Disclaimer: The Harry Potter series and everything within were created by J.K. Rowling and do not belong to me. This story does not take place within the continuity of the books.
Ron Weasley was in pain. Every part of his body hurt, from the smallest toe on his left foot to the hair atop his head, with the lone exception being the second tooth from the left on the bottom—and that was only because he could see it lying on the floor near the door of the cell he was currently occupying. The spot in his mouth where it normally resided pulsed with a dull, throbbing ache, however, so he guessed it pretty much evened out. With a low groan, he dragged himself to the sole stone wall of his cell and propped himself against it. For a moment, he gasped for breath and his vision darkened while a cold sweat sprung out over his body, but he managed to recover before passing out. Apparently, the weak, slow-acting healing draught his tormentors had forced down his throat to make sure he'd be able to appreciate tomorrow's finale was starting to work.
With a deep sigh, he looked around his cell in the vain hope of finding some means of escape, even though every other search in the few days since he'd arrived had been fruitless. Unfortunately, little had changed while he'd been out 'entertaining' his Death Eater hosts—the cell still consisted of a stone floor and a single stone wall with a barred window to the outside and three walls of bars, one with a door to a corridor and the other two doubling as walls for his neighboring cells. In the center of the floor was a small grate that received a constant trickle of water from the ceiling above it. But there, near the door, was something new—a small pile of bread and scraps of meat. In response to the sudden surge of stomach-clenching hunger the sight of food provoked, Ron made his way over to the pile and began to eat ravenously. After a few moments, a gentle voice from the cell to the right reached his ears.
"Ah, you seem to be in much better condition than usual after experiencing the hospitality of our hosts, my friend."
Ron paused in stuffing food into his mouth. "Yeah, they gave me some sort of healing potion this time. Want to make sure I can put on a good enough show for Lord Voldemerde tomorrow when he's finished whatever ritual he's doing and can give me his personal attention." Suddenly he looked down at the pile of food and then over to the old, thin, bedraggled man who was his only companion in the dungeon, and a look of guilt crossed his face. "Look, I'm sorry, mate, here I am with all this food and I didn't even think of you. Here, have some."
Before he could start to bring anything over to their common wall, however, the old man raised a wizened hand and said, "No, I will be fine with my usual portion. You should eat all of what you've been given—healing potions draw on the body's strength, so you will need all the nourishment you can get."
"Like it's going to matter," Ron grumbled before angrily biting into a heel of bread. "We both know the next time they bring me up there, I'm not going to be coming back down alive."
The old man sighed and gazed out his window at the patch of blue sky it framed. "I cannot dispute your words, my friend, but will peace and an end to the torment those monsters inflict upon you be such a bad thing?"
Ron exhaled forcefully. "No, of course not... But an end to the pain means an end to everything I want in life, too! Quidditch, a good job, a nice home, friends, family..." He trailed off, pain and sorrow filling his expression as he softly added, "The woman I love..." After a long moment of silence, Ron resumed eating. When he finished, he looked up to see the old man staring at him intently.
"Come," said the old man grimly as he beckoned, "we need to talk."
Ron walked over to their common wall and sat. From this close, it almost seemed his neighbor was giving him an angry glare. "So... what is it, mate?" he asked uneasily.
A long moment passed before the old man began to speak in a low growl. "Because it amuses the dark lord, I have been a prisoner here for the past few years. I may not have had it as bad as you have in your time here, but I assure you I have no desire to stay." Ron nodded and the old man took a deep breath before saying quietly, "And I have a way out."
Ron stared at him wide-eyed and said, "You do?"
The old man nodded. "I do. Over the years, I've managed to create a small amount of a powerful acid—don't ask what it's made of; you don't want to know. In any case, it should be strong enough to eat through these bars that surround us." Ron's face lit up at these words, only to fall as his neighbor flatly added, "I only have enough to remove the bars from the window of one of the cells."
"Of course... why would you stay around here to make more than that..." Ron took a deep breath and forced himself to smile, even though he felt more like screaming or crying. "Congratulations, mate. If there's any way I can help, just say the word. All—all I ask is you take a message to my family and ... my girl once you're out."
"No." As a hurt look crossed Ron's face, the old man said, "I'm not leaving. You are."
"What?" gasped Ron, hope blooming in his chest before he savagely forced it down. Shaking his head, he stammered, "That—that's very generous of you, but I can't... I can't take what you spent years making and use it to get out and leave you stuck here."
"You can and you will. Look at you—a young man with friends and loved ones out there waiting and your whole life ahead of you! I'm just an old man with no one and nothing waiting for me if I get out... Yes, I'd much rather be out there than in here, but not at the price you—and I—would have to pay."
"That you would have to pay?"
"Oh, yes. How much would you be able to enjoy your freedom if you let a child die to obtain it?"
"I'm not a child," grumbled Ron, stroking his beard.
"Compared to me, you are. Now, we are not going to waste any more time debating this. Either you use the acid or I pour it down the drain."
"I'll use it!" Ron quickly cried.
