A/N This is my birthday gift for my ickle sis, The Steppy One. I did something totally different for her. I wrote a fic where Ron isn't in any pain!
Straighten, flex, spread, relax, feel every one in the bent and flexed position.
Make sure the knuckles look and feel right, that bones are firm under the skin, and the skin is unbroken and unbruised.
Feel the wrist, roll it and check for grinding or swelling, feel both forearms to see that they're straight, bend and flex elbow joints, check for swelling or signs of dislocation, feel your way along the upper arm to check for breaks, and check the skin all over for bruises and abrasions.
Roll and extend arm, making sure movement is smooth and not restricted, and check for cuts and bruises.
Roll the neck, look down, up, left, right, shrug, feel vertebrae and base of skull, and ensure airway and swallowing not restricted.
Feel scalp for bumps, checking for abnormalities, and look for cuts or scabs.
Check that both ears are intact and that hearing is fine, check the eyes for scratches or infections and that vision is good, check that the nose is unbroken, feel for swelling or misshapen cheekbones, feel the forehead for signs of fever, check the jaw for breaks and ease of movement, and scan skin for cuts or bruises.
Examine lips for swelling, bleeding, signs of biting. Make sure teeth are all present and unbroken, look for chips or cracks in enamel. Check the inside of the mouth for puncture wounds or chewed flesh. Make sure tongue not bitten, swollen, bleeding, and check throat is clear and not damaged.
Feel each vertebrae for changes in shape, size, contours. Check the back of the rib cage for abnormalities such as breaks. Ensure shoulder blades move smoothly. Check all the way down the back for cuts, bruises or signs of swelling. Make sure the skin is in good condition.
"And when we do my tackle are we calling it my wee-wee or my winkie?"
Hermione stopped scribbling notes down on her pad and resigned herself to some of Ron's finely honed sulking.
"Look Ron, this is beyond the realms of best friend stuff you know?" Hermione huffed and blushed as she threw her pad down and abandoned her new draft of the checklist at exactly the point she knew she'd crumble.
"Let me just drop into St Mungo's every morning and have them give me a quick squizz to make sure everything's hunky dory," Ron whined.
"It's not their job."
"And this isn't yours."
Hermione looked up at him.
"Not my job, no, but it is my...prerogative."
"Hiding behind a big word to win an argument," Ron said, folding his arms across his chest, "typical."
"It's a girlfriend's prerogative."
"Don't I get...any...you wouldn't want me making a note about the state of your..." Ron waved a hand down at Hermione's groin and winced, looking away.
Ron almost convulsed with discomfort.
"Ugh, don't! Don't ruin your bits with proper names and stuff!"
Hermione rubbed her face, wearily, and then tried to shake some focus back into herself.
"Okay, so, buttocks..."
"Bollocks," Ron said, in full sulk as he stepped back out of arm's reach.
"Don't make me owl your mother," Hermione warned.
"This is humiliating for me, don't you care?"
"Care? Of course I care, why do you think I'm worrying myself sick every day? Why do you think I'm trying to write out a thorough and comprehensive daily check list?"
"But why you? Why do you have to do it?"
"Because I...I love your body and I'm very possessive and it should be me who looks at you so closely."
"You used to look at me like I was sexy," Ron mumbled into his chest, ears burning scarlet beneath his hair.
Hermione flung her arms around him from behind and squeezed him tightly. Then jumped away immediately.
"See, you won't even cuddle me like you used to anymore. It takes a lot to break a rib with a hug y'kno-"
Hermione was at Ron's back again, only a foot higher. Ron glanced over his shoulder and saw she'd run to fetch a footstool to stand on. He laughed and slid his hands along her arms. His fingers interlaced with hers across his chest and her face rested between his shoulder blades.
"Chest." Hermione's hands began to feel their way over Ron's modest pectoral muscles.
"Breastbone, firm, collarbones straight and unbroken, nipples...hard!"
Hermione laughed and pressed her palm flat against his chest.
"Lungs?" Ron waited for Hermione's hands to move and her ear to press against his back before he took a deep breath in and then let it out.
"Again," Hermione instructed.
Ron did as he was told and inhaled very deeply and slowly before letting the air leave his lungs again.
"Feels alright to me," he said with a shrug.
"Everything feels alright to you," Hermione said, sadly, "but it seems to be all okay, yes."
"Stomach," Hermione corrected as her hands moved down and followed the curve in towards his belly button. "Did you eat breakfast?"
"Of course I did," Ron said with a smirk, "and it took me bloody ages because of Harry fussing about me chewing!"
Hermione rubbed his tummy and sighed.
"The Healers don't believe you remember to eat at all. You really do need to put on some weight."
"They're just jealous of my metabolism."
"Look at you trying to dazzle me with your big words."
They both chuckled and then Hermione slipped away from behind him and carried the stool away again.
"Groin." She spoke with her back to him so he could get on with his self examination.
She heard the elastic waistband of his underpants and the awkward clearing of Ron's throat.
"Clean, you'll be glad to hear, no...y'know, no stuff, y'know?"
"Say discharge, Ron."
She knew he was cringing.
"So," Ron paused before noisily moving his fingers through wiry hairs, "nothing feels wrong, or lumpy, or anything."
"I am, I did, no problem." Ron was clearly hating this.
"When did you last pee?"
"I'll just put a nappy on, shall I?"
He was defensive and huffy again. He had his masculine pride but Hermione knew that it was better to ask the question and move on rather than deal with his humiliation if he later wet himself.
"This morning. I had Harry on at me about that too! Harry Potter, saviour of my pants!"
"So you're all perfect down there, good."
Ron let the waistband ping back against his skin and mumbled something. Hermione turned around and smiled at him in a carefree manner.
"Let's look at those lovely knobbly knees then, shall we?"
"They're not knobbly!" Ron protested with a chuckle. "When did you last see smooth knees anyway?"
"That's a very good point, Ron," Hermione conceded, before looking up at him from her kneeling position and narrowing her eyes. "What are these?"
Ron frowned and leaned over to look down at himself.
"Scabs, Ron! You've got scabs on both your knees!"
"You obviously bled. Did you not notice blood on your clothes?
"I was wearing black trousers and...well, I thought I was just kneeling down."
"You're so heavy handed now," Hermione said with a despairing sigh, "I keep telling you to go easy. You almost kneecapped yourself last week and now t-"
"Now it wasn't as bad so I listened to you and really did try to be more careful," Ron said, fiercely.
Hermione drew her wand and healed the already healing grazes on his knees.
"Yes, you've clearly made an effort, it's just that you need to make more of an effort on top of that."
Hermione sighed and shook her head as her wand tip moved down to lift yellowy bruises from both his shins.
"See, that's not my fault. Nothing's got enough room for my legs and I'm gonna bang them if I can't fe-"
"I know, you've not broken or cracked anything so I can tell how hard you're trying. It's okay. I'm not cross."
Hermione heart sank.
"You will be." Ron said, cringing like a scolded puppy.
Hermione looked down at Ron's feet and shuddered.
Ron bit his lip and lifted one of his feet up so she could see the underside.
Hermione clutched her hand to her mouth and turned away. Then looked sharply up at him and pointed at his lip between his teeth.
"Don't do that!"
Ron let his lip spring free and shook his head.
"Sorry, is it bleeding?" He ran his finger along the inside of his lip but it was fine.
Hermione braced herself and looked back at Ron's hideously blistered foot.
"There's nothing I can do about that, apart from going barefoot and we both know that's worse than wearing any kind of shoe." Ron began to babble.
"I know, I know," she said with a nod as she started trying to heal the sole of his foot. "You might have a corn here, there's a lump or a...oh."
"I've stubbed one, I checked it but it looked fine," Ron stared to explain.
"Not your fault, walking on it has made it more obviously...broken. Let me."
Hermione flicked her wand at the broken toe and the made a loud cracking sound as it snapped back into place and fixed the break as good as new. Ron didn't even flinch.
"It's okay," she said as she set his foot back down. "Come on then, show me the other one."
Harry and Hermione struggled in through the front door, bags full of shopping in their hands, and grumbled that the Floo always smashed jars and eggs and bruised all their fruit and vegetables.
"It would be so much easier," Harry grunted as he kicked the door closed behind him, "if magical food shops delivered."
Hermione set her bags down, then flicked her wand to levitate them into the kitchen, along with the bags cutting into Harry' fingers.
"We'd still be stuck like this for the Muggle things we like," Hermione sighed, "Coca-cola, Smiths Crisps, Marmite, Jaffa Cakes..."
"All those unhealthy things you frown upon," Harry teased her as he glanced into the living room as the shopping floated past the open door.
Ron was asleep on his stomach on the sofa. Harry lowered his voice and then pointed toward him so Hermione would notice too.
