A/N: Hmmm...I was sitting at a window watching ice form when this plot bunny bit me. It started out as a short one shot from Ron's POV but it wouldn't leave me alone until I had let Hermione and Harry have their say. It works out to be a multiple POV story that I hope isn't too confusing to follow. Let me know what you think, part 2 should follow shortly.
Ron Weasley stared out the window and sighed. The better part of four feet of snow had fallen overnight, canceling today's Hogsmeade visit. I could make it, four feet isn't that bad, all I would have to do is get out the door...or I could use my broom. Yeah, I could get it flying her in the common room, have someone open the window, and I wouldn't even have to touch the snow. Ron looked again at the window, this time measuring his chances of succeeding with his plan. It was painfully obvious that he would never make it.
Ron sighed again and went back to his book. The World's Most Magical Places was as close as Ron could get to studying. Hermione had suggested that if they couldn't go to Hogsmeade, they ought to make good use of the time and catch up with schoolwork. Ron wasn't about to admit it to Hermione, but he was behind. But then, how could he not be? He was receiving almost daily assignments in all his classes; he had Quidditch practice three nights a week, prefect duties, and the odd detention to serve. Yet, he was finding more and more that these weren't where his attention was wandering. He looked down and turned the page.
A bright blue ocean and white sand beach greeted him. He could see several palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze, and a small sailboat working its way out of the bay. Ron smiled to himself. When Hermione had insisted that they spend the time wisely, Ron told her he was going to start studying for his Apparition exam. While she couldn't say that it wasn't studying, Ron had decided not to give her too close a look at the book he was reading. When she finally went to the library for a book on the theory behind Apparition , he had curled up in a chair by a window in the common room. Harry and Ginny were snuggled up on the couch by the fireplace, reading to each other. Ron shook his head and smiled. Who would have thought...his best friend and his sister? He still wasn't sure how to feel about that, and besides, as Ginny had oh so pointedly informed him, it was none of his business. She can take care of herself. He grimaced at the thought of how well she had taken care of him that day.
He returned his attention to the book. A travel guide wasn't exactly normal study material, but Ron had already justified that. What's the point in learning Apparition if you don't know anywhere interesting to go? He studied the picture closely. It had obviously been taken from a shelter of some kind, he could see the front edge of a table in the foreground, and the edges of a roof made of leaves of some sort. Ron leaned back and closed his eyes, a smile crossing his face. Now that would be nice. Someplace warm. Maybe I'd take Hermione with me. I bet she'd look smashing in one of those little native getups. Ron could see that beach in his mind. He tried to imagine what the waves would sound like; what the sun on his face would feel like. He could almost hear the birds and feel the wind on his face. A salty tang was in the air; Ron breathed deeply and sighed. He sensed movement to his left, but kept his eyes closed imagining the scene. He was sure that it was just Hermione, impatient to study, and back from the library. She could wait.
Ron watched a seagull in his mind's eye. He was astounded at how vivid his vision was; it was almost like he could open his eyes and it would all be there. His reverie was broken by a voice at his left elbow, saying, "Sorry, didn't see ya come in. What can I get for ya?" Ron's eyes snapped open. He was immediately sure of two facts. One, the speaker was not Hermione, and two, he was going to be in so much trouble.
Hermione Granger was perturbed. She had gone to a lot of trouble to find a book on Apparition Theory that she thought Ron might understand. It wasn't that he was dumb or anything, he just didn't want to apply himself properly. This was just another wonderful example of that. He swore that he would be right here waiting for her when she got back. That travel guide that he was pretending to study was still sitting open on the chair. Knowing Ron, he had either gone up to bed, or he was trying to sneak into Hogsmeade. Hermione turned to Harry and Ginny. "Harry, where did Ron go?"
Harry didn't bother looking away from Ginny. They had been like that for weeks now, ever since Ginny had admitted how she felt. While they weren't doing anything wrong, Hermione felt like they were really setting a bad example for the younger students. Ron, of course, was oblivious, but then he usually was.
