There was a blinding flash and two different screams as he felt something punch him in the chest and sink inside him until it was gone entirely. He staggered back and coughed. His eyes were watering and he had something in his left hand that he was pointing his wand at. He blinked again to try and focus, he felt hot and sick and cold. He tried to see what it was he was holding and then realised that he had a handful of his mother's hair and was pointing the wand at her throat.
His eyes widened and he released her from his grip, dropping the wand on the floor and falling backwards into the wall, panting heavily. The room was spinning.
"Ron? Is it really you? Are you back?" his mother was saying as she cautiously moved towards him and crouched down.
"No Molly, it could be another trick, don't touch him," his father was saying.
Hermione was crying somewhere. Ron looked up and searched, what appeared to be his and Harry's bedroom, for her but he couldn't see where she was. He could hear her crying though, that was good, dead people don't cry he told himself. Then he thought of Merope and corrected himself.
His eyes widened again and he rose to his feet with a gasp. His mother screamed with fright and jumped back. Ron lifted his shaking hands to his burning forehead and rubbed his face roughly.
"I remember..." he gasped before bending over and coughing violently.
Again his mother moved forward to touch him but his father was still being cautious and held her back. What had happened to them all while he was away he wondered as he straightened up again. Harry was stepping forward towards him now, wand pointed directly at his face, blood gushing from his eyebrow and eyes trying to see who exactly was inside the body before him.
"Whatever it is you're planning to do with that thing Harry please don't send me to sleep," Ron shuddered through a sudden attack of the shakes.
He hadn't accounted for this when he promised Dumbledore to stay awake. The fever made him just want to curl up and die and yet he had to keep himself awake for at least an hour or so. He wouldn't be able to do it, it was impossible.
"Ron?" Harry asked, not daring to believe that his friend was really back where he belonged inside his own body.
Ron felt his knees go weak and tried to support himself against the chest of drawers beside him. His dad sprang forward in readiness to catch him and it was his mother this time that held her spouse back.
"What happened to being sure this time Arthur, he could be pretending to be Ronnie again, Ronnie could...he could be..."
"He's not dead Molly," Ron saw his dad suddenly smiling as he pulled away from his wife and grabbed Ron into a tight embrace, "Oh son you did it, we saw Dumbledore and Fabian and Gids, even Sirius and the Potters but you weren't with them and we thought...we thought he'd killed you and taken over completely but it's really you isn't it?"
"Ronnie?" His mother's face was crumpling, Ron noticed that she had a black eye and a swollen lip now and felt sick to his stomach that it had been done at his hand.
Ron was about to try and explain when the dizziness hit him again and he lost the strength in his legs completely and was fully supported by his father now.
"Oh Godric Arthur, his fever, that brute hit him with another fever. Quick get him to his bed."
"No," Ron gasped as he tried to fight against his father with his jelly legs, "I mustn't sleep. You can't let me sleep. It isn't done yet."
Harry tried to help Ron's father hold him upright as he tried to find out what was going on but all Ron could do was stare at Hermione. He had finally spotted her curled up in a tight ball on the floor with tears and blood streaming down her face. He felt sick.
"...listening to me? Ron snap out of it, I know you're ill but we really need to know what to do." Harry finished saying.
Ron swallowed and found an energy reserve deep within him to stand on his own two feet again and pull away from them; staggering back over to the bedroom door.
"Hermione, what did I do?" he said through a wavering voice as he struggled to keep a grip on his emotions.
He heard her cries again and felt them like a knife twisting inside his guts. She was trying to get to her feet shakily and it was then Ron noticed the bruising forming around her throat. Voldemort had tried to kill her. Voldemort had used his hands to try to kill her.
"I hurt her?" Ron said as he felt his skin run cold with an icy sweat before the fire in his head blazed again.
"Not you Ron, Voldemort, you stopped him, you sent him away again," his mother said as she pulled a tatty old school shirt from the top of the chest of drawers and tried to mop Ron's dripping face with it.
Hermione took a laboured step across the room towards Ron, she seemed to be limping, as her eyes stared right into Ron's own in a way he had never felt before. More tears streamed down her face as Harry took a step back to help support her.
"He told me you were dead," she said through a constricted throat, "he told me he killed you."
Ron was about to rush over to her to comfort her before suddenly stopping himself and nearly falling over with the change of momentum. He couldn't be near them until he knew this was all over, he couldn't risk letting Voldemort out again, and he swayed on the spot as he felt the fever threatening to overcome him and cause him to pass out.
