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Harry Potter and the Whore of Slytherin Chapter 5

Ron Weasley lay on his bed, hands holding on to the sides, clutching the worn comforter tightly, as if his grip could save him from what was happening to him.

He was going mad.

It had started a few days after the fight in the Ministry of Magic. He'd assumed it was a side-effect of the brain-things that had attacked him at first, and as it seemed to fade as time went on, he hadn't worried about it. But then, shortly before the Leaving Feast, it had come back, stronger, and ever since the Hogwarts Express had arrived at Kings Cross, it had been getting worse. By the time they'd gotten to the Burrow, he'd hardly been able to walk straight, and when his mother had worriedly sent him up to his room, he'd gratefully obeyed, clutching the walls as he went up the staircase and staggering like Fred and George the first time they'd got hold of firewhiskey.

And now, the images were a constant rush, flickering and changing so fast that he couldn't make anything out, overlaying his vision with hundreds or thousands of... different events. At the station, they'd still been slow enough that he could make some of them out, some of the ones that lasted a fraction of an instant longer than others. Harry, refusing to go with his relatives. Harry, sitting there on a bench, because his relatives never showed up. Hermione telling Harry's uncle off, rather than the Order threatening him.

He was going mad, and he wondered just how long it would be before he couldn't distinguish reality from the visions.

He hadn't realised what was happening, not at first, and by the time he had, he couldn't manage to talk. He certainly couldn't go back down the stairs without falling and breaking his neck, so he hoped that when his mother came up to check on him, he'd be able to tell her enough that she could tell... someone, anyone who could help.

And then, without warning, the visions... changed. They were coming even faster now, too fast to make out, but they left an... afterimage of the common pieces. All of them showed a girl, a blonde girl, standing in his door. The details were too blurred to make out, but he felt he should know her.

There was a knock on the edge of his door frame, and as he looked up at the door, the images.... shuddered, briefly, and then collapsed down into one image, or perhaps it was still hundreds of nearly identical images, as they still flickered, and the edges of things were blurry.

"The Sight is hardest to handle when it's been awoken unnaturally," Luna said, with her usual dreamy detachment. "It's been known to drive people mad, you know."

Now the images split again, worse than before, leaving his vision blurred by colored streaks. He couldn't make out anything of the images, and it was difficult to even focus on her. More, something was telling him that he needed to think before he spoke, that what he did now was important, and would dictate the shape of his future.

He thought about asking her to call his mother up. He thought about asking her what she meant, or what she was doing there. In the end, though, he realised that he couldn't do anything even if he wanted to. It was all he could do to force out two words.

"Luna... help...."

And with that, as if someone had uttered a Finite Incantem, the images vanished as if they'd never been there.

He looked up at the blonde girl, and was startled to see her leaning against the doorjamb, a single tear trickling down her cheek.

"Luna?" he asked, relief sweeping through his body at the sudden absence of the visions. "What's happening to me?" He stopped, realising that she was crying, or trying not to cry, or something. He wasn't sure what to say, but... her presence had stopped the visions, at least momentarily, it looked like. "Are you all right?"

"You asked me to help," she said, and now he noticed the broad smile on her face. "You asked me to help. That's the best way things could have gone."

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked, confused.

Luna walked over and sat down on his bed beside him, making him shift uncomfortably. "You have the Sight now, Ronald," she said, suddenly less detached than he'd ever seen her. "Those things at the Ministry forced your Gift open, at least as far as the Sight goes. It's much stronger than I'd have expected, unless...." She paused, thoughtfully. "Did you have an older brother who died?" she asked, with the oblivious tactlessness he was used to seeing from her.

"Yes," he said, slowly, trying to make sense of what was going on. His relief at his freedom from the visions made it hard to concentrate, however. "Percy... Percy had a twin who was stillborn. Why?"

Luna nodded happily. "Okay, it makes sense then," she said. "I'll bet anything your father had six older brothers, didn't he?"

"Well, yeah," Ron said. "Weasleys are known for large families. Why?"

"You're the seventh son of a seventh son," Luna said. "That's why it's so... overwhelming. If we'd had a decent Divination teacher, your Gift might have opened up slowly, and you'd have been able to control it. Unfortunately, well...."

