Late as usual. Many apologies.

Enjoy!

Chapter 13

Snow gently tumbled down from the thick clouds, resting on bare branches and bare skin. Ron sat in the cold, his cloak wrapped around him as he stared out at the grounds that were becoming whiter by the moment. His thoughts travelled around his head while his body shivered with the cold. A warm hand on his shoulder made him blink and look up sharply. Sky blue eyes stared down at him.

"You should go inside and get warm Ron. You don't wish to get ill." Ron inclined his head slightly to the side, a small smile on his face.

"No, that is true Maedd. But if I do I can just take a Pepper Up potion." Maedd grimaced,

"I'd rather take the cold and spare myself the embarrassment of having steam coming out my ears." Ron chuckled as he stood up. His legs protested against the movement. When had his legs gotten so cold?

"No one would look at me twice if they saw me like that." Maedd sighed and shook his head.

"Your people are so used to the abnormal and illogical that I'm worried you won't be able to recognise a threat for the true gravity it holds." Ron nodded, flicking hair out of his eyes.

"I know what you mean. We wizards lack a good amount of logic." Maedd rolled his eyes,

"You have some, but Dumbledore on the other hand…" The white-blond shook his head. Ron laughed, "Now come in before you loose your limbs to the cold."

"Yes mother. I'm coming." Ron teased, hurrying in before Maedd could whack him.

It was strange to think of how changed the relationship between the two was. Before they couldn't stand each other. Now they had reached a peaceful truce of sorts. Ron made sure Maedd wasn't left out of the elves activities and Maedd had become warmer to Ron. There was a frankness about their relationship. They didn't keep their opinions to themselves, they were upfront about what they thought. Ron enjoyed being so free with his words.

He kept an eye on Maedd, doing his best to keep the still grieved elf cheerful. He didn't want Maedd to fade away to nothing. There had been enough death in his life thus far.

As they made their way up the Main Stairs, Cilath was coming down them.

"Hello you two." she greeted, pausing to kiss Ron's lips. "Ron you are soaking and freezing." Her tone had changed to scolding. "What are you like?"

"I'm like me my love." Ron chuckled, pulling her to him to kiss her more fully. She grimaced and pulled away,

"You'll soak my dress! Get off." Ron laughed at her scolding tone.

"Oh my love how you wound me." He placed a hand over his heart, "That a little thing like water would repulse you from me so."

"When a simple spell with that wand of yours would dry you off, I think I'm allowed to be repulsed."

Ron gave a long-suffering sigh and drew his wand out from the sheath on his leg and dried himself with a quick spell. He ruffled his hair, which was getting far too long for him to know how to manage. He would have to ask Bill.

"Happy my love?"

"Much." Now she kissed him. Ron pulled her close and worked his fingers into her hair.

Maedd coughed when they didn't part after a few moments. Ron managed to kiss her lightly once more before Cilath pulled away.

"Sorry Maedd."

"It's fine." Maedd waved their apologies away. "I'm going to go see if there's anything to read in the library, so why don't you two go and have your… fun."

"Are you sure mellon nin?"

"Absolutely. Please get away from me, your sexual tension is getting on my nerves." Maedd smirked as Ron swept Cilath into his arms and carried her away with a cheeky grin.

Ron carried Cilath into an empty classroom and sat her down on the unused teacher's desk, catching her mouth in a hungry kiss, groaning when her fingers ran over the skin on his back under his shirt.

Pushing at her dress he pushed her down with his own weight onto her back. Cilath tugged at his hair and whimpered into his mouth.

"Mela." she whispered shakily, pulling at his clothes, "I need you mela! Saes."

"Oh Valar." Ron groaned and he kissed her deeply.

"OH MY GOD!!" Ron was standing upright like a shot and Cilath was pulling at her dress as they stared in alarm at a positively horrified Fred and George. "We thought… but you… oh GOD!" Fred covered his eyes looking traumatised.

