I don't own Ron Weasley or Lord Voldemort. This one-shot contains content from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' which does belong to J.K. Rowling.
I may not have the time to expand any of these vignettes into full stories, but I invite anyone else to give them a shot. So long as you credit me for the idea, any and all of these one-shots are officially up for adoption.
He Who Must Not Be Named
Harry had finally managed to tell Ron the whole story of his and Hermione's various wanderings, right up to the full story of what happened in Godric's Hollow; Ron was now filling Harry in on everything he had discovered about the wider Wizarding world during his weeks away.
"… and how did you find out about the Taboo?" he asked Harry after explaining the many desperate attempts of Muggle-borns to evade the Ministry.
"You and Hermione have stopped saying You-Know-Who's name!"
"Oh, yeah. Well, it's just a bad habit we've slipped into," said Harry. But I haven't got a problem calling him V—"
"NO!" roared Ron, causing Harry to jump into the hedge and Hermione (nose buried in a book at the tent entrance) to scowl over at them. "Sorry," said Ron, wrenching Harry back out of the brambles, "but the name's been jinxed, Harry, that's how they track people. Using his name breaks protective enchantments, it causes some kind of magical disturbance—"
Harry's exclamation was immediately succeeded by the sound of Hermione slamming her book down on a nearby stump. "That's it!" She stomped over. "I've had it! Would either of you tell me why you both keep yelling at each other?" Hermione glared at the two boys. "Well?"
"Go ahead, Ron." Harry said frigidly. "Explain it to her."
Ron's eyes darted between them. "Uh… sure? I was just asking Harry about the Taboo, seeing as the two of you using You-Know-Who's name, and I figured—"
"The Taboo?" Hermione stopped him. "You mean the thing that tracks Morsmordre?"
Harry turned to her, his face grim. "Pardon?"
She sighed. "You remember the Quidditch World Cup, when Barty Jr. cast the Dark Mark and suddenly all those Aurors showed up? I asked around – it turns out the Ministry's had that incantation jinxed for years now, ever since the last war. That's how they got there so fast." She turned back to Ron. "But I don't get what this has to do with Volde—"
"Don't!" Ron shouted. "That's why I'm trying to tell you: the name's been jinxed! That's how they found us at Tottenham Court Road. Anyone who uses You-Know-Who's name, it tracks them and breaks any wards around them so they can be captured."
"Huh." Hermione was impressed almost despite herself. "That actually makes sense. Only folks who were serious about standing up to him – like the Order – would dare to use the name, and the Taboo would make it easier to track them. I wonder if that's how they knew to post guards outside Grimmauld—we certainly said the name often enough while staying there."
"I heard they nearly got Kingsley with it too." Ron pitched in.
Hermione nodded. "The Death Eaters must've claimed the Taboo back when the Ministry first fell."
"I think you'll find," Harry seemed to seethe, "that it was more a case of them reclaiming something the Ministry seized back when he fell."
Hermione looked at him oddly. "What makes you say that?"
"I think I finally understand why most people call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"He-Who-Must-Not —oh!" Hermione paled as she made the connection, her mind racing. "Harry?"
"I've no idea either."
"What?" Ron butted in. "What's the big deal?"
His question filled the silence for several moments.
"The big deal, Ronald," Hermione said waspishly, "is that the Taboo is obviously something You-Know-Who used during his first rise to power."
"So don't you think someone should have mentioned that at some point?" Harry barked. "I mean, Merlin, no wonder people wouldn't call him by name! Every time someone did, they and everyone around them would die!"
"I'd bet a lot of people died the first time around before people figured out that the name was jinxed." Hermione said somberly. Then her eyes widened. "Harry, do you think that might be why you've had trouble getting people to believe you for all those years?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked her uneasily.
"Well, think about it. Even after you beat You-Know-Who the first time around, most people still wouldn't say the name. They probably associated it with all the people he killed."
Harry had a lump in his throat. "You're saying… every time I used the name, people thought I was disrespecting all the ones who died in the First War?"
"Well, yeah… or…" Hermione shifted evasively.
"Or they thought you were using it to make a point." Hermione winced. "Like how, when You-Know-Who attacked your home, you managed to beat him."
