Day 6

Title: Day 6
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: pre-Ron/Hermione
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Set during Deathly Hallows, Ron's return to the horcrux hunt is both heroic and full of complications.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2020-21 project project for symphonyflute

“About the best you could hope for, I think,” murmured Harry.

“Yeah,” said Ron. “Could've been worse. Remember those birds she set on me?”

“I still haven't ruled it out,” came Hermione's muffled voice from beneath her blankets, but Harry saw Ron smiling slightly as he pulled his maroon pajamas out of his rucksack.

It was only then Harry realized Ron was still soaking wet, and likely the only reason he wasn't still visibly shivering was because he was trying not to look pathetic and weak in front of Hermione. Water dripped from the ends of his hair onto his shoulders and down his face. Harry brought one of Hermione's blue flame jars over to him, feeling the heat against his hands as he carried it. 

“You should dry yourself off before you catch cold,” Harry said. He would happily help, but the first spell he tried with this new-to-him wand wasn't going to be aimed at one of his friends.

“Too late for that.” His nose wrinkled, and he plastered his hand over the bottom part of his face. “hehhtttshhhhh!” Ron wiped his wrist under his nose with as loud a sniffle as the one earlier when his emotions had overwhelmed him. “Already got myself one of those.”

Well, that was an unfortunate revelation. “Oh, Ron.”

Ron just shrugged. “Been sleeping out in the snow in my sleeping bag for a couple days now. It was bound to happen.”

Not only had he jumped into the ice cold water and saved Harry from being strangled and drowned by the horcrux, but he'd done so knowing he was ill? Harry thrust the jar at Ron. Ron looked nervously over at where Hermione slept burrowed under blankets, as if he expected her to wake up and tell him he didn't deserve the comfort of her magic. But Harry could tell by the sound of her muffled breathing that she was already fast asleep.

“I'll keep watch.”

“Harry, you almost died. You need your rest.”

A smile spread on Harry's face. “There you go again making it sound more dramatic than it was.” He tilted his head toward his own bed. After the first time they'd packed up after Ron left, they hadn't bothered to set up the third bed. Looking at the empty spot where Ron's bed would have been had somehow been less depressing than setting up an empty bed. But Harry didn't want to go through Hermione's beaded bag and bother setting it up now. “Go get some sleep. You deserve it.”

Ron retired without further argument but with a few extra sniffles.


For the second time in twelve hours, Harry woke up to the sound of coughing. It was the same harsh, forceful sound, but this time he knew who it was coming from. He slid his glasses on then forced himself up onto his elbows, shivering at the coolness slip into the space now between his back and the mattress. It was disconcerting to wake up on the opposite side of the tent, but when he'd switched watch shifts with Hermione in the middle of the night, she had insisted he take her bed rather than wake Ron up. At the time, he'd been so exhausted he hadn't even thought to argue. Now, however, he wondered if it might not be a sign that Hermione was already warming to the idea of Ron being back to stay.

“You all right?” Harry asked.

Ron lay curled on his side in Harry's bed, fist to his mouth, body shaking with coughs. Even so, he managed to nod his head in the affirmative. It seemed to take forever for the coughing to subside. When it finally did, Ron opened his eyes and smiled weakly at Harry. “Last night... last night really happened, didn't it?”

A flood of memories washed over Harry, starting with seeing that doe patronus and ending with Ron coming back to them. “Yeah, it did.”


“Me, too.” And he meant it. After such a horrible Christmas, after nearly dying at Voldemort's hand, after living with a part of Voldemort's soul around his neck for months, the events of last night had sparked hope just when he'd needed it most. Finally destroying the horcrux and having in their possession a weapon that could destroy the others changed everything. But the best part of the night by far had been getting his best friend back.

heh-heh-IHshhhuhh!” Even if his best friend currently had a bad cold.

“Bl—” Harry didn't get a chance to finish the 'bless you' that came like a knee-jerk reaction, because Hermione burst into the tent in a rush of cold air. She went straight for her bag and summoned the copy of Beedle the Bard to her. She had taken to reading it over and over again as if just one more read through might bring her some new revelation.

She paused, looking from Harry to Ron and then averting her eyes before Ron could meet hers. “It's almost noon. I hope you two aren't going to sleep all day.” She headed out without getting a reply from either of them.

“I'll get up, but you really should sleep all day,” Harry said almost immediately. It was something between a suggestion and an order. “Do you want me to ask Hermione if she packed any pepper-up potion?”

The tips of Ron's ears went red as he shook his head. “I don't really want to her to know I'm ill.” Throughout their years together at Hogwarts, they'd all been ill a few times; this wouldn't be the first time for Ron. “I don't want to make any waves. Don't want to give her a reason to...” He trailed off, but he needn't have finished his thought. Hermione wasn't likely to send him off just because of this, but the fact that Harry had needed to use magic to keep Hermione from pummeling him last night was still fresh in his mind. 