"We have Trelawney," Ron said with a groan. He didn't want to think about what it meant if she was right, but... he had to. And somehow he thought she might be the only person who could understand. She'd known what was happening to him... come to think of it, how had she known?

"Luna," he asked, slowly. "How do you know?"

"I have it, too," she said, looking at him unblinkingly. "I don't think it's as strong as yours, but it's strong enough that I had trouble controlling it when it opened up after my mother's death. I... Saw a number of different outcomes to this conversation. This one... the one where you asked me to help... was the best."

Ron didn't know what to say. 'Sorry your Gift drove you crazy after your mother died' didn't exactly seem right, and besides, after what had happened to him, he could understand it.

"Is that why...." He trailed off, realising that asking her if that was why she was so strange probably wasn't a very good idea either, but she was already giving him an amused look.

"Why I'm so strange?" she asked. She must have seen the startled look on his face, because she added, "I know what people think of me, Ronald. Even if I was as oblivious as everyone thinks, my dorm mates would have made certain of that."

"Oh," he said, before something struck him. "If you aren't as... oblivious...."

"Why do I act like it?" she asked, her smile fading. He suddenly felt like an ass for making her lose her smile, and wanted to do something to bring it back, but he didn't know what.

"It's easier," she said, softly. "I... really was that out of it my first year at Hogwarts. I hadn't learned how to control my Gift yet, and the visions were... overwhelming. And once I did... well...." She looked away, falling silent for a moment.

Just as he was about to tell her she didn't have to talk about it if she didn't want, she continued.

"If people laugh at me and dismiss me for something I'm doing on purpose, then I'm in control of it. But if I don't act that way, and they still laugh at me and make fun of me, then... then that would mean they're right," she said. "And... I don't really know how not to anyway, not after all these years."

Ron looked at her, and the open, vulnerable expression on her face made his heart ache. Without thinking about it, he did something he would never have normally done.

He reached up and pulled her down to lay beside him, his arms around her, holding her tight.

When he realised what he'd done, he was terrified, both at the thought that she'd be angry at him, and the thought that she wouldn't. If she wasn't angry with him, she'd expect him to keep comforting her, and he didn't have the faintest clue how to do so. It might actually be easier for him if she was angry.

But, of course, she wasn't. Instead of pulling away and yelling at him, or slapping him, or demanding to know what he thought he was doing, she made a sad little noise and snuggled closer to him, her arm going around his waist and clutching him tightly.

He wasn't sure what to say, but he felt that he had to say something. He wished his brother Bill was there; he always knew what to say to girls. But he wasn't, and Ron was, and Ron had to do something. What he wanted to do was get up and run out of the room, but he couldn't do that. Even if she wasn't laying half on top of him, even if he was sure he could without the visions coming back... he didn't need to be Bill or Charlie to know that he couldn't do that without being an utter ass. A Malfoy, even. But... what should he do?

"Luna," he said, finally, trying to do what he thought Bill would do, "I know what they think. You know, I... I kind of agreed with them, up until a few moments ago. I didn't know any better. I guess I should have, since Ginny's friends with you, but...." He shrugged helplessly. "But I was wrong. Maybe they wouldn't understand, but I do. If what you went through was anything like what I was going through when you came in...." He shuddered.

"I don't know if you're crazy," he said, then flushed. Brilliant move, he thought. "I mean, I'm not saying you are, I'm just saying... I'm saying I don't know, because all I've ever seen is the act you put on, before now. It's hard to really know someone when they're putting on an act."

She didn't say anything for a long time, and he thought he'd blown it, hurt her worse, and when she raised her head up and he saw the tear streaks running down her face, he felt sure of it. Why did it have to be him? He wasn't any good at emotional stuff, and he knew it. Hermione's accusation that he had the emotional range of a teaspoon wasn't as far off as he'd like. What was he supposed to do here? Bill would know what to do. Charlie would know what to do. Hell, even Harry would have a better idea, what with Cho crying over him all year. At least he'd have experience with crying girls.

