treasure hunter

In first year, Ron found a little loose floorboard in his room -- near the corner, hidden beneath the chair. He'd been searching for a marble Ginny had lost, and come across the bit of wood instead. He'd jiggled it curiously in the place where it'd been laid, and then tore it the rest of the way out with his fingers; just a little sliver, because the floor was parquet, but enough of a sliver that he could see the foundation of the building through. Like baring a skeleton.

It left a little hole, which he plunged his fingers into. There was cold string inside -- a thin chain and locket made of silver and gold. A treasure.

He had wanted to take it, and nearly had -- running his fingers in and through the jewellry, imagining its cost, imagining his mother's face when he presented it to her. 'Oh, Ronald', she would say. 'You're very thoughtful'. And he would blush and smile and nod, and his brothers would be both awed and disgusted by his example. He'd be able to gloat. He'd get extra dessert instead of having to share Ginny's.

Ron liked the idea of being a favorite, but in the end he liked the idea of secrets and treasure more. He hid the chain again. He wondered if it had been hidden there especially for him, because after all - it was his bedroom. Anyone could see that.

In second year, he forgot all about it. Ginny had lost another marble, but a larger one this time -- and in her head.

There wasn't any time for treasure. There wasn't any time for much else but loving other people, after he finally realised that he did. He'd never really thought about it before, after all. All of his life, he'd assumed love was automatic -- you loved your family and your partner, whoever you happened to choose. That was simply how it went. He had never thought to wonder which part of himself was love -- what feeling? That steady contentment, or the wavering contempt? A butterfly in his stomach? Stones in his heart when mum forced him to bed early? Friends filling him with electricity, with cold water, with flower petals.

When Ginny came out of the chamber again, and Hermione woke up, and Harry was a hero for the third time -- Ron wasn't thinking about treasure, he was wondering what part in the story was his. That's how he realised he loved over people: when he saw that there really wasn't anything else to him.

And love was a mixture of everything. Love was a mixture of different shocks and pains, and different kinds of loneliness, and different teeth being bared. Love was turning the tables on eachother gently, and running in circles, and not being sure if he wanted to carve or caress. Love was when Hermione filled him with snow. A playful fight.

In third year, he ghosted over the treasure once with his fingers, after Harry had tossed a textbook under the chair-- he'd pretended to have seen something wierd, mumbling as he ran his fingers over the parquet. He'd lied and mumbled that it was an insect and he'd killed it, when really he'd been jostling the little bit of wood, trying to remember if he had or hadn't given the treasure to mum.

It was his bedroom. Anything in it was his. It didn't matter if dad had hid it there to sell if there were hard times, or if it were George and Fred's idea of a trick on mum -- mum didn't have jewellry like that, anyway. Not real silver and gold. Not in a million years.

And if anyone really wanted the locket back, they could come to get it anytime.

But it was Ron's. It was hidden in Ron's floor.

Harry had distracted him from this with a challenge -- "You can't skip a stone over the top of the pond three times, can you? Not even George can do that."

"I bloody well can," said Ron, and forgot all about the locket again.

In fifth year, there was nothing to do but think of treasure and adventures for the first few months. Grimmauld Place was old and full of dust, and its portraits positively despised Ron -- so he often found himself coming across thoughts of the locket again and again and again. He remembered he hadn't opened it to see if there were any pictures inside. He hadn't checked the rest of the little hole for more treasure. It had been years, and it had never even occurred to him.

There was one jewellry box in Grimmauld Place, or, at least, one box Ron was able to find. It was gathering dust under a bed that nobody used, and it had been painted shut. He'd magicked it open, feeling very confident, and was distraught to find positively nothing inside but loose pearls. There was a mirror, too, and he looked at it for a moment, scowling.

His freckles had grown darker over the years. His eyes were honey-brown like Ginny's, though smaller and brighter, with lashes the color of ginger. He blinked to see how they looked laid across the top of his cheek like rushes, cat-tails. His mouth dropped open thoughtfully. Boxy teeth, one chipped. Pink tongue. Ron decided he liked this most of all -- the way it moved, ghosting over his chapped lips.