"Oh, I was wondering where he was. He's usually nose deep in all the bags as soon as we're through the door."
The carrier bags settled on the table and a greengage rolled out and over the edge. Hermione caught it and placed it into the fruit bowl.
"And all that junk food you and Ron find so essential from the Muggle shops," she said as she started unpacking the bags, "isn't why I still use the non magical supermarkets. I need my rice cakes and sanitary products an-"
Harry flailed his arms and ran through to the living room at the mention of sanitary products.
"Condoms too, because we both know that Weasleys are rubbish at contraception spells." Hermione turned and called after him.
"Shhhhh! Ron, remember?" Harry whispered and waved an arm through the door at Ron, grinning nervously at having found a way to stop Hermione from talking about embargoed subjects.
"Nap time is over," she said as she walked towards Harry and then stepped into the living room, "I got you Coco Pops, get a wriggle on and help us unpack."
She shook Ron's leg by the ankle and looked back to Harry.
"You should rethink getting a mobile phone, Harry. They're handy for emergencies at least."
"You getting one makes sense," Harry said, folding his arms, "you have non magical family who want to contact you."
"And you got a Christmas card from Dudley and don't you forget it." Hermione turned her smirking face away from Harry to give Ron a poke in the back. "Come on, lazybones, I spent twenty pounds on things I don't approve of for you."
"You got twenty pounds worth of micro chips?"
"I wouldn't buy microwaveable chips for anyone, not even Ron," Hermione said, starting to run her hand lightly up his back, before narrowing her eyes at Harry. "I noticed your deflection by the way. You do have non magical family members who might want a way of contacting you."
"He only sent me a card because I sent him one."
"Aha, you sent him a card! You want to stay in touch."
"It's polite, that's all."
"And he sent one back."
"It's what families who hate each other do! We send Christmas cards and birthday cards if we remember and that's it."
"It's what families do but it's not what your family did. And Dudley sending a card simply out of manners is a vast improvement on everything he ever did to you before." Hermione looked back at Ron for a moment to shove him in the back. "For goodness sake, get up." She looked back at Harry. "Maybe Dudley would like to have your phone number, even if he never uses it."
Harry looked begrudgingly thoughtful as Hermione heaved an annoyed sigh and pushed Ron's hair back from his face. She jumped back.
"What?" Harry forgot about Dudley and moved towards her as she touched Ron's face again.
"He's hot. He's really unnaturally hot!" Hermione shook Ron with both hands and he finally made a groaning sound, but didn't open his eyes.
"Oh shit," Harry hissed as he ran towards the fireplace and dropped to his knees, "I knew that curse hit him, I knew it!"
"What curse?" Hermione demanded as she struggled to roll Ron over, onto his back, she saw that he was red in the face.
"Yesterday that wizard we arrested hit him with something and it didn't seem to do anything to him," Harry threw the Floo powder into the flames and plunged his head in after them.
"And they just shrugged and sent him home?" Hermione said, outraged.
Ron heaved a weary sigh and cracked his eyes open.
"I'm up okay? Stop shouting."
Hermione sat him up and dropped into the seat beside him. She held him to her side with one arm and kept feeling his face with the other.
"Ron, what happened to you yesterday? What was the curse?"
"What curse hit you yesterday?"
"It didn't work, didn't do anything, nothin' hap'n..." His head started to drop suddenly and his eyes closed again.
"Ron! Stay awake!" Hermione ordered just as Harry pulled out of the fireplace and stepped back.
"They're coming through now," he said just as the fireplace erupted with green flames and two Healers in Auror robes stepped into their living room.
"What is going on?" Hermione demanded.
The Healers took Ron and moved her aside to lie him back down again.
"Why is he not sweating?" One said to the other.
"Harry?" Hermione was almost nose to nose with her friend and furious that something had happened to Ron that neither of them had bothered to mention.
"He got hit with something and nothing happened and we sat in St Mungo's for hours doing tests and there was nothing wrong with him. He felt fine."
"You could have warned me. I could have been checking on him instead of chattering away, thinking he's asleep!"
"Hermione, they said there was nothing, they found nothing, they put counter curses on him and checked him from head to toe and nothing hurt, he wasn't in any pain, he wasn't il-"
"What did you say?" The other Healer turned sharply on Harry, wide eyed.
"Your colleagues didn't find anything."
"No, what did you just say?"
"He...wasn't in any pain." Harry was blank as he repeated himself.
The Healer turned back to Ron and Harry glanced at Hermione, who shrugged.
"He's not sweating is he?" The Healer asked her colleague.
"He has a temperature but he's not sweating, not at all, doesn't that strike you as odd?"
"But...no!" The other Healer said in disbelief.
The man looked back at Ron and patted the side of his face until Ron's eyes opened again.
"Mr Weasley, how do you feel?"
"Do you feel hot?" The female Healer said, leaning forward, and Ron thought for a moment and shook his head.
Her male companion pressed his knuckles hard against Ron's breast bone and moved his fist up and down.
"Does this hurt?"
"No," Ron said, sounding sleepy and annoyed.
"Do you feel it?"
Ron sighed and shook his head, eyes falling closed again.
"Mr Weasley!" The Healers shouted at him together.
Ron jumped awake again and looked around the room, blinking.
"Call him Ron," Harry told the Healers as he approached and looked down at Ron with concern.
The female Healer pinched Ron's earlobe, digging her fingernails in hard.
"Ron, do you feel that?"
Ron frowned and shook his head. Harry and Hermione shared a frightened look. The other Healer took Ron's hand, then slowly bent back Ron's little finger.
Ron shook his had again.
"What's happening? What's wrong with him?" Hermione asked them, in a panic.
The Healer quickly snapped Ron's little finger. Everybody flinched. Ron stared at the crooked digit and blinked.
"Did you just break my finger?"
"Yes," the Healer said with a nod, "did it hurt?"
Ron's eyes were wide.
The Healer fixed Ron's broken finger with a crack.
"Does that feel better?"
"It doesn't feel any different. What the hell is going on?"
"Cooling cloak, now!" The female Healer said and her colleague pulled a flimsy paper thin cloak out of his bag and performed a charm on it that made it turn an icy blue.
He draped the cloak around Ron's shoulders and tied it closed. Harry shivered just from the cool air emanating from it.
"He can't sweat, he's got some sort of fever but he can't cool himself down. We need to do it for him. Could one of you open the windows?" The woman said.
Harry swished his wand at the widows and they all opened wide.
"Do you have ice? Ice cold water? Anything frozen?"
"Frozen peas from the shop!" Hermione jumped up and ran to the shopping bags.
"Frozen peas?" Both Healers said to each other with bewildered expressions.
"It's a Muggle thing," Ron said as his eyes began to grow heavy again.
"Ron, no, stay awake for us. You're going to drink some water for us and then some potions, is that all right?"
"I'll get some water," Harry leapt up and ran to the kitchen to fill a glass from the tap.
"So, I can't feel anything because I'm ill?" Ron asked the Healers.
They didn't answer him.
"And I'm ill because of the curse, yeah?"
The Healers occupied themselves with finding the appropriate potions from their bags.
Hermione was back with the frozen peas and was instructed to put them on the back of Ron's neck. She felt his skin almost sizzling hot and couldn't stand not knowing any longer.
"You're going to cure this with those potions, yes?"
"We're going to put the fever into retreat, yes, but after that he's going to come to St Mungo's with us."
"For a check up?" Ron was looking sleepy again.
"You might have to stay for a day or two." The woman said with a wince of apology.
"It's very likely," her colleague said with a nod.
"How come?" Ron leaned into Hermione's side as Harry hurried back with half the pint glass of water slopped down his front.
"Mr Weas... Ron," the woman began, "I think you've been hit with a curse similar to Tactile Hyperesthesia."
Ron looked blank. Harry took a gulp from the glass of water and waited for an explanation. Hermione was running through her internal Latin dictionary in an attempt to work out what the Healer had actually said.
"That's an accidental creation of Dark Wizards seeking invulnerability," the Healer explained, "they wanted to take away their body's ability to feel pain. They created a curse, they called it a charm, which meant they were unable to feel pain of any kind."
"Unfortunately it also took away the ability to sweat, as you've just found out, people really need to sweat." The other Healer chipped in before taking the glass of water from Harry and forcing it into Ron's hand. "Here."
"Where?" Ron asked, looking to see what he was being directed to look at.
"No, Ron, here." Hermione closed her fingers around his so he was holding the glass. "Drink this."
Ron looked at the glass in his hand.
"How does it feel, Ron?" The man asked him, sadly. "Is it warm, cool, hot? Does the glass feel wet or dry?"
Ron looked at the glass and concentrated for a long time.
"Ron?" Harry said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"It doesn't feel like anything," Ron said, weakly.
