Like a Brother

A Harry Potter oneshot

By

EvilFuzzy9


Rating: T

Genre: Angst/Friendship

Characters/Pairings: Ron, Harry; [mentioned Harry x Ginny and Ron x Hermione]

Summary: Wherein Ron realizes that he has made a terrible career choice, and Harry tries to convince him that it's not too late to back out.


He felt so tired. It never got any easier, never got less painful. For two years he had stuck with it, had persevered for the sake of a friend he had let down too many times before, but all the while he could feel the weight of this burden gradually suffocating him.

It was difficult to explain. If he had to pick one word, any word, to describe what he felt when he woke up in the morning, it would be "drowning". He was buried under so much, so far from the surface, always struggling to make headway, flailing gracelessly to push his head up for air. But every time he thought he was coming close to the surface, another hundred gallons were poured in, and every time he felt that twinge of despair grow a little bigger and last a little longer.

He felt guilty for this, and he reprimanded himself with increasing regularity for his selfishness. His friend needed him by his side, and he wouldn't let him down. He wouldn't fail him. No, not again. Not ever again.

But it was hard, and he hated himself for thinking this, but it was true. He had suggested it, all those years ago, and yet now that he was finally here he realized that this wasn't what he wanted. It wasn't right for him, and he wasn't right for it. As long as he stayed here, he knew, he would never feel truly free, and he would never be able to flourish.

Still, he stayed, and he persevered for his friend's sake. The war was over, but there were yet so many things that needed to be done, and his friend would not stop until the world had been changed for the better. He knew his friend needed him; if he wasn't there, his friend would push himself too hard, would never let himself sleep, would never find the time to feed himself.

All his life he felt like he had been in other people's shadows: he was seen only for the people around him, if he was seen at all. It had been like this for as long as he could remember, and he felt like he should have become used to it by now. But he hadn't. He probably never would.

He was a selfish, impulsive, insensitive, moody git. He knew this. He was an arse, a great bloody pillock whose only outstanding talent was an uncanny aptitude for putting his foot in his mouth. But despite all this, his friend cared for and trusted him; Harry was convinced that he needed Ron by his side.

Ron hated being an auror, he hated the people he had to deal with, the filth and scum of the wizarding world, the absolute worst sorts of human beings to ever carry a wand. They were hateful, spite-filled bastards who looked down their noses at him and sneered, seeing him as just "Potter's lapdog"; they were the kind of people who all but laughed in his face and outright called him a pathetic, worthless, incompetent hanger-on.

And the dark wizards weren't very pleasant, either.

Ron wasn't suited to being an auror, not really. He could barely function through all the rigid, inflexible regulations. He didn't have Hermione's sense of social justice and knack for puzzling out legal jargon, or Harry's stubbornly unflagging determination and incorruptible moral compass. The auror office was not the place for him; he just didn't have the nature or qualities to thrive as an dark wizard catcher.

Harry told him countless times that there was no one he would trust more to watch his back, and Hermione would always remind him of all the times he had managed to not make a complete arse of himself, but Ron knew that this wasn't a matter of his ability.

If pressed, he could concede that he was decent at hand and an adequate duelist, good enough at least to cover Harry whenever he went charging headlong into trouble. He was not terribly bright, but he had a sort of simple cunning honed over the years he and Harry had been friends. He would never truly excel as an auror, but he was sufficiently capable to make the cut, and if one were feeling particularly generous they could even say that he was a GOOD at what he did.

He and Harry had brought sweeping changes to the Ministry. They had weeded out centuries of corruption and revolutionized the stagnant, backwards system. The world was changing, and for the past two years Ronald Bilius Weasley had been at the forefront of it, right alongside Harry James Potter. The two of them had done great things, and they'd achieved more in reforming the government over these last two years than whole factions and lobbies had managed in the last twenty.