"But that— that's worse! That makes me out to be some sort of…"
"Deluded attention-seeker?" Hermione asked bleakly.
The lump in his throat grew. "Oh Merlin…"
"That'd certainly explain why it was so easy for them to make people believe the worst about you."
"That's… but if I'd known, I'd never—"
"Well we know that, Harry, but everyone else probably assumed you'd been told at some point. I mean, for a while there you were the only one in school willing to call You-Know-Who by name."
"Besides Dumbledore of course." Ron chipped in helpfully.
It took several moments for that comment to fully sink in. Then in an instant Harry's anguish turned fully to rage.
"What the hell was Dumbledore playing at, then? Did he want people to not take me seriously? Was it all part of the plan, to have the Ministry waste a year trying to discredit me? Because it worked! Death Eaters have taken over the school, the Ministry's rounding up muggle-born like it's the bloody Holocaust… the Wizarding world is dying, and we're NOWHERE!"
Harry slumped against a tree. "I'm so bloody tired of having my strings pulled and my chain yanked with nothing to show for it. Merlin, even Krecher's been of more help to us than Dumbledore. Did he want me to fail? All those years he never told me about the Taboo, trained me to say the name—did he want me to get caught?"
Hermione caught him with an arm around the shoulder as Harry resignedly fell silent.
The silence lasted almost a minute before Harry broke it again.
"What I'd like to know," Harry's tired gaze rose to rest on Ron, "is why we're only finding out about this now."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry scoffed. "Come on, Ron. 'Don't say the name!' 'It feels like a – a jinx or something.' How long have you known?"
Now Hermione was looking at him too, and Ron shifted his weight under their heavy stares. "I don't know what you mean," he said, half defiantly, half under his breath.
"Don't lie." Harry countered. "How long have you known?"
"You were telling us for weeks not to say his name. You expect us to believe you only found out about the Taboo after you left?" Hermione pressed him.
"I... I wasn't sure, all right? Give it a rest!" Ron barked.
"No, I don't think I will." Harry's voice was remarkably even. "What does that mean, you weren't sure?"
Ron's eyes appealed to Hermione for help, but she was in no mood to humor him. "I… I thought I remembered Mum mentioning once why they called him 'You-Know-Who,' and something about a jinx, but I wasn't sure, and I'd noticed that they seemed to show up any time we said the name, so I figured it'd be safer not so, that's all."
"So why didn't you tell us that? Why'd you make up that stupid reason about 'showing You-Know-Who some respect'?" Harry's voice went cold, very cold.
"Hey! I'd just been splinched, and that wasn't my fault either. I had to think of something, didn't I?"
Hermione remembered that moment well: she'd splinched Ron during their escape from the Ministry. At the time she'd felt so bad for him that she kept Harry from pressing the point. Now, she did not feel nearly so accommodating. "What about later? You could have told us your reason at any point over the next seven weeks. You didn't."
"But there was one thing you did do." Harry picked up. "Every day for those seven weeks, every time one of us even started to say the name aloud… you called us on it. Every single time, without fail. That doesn't sound like you weren't sure. That sounds like you were very sure. So why wouldn't you tell us?"
Ron opened his mouth, briefly, but closed it without saying a word.
Hermione had already leapt ahead. "What happened in the Ministry, Ron?"
Harry looked over. "What's that?"
"Well, we broke the Taboo quite a few times while staying at Grimmauld, and that whole time he never objected once." Hermione explained. "But almost as soon as we leave the Ministry, he stopped us from using the name, even though he was splinched and bleeding and barely conscious at the time."
"So he learned of the Taboo at the Ministry, brilliant."
"But wouldn't tell us about it, remember that. If I had to guess, I'd say there was something about how he learned about the Taboo that kept him from mentioning it to us."
"So he wouldn't bring it up…"
"…because then he'd have to tell us about this other thing, whatever it was."
"So what happened in the Ministry?" Harry was still facing Ron, whose eyes darted back and forth between the pair of them, his expression almost desperate in its intensity.
Hermione's eyes clouded as she tried to remember. "We were Polyjuiced – I was Mafalda Hopkirk, you were Runcorn, Ron was… Ron was that man in blue robes, I don't know, Rich something—"
"Reg." Harry corrected. "Reg Cattermole. From Magical Maintenance."
