FYI--This story takes place in the summer after the trio's second year.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters. They all belong to the brilliant J.K. Rowling. I'm envious, can't you tell? Also, Ron's flashback (indicated by italics) is taken right from the Chamber of Secrets book word for word.
A Not So Reminiscent Reminiscence
Ronald Weasley sat on his bed, holding a picture frame in his trembling hands. At that moment, he was very glad his tiny room had a lock so no one could come in and discover that he was shamefully crying. He bit his lip to stop a sob from escaping his throat, but was finding that a very hard task.
If either of his two best friends, Harry Potter or Hermione Granger had seen him, they would have been surprised. Never, in their full two years of knowing Ron, had they ever seen him cry. But he was crying now, recalling last year's nearly fatal events.
He tried to tell himself that it was foolish to be crying, since it was all over and everything was perfectly fine. But that didn't stop the tears from falling endlessly down his cheeks. Every time he closed his eyes, he thought of what might have happened if things had gone just a little bit differently. The thoughts tortured his nights and haunted his days. He didn't know how long it would take for the mental pictures to disappear.
He could still remember it, as if it were yesterday…
"It has happened," Professor McGonagall told the silent staff room. "A student has been taken by the monster. Right into the Chamber itself."
Professor Flitwick let out a squeal. Professor Sprout clapped her hands over her mouth. Snape gripped the back of his chair very hard and said, "How can you be sure?"
"The heir of Slytherin," said Professor McGonagall, who was very white, "left another message. Right underneath the first one.'Her skeleton shall lie in the Chamber forever.'"
Professor Flitwick burst into tears.
"Who is it?" said Madame Hooch, who had sunk, weak-kneed, into a chair. "Which student?"
"Ginny Weasley," said Professor McGonagall.
Never in his life had Ron been full of so many emotions at once. He had felt horror, guilt, pity, terror, and denial all mixed in to make one, almost unbearable feeling. His throat had nearly closed up; he could barely breath. A wave of dizziness washed over him and he had to sit down. He ears roared; he almost passed out.
Ginny. Why Ginny?
He felt like such a terrible brother at the time. He should have been more protective. He should have listened to her when she tried to talk! His heart throbbed painfully. He had always treated her like such a bratty little sister. He always shoved her away and mocked her admiration for Harry. Was he now being punished for all he did?
Ron could barely see the picture of his little sister anymore, his vision was so blurred with tears.
It's okay now,he tried telling himself. Ginny's fine! Harry rescued her from the Chamber and it's all right!
And he knew it was, but maybe the incident had just been too much for his heart. He was a lot more sensitive than anyone thought. He tried to keep a tough outer shell, but now it was starting to crumble and fall.
Ron sniffled and looked up, his bright orange walls almost blinding him. "Ron you prat," he scolded himself aloud, voice teary. "You're acting like a big baby, now suck it up--"
"As if that's something new!" A voice called from outside his door. "You being a big baby, I mean!"
Usually Ron would be angered by a comment like that, but this time, he couldn't help but smile. He steadied his voice and called back, "I wouldn't be talking Ginny! The amount of times I walk past your room and hear you crying!"
There was no answer and Ron found himself panicking for some unexplainable reason. "G-Ginny? I--I was only kidding. You know that, right?" Silence. "Ginny?"
After a long moment, he heard her ask, "Can I come in?"
Quickly wiping his tears and stuffing her picture under his bed Ron replied, "Sure. But I've got to unlock the door first." He got up and walked the short distance to his door. He fumbled with the stubborn, sticky lock for a moment, then opened the door to reveal Ginny's smiling face. But the smile quickly faded into a frown when she saw him.
"You were crying again, weren't you?" she accused sternly.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ron said, playing dumb.
"Oh come on, you think I don't see those tear stains on your cheeks?" She put her hands on her hips and attempted to look annoyed at her older brother, but her soft expression gave her away. She sighed. "Why is this still haunting you?"