"My eyes are burning!" George screamed, rubbing at them frantically. Ron glared at his brothers, pulling at his trousers. Cilath was pulling her dress both down and up, covering a lot of her skin, much to Ron's ever increasing fury.

"What the hell are you two doing out of class?" he demanded. Now Fred and George froze in horror as the realised that they hadn't just walked in on their little brother having sex with his girlfriend, they'd also just walked in on two of their teachers having sex.

Without another word they both ran away as fast as their legs could carry them. "I'm taking five points off Gryffindor for the both of you!!" Ron roared after them.

An odd silence fell over the room once his voice had quieted. Cilath tugged the bodice of her dress up a little higher, and then she jumped to her feet, pulling her dress down.

"I think the mood's been killed." she said, giving him a regretful smile.

"Stupid Fred and George." Ron growled, sitting on one of the student desks. Cilath sighed and pulled at her hair. "You know… I've been thinking about a lot this last little while."

"Oh? You've been thinking?"

"I know, shocking, isn't it?" Ron rolled his eyes, "Anyway… I've thinking about this war, and the whole situation and I've also been thinking about us."

"You have? In what way?"

"Well… I've just been thinking about how we didn't really do any of the regular stuff before we first made love. You know, I didn't take you out on a date, or do anything romantic like that."

"And you wish you had?"

"Well… yes." Ron stood up and took her hands in his. "Look, what we have feels amazing, but I don't want to wake up one morning and find we spent so much energy on the physical side of our relationship, that we don't have any for the emotional side." His face was warming as he spoke, feeling foolish, "Hermione once told me I have the emotional range of a teaspoon, but she's wrong-"

"I know that more than anyone." Cilath told him firmly, gripping his hands tightly. Ron gave her a grateful look,

"I want to… I don't know, make sure we have something that goes beyond the physical. I mean before you, I'd only had a few crushes and none of them did to me what you do, but I want to prove to us, that what we have goes beyond the strong physical attraction."

"So… what do you want to do?"

"Well… I'd like to take you out on a date. Or as elves would probably say, I would like to court you."

Cilath giggled, Ron had put a strong emphasis on his English accent and that always made her smile.

"Well… I would like that. But if we're going to do this, lets do it right."

"How?"

"Well, if you're really courting me then we should not have a physical relationship. So… for the next little while, as long as this lasts, we shouldn't sleep together."

Ron's eyes widened in horror, he hadn't quite thought about that. Cilath's eyes became earnest,

"You said you wanted to do this right Ron. So doesn't that mean we don't have a physical relationship to make sure we have a strong emotional one?"

"I suppose that's a fair point. But we're living together…"

"Do you think we can control ourselves in bed, or should we stop living together for a while. I think you're right. We should try to do this properly."

"Well… I guess that's a fair point." Ron groaned, "I'm beginning to wish I hadn't said anything."

"Don't say that. We don't want this to end, so we should take the time now to ensure we have a strong foundation." Cilath pulled her hands free of his, "I'll have Earithramir and Lomli help me move to another room, who knows, maybe this will do us good. I've been feeling guilty because I feel like I'm not seeing my other friends anymore. It will be nice to spend more time with them."

"Yeah… I suppose that's true." Ron folded his arms tight across his chest, feeling uncomfortable.

"Ron, this doesn't change how I feel about you. We're just making sure of what we have between us." Cilath smiled at him and kissed his cheek, "So where do you want to take me on a date?"

"How about Madam Puddifoots? It's supposed to be a good place for people to go on dates."

"Sounds lovely, it means we'll finally get to go to Hogsmead."

"Yeah… ok." Ron smiled at her bashfully. "It'll be nice to slow things down I suppose."

"I'm glad you are mature enough to see that."

"Hey… I'm not sure if I was just insulted or not." Cilath rolled her eyes and waved her fingers near his face in a way that was clearly only done to torment him. Slowly, she turned away from him and sauntered away, her hips swaying slightly.

"You're not playing fair!" Ron moaned. Cilath's tinkling laughter was the only answer he got.

