"'Harry," a familiar voice said in a whispered grunt, wafting into his dreamless sleep. Harry was determined to ignore the voice but it called for him again. Annoyed, he blinked twice and was greeted by a hazy red fuzz.
"Ron?" Harry breathed, reaching for his glasses, "What are you doing? We're leaving for Hogwarts in the morning. You should be asleep."
"I know," Ron replied, his face gaining shape and form as Harry shoved his glasses on, "Nightmare."
Harry sighed and looked at his friend with a stern glare. Ron's hair was a tangled bush and the moonlight was bouncing off his face creating thin shadows that looked like prison bars. Ron half-smiled and gave a shrug.
"Honestly, Ron, I'm not your Mum. You woke me up because you had a nightmare? How old are you? Four? It was just a dream. Now go back to sleep."
"Ron," Harry cut him off with a hint of exasperation.
"But mate, it's only fair," Ron replied, looking unsure if he should continue, "You keep up the entire house when you have your bloody nightmares."
"What do you mean?" Harry demanded, flushing a bright crimson.
"No one wanted to tell you, Harry," Ron replied, plopping down at the foot of Harry's bed, "But for the past month you've been having nightmares off and on. It's awful. Mum's worried sick. She's talked to Dad about making some dreamless sleep potions for you."
"No," Harry said with an unnecessary fierceness and then he recomposed himself, "I'm fine. I just need some time."
"Alright," Ron said with a yawn, "You take all the time you need. In the meantime, I'm not going to be able to get back to sleep."
" Well, that's too bad," Harry replied, sinking his head back into his pillow. There was a few moments silence.
"Come on, 'arry," Ron pleaded, "Let's play Wizard's Chess."
Harry lifted his head up, glaring at his best friend, "So I can lose again?"
"Yeah," Ron said smugly.
"I'd rather eat slugs."
"Trust me, "Ron said sheepishly, "No you don't."
"Alright," Harry said, giving up, "I'll stay up with you until you go to sleep but no Wizard's Chess."
Ron laughed, "Fine."
"So what was you dream about anyway," Harry inquired, "Wait, don't tell me… You were snogging some girl and she turned into Aragog."
"Uh, no," Ron said with a look like he had swallowed something particularly nasty, "but nice try."
"Well what was it then?" Harry said, scratching his head, letting his hair fill the spaces between his fingers.
Ron looked at Harry seriously, "It was you."
There was an unintentional stunned silence.
"I'm confused," Harry said bewildered, "You were snogging me and I turned into Aragog?"
"No you git!" Ron said in utter disbelief, "You-know-who, he got you and I couldn't do anything. I watched you die, Harry. I was helpless. He was laughing, I've never heard anything so cold And when I woke up, I thought it was real. I thought I had lost you. I don't want to lose you Harry. You're my best mate."
"Ron, I'm not going anywhere. You don't have to worry about me."
"But I do," Ron said quickly and then added, "And Hermione and Mum and Dad and Ginny- The list goes on and on"
"You don't think I know that? You don't think I realize how much danger I'm putting you all in by existing? By being here? Your Mum and Dad are risking everything for me and I'm never going to be able to repay them for that."
"And we'd all do it again and gain, Harry."
"Ron," Harry breathed but Harry didn't know what else to stay. What else could he say? The Weasley's were like his family. Strike that. They were his family and, aside from Hermione, the only people he had ever truly loved.
There was Molly whom constantly told him he was too thin and made him eat like a king until she was satisfied; whom fussed over his ragged clothes and told him he was welcome in their house and, most of all, made him feel welcome. Arthur, with his muggle obsession, who was one of the smartest people Harry had ever encountered: witch, wizard or muggle. Then there was Ginny, who constantly stared at him when she thought he wasn't looking, and who had started talking to him more often without stuttering or blushing a deep crimson and running away. Fred and George with their cheeky humor and wacky ideas, explosions following dangerously close behind them. And then there was Ron, whom Harry would trust with his life, who had stuck by him despite all his many flaws. It was because of this, despite a lack of freckles and red hair, that Harry felt like he belonged for the first time.
Ron moved towards him now, crawling . Harry scooted over to let his best friend nestle in next to him, head resting on the headrest behind them. It was a familiar sight, they had often sat like this, talking for hours but tonight, it was different, sweat still clung to Ron's pajamas from his nightmare and he was looking at Harry as if he might die at any second. Like Voldemort might burst through a window at any second, poised for the kill. Harry moved and Ron moved like clockwork. It was strange and Harry felt it.
