I never meant for it to end this way. Never ever dreamed that this would be the end.

I'm walking through the dungeons of Malfoy Manor. This is where they keep the prisoners of war. He's down here. I've known that all along; I just haven't come. How would I explain? How would I handle it? I'm supposed to remain in control at all times, to be stronger than everyone else. I know seeing him just once will make that falter.

I'm not down here out of the goodness of my heart, but because they want me to see. They're curious if I'm still loyal to the Dark Lord. Draco knows that this is potentially my undoing. He has me by the elbow and is leading me further and further down the stairs. I just want to quit this task and go away. Oh I should have left when I had the chance. Back when he would have taken me with him if I had only said the word. But I made my choice and I'm paying for it.

It is one thing to completely ignore half of the things you are doing, or write them off because there is a greater purpose. But right now, looking at the tortured people I pass, I realize that this was not the right choice, and that I can no longer write it off. I suppose because I look at them and see the man I'm looking for.

"Here," Draco says, stopping and pointing across the room.

I catch my breath as I look at the man before me with his bright red hair now so dusty and dirty you can barely make out the color. His condition makes it hard overall to distinguish him, but I would have known him anywhere. "Ron."

"You may have your time with him, I'll even leave you alone with him for awhile. Not sure if he's alive or dead. You're welcome to find out though." With that, Draco turns on his heel and leaves me alone in this prison with the only man I've ever loved.

In an instant my mind travels back to the last time I laid eyes on him.

~*~

It's dark and musty down here in this small dungeon room where we agreed to meet. The gaze between us is already heated, and the silence stiff. I'm near ready to fall on my knees, but I cling to the last little bit of hope I have. It's worth the shot.

I reach my hand out to him, but cannot reach him. He still stands just paces out of my reach. "Come with me," I plead. I know I sound desperate and foolish, but I do not care. I just want him to say yes. It will save his life and we shall be together.

The look he gives me is sad and angry all at once. "You know I can't do that," he tells me, looking at me with some form of pity.

"Why not?" I ask incensed. Doesn't he understand what risk he takes in not following? Doesn't he understand that his words will bring on the end of our relationship.

His deep blue eyes have darkened and filled with that fiery anger that I have gotten so used to over the years. "Do you know what you're asking me?" He sounds desperate and broken, as if he can not bear what I am asking. "I cannot abandon my friends and family. You know how much they mean to me. You watched me mourn a brother; do you honestly think I would work to kill another."

"And what of me?" I ask desperately. Losing him is like losing a part of myself.

For the first time all evening his eyes soften and he crosses the room to me. "You know I love you," he says, placing one of his large, rough hands on my face. Strong and capable hands.

"But?" I ask, still angry with him. He's choosing to leave me.

His eyes harden, pushing the subject was not a brilliant idea. "But I will not betray my family."

My eyes lose the angry shield that I have been holding up. Maybe because I knew this would be my answer. Maybe because I know with that look in his eyes there isn't way to change his mind. He had that same look when he told everyone I was his girlfriend and that not a single one of them could separate us. He never mentioned all of them. "That will set us on different sides," I can feel the tears welling, and I know he knows I'm losing it. Damn, I wanted to stay strong for this.

He takes me in a crushing embrace and I try to remember when exactly it was that he became so strong, instead of the tall lanky boy I first met. "I know," he whispers roughly in my ear.

I cant help but be furious with the lack of fairness in it all. I push at his chest. "Why don't you ask me?" I ask on the verge of tears. "What stops you?"

He gives me that disapproving look that means I'm asking foolish questions that I should know the answer to. He picked up that look from me, and maybe everyone else over the years. "You wouldn't come," He tells me plainly. "And I can't ask you to betray your friends and your family."

Great. Way to make me to feel worse. "Ron."

"I know you would never do it, so why ask?" he yells, and in those perfect blue eyes I can see the remnants of a broken heart and tears that are begging to be shed.

I sniffle. I cannot believe I just sniffled. "You're really going to leave me here."

"Do you have any other options?" he asks desperately, pulling his large hand through his hair, making it seem quite unruly. "We knew we were living on borrowed time."

"I hoped--"

"You hoped my love and loyalty for you would overpower my love and loyalty for my family," he says harshly, not letting my tone it down, but making sure that it is what it is. "I can't leave them behind for something I don't believe in."

"What else is there to believe in besides power?" I ask him. While my strengths and conviction return, I already know his response. I'm not about to abandon my beliefs, not yet.

"Love." he says softly taking my hand in both of his, and then turning my arm over. One hand holds the back of mine and the other traces the mark on my arm. His eyes are far away and broken still. "I once thought you would see that. I know now that you won't."