"We have to get him to St Mungo's" Ron heard his father mutter.
Ron's head began to spin on hearing this. He wouldn't last, he would sleep before they were ready, he would sleep and be trapped in that room with Voldemort forever.
"No," Ron said as he stumbled and reached out for something to steady himself on and found his fingers curing around the handle of his Cleansweep, "I can't let him come out again. I have to stop this."
Ron threw a leg over the broom handle and kicked off as he heard screaming and felt Harry grabbing for him as he whizzed by and smashed through his bedroom window and into the darkness outside the Burrow. The cool wind on his face was satisfying for a few seconds before it made him feel as if he was in an ice storm. He had to find something to either keep him awake or make sure that he died if he fell asleep. As he glided over the pond where he and Ginny used to play as children he knew what he had to do.
He angled himself down toward the water and slid off his broom before it zoomed into a nearby tree. His body hit the still waters of the pond with a splash and he plunged all the way down to the bottom until he sank into the mud and silt.
He held his breath and waited for his buoyancy to bring him back up to the top. Sure enough he was pulled out of the slime and through the disturbed algae and floated upwards slowly. As he broke the surface he took in a lungful of air and then coughed it out along with another lungful of water before manipulating himself to lie on his back and float while he caught his breath.
Ron shivered. The water was so cold and the chill of the night on top of his intense fever made him feel as if was wearing his skin inside out, all of his nerves exposed to the outside world where they were three times more sensitive to hot and cold and pain and every kind of sensation it was possible to feel. He thought about the battle that was going on inside his own afterlife. He wondered if he could only remember everything from that night because he had come back to his body awake rather than asleep. He asked himself whether he would forget meeting his grandparents as soon as he went to sleep.
His shivering worsened now and Ron tried to focus on the moon as it peeped through the clouds above him, if he kept looking at the moon then his eyes were open and he wasn't falling asleep, and he willed himself not to let himself forget all those people he left behind in that room. He tried to remember all of their names. Canham, Broadly, Skinner, Fenwick...
Ron suddenly realised that his eyes were closing and he flinched and woke himself up. As he did so his body had bowed a little in the middle and he began to sink under the surface of the pond. While Ron sputtered and shook his pounding head he tried to come up with a better plan. The water was a good idea, he could float without using too much energy but he was pretty sure that Voldemort could swim so just being in the pond when the dark wizard came back wouldn't be enough.
When he comes back, please don't let there be a when...please.
Ron took in several calming breaths and then realised what he had to do. He began to regulate his breathing in the same way he would before needing to hold his breath for an abnormally long time and then rolled over onto his front. He opened his eyes and floated face down in the pond with his legs and arms spread wide apart to keep him bobbing right on the surface. This was the way, this was how he could secure everybody's safety, and this was what he would have to do until he felt some sort of change or shift inside of him and knew that they had won and he could sleep again.
He would float and watch the rippled patterns the moonlight and the shadows made on the bottom of the pond, he would stay awake and concentrate on holding his breath for a few minutes, turning his head to take in some more breaths before moving his face back down into the water again and waiting another few. He had something to concentrate on to keep him conscious. And if he lost consciousness, if he went without oxygen for too long or if the fever overcame him, then he would pass out face down in the water and drown before Voldemort could climb inside and take him over again. There would be nobody around to wake him up this time.
A dead man can't posses another dead man.
Ron felt so cold now. He had held his breath and come up for air four times now. That could only have been twenty minutes at the most and he knew he wouldn't be able to last an hour. His head was numb and his extremities were shaking so badly that he found himself twitching involuntarily. Twice he had caught himself closing his eyes while face down and holding his breath and he knew that he wouldn't be able to hold on much longer.
Suddenly he felt warm. It was as if the sun had come up and heated the water in an instant. Ron lifted his head out of the water and saw an open expanse of ocean going on forever in front of him. What had happened to the pond he asked himself? His fever was gone and he didn't feel tired anymore either. He trod water for a moment and tried to understand how he had transported like this.
Was it possible to disapparate while floating?
Ron turned around and saw a large rock, about a quarter of a mile across and thirty feet up, surrounded by a sandy beach and several trees. On top of it was perched a tiny house that was almost entirely see through. It looked something like the shattered room he had been in with Dumbledore and his uncles except it was intact and secluded. Ron looked around himself again and saw nothing else but the horizon. There were no ships, no other islands or rocks, no other people, there was just him.
He swam for the rock.
