Heart Stopped Breathing
by eleveninches


The dusty, winding alleys of wizarding Cairo were fascinating even to a child like him. Their yellowed stone buildings and packed dirt roads, dry (blood) beneath his sandled feet, which were already dusted with sunburn from too much walking, smelled like burning spices. The hot air was thin. As he walked beside Bill, coal-eyed (except tom riddle's eyes were green not glass black empty) children peeked at them from behind weathered corners.

Percy was several steps behind them, nose stuck in a thick tome. He occasionally stumbled on the back edges of Ron's sandles, his leg breadth wider, but Ron proudly knew he was catching up in height. "'The wizard community of Egypt began as early as 2800 BCE," he read. "'Recorded history shows that the earliest wizards may have migrated from the cities of Sumeria, which was a trading post with the civilisation inhabiting the Nile Valley; the Sumerian theocracy allowed little room for non-religious magic. Furthermore, several large groups of wizards have been recorded moving upwards from central Africa--'"

"You need to be careful." Ron looked up at Bill. His older brother frowned. "They like to swindle tourists here."

Ron touched (his chest where Scabbers was curled up hiding from flying fur and claws) the coin pouch pinned to the inside of his summer robes. He had managed to save ten galleons. For once he could buy his friend a gift with his own money. "But it's Harry's birthday soon," he said excitedly. "I need to buy him a present. I won't be cheated, Bill. Trust me."

"This history is absolutely fascinating," murmured Percy. "It's so much older than that of ours. Who knows what kind of mysteries still lie in the sands?"

Bill sighed, but he didn't protest. "I keep forgetting you're a teenager now. You can take care of yourself." Ron grinned.

They walked deeper into the alleyway, past booths of gold jewelry and crystal figurines, people calling out in (panicked whispers voldemort killed diggory no it was potter potter did it) halted English or jumbled Arabic. The crowds were thicker now. Bill put his hand on Ron's shoulder protectively, even though they were nearly the same height. Percy's pace quickened.

"You should put your money in the bank, Ron," Percy chided. "Not spend it on your friends. Don't you want something for the future?"

Rolling his eyes, Ron ducked into a darkened stall shadowed in black cloth. Behind him, he heard Bill speak to Percy: "That's probably why you don't have any friends." Inside, smoke of incense coiled over long-necked copper pots. He waved his hand through one wisp, watching the cloud pass over heaps of gold and silver trinkets. A dark mass wavered in one corner, and with a start Ron realised (he wasn't there) it was an old woman dressed in black robes, her pale brown eyes blinking brightly. They were outlined in heavy kohl. She stretched out one bronze, bony (wand) arm towards him (and there was blood everywhere someone was screaming and where was he where was he).

"American?" she asked in a thick accent. Her voice was raspy.

"Er, no. British."

She nodded. His gaze drifted over the objects in the baskets, searching for one perfect for Harry. He picked up a cool silver bauble, seeing a reflection of (blood beating down on harry standing alone with nothing left but his wand in one hand and his forehead in the other fingers pressed against his scar) Bill's tawny robes through the black line of the cloth and the brown stone wall. The colour reminded him of the Malfoys. He (dreamt) set it back down gently.

"Looking for a gift?"

He looked back at the old woman. She had brought a long tube to her lips and (where was he) was busy puffing at the mouth of it. The other end stretched to an incense pot beside her. The stall smelled like vanilla (flesh burning pink from hermione's hand ron pulling her away) and spices and other things he couldn't identify. It smelled like Egypt.

"Yeah," he (was gone) replied, "it's my best friend's birthday."

"Ron." Bill's voice outside. "There are other places we can look."

"Boy are adventurous," she said. "He wants an exciting gift. There are charms--"

Ron thought Harry's life was exciting enough. He was rich; he had a smart broom; he didn't want any books, like Hermione would. What Ron wanted to do was give Harry something he needed, so he could always look at it and (whisper hungrily avada kedavra) say, "My friend Ron gave that to me. It's very handy."

Through the mist of the incense, his eyes settled on a glass surface of a spinning top, trapped between a dirty Rememberall and a gold vase. He fished it out.

"Sneakoscope," the old woman commented. Her amber eyes glimmered mysteriously. "Is your friend in trouble?"

Ron held the device in his palm. It was cool and smooth, textured differently than (he expected) the other trinkets. He brought it up to eye level, studying the way it refracted the sliver of light from the entrance. Bill pushed the black (except tom riddle's eyes are greenbrowndarkness hiding harry is alone) cloth aside, stepping into the booth, and the whole thing brightened in an explosion of (green) light. Ron closed his (eyes forever) hands round it.

Ron said, "No. But he might be."


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Thanks to my betas: Aja, Cassie Claire, and Altricial.

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