"Harry! Where did Ron go?" Hermione increased her volume.
"He's reading by the window," replied Harry.
"Harry, if you would bother to look up for a second, you would see that he is not studying by the window, nor is he anywhere else in the common room." Hermione was really getting tired of those two.
"Dunno then. Maybe he went to the library?" Harry readjusted his glasses and focused on Hermione.
"I just came from the library. He said he would wait for me here; we were going to study," huffed Hermione.
"He was there a few minutes ago," said Ginny. "I know he was; when that log in the fireplace broke, it startled me, and I looked up and saw him. It couldn't have been more than five minutes ago. He was stretched out in that chair and didn't look like he was going anywhere soon."
"Oh, I'll just bet he ran off trying to sneak out to Hogsmeade. Harry, how many secret tunnels are there from the castle to Hogsmeade?" Hermione scowled. "He could have just said he didn't want to study. He didn't have to get me running off to the library just to sneak out."
"Five," answered Harry. "But two are collapsed, and the one under the Whomping Willow is buried under four feet of snow. Really, Hermione. Why would he sneak out? You heard Dumbledore, the whole town is snowed in, it's not like anything is open."
"I...I don't know. He was really disappointed that we couldn't go today, though." Hermione sat down on the couch beside them. "Oh, what if he did try and go out? Harry, he could get trapped."
Harry suppressed a laugh. "Hermione, even Ron has enough sense not to go out in a snow storm. I'm sure he's just stepped out for something."
Ginny turned to Harry, "I don't know, Harry. He was really looking forward to the Hogsmeade visit. He had some special shopping to do. He can't have been gone long. What about your map? It would show him on it, right?"
Harry sighed and gave in, "Fine, I'll go get the map." He disentangled himself from Ginny and stood up. "I hope you know how comfortable I was." Harry trudged up the stairs.
Ron looked around. A tall dark skinned man was standing beside him. He was wearing a pair of cut off shorts and a multi-colored patterned shirt. A pleasant smile graced his face.
"Umm...what have you got?" Ron asked as he stalled for time to assess his predicament. He was sitting at a table in what looked like a restaurant on a beach. The beach in the book, he realized as he looked around. He could see several familiar palm trees.
"Well, that would be the question. The answer depends on what you're hungry for. How about a drink while you decide?" said the man.
"Have you got a Butterbeer?" Ron asked timidly.
"I don't think I've heard of that one. You look like a root beer float kind of person."
Ron shrugged. He hadn't heard of that one. He watched as the man went inside the restaurant, then turned his attention back to the scene in front if him. The water broke gently on a white sand beach, which curled away in the distance. A few palm trees swayed in a soft breeze. The air was warm and smelled of salt. This may be the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. The only thing that would make it better is having Hermione here with me. A sudden image of Hermione standing on the beach in what Ron judged was appropriate beachwear flashed in his mind. Ron smiled.
The man came back carrying a frosted glass full of a brown liquid with what looked like ice cream floating in it. He set it on the table in front of Ron and reached into a pocket for a straw.
Ron watched and realized that he didn't have any way to pay for this. He was certain that this was a Muggle place, and they would expect Muggle money. All he had was the wizard money he had been saving for a Valentine's present for Hermione.
"Umm, I just remembered, I don't have any local money. I umm...forgot to get any changed. I can't pay for that right now." Ron smiled at the man. The worst that could happen was he got thrown out.
"Well, that's not a problem, it all spends the same down island. What have you got, I can probably make change for you," said the waiter.
Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out his only gold Galleon. He wasn't sure how much it was worth in Muggle money, but he would rather overpay than admit that he didn't know how much anything cost. He set the Galleon on the table.
The man picked it up and studied it for a moment. He turned it over, set in back on the table and said, "This one's on the house, sir." He then turned back toward the door and let out a loud whistle. "Jonathan," he called.
A boy about Ron's age stuck his head out of the doorway. "What is it?"
"Run down and get Aminita. Tell her we've got another one," said the man.