Frankly, Harry had a feeling Ron would have a better go at making amends if he were completely honest with them from here on out. But after seeing what had come out of that locket, after hearing the way that part of Tom Riddle's soul had tried to manipulate Ron, Harry couldn't blame his best friend. He wanted Hermione to be glad he was back not start being nice to him because she pitied him.

“If you don't want me to tell her, I won't. But you know she's going to figure it out sooner or later.”

Ron nodded and pulled the blanket up higher to cover most of him, so there was just a tuft of red hair poking out at the top. “h'Ihhshhhhhh!” This sneeze was softer, muffled by the layers of blankets, but it came with a few coughs and sniffles. He couldn't hide in there forever, but rest was the best thing for him right now.


It was late in the afternoon when Ron emerged from the tent in search of food. Despite wearing a blanket like a cape over his shoulders, he was shivering. But as soon as Hermione turned toward him, he tossed the blanket back into the tent and tried to look like he was fine.

When Hermione offered him a granola bar, he accepted it gratefully, with no complaints that it wasn't home-cooked food. And he listened quietly as she recounted what she'd read, pausing to reflect on what relevance any of it had to their hunt for horcruxes. It seemed he had decided being quiet and somber and letting Hermione adjust to his being there would be the best approach. Or else he didn't want to risk her hearing the raspy deepness of his voice that had come with his head cold.

But Harry wasn't fooled. He had seen Ron rub his nose when Hermione had her head turned down toward the book. And he had seen Ron wince from the pain of an apparently sore throat when he swallowed a bite of the granola bar. Harry wished they had some orange juice or something a little healthier than snack bars. He made a mental note to heat up a can of soup for dinner. And then he made a mental note to pay attention to what Hermione was saying, because he'd just missed about half of her summary of “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.”

“I mean it has a great theme of wizards helping muggles, and I can see how that's applicable to our current situation. But I don't see any other relevance, unless Dumbledore thought the curse put on the pot was actually a Horcrux. That might account for it being able to change shape to match the various plights of the suffering characters in the story, but it doesn't exactly behave the way the horcruxes we've seen behave. However, a horcrux made by someone with a kind soul versus You-Know-Who's might be quite different. It still would have necessitated a murder, though, and I don't think the kindly old wizard at the beginning of the story would have done that. He was far more concerned with using his magic to help those who needed it. Healing injuries, curing ailments--”

hehhtchhhh!” He sounded like he needed curing himself.

Hermione didn't miss a beat. “Bless you, Ron. Plus, the way to quiet the pot was to embrace the kindness and help others, not destroy the pot. I don't think it can be a horcrux. I don't think it has anything to do with our task here, unless you think Dumbledore meant us to show You-Know-Who kindness and love?”

Harry let out a laugh. “If that's what he intended, I'm the wrong man for the job.” And, yet, there was part of him who understood Voldemort, who felt sorry for him, who thought he might have been capable of mercy and compassion once upon a time.


“Bless you, Ron.” Hermione finally lifted her face from the book. “What—” She didn't have a chance to finish her question, though they all knew what it would be.

“Chilly out here, innit?” Ron made a production out of shivering. “Going back inside for a little while.” And he ducked back into the tent before there could be any arguing.

Watching him go, Hermione narrowed her eyes in suspicion. Then, when she was sure Ron was far enough inside so as to not hear her, she sighed. “He's got a cold, hasn't he?”

If he hadn't known Hermione so well, Harry might have been taken aback by her assessment. But Hermione had always been clever and observant and, lately, she'd also been blunt. They both had. Maybe it was a symptom of the situation they'd found themselves in after Ron had left them or maybe it was because of the mission that they could not afford to fail and their growing frustration each time they reached a dead end. There seemed to be no room left for secrets between them. And, yet, Harry had sort of promised.

“I'm not allowed to say...”

“That's a yes, then. Besides, I can hear it in his voice. Why won't he just admit it?”

He had his theories, and they went beyond just not wanting Hermione to see him as weak and useless. He thought maybe Ron considered it a sort of penance. But Harry wasn’t going to share that theory with Hermione, so he just shrugged.

“Well, if he can't even be honest with me about being ill, how does he expect me to forgive him?”

“You haven't forgiven him?” This surprised Harry. She hadn't come right out and said it, sure, and he hadn't expected everything to suddenly be the way it was before between them. But why had she let him stay if she didn't trust him?

“Oh, I forgive him.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Of course I do. But that doesn't mean I'm not still angry with him for leaving the way he did.” She pulled out her wand and aimed it at her beaded bag. “Accio pepper-up!” A small potion bottle flew from the bag and settled into her hand. “Give this to him.”

But Harry put up his hands, palms out, refusing the potion. “If I do, he'll know I told you.”

“But you didn't tell me.”

“True, but he won't believe that. I can't take it. You should give it to him yourself.” And with that, Harry got up to take a walk around their encampment. Fresh snow had fallen in-between the trees overnight, and any sign of who had summoned the doe patronus would now be long gone. But it was undeniable that there was someone. Someone had found them, helped them, knew what they needed and brought it to them. Knowing that much, after all he'd been through since Bill and Fleur's wedding, filled him with so much hope.

