The frigid air burned as he inhaled. The icy atmosphere chilled his exposed skin. His fingers gripped his wand tightly in his right hand. It was pointed to the ground, his arm in the position he had been taught in Auror training so long ago. Wind whipped around him, his longer than regulation hair was picked up by it and flapped silently against his skin. His robes billowed around him impressively as he walked briskly up the garden path towards the quiet and darkened house. It was after midnight and none of the houses close to him looked like they were full of awake people. Ron breathed in deeply again, the air burned and his chest shook. He had reached the porch, his feet on the welcome mat but the door was ajar and the feeling of unease in Ron's stomach grew. He swallowed the tiny remainder of nerves still in his system and used his foot to kick his way into the house. The door banged, making too loud a noise. His wand lit on the single thought he had made and the warm glow showed the messy living room. It was familiar to him and he walked unconsciously through it to the stair case. The wood creaked as it always did and he walked down the hallway until he reached the last door. It too was a jar and a lamp light inside created a hazy glow around the room. Ron's hand shook as he pushed the door open and his wand dropped from his fingers as he gasped for breath. He fought the urge to be sick as he saw the bodies draped across the bed. A teddy bear lay on the blood soaked carpet. A slipper by the nightstand that showed signs of spell damage. Pale skin was mottled with harsh bruises, red raw and scorched.
Ron snapped his eyes open and gagged. He sat up from the pillows and kicked away the covers harshly. He let the milder air in the room cool his sweat glistened body. His shoulders shook as he rolled off the bed and stumbled on his wobbily feet. In the bed behind him he heard Hermione stir but he ignored her and hurried towards the bathroom just outside the door. He fell to his knees moments before he emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet. He gasped for breath and braced himself against the wall beside the toilet. He closed his eyes and pushed the heels of his hands into them, trying to block away the images that still remained. After taking a few calming breaths he opened his eyes and looked around the dark bathroom. He allowed his senses to come back to him and realised that there was a storm raging outside the house. The shadows on the ceiling were twisted and they turned as the tree outside the window was thrown around in the wind. The room illuminated as a stroke of lightening forked through the midnight sky. He raised his eyes to look out of the window and saw the navy sky that was tinged with a dark purple and a black array of clouds before his eyes were blinded by another huge fork of bright lightening. Everything went strangely silent for a few seconds before a crash of thunder made him jump slightly. Ron flushed the toilet and washed his mouth out with a handful of water from the sink before he made his way back to his bedroom.
There was another roll of thunder as he slipped into the warmth of the bed again. He settled back into the pillows when a cool hand gripped his wrist. Ron jumped and tried to swallow down the roll of nausia that hit him.
"Are you ok?" Hermione whispered. Ron turned his head to look at her. Her eyelids were half closed and her sleepily concerned face was half hidden by the duvet. He smiled at her and hoped it woudl reassure her. Ron fought the urge to gag again and sat up.
"Yeah I'm fine." Ron whispered hoarsely back. "Go back to sleep."
"Ron." Hermione sighed, knowing full well that he wasn't ok.
"Sleep." He told her as he left the bedroom again. An edge of annoyance in his voice. He wandered down the hallway and when he reached the stairs he knew that she wouldn't follow him. This hadn't been the first time that Ron had woken from nightmares. Ron reached the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of water, he cracked open the back door and smelt the air. It was as if someone had burnt a pile of branches in his back yard or sent up a thousand red sparks infront of him. It felt thick and warm against his skin. He stepped out onto the garden and walked across the chilly tiles. Hermione's flower beds tickling his ankles as he passed them and walked into the lawn. The grass was cold against his skin and the odd twig poked his bare sole. A crash of thunder sounded so far away now that Ron could hardly hear it. He heard the rain before it hit his head, dripping from his hair and soaking into his clothes. The slamming of the drops into the ground around him was deafening. His feet were rooted to the spot but he wanted to move. To run. To escape. It was exactly the same feeling as he had had all those years ago in the tent. He felt claustrophobic, like everything was closing in. He took another rain soaked breath and let it out of his lungs with a long audible sigh.
From the corner of his eye saw next doors light spark on. The yellow light bright in the darkness. Harry or Ginny must've been up with baby James or Teddy who was staying over again. Teddy was probably afraid of the storm Ron presummed. Ron felt a prick in his heart as he thought of the ready made family next door. A warm drop rolled down his cheek and Ron realised that it wasn't the rain. Taking a shaky breath he pushed the dark thoughts out of his head and dug his finger nails into his palms until he felt a warmth spread over his fingertips. Frowning over the pain and letting a relieved sigh he lifted his palms up into the air and the rain fell onto his wounds. Gasping as the water stung his skin and relishing in the pain. Ron looked upwards and the sky was fully black now. He tried to clear his mind, but he couldn't help the thoughts resurfacing. The involuntary memories floated back. He remembered leaving the tent, the hard voice of Hermione crying for him to come back. The crushing blow of the disappointed faces of Bill and Fleur. These thoughts added fuel to the fire that was already burning in Ron's mind. His nightmare replaying over and over in his head. The faces, the freckles, the hair and the blood. The empty eyes of those lying on the bed, another body on the floor. Ron let his tired eyes slip closed as the nightmare flooded his mind. It began to thankfully blur around the edges but he still could see the empty glassy eyes staring at him blankly. Their faces morphed from the real memory of the strangers to the people he loved. Painfully he took another breath and he gave into his stomach. He bent over quickly and vomited again. Everytime he retched the faces burned his eyelids. A small hand touched his back and he jumped. His eyes snapping open as he spun into a defensive posistion.