Harry ran back downstairs a minute later, and handed the blank parchment to Hermione. He then climbed back onto the couch and cradled Ginny in his arms.
Hermione unfolded the map and said, "It's all blank. How do I activate it?" She pulled out her wand.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Harry replied.
Hermione grimaced and repeated, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good." Then she screwed up her face and looked at Harry. "It didn't work."
Harry chuckled. "I think you have to mean it, Hermione." He sighed and shifted so he could reach the map with the tip of his wand. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good." Spidery lines of ink flowed across the map.
Hermione squinted at the tiny images. "Oh, that's where the Hufflepuff common room is. I didn't even know there was a passage leading that way. I could use that to get to Arthrimancy quicker. I don't see Ron on here, though."
Harry looked at her. "He's got to be on there somewhere. He couldn't have gotten out of any of the passages this quickly. Here let me see."
Hermione handed over the map. Harry shifted on the couch again so that he could hold it on his lap. "Show me Ron Weasley." He said as he touched his wand to the map. "Hmm, that's odd."
Hermione said, "What's odd? I didn't know that you could make the map highlight one person."
"Lupin showed me some of what the map would do last summer. After the...you know, after Sirius." Harry looked quickly back to the map and brandished his wand. "Show me Ron Weasley," he said impatiently. Nothing happened. "What is wrong with this thing?" he said, looking disgusted. "Show me Hermione Granger." A small black dot brightened on the page where Hermione was and a balloon appeared over it. "Show me Ginny Weasley." The dot next to Hermione lit up. "Well, that worked. Hmm....Show me Severus Snape." A dot lit up in one of the lower dungeons.
"As far as I can tell, he's not in the castle. Or any of the secret passages." Harry looked at Ginny. "You're sure about when he left?"
Ginny nodded. "Within a couple of minutes."
Harry looked at the map again. "Let's see if I can remember how to do this." Harry concentrated on the map again, and set the tip of his wand at one corner. "Move." He said. The map of Hogwarts slid toward the edge of the parchment, and was replaced with a map of Hogsmeade.
Hermione gasped. "What was that?"
Harry looked up and smiled devilishly. "Another trick that Mooney showed me. He said that the way the map works it ties into some of the spells that protect Hogwarts. He said that they found out that some of the same spells extend over Hogsmeade. It's supposed to be so that they can track students if they need to. He said the map has a lot of little functions like this; that he tried to build everything that Dad and Sirius could come up with. It also responds to barks. So...Sirius could operate it."
Hermione was already scanning the map of Hogsmeade. "I don't see him on here, either."
Harry touched the map again, "Show me Ron Weasley." Nothing happened.
Ginny looked down at the map and said, "He's not there. It's like he Apparated or something."
Harry cringed. He could feel the words coming, even before Hermione started speaking.
"How many times do I have to tell you. You can't Apparate at Hogwarts." Hermione shook her head. "He has to be somewhere. Can you hide from the map?"
Harry shook his head. "Not that I know of. The spells that cover the castle are pretty strong. You'd have an easier time trying to Apparate than hiding from the map."
Hermione looked at her friends. "You know what this means. Ron is missing. Gone. We need to tell Professor Dumbledore."
Ron sat at a table in the shade sipping his root beer float. I hope someone has told Dumbledore. The man had sat down at the other side of the table and introduced himself as Malcolm. Ron had learned that he was on an island in the Caribbean Sea, and more specifically he was seated at a table in a restaurant called The Salt Shack. He was having real trouble being concerned about his situation right now. The sun was high in the sky and warm, the air smelled lovely, and he could feel the energy flowing through him.
"So, I'm not the first to visit here?" Ron asked Malcolm.
"No, it's been a while, but we've had a couple of unexpected visitors here over the years. I don't know much, but Aminita will take care of you," replied Malcolm.
Ron looked confused, "Who is she?"
"Ah, Aminita is our local bruja." Malcolm smiled as Ron goggled.