People trusted and admired them, Harry most of all. The vanquisher of Lord Voldemort – of bitter, self-loathing, misanthropic Tom Riddle – held the ears of the most powerful witches and wizards in the world. He was internationally respected, the famed and respected One-Who-Lived, a willful idealist determined to make a better world, one where the injustices of the past would never be repeated. It was hard work, and Harry could not do it alone, but Ron had stayed loyally by his side for these past two years, and Hermione had aided them whenever they'd needed it.

If Ron were to be perfectly truthful, he would have to admit that many people looked up to him now, people who saw him as a good man on his own merit, people who respected him and the things he had done. But it left a bitter taste in his mouth, and brought to his mind unhappy memories of the times he had failed Harry, and the times he had betrayed his friend.

"You never betrayed me, Ron," Harry would say whenever this came up in their most private conversations. "You've been with me from the beginning, no matter how much of a git I was."

"Don't try to make me feel better," Ron would say, if he was in a particularly black mood. "You know damn well how I felt about you back then. I was jealous of you. I hated you."

"Don't try to make yourself out to be a villain," Harry would say, ever the optimist, always willing to see the best in people, even if there was nothing there. He was like Dumbledore, that way. "I know you envied me, and I'm sure there were even times where you felt like I was a right prat. But you've always come around. You always come back."

Ron hated it when Harry talked to him like this. He hated hearing Harry defend him, hated forcing his best friend to try and make him seem like a good man.

"I left you," he would say, almost invariably, as he nursed his drink and glowered into the darkness. "You and Hermione. I left you guys when you needed me most."

Harry would shake his head and look at Ron with pity whenever he brought this up, and Ron would feel the urge to snap and tell him not to bother, that he wasn't worth his pity, that Harry was a better man than should have to put up with his mercurial temper and fickle loyalties. But Harry would shut up him with a stare, and continue on.

"That wasn't your fault. I can't think of anyone who would have lasted long with a piece of Riddle's soul whispering to them every waking hour. It preyed on your weaknesses and opened up old wounds, found where you were vulnerable and niggled at the back of your mind until you couldn't ignore it. It pushed all of your darkest thoughts and impulses to the forefront. That locket brought out the worst in all of us, Ron. You were just the first one to snap."

"I shouldn't have been," Ron would bitterly murmur, if his mood was low and dark enough. "I should have been stronger, I could have fought it, could've resisted. Did you and Hermione ever throw a fit and abandon each other while wearing that locket? No! No matter how surly and snappish it made you, you still managed to carry on and pull through."

"You aren't weak, Ron," Harry would inevitably say, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "You're one of the strongest people I know."

"I never said I was weak," Ron would retort, but it would be weak, and half-hearted.

"You were thinking it, though. You were thinking it and hating yourself and asking why someone like me would ever bother being friends with someone like you," Harry would say, and often this would be accompanied by a punch in the arm. "I hate seeing you like that, Ron. You're a good man, no matter what anyone says. I know you are."

On some level, Ron knew that Harry was telling the truth, and usually he might even feel better for a while after one of their more personal talks. He would be fine for a time, and hold up well enough for a few days. But eventually he would have an unpleasant encounter with some spiteful or envious stranger, someone who hated him despite knowing nothing about him.

He never told Harry about these people, because he knew what Harry would do if he knew. Harry was an auror, now – he couldn't just go around hexing random people for being nasty to his best mate. Ron didn't want him getting into trouble on his behalf.

It hurt, though, the things some people would say to him, or whisper behind his back. They would say nasty things about him and his family; people who had known of them at Hogwarts would call Ginny a stalker for having a crush on Harry at the tender age of eleven, and would imply many very mean-spirited things about her. They would say Harry could do better, say they simply didn't get why Harry would hang around with a loser like him.

There were people who adored Harry yet hated Dumbledore – Rita's horrible sensationalist garbage convinced even many otherwise decent sorts that old Albus had been practically as bad as Voldemort, and while Harry steadfastly defended the late headmaster whenever he heard such talk, a number of people refused to let go of these ideas. Ron knew that Dumbledore had made some questionable decisions in the past (and more than once he'd felt resentment towards the headmaster for making Harry go back to the Dursleys every summer) but he still respected the man, and trusted that he had ultimately done the right thing.