"Good. Now, I've had a lot of time to think about this... your only real chance is to remove the bars on your window by dissolving small sections at the tops and bottoms, then make your way to the dock on the east side of this island we're on, and use the rowboat there to get far enough so you're past the apparation wards before our hosts notice your absence and locate you.
"That's a good plan, mate, but I've got a better idea—I use the acid on the bars of my cell, clobber a Death Eater for his wand, and then get you out so we can both leave."
"Ridiculous! You'd have to find a solitary Death Eater without being detected and overpower him in you weakened state before he can cry out. And even if you manage to do that, these doors are probably warded against spells, so you'd have to find the actual keys. I am not giving you my chance at freedom just so you can waste it! You will take the acid, use it on the window, and get the boat!"
"All right!" hissed Ron, "just keep your voice down!"
"Sorry," muttered the old man as he pulled a glass vial half-full of a pale yellow liquid from his tattered clothes and handed it to Ron. "I'll keep watch while you take care of the window."
"You can thank me once the bars are gone!"
Ron nodded and quickly went to his window. He opened the vial and applied some of the contents to each of the bars, briefly wondering how his neighbor had gotten the container, but was quickly distracted by the acid visibly eating its way into the bars with a soft hissing sound. When the hissing stopped after about a minute, he grasped one of the bars and give it a sharp yank with all his strength, and a load groan filled the air. Unfortunately, its source was Ron, who seriously wondered if he'd done permanent damage to his shoulder.
"Stop screwing around," growled the old man from his cell. "I told you there's just enough for one set of bars—stop trying to save enough for both of us and use it all!"
With a sigh, Ron nodded and applied the rest of the acid. This time, when the hissing stopped, the bars gave way easily. Carefully putting the bars aside, he walked over to the barrier between the cells and thrust his arm through to clasp his neighbor's. "I'll never forget this, mate." Then, with no small amount of desperation in his voice, he asked, "Is there anything at all I can do for you?"
"Besides returning my vial?" asked the old man, smiling slightly as Ron blushed and quickly returned the item in question. "Just name your firstborn son after me."
"I swear I will," declared Ron earnestly before turning and leaving through the window. An hour later, as he rowed his small boat away from the island, he remembered his benefactor's name, and for a brief moment, seriously considered turning back.
Ron stepped through the doorway and stopped, just standing there in the entrance to the small library of number twelve, Grimmauld Place and staring at its sole occupant, who had her nose buried in a large tome. For over a minute he silently watched her, overcome by the intense, almost painful, joy that filled his chest. Finally, he announced his presence with a soft, "Hey."
The young woman looked up sharply, and seeing him, cried, "Ron!" and tossed the tome aside to rush over, stopping short in front of him, suddenly looking indecisive. "Are you all right?" she asked, her arms twitching slightly, as if she wanted to grab him but was afraid he'd break. "They said you weren't hurt badly, all things considered," she said hurriedly, "but..."
If she had anything further to say, it was cut off as Ron stepped forward, took her in his arms, and held her tightly. "I'm OK," he murmured in her ear, as she clutched him tightly. "I was afraid I'd never see you again, Hermione," he said softly while trying to mold his arms to her form.
"You were afraid?" she cried, giving him a squeeze that briefly made him reconsider his medical condition. "I thought you were gone forever!"
"Me, too," he said wryly. "But it's OK, I'm here now," he said soothingly while stroking her hair.
For several long moments they stood there, content in their embrace before Hermione pulled back slightly and asked, "Ron, how did you escape?"
A cloud crossed Ron's face. "There was another prisoner there... an old man. He had a way to escape—and insisted that I use it while he stayed behind."
"Oh, Ron..." said Hermione softly as she held him in a comforting hug, "I'm so sorry. Is there anything we can do to help him?"
Ron sighed and shook his head. "All I know is we were held on an island somewhere, but I have no idea where it is. I tried to convince him to let me get him out too, but he refused. Said it was too risky."
"He sounds like a very wise and generous man. I promise we'll find some way to honor him." She paused as she felt him stiffen in her arms. "What's wrong? Are you in pain?"
"Aaaah, no... let's sit down," said Ron as he gently disengaged from her hold and led her to a couch. He began to sit down next to her before suddenly reconsidering and moving to a nearby chair that was just out of her reach.
"Ah, yeah..." he said, fidgeting nervously. "Well, before I left, I kinda swore I'd name my firstborn son after him, what with him saving my life and all..."
"There's nothing wrong with that! I think it's a very touching gesture."
"Uh, well, you see, in the heat of the moment, I sort of forgot what his name was..." He trailed off and sent a sickly smile in his girlfriend's direction.
"His name?" she asked in confusion. "What could be wrong with his name—wait, it isn't Draco, is it?! No? Lucius? Tell me it wasn't Severus, Ron!"
"No! No! It isn't anything like that," he cried with a shudder of revulsion.
"Well, for the love of Merlin, tell me what it is already!"
"Wesley," breathed Ron in a small voice.
A puzzled expression crossed Hermione's face as she mouthed the name. A moment later, her eyes flew open and she shrieked, "Ron, you can't name a baby Wesley Weasley! It's child abuse!"
"I know," moaned Ron, "but he gave his life for mine and I swore I'd do it."
