Harry had just left his meeting at the clinic in Cumbria with nurse Stour. They had tried to make light of all their recent misfortunes and Stour had asked if she was now an honorary member of the scar club because of the injury she had sustained during the Death Eater attack.
Three people had been murdered that day and the sapper had been shot and badly hurt but was , thankfully, going to be okay and had asked if it would be safe for him to stat seeing Ron for therapy again.
Stour had been clarifying the details of Ron and Harry's return to work first thing on Monday morning on condition that Healer Kalra gave Ron the all-clear during his final check-up at St Mungo's that afternoon. It was merely a formality but Harry still needed it to be officially confirmed. He needed to come home to the flat and see Ron's discharge papers. He needed to see his best friend with that infuriating 'what were you so bloody worried about?' smile on his face before he could let this whole thing go.
Ron still had the scars.
This could only mean one thing. Ravenclaw still had some kind of connection, maybe just her shadow, and everybody had been reassuring both Harry and Mrs Weasley that everything was going to be fine. Harry smiled as he thought about Ron's poor mother. She had been at such high anxiety for so long now that she was having a hard time coming down from it. Every morning and every evening she would floo into the flat to check that Ron was okay and that he was eating and didn't have a headache. Ron got so exasperated he sent her an owl with a tiny roll of parchment which contained two short sentences.
Going to the toilet. Don't worry I'll be fine!
The twins had laughed so hard at this over Sunday dinner that they promoted Ron from annoying little brother to duke of sarcasm.
As Harry crossed the border and back into the magic permitted world he saw Ginny waiting for him with his wand in her hand.
"Everything go okay?" she smiled.
"Fine," Harry nodded, "it's strange seeing it all rebuilt and not seeing some of the staff there but y'know, things change don't they?"
Ginny hugged him before looking up at him with a knowing smile.
"Yeah things do change," she said before standing on tiptoes to kiss him on the lips, "and people change and grow up and...feel ready...for stuff."
Harry felt as if his heart had just stopped beating.
"Please don't be teasing me," he begged her.
She laughed and took his hand as they walked to the nearest apparition point.
"No, I'm definitely done with the teasing."
Ron closed the door to Healer Kalra's office and folded up the discharge papers to slide them into his jacket pocket. He never had to come back to St Mungo's as a patient again. He grinned like a total fool and began to do a celebratory dance right outside Kalra's closed door. He might have got lost in the moment if it hadn't been for the sudden hysterical laughter coming from the far end of the corridor.
Ron jumped and spun around to see Neville doubled up with mirth, slapping his leg, and wiping his tear filled eyes.
"What d'you stop for?"
Ron stuck two fingers up with an embarrassed scowl. Neville began to make his way, slightly weak from laughing and unable to stop the sporadic chortles from escaping his lips the closer he got, over to Ron and slapped him on the arm.
"So I take it you just got discharged then," he sniggered.
Ron grinned and nodded.
"Great news mate," Neville smiled as he slapped Ron on the back and the two of them set off down the corridor together, "so have you got time to come down to the cafeteria with me and have some lunch?"
Ron hit his palm with the side of his hand before tapping his chin with his fingers and pointing at his wrist.
"Great, my treat," Neville smiled.
Ron raised his eyebrows and flicked the underside of his chin with his thumb before pointing at himself.
"Too right," Neville nodded in response to Ron's comment of 'lucky me', "I don't put my hand in my pocket for just anyone you know? Besides I need a favour!"
Ron rolled his eyes and gave Neville a playful shove before pointing his finger to the ceiling and twirling it beside his head.
"Or I could just blackmail you into helping me out," Neville shrugged as they stepped into the lift and Ron pushed the button for the ground floor, "I'm sure The twins would just love to know about your moves!"
Ron looked mortified and banged his fist over his heart with his index finger extended, pointing at Neville with a desperate shrug and then waving his hands around himself helplessly and gesturing to himself.
"I don't know what you're so ashamed of Ron. You're a very talented boy. I reckon if Hermione knew just how light on your feet you were she'd make you take her dancing every other weekend."