But there were still people who spoke ill of the man, who derided and verbally crucified him. And such people invariably took note of the fact that the Weasleys had long been among Dumbledore's stoutest supporters, even when he had been facing ridicule and scorn for persisting to say that You-Know-Who really had returned. Those people were the worst. They said things about Ron's family, his parents, his mum that made his blood boil. More than once he'd come dangerously close to hexing an otherwise innocent witch or wizard for a snide, underhanded comment about his family.

Ron felt certain he was the only member of his family who heard such talk. He was the only Weasley people felt safe talking down to like that. His mum had killed Bellatrix Lestrange with a stunning spell (and the one time someone had called this a shame in front of Neville Longbottom, they wound up earning themselves an overnight stay at St Mungo's). George and Ginny and Bill were all feared or respected. Charlie had nearly eviscerated the one poor bastard stupid enough to imply ulterior motives for his mother's kindness to Harry within hearing distance of him, and Arthur...

Well, Arthur knew people. Within the Ministry, and without. He may not have been wealthy or influential, might not have had "connections" in the same sense as Lucius Malfoy, but what he had was even more formidable. He had friends, people who would gladly do small, innocent favors for good old Arthur Weasley.

Ron knew he shouldn't let the way people talked get to him, but he couldn't help it. He was tired, bone weary and worn down to a brittle edge by the pressures of his work, the things he heard folk say about him, and the stress of helping to change the world for the better. Harry would not settle for just small good deeds: he wanted to ensure that someone like Voldemort could never again reach such heights of power and influence, that people would never have to suffer like he and his friends had. No more Nevilles, no more Harrys, no more Lupins, Siriuses, Snapes, and Dobbys.

He wanted to stamp out injustice and bring an end to prejudice. He wanted to change the world, and he would not settle for anything less than total reform. Many of his suggestions were controversial, and he faced all kinds of oppositions from both ends of the political spectrum, but he would not allow his dream to be bastardized, or his goals to be watered down for the sake of crusty old duffers in the Wizengamot.

Harry Potter was a firebrand, a social revolutionary even Hermione could admire. He was an auror, but he also fought for civil rights, equality, an end to prejudice and discrimination. He was, politicians everywhere ruefully and belatedly realized, the most dangerous kind of celebrity: a man with strong morals and uncompromising beliefs.

Ron loved Harry as dearly as any of his blood brothers, and would support him no matter what he did, but as time passed he began to question whether he was personally fit for this. Harry never stopped, never slowed down. He was passionate and headstrong, with all the well-earned confidence of a man who had fought the most dangerous dark wizard in living memory and won. Harry, much like Hermione, would not stop until he had made the world a better place.

Ron didn't share their conviction, or their determination. He believed in the same things they did, and felt much the same on many issues, but he didn't have the same spark, the same drive.

More than once, Hermione had told him that his greatest weakness was a refusal to fully commit, to really ever apply himself. She said he was clearly intelligent, and that if he had ever bothered to study or really invest some time and effort into his classwork, he could have gotten grades just as good as Harry's – and maybe even better, at least in his stronger subjects.

But he wasn't like them. Not completely. Harry had slacked off with him plenty of times, back in school, but he'd also had a certain drive when it came to particular subjects, and a seemingly inborn knack for things like dueling and flying. Ron couldn't hold a candle to Harry in those areas. He had the lowest grades out of their little trio. He was well aware that while he had earned more OWLs than both the twins put together, he also hadn't gotten a single higher mark than Harry in any class.

And he certainly didn't excel Hermione in anything. Dean and Seamus had both done about as well as each other – the former got higher grades in Charms and Potions, while the latter had done a little better in Transfiguration and Herbology. Neville'd had abysmal scores in Potions, but fantastic marks in Herbology, and he'd made the grade for Charms NEWTs even if he had fallen short of the mark in Transiguration.