"Drink," the female Healer ordered, turning to Harry and Hermione as he did as he was told. "Do either of you know who he has listed as next of kin?"
Hermione yelped and clasped her hands to her mouth.
"It's all right," the woman said, reassuringly, "we have to inform the next of kin every time an Auror is hospitalised. That's all it is. We're obliged to tell his selected person if we have to admit him for anything."
"It'll be her," Harry said, pointing to Hermione.
"No, he wouldn't have them telling me every time he got hurt..." Hermione stalled at the idea that Ron had no physical sensation at all anymore. "He'll have picked you."
"George," Ron said, into his half empty glass.
The Healer took the glass from him and leaned in closer to hear him properly.
"What was that?" He frowned.
"George Weasley," Ron said, staring at the little finger that had been broken and healed, "Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes, Diagon Alley, London."
"George?" Harry smiled.
"He needed a new one, his was always Fred, he picked me. Felt wrong not to do it back."
Hermione fought back tears and repositioned the bag of peas behind his neck.
"Dinner's on me, eh?" Ron smiled at her.
She choked out a laugh and swallowed it down to keep her eyes from squeezing out the swelling salt water filling her eyes.
"It's not Tactile Hyperesthesia," the female Healer said, giving them both a distraction, "that curse makes the victim very sensitive to touch. They were exceptionally tactile but nothing could hurt them. Not being able to actually feel was an obvious hindrance they tried to avoid. Nearly every witch or wizard died of overheating or from not feeling that they were injured. As you saw, bones still break."
"But this isn't that curse?"
"This is similar. I don't know what it is but I can say it's not a curse we know."
"It won't be permanent though, will it?" Hermione was almost delivering her question as if it were an order.
"We're going to work on that, but let's sort out our priorities and cure this fever."
"So," Ron began, then looked down at his hands in his lap and clammed up, "no, nothing.
"Please, Ron, go ahead."
His Healer was a kind woman, but that was the problem, she was a woman.
"No, it's nothing."
Hermione looked at Ron and squeezed his hand. She knew there was something on his mind but he was having trouble spitting it out. She opted to buy him some time and asked a question of her own.
"Can I ask," Hermione began, waiting for the Healer to turn her gaze towards Hermione, "is there anything I should change? I mean are there things I do that might hurt him that I don't know about?"
"Don't be silly," Ron said, squeezing her hand back.
"No, but there must be something. I mean, is it safe to kiss?"
Ron's face fell and he looked at the Healer, anxiously.
"Of course it is. When you kiss you're being gentle and really concentrating all your attention on what your mouth, your tongue, your lips are doing. Eating is going to be the biggest problem."
"Yeah, you said," Ron mumbled.
"Swallow carefully too, you won't know you're in trouble until you can't breathe," she said, hoping Ron was taking in the most important facts from the glut of information he'd received in such a short time.
"And he'll still enjoy it?" Hermione pushed on. "Kissing I mean."
"Very much so, I'm sure," the Healer smiled as she answered.
Ron looked at Hermione, who was relaxing at the news. He still looked troubled, though.
"Ron, please, I really do want to answer every question you have, even if you think it's something silly." The Healer prompted.
"It's not silly, it's just...embarrassing."
The Healer nodded.
"We've discussed you wetting yourself," Hermione said with a sympathetic smile, "nothing can be as bad as that can it?"
Ron swallowed and Hermione wanted to hug him immediately. Something about his expression broke her heart.
"Oh no, what have I said?"
"No," Ron spoke, roughly as he patted her on the back, "but it's that kinda region."
The Healer leaned forward, attentively.
"So uh," Ron began, then looked as if he wished he could run away and hide, "just wondering about, um..." Ron pointed down at his groin. "Y'know?"
"Erectile function?" The Healer offered.
Ron cringed into half his size and seemed to be humiliated and disgusted at the choice of words. Hermione had been wondering the same thing, but would never have voiced the question in front of Ron.
"It's nothing to twist yourself up in knots over," the Healer put a hand on Ron's knee and waited for him to uncoil from his recoil of shame. "You can still have sex, Ron."
That seemed to loosen him up. Hermione audibly exhaled too. Ron gave her a knowing glance. She shrugged apologetically for keeping her worries from him and they held hands and sat forward.
"I'll tell it like it is," the Healer said, slapping her hands against her thighs and sitting upright. "You'll get hard, Ron. If you are turned on, if you are watching Hermione and you think she's sexy, you will get an erection, just as you would have expected to before."
Ron let out a breath and a soft laugh and he nodded.
"Better than you expected?" The Healer asked.
"Yeah, to be honest," Ron admitted.
"Well, you'll love this, you can still come."
"Really?" Both he and Hermione exclaimed.
The Healer's smile faded as she realised what they were thinking.
"You will be able to ejaculate with the right stimulation. You will come during sex with your partner, yes, but don't confuse coming with...orgasm."
Ron and Hermione sat rigid, in the same position as before but suddenly tense, and waited for her to continue.
"Your present condition, the fact that you can't feel hot and cold, or pain...or even pleasure, it's like you not being ticklish any more."
"So he can have sex but he can't enjoy it?" Hermione said, crushed.
"Orgasm has nothing to do with how enjoyable sex is." The Healer said, firmly. "I'll have you know there are many women who have active and satisfying sex lives who never achieve orgasm."
"Just stop, just stop," Ron said, in a panic. "That's enough. I just wanted to know, and I know."
He looked to Hermione, seriously.
"I wanted to know we could do it and we can. That's all I wanted."
"But..." Hermione didn't even know how to express why she was so upset, it was more than they could have hoped after all.
"Maybe I'll even last longer, eh?" Ron tried to joke.
Hermione flung her arms around him and crushed him with her hug. Ron saw the Healer twitching with the anxiety of wanting to say, 'be careful with him'. Ron had never broken from her crushing hugs before and he wouldn't start now.
"Thank you," he whispered into her hair, "thank you for still cuddling me properly. Mum's treating me as if I have brittle bones or something."
The Healer relaxed, and Hermione finally released him. She looked up into his face with tears drying on her cheeks.
"I love you." She said, sniffing.
"Always said you were mad," Ron chuckled.
"This won't be forever. The Healers are going to find a counter-curse or a treatment and you'll get your life back again. I know it."
Ron kissed her cheek and pulled her into his chest.
"I didn't lose my life, did I? It's all fine. I can still taste chocolate and I can still shag you. What's to be sad about eh?"
"You, er," the Healer leaned forward, "you could combine the two."
Ron almost choked on Hermione's hair.
"What's this?" Harry picked up a strange looking rubbery object and tried to work out which way around he was supposed to be looking at it.
"That's my mouth guard," Ron said as he reached forward and picked up the newspaper and threw himself back into an armchair.
"You mean, it goes in your mouth?" Harry waited for Ron to nod in response before dropping it down on the coffee table and wiping his hand on his trousers. "Ugh!"
"It wasn't fresh out of my gob, y'know?" Ron chuckled. "I'd cleaned it and everything, which I have to do again after your dirty mitts have been all over it."
"But how are you supposed to talk with that thing in?"
"I'm not, it's for bed," Ron explained, "chocolate flavoured too. My Healer came up with the idea."
"Oh, so you don't bite your tongue in your sleep?"
"Bite it, swallow it, anything really, and not just when I'm sleeping." Ron waggled his eyebrows over the top of the paper.
Harry frowned for a second and then sat back as if the image in his head was being projected before his face and he wanted to get further away from it.
"It's a sex thing?"
"It's a not drowning on a mouthful of blood in my bed thing."
"But...but...you wear it..."
"When I might grit my teeth, yes," Ron smirked.
"Romantic," Harry snorted.
"Tastes of chocolate, so it's good enough for me." Ron said with a shrug.
Hermione wandered into the room carrying a tray with mismatched mugs of tea on it.
"What are you two talking about then? She said as she sat down.
"Quidditch," they both replied.
"You're not invincible, you git!" Harry bellowed into Ron's face as he shoved him backwards across his desk and tore open his blood drenched shirt.
"Neither were you and you weren't diving for cover either!" Ron pushed himself up on his elbows and watched as Harry pulled a roll of fabric from inside his robe and unfurled it on the corner of the desk.
It was his emergency kit. He pulled out a blood replenishing draught and an anti infection potion. Pulling out the stoppers of both with his teeth, he handed them to Ron and ordered him to down them. While Ron did as he was told Harry pulled out the note card with 'Magical cuts, tears, open wounds' and selected the appropriate healing charm from the neatly written list.
"Sano!" Harry watched as most of the cuts closed themselves.
He put the card back and pulled it's corresponding one from the opposite side, the 'non magical cuts, tears, open wounds' card. He performed the cleaning spell and then another to try and remove the broken glass from his friend's side. Then he closed the wound with the appropriate spell and pulled a tiny phial of Dittany from another pocket of his kit. He dropped three droplets onto the closing wound and it vanished completely and smoothed the wrinkled scar tissue from the skin.