"Damn, damn, bugger, son of a bitch, fuck!!" Draco Malfoy raged as he strode through the Room of Requirement. The Vanishing Cabinet was beginning to drive him out of his mind. He'd been working on it at every possible chance since he'd gotten back to Hogwarts and the damn thing only seemed to get more broken.

Draco was beginning to really regret his bragging to his friends- no scratch that- his associates. Now it looked like he wouldn't be able to complete his task. What would he do when the Dark Lord found out? He'd be a dead man, that's what.

"If the Dark Lord himself couldn't achieve this, how the hell am I suppose to?" Draco asked aloud, rubbing his left arm as he did. His Dark Mark was still hurting like hell.

Grabbing a broken chair he righted it and sat on the cracked seat, massaging his temples. Granted, he knew he didn't have an option of failure, especially after his last blunder…

(Flashback)

Draco shifted where he stood waiting for Weasley to come along. The redhead was walking through the forest, oblivious to the danger he was in. After all, he'd only been in Rivendell about two weeks, so had yet to learn to be cautious wherever he went.

As Weasley stopped under a tree and leaned back against it, Draco moved. Reaching out with his invisible hands he pressed the dagger to Weasley's skin and drew the dagger across his throat.

Ron gasped and his hands went to his throat, trying vainly to stop the flow of blood. The redhead sank to his knees as he choked. Draco couldn't stay to watch and so he ran, fleeing like a coward.

(End Flashback)

Draco had been sure he'd done his duty and so had been most annoyed when he found out that Weasley had survived. He'd been even more annoyed to find out that he'd felt a semblance of relief. Purely for his own sake of course, he hadn't been ready for a man's blood on his hands. Now though…

Draco had to be honest with himself, loathed as he was to admit it. He was no more ready for it now than he had been before.

A stupid thought entered his brain right then. What if he went to Dumbledore and told him the truth. Told him what Voldemort had sent him to do. The Old Man would protect him, Draco was sure of it.

'Listen to yourself you idiot! Stop moaning and get back to work.' ordered a sharp voice that sounded very much like his father's, 'Don't you even consider such a thing again. If the Dark Lord ever found out he'd waste no time in making an example of you.'

With a heavy sigh Draco got to his feet, resuming his work.

But the idea that there might be a way out for him simmered in the back of his mind continuously like an itch he couldn't scratch, and he wasn't sure he wanted it gone.

Ron paced in the Foyer, waiting for Cilath to arrive so he could take her to Hogsmead. As he waited he watched the students filing out, while Filch was glaring at each of them in turn.

"Hey Ron. What are you doing?"

Ron turned to look at Ginny as she approached him, holding Dean Thomas' hand. Dean was blushing, but Ron said nothing.

"I'm waiting for Cilath."

"Oh." Ginny grinned, "Fred and George told us about walking in on you two. Is it true?"

"It is, and when I see them I am going to kill them." said Ron with false cheerfulness. He was still extremely pissed off at those two for that.

"They know, that's why they're avoiding you."

"Well they can't hide forever." Ron said, folding his arms.

"It was an accident. Still… at least they can't tease you now about not getting any."

'Oh yes they can.' sighed Ron, as he said, "Aren't you two late for something?"

"Whatever Ron, see you later." Ginny dragged Dean away, her hand tightly wrapped around his. Ron watched them leave and then turned back towards the stairs. His jaw dropped.

Cilath smiled down at him as she descended the stairs. Instead of being dressed in one of her usual dresses, she was wearing leg-hugging jeans of faded blue denim, and a kimono shirt that was royal blue, with a plunging neckline. Her long hair was gathered on top of her head with small, but beautiful clips and her lips were sparkling with glitter. On her feet were white crochet pumps.

"Hello Ron." she said softly as she reached him.

"Wow." he said, unable to take his eyes off her.

"So you like it?"

"Completely!"

"Good. I remembered you said you wanted to see me wearing muggle clothing. Since this is a date… I figured I should make the effort."