With the exception of Divination and History of Magic, Ron had done adequately in all his classes. He'd gotten a pretty even spread of A's, with an E or two sprinkled here or there. Nothing remarkable, nothing outstanding. He'd never really had any subject he was especially good at, although he'd certainly had those subjects where he did less than well.

Hermione was great at practically everything, while Harry was a DADA whizz. Ron, on the other hand, didn't have anything he could say he was really good at. He'd done well in his Defense OWLs thanks to the DA, but next to Harry and Hermione he hadn't really been anything special.

Ron wasn't exactly a pessimist, per se, but he had never really seen a reason to apply himself. Maybe it was a bit selfish to think like he did, but since his brothers before him had already gotten every conceivable combination of grades and academic accolades, it had seemed pointless to really bother trying. No matter what he did, it wasn't like he would have been able to make himself stand out from them.

Even now, sometimes it felt to Ron like the only reason he ever stood out at all was because of his friendship with Harry and Hermione. And he loved them both dearly (albeit in very different ways!) but sometimes he just got tired of feeling so... inadequate.

Hermione would give him a right rollicking if she could hear him thinking like that, and Harry would be right behind her, but Ron felt miserably certain of this. As an auror he was competent, and maybe under other circumstances that would have been enough – certainly none of his brothers had gone that route with their careers – but even being acknowledged as allegedly fit to join the elite dark wizard catchers tasted a little bittersweet when it meant standing once again in Harry Potter's shadow.

Harry was the one who made the big arrests, Harry was the one who broke all the records, Harry was the one everyone respected and admired. Who looks at stars when the sun's right there in the sky?

No one, of course. Next to something that brilliant, nothing else stands out. Ron felt like the moon, pale and dim in comparison to his best mate. As long as he remained an auror, he would never be out of Harry's shadow. The longer he worked in the department, the clearer this became to him.

Harry's scar no longer hurt, no longer twinged or stung or so much as itched. But some things never faded. Ron could still hear Riddle's cold whispers when he was alone, when there was no one with him but the silent dark of night.

"You are nothing without him, and everyone knows it. You're just a leech growing fat on his glory, aren't you? Just a scrawny runt begging for scraps from his table. Nobody wants you, Ronald. You aren't needed."

The horcrux had touched him; Slytherin's locket had left a mark on his soul that could never be expunged. Not though Riddle was dead and buried, and all that he had worked towards rendered for naught. The magic was broken; He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was gone, and would never be coming back.

Yet it stayed with Ron, and never left. He thought he had beaten it, thought he had overcome those doubts and misgivings, but he had been wrong. Those dark, bitter, self-loathing thoughts had always been there; Riddle hadn't conjured his lies out of thin air.

It came from inside him. It had all come from inside him. Harry and Hermione had both carried the horcrux for just as long, but they'd never lost themselves to it. Not like he had. They were better than him, they'd had fewer weaknesses for the horcrux to exploit, less darkness in their hearts for it to draw strength from.

Harry had been the one with a piece of Voldemort's soul in his forehead, but it was gone now. The darkness clouding him had died with the Dark Lord, and his true strength of character could not be denied.

Ron wasn't a good person. Not like Harry, or Hermione, or Neville — or even Ginny! She'd been possessed by a horcrux in her first year, but she didn't seem to show any signs that it still bothered her, that the dark thoughts it had preyed upon were still there. She was stronger than him; she'd overcome that ordeal, and grown into a better person for her suffering.

He was still as stupid and thoughtless as ever. He was selfish and shallow and ignorant and petty. He wasn't as smart as Hermione, as brave as Harry, as thoughtful as Neville, or as spirited as Ginny. He was not as good a person as them. He was not as worthy or talented or righteous.