"There, now I'm going to knock your teeth out!" Harry hissed as he rolled his emergency kit back up and put it away.
Ron sat up and swung his legs over the side of Harry's desk.
"So we're not fussing over slashed cheek or your broken ribs then?" Ron gave Harry one of his looks and Harry huffed and tried to pull off his shirt so Ron could heal him in return.
He flinched and clutched at his rib cage.
"Ssssssshit! You're lucky in some respects, you really are." Harry yelped and Ron took the emergency kit from him and sat him on the desk in his place.
"You ripped mine but expect to pull yours off over your head. Why such a prat, mate?" Ron teased as he tore Harry's shirt open and then looked for the card entitled 'non magical broken bones'.
"Not wanting to pull rank or anything," Harry winced as Ron drew his wand and aimed it at his broken ribs, "but I'm taking you off active duty."
Ron froze, wand in hand, and stared at Harry.
"I didn't take any unnecessary risks, I didn't get any more or less injured than you did, I'm fine and fit and well right now." Ron searched for more to say to dissuade Harry but gave up. "Basically, bollocks."
"St Mungo's for a proper check up and then I'm giving you a desk job."
"Like fuck you are."
"Until you get the counter curse, which you will. We will."
Ron drummed his fingers against the side of his wand and glared at Harry.
"Are you gonna fix me up?"
"Are you gonna sit at a desk too?"
Harry shook his head.
Ron flicked his wand at Harry's ribcage, the broken bones cracked back into place and healed, and Ron turned and stormed out of the office.
The fireplace blazed green and Ron and Harry fell out of it.
Hermione saw that Ron had bandages on his hands and leapt up to grab their emergency kit, something Ron's team of Healers had prepared for day to day injuries.
"What are we dealing with?" She asked as Harry sat Ron on the sofa and stated unwinding the bandages.
"Burns," Harry said as Ron watched Hermione comparing two burn ointments.
"Dry burns," Ron informed her, calm and now resigned to the scenario, "I picked up a cauldron to move it out of the way and it had been only just come off an overnight boil."
"My fault, I should've checked," Harry said as Ron red and blistered palms were exposed.
He winced and Ron scrunched up his nose with distaste.
"This isn't going to work," Hermione said as she scooped out a blob of wobbly white ointment with two fingers.
"Why not, it did okay on that burn I did on the stove," Ron held his hands out to receive the ointment.
"I don't mean this," Hermione smeared the ointment over Ron's injured hands and watched him rubbing his horrid looking palms together to spread the white substance around, "oh, that looks awful, I mean working there. You can't even work in the offices without getting hurt."
"I can't even eat dinner without getting hurt. I don't see you stopping me doing that!" Ron joked.
"Just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean it's not doing damage!" Hermione's voice was raised and Ron's smile dropped away immediately.
Harry looked at Ron's hands, clearing his throat, and saw that the damaged skin was sliding off in unpleasant looking rolls as the last of the ointment disappeared. The skin underneath was healed but slightly pink.
"Okay, I'll go back and finish up, don't kill each other." Harry almost smiled at his half hearted joke but Hermione was still looking as if she was ready for a fight that would cause Ron to explode with Weasley rage. He left the way he'd arrived and Ron and Hermione stared at each other.
"Let me get you a cloth." Hermione was about to leave the room when Ron picked up the clean end of his bandage and wiped his hands clean on it.
"Sit down and try to reason with me then," Ron said, patting the seat beside him.
Hermione dropped into the seat with a sigh and took one of Ron's hands with both her own.
"I should get you some potion to make sure you don't get an infection. You won't know if you get ill."
"We'll do that in a minute," Ron said, nodding. "So you're going to forbid me from going anywhere or doing anything if I have a bit of a mishap?"
"Don't put it that way, don't say forbidding," Hermione said with a shudder, "but sometimes dealing with this problem is like trying to get a House Elf not to punish themselves for demonstrating free will."
"I'm not hurting myself on purpose," Ron said, unable to hide the offence he took in the comparison.
"I'm not saying that."
Hermione released his hand and linked arms with him as she snuggled into his side on the sofa. She trailed her finger lightly up and down his arm and they both watched as she followed the patterns of his scars as if she was navigating a maze in a puzzle book.
"You can feel this, right?" She asked.
Ron shrugged and kissed her temple through her hair.
"Tell me what it's like." She said, finger spiralling with the end of a scar at his wrist.
"I can't feel the hairs moving," Ron said as her fingertip danced back up his forearm, "but I can feel that you're touching me, the pressure...it's light."
"Your skin's warm," she said with a sigh, her head resting on his shoulder.
"Did they check your mouth when you hurt your hands? You might have bitten your tongue."
"I can't taste blood," Ron said as the weight left his shoulder and his girlfriend sat up and stiffened again.
"Open your mouth," she ordered.
"Hermione," Ron whined, but she was sitting on his lap and holding his face with both hands.
"Open your mouth," she repeated.
Ron gave a tut and then opened his mouth wide. She lit the tip of her wand and thoroughly investigated the scarred and bitten flesh. He'd taken a little out of his cheek when he ate lunch as far as she could see but his tongue was fine. He'd been careful.
"You're right, and you're so much better about taking care," she smiled at him and stroked his hair out of his eyes, "do you need some eyewash?"
Ron groaned and slumped beneath her.
"Ugh, as soon as one fuss is over there's another one! My eyes are fine, just give it a rest for a few minutes."
"But you can never tell if you've got grit in there or a scratch or something until you can't see properly and that can be too late. If you lose your sight then you really can't do anything ever. Being blind with no sensitivity to pain c-"
Ron kissed her into shutting up. She settled back into his lap again and lost her fingers in his hair. The pressure of the kiss went for very firm to barely there and back again until Ron adjusted and rightly guessed what was right for them.
He'd never bitten her tongue or lips. She'd complimented him on it once and he'd pointed out that he'd never done it when he could feel so why would it happen now?
"You taste sweet," Hermione said as they broke for air.
"I had chocolate ice cream," Ron grinned, "it's the most bizarre thing when it doesn't feel cold."
Hermione kissed him on the lips again and they wrapped their arms around each other.
"Don't let me forget the potion," she said, softly.
"I want sex tonight and if you get ill and have to check into St Mungo's...they don't let me."
Hermione sat back and looked at him with a sad smile.
"Maybe we could get you that chocolate flavoured mouth guard so you can release some serotonin and feel good too?"
"Don't," Ron sat up and addressed her, firmly, "don't you be ruining chocolate with your big words. It's not lovely because of fancy sounding stuff it's lovely because it's sweet and delicious and melty and naughty and bad for your tee-"
Hermione kissed him into silence this time. She rubbed herself against his lap and soon felt his jeans bulging.
"Thank goodness erectile function is based on blood flow and brain stimulation and nothing to do with nerve endings and touch," she babbled into his panting face.
"First you go for chocolate, now you go for hard ons," Ron said with a sigh, "I'd hate to have believed in Father Christmas with you around."
Hermione giggled and leaned in to kiss him again. Ron closed his eyes and tilted his head to receive her but she pulled away just as their lips made contact.
"Got to give you that bloody potion, right now!"
Ron was pumping his hips and panting heavily.
"Gur-nyi-oneee!" Ron said through his mouth guard.
"Er, Ron," Hermione tapped him on the hip.
"You just came."
Ron stopped and looked down between their bodies.
"Oh," he said as the mouth guard plopped out and landed on the pillow as he looked at Hermione's face, "was it good for you?"
"It was good for me three and a half times."
"Ugh," he groaned as he collapsed on top of Hermione and nuzzled into the side of her neck, "what's with all these halves? Why do I always leave the job half done?"
"I like to think you do a job and a half," Hermione grinned and then threw back all the covers. "You need to cool down. Let me get you a drink."
Ron wrapped his arms around her and prevented her from leaving the bed.
"Just stay for a bit."
"I'm coming right back. You're too hot, Ron."
"Why thank you, I try my best," Ron said with a dopey grin.
Hermione swatted at him and reached for her wand.
"If this makes a mess I'm blaming you," she warned him. "Alohamora fridge! Accio water jug! Obfirmo!"
"Obwhatty?" Ron frowned as Hermione caught the handle of the water jog with minimal spillage.
"That's the bit that might not work. Let's hope the fridge door closed again."
She poured a glass of water and waited for Ron to sit up before handing it to him.
"Thanks." He smiled before glugging it down in one go.
Hermione ran her hand over his body as he drank. She felt his hot, dry skin and let her hand glide up to his face.
"You're still hot," she said, more to herself than anyone else.
"Give it a minute," Ron said as he set the empty glass down beside the jug.