Ron grabbed Neville by the throat loosely and pretended to throttle him just as the lift doors opened and a group of people waiting outside froze in alarm at what they thought they were seeing. Ron and Neville broke apart and grinned amiably before stepping out of the lift. Ron paused to keep the door from closing until everybody had got inside and an old man stared at him before glancing at the scar across his throat and then back up at Ron's face again before looking excited about something.
"Are you Ron Weasley?" the old man said rather too loudly.
Ron looked to Neville who was about to step forward and tell the man not to be so damn rude but Ron leaned in close to the man as if he was about to whisper and the man leaned forward to listen. This in itself made Ron highly amused but he began to move his lips as if he was speaking perfectly normally. The man leaned back and stared at Ron in confusion before Ron pretended to shout at the man.
He mouthed as he pointed at himself.
He pointed to his head.
Again Ron mouthed the word as if he was bellowing it into the man's face while pointing at him before holding his hand out, palm down, and tilting it from side to side.
Ron then pointed at his ear and mouthed the last word.
The man blinked in shock and Neville's shoulders shook with his suppressed laughter as he grabbed hold of Ron's arm and dragged him away from the bewildered old wizard.
"You're so mean," he said with a shake of the head.
Ron feigned offence and put his hand on his chest.
"Yes you twinkle toes!"
Ron shoved Neville into the cafeteria with a huff and soon the two of them were sitting in a quiet corner where nobody could stare at Ron's scar, eating their lunch and tormenting each other between mouthfuls until the jokes all grew a little tired.
"Seriously though Ron, it's great that you and Harry can get back there again, Stour raves about you whenever she comes down for a pick-up."
Ron grinned sheepishly and tapped his head with his thumb before putting his hand to his heart and sliding one palm over the other.
"I'm sure Harry'll be thrilled to hear that theory," Neville scoffed, "you never know, it might be you she fancies."
Ron held his palm flat and waved his finger across it and downward.
"That's a long list you're adding her name too there," Neville smiled, "writing the names big are you?"
Ron took a sip of his pumpkin juice while Neville cut into his beef and onion pie and scooped up a forkful into his mouth. Ron twirled both his fingers and pointed his index finger into his open palm. Neville finished chewing and swallowed.
"Well what it is, the thing I wanted to ask you...well I should really tell you some news first before I...y'know, ask you the other thing that's to do with this thing...?"
Ron laughed and pointed at Neville before giving him the thumbs up.
"I'm fine! Um it's just that stuff's, other stuff's, been going on with me and I didn't talk about it because you had so much going on and it wouldn't have been fair but now that I think of it it's still not fair because you're starting work again and you've only just been cleared by Kalra and...so...just forget I said anything."
Ron sat back in his chair and looked around him for a 'Neville translator' before pointing at him and shaking his head.
"Well forget that I meant to say something then!" Neville huffed before picking up a forkful of mash and lifting it to his mouth.
Ron raised his hand and rested it on Neville's wrist, pushing his arm back down so his fork settled back down onto his plate. Ron adopted a sincere expression and made a pointing motion to his lips and away before patting himself on the chest. Neville sighed and shoved his plate to one side to lean over the table and talk to Ron. Ron raised his eyebrows; if food was being rejected then this had to be something big.
"Well you know that mind damage is my specialty right?"
"And you all probably know why that is right?"
Nobody had ever spelled it out but everybody knew that this was all down to what had happened to Neville's parents when he was a baby. Ron nodded again.
"Well I've been putting in some extra time with them, Healer Kalra's been a great help too, and whenever you weren't...y'know, dying?"
Ron looked away with a tinge of embarrassment before meeting Neville's eyes again.
"Well I'd be doing a bit of work on them and over the last few weeks there's been some really promising...well there's been progress I suppose. No, not progress, it's like..." Neville gave up on his need to not get too excited and his face lit up, "...it's great Ron!"
Ron stared at Neville and broke into a smile before rubbing his hands together then twirling his index fingers rapidly.
"Well they'll never be like they were but they're back kind of. Gran's practically floating on air. They both recognised her last Tuesday and my mum's started talking, she's got a stammer but that's nothing is it?"
