Chapter 1 : Where’s Ron?
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Two weeks previous, Ron and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had been practicing for the final match against Ravenclaw. Angelina had been pushing them all really hard and was trying to get the new beaters up to scratch. Ron had been concentrating on the Quaffle and the hoops, when suddenly a Bludger came out of nowhere and hit his head side on. Both Kirke and Sloper got an earful from Angelina, as nobody had seen which beater had aimed their Bludger at Ron.
Ron had been unconscious for forty eight hours and Madam Pomfrey had been worried that he could slip into a coma. He had only just been released from the hospital wing that afternoon. It had taken him a while to recover as he was both physically and mentally exhausted.
Other than feeling glum, Ron was essentially fine. At least he was well enough to return to normal lessons, but he had decided against it. There was something that he needed to get his head around and he was going to take just one day to do so. He had been feeling slightly separated from everyone for being in the hospital wing for two weeks, but he felt distant from his best friends for a different reason.
Harry and Hermione had been dating for two months, ever since the ‘circus incident’ with Cho and Draco. Ron was happy that his friends had found love in each other, but he couldn’t help feel like a third wheel. What made him feel even worse was the fact that they were both trying so hard to keep him included. Everything was different now that they weren’t just three friends.
Ron found the peace and solitude of the lake to be relaxing and gave him the time he needed to sort out his feelings. After a while of sitting with his back against the tree, he decided to sit in the sun and dip his feet into the edge of the water. Ron rolled up the bottom of his well worn jeans so they wouldn’t get wet. He looked down at his feet but instead saw his own reflection in the water. He barely recognise his own face, as his skin had become pale with a swallow tinge around his eyes, and there was an air of emptiness that hadn’t been there before. His red hair had been allowed to grow long and messy, but at least it covered the scar left by the Bludger, for which Ron was grateful. As for the rest of him, he had gone thin from not eating much for the past two weeks. He was wearing his favourite red t-shirt, which hid the fact that he was not very muscularly. He sat there for a while, deep in thought and looking at the distorted reflection.
Up at the castle a bell rang signalling the end of the day’s lessons and broke Ron out of his trance. The weather was nice today; they students would flock outside to catch a glimpse of sunlight. Ron stood up rather abruptly, he had just realised something; this was their spot, the three of them, they would always sit under that tree on nice days. His brain was telling him he had to get away; he couldn’t face them, not yet. So without really thinking, Ron started walking into the middle of the lake. What he hadn’t realised was that Harry and Hermione were already on their way towards the lake and saw Ron heading for the middle of it.
His jeans were soaked but he didn’t care, he had to keep going. He had always wondered what was in the lake. He had been under the water when Harry was taking part in the second task of the triwizard tournament, but that didn’t count, he was out of it then. Ron waded with his arms through the water, which was rapidly getting deeper. He considered what creatures lay beneath the murky surface, he knew merpeople did, Harry had told him so. He wondered what it would be like to be a merman, he could live in the lake his whole life, never having to live with the confrontations that people did above the water. As the water level now reached his chin, Ron really wished he knew how to perform the Bubble-Head Charm. He heard a muffled noise in the distance but he assumed it was just Hagrid shouting at the crows to get out his pumpkin patch. Ron could have turned around to see where the sound was coming from, if he had, he would have seen Harry and Hermione running frantically to the waters edge. But he did not, instead he took a deep breath and submerged himself completely.
Harry and Hermione were glad to be out in the afternoon sunshine, the warm rays felt pleasant on their bare arms. Their lessons that day had been no more interesting than usual, but they were looking forward to spending some time together and some time with Ron. They were expecting him to be out of the hospital by the evening so they could all go down to the Great Hall for dinner like they used to. The pair of them were chatting and giggling away when they saw a figure standing by the lake. The next moment the person began to stride into the lake. The laughing ceased as they realised who that someone was. Harry grabbed tight of Hermione’s hand pulling her along as they both ran flat out, all the time shouting Ron’s name.
Ron felt strangely calm now he was under the surface of the water. His heart had stop racing, but he knew his lungs would not allow him to stay beneath the water indefinitely. Ron’s mind seemed oddly clear now that the panic was over, at least for the next minute or so. Ron had been feeling so alone, almost unwanted, but then something dawned on him. He was wrong. Harry and Hermione hadn’t changed how they felt about him; it was he who had changed. He had felt trapped, but because he had ignored his own feelings, it just got worse. He realised he had to confront them both; he couldn’t run from his problems forever. The next second he felt a tug on his shoulder.
Hermione stumbled into the edge of the lake. She was panting and breathless and Harry was close behind her.
“Ron you idiot, get back here!” screamed Hermione. It was then that Ron’s head disappeared beneath the water. “What the hell is he playing at?” she asked Harry who just shook his head. Hermione took another step into the lake when Harry grabbed her arm.
“I’ll get him,” he simply stated. He kissed her cheek, kicked of his shoes and hurried into the lake after his best friend. The water immediately drenched his uniform, which clung to his skin. He quickly reached the spot where Ron’s head had disappeared and dived under the water. He saw Ron; he had not gone far from where he had submerged. Harry reached out to his friend, grabbing his shoulder and pulling him up.
Ron spluttered as something had grabbed him from behind and pulled him with it. He was above the water, his lungs gasping for the fresh air. He turned and saw the concerned face of his best friend.
“Harry, what are you…?”
“What am I doing? What were you doing? Are you completely insane? You had me and Hermione worried sick,” Harry barked at him.
“Hermione?” Ron croaked. His brain didn’t seem to be working properly from the lack of oxygen.
“Let’s just get you to the shore mate.”
As the pair of them staggered on to the bank, Hermione grabbed hold of both of them. She pulled them towards her, hugging them tightly because she didn’t want to let go of either of them.
“I’m so glad you’re both alright,” she cried, when she finally let go. “And you, what were you thinking?” she rounded on Ron.
“I guess I wasn’t,” replied Ron. There was a moment’s silence before he spoke again. “I think we all need to sit down and talk.”
The three of them returned to the castle, dripping wet with the water from the lake. Unbeknownst to them, a pair of students had witnessed the whole scene from the other side of the lake. A Slytherin boy with white blonde hair stood beside an older girl with long, black hair. Cho Chang could not believe her own eyes.
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