"Let me fuss?" She cocked her head to one side and hoped he wouldn't sulk this time.
Ron sighed and nodded, resting back against the pillows, and let her swirl her wand over him to perform a cooling charm. As the charm sank in she produced a thermometer from her bedside cabinet and popped it into his mouth.
"Please don't bite it," she said, worrying that he wouldn't be able to feel the fragile glass object between his teeth.
Ron didn't grumble, she guessed he was too sleepy to bother, and she lay by his side, stroking his hair while they waited for a minute.
"I was thinking about swimming," she pondered aloud, "because I know your mum and Harry are a bit tetchy about how dangerous most forms of exercise are for you, but swimming is low impact exercise isn't it? You aren't at risk of twisting an ankle or falling over. There's nothing to hurt yourself on if you stay away from the sides."
"Uh huh," Ron said, thermometer clinking against his teeth as he nodded.
Hermione flinched to snatch it away but stopped herself and tried to continue her thought.
"And your feet don't get torn up and it's going to keep you cool..."
"I like swimming," Ron said, as he slipped the thermometer from his lips and handed it to her. He sank down in the bed and snuggled into her side. "Can I go to sleep now?"
Hermione looked at the reading on the thermometer and saw that Ron was a little too hot but knew that sleeping with no covers would help with that.
"Yes, all fine," she said as she put the thermometer away and then joined him in a cuddle on the bed.
She was freezing.
The explosion was bigger than anything George had ever created on purpose. Molly was bellowing so much that Hermione's ears hurt inside.
"I have expected the unimaginable from you over the years but this...this is beyond anything...anything I could ever..."
"Mum, you're acting like I'm torturing him against his will. The Healers check him every week and they've never noticed a thing. That's how dangerous it is. I sort him right out and he's 100% fine afterwards."
"He's as stupid and careless and arrogant as you are!" Molly screeched.
"Oi!" Ron piped up but Harry turned on him and jabbed a finger into his face, furiously.
"You can shut up," he growled.
"You took his job away," George began counting off on his fingers, "you took playing Quidditch away, you took his privacy away! He's never left alone for a second. Oh and let's not forget his dignity, let's not forget asking him about his bowel movements over Sunday dinner!"
"I was discreet," Molly raged.
"I was on the other side of the table and only have one ear and I heard you!" George was leaning right into his mother's scarlet face and just as infuriated as she was.
"Look," Ron tried to intervene but Molly shoved him away and he bumped into the shelf behind him.
"Oh very careful! Well done!" George snapped at her as he turned to make sure Ron was all right.
"Don't you get on your high horse with me, not after what you've been doing."
Hermione had tuned into some other level of awareness over the months since Ron was cursed. As soon as he bumped the shelf her hand was at his back and she was sliding it between the corner of the wood and his body. She felt for anything that might be wrong and then made a mental note to check for a bruise before they went to bed that night.
That was when she felt the warm trickle and pulled her hand away.
"It's still dangerous to experiment like that!" Molly was still screaming at George. "You'd never have done it to anyone else."
"For one reason, the test might hurt. I wouldn't do anything I couldn't reverse or fix, not to anyone, but with Ron I don't have to worry about hurting him. He gets to earn a living and I get to widen my product rang-"
"Exploiting his condition for money!" Molly's voice was piercing at a whole new level by this point.
"She's saying that just because it didn't hurt him, it doesn't make i-" Ginny made the mistake of trying to speak reasonably for her mother.
"I can speak for myself!" Molly hollered.
Hermione stared at her fingers. They were sticky with thick, red blood.
"I gave him permission, y'know?" Ron chipped in, folding his arms. "It was my decision."
"Well you're an idiot," Harry spat, furiously.
"Hermione wouldn't stand for an elf being used as a test subject, not even an animal," Molly waved a hand towards Hermione without looking at her, "this is your brother!"
"He suggested it!" George said, throwing his hands up and stepping back.
Harry looked ready to punch Ron but Hermione was busy trying to push Ron forward and away from the shelf he was leaning against. Droplets of blood began to put-put-put onto the floor.
"What're you doing?" Ron looked over his shoulder at her, frowning.
"Don't move!" Hermione said, gripping his shoulder, shakily.
"Hermione?" Harry leaned over, curious at what Hermione was doing too, and he noticed that her fingers with covered in blood. "What...?"
"Oh my God," Hermione said, weakly, as Molly's knitting moved away from the shelf along with Ron.
"Wha-" Harry leaned around further and his question died at the back of his throat at the sight of a knitting needle sticking out of Ron's back.
Molly and George were still at each other's throats but Ginny's shout silenced them.
"Pull it out!"
"NO!" Hermione barked, batting Harry's hand away. "That might do more damage. Get his Healer, any Healer, get them here right now!"
"What's he done n...oh," George's face paled and he gaped at the needle in his little brother's back.
"Oh Ronnie!" Molly screamed and lunged forward but Arthur grabbed her and held her back.
"Hermione's dealing with it, love, just sit down and..."
"You did that!" George pointed at his mother. "Having a go at me when I'm careful with him and you just impaled him on your bloody knitting!"
"Watch your mouth, George Weasley!" Arthur said, sternly.
Both mother and son did as he said and sat quietly while Harry brought in a team of Healers and Hermione kept Ron from moving, a difficulty seeing as he kept wanting to look over his shoulder.
He was healed and cleaned up and Hermione and Harry took him home, leaving the family to resume their war.
As Ron undressed for bed Hermione refilled his potion bottles, ointments, draughts and magical herbs. She placed cushioning charms on every sharp corner on every piece of furniture and set a charm on the bedroom that kept the temperature cool but comfortable.
"So when are you giving me your bollocking then?" Ron asked her as he climbed onto the bed and picked up his wand to heal the blisters on his feet.
Hermione threw Ron's bloodied and torn t shirt into the bin and rooted through the washing basket.
"Or am I getting the silent treatment?" Ron waited as he finished up with his feet.
"No, I've just had a lot of time to think and I've done some reading and talked to some people and I think it's time you got some more control over your health and some independence. I think if you want to work with George and he's capable of taking care of
any problems then I could...take a break."
Ron was shocked.
"Yeah, that sounds great," he smiled, "you need to stop stressing out and relax about things."
He patted the mattress and smiled at her. Hermione was pulling her things out of the washing basket and dropping them into a bag.
"I've realised I've been shouldering all of the household and financial responsibilities, as well as providing hands-on care to you when I'm not at work, and this thing with George has shown me that you don't need a carer."
"Well, I like that you watch my back, knitting needles and all that." Ron's smile was fading as he watched Hermione throwing her hair brush into the bag with her dirty clothes.
"Everybody has been telling me to let your family help out more and George is more than happy to chip in so I can focus on my job again, see more of my family, just unwind for my own good."
"Everybody? Who's everybody?" Ron shifted on the mattress and pointed at the bag. "What's going on?"
"It's time I trusted you to look after yourself and stopped babying you. It's not good for either of us, not you to become dependant or on me to be a full time carer, personal assistant, Healer, a counsellor..."
"But," Ron pushed himself right to the edge of the mattress and planted his feet on the floor, "you're still gonna be here, right?"
"I'm going back to my room," Hermione said, picking up the bag of her things from Ron's bedroom.
"But," Ron looked panicked, "no but, for tonight or every other night or once in a while. That's what you're saying, right?"
"We both need a break, Ron." Hermione said, heading towards the bedroom door, "and it's bad for both of us how little care you take of yourself."
Ron stood up and she sat him back down again.
"Your emergency kit is fully stocked. Your room is cool. Be careful of stubbing your toes on the way to the toilet in the dark."
"You're... If you're angry about the product testing, I'm sorry. I won't do it any more. I'll sit at home doing nothing all day, I promise."
"I don't want that for you," Hermione leaned over and kissed his cheek. "But I can't watch you damaging yourself all the time."
"You're saying you're not going to be my...we're not..."
"I'm not leaving you, Ron," Hermione said, backing towards the door, "but you have to look after yourself. I need to know that when I'm not around you're still taking care and staying well and you don't do that when you have me worrying twenty four hours a day."
"So you're going to stop worrying?"
"I'll never stop worrying, but I have to stop." Hermione's voice started to crack. "I want my boyfriend to be my equal, not my dependant."
Ron jumped to his feet.
"I don't want to need you to check my arse and my spine and everything I can't do by myself. If you don't do it I still can't, there are things I can't check for myself or heal for myself!"
"You'll go to a Healer for those things."
"But..." Ron's shoulders fell.
"I'm going to my room, Ron. You'll stop being so flippant and careless when you're the one who has to go through all the checks and the treatments for yourself every day."
"I couldn't do anything about a knitting needle in my mum's house," Ron choked on his emotion as she left the room and walked away. He flung himself against the doorframe and called after her. "This isn't my fault!"