Ron walked along the sand, it wasn't yellow sand, and it was white and almost clear when you looked at the grains up close. He passed through the shade of the grey and silver trees and climbed up a naturally formed staircase in the side of the grey rock. As he reached the top and approached the tiny crystal house he looked around yet again, not able to believe that there was nobody else around, and then stepped inside.
There was a soft breeze that wafted the lace curtains at the window and a soft cushiony floor like smooth tissue paper under his feet. He wandered around the single large room in the house and called out cautiously.
Something silver drifted before his eyes and out through the window. Ron ran out of the house after it, it was heading back down to the beach, and he ran down the stairs to try and catch it up. As he passed through the trees and back onto to velvet sand again he saw the shard of silver light zooming off across the ocean and away into nothing. He frowned and tried to understand how and why he was here. He wondered if he could apparate back home. Just as he decided to try something caught his eye.
It was a blinding twinkle. The sun was glinting off of something that was washing up on the beach in the crystal clear waters and Ron ran to it and dropped to his knees to pick up what was a glass bottle with a message inside it.
Again Ron looked around himself, feeling as if somebody was watching him but unable to see anyone anywhere, and then pulled the message out of the neck of the bottle and unfurled it.
There is nothing we can do to stop those who know about your gift from seeking you out and they will do my dear friend. Despite all their promises and good intentions they will eventually succumb and give in to the need to contact their loved ones when they feel they need them most.
There is nothing your uncles and I could do to stop that.
Tom is now secure in your old place of spiritual residence and can never leave so do not let his knowledge of your condition be of any concern to you any longer. He can hurt nobody but himself now.
While your uncles helped me to create your new metaphysical dwelling they left it to me and me alone to plot its location. Nobody knows of this place but the two of us Ronald. They may know to look for you but they will never know where to find you. You and I are the only two souls in this world who know where to find it and I can promise you that I will never seek you out again, this secret stays with me until you come and join us in the fullest of senses...which will not be for some considerable time now Ronald.
Until then old friend, this is goodbye.
Your spiritual guardian,
Albus Dumbledore (old codger)
Ron stared at the letter for several seconds before breaking down completely. The waves crept in and touched his knees where he knelt upon the sand and the message crumpled in his fingers as he buried his face into his hands and wept with relief. His burden had been lifted.
He was free.
A crushing force on his chest was followed by the gushing of ice cold water shooting up his throat and out of his mouth.
Ron gasped and began to cough while shouts and screams echoed all around him. He blinked and saw Hermione's face hovering just inches away from his own, one of her hands pinching his nose and the other holding his mouth open. Harry was over her shoulder, both his hands pressing firmly on Ron's chest and his face frozen in shock. Ron couldn't stop from gasping and coughing to ask them what was happening.
"Quick," Hermione snapped to Harry, Roll him onto his side, Mrs Weasley, the blankets!"
Ron was freezing, wet and freezing, and he blinked a few times to clear his vision a little more and saw the pond in the woods behind the Burrow. He drew another deep lungful of air in and coughed again as a thick dry blanket was draped over him and Hermione began to rub his arms vigorously.
"Harry you do his legs, we need to warm him up," she barked the order and Ron felt his body shaking uncontrollably with the cold.
"Her-mi...mi...Min?" Ron tried to say but his was distracted by his dripping wet father crouching down before him and smiling as he took Ron's hands in his and breathed on them before rubbing them hard to create some warming friction.
"It's ok Ron, you're going to be ok, you fell off your broom into the pond but everything's going to be fine don't worry. We're all here and we're all safe and we're all going to be fine alright?"
Ron coughed again and he realised that his father must have dived into the pond in his pyjamas to drag him out after he had passed out; after he had drowned.
"I..." Ron needed to explain to them, he needed to tell them, "...had to s-stop him c-c-coming out."
"Shhh," Hermione was saying into his ear, her breath as warm as a roaring fire to his frozen earlobes, "it's ok, we can talk about everything later ok? Just get warm for me, help is coming."
Ron was about to try to tell them the wonderful news but his entire body jack-knifed with a cramp and he tried to shake it off while he heard his mother's voice ordering Harry to go out into the open and show the mediwizards to them as soon as they arrived.
Ron managed to straighten his body a little more and shuddered before turning his head to look up at Hermione's face, dry blood and fresh tears staining her cheeks, and smiled up at her weakly.
"We did it Min," he said before feeling his head spin and the shivering intensify, "we beat him, he's gone."
Ron's eyes were closing just as Hermione's warm lips pressed against the cold skin of his cheek.
"Later Ron, we'll talk about all of that later, you just let us look after you ok? You just get well for me babe, nothing else matters right now."