Ron beamed at Neville before stroking his chin with his finger and giving the thumbs up.
"It's really great!" Neville agreed, "So now mum's seeing all sorts of speech therapists and her memories are being unlocked and she finally believes that I am who I say I am," Neville's face fell a little at this, "she was convinced that I was still a baby."
Ron swallowed and rubbed his knuckles against his chest.
"No it's fine, it's got to be confusing hasn't it? She saw her reflection in the mirror and burst into tears. She's aged and doesn't remember a thing about it."
Ron took in the melancholy news and then frowned before twirling his fingers and pointing them at himself.
"Well what it is, what I was going to ask you..." Neville shook his head and looked away from Ron, "...I shouldn't be asking you, you're really busy and you've only just..."
Ron slammed his hand down on the table and glared at Neville before hitting himself in the chest, crossing his hands over each other and moving them away sharply, and stroking his upper arm with his little finger.
"I never said you weren't strong enough to handle anything Ron. For Godric's sake you've taken to beating the hell out of innocent furniture again. I'd say that meant you were one hundred percent your old self!"
Ron tried not to smile as he sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. Neville took in a deep breath and took the plunge, talking at rapid speed to ensure he get everything out.
"All I was going to say was my mum's doing really well but my dad's brain damage is too severe in some areas and one them is his communication skills so all the spells, potions and speech therapy in the world will never allow him to speak again but the rest of him seems to be as sharp as anything. It's like he's had a stroke, his condition is more physical them mental while mum's is trauma but physically she's doing really well."
Ron finally understood what it was Neville was trying to get at and unfolded his arms to lean forward again.
"So my dad obviously wants to communicate desperately but his hands have got the shakes and he can't write stuff down, he can't even grip a quill, so he'd have to learn sign language. My mum would too so she could understand him obviously and I was going to ask...'cause I could do it, I know it don't I? I learnt it for you," Neville shrugged as he gestured at Ron carelessly as if it was absolutely no big deal at all that he went to such an effort for his friend.
Ron smiled at his friend who took a breath to attempt to calm himself down before smiling back and carrying on at a slightly slower pace.
"I would teach them but I have such long shifts and irregular hours and sometimes I'm only free from three in the morning and you can't wake people up to teach them sign language in the middle of the night can you? So I was going to ask you if you'd..."
Neville stalled again and looked down at the table.
"Because it's not just the learning it's the fact that you know what he's going through because you had to do it yourself."
Ron waved his hand before Neville to get his attention so he could give him some kind of reassurance that this conversation wasn't upsetting him, so he shouldn't upset himself either, but Neville was still looking down at the table top.
"But you'll be working all day at the clinic and it's not fair to ask you to come here afterwards or at weekends to give lessons to my mum and dad so I'm not going to do it. I don't expect you to even consider it. I won't let you."
Ron made a 'Pft' sound with his lips as he stared at Neville, causing him to raise his head and meet his eyes again, before slamming his palm against his fist and pointing at Neville. Then he gestured to himself and gripped his fists and moved them downwards before hitting his palm with the side of his hand.
"I know it's not my place to tell you what you can and can't consider Ron, it's just that I don't want to take liberties."
Ron taped his finger against the table as he thought for a moment. He frowned and popped a chip into his mouth and chewed it while signing a brainwave he had just had to the stressed-out healer. He waved his hand over his palm gestured to himself and rubbed his knuckles together before signing the letter 'P'.
"How do you mean share with Percy?"
Ron nodded enthusiastically as he rubbed his hands together and shaking his hands before himself, pointing his fingers with both hands together and then drawing them apart horizontally.
"No, I know Percy's great at sign language, it's his career now, but he's just as busy as you are."
Ron held out both hands before him before waving one hand over the other palm.
"You mean take alternate days?"
"You think he'd be interested?"
Ron nodded again.
Neville grinned at Ron.
"So you'd do it?"
Ron laughed and pointed at him before gesturing around the cafeteria.
For you, anything.