Hermione managed to make it all the way to her hardly used bedroom and closed the door behind her before she burst into tears.
It was a rough two weeks.
Ron had cut and burnt himself more than ordinarily just by trying to brew his potions and draughts to replenish his emergency kits. After one afternoon knocking up a new pot of ointment for burns he ended up swearing and sulking as he sat on the kitchen floor applying the whole lot to the burns he'd received in the process.
He still had none left and his whole day felt as if it had been for nothing.
Hermione came home from work as he was clearing the table of his potion making equipment and found that it was easier not to say anything to him and go straight to her room to change her clothes than to chat with him or offer to help. She really couldn't let herself offer to help. She'd read lots of books and pamphlets and her parents and friends at work had repeatedly told her to be strong and step back for both their sakes.
Ron disappeared into his own room as soon as he'd packed everything away. He sent Pig to George and told him he wouldn't be coming into the shop the following day either, explaining that he needed to make the burn ointment all over again.
Pig came back with protective gloves and a small jar of the ointment tied to his leg. Even George thought he wasn't able to cope without help. Just as Ron was sending Pig back out to St Mungo's with a query for his Healers, his door creaked open and Harry leaned in.
"Is one of you going to come down for dinner? I feel like Nobby No Mates eating alone."
Pig flew away and Ron nodded to Harry.
"Yeah, I just need to..." he gestured towards the toilet, "...see if I need to go."
Harry smiled at him and left.
Dinner was filled with Harry engaging in excruciatingly dull chit chat with Ron and Hermione about their days. Harry had arrested a man who had tried to escape by transfiguring himself into an inanimate object, and turned himself into stone. Hermione had a brief story about a new elf assistant who accepted a weekly wage but donated it to the 'Free means no pay' society that some elves who had been freed against their will had recently founded. Ron was concentrating so hard on not biting his tongue, his lips, or the inside of his cheeks as he ate that he didn't even notice when he was addressed at first.
"I said did you make everything you needed?" Harry asked, patiently.
"Um, yeah, for the day. Yeah."
Hermione looked at him and then turned away when Ron noticed and looked back.
"Smells like an ointment or a balm." Harry said, clearly Ron hadn't done a good enough job of airing out the kitchen after putting everything away.
"Yeah, a burn ointment."
"My kit's low on that," Harry said as he pulled his fabric bundle from his inside pocket, "how many jars did you make?"
Ron stared at his plate and mashed a boiled potato with his fork so he didn't have to chew it.
"Um..." he pulled the small jar George has sent him out of his pocket and handed it to Harry, "...here."
Harry clearly didn't expect such a small amount to be the fruit of Ron's whole day of labours and was struggling not to say anything.
"I used most of it up already," Ron mumbled, shovelling the destroyed potato into his mouth.
He didn't want to tell them he been such a catastrophe that he'd ended the day in the same situation he'd started it. They ended their meal in silence and eventually Harry couldn't stand it anymore.
"Look, you two," he began.
Ron was on his feet as Pig clattered into lampshade with a reply to his letter. Ron caught the bird and carried him towards the stairs.
"I'd better see to this, it's from the Healers," he muttered and left Harry and Hermione at the table.
He bounded up the stairs and untied the letter from Pig's foot. he owl zoomed around the room a few times and then landed on his perch while Ron opened the envelope and sat down to read.
You have no reason to check into St Mungo's permanently. You are doing fantastically in frustrating circumstances and the last thing you need is to be stuck on a ward all day waiting for a cure to fall into your lap.
We're working on it.
I'll schedule you a ten o'clock check up appointment every morning with one of the team and you can show up to every one or not. You know you can do this. You know what to look out for. You know the signs for when you're getting ill and you know when you need to admit yourself.
Please don't admit yourself when you're healthy. It'll be like giving up.
We've all been so impressed with you. Keep your chin up.
Ron balled up the paper and threw it into the waste paper basket, then slumped over his writing desk.
"Feet...shit," Ron grumbled as he pulled off his sock and saw that his cushioning charm hadn't worked.
His boot had rubbed a blister onto the ball of his foot, which then burst, and then became raw and tender from the walk home.
"Did you suffer from blisters a lot before the curse?" One of his old Auror team was sitting opposite him with a cup of tea he'd made her just before running through his checklist.
Well, as best he could run through it with company.
"No, I mean a long walk on Auror missions, that climb we had to do, I was hobbling home after that, but never daily like this."
"So what's different? New boots?"
"Something about subconsciously making allowances for foot pain when you can feel it." Ron shrugged. "Without knowing it we feel if our toes are rubbing and correct our position in the shoe...or something. It's some sensory thing I don't have any more."
Ron moved his wand across his foot and healed the sore skin.
"Tea okay?" He asked as he felt his ankles with both hands.
"You always make the best, it's why I came 'round actually," she smiled. "We miss you, Ron. Some of the lads were wondering if there was anything we could do to help with the counter curse research?"
Ron sat back and smiled at her.
"Really? That's nice of them." He felt his knee joint as he flexed and bent his leg, then swapped sides as he continued. "The only way you lot could chip in would be if we knew the actual incantation the bastard had used."
"Yeah," she said, disappointed, "Harry had us all pour our heads into a Pensieve for him to wade through as soon as you got ill that first time. It was non verbal and Legilimency is no use in a memory. Maybe Harry could have a go at the guy who did it in Azkaban."
"Don't worry about it," Ron said with a chuckle, "my Healer team are so sick of my whinging they're doing overtime to find a cure."
Ron was feeling his wrist as he spoke and suddenly frowned. He looked at it, moved it up, down and tried to move it from side to side but something was wrong.
"I think," Ron said as he held his wrist and rotated it clockwise and anticlockwise, "I've broken my wrist."
"Here, let me see," his former colleague said as she set her mug down and felt the swelling around Ron's wrist. "You've definitely done something."
The front door opened and Hermione passed the living room with a bundle of papers. Ron watched her glance at them and carry on to the kitchen.
"Hi, Hermione!" His friend called out to her.
"Hello, don't let me bother you, I'm jut popping back for lunch." Hermione answered, sounding unlike herself.
"So, you need a hand with that?" The young Auror asked him, nodding towards his wrist.
"No, I've got it," Ron said tapping it with his wand and hearing a popping sound. "Ooh, that's new, it usually cracks."
"You probably dislocated it."
Ron opened and closed his hand and then waggled his fingers, looking at the movement.
"Well, it was great to see you. Come back soon, eh?" She extended her hand to shake Ron's and called goodbye to Hermione as she left via Floo.
Ron heard Hermione sighing as the flames died down. He wondered if she thought he was using another woman to take care of him instead of doing it for himself. He wanted to charge in and tell her he was doing his checklist all by himself and he'd found a dislocated wrist and fixed it. Then he told himself that he'd just be doing it to get her congratulations or approval. That wasn't what she wanted to be bothered with.
He rolled his wrist again and then carried on with the rest of his checks up his arms to the shoulders.
Their home life had been unbearably tense. Poor Harry hadn't been stressed out before but thanks to Hermione giving herself a break, he was now living on edge or even on his own when both Ron and Hermione left the house or hid in their rooms from each other.
Ron was managing his condition much better but he wasn't managing the personal situation with Hermione at all. She was just as bad, she had to admit. She'd put so much effort into not coddling him that she'd ended up behaving like somebody who simply didn't care for him any more.
And that just wasn't true.
Maybe, she thought, maybe relations with Ron could start up again but from a safe distance. She asked her parents if she could move back home for a few months and they had said she was welcome any time and for as long as she needed.
Her plan was to move out and then sit down with Ron and tell him she missed him and wanted to resume their relationship. They wouldn't be able to slip back into the old routine if she didn't live there. It would be the perfect transitionary phase. The authors of all the books she had read on the subject would be very proud of her.
On the day she packed her things and moved out of the shared terrace house, Ron had been given a formal letter of recommendation from his Senior Healer to present to Kingsley Shacklebolt. As Hermione returned to the house to have her chat with Ron, Ron was renegotiating his return to the Auror department.
Negotiations went on well into the night. He had to sign papers promising to maintain his health to the best of his ability and agreeing that any time off due to the neglect of his health on his part would be unpaid. The deal was sealed with a magical handshake between him and Kingsley, and an agreement that he could come back to his desk job until the counter curse was found.
He'd even brought Percy in, just after midnight, as a bondsman. It said a lot for Percy that he was willing to put his own reputation on the line for Ron's job.
"Welcome back, Auror Weasley," Kingsley said as the magical handshake broke, "and remember, your performance doesn't just reflect on you, you have myself and Percy to consider when you neglect your health checks."
"I won't, I mean I will consider you, and I won't neglect my health. Thanks Kingsley."