He was a spoiled git who had thrown a fit over missing warm meals and a soft bed, a complete and utter prat who had stormed out on his two closest friends during the most bleak and difficult period of their lives. He didn't deserve to be called a hero, and as time passed he began to feel perversely grateful for those who denigrated him, who belittled his contributions and called him names.

The indignation he felt in those instances was sometimes the only thing to remind Ron that he didn't truly hate himself, that maybe there was some deeply-buried part of him that remembered a time when his nightmares weren't haunted by bitterness and regret, and he wasn't constantly questioning his worth as a human being every second he spent alone by himself.

Ron didn't really hate himself.

He just hated his weakness, and his failures. He hated that he felt so weary of life as an auror, that he couldn't be happy just to be there for his friend. He hated this job and everything it had come to stand for in his mind. He was burned out and miserable and barely able to keep up with Harry, but he didn't want to leave.

He couldn't leave Harry again. Not ever. If he abandoned his friend even now, after everything was said and done and they were living their happily ever afters, then there would be nothing to keep him from truly, sincerely despising himself.

Even if he wasn't good for anything else, he told himself, Harry still thought of him as a friend. So he would endure the long hours, the stress, the danger of every assignment, every hardship and struggle, if only to be there for Harry.

But Harry thought of Ron as his friend, and Hermione thought of him as something more. He saw it in their eyes, and he knew they could see everything in his eyes.

"Ron, why do want to be an auror?"

Harry asked him this one day, sitting him down in the Leaky Cauldron. They were having a late lunch after a hard day, a day spent chasing down a particularly nasty piece of work who had been using a combination of confundus and obliviate to prey upon unsuspecting muggle women.

Ron looked into Harry's eyes at this question, his spirits heavy, and his face a sickly ashen color. That sharp emerald gaze pierced him through, as though Harry could see past all of his friend's acting and pretending at being fine.

He looked away, feeling uncomfortable.

Over the past month, Ron had suffered a steadily deepening melancholy. His moods had grown grimmer and more miserable with every passing day, and he had become confrontational and snappish in a way that he hadn't been for years. Of course Harry would notice it, and of course he would worry about it.

That was just how he was.

"I asked you a question, Ron," Harry said, breaking through his friend's introspective malaise. "Please answer me. You haven't been well lately, have you?"

Ron sighed.

"I don't know. Maybe," he mumbled. "It's not important."

Harry narrowed his eyes.

"I say it is," he told his friend. "I'm worried about you, mate. You look awful."

"As opposed to my usual gorgeous complexion?" Ron replied, smiling weakly.

Harry gave Ron a searching look. It lasted several seconds, before the raven-haired auror finally sighed and shook his head. He took a sip from his butterbeer, eyeing his friend and coworker with a hint of weary care.

"You've been running yourself ragged," Harry observed. "You shouldn't push yourself so hard. Hermione's worried about you, and so am I."

"What about Ginny?"

"She told me to tell you to get your head out of your arse and just do what makes you happy," Harry said, and he was frowning thoughtfully. He eyed Ron curiously for several quiet seconds, and whatever he saw caused him to frown a little deeper. "You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Everyone who really matters already knows your quality, mate."

Ron scowled at his, and took another swig of his butterbeer. He wished they were drinking something stronger, but Hermione had been getting on his case about bad habits, and Harry had echoed her concerns.

"Is that still Ginny talking?" he muttered, fixing Harry with a bleary eye. "Or is it Hermione, now?"

"It's me talking," Harry said firmly. "Your work has been slipping all month, and you've been a right git to everyone in the office. Something's wrong, but you aren't telling anyone. Not even your girlfriend. Not even me."

Ron glowered.

"Nothing's wrong," he said peevishly. "I'm fine."

"No you aren't, Ron," spoke Harry sharply. "I can tell. Hermione and Ginny can tell. Everyone in the office can tell. Complete strangers on the street can tell!" This last sentence was snapped out with considerably more force than strictly necessary, and Ron winced.

