Chapter 7 : The hard lessons of self-control
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When the wind stops, the cousins find themselves in a place so dark that they can’t make out where they are. A whimper cuts through the silence, and the rustle of sheets following it helps the cousins identify that they are in the dormitories.
“Lumos!” Ron whispers tiredly. The boy rubs the sleep out of his eyes and yawns as he opens the curtains of his bed.
“Dear Ginny,” the quiet voice fills the room. “It’s three in the morning and for the fourth time this week, I’m up.”
“Is dad having nightmares?” Rose asks quietly, watching her father stand still next to Harry’s bed, looking through a small gap in the curtains. Another whimpers comes up from Harry’s bed and Ron quickly bends down to shake his friends shoulder.
“Harry, Harry wake up,” Ron quietly calls. With a start, Harry looks into his friend’s worried face. “It was just a dream mate, you’re ok.”
“No Rose, apparently its Uncle Harry’s nightmares that are keeping him awake.”
“Yeah, I’m ok, thanks Ron,” Harry wipes the tears off of his face and puts his glasses on. Ron sits down on Harry’s bed in what seems like an already well oiled routine.
“Did you dream of your parents again?”
“Yes,” Harry whispers. The boy sniffs and wipes his eyes under his glasses. Ron tactfully looks away, giving his friend privacy. “It’s harder now that I know what they looked like.”
“What do you mean? You didn’t know what your parents looked like before?”
“No... I don’t remember them, and my Aunt and Uncle didn’t have any pictures at home,” Harry explains, making Ron frown. The boy seems unable to comprehend how someone can be in the complete dark about what your parents look like. “Before, when I dreamed of them, they didn’t have a face, it was all blurry. But now, they’re more real. My mum’s smile hurts even more now that I know what I missed, you know?”
“I’m not sure, I’ve never lost anyone I loved,” Ron slowly answers, deep in thought, “but I know that just the thought of never seeing my mum’s smile again hurts. So yeah, I guess I can understand what it’s like.”
“Before I saw my parents in the mirror, the people I saw in my dreams changed from time to time; they only felt like my parents,” Harry tries to explain as a tear slides down his cheek. “Now it’s really them, smiling at me and then, then disappearing in a flash of green light.”
Harry fidgets nervously, trying to keep Ron from seeing his tears but as he finishes describing what goes on in his mind, a loud sob escapes him and he quickly hides under his blanket. Ron looks uncomfortably at his friend. His eyes are full of sadness showing that he shares his friend’s pain, but he doesn’t know what to do to make it better. He chooses to keep quiet and give Harry some time to pull himself together. At the foot of the bed, Al and Hugo hold their respective sisters’ hands, trying to pull a strong, manly facade while both girls’ faces are wet with tears.
“This is just a short message to ask you to give mum and dad a hug and a kiss from me, ok? Spending nights awake, watching over my best friend’s sleep because of the awful dreams he has, obviously dreaming of the parents he never knew, well it makes me wish I could hug mine. Thanks sis. Your brother Ron, who loves you and misses you,” Ron’s calm and sad request comes over Harry’s sobs. After a minute of silence, only broken with Rose and Lily’s sniffs, Harry peeks out of under his blanket and gives Ron a wet smile, although carefully looking away.
“Thanks Ron, I think I can go back to sleep now.”
“Ok, good night then,” Ron whispers as he gets back in his own bed and both boys close the curtains around themselves, “Nox!”
“He still has those nightmares from time to time, you know?” Al whispers to the three others.
“Understandable,” Rose sniffs, “it must be horrible that the only memory you have of your parents is the moment they were killed, and your wonderful brain makes you see it in your dreams every other night.”
“Poor Uncle Ron though,” Al sniggers nervously, hiding his true emotion, “he looked so uncomfortable; not knowing what to do.”
“At least he was there,” Lily snaps. “I’m pretty sure back with his Aunt and Uncle, Dad was left alone to deal with those nightmares.”
“Yeah, you’re right Lily, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like a bad thing. I was just trying to imagine myself in Uncle Ron’s place and I wouldn’t have known what to do to help Dad either.”
Lily gives her brother one last annoyed look before the dormitory gets wiped away and the travellers are blinded by the bright winter day they now find themselves in. When their eyes get a bit used to the light, the four teenagers realize they are standing in the middle of the quidditch pitch, next to the two teams about to begin the game.
“Quidditch!” they all shout together.
“Whoa, the referee looks happy to be there!” Lily exclaims in disgust.