Percy cleared his throat. Ron shocked him by giving him a hug.
"Um, you're welcome!" Percy gave Ron an awkward pat on the back.
When Ron did come home, Hermione had given up and gone back to her parents' house.
Ron was reading through some case notes when a small bottle of potion was placed on his desk before him. He looked up and saw Harry's hand plucking a tissue from the box on the desk and blowing his nose.
"What's this?" Ron frowned.
"Seven people in our department have a chest infection." Harry paused to sniff. "Two have colds. Twelve people on the third floor have it too. I've got it. Take a virus protection potion and have a dose of your stuff for infections."
Ron took the potion and twisted the stopper free.
"Do I feel hot?" He asked Harry, leaning forward.
Harry pressed his hand to Ron's forehead and gave it a few seconds.
"I wouldn't say so. Do a cooling charm to be safe."
Ron nodded and downed the potion.
"Ugh, that's vile!"
"It really is," Harry said with a nod and a wince.
"I should make an after work appointment with my Healer's I suppose," Ron said with a sigh, scribbling a note to Healer Scott-Lee.
"Our Healer on call thinks you're probably better protected than all of us because of how often you take your anti infection potion." Harry stopped to cough and Ron pulled a tissue from the box to hold over his mouth and nose.
"Thanks mate," Ron said from behind his makeshift mask.
"I'll leave you alone," Harry said with a wave of apology. "Your mum's having me at the Burrow tonight so I don't fill the house with germs."
"So I'll be on my own?" Ron suddenly felt like the antithesis of a leper, nobody wanted to be near him in case they spread their germs into his clean zone.
"Hermione wants to have that talk with you, send her an owl and tell her you're free." Harry suggested.
Ron was dreading what Hermione had to say to him, as if her actions of moving rooms and then moving out all together hadn't made it clear enough, but he wrote another note to her to tell her they would have the house to themselves tonight.
Both owls were sent on their way and Ron finished up his work and went to Diagon Alley to have lunch. It had been quite a while since he'd been out in public by himself. It was very crowded but Mr Olivander spotted him and invited him over to his table in the window of the cafe. Olivander must have heard about the curse as he didn't question the tiny pieces Ron cut his food into, or the focused way he was eating. He made small talk about restoring some of the wands damaged when his shop was looted and destroyed at the time of his kidnapping.
Ron told him about the virus going around and advised him to take a preventative potion, he was an old man after all, and eventually Olivander did say something to the point.
"I'm sure you don't need an old wand maker like me, but if you think my knowledge would be of any help to your Healers please do let me know."
"Excuse me?" Ron blinked and leaned across the table towards the smiling old man.
"It was a curse, was it not?" Olivander said. "A broom maker knows how to fly, a cook knows how to eat, and a wand maker knows the core root of spells. If I can be of any help, please let me know."
"Thank you, Mr Olivander." Ron was humbled and shocked by the unsolicited offer.
"You helped me, your family nursed me back to health, it would be my honour to return the favour in some small way."
Ron returned to his office to find two owls waiting for him. One, confirming his appointment at the hospital, the other turning him down.
Well, to be fair, Hermione didn't actually turn him down.
Ron, I'm so sorry, I can't.
More that I shouldn't, really.
I have this horrible chest infection and the last thing you need is water on the lungs.
Stay well and we'll meet up soon.
Ron sat back a his desk and sighed. Everybody was ill but him.
He sat on the Muggle tube and picked up a magazine called 'Chat' with lots of pictures of miserable looking women surrounding a large picture of a perfectly delighted looking woman with unnaturally white teeth.
From what he could understand, the magazine was about the miserable women and for miserable women but they'd stuck a really happy pretty woman on the front because a sour faced old trout isn't going to sell a magazine.
He flicked through the pages and came to one conclusion, all Muggle men are bastards.
There was another theme, evident in the letters page, that all women wanted was a man with feelings. They wanted a sensitive man, a man in touch with how he feels, and a man who talks about his feelings...
That was why he'd lost Hermione.
She wanted feelings and he didn't feel anything.
He got off the tube at the stop Dean had told him and followed the directions to the fruit shop.
'It's not a fruit shop, Ron, it's called the Apple Store'
Dean correcting him over and over again didn't sink in so he ended up going to the first shop he saw with the word 'phone' in it's name. He gave the person a rough description of what he wanted, a mobile for emergencies that wouldn't make many calls, and they gave him something with a top up card. They said Pay As You Go a lot and he thought that maybe they were insinuating he was a shoplifter. Of course he intended to pay before he left with the phone.
He stopped to pick up a birthday card and wrote it out for Harry. He wrapped the phone in silver foil, for lack of wrapping paper, and took it home with him.
He hoped he'd got it right and that Harry would in fact like a mobile to stay in touch with Dudley but never actually ring him.
Muggle families were weird.
"Hello, where have you been?" Harry was watching the television when Ron got home. He hid the card and present behind his back and made an excuse to go straight to his room.
"Sorry," he said when he returned and dropped next to Harry on the sofa, "I thought I'd broken something but I just checked and I'm fine."
"Oh, good," Harry grinned and then remembered something, "something came for you."
Ron took the letter with the St Mungo's seal on it and frowned.
"Did they change my appointment time or something?" he said, opening it and reading.
Dear Mr Weasley,
It is of utmost importance that you contact your Healer team immediately.
Please bring your medical records and an overnight bag.
Chief Administrative Healer of Spell Damage.
Ron read the letter and the read it aloud to Harry.
"Overnight bag? Does this mean there's something wrong or...?"
"Something might be..." Ron couldn't say it.
"They could be trying a cure out on you," Harry said, face lit up. "Please let this be my birthday present, Ron!"
Ron laughed and then stood up.
"Don't count my chickens for me, mate, I might have something wrong with me. Notice they didn't get any of my Healers to write to me."
"It's a formality!" Harry waved the concern away with his hand. "They're going to do the counter curse or give you the antidote or something like that, then keep you for observation. I know it!"
"Fifty seven chickens, fifty eight chickens," Ron muttered to himself as Harry followed him up the stairs to help him pack.
Hermione had rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard.
Ron was checked in and his Healer team and Olivander were going to try out a counter curse on him.
She'd gone out of her way to get there in time but, as she skidded into Harry's chest outside the private ward, the spell had already been performed. Most of the Weasleys were sitting outside and chattering excitedly about the outcome. Some Aurors popped by but didn't stay long when they heard that nobody would hear anything or get to see Ron until the following morning.
Olivander was besieged when he emerged from the room early that evening.
"We did our best, everything we could in fact, and he absorbed the spell entirely." Olivander explained to the crowd. "He's just as anxious and excited as you all, we gave him a sleeping draught just to get him to relax. This counter curse will take as long to work as the original curse did. There was a complicated spell to begin with and undoing it is just as complex."
Everybody finally accepted that they should go home and come back in the morning when Ron could wake up and undergo some pin prick tests to see if he could feel any pain yet.
And that was the way everybody felt, it was always 'yet'.
Hermione went home so full of optimism and she even started packing some of her things up to return home. She'd go back to her own room, of course, but there wouldn't be that horrible tension anymore. She was going to come back anyway, she'd just never had the chance to speak to Ron about it.
She almost danced around her bedroom that night and the summer rain pelting down outside didn't dampen her spirits one bit.
The rain was still falling at eight o'clock the following morning. That was when she said goodbye to her parents and swung the door open, umbrella in hand and ready to open, to set off for the hospital to see Ron.
She screamed with genuine fright as she saw him soaking wet on her doorstep.
"I know you don't want me to need you but...I really need to talk to you," Ron said before his voice gave up on him in a tight throated squeak.
She saw that his eyes were red. His face was wet from the rain but his eyes wouldn't have been dry had it been a brilliant sunny day.
"Come inside," she said, pulling on the sleeve of his sopping wet Muggle jacket.
Ron tripped on the way in and she held him up, then hugged him until she was soaked through too, and finally Ron pulled himself together enough to pull away.
"What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in the hospital. We're all coming to see you at nine and you're being discharged at eleven!"
Hermione knew it was ridiculous but she just couldn't function when a universally agreed plan wasn't adhered to.
"I had to talk to you," Ron said, still sounding choked up. "I didn't want to see everybody and they weren't going to let you in first, by yourself, and...and..."
"Ron, I'm here, it's okay."
Ron wiped some drops from his face and tried to push his wet fringe back. Hermione found herself helping him as he drew in some bracing breaths.
"I love you, you know? You can tell me anything," she assured him.
Ron took another deep breath in and then blurted something out before falling back into her arms.
Hermione clung to him and shushed him and rocked him, doing everything she could to soothe him while feeling relieved at the same time.
"I know, I know, but that's good. You're better now and you'll get used to it again and a-"
Ron shook his head against her and gave a loud but muffled sob.