"Fine," he muttered lowly, his eyes flashing. "I'm not okay. I'm completely fucking miserable, and I don't even know what I'm doing with my life! THERE. Are you happy, now?"

Harry looked at him sadly. A number of the other patrons were looking at them curiously.

"Of course not," he said, his voice quiet and tone even. "Why should I be happy when my best friend looks like he hasn't slept in a week?"

Ron's shoulders slumped, and he glared at Harry.

"I hate when you do that," he muttered.

"When I do what?" Harry inquired calmly.

"That," Ron grumbled. "Why can't you just let me be hacked off at you?"

"Because I don't think that's what you really want," Harry told him. "And I think you know that, too."

Ron grunted.

"Prat."

Harry put a hand on Ron's shoulder and silently implored him to meet his eyes. He was frowning sadly, and Ron winced at the look of sympathy in Harry's expression.

"You need a break," he said quietly. "You deserve one, too; you've been working yourself to the bone. I can talk to Kingsley, and I'm sure he'll agree with me."

"Not a break," Ron sighed. "That's not what I need. Not just a break."

Harry raised a single eyebrow, bright green eyes searchingly probing his friend's facade.

"What do you mean?" he said slowly, cautiously.

"I hate it. This." Ron threw up his hands. "I'm not cut out to be an auror, Harry. Not like you are."

Harry's eyes narrowed. "You're every bit the wizard I am, Ron Weasley, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!" he snapped, showing a hint of his girlfriend's fire.

Ron snorted.

"Bollocks," he scoffed. "I am not. And that's not what I meant, anyway."

Harry's expression softened, and he quietly swilled his butterbeer.

"What do you mean, then?" he softly asked.

Ron met Harry's eyes, and he gave a weak, crooked grin.

"You're made for this work, Harry. You've got a passion for it, you're committed and driven and... and just plain brilliant." He sighed, and shook his head. "If I have to be honest, I don't think I've ever really had my heart in it. I suppose I just came along because you were so set on joining the auror office, and... and I didn't want to abandon you again."

Harry smiled sadly.

"Hermione would hex you into next week if she heard you talking like that," he said a touch warningly, and half jokingly. "Committing to a career you don't even really want? Sacrilege."

Ron laughed, a hoarse and half-choked sound.

"It wasn't bad at first," he admitted. "I felt like we were really doing something important, and it made me feel good to think we were helping make the world a better place."

"We have," Harry said. "And we still are."

"I wish I could say that with half as much conviction," Ron said, smiling lopsidedly and slowly shaking his head. "But I'm tired, Harry. It's been catching up to me... all those awful things we've seen... V—" he choked on the name for a moment, grimacing and looking even sicker than he already did, but then he grit his teeth and forced himself to spit it out like a bad taste. "—Voldemort might be gone, but there are still so many horrible, twisted people out there."

He stared down into his butterbeer, his wan smile slipping away.

"All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing," Harry murmured, absentmindedly trying to recall where he had heard the quote from. "There will always be more Voldemorts and Bellatrices waiting to make a name for themselves, so the world needs people like us to stand vigilant against the darkness."

"Nice recruitment slogan," Ron said, a glimmer of something almost like amusement in his eye. "But Bellatrices? Really?"

Harry shrugged.

"My point still stands, Ron. I know you need a break from all of this, but I also know that you're a damn good auror."

"But not good enough, it seems," Ron murmured ruefully. "I haven't been working any more than you have, but I don't see you snapping at everyone or looking dead on your feet."

"It's stressful, I know," Harry said. "If it weren't for Ginny and her 'enforced rest periods' I probably would have burned out a year ago. And don't think I don't know about you helping George out at the shop! You've been pushing yourself too hard, and not taking any time to rest. And you get on Hermione's case."

Ron's ears reddened.

"That's nothing," he said, looking sheepish. "It's... fun, helping out at the shop. Helps me take my mind off of... off of work."