When Ron arrived home practically the whole family was there to hear whether he was fully discharged or not. He looked over his shoulder at Neville and told him to tell everybody for him.
While everybody else gave cheers and relieved sighs Hermione ran into Ron's arms and planted a kiss on his lips while Harry hugged Ginny closely to himself and seemed to smile his first worry free smile in a very long time. Mrs Weasley had filled the kitchen with food she had prepared at the Burrow and soon everybody was strewn all over the sofa, the armchair and the floor of Harry and Ron's tiny flat. Harry seemed a little eager to get away for some reason, Hermione guessed it might have had something to do with a private conversation she had with Ginny a couple of days ago and smiled to herself.
She climbed over several Weasley bodies to get to the kitchen and pour herself another drink. Just as she was ready to make her way back out into the living room the front doorbell rang and Neville jumped up to answer it as he was the closest.
"Godric it's Jess!" he exclaimed before taking her arm and kicking all the human obstacles aside so she wouldn't trip over, "What are you doing here?"
Ron was extricating himself from his spot wedged into the side of the sofa and followed them through to the kitchen.
"Well I'm not at the clinic anymore," she explained, "nurse Stour cleared me for rehabilitation back into the magical community."
"Jess that's fantastic!" Harry said as he stepped into the kitchen with Ron.
"Is that you saying that or Ron?" she smiled.
Ron made a gesture to Harry that meant 'both of us' and Harry translated it for him. Jess beamed and felt the space ahead of her. Ron grabbed her hand and squeezed.
"I hope you don't mind me stopping by but your flat is really close to my new halfway house and they wanted an in case of emergency contact and I wanted to ask if I could use you and Harry."
Ron tapped Jess' hand once and Harry grinned.
"Of course we don't mind Jess, this is so brilliant," Harry said warmly.
"Hey stay and have something to eat with us," Neville said happily, we've got plenty and I'm sure I can turf one of that lot out of their seat for you."
"Oh I don't want to get in anybody's way," Jess said but Neville was already gone and nudging an annoyed Fred into getting up.
"Too late Jess, he's already doing it!" Harry laughed.
"But I came with someone from the halfway house, they're waiting outside to show me back home," Jess said in a mini panic.
"No problem," Harry shrugged amiably, " I'll go an invite them in, the more the merrier!"
"Oh-kay!" Jess said, seeming to be a little overwhelmed at her warm welcome into a home she hadn't actually been invited to show up at.
Hermione popped a cheese and pickle sandwich into her mouth just as Harry began to hurdle his way out the front door to find Jess' companion. It was only then that she realised that she had her mouth full and Jess had no way of communicating with Ron other then via a translator. She began to chew frantically so she could be of help but Jess was already talking to Ron.
"So do you remember when we spoke that time?" she said as she held on to Ron's hand nervously.
Ron saw Hermione's predicament and laughed before tapping the back of her hand once.
"I really liked that."
Ron smiled and tapped the back of her hand again before frowning over at Hermione so she could ask Jess what it was that was up but Hermione was having some serious issues with her sandwich. She cursed Mrs Weasley's need to slice bread so thickly.
"Because I only ever got to see you in visions and you were always getting hurt and that time you were...happy. It was nice seeing you like that."
Ron smiled again and cast Hermione another glance, she shrugged at him apologetically while chewing even faster, and he squeezed Jess' hand.
"There's just one thing I wanted to do, I hope you don't mind but I'm feeling very brave this week."
Ron looked worried before casting an exasperated glance at Hermione for still not being of any use to him as a translator. Then he looked into the living room and saw Harry happily chatting with Jess' helper, a pretty young woman with blonde hair, and the rest of the family laughing loudly about something George was saying about three broken legs when he felt Jess's hand at the back of his neck and found himself being pulled down into an unexpected kiss.
Hermione nearly choked on her sandwich.
Ron's eyes were wide and they darted over to his astonished girlfriend who realised that she hadn't spoken since Jess came into the kitchen and the poor besotted girl didn't know Hermione was there. Ron gave Hermione a pleading look as if begging her to tell him what he was supposed to do while kissing a blind girl in front of his girlfriend. Hermione had had enough of her sandwich problem and spat the revolting doughy blob into the bin before signing to Ron so as not to embarrass Jess.
