause them unnecessary troubles — not to Fred and George who were needed to lift people's spirits; not to Ginny who had almost died already; not to Hermione who… Ron blushed and didn't dare finish that thought.
He tapped his nose with his quill as he pondered.
Bill and Charlie were the only ones he could think of that would be able to help without causing a fuss, talking to the Headmaster — which Harry had forbidden — or killing Umbridge; knowing his parents, they were all possible scenarios which he'd like to avoid; even if he couldn't deny that the thought of a dead Umbridge had its appeal.
Sustained by that idea, he started writing.
I'll answer to your last later, but now, I'd need a favor. It's Harry; he has troubles sleeping, but he doesn't want to go to Madam Pomphrey or bother anyone — I told you how he can be — so I thought that maybe you could send some Sleeping Draught? Please?
If you don't mind, could you also send some Polyjuice? I cannot explain now, but it will be very useful too.
Ron re-read what he had written and sealed the letter, a cold, foreign feeling taking over his body as he thought that he had almost lied to his brother and would have to lie to his best friends too.
If he survived Umbridge's detention, Harry would kill him for being kept in the dark again, and by none other than his best mate.
But it would be all right.
If anger was all Harry could give him, Ron would take it as long as his best mate was safe.
The precious ampoules arrived four nights later, carried by a bigger owl than Pigwidgeon whose only contribution was wake Ron up by nibbling his fingers.
I used Erec to send those potions as your Pig would have succumbed to the weight. You asked for them and I sent them — you are lucky I always have a stock of those —
Ron rolled his eyes — as if he didn't know.
— but as I know what happened the last time you took Polyjuice, I can't help but say, "Be careful."
P.S. If you need me and fear someone may be reading your mail, remember Weilac.
Ron smiled at his brother's last words — how could any Weasley forget Weilac? Charlie and Percy had invented that tongue after all — as he looked at the ampoules in awe, almost disbelieving that they were on his nightstand ready to be used. Well, he still had to add Harry's hair to Polyjuice, but that would be easy. He glanced at his sleeping friend — Ron'd almost certainly find Harry's hair on his pillow in the morning.
He had made it; he was ready to block Umbridge's attacking move.
He took a piece of parchment to thank Bill and reassure him that it was all for preventing anyone from getting hurt, it was all in the name of justice.
That night, Ron dreamed of the last time he had seen a rainbow at the Burrow, acid green and blood red standing out against the blue sky.
"Harry! Harry! Good news!" Ron ran towards his best mate, panting.
"Hey, Ron. Where have you been; I've been looking for you for a while."
"I —" Ron gulped and looked at his friend, then his gaze slipped down to Harry's hands. He could do it. "I was… Umbridge stopped me."
"What? Are you fine?"
Ron smiled. "She only wanted me to tell your detention was —" He gulped again. "— cancelled."
"Really?" Harry beamed but sobered after a second. "Ron? What have you done? And why didn't she tell me herself?"
"I'm a Prefect, remember? And you can trust me, Harry. Tonight, you're free."
"Brilliant!" Harry said, clasping Ron's forearm. "Thank you, mate."
Ron wasn't sure what Harry was thanking him for, but he cherished the warmth that was spreading through his arm up to his heart, saving it for later.
"Come, let's prepare for dinner."
That night, Ron slipped some Sleeping Draught into Harry's pumpkin juice to be sure his friend wouldn't ask questions or follow him.
Ron — polyjuiced as Harry — had been pacing in front of Umbridge's office for a few minutes now, trying to gather up enough courage to knock.
He kept adjusting Harry's glasses on his nose more out of nervousness than of real need.
He was pretty sure that expulsion would not be the worse punishment he would face if he got caught, and for the first time in his life, he found himself considering how helpful would his supposedly pure blood would be to him and his friends.
Shaking his head at the thought, he finally stopped in front of Umbridge's door, his arms at his sides, his fists clenched, trying to get his vision less blurred.
As he raised one hand to knock, he closed his eyes; the door was mere inches from him so there was no way he would miss it. Looking was unnecessary and out of question; his — Harry's — scarred hand would just mock him, reminding him that Harry had faced things way worse than this over and over again, that Harry was the true Gryffindor, that there was a reason Ron's name would never be remembered.
His heart felt about to explode.
Haunting hisses seemed to wrap him up, buzzing in his ears, making his head stunned.
Was it how falling felt? How drowning felt?
He had a quick peek from behind his eyelids; his knuckles were still connected to the wood of the door. Now, he felt it: rough but surprisingly warm.
"Enter." The amount of sweetness in that woman's voice was revolting.
The door creaked open.
Ron suddenly felt grateful that it was not truly Harry entering this pink lair.
And if his steps were a bit unstable, he blamed it on the thick glasses he was wearing.
The next day was bright and sunny, the typical day that invites you to laugh and be happy.
Leaned against a tree and watching the blue sky, Ron grimaced slightly as he put on his Quidditch gloves, the rough fabric re-opening his wound and making it itch.
I must not tell lies.
It might not be true for Harry, but Ron definitely deserved it for deceiving his best friends and family. But both that and the agony in the back of his hand were nothing when compared to the knowledge that Harry had been enduring this torture all alone from the beginning and no one had done nothing.
"Ron," Harry called, distracting him from his dark reflections. He looked in a good mood. "Take a walk with us, mate."
Ron looked at him and Hermione, who was smiling encouragingly, then he looked at his own hands.
Some day soon, his friends would discover his secret, but this was not the right day. Happiness had been growing rarer and rarer lately that they needed to savor it whenever crumbs of it were available, like now.
With that thought, Ron made sure his gloves were closed, and wasted no other time in joining his friends, basking into the smile on Harry's lips and the laugh in Hermione's warm eyes.
"Why are you wearing your gloves, Ron?" Hermione was too observant for her own good.
"They —" He stopped in his track, flabbergasted.
"Come on, Hermione. Leave him be. You know how much he loves Quidditch," Harry said.
Ron nodded, relieved. "I'm just getting used to them."
Harry adjusted his glasses and looked at him pointedly.
Ron studied those green eyes, but whatever had been there before was soon gone, and he dismissed it as a trick of the light.
"Walk with us, Ron," Hermione said, her tone soft, as Harry came and dragged him forward.
In that moment, Ron felt like a King; his friends knew his name, and that was good enough.
He nodded and quickly closed the distance between him and them, smiling.
Later, they would have to talk, but for now, they all could smile.
Written for The Golden Snitch, Ollivander's Wand Shop: Write about a Gryffindor who needs courage. [Beauxbatons, Melusine]