“Dear mum, dad and Ginny. Last week, the Gryffindor quidditch team played a game that will be going into Hogwarts’ records as the shortest match ever played. It took Harry 4 minutes and 21 seconds to catch the snitch, can you believe it?”
“The quaffle is released, the players are up and the game begins,” Lee Jordan’s magnified and breaking voice resonates through the pitch and over the crowd’s cheering. “Let’s all hope it will be a short game so that the referee doesn’t have too much time to tweak with the score!”
“Jordan,” Professor McGonagall says in a threatening way.
“Ha!” Rose laughs at the commentary, “too bad Matt Lavoie doesn’t have the same nerves; it makes quidditch even more enjoyable.”
“Alicia Spinnet has the quaffle for Gryffindor, Brandstone should watch out; she showed she’s got quite the arm yesterday when she hit Fred Weasley after he turned her bald in Charms.”
“Enough with the fun facts, Jordan,” McGonagall’s exasperated voice comes over the crowd’s laughter.
“It’s a good thing too, because Snape was refereeing and he was already punishing the Gryffindor team for practically nothing. Well, George did send him a bludger on purpose but still, Snape deserved it!”
“And she scores! 10-0 Gryffindor! Oh and the referee appears to have come up with his first imaginary foul. Summers takes it but Wood stops it, no biggy, and the game is back on. Ah and here comes the second foul, George or Fred Weasley just shot a very nicely aimed bludger at the referee.”
“I’m saying it like it is Professor; listen to the crowd,” Jordan explains to the very angry Transfiguration teacher, “Ok, back to the game and it is once again Summers who tries to defy Wood but, as expected when you face such a brilliant keeper, Summers fails and Wood laughs in his face.”
“Aunt Angelina is brutal,” Rose declares amazed as she watches the young chaser strike a strong elbow blow on the nose of one of the Hufflepuff chaser. She doesn’t even look at her adversary and keeps flying across the pitch, going straight towards the goal post, but she stops dead in her tracks when Harry crosses her path, flying toward the ground. The travellers don’t notice the young seeker’s action though because their attention is taken away by the most amazing sight. The small golden snitch is flying very slowly, almost immobile and barely three inches away from Al’s nose; as if it could see the fifteen year old boy and wondered what he is doing there.
“Whoa,” Al breathes, watching the snitch’s peculiar behaviour. His breath turns into a scream though, when a red blur shoots through him, grabbing the ball in its wake.
“Potter has the snitch, and believe it or not ladies and gentlemen, the match is already over and Gryffindor wins! Take that Snape!” Lee shouts over the crowd’s cheers.
“Did you see that?” Al shrieks to his relatives. “The snitch could sense us, I’m sure of it!”
“Yeah, it was quite amazing,” Lily nods at her brother. “We will need to ask Teddy if something like that ever happened to him.”
The quidditch pitch disappears with a great blow of wind, but still the travellers find themselves outside on the ground, watching two small figures playing in the snow from afar. As they get closer to the scene, the teenagers recognize Ron and Harry, dressed with several layers of Weasley jumpers, mittens and scarves; laughing their heads off sliding down a small icy hill, trying to stay on their feet for as long as possible.
“They look like they’re having fun,” Hugo states as they walk towards the small hill.
“Other than that, not much is happening. Classes and schoolwork pretty much sums up my days when we spend a bit too much time with Hermione. It’s a good thing Harry and I can escape her sometime and have some fun together because clearly, boys and girls don’t seem to have the same views on what qualifies as fun!”
“Oh so, they’re escaping mum,” Rose laughs, “They scowl at us when we do that!”
“Harry, that was lame,” Ron yells when Harry rolls down after falling.
“Go on, if you think you can do better, go on then,” Harry yells back.
“Ok watch this.” Ron takes a deep breath and a couple steps back to have a better start. After a short run, the boy begins his descent, knees bent and arms outstretched to keep his balance. As he gets further down the hill, Ron gathers more speed and when he steps on a dry patch, the boy loses his balance and rolls down the hill too, joining his snow-covered friend.
“Oh yeah,” Harry laughs sarcastically, “That was way better.”
“Was too,” Ron joins in the laughter, “I got at least six feet further than you did.”
“No way!” Harry strongly denies before taking a thoughtful pause. “I think we should mark it, where we fall, so we can compare.”
“You sound like Hermione,” Ron shakes his head with a laugh. The two boys begin to climb back the hill together. “What do you think she’s doing, Hermione?”
“Charms maybe?” Harry shrugs, “or maybe she’s already moved on to doing her Herbology essay.”