Hermione took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. "OK, this is a problem, but let's keep sight of what's really important. You're alive and safe, and we're together." When Ron flashed her a relieved smile, she patted the couch next to her and slipped an arm around him when he joined her. "Now, what, exactly, did you promise?"
"That I'd name my firstborn son after him."
"Well, there you have it, then. You don't name him Wesley Weasley—you name him something like Reginald Harold Wesley Percival Weasley."
"Damn it, Hermione, the man didn't get me a good deal on a used broom, he chose to stay in Voldemort's clutches so I could escape—I can't bury his name somewhere in the middle of a flock of them!"
"OK... but, Ron, you don't honestly think he'd want you to name your son Wesley Weasley, do you?"
"No," sighed Ron, "he didn't know my last name, and I'm sure he'd let me off the hook if he was here, but he isn't and I swore..."
Hermione gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry, we'll think of something. Right now, I think we should focus on celebrating your return, though." As Ron turned to ask her what she had in mind, her lips met his, answering his question.
Ron sighed and idly pushed the remains of breakfast around on his plate as he stared into space. Eventually, movement across the table caught his eye and he focused on Hermione, who was watching him with a worried look. "Sorry," he said with a tired smile.
"What's wrong, Ron?"
"It's been two days now, and we haven't figured out anything to do about the name."
"Well, it's not like we haven't been busy with other things," she said with a slow smile.
"That's true," replied Ron as his cheeks colored slightly, "but we have spent a lot of time thinking about it, too, and haven't come up with anything." He shook his head. "There's only one thing to do... We'll just have to have only girls."
Hermione just gaped at him, blushing a little, herself, at his use of the word 'we'. After a moment, she gathered her wits and asked, "How do you plan to manage that? I don't know of any magic to do it."
"Oh, there has to be some way to do it—just look at Malfoy, there's no way you can tell me he didn't start out as a girl."
Stifling the laugh that burst from her at hearing the unusual theory of Malfoy's beginnings, Hermione shook her head and said, "Do you really think being a girl who looks like she started out as a boy is better than having a horrible name?"
"No, I suppose not... But we just can't name a kid Wesley Weasley," he sighed in despair, bowing his head. After a long moment of silence, he looked up to see his girlfriend staring into space with a thoughtful expression on her face. He started to ask what she was thinking about, but at the last moment stopped himself from distracting her and instead quietly watched her.
A few moments later, he was rewarded when her face lit with a smile and she cried, "I've got it!"
"And that's why you last name is Granger even though your dad's isn't," said George Weasley to the little boy sitting before him, smoothly taking over for his twin brother Fred.
Fred opened his mouth to say more, when a woman's angry voice rang through the room. "George! Fred! What kind of nonsense are you filling my son's head with?!"
Looking up to see an enraged Hermione Weasley-Granger bearing down on him, he smoothly stood up along with his twin and quickly said, "Whoops! Look at the time—got to run, Wesley."
"—Before your mum makes us late," finished George with a grin before they both spun and vanished from the room with a crack of rushing air, just seconds before Hermione reached where they'd been standing.
"Don't you listen to a word they say, Wesley," she urged as she sat down and hugged her son. "Like I told you before, your name is Wesley Granger because I was blessed with you before your father and I were married." Giving him a loving squeeze, she kissed him on the forehead before glaring at the spots her twins-in-law had occupied and muttering, "I swear, the two of them have one brain between them..."
A soft gasp made her turn back to her son to find him staring up at her with wide eyes. "Really?" he breathed.
She looked back at him in surprise briefly before sadly shaking her head and saying in a low voice, "It was the worst splinching accident in over fifty years... It took weeks, but eventually they found every part of them—except for poor George's brain. Everyone thought they'd have to give up on him, but Fred wouldn't hear of it and insisted they both share the one brain."
"That's why they're always finishing each other's sentences!" cried Wesley in sudden comprehension.
"That's right," said Hermione, biting her lip so as not to be overcome with … emotion. "And why they keep getting confused about which one is which."
"How did it happen, mommy?"
"I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to talk about it in front of them—it upsets them to be reminded of it..."
As she told her son the fantastic tale of how George had quite literally lost his mind, Hermione was aware that many people would consider her a hypocrite after her recent scolding of the twins. But despite her words to them, she wasn't against nonsense—every child needed a healthy amount of it in his life; it just had to be the right kind of nonsense. A story of how a little boy was named after a hero who gave his life for the child's father was exciting, but guaranteed to bring pain and embarrassment when it eventually came out that he was really named for his great-uncle who'd made cinder candy for a living. That was the wrong kind of nonsense.
A story about his uncles and their wacky adventures that resulted in them sharing one brain between them, on the other hand, would feed a boy's imagination and cause no harm. For all she knew, the story could even be true! It did fit the facts and she knew from firsthand experience that stranger things had happened. Sure, it probably hadn't happened, but she made a note to check ministry records on splinching accidents in the past ten years. You never knew, after all...
Author's note: Please send all comments and criticisms on Ron's escape from Voldemort and his time with Hermione by owl post to Fred and George Weasley, England, as they are responsible for that part. All other comments should be directed to the author of this story. Thank you.