Well, that and the fact that Ron was back. When Harry circled back around to the tent, he spotted Hermione storming out of it. Her hands were balled into fists at her sides, her mouth in a tight line, her eyebrows knitted together.

“Don't you dare ask!” Hermione warned as she stomped past him.

Harry put his hands up again, this time in innocent surrender. He had no intention of getting on her bad side. But now that the locket was destroyed and Ron was back, he felt lighter than he had in ages and wished his friends could as well.

Harry headed inside to find Ron lying face-down in his own bed, coughing hard into a pillow and covered in nearly every blanket among the beds. It was obvious he hadn't taken a dose of pepper-up potion. Ron both looked and sounded miserable, and Harry wondered if Ron were sorry he had come back. But that wasn't a question he dared ask either. Instead, he walked over to the bed and placed a hand on the mound of blankets. “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”

A muffled “No” came between coughs. Or, at least, it sounded more like a “No” than any other word. It took a while for the coughing spell to pass and for Ron to collect himself with throat clearing and sniffling. He lifted his head and put on a brave smile for Harry. “'S just a cold, mate. I'll be all right.” He seemed to brighten a bit at the fact that Harry didn’t object to being called his mate again. But his smile faltered and, a moment later, he buried his nose in the crook of his arm. “ehhhh-hehshphhhhh!

“Bless you.”

“Cheers. Sniff! Was holding that back the whole time Hermione was in here. Nose is just so...” He rubbed it into his shoulder. “So maddeningly tick... tickley.” He held up a finger, indicating he needed a second. Then he buried his face into the pillow again. “htshmmphh! Hshmphhhh! HEHTchumphhh!” When he lifted his head again, he pressed the side of his hand to his nose. “Haven't sniff! Haven't got a spare sniff handkerchief, have you?”

Harry had, actually.

When he handed it over to Ron, Ron blew his nose and wiped at it half a dozen times. The effort seemed to tire him, and he kept his eyes closed through all of it then collapsed into the bed when he was done, handkerchief clutched in one fist. “I think you were right about sniff sleeping all sniff all day actually.”

“I'll leave you to it, then.” Harry gave the mound of blankets a pat and headed out of the tent. As he left, he heard Ron sneeze twice more.

When Harry emerged, he went to find Hermione to suggest they have soup for dinner. But when he found her, she was already heating up a can of soup.


Harry couldn't stop shivering. Even with the thick canopy covering above and the trees surrounding their campsite, some small amount of snow and wind made it through to him. It was enough to chill him right through until he couldn't feel his hands or feet. If someone did find them, and there was plenty of proof now that they could be tracked, his hand would be too cold to properly wield his newly-acquired wand. And the hold stung his eyes, begging them to close.

In short, it was definitely time for Hermione to take her shift on watch.

Harry headed into the tent as he had done so many nights before to wake Hermione and ask her to conjure some flames for him before she took her turn on watch for a few hours. But tonight she was already awake.

She sat on the edge of Ron's bed, rubbing his arched back as he sneezed violently into a handkerchief. Harry noticed right away that it wasn't his, because it was trimmed with rose embroidery along each edge. She said something to him that was too quiet for Harry to hear and which was, ultimately drowned out by another strong sneeze.

When he straightened back up, wiping his nose, he shook his head at her and said another something Harry couldn't hear. He smiled and squared his shoulders, trying to make himself look like he was all right. But his nose twitched and lip quivered and he snapped forward again a second later. “HEHHSchhihhh!

Harry couldn't hear her bless Ron, but he was pretty sure that was what she said. Then she plunged her hand into a pocket and pulled out the pepper-up potion bottle.

Ron shook his head even as he pinched his nose through the handkerchief to try to keep from sneezing again. It didn’t work. “hehh-HUSHHH!

She uncorked the bottle and thrust it against his chest so that he had no choice but to accept it. He looked at it as if worried it might be something other than a healing potion. But then his eyes met Hermione's. As their gazes locked, the tent grew eerily silent. Even Ron's cold seemed to cooperate for the moment.

Then Ron brought the bottle to his lips, tipped it back, and drained it completely. His face and ears began to flush red then steam poured from his ears, wafting upward and disappearing before it reached the apex of the tent.

Hermione smiled, and her body shook with a light laugh or two. Then she stood up and let Ron lie back down in his bed. She pulled the covers up over him and tucked them tight to keep him warm. They'd probably come untucked the next time he sneezed, but neither of them seemed bothered by that. On the contrary, Ron looked relaxed and content in a way Harry had never seen him. And Hermione waited a few moments before sitting down on the ground and leaning back against the side of his bed. She closed her eyes, settling in as though she expected to stay there a while.

Harry backed out of the tent, rubbing his hands together to warm them. He was prepared to spend another few hours out in the cold tonight.