“Yeah, she does go faster without us around,” Ron admits. “Do you think she’ll help us catch up with her?”
“I dunno, but we have all weekend to do our homework.’
“Right,” Ron nods, “and this hill will probably have melted by Monday if the rain keeps going the way it did all week; so we might miss out on the fun!”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Harry agrees when they reach the top. “Are you ready to take my mark?” Ron nods.
“Well that’s it; I’d send you hugs through the letter but I don’t know if such a spell exists... Love, Ron.” The boy concludes as Harry takes a short run before making his way down the hill.
“I’m not sure I agree with Uncle Ron on that,” Lily ponders aloud. “I would love to give this a try; especially over doing homework!”
“Yeah well, sorry to break this to you Lils, but you don’t exactly qualify as a girly girl,” Hugo declares cheekily, earning himself a punch on the shoulder from his favourite cousin.
“Neither does Aunt Hermione,” Al pipes up, coming to his sister’s rescue.
“Still, you don’t really imagine her doing this do you?” Rose laughs, imagining her mother rolling down the hill like her father is doing at that moment.
“Ok,” Al nods, “you have a point.”
As Ron and Harry compare the distance they travelled to find out who the winner is, the bright and snowy scenery gets blown away and is replaced by a quiet and practically empty common room. The dim light and the fact that Ron is sitting in his pajamas in front of the fire, indicates to the travellers that it must be late at night. The four teenagers walk to the boy and instantly notice how concerned he looks. He sits with his knees up to his chest, his eyes lost in the fire but mostly, the inflammation of his lower lip shows he clearly got hit earlier that day.
“Hey Gin,” Ron’s voice says. The travellers are surprised by the tired and somewhat reluctant tone that the little boy is using. As much as it fits with the boy they are looking at in the moment, it is nevertheless very far from the cheerfulness Ron’s voice usually holds. It almost sounds as if he doesn’t want to read this letter, as if he preferred for it to be forgotten. “In the letter I sent mum, dad and you, I told you about the last quidditch match and how short it was. Well it was actually so short that I didn’t even have time to see it so much that I was occupied beating the crap out of Malfoy. I’m not proud of it (although looking at Malfoy’s black eye does bring a smile to my lips) but there’s no denying that I hate the guy and his guts. Once again he insulted our family and I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m telling you this because I decided that this is how it’s going to be from now on and next year, you might have to witness my shameful behaviour.”
“Seriously?” Hugo blurts out, “Dad considered being a tug?”
“Look at yourself Dad,” Rose shakes her head in disbelief, “you may be tall but there is absolutely nothing threatening about you. You’ll only get yourself hurt.”
Now, as strange as the four cousins’ trip may be, by this point they have gotten used to it. Watching events unfold through Ron’s lenses, getting used to seeing dead people live their glorious days and even situations unfold in different ways than what they have been told before. There is nevertheless a difference between that and what is happening at the moment. Bubbles, not unlike the ones that are used to express thoughts in comic books, suddenly appear over Ron’s red head. Unlike the ones in comic books though, the bubbles here do not hold words, they holds scenes, like short muggle movies all starring the same blond Slytherin boy; Draco Malfoy.
“Bloody hell,” Al breathes when the first bubble appears.
“Points should be decked for the way you look Weasley; the school uniform is supposed to be black, not grey,” the blond boy sneers.
“Tell me Weasel, do you and your brothers also share just the one brain? I see you share one owl, one set of books and the same dumb look too.”
“If you don’t mind me asking Weasley, exactly why did your parents not stop before they had you? It would have saved them some money and made the rest of all of our lives much brighter.”
“Weasley I know you’re poor but that’s not a reason to make us all pay the price. Tell your parents to skip a couple meals in order to buy you some soap for Merlin’s sake!”
“You know Rosie,” Lily slowly says when the last bubble melts away, “as much as I’m on your side about how Scorpius is not like his dad, I simply can’t imagine Uncle Ron warming up to him more than he already has.”
“Right,” Hugo nods, “can you imagine that this is only their first year? Imagine what dad must have heard over the next six.”
“I know, I know, but this isn’t how Scorp is guys, you know that too, right?”
“We do Rosie but, put yourself in dad’s place. Every time he looks at Scorp, he sees Draco Malfoy and all those things must come back to him. I’m actually impressed he manages to be civil to Scorpius after seeing this!”
“I can only agree with that,” Al sighs, “Scorp may be one of my best friends but now I see that there is a limit to what I can ask mum and dad toward him. They accept our friendship and act civilly toward him, I cannot ask them to accept him like a son, not after seeing this.”