"Wow." Ron was having trouble saying more than one word at a time.

"Is there any way of getting you speak more than one word?"

"Um… maybe."

"Good." Cilath linked her arm with Ron's and steered them both towards the Main doors. Filch glared at them as they passed and Cilath gave him a smile that caused the glare to melt into a dazed look. Ron knew how he felt.

Harry and Hermione strolled through Hogsmead, pockets weighed down with sweets from Honeydukes. Currently they were both enjoying something called Strawberry Sherbert Tickle-Popper. The sherbert fizzed, and then it popped on your tongue. Then, when you swallowed it, it began to tickle your stomach, making you feel all giggly and cheerful. According to Hermione this method was way better than a Cheering-charm or Cheering Potion because it was a natural releasing of endorphins rather than an artificial one. Harry had just let her natter on, having learnt how to tune out such things.

"Oh my goodness! Look." Hermione pointed surreptitiously. Harry wasn't surprised to see Ron and Cilath walking through the street together but he had a hard time recognising Cilath because she looked so different. "She looks beautiful."

"Yeah she does." Harry agreed.

"It's so unfair." Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil sidled up to them, dark looks on their faces. "Why should she look that amazing and have Ron, who's gorgeous, as a boyfriend?"

"Well it is the natural way for elves to be very beautiful." Harry said, trying to defend Cilath.

"It's completely unfair!" Lavender repeated.

"Wonder where they're going." Hermione said, watching the couple.

"Looks like they're heading for Madam Puddifoots." said Harry, grimacing at the memory of the place.

"Ron's taking her there too! Ugh!" Parvati huffed and threw her hands up in the air. "Why didn't he act like this before now? If he'd been like this when he was still a student I'd have gone out with him in a second."

"Ron always had these qualities!" Hermione snapped, "He's just never had the confidence to show it."

"Says the girl who told him he had the emotional range of a teaspoon." Lavender said. Hermione blushed. Harry groaned.

Ron and Cilath sat in Madam Puddifoots, both looking extremely uncomfortable as they looked around at all the frills and pinks. Ron actually felt distinctly sick.

"Well… this is different."

"This is gross." Ron countered Cilath's attempt to make it better. "Let's go to the Three Broomsticks. It's got some class at least."

"Sounds good. I don't mind." Cilath stood up and Ron quickly ushered her out of the café. He sent a prayer of thanks to the Valar that elves had such sensible heads and weren't taken in by that nauseating stuff. Still, he had to admit if this had been a serious first date, it would have qualified as a disaster. "Ron, don't look so upset, I really don't mind." Cilath smiled at him and Ron fought not to grab her and kiss her with all his might. He missed being able to do that.

"Come on, Three Broomsticks is this way."

"Can we go to Honeyduke's afterwards?"

"Of course." Ron grinned at the thought.

The Three Broomsticks was pretty busy, and much to Ron's annoyance, most people turned to stare at Cilath when they entered. What he didn't realise was that it wasn't just Cilath they were admiring. Everyone was admiring him as well, how tall and handsome he'd gotten, how confident he looked, how strong and steady he appeared to be. His deeds had not gone unheard of in Hogsmead.

"Why don't you get a table Cilath and I'll get us the drinks."

"All right." Cilath smiled and kissed his cheek, as if to assure him he was the only one who held her attention. Ron grinned to himself as he went to the bar and ordered two butterbeers.

Madam Rosemerta gave him a flirtatious smile as she handed him his order and Ron felt his cheeks flush a little as he remembered the crush he used to have on her.

"I must say Mr. Weasley, you've got charms and looks your brothers could never hope to have. If you're not careful you'll be stealing your brother Bill's fiancé from him."

"Erm… thanks Madam, but I'm afraid I only have eyes for the beauty I came in with."

"Well she's a lucky woman… or elf."

"I'm the lucky one ma'am." Ron gave her a slight bow of the head and then brought the drinks over to Cilath who'd found a secluded table. "Here you go Cilath. Drink up."