Just as she began to tell Ron to just ride it out and then she would make a very loud entrance into the kitchento save Jess' pride the blind witch broke away from Ron and let him go.
Ron took a step back and looked from his girlfriend to Jess and back again with a shrug.
"Don't worry, I'm not in love with you or anything, I know you've got a really lovely girlfriend and everything. I just wanted to do that just once, just to say thank you and I think you're wonderful."
Ron's mouth hung open and he searched himself for an appropriate course of action.
"Jess I've got you a place to sit down but we'd better move fast or you'll lose it!" Neville said cheerily as he offered his arm to Jess and led her from the kitchen to be greeted by the twins with cries of her being their savoir in the heat of battle.
Ron looked at Hermione and shook his head in shock before rubbing his knuckles against his chest. She crept across the kitchen and pulled him away from the door to whisper into his ear.
"What have you got to apologise for? I saw the whole thing, I think it's quite sweet actually."
Ron looked incredulous and gestured out into the living room before putting his fingertips together and twisting them. Then he pointed at Hermione before waving his hand forward vaguely.
"Only if you watch!" Hermione giggled at her response to Ron informing her she could kiss Jess next time if she thought it was so sweet.
Ron laughed and shook his head before hugging Hermione closely and walking back into the living room to rejoin the others.
While Harry and Ginny played footsie under the coffee table and giggled about all the attention Neville was paying Jess he noticed that Ron and Hermione were looking very embarrassed about something. Harry wondered if they had been caught getting up to mischief in Ron's bedroom.
Percy was scribbling a rota on a piece of parchment for sign language classes but Harry hadn't caught most of that conversation so wasn't really sure why he kept showing it to Ron and Neville who kept nodding.
George seemed quite taken with Jess' little helper and Fred was teasing him mercilessly every time she was distracted from George's many entertaining stories and confident charm.
Mr Weasley was sitting on his wife's lap in order to keep her off her feet for more then five minutes while Charlie threatened to join in the 'force mum to relax' protest by sitting on his father's lap. Bill pointed out that they wanted to keep their mother from rushing around after everybody and not paralyse her for life. This resulted in Charlie attacking Bill with a pumpkin pasty and causing quite a mess.
Harry was laughing and ducking the flying lumps of pastry as they flew through the air when Ron suddenly looked as if somebody had jut poured scalding water over him and the room fell silent.
Ron's shoulders were hunched and his arms were stiff. His wide eyes looked at Hermione who stared back at him with worried hope.
"That wasn't it was it?" she whispered.
"What? What's happened?" Mrs Weasley snapped as she threw her husband off her lap and tried to get up from the sofa but her legs were completely numb rendering her immobile.
"Ron you didn't tell me it was happening tonight," Harry said as he sat forward on the sofa and clutched Ginny's hand tightly.
Ron swallowed and seemed a little less tense as he shook his head and tapped his temple with his thumb.
"They didn't tell you they were destroying her brain?" Harry repeated, "So if it's not that then what...What's wrong?" Harry said as he watched Ron looking down at his arms again.
The redhead shook his head cautiously and crossed his hands over each other and drew them apart horizontally. Hermione took Ron's hand in hers and smiled at him confidently before moving her hand upwards, pushing back Ron's sleeve until the gathering crowd of friends and family gasped in unison and Ron's eyes almost bulged out of his head.
"What's going on? Neville, what's happening?" Jess said with confusion.
Ron quickly rolled up his other sleeve and held both his arms before him.
"Oh Godric Ronnie!" Mrs Weasley exclaimed as she pulled her husband back off the floor and clung to him tightly.
"What?" Jess demanded impatiently.
Neville laughed out loud and stared at Ron who was looking at Hermione with an amazed expression on his face before Hermione squealed and almost knocked him off the sofa with the force she threw herself at him.
"It's nothing to worry about Jess," Neville said as he took Jess' hand and patted it reassuringly, "it's just that Ron's scars have just disappeared."