"Right." Out of the corner of her eye Hermione saw Harry discreetly palm his wand, careful to keep it out of Ron's line of sight. Her attention, however, was elsewhere. "Then Ron had to go off to clean some raining office…" Her eyebrows scrunched together. "But whose was it, whose—Yaxley!"
"The Head of the DMLE, that's who! Ron was clearing out rain from his office! Oh, Harry, I'd—"
"Shut up!" Ron broke his silence to interrupt her. "Don't say anymore or I'll—"
"Expelliarmus!" Harry had cast just as Ron began to swing his wand towards them. "We'll take that, thank you. Now," Harry moved to hand the wand over to Hermione, "what were you saying?"
She took it dumbly, not fully comprehending. "I was… I was just saying I'd bet all my galleons that Yaxley kept the device for the Taboo inside his office."
"That'd make sense." Harry grunted appreciatively. "Probably why his office was raining in the first place."
"Well, indoor rain isn't exactly a natural occurrence. I figure someone must have set it up to rain in there for a reason—either to keep Yaxley from using his office, or to keep the Taboo from working."
On being disarmed, Ron had fallen into a sort of stunned silence, but now he regained his voice. "Just stop it, stop talking, don't do this, you can't—"
"Silencio." This time Hermione was the one to cast. "Ron, how could you?" She accused.
Ron glared at her hatefully.
"Hey! You don't look at her like that!" Harry stood up to hi m. "If you won't tell the truth, you can't blame her for figuring it out despite you." He glanced back. "So, what were you saying he did?"
"He fixed it!"
"Fixed what, the Taboo? No, I don't think so. He was sopping wet when we met back in the lifts, and he told me he'd been sent to call in someone else from Maintenance to do the work."
Hermione looked at him quizzically. "So… he didn't fix it? Then why would he—" She paled. "You didn't."
"You did? Of all the times to listen, of all the times in your life to be marginally magically competent, you just had to pick this one! Someone jinxed the office, puts the Taboo out of commission; of course you can't counter the jinx, but what could you do? Cast Impervius on everything, just like I told you! So when did you learn it was the Taboo? In the DMLE, or did someone in Maintenance clue you in?"
By now Ron was looking riotous, but Harry risked a quick glance over to her. "I'd say it had to have been in the DMLE. I mean, we could hardly blame him if he'd found out after he fixed it."
"Harry, this is Ron we're talking about."
Harry blinked. "Right. So incredibly petty reasons are not out of the question. But it'd make so much more sense if — whoa, Incarcerous!" Even disarmed and silenced, Ron still had use of his fists. Ropes erupted from Harry's wand to stop Ron's charge in its tracks.
Hermione picked up the conversation after a brief silence. "It'd certainly make sense of why he wouldn't tell us? But why would he fix it, if he already knew what it was?"
Harry paused in thought. "Does it have to be either-or? Say someone mentioned it to him before he got to the office, but he didn't understand the warning until after he'd gone ahead and fixed it anyway."
"And wouldn't tell us, because it'd mean admitting he was the one who fixed it."
"Or because it'd mean admitting that he fixed it despite being warned not to."
"Uh-huh." Hermione nodded. "It's a lot easier to stomach Ron being clueless, than him being a secret Death Eater. But either way, where does that leave us? He kept this information from us for weeks, just to avoid looking foolish."
"And only brought it up now because he's been away for so many weeks he has an excuse."
A thought struck her. "Harry, what if he left because he needed an excuse?"
"Eh…" Harry frowned. "I don't know about that. We both saw that the locket affected him much more than it did either of us."
"Don't you think this might be why? He kept vital information secret because he felt too foolish to tell us any of it."
"And knowing his moods, he probably found some way to blame us for making him feel foolish, for keeping him from telling the truth. Add to that the stress of making sure we never said the name…"
"So you won't say Ron left because he needed an excuse, but you will say that his lack of an excuse led him to justify leaving?"
Harry blanked. "Oh."
"No kidding. 'You say po-tay-toe, I say po-tat-toe,' much?"