Cilath smiled and sipped from her bottle, "Mmm, delicious. Now why can't we have that in Hogwarts?"

"Because then we wouldn't appreciate it half as much." Ron chuckled

"How true." They clinked bottles and drank some more. "So how are your students doing?"

"Well the sixth years are doing well, and so are the fifth years. The seventh years can be a bit difficult because they hate the fact that I'm younger than them."

"It isn't age that matters, it's experience."

"Tell that to them." Ron chuckled, "The first years are getting there. They were really clumsy and suffered from 'First Year-itis'"

"What's that?"

"All first years have a terrible habit of drooping books and bags, being very clumsy, and always working really hard because they're afraid of the teachers. It's a problem that they recover from once they get into second year."

"I had no idea… but it does explain a lot." Cilath was laughing. "What about second, third and fourth years?"

"All doing well, some need more brushing up than others but I'm confident that they'll soon have some chance of defending themselves at least."

"That's what they need. Magic is all very well until you run into something that's either more powerful with magic or is completely resistant to it. Then you're in trouble."

"Too true." Ron frowned, "Dumbledore still hasn't given me that spell I requested at the end of August. I'm getting very sick of waiting around for him to get his head out of the clouds and do it."

"Well… why don't you try and make it yourself?"

"Spell creating isn't my forte, you know I'm much more physically inclined than magically now."

"True. But what about Severus?"

"Snape?" Ron's eyebrows shot up.

"He'd probably have no trouble in designing the spell for you. He's very intelligent and he's a diligent worker. He would probably have the spell made for you in no time."

"I never really thought about that."

"Just because Snape has a grudge against Harry doesn't mean you shouldn't take advantage of his skills. He is an ally."

"So he says." Ron muttered before her could stop himself. Cilath sighed

"He's given no indication that he's against us."

"Given no indication that he isn't either."

"I know you don't like him, but why not ask him anyway? I don't think Professor Dumbledore will come through for you, no matter how much you want him to."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It simply means that I think you want him to prove himself as your hero of a Headmaster that he once was to you. You want that idolising feeling back because it was comforting and much of the security you once felt when you were younger has been taken from you because of your involvement in the army. You want some of it back and Dumbledore seemed like a likely way to get it."

Ron frowned. "I never thought of it that way before."

"Well… it's just a thought. But it does make sense from where I'm sitting."

"I guess." Ron furrowed his brow in thought and stared out at the pubs customers.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm just wondering when this war will be over and I don't have to worry about these kinds of things."

"I don't think you'll ever stop searching for that sort of idolisation until you realise that you can be your own hero. Hero's are not invincible, if they were they would be nothing to us. It's the fact that they know they can die, they have weaknesses, and yet they still do what has to be done. Those are heroes Ron. And you are one of them."

Ron shifted in his seat, uncomfortable about the way she was smiling at him. Finally he joked, "Are you sure you're not just trying to charm me?"

Cilath sighed and shook her head. "Humans are so irritating sometimes. They love to brag and yet they can't handle true praise. They worship beauty and are afraid of it. They want to know everything but shy away from those with answers or they simply ridicule them. You are such a dualistic race Ron."

Ron's frown deepened and he looked at her. As their eyes met however a blinding flash of pain went through his head and he saw something completely different.

Cilath screamed in agony, while the monsters laughed and cackled all around her. Silver-red blood fell from her wounds and her dress was shredded. Ron wanted to help her but was unable, restrained by some unseen force. A dark figure loomed over Cilath and laid down upon her. Cilath screamed again.

"Ron? Ron are you alright?"

Ron shook his head as he looked up. Cilath was supporting him as he seemed to have slid off the chair. Much to his relief, very few people seemed to have noticed what had happened.

"Ron? Ron talk to me, what happened?"

Ron stared into Cilath's sapphire eyes that were filled with worry and he saw again her face contorted in agony.

"Nothing." he heard himself murmur, "It was just a dizzy spell. I'm fine now."

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Night's Darkness