Babe...she called me babe.
"I love you," Ron sighed as his head stopped spinning and his consciousness began to spiral into the void again.
"I love you too Ron, stay with me."
As Ron fell back into a deep sleep he gave the slightest of smiles.
He wasn't going anywhere, not for a long time.
A/N Right, this last chapter was written last night and I absolutely HATED it! I threw a big tantrum and called myself the shittest writer ever to fart out a piece of fan fiction in the history of the world. I then got obscenely drunk and danced around my living room to Faithless.
This morning I re read it, erased about 70 percent of it and re wrote the whole thing. This may not be the ending you all wanted, you may have preferred the one I wrote last night but honestly I just couldn't bare to post that one...I really did feel as if I was reading something written by somebody imitating my style and just couldn't do it to my most faithful readers and especially to Wayne and Amy who this whole thing is dedicated to. I couldn't sell myself out and do the normal thing and say I was doing it in Amy's name, that would've been a total cop-out and she deserves better than that. (Hi Amy by the way!)
Anyway, I'd really like to know what you thought of it, if you did hate it please do tell me. If you think I made the right call let me know that too as this little blip in my ordinarily easy writing process has really thrown me.
Well anyway, I'm taking a week or so off to write two scripts for the BBC and then I'll be back with the next long fic, Timeless, a short teaser of which will come at the end of this obscenely long author's note!
So here goes with the love:
Wayne (Eckles) and his sister Amy - It's one thing to make me feel like a good writer but you guys have made me feel like a better person as well...so good for the ego!
Scrib - As always you are the most encouraging reviewer and my most loyal too, I may in fact bug you for a little favour soon...
Magnolia Lane - Another reason to keep setting myself higher standards, I love it when I impress you!
Rupertlovesme - You are so enthusiastic and you cry SO much! I'm writing the next fic for you girl.
Dansgirl34 - When your sister lets you review they're always great, thank you!
C.Fireball - Wow! What constructive and in-depth reviews, if only you were a commissioning editor.
Pugui - You make me chuckle and you also make me very good covers for my fics, if any of you are interested go to her profile and click on her webpage, the ones for ESSM are incredible!
NCCJellybean - My Brit slang buddy in America, the minute you get that three wheeled car I want to see a picture of you in it!
Latanya Kassidy - Always good for an ego-boost.
Greenpluff - Hey girl just because you haven't been able to review doesn't mean you were forgotten, you're with Scrib on my loyalty list and I don't ever forget it ok?
Mist - I can't ever answer your reviews so I'll say it now, you're a diamond!
Baka No Katsu - You're another diamond...I have a pair!
Harry Lvr - You're another one whose praise means a lot because you're not afraid to point out when I've let the standard drop a little. Always glad when I get a good review from you.
Kuko-chan - You really make it seem like I'm entertaining you and as somebody who loves to make people smile I get a big kick out of that so thank you.
And for everyone else who reviews...THANK YOU!
In other Shari news I have not been inflicted with any more Ron revenge so yay for that! I have in fact got a job interview today for a part time position helping a little boy with autism after school every day so that will give me some money to pay off my many debts, pay for my festival tickets this summer, and give me all day to sit at home and write so there will be no let up in the frequent updates from me in the near future.
For the record I am now going to keep my fics exclusive to this site so please don't ask me to post elsewhere. My experiences of trying to submit my fics to Checkmated have been dreadful and I have never received quite such a snobby response from anybody regarding my work before (and I write for the BBC!) so I am now abstaining from dealing with them. They even fired my poor beta Deena!
So now to the teaser for the next fic coming soon...
After Dumbledore died most of his spells remained; wards, enchantments, protection spells etc. but some spells had to be maintained regularly. Monitored and renewed like a magical tetanus shot and the tempus stabiliser was one such spell.
Dumbledore had been dead for a year now, Lord Voldemort had been defeated, and Harry Potter had become a legend.
Dumbledore's spell, the spell he would update every March 1st on Ronald Weasley, was about to wear off and that little inconvenience would start happening to him all over again...
My first fic where I take the world of Harry Potter and inspiration from another book (The Time Traveller's Wife), rather than a movie as I have done before, to give you something a little different to what I've been doing so far. Though still with angst, humour, tears (I'll get Rupertlovesme so emotional she may in fact dissolve!), and for the very first time CANNON CHARACTERS DEATHS, yup that was a plural people!
Look out for it in a couple of weeks and thanks for your enthusiasm...it means a lot to a self deprecating nutter like me!
Additional note: Timeless is now complete!