"What's a...a bruha?" Ron stumbled over the unfamiliar word and Malcolm's accent.
"A bruja. You would call her a...hmm, a healer? Maybe a witch? She does a little of everything around the village. Healer, fortune teller, keeper of wisdom." Malcolm watched as understanding dawned across Ron's face.
"A witch? You mean like magic?" Ron's excitement was obvious. If she was really a witch, maybe she could help figure out how he could get out of here. In a day or two.
Harry stared at Hermione. "I think you're overreacting. I'm sure that there must be an explanation. Maybe...." Harry scrambled to think of something. Hermione was usually the calm, collected one of the group. Seeing her panic was disturbing. "Maybe he used the floo. Say he went home or something. Then he wouldn't show up on the map, either."
Hermione's jaw dropped and she rolled her eyes. "Harry, why would he go home? He could get into big trouble leaving the school grounds without permission. He's a prefect. He wouldn't do that."
Now it was Harry's turn to roll his eyes. Even Hermione seemed to see how ridiculous her argument was. Surely, though, if Ron had used the fireplace to go somewhere, he and Ginny would have noticed. It was right in front of them, and they hadn't been that engrossed in each other. Had they?
"Look, let's check and see if he went home. Ginny you could call home, and see, right?" Harry looked at Ginny hopefully.
Ginny held out her hands. "No way. If he is missing, I'm not going to be the one to tell Mum. And if he went somewhere else, I don't want to tell her that he was breaking school rules. I'm with Hermione. I say we go find one of the teachers and tell them that he's disappeared."
Harry hesitated. "If we do that, they will want to know how we know he isn't in the school. We would have to tell them about the map. I don't want to risk losing it."
Hermione looked flabbergasted. "Would you prefer to lose your friend instead? What if something horrible has happened to him? He could have gotten lost in the snow and stumbled into the forest. I could see that the map didn't cover the forest."
Anger began to creep into Harry's stare. "No, you know I don't want to lose Ron. But, we don't know that he's in trouble. I'm just saying, let's find out what we can before we go telling anyone else what's happened." Harry had known what Hermione's response was going to be. Since there wasn't a book to consult, she would want to go straight to Dumbledore with the problem. Harry liked the Headmaster, but he wasn't sure that he wanted to go running to him for every problem he encountered.
"Okay, fine Harry. How about this." Hermione bit her lip nervously and then continued, "Ginny, you could call home and ask your Mum to get something for you that you forgot. She's bound to mention it if Ron was there. You could get those books that I lent you, right?"
Ginny nodded. "I could do that, I suppose. Maybe it was a good thing that I didn't have room left in my trunk." She got off the couch and walked to the fireplace. A small jar of floo powder was stored on the mantle so that the students with wizard families could call home. She took a pinch and knelt in front of the fire. The flames turned green as she tossed the powder in and she called out, "The Burrow" as she stuck her head into the fireplace.
Harry and Hermione watched as Ginny knelt in front of the fire talking to someone. While they couldn't hear the words, they could see from Ginny's body's reaction that Ron wasn't at the burrow. When Ginny emerged from the fire several minutes later she was clutching two small paperback books in her mouth. She removed these and said, "Here you go Hermione. Sorry about the teeth marks. He wasn't there."
Hermione took the books and asked, "You didn't ask her if he was there did you? She would know that something was wrong."
Ginny shook her head, "No, I just asked if she had heard from him lately. She said ‘Of course not, you don't expect your brother to call home. You're the only one that ever bothers to do that. The only time I hear about Ron is when I get an owl from the school saying that he is safe after whatever danger he has gotten into this time.'" She finished in her best impersonation of Molly. "Remind me to make him feel guilty for that when we get him back."
Hermione looked at Harry. "Now can we go and see Professor Dumbledore? I promise I won't mention the map if we don't have to. But someone needs to be told, soon."
Harry shrugged. "Yes, Hermione. I'm out of ideas. I still say there has to be a logical explanation for what happened to him, but we'll go tell Dumbledore."