“Yeah,” Rose whispers, “yeah I guess.”
“I don’t know how to explain this and maybe you can help me with it but it’s like I snap when people laugh at our lack of money and the lifestyle we have because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love our family and wouldn’t give it up for all the money in the world but I hate being poor. I hate that with their words; people can bring me to be ashamed of our house or our clothes. You seem to cope so much better with this; do you think I will too? I don’t want to have to resolve to violence just because I hate the way I feel about my life. I feel so bad about telling you this but you’re the only one who can actually hear this and help me, not judge me. I hope you won’t be too disappointed in me after learning of these feelings,” Ron finishes with a heavy sigh. A tall boy makes his way toward Ron while he narrates this last piece of the letter and even though the smaller boy does not move, he clearly has noticed his big brother approaching.
“Come to give me a telling off on how I shouldn’t fight? Or let me know that you’ve told mum and dad about it?” Ron mutters when his brother sits down on the chair next to his.
“No Ron. I’m just here to talk with you, that’s all,”
“Really?” Ron asks the Prefect suspiciously.
“Yeah,” Percy shrugs, “So, what happened today?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine, you don’t need to talk but I’d like you to listen to me if that’s ok,” Percy quietly asks his younger brother.
“I feel you deserve to know that you’re not the first one to go through a rough first year. I think Bill was the only one lucky enough to escape the teasing and mockery from the most, erm, fortunate students.”
“Yeah, we all suffered from those damn comments at one point or another about the way we dress or the family we come from. All of us had to find a way around that though.” Percy waits a moment but seeing that his younger brother stays quiet, the older boy goes on. “Charlie invested in quidditch and became something of a star; the twins use humour and pranks; no one wants to become their official target I suppose. As for me, well I guess I hide behind rules and give myself as much authority as possible, so people don’t even dare make fun of me. You, Ron, simply need to find your own way of dealing with it because fighting is not a good option.”
“Well it’s the only option I see right now,” Ron mutters angrily.
“I understand how you can see it this way. Sure it works right now but in the long run, you don’t want to be this kind of guy; you are not that kind of guy. You’re a Weasley, a brave and noble Gryffindor.”
“I’m not like you guys, I don’t have anything special; I don’t have what it takes to be a good Gryffindor either,” the young boy whispers sadly, his voice heavy with hopelessness.
“I’m not worried about you, little brother,” Percy chuckles as he gets up to put a comforting hand on his littlest brother’s shoulder. “You are one of the greatest strategists I have ever met; I know you can get pass any puzzle life throws at you. In the mean time, it is my duty as your big brother to tell you that instead of fighting next time someone gets under your skin, go and find a teacher or a Prefect. Think about it and remember that I’m always there if you need to talk. Good night Ron.”
“Good night Perce,” the smaller Weasley boy answers, looking very lost in his own thoughts.
“On a more disturbing note, we finally figured out who Nicholas Flamel is; he is an alchemist, maker of the Philosopher Stone. That Stone – which we are pretty sure is what the monster-dog is guarding – can produce an elixir which makes you immortal! That Flamel guy is actually over 600 years old, can you believe it!? Now this is where it gets disturbing. After the match, Harry overheard a conversation between two teachers; Quirell the stutterer and Snape the awful. Well believe it or not, turns out Snape is after the Stone and menaced Quirell to give him information on how to get it! We are keeping a close look on things and will update you on this story, promise!”
“Why didn’t we see anything regarding that piece of information?” Al wonders aloud.
“No clue,” Hugo shrugs. “Do you think there might be something wrong with the spell? It’s the second time something not quite right has happened.”
“Maybe we’re going to see it later on guys, don’t panic.”
“Still, I would have loved to see Snape the Awful menace Quirell the Stutterer,” Rose pouts.
“But that could be it. Dad was told this by Uncle Harry, he didn’t witness it himself,” Hugo explains.
“That makes sense,” Al agrees, “but he’s keeping a close look of the situation so we can definitely hope to get more juicy stuff.”
“Juicy as in McGonagall and Flitwick getting it on?”
“Lily, what, in Grindelwald’s rotten soul, is the matter with you?” Rose shouts in utter disgust. “Not only did you actually think about such a horrid picture but to share it with us?”
“What was I supposed to do? Keep it for myself and be the only one scarred by my own thoughts?”
“Yes!” the three other shout while the common room gets replaced by the very much appreciated Transfiguration classroom.