"It didn't work!"
Hermione felt her insides go cold.
"What?" Her voice sounded so far away, she almost looked around to see who had spoken instead of her.
"They tried everything and this was the last chance and...and...it's not worked."
"But, pin pricks are a very mild pain. Maybe you just need to build up your sensitivity. You've overreacted because the first tests didn-"
Ron held up his hand and broke his little finger, right before of her eyes. She screamed and clutched her hand to her mouth. Ron shrugged, devastated, and shook his head.
Hermione's mother ran down the stairs, responding to her daughter's cry and gasped as she saw Ron and his disjointed finger.
"Oh my God, what happened to him?"
"I've got to go," Ron turned and grabbed for the door, but Hermione pulled him back and man handled him into the living room.
"You're not going anywhere!" She said, pulling herself together and taking control. "We're fixing that finger and you're taking potions to make sure you don't catch cold."
"I'll go back to St Mungo's, they can do it."
He moved to stand but she shoved him back down.
"Sit still!" She ordered.
"But you don't want to fix me, you said, you don't want me all pathetic and useless like this."
"And you're not, that's why I do want you!"
She pushed his wand into his hand and waited, expectantly, for him to heal his broken finger. He did it and flung his wand down on the coffee table.
"Ron, come on," Hermione tried to lift his head but his eyes only lowered further, "you know it's not the end of the world. You've got your job back and you were the only Auror who didn't go sick this summer. You go out socially and you don't get as knocked about as you used to. You picked yourself up and that was the Ron I was waiting to come back home to, not the one who'd been cured, the one you were yesterday morning and the one you are today."
Ron's eyes were still spilling over with tears and Hermione's mother silently entered the room with a blanket, wrapped it around his shoulders, and left again. Hermione handed him the potion bottles and he drank them down without even reacting to the bitter taste.
"I packed my bags you know?" Hermione told him. "I'm coming home again. I'm going to be your girlfriend again...if you'll have me."
"But you don't want somebody who doesn't...feel anything," Ron said, sounding broken, "no woman does."
"You are so overwhelmingly full of feeling, Ron Weasley!" She was passionate enough to shake him, she wanted her words to get through so much. "And you do feel pain, you said so yourself. What did you just tell me on my doorstep out there?"
Ron swallowed and looked her in the eye.
"It hurts," he said, falling apart again.
She pulled the blanket around him and hugged him to her chest, his wet hair beneath her chin as she comforted him.
"You be upset, just let it go, you never did before." She soothed him until he became articulate again.
"But," he sniffed, "everybody's been waiting for me to get better. You were going to come back when I was getting better and they were going to give me my job back when I was getting better and now I'm never gonna get better."
"You already did," Hermione said, kissing his damp hair, "I was coming back before this possible cure. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I was coming back because you had got better."
"Absolutely," Hermione said, smiling, "and you got your job back and you were good at it, that was before the 'cure' right?"
"But I can't go out into the field or duel or anything real because they're so worried I'll get fatally wounded and not know!"
"They took you off active duty because that's exactly what was going to happen to you. You are better now. Do you understand me? Do you understand what we all meant by better?"
Ron gave something of a nod in response.
"I wish you didn't have to do these things every day to make sure you're okay," she said, sad but proud, "but I'm very glad you do. I'm so very glad you take them seriously and you keep well and you can manage on your own."
Ron heaved a deep sigh.
"But you'll never have to," she added, "because the two of us are going to take care of each other, as equals and not dependants or carers, as partners."
Ron looked up at her.
"You still want me anyway?"
"I always wanted you."
"One, two, three, four, five," Hermione counted as she sucked each finger on Ron's hand.
"Technically, that one's a thumb," Ron said with a chuckle.
"When did you become such a pedant?" Hermione asked, holding Ron's other hand to her chest by the wrist.
"I've been hanging around with a bad influence." He grinned at her and she narrowed her eyes before lifting Ron's hand to her mouth and sucking on his thumb.
"Six," she sucked on his index finger, "seven," then the middle finger, "eight," and slowly sucked on his ring finger, "nine," and then pulled his oft broken little finger between her lips and kissed all the way down it before closing her mouth around it and drawing back until it fell free with a pop, "ten."
"All present and correct?" Ron asked as their fingers interlocked.
"All ten little piggies." she grinned
Hermione brought his hand to her mouth and kissed the back of it. She rolled the pads of her fingers over his knuckles and their hands played together as if they were independent.
They watched their hands dancing between them and giggled occasionally. Soon their hands stilled and they just fitted together so perfectly. His large hands curling around her small, delicate ones.
"The first time you held my hand," Hermione said, still watching them, "it was such a big deal to me. I mean it, huge."
"I couldn't look you in the eye for ages if you didn't notice," Ron said, angling his head to look right at her. "Hello you."
Hermione grinned at him and then slid her hands down his wrists, lightly pinning them both down to the mattress as she kissed him.
Then she was worshipping his arms and their mind boggling length. The way his small but defined muscles bulged under his smooth, freckled skin. She held them out wide and lay down on him, bending them at the elbow so they wrapped around her and she nuzzled into the crook of his neck with a hum.
"These seem to be working fine."
"I keep them well oiled just for this," Ron said as he kissed the top of her head.
Hermione's head was settled on Ron's shoulder, her hand moving around the other, and she wondered when they'd stopped being the bony things his arms dangled from when he was 14 and turned into the round, defined muscles his too small t shirts hung from.
They were too big for the short sleeves and she'd never wanted to be cheap, threadbare cotton more in her life than when he folded his arms in one of his old t shirts.
Hermione began to do more than simply nuzzle against Ron's neck. She was kissing his pulse point over and over and over again. There was a kiss for every throb of his pulse beneath her lips, she kept perfect time with him until she was feeling the beat with the tip of her tongue as she sucked on the side of his neck like a toothless vampire.
"You're healing that one," Ron said with a groan.
Her hands plunged into his hair, fingers weaving through the shaggy locks and fisting them loosely, as she raked her fingertips over the contours of his scalp. It was as if she was plotting an ordnance survey map of Ron's head.
"You're beautiful, you know that?"
Ron looked embarrassed.
"That's supposed to be my line," he said as he cupped her face with his hand.
"You are, though," Hermione said, stroking the tip of her nose along the length of his, long, freckled and elegant.
They looked into each other's eyes and Ron bit his lip. Hermione saw the flicker of realisation just before he stopped and she smiled.
"Here," she tugged at his full bottom lip between her teeth before letting it spring back, "let me do that for you."
"Now why didn't I think of that?" Ron gave her that lopsided grin she hadn't seen for so long.
She watched the laughter lines crinkle his young face and marvelled at the architecture of his eyelashes. Her thumbs stroked his cheekbones and then down the sides of his face towards his jaw.
She leaned in and his lips parted for her. Tongues met as their lips formed a seal and they hummed into their hungry kiss.
Hermione's tongue swept across his mouth, she knew every ridge and bump by heart, and then sucked upon his tongue. She smiled as the kiss broke and pressed another to his lips.
"You've taken good care of that mouth for me today," she said with a sigh, "not a lump of a bump to be found."
They kissed again, just lips, then parted lips and a little tongue, then crushed lips and lots of tongue and an orchestral moan.
Hermione brushed a feather touch of a kiss to the corner of his mouth and reached for his chocolate flavoured mouth guard.
"Open wide," she said, holding it before him.
"It's upside down," Ron whispered before laughing as her seductive act dissolved into his familiar infuriated Hermione. "You really hate getting things wrong don't you?"
"Yes," she growled as she waited for Ron to take the mouth guard and get comfortable with it.
"Goh-gay," he said, via the obstruction.
"Roll over," she whispered.
Ron's back was where he first started to look like a man. She dragged her hands down it as she sat upon his buttocks, his torso between her thighs, and admired it. It really was a very masculine back.
"Mmmmm," Ron said, and she saw his muscles relaxing.
He was enjoying her massage and she was enjoying the sensation of his muscles becoming supple beneath her fingers. She stroked her finger down his spine.
"I'm almost jealous of your freckles," she said as she drew shapes and patterns with her finger, "they're so thick up here, they practically merge."
Hermione kissed one of his wing-like shoulder blades and let her hand slide around the base of his ribcage.
"And they spread out towards the middle, I can pick out each individual one."
Hermione began kissing every freckle she saw and Ron chuckled through his mouth guard.
"Taste nice?" She asked him.
Ron made a satisfied groan and sucked on his chocolate flavoured mouth guard.
"So do you," she said as she let both hands rest on his hips and kissed the small of his back, "and look at this, barely any freckles at all. It's almost more naked."
She lifted herself up off his buttocks and shuffled backwards, pulling the sheet back with her.
It was her favourite part of the new and improved checklist.