"It's me." His little sisters voice came in the darkness. Ron relaxed and stepped forward seeing her properly in the poor light. "I saw you from the kitchen, are you ok?"
Ron blinked and took another breath, he rubbed his mouth with his soaking t-shirt. He looked at Ginny who stood under an umbrella, a dressing gown wrapped around her swollen belly, a small boy was gripping the hem of the gown as he stood close to her under the protection of the umbrella.
"Hey buddy." Ron smiled at Teddy. Teddy looked at him, his bright blonde hair lumescent in the darkness. Ginny was giving him one of Molly's concerned looks which with motherhood she had somehow perfected. Ron did his best to be cheerful and at the same time ignore Hermione.
"Are you ok uncle Ron?" Teddy asked, his voice quiet over the pounding rain.
"Yeah I'm great just alittle sick. Isn't it past your bedtime?" Ron asked, failing to disguise a prick of desperation of being left alone.
"I was scared." Teddy admitted. Ron nearly smirked - so was he.
"It's only a storm." Ron reassured the small boy and lifted him off the cold grass. Teddy borrowed his face into Ron's wet neck. "It can't hurt you."
Ginny gave him another concerned look and Ron offered her a smile.
"We better get you to bed." Ron announced and walked through the grass in the direction of Harry and Ginny's house.
"Mmmkay." Teddy sighed into Ron's neck and gave out a tiny yawn. Ginny led the way through the gate and up the steps into her kitchen. The light was on and it was warm compared to the chilling rain. Ginny shook out the umbrella and flicked the kettle on giving him a look to say that they were discussing this when he came back down. Ron felt an inch of disappointment as he realised that unlike Hermione, Ginny wouldn't let this go.
Ron walked quietly past the master bedroom where he knew that Harry would be sleeping. He slipped into Teddy's room and set him on the bed. Teddy shut his eyes and rolled into the pillow he was lying on. Ron smiled at him and gently pulled off the shoes he was wearing. He dropped them onto the carpet and pulled the duvet around Teddy again.
"Night Teddy." Ron spoke quietly and Teddy smiled.
"Night uncle Ron." He yawned and curled his fingers into a fist around the sheets. "I hope you feel better."
"Thank you." Ron whispered and pressed a kiss onto his forehead. "I'll see you later buddy."
"Night night." Teddy mumbled, letting sleep overtake him again. Ron watched him for a moment, part of his was mesmerised by how fast he had fell asleep again and part of him trying to put off the conversation he would be forced to have. He heard a tiny creak behind him and smirked in spite of himself. Both he and Harry's senses were heightened due to their Auror training and he knew that Harry would've heard him come into the house no matter how tired he was.
"Hey." Ron whispered and turned to see Harry as expected at the doorway.
"What happened?" He asked, confusion mixing with sleep as he rubbed his eyes. Ron shook his head.
"Nothing." Ron sighed and pushed him out of the bedroom allowing Teddy to sleep. He shut the door quietly and walked down the hallway and stairs. Harry following him. Ginny looked up and sighed, pulling another mug out of the cupboard and pouring tea into it before she slid it into the middle of the kitchen table where it joined the other two sitting there.
"Hey." She spoke to Harry as he kissed her forehead and sat down at the table.
"So what's this all about?" Harry asked, taking the mug and taking a sip from it. Ginny sat beside him but Ron didn't move from his place in the doorway. He shivered, the rain finally making an impression on his body.
"I found Ron outside his house throwing up." Ginny murmured and Ron sighed as Harry's horrified and concerned face swiveled around to meet Ron's.
"It was nothing." Ron told him, fatigue suddenly overtaking him. "Just a bad day and a nightmare."
Harry's eyes narrowed as he thought back to the past day at work. Ron had been out on assignment and had found their suspect dead in his home with his family. Harry's face softened but Ginny continued to look unsatisfied.
"Oh." Harry spoke and nodded. "I understand."
Ron huffed and walked towards the back door.
"I'm going to bed." He told them. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention this to anyone."
Ginny glared at him. "Should we not talk about this."
"No." Harry and Ron spoke together. Harry's tone was more sad whilst Ron had a forceful edge to it. Ginny looked between them and rolled her eyes.
"Fine." She sighed and pushed herself away from the table. "I'm going to bed."
"Night." Harry murmured but Ron didn't speak. Instead he grabbed the handle of the back door and opened it. Cool air wooshed past him, reminding him of the storm still outside.
"If you wan to -" Harry started but Ron shook his head. "Ok." He continued. "I'll see you tomorrow then."
"Night." Ron said, not turning to see his best friend. Instead he stepped out into the wind and the rain. Making his way back to his bed where he would be woken more times in the night by thoughts kicking about in his head.