Hermione marched from the room, followed by Harry and Ginny, holding hands. The book that Ron had been reading lay on the chair by the window, forgotten.
"Sooo, Hogwarts comes to the islands, again." Ron looked up from his daydream when he heard someone speak. A tall, dark-skinned woman had just walked out onto the porch. She was dressed in a lightweight, multicolored sarong. Soft leather sandals covered her feet, and she wore enough bangles and jewelry to make Professor Trelawney envious.
Ron gave a weak half-smile. "Um, yes. I'm not sure how, though." His smile brightened when he realized that she had said ‘Hogwarts' and that meant she knew about the school. "I'm Ron Weasley. By the way."
"Aminita Pond." She stuck out her hand, which Ron took and shook. "Weasley, you say? There was a boy named Weasley in the class behind mine, I think. Arthur Weasley. Nice boy. Red hair, a real trouble maker at times."
"You went to Hogwarts? How? I mean...that was probably my dad. I don't know about the trouble maker part, though." Ron felt it was important at times like this to stick up for his family.
Aminita smiled. "No, not a trouble maker, so much. Trouble just seemed to gravitate to him, for some reason."
Ron grimaced. It looked like it was hereditary, then. Mum would never buy that as an excuse, though. "Do you know how I got here?"
"Oh, you poor boy, didn't your parents have a talk with you about this? You see, when a man and a woman...." Aminita stopped as she watched Ron's face.
"Yes, my dad told me all about plugs and outlets. That's not what I meant and you know it." Ron was shocked at the way he was speaking to someone he hardly knew, but Merlin that was one of the more embarrassing moments of his life, and he didn't want to relive it here.
Aminita laughed. "It was a joke. I was trying to get you to loosen up. You looked like you were about to have a fit. As for how you got here, it obvious, isn't it? You Apparated."
"But...you can't Apparate at Hogwarts. Everyone knows that." Everyone consisted of Hermione and anyone who had ever mentioned the idea to her. Ron had been forced to read agonizingly dull passages from Hogwart's: A History for mentioning it once.
"Ah, just goes to show you that what ‘everyone' knows is wrong sometimes, doesn't it? No, you can't normally Apparate or Disapparate at Hogwarts. However, the spells that guard against that only look for intentional attempts. In order to Apparate, you have to think about your target. What the spells do is they trigger on that thought and bounce you back out. You end up splinched. You weren't thinking about leaving, I'd wager. I suspect that you were just browsing through a book with nice pictures in it, thinking about what it would be like to be here. That thought, combined with the right book and a good imagination, allow you to sort of slip under the barrier. Not everyone could have done it. It takes a powerful imagination, and just the right circumstances. And of course, The World's Most Magical Places helps enormously. I told Dumbledore the last time this happened that he needed to get rid of that book." Aminita shook her head in disgust.
"So, you CAN Apparate at Hogwarts? Wait ‘til I tell Hermione. She going to go out of her mind." Ron laughed loudly. "So, can you get me home?"
Aminita chuckled, "Yes, I can. It will take a bit of effort, but I'll have you home in time for class on Monday. So, who's this Hermione, then? One of those bookish types that believes everything she reads? Probably top of the class in everything except common sense."
Ron knew he had to stand up for Hermione. "No, I mean she is top of the class, but she has common sense too. Loads of it. She's the one telling me and Harry when something that we're doing is dumb, or dangerous...or both."
"Oh, so she'd be you're girlfriend, then. Good for you." Aminita chuckled as Ron started stammering again.
"No, I mean I fancy her, I think, but she's not my girlfriend." Ron's face flushed at the thought.
"Well, why not? You only go around once, so get what you can, when you can. That's what I've always said." Aminita folded her arms across her chest and looked at Ron.
"I just haven't told her. I want to, I mean, I really do, it's just that, well...." Ron's flush grew to a deeper red. A thought occurred to him. "Aminita, you said you went to Hogwarts. What house were you in?"
Aminita smiled and arched an eyebrow. "Slytherin. Why do you ask?"