"Well, when you put it that way…"
"Besides, any difference doesn't really matter to our situation."
"We still need to figure out what to do with the clod." She motioned with her foot toward the silent, still struggling figure.
"Right." Harry grimaced. "Any ideas?"
"You aren't going to like it."
"Let's hear 'em anyway."
Hermione sighed. "You know, I still haven't gotten over his willingness to leave us behind in the middle of a war. But after this… I don't know if I'd be able to trust him at all anymore. I think we should leave him behind."
Harry considered it for a moment, before abruptly chuckling. "So, 'let's call the whole thing off,' then?"
"Oh, honestly, Harry!"
"Sorry, sorry." He ducked, but Hermione's hand still thwacked the back of his head. "Right," he rubbed it ruefully, before dragging his thoughts back on track. "I can't say you're wrong… but I don't know if we can. Just leave him, I mean. We're in hiding for a reason: what if he gets caught?"
"That's precisely why we can't afford to keep him around! He told us himself how close the Snatchers came last time. Where would we be if they'd succeeded? Can you imagine how much harder our mission would be if You-Know-Who knew we were hunting horcruxes." Hermione practically snarled at Ron, "Your petty insecurities nearly lost us everything!"
She took a breath before turning back to Harry. "But, as you say, he knows too much for us to get rid of. But what if we could make it so he didn't remember the 'too much' he knew?"
"You're saying… we obliviate him?"
Harry paused for a moment. "How much do we erase?"
Hermione nodded at this tacit approval. "Everything to do with horcruxes. Since the Order knows we're on a mission, we'll need to come up with one for Ron to remember."
"Why not say it had to do with clues left in Dumbledore's Will?"
Hermione blinked. "Nicely done. Of course, it helps that it's mostly true as well."
"Don't remind me." Harry growled. "So how do we get Ron to stay away?"
Hermione frowned in concentration. "Well, he was searching for us for a while. Why can't we say he only found us today, and that we wouldn't accept him back because of his leaving us earlier? I'd keep the Deluminator, of course."
"That'd work. Actually, I think that just about covers it, at least as far as the Order's concerned."
"And everyone else thinks he's just lain up with spattergroit, so no changes there."
"Shall I, then?" Hermione brandished her wand.
Harry sighed. "I don't like it, but… what else is there?" A thought struck him. "We can still reverse the Obliviation after we're through with Riddle, right?"
"Of course, that's the plan for my parents. Why?"
"Because Ron is my friend, my first friend, no matter what — and someday, once this war is over I'd like to have that friend back. That won't work unless he gets his memory back."
Hermione sighed, trying to keep her displeasure to herself. Of course Harry would forgive and forget. War might delay things, but Ron would always have Harry's loyalty. "Yes, well. Leave that for later — right now he's just a danger to us and our mission."
Harry noticed that, for the first time in their conversation, Hermione's irritation seemed to be directed at him and not at Ron. He wasn't sure why, but he knew to leave well enough alone. "All right, go ahead."
Hermione stepped towards the bound figure. "Well, Ron, here we are. As always, it's been a profound disappointment. You know, for the longest time I thought I liked you. Part of me still does. You were safe, you were there, you were… not good enough anymore. If you ever get these memories back, you should know it is only for Harry's sake. There's nothing for us anymore, not trust, not friendship, nothing. Good-bye. Obliviate!"
A/N: As she does with so much else, Rowling drops the Taboo on us without much fanfare, even though it makes a huge difference for the story she told and the world she built. It explains so much, even down to the ridiculous psuedonyms used for the antagonist.
I am of two minds when it comes to Dumbledore not mentioning this to Harry. On the one hand, this may just be another example of wizards being idiots and Headmasters being incompetent. On the other hand, it's not inconceivable that the omission was deliberate, seeing as Dumbledore fully intended to have Harry die at Voldemort's hand. Perhaps this was the back-up plan.
As for Ron, I'm pretty sure Rowling intended to foreshadow the later reveal with his earlier insistence on not using the name. But setting the needs of the narrator aside and looking solely in-universe, it's clear something fishy is going on. And while I'm not convinced my explanation is the best, it does account for everything without requiring Ron to be secretly evil. I consider that something of a victory.