"Love doesn't last, power does," I insist. He cannot be right. He can't.

"You're wrong there," he tells me, giving me that small bitter smile that I have seen too often of late. "Power is a fleeting thing that is written of in history books and will one day be told to children by Professor Binns. Love is eternal and immortal. Nothing can kill it, but hatred can make it so that the lovers of this world are gone. I have to fight for the right to love freely instead of to be controlled."

There is passion and fire there, and I know he will never go with me. "Ron."

"I never thought you were the kind who wanted control and gilded cages, but then that's all you ever knew," he shoots at me, knowing it will hurt. It does, even more so because it's true.

"Go then if you're leaving. Just go!" I shout at him, unable to look at him any longer without contemplating throwing myself at him, and going with him.

~*~

He looks much different now. He is no longer the imposing, strong man over 160 cm tall that I used to know. He looks much more like the boy of thirteen that I remember, tall, but not imposing, gawky and awkward and seemingly much too thin.

"Oh, Ron!" tears from my lips as I rush to his side and land on my knees beside him, not noticing the pain for an instant.

I keep the tears from rolling down my face as I grip his hand in a death vice. I'm not surprised he is here, and not because I knew of it before hand, but because Ron is brilliant. Dense on occasion, yes, but when he knows what's going on, when he is clued in, he's beyond brilliant.

War is a lot like chess, and I have never seen anyone play chess like Ron. He just knows what side he's on, and that's that. He plays to win, knowing that there will be losses to win, and there must be some sacrifices. I can only assume what he feels he is. He is a sacrifice for his side. He will never tell what he knows, what everyone is looking for, and he is willing to keep them preoccupied until the other side has enough power and knowledge to win. He would willingly give his life for those he loves. I was once one of them.

I look at him and I know what exactly is going on. The power I hungered for will never be mine. I should have known Ron was clued in here. "You were right, I know that now. I should have walked away with you, but I didn't. I chose this path. Forgive me please."

"There's.nothing to.forgive." His voice is hoarse, his speech stilted, but it's still Ron.

I look up to his face. His eyes, duller than I remember, are open and looking at me intently. "Ron! You're alive."

He gives me a small smile, even thought the effort seems to cost him dearly. "Just barely."

"Oh Ron, I thought.I mean I was sure.Come on," I say tugging on his hand. For an instant I trick myself into believe I can get him out of here. It's stupid and foolish, and I cant help but think I sound like a Gryffindor as opposed to the Slytherin I am, but I want to believe, if only for a little while. It's so weak of me.

"Pansy, no."

"I can get you out of here," I tell him, jumping to my feet. "You can go home, and live."

He looks at me desperately. "You know that isn't a possibility/"

"Yes. Yes, it is," I insist, completely terrified by the calm certainty in his voice. Ron is usually the one who cannot grasp what is going on, but he has been here too long. He knows what is going to happen to him, but I can't believe in it, accept it. I need to cling to a last bit of hope.

The way he's looking at me steals my breath. It is soft and wistful. "You never were good at listening to me."

I drop to my knees once again, and grip his hand once again. "You're not dead yet."

"I'm as good as, love." His voice is a whisper, a caress.

"No. NO!"

"You know it's true," he insists, being the rational one for once, much like our last meeting. "There's no way to save me, I knew that coming in. Please accept it, and try to live with it."

"No, you're going to live," I insist, the welling tears burning my eyes. "You're going to get out of here and find someone who loves you like you deserve to be loved, and you're going to have millions of children like all Weasleys are required to do and die old in your bed, happy and content." My tears are making hot tracks down the length of my face, staining it, but I barely notice. I'm focused on the man before me.

"I only wish this could work that way," he says, a small smile on his face as if he can nearly see it. "And I already found the woman of my dreams."

I bend my head in defeat. "You and Hermione are together."

He manages to lift his hand to my face, with strength neither of us knew he had. "You, Pansy."

It is too much. "No, not me," I insist unable to bear this. "I abandoned you."

"I cursed you when I walked away, swearing I would win, and you would know it." There is a bitter edge to his voice as he talks, telling me what I had always known. "I was bitter because you would not come with me, because you would not believe in love. It felt like you did not believe in my love, our love."

"I was a fool."

"You were you," he says, causing the new tears that have prickled my eyes to fall down my cheeks. His understanding, which, where Ron is concerned, only comes from thinking long hand hard, undoes me. "I have a favor to ask you."

"Anything," I promise, and mean it.

"Kill me." His voice is so quiet for a minute I think I misheard, but the expression on his face is far too telling. It's set in that stubborn defiance.

"No!"