The students sit quietly taking notes under the stern look of Professor McGonagall. Only the scratching of quills on parchment and the occasional coughing of various students can be heard from time to time. The silence is cut short for the travellers when the very hyper voice of young Ron shouts in their ears.
“Hey all! Thank you for your kind wishes and wicked gifts. I tried really hard not to eat all the chocolate cakes you sent me Gin but they were too good and after giving one to Harry and one to Hermione, I sent the last eight of them to my stomach within an hour of receiving them.”
“This will do you good Dad,” Rose snorts, looking at the red-headed boy that keeps moving on his chair.
“Mister Potter,” professor McGonagall asks in a stern yet, soft tone. “Since you are done taking your notes, kindly come over here and pass these sheets of sandpaper to your classmates.”
As Harry executes the teacher’s demand, she goes on explaining to the rest of the students that they will now try and apply the Enmiligator spell they’ve just learned – a spell meant to soften things - on something definitely rough so the transfiguration will be easier to notice. The students put their things away in a, somewhat, calm way that only Ron seems to have difficulty respecting. When Harry gives him the sandpaper, Ron gives his friend a huge grin and mocks his job. Harry pulls a face at him before going back to his job and Ron keeps on squirming excitedly on his chair.
“Now this will ask of you to be calm and concentrated. Remember that you would not wish to blow your noses with sandpaper; it would be very painful”
Ron fixes his gaze on the piece of sandpaper but the small smile that plays on his lips is a clear indicator that his concentration isn’t really all there. He gives a strong flick with his wand and shouts the spell.
“Engorgio!” Ron bursts into laughter when Parvati’s shoe – which is about a foot off the sandpaper – inflates to three times its size. Without pausing to correct his mistake or apologize to the angered girl, Ron tries again and explodes into hysterical laughter as he watches his desk grow to the size of a dinner table.
“Mister Weasley, you haven’t got the right spell,” professor McGonagall sighs loudly, shaking her head at the boy while she finishes fixing Parvati’s shoe.
Ignoring her, or simply not hearing her, Ron readies himself to try a third time. He shouts the same spell too early and it hits the chandelier over Neville and Hermione’s desk. With a shriek, the two kids get out of the way before an enormous chandelier crashes down where they were mere seconds ago.
“Mister Weasley!” Professor McGonagall shouts over the sound of breaking wood and metal but Ron doesn’t need to hear her. The crash brings him back to reality and he stops laughing instantly, rushing to his friends’ side. His wand still in hand as he jumps over a chair, Ron unconsciously sends a spell at the window and makes it explode.
“Mister Weasley!” professor McGonagall roars for a third time and Ron finally stops dead on his tracks. “Put your wand down this instant and sit down where you are.”
Ron executes himself, looking a bit confused and scared; he sits himself on the floor in the middle of the classroom. Silence settles amongst the group as they watch their professor right Ron’s wrongs before she walks toward the culprit. She looks even taller and scarier when she stops in front of the cowering red-headed boy.
“Mister Weasley,” she whispers angrily, “what, in Merlin’s world, do you think you are doing?”
“I, I don’t know. I’m sorry,” he stutters, blushing. “I guess I got a bit carried away.”
“You guess? Well I’ve got a different idea on what might have happened. Judging by your actions in this class and the smudge of chocolate on your cheek and robes, I have a feeling you have had a bit too much sugar before coming into this class. Am I correct?”
“Err,” Ron blushes a deep crimson colour, “yes ma’am; I might have exaggerated on birthday cake this morning.”
“Well, I certainly hope you have learned the impact of your gluttony. But just to be sure the message got in your head, I expect you to write a 6 inches essay on the effects of sugar on the human body, to be handed in by Thursday. Class dismissed.”
“As for the book on chess strategy, even though it pains me to say this, I’ve almost already read it all. I’ve learned new ways to play defensively and although I do not have many great adversaries here to practice my new tricks with, it’s very cool just to learn them!’ Rose and Hugo’s father says in a quieter voice while the class picks up their stuff, talking animatedly about what Ron just did. “I have to say that it felt weird to spend my birthday without you all though. I really missed you all when cake time came and although Fred, George and Percy were with me, it just wasn’t as much fun as a birthday at home can be. I miss you all very much and can’t wait for summer to be here and see you all! Love, Ron.”
“That was an entertaining birthday,” Rose smiles, watching her father join Harry and Hermione out of the classroom and the surrounding scene melts with the children’s departure.
Edited 7/02/10 with the help of my amazing Beta Melissa aka Padfoot28!
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