He smiled softly, a genuine smile, and Harry was struck by something like a realization.

"You're miserable as an auror," he murmured, as though he had only just registered this.

"Yes, I do believe I already said as much, Harry," Ron snorted.

Harry looked at Ron, really looked at him and stopped to think. His friend looked pale and sickly these days, and while he'd always been tall and lanky, Harry realized that Ron seemed unusually thin. He frowned, thinking about how Mrs Weasley would react to seeing her baby boy looking like he was practically all skin and bones.

"You really haven't been eating much, have you?" he murmured.

Ron looked away and scratched his cheek.

"I haven't really had much appetite," he mumbled. "Not since the Redhill case."

Harry grimaced, remembering the particularly grisly crime scene they had attended to the other week. The victim had been just a kid, not even old enough to start attending Hogwarts yet, and the state of his body had turned more than a few stomachs among the younger aurors.

"I'll talk to Kingsley," he said, making a decision. "You should go back to the Burrow and have dinner with the parents. When's the last time you've eaten there?"

"A while," Ron said evasively. He had a guilty look about him at the thought of his parents. Glancing down at himself, he let out a grimace. "Mum'll gonna pitch a fit if she sees me like this."

Harry smiled sympathetically.

"Tell you what," he said. "You bring Hermione along, and I'll come with Ginny after I talk to Kingsley. We'll make it a family dinner."

Ron laughed, looking relieved.

"Thanks, mate. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Neither do I," Harry said with a smile. "But I suppose we'll find out, won't we?"

Ron gave Harry an odd look.

"Pardon?"

"Working in the auror office isn't doing you any good," Harry said. "But you're happy at the shop, aren't you? You enjoy working at WWW."

Ron shrugged.

"It's nice, is all," he mumbled. "Seeing kids coming in and plotting mischief and having a laugh... it just helps me remember what we were fighting for, back then. It reminds me of a time when everything was simple and straightforward, you know, before... Voldemort, and everything."

Harry smiled.

"I won't hold it against you if you decide to resign from the auror office, Ron," he said. "Don't keep this job for my sake. I can't stand to see you like this." He put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I can manage without you by my side every minute of the day."

"You don't think Hermione will be... disappointed?"

"She just wants to see you happy," Harry said with a smile. "Not everyone has to try to change the world, mate. You've always loved to laugh and make jokes. I think George would be glad to take you on full-time."

Ron smiled.

"And you'd work it out with Kingsley?" he said.

"I owe you that much," Harry said earnestly. "You've only stayed on as long as you have to help me." He raised his glass and nodded. "It was an honor to work with you."

Ron laughed, and for a moment he looked better than he had in weeks. It seemed like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

He joined Harry in downing the rest of their butterbeer.

"Thanks, mate," he said. "Cheers!"

"To a fulfilling career," Harry said meaningfully.

"And to a couple of nosy busybodies," Ron added with a wink.

They toasted, and then they drank.


A/N: I've been entertaining the idea of writing a serious, possibly angsty Ron-centric thing for a fair while. In particular, I really wanted to explore possible sources of feels after Hogwarts but before they have their kids (because while I like the trio's twerps, stories have been done from just about every possible angle regarding them). I've kicked around various ideas and plot bunnies for weeks, and have more than once tried to start such a fic, but never managed to make anything stick.

Until this morning, when I decided to see what I could make of Ron's decision to quit being an auror to work at WWW – as far as I know, the closest thing to a canonical explanation is basically something about the year spent hunting for the horcruxes having taken its toll on him. I don't believe I've seen anyone write a fanfic about this, so I figured I might as well try and see what I could do. Took me most of the day to write, but hopefully it came out well enough.

It's a bit sappy at parts, and I probably laid on narmishly thick with the angst in the first half, but I still think I'm ultimately happy with how this turned out. Ron has always been one of my favorite characters, and I have come to simply loathe character bashing in fanfiction.

Updated: 1-18-15

TTFN and R&R!

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