"Pansy please," he begs me, sounding nearly broken. "I'm going to die anyway, and I don't know how much more of this I can take, and they are testing you."

I sigh, weighted down by all that surrounds me. How had things ever ended up like this? "It's a trap Ron," I tell him sadly. "For all of your answers you could have figured that out."

"Pansy."

I cannot stop now. He needs to understand that there is no saving grace for me either, with the exception of his forgiveness. That I have already received. "If I didn't come they would have killed me, and in coming, I either kill you out of mercy, or let you live in hopes that your life will be spared. Whatever happens, I am expendable."

"Then just do this for me please."

Why cant he see that this is impossible? That if it is my hand that kills him I know I could never be fine, dead or alive. "I can't. Not after everything I've done for you." Damn! I don't want to tell him of this. I was prepared to have him hate me forever, but never to admit that he was my weakness always.

He looks at me like I am crazy. He very well could be right there. "By fighting against me?"

"By letting them live."

"What?"

"Do you seriously think that it was dumb luck that has gotten the rest of your family through this alive?" I ask incensed. Could he really be that naïve? His family wasn't as talented as he liked to believe. "It was me. I did watch you greave one brother, and I wasn't about to let you greave for another. I will not let your mother lose another son, least of all you. If anyone deserves to live it's you," I insist finally, the tears that I detest flowing from my eyes.

"Well, there's no hope for that now," he mutters darkly. He will not raise his gaze to meet mine. I can't help but wonder if it's the sight of my desperate, tear-filled eyes or if he doesn't have the strength.

A part of me doesn't recognize this man. Ron had hope and passion, but then this war has changed us all. "Didn't you tell me once there's always hope?" I ask him, unable not to.

"For the world, for love, yes. For me right now, no."

"Ron."

He coughs heavily. The coughs are racking his body, making his frail body seem like violently shaking leaf. "I'm already dying Pansy," he says, sadly, weakly.

I know. I've known since I first walked in and saw him. But I'm not ready to believe it yet. It hasn't really sunk in. "Don't say things like that," I insist yet again. Why isn't he being my Ron? Ron who would always insist things would be fine. Why is he forcing me to take his place here? I'm the cynic.

"You know it's true," he insists. "It's only a matter of time."

I lay my head down on his stomach. I know what he is doing. He wants me to accept the inevitable now so he knows I'll be alright. "I hate this. This is my fault Ron."

"No," he insists, somehow finding the strength to shake his head. "They wanted to take me and I let them. It was the only way."

"You sound like you're playing chess."

"War is a form of chess," he tells me, that small, sad smile returning to his face.

"Ron."

"If.if you won't kill me,.will you do something else for me?"

"Yes."

"Forgive yourself," he whispers softly, reminding me of the summer winds that we used to spend our time in.

I open my mouth to protest, but he squeezes my hand to stop me, and goes on. His words are stilted by his coughs, but he goes on. "I know it's going to be hard. It took me so long to forgive you. I couldn't see past the fact that you didn't understand what I believed in. But it was being here, which probably should have increased my anger, that did it. I knew you weren't like most of my captors. I knew you were doing it because of what you believed, and not because you enjoyed it, and that made all the difference."

"I'll try," I promise, vowing that I will succeed at that. I owe him that at least. My gaze travels down to my wristwatch. "My time is nearly up."

He gives me a sarcastic smile. "So's mine."

I reach out and whack him playfully, as I used to when we together. "Not funny."

He sobers then, and his hand caresses my cheek gently. "Goodnight Pansy. I'll be waiting," he promises me.

"Goodnight," I whisper, leaving a kiss on his forehead as I keep his hand in a death grip. I'm not ready to let go. It all seems too soon. He's much too young to be so grown up.

"Parkinson!" Malfoy's voice snaps from behind me.

I look over my shoulder, spotting him and two masked death eaters standing inside the room. I stand and face them. I will not be weak any longer, it will not serve anyone. "Yes Sir."

"What are you doing?"

"Just saying goodnight," I manage, using my emotionless and smooth voice.

With that I walked out of the room, and didn't look back. There were no screams, just a few muttered words and then silence. Utter silence. Maybe I should have killed him when he asked, maybe I am to fault anyways, but I couldn't do it. I could never raise my wand against him.

It wasn't goodbye, but goodnight. Ron is finally getting to rest, and I will soon. I know what they saw. I know that they know.

I close my eyes as I lean against the cold stone. "I'll be there soon Ron, wait for me."

I can nearly see him in front of me, tall and strong with the sunlight shining on him. He is giving me that impossibly, devilishly handsome grin. "You know I will."

"There are a few things we need to discus Parkinson. Come with me."

No it won't be long now.