The next few things happened simultaneously: Harry let out a loud cry as a searing sensation shot up his scar; Ron yelped, falling off the bed on to the cold hard floor; and the clock struck three in the morning. Voldemort was on the move again and his intentions were, as always, cold-blooded murder. Harry could feel the anger pulsing through his veins like his own blood. He was trying to breathe but it was as if he was in a vacuum, fresh oxygen living just outside the bubble he was in. He reached for it but couldn't reach the edge of the bubble.
Ron was terrified. He looked on, helpless, as Harry gasped in excruciating pain. His face distorting in ways that he did not know possible. His eyes shut in intense pain. His hair erect on his arms.
"Harry!" he tried calling out but his voice was hoarse and it came out in a whisper.
Ron was frozen; numbed by shock. It was his nightmare all over again. He was going to watch Harry die and Ron, the poor and pathetic sidekick of the Boy-Who-Lived, would forever be held responsible for his death. He would be blamed by default; for failing to react quickly enough.
No! Ron's mind shouted which shook him out of the initial shock. You can't let Harry die. He would never let anything happen to you and you're not going to let anything happen to him. You have to help him. He's depending on you. You're his only hope.
Any sluggishness that sleep deprivation usually brought on had all but disappeared. He pounced onto the bed grabbing Harry by his arms. His skin burned with the heat of a stove set to boil.
"Harry!" Ron shouted, shaking his rigid body like a rag doll, "Harry look at me!"
Harry heard Ron's voice like a whispered echo bouncing off a cavernous room. He was calm for one fleeting second before he was choking again, unable to muster a simple breath. His body felt as if it had entered hell itself; like thousands of steak knives were being shoved into his body. He was drowning and burning alive simultaneously. The pain was unbearable and in that moment, Harry was begging for death.
"Look at me!" Harry heard again, the whisper audible in his ear but only just. Harry tried to open his eyes; to listen to his best friend. His voice had an oddly calming effect, something Harry hadn't noticed until now. He was glad Ron was with him. If he could only hear one more voice before he died, he was glad it was Ron's.
Ron let out a whimper of despair. This wasn't working. He was failing his best friend. Sweat trickled down his face, his face was a bright red and his eyebrows were furrowed in concentration. Why wasn't this working?
Harry was struggling to keep consciousness inside his mind. The pain was so agonizing that he couldn't feel anything but the throbbing pulse of sweltering pain. He had no choice but to give in. He couldn't scream or yell. He was tired of fighting. Voldemort had won. This was his last thought as he drifted into an oblivion of nothingness.
"Harry," Ron whispered again, his voice cracking as Harry's body grew limp and all emotion dropped from his face. "No," he mouthed, tears forming beneath his eyelids, "Harry, no."
And that was it. Ron could feel the life force being drained from the body in his hands. He was shaking his head vigorously, letting tears fall and mingle with sweat. His eyes stung with salt. He didn't care. He had failed miserably. He had lost the most important person to him in the world. Harry was the better wizard; the better person. He wasn't supposed to be the one dying. In that moment, Ron would have gladly changed places. The world needed Harry Potter- the Boy-Who-Lived and their savior. They didn't needed Ron Weasley- Harry's goofy sidekick who was terrified of spiders. Who was he compared to Harry Potter? He was nothing and he knew it.
And yet somehow, this nobody; this poor, freckled, redheaded nobody who had no claim to fame; no claim to any special talents and constantly lived in the shadows of his older and better brothers had somehow become the best friend of Harry Potter. Harry obviously had seen something in Ron that he didn't even see himself. He could have been friends with anyone and yet he had picked Ron and stayed by him and Ron had let Harry down again and again and this time was no different. It was all Ron's fault. He had done this to Harry and he would be plagued by the guilt until his dying day.
Ron let Harry's feverish body plop onto the bed, the sweat of both boys soaking the sheets. The tears came but Ron didn't notice or care. He was numb. All feeling drained from his body like a freshly dried well. He tried yelling for his Mum and then his Dad but no sound came. He felt Harry's pulse which was racing but a fast pulse was better than no pulse. At least there was still a chance. He put his hand Harry's hand, testing for a temperature. It was fire. Ron's hand brushed over Harry's scar which caused Harry's body to jolt; flinging Ron off the bed for the second time.