"Will you help me?" she asked. "Will you teach me how to act normally, so that... so that I can, if I want. I'll... I'll teach you how to control your gift, if you want. I know you don't really like doing research, and you couldn't look things up in the Hogwarts library anyway...."

Ron hadn't expected anything like that, and he wasn't sure what to say. How was he supposed to teach her how to act normal? But if she could teach him to control what was happening to him, it would help....

He looked down at her, at her large, silvery eyes, and was suddenly struck by the fact that she was a girl. Or, rather, that she was a girl and that she was in his arms, pressed up against him, and that the way she was pressed up against him left no doubt that she was a girl.

He froze, not knowing what to do, and she looked back at him, unblinkingly.

"I had a crush on you for the longest time," she said, and he flushed. "In fact, if I'm being honest, I still do. I used to fantasise about being in your arms." She smiled, for the first time since he'd made his stupid comment and made her cry. "It's better than I thought it would be, even if this isn't exactly how I imagined it."

She raised her head up, slowly, and he realised she was about to kiss him. She stopped, an inch away, never taking her eyes off of his, giving him time to protest, to pull away, but he didn't.

Her lips were softer than he'd ever imagined, and the kiss was nothing like he'd thought it would be. It was soft, and delicate, her lips barely touching his, and when her tongue brushed his lips, he parted them automatically, meeting it with his own.

Finally, after what seemed like both an eternity and an instant, she pulled back, still looking at him.

"I'm not Hermione," she said. "And if you want her, I won't stand in your way. I can't change what you feel, or who you feel it for. But I want you to know I want you."

He hesitated. What did he want? He'd thought he wanted Hermione, but he couldn't seem to stop arguing with her, and now that he really thought about it, they didn't have that much in common, actually, did they? And, if he was honest, he wasn't sure she felt the same way about him. There'd been the comment at the Yule Ball, but that was a year and a half ago, and might not even have meant what he thought. Besides, all they did was fight, and... and of course she would be more interested in Harry. That's how it always worked in stories, right? So she was obviously supposed to be Harry's love interest, and he was supposed to get someone else. Right. He nodded to himself, firmly. So it was obvious he and Hermione would never have worked, anyway.

And Luna... Luna was right here, and she wanted him, and she could understand what he was going through with the visions, and... and she'd asked him to help her.

She'd asked him to help her.

He couldn't remember Hermione ever asking him for help, he realised. She was determined to do everything herself, without help, and... it felt good to be asked. He wasn't sure he wanted her more than he wanted Hermione. He wasn't sure about anything anymore. But it felt good to be asked for help.

"No," he said, looking into Luna's eyes. "You aren't Hermione. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I'm not sure things would have worked out with Hermione, honestly, now that I really think about it."

Her eyes lit up, and she smiled in a way that made his heart hurt again, but in a completely different way than when she'd lost her smile.

"R-really?" she asked, as if she were afraid to believe it.

"Really," he said. "We're too different."

"Oh." Luna bit her lip. "Do you think... maybe... I mean, I know you wouldn't want to go to Hogsmeade with me because everyone would see us together, but... maybe... sometimes we could do things together?"

Ron flushed, and he'd never felt worse in his life than he felt right then. He hated the people who'd done this to her, who made her feel like this, and he knew that he was one of those people. He'd hurt her. He wasn't responsible for all of it, but he'd contributed.

Then and there, he made a silent vow that she would be treated better in the future— and if he had to spend some time in detention for hexing people to make it happen, well, he could live with that. Even if he was his usual self and mucked things up with Luna, he'd know he'd done the right thing. That's what Dumbledore said was important, right? Doing what was right, instead of what was easy? So... yeah.

He'd just found out some of the consequences his actions could have. It was time some other people did as well.

"Luna," he said, his voice shaking, "Would you like to go to the first Hogsmeade weekend with me next year?"

She stared at him in shock, speechless.

"I don't know why you still want me," he said. "I don't deserve it. I hurt you just as much as anyone else did, but... if you want to, I'd really like you to go with me."

"You mean it," she breathed, and it was as much a question as a statement.

He nodded. "I mean it," he said.

"Then... then I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you," Luna said.

Ron smiled. "That's great!" he said, before bending down to kiss her again.