In the first few weeks after losing his voice, Ron began to create a new one.

It was a long and tedious task. Not being able to remember how he'd sounded in the first place - though he could remember mumbling and rasping quite a bit - was very trying, and eventually he completely gave up trying to call the memory awake again. Opening his mouth to nothing but air hurt enough; imagine knowing full well the sound that was missing. Like looking into portraits with nothing in them -- you couldn't very well call them portraits, could you? Just spaces of blank canvas.

Ron only knew the voices he heard everyday.

Sometimes in his mind he sounded like Harry: slow and deliberate and shy. When he wanted to be clear, and make his point crystal, and cut with his tongue, he was Ginny. Laughing sounded like Fred and George. Chiding was mum. If he was tired, he was airy Luna. And when he wanted to make sense, when he wanted to be official, well, that was when his voice was Hermione.

Of course, when it really came down to the bottom of everything, creating a new voice wasn't so much creating as archiving. It was a lucky thing nobody could tell that when he mouthed words to them he was really thinking of what they would sound like saying them -- and it was luckier still that nobody could tell he liked things better this way.

It had taken them a little while to realise what had happened at all.

Hermione was sitting near the bed when Ron first woke -- why he'd been unconcious he had no idea, because nobody ever bothered to tell him that part of the story -- and she'd been reading and scribbling notes about characterization in the margins of her notebook, and she'd looked up at him all honey-bright, and she'd started bawling.

Bawling. Just sobbing completely, utterly, as if she'd never been more heartbroken; and maybe in the back of his mind he wished he'd just stayed unconcious, because after hearing Hermione cry that way nothing was really ever the same again. But the tears were fat and wet on his shoulder blades, and her notebook made a crumpling sound when she stepped on it leaning in to embrace him, and that was all right.

"Ron, I feel so strange," she said, after pulling away. He'd smiled warily and nodded. "Ron, I feel so... It's been days, and they all thought..."

He'd smiled warily and nodded.

"Why aren't you talking to me...?"

He smiled warily and...

By the time anyone realised that Ron was mute, it was far too late to try and undo the curse.

If he were able to complain, he would've; but as it was, all he could do was turn his nose up at things, shake his head, scowl, and give people the finger.

Ginny said, "It's just like you were before, really, without the grunting."

Hermione nodded. "She's right, you know. Just because you can't speak doesn't make you any different on the... on the inside."

"And I don't care if you can speak or not," Harry added confidently.

They took to passing a notebook between them during discussions, so that everyone would understand what Ron meant to tell them -- because nobody knew sign language, and Ron didn't feel like learning anything like that. It looked far too complicated, and was. Pomfrey showed him a volume full of it during one of his daily check-ups, bursting with complicated diagrams -- "Here."

Hermione squealed and flipped through it and pored over it for hours. She made all of the gestures for him, and had him 'repeat after her', and was formulating entire sentences by seven that night; but at the end of the day, he'd only been able to remember the symbol for cake.

"We'll just have to try again tomorrow," said Hermione. "These things take time."

There was a scribbling sound, and he pushed the notebook toward her. What time?

"I miss his laugh," said Ginny one afternoon. "I miss that more than his talking."

Harry raised his eyebrows, grinning from where he lay sprawled between them. "I miss his mumbles."

"I miss the little grunt he'd make when he had no idea what to say," Hermione added.

They all agreed that that had been the best.

Ron was warm, pressing his face into brown coconut hair, the back of Hermione's neck -- sweet smelling and smooth and white, like the meat of the fruit. The bed creaked behind him whenever Harry moved, and there was Ginny on the other side, away from everything, holding her knees. Sour. He was warm, but he wasn't particularly content. In his head, the voice had taken on the shape of everyone screaming,

don't talk about me as if I'm gone already

i miss all those things much more than you do

But he liked everything better when he was quiet.

He liked playing games, running commentaries. In feeling detached, he could make sense of the people around him much more easily -- he didn't have to worry about what to say to them, did he? And it wasn't as if people were necessarily very eager to speak with him anymore. It was one thing to speak to Ron and have him grunt and shrug at you as if he hadn't heard anything, but it was quite another to have him staring you down, looking as if he could even hear your thoughts.

When he walked with Ginny or Harry, it was as if they'd gone mute, too.

They passed the notebook back and forth, grinning cattily at eachother.

The signing for 'soft-hearted, kind' was like pulling something out of yourself; as if you were shrugging, almost, with your hands in the shape of tulips, lighting your face into something soft and expressive. I love you. You are soft-hearted, kind. The sign was taking away a piece and offering it up -- too easy, so easy. You can have this part of me, said his voice, which sounded like Bill. You can have it if you want.

Hermione blushed before turning away. "That's very good, Ron. Just remember -- you've got to mouth everything."

He nodded.

'Soft-hearted, kind,' he lipped.

'Soft-hearted, kind,' was her mouth shaping like a flower: opening, red, lovely.

And tearing things away from hearts. Pulling something out of yourself.