If I find something someone else lost, that must make it mine.

If they lost it, that must mean it isn't meant to be theirs.

Ron was fifteen, but he hadn't ever lost his imagination.

In sixth year, he was looking at the brain scars again one afternoon when suddenly it occurred to him that there was still the treasure. Even after everything, there was still the locket he'd always had but never honestly owned. There was always that. One adventure that was small. Hermione one night asked him, giggling, if he had any secrets. He shook his head because he knew she didn't expect anything else.

She gave him that look, because she liked filling him with snow.

He saw the reflection of the chair in the mirror, running his tongue over his lip. He rolled up his sleeves, and got down on his hands and knees. Ron didn't understand the world or his part in it. He didn't understand Harry. He was sorry that it had become this way, but he didn't know what else to do about anything. He hated Grimmauld Place. He missed the pond. It was a simple sort of longing, really, to be in first year again. He slipped his fingers under the board.

When I thought I had something else in me... When I didn't know the truth.

He thought he might have given the locket to mum, if he'd known what was going to happen later.

Whenever he kissed Lavender, he forgot about everything. Treasure. Growing up. Not being sure, out of every emotion, which was love -- not lumping all of it together instead, so that he could always say I love you and know that somewhere he meant it. Because that little jump in me is love. When my heart skips a beat seeing Hermione like that, it's love. When I don't want to sleep yet...

When I think of treasure and how it waits for me, I think I'm in love.

One afternoon, he found a charm in one of Hermione's books that could make you disappear. It was meant for fun -- just a game. You closed the enchanted object into your friend's hand, and it would transport them to a surprise location. They could always apparate back if they knew how, and then you both would laugh over wherever they'd gone and make plans to go together one day.

Or at least, that's how Ron felt it worked. That's the way things would go, if he ever showed anybody.

He used it on himself once or twice. He liked to hold the locket against his heart, and he liked the glint of silver when he landed in Russia, Argentina, China.

In seventh year, he was too old for his body. Hogsmeade was gone, and so was Diagon Alley -- wizards scuttled everywhere with their families and carpet bags, and Ron stood in the rubble and wondered if he had wasted all of his life. Hermione was clinging to his hand, and he could see her pinky through the worn mitten. He remembered skipping stones, and loose pearls. The way teeth were like pearls. Opening and closing windows in Grimmauld Place.

He hoped it had burned down to the ground. He hoped it had been struck by lightning.

When he took out his wand, the Death Eater took off its hood -- and Ron ripped the cloak off himself. He twisted Daphne out and out of the material as Hermione gasped and said no, and told him we should get away from here. He didn't think there was anything else to do. It was snowing. Slytherins were rich -- they had treasure.

His enemy's chest heaved and glittered. He tore the necklace away from her collarbone and struck her in the face. He called her a murderer, and suddenly his mouth dropped open -- viciously stunned. She laughed. "The rest of them are coming." More and more and more cloaks materialised in the street, with jewels sewn into the hems and along the hoods and adorning the terrible grim masks. Jewel bright eyes and green gems at the end of wands. We should get away from here, because more are coming. "Ron, Ron," said Hermione. "Ron."

The ruins of the house closed in around them. Rich. Treasure. Treasure dripping out of everything as he watched. It wasn't silver or gold or emerald or ruby or secret at all -- it had always been there. It had leaked out from beneath the floorboards. It had leaked in over the windowsills, and danced over the lawns like mist. It had colored Ron's eyes honey-brown, and put the blush into his cheeks. It had shocked him and filled him with snow.

Life. Snow falling on his face and lips when he turned to Hermione.

As Daphne scuttled into the wreckage like a crab, he told her everything. The others had spotted them, standing with their Gryffindor scarves -- bright and conspicuous, leaning close as if telling secrets. Ron's fist clenched over Hermione's, and the locket shone for a moment against the leather of his gloves before he pressed it into the skin of Hermione's pinky finger.

"You know me; it's all right. I've always loved you. I've always thought you were a treasure."

She disappeared.

And love was a mixture of everything.