Ron raised and lowed a shoulder, feeling his chin quiver. Not now, his mind begged. Don't cry in front of Ginny! Ron gave up on pretending he didn't know what she was talking about. "I'm sorry Ginny," he whispered, decided he would rather look at the ground than at Ginny. "The memories are too close."
She bit her lip. "Usually I would revel in this concern you have for me, and I'll admit that at first I did. But now it worries me, and instead of taking pleasure in it, I tremble with guilt. I'm sorry Ron. What can I do to help?" Her eyes were desperate and begging.
"What do you have to be sorry for?" he asked, ashamed that he had now managed to upset Ginny. When she hesitated in answering he said, "Exactly. You have nothing to be sorry for. It's me who should be sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry."
"How could I not worry?" she cried, throwing her hands in the air animatedly. "Never in my whole life, had I seen you cry...until…until…" she didn't go on and Ron was sure it was because she didn't want to remind him. But it didn't matter anyway; he had already been reminded by his summer homework. That was what he had been doing before he picked up Ginny's picture. His potions homework had been (as usual) tough and boring, until a strange, completely off-the-topic question appeared on the paper:
To what creature is the crow of a rooster fatal?
For one, that had absolutely nothing to do with potions, and for two, it was a horribly cruel reminder of the events that had happened throughout the year. The petrifications, the diary, the fear…Ginny. It was just like Professor Snape to put something like that in his homework. It was after reading that question that all the memories came flooding back. The memories that Ron had tried to lock up, to keep away. So he had grabbed Ginny's picture and studied it, really studied it, and imagined what it would have been like if she hadn't been saved. If Hermione hadn't figured out the secret of the Chamber. If Harry hadn't conquered his fears and faced the basilisk. If he, Ron hadn't…
That was another thing that distressed him. He hadn't done anything to save his sister. Nothing at all. Yet it was he that got a Special Service Award along with Harry. It should have been Hermione, he told himself over and over. Not me. I didn't do anything. I don't deserve anything.
"Ron, I want you to stop worrying about me," Ginny instructed, placing a hand on his arm. "I don't know what else I can do to help you understand that everything is all right. Isn't there some way I can lift the pain?"
"Don't worry Ginny, I'm fine."
"Liar," she accused, frowning deeper. Ron noticed with a pang that there were tears sparkling in her eyes.
"On no Ginny. Please--please don't! I didn't mean…" A sob choked off the rest of his words. His body shook and he groped in the air for something, anything to hold on to for comfort. The only thing he found was Ginny. The brother and sister embraced, crying on each other. Ginny sobbed into Ron's shirt and he cried openly into her soft hair.
"Shh, Ginny, everything's all right," he soothed her, knowing it must sound dumb, those words coming out of his mouth. Especially since he was the one still suffering from the memories.
To Ron's surprise and relief, Ginny snorted. She lifted her tear-streaked face and said, her voice still teary, "H-hypocrite."
"Hypocrite?" Ron cried, feigning anger. "And just how am I a hypocrite?"
"Because, you prat, I was telling you that everything was fine and you're all"-- at this point she imitated Ron's low voice --"'I'm sorry Ginny, the memories are too close.' And here you are, telling me everything is just fine!"
"Well you're being a hypocrite too," Ron pointed out, still crying. "You came in, telling me it's okay, and suddenly you're crying!"
"Well, I only cried…" she looked around wildly as if she expected an excuse to pop out of the air. "…because you cried first!"
Ron laughed and the tears disappeared from his eyes. "Not true. I started crying only because I saw you crying!"
"Nuh-uh!" she pouted, mocking little-kid behavior. She even crossed her arms about her chest and stomped her foot on the ground.
"Stop acting like such a toddler," Ron fake-chastised, waggling his finger in that annoying way adults do. "Now go to your room!" He tried to keep up his stern act, but it was ruined when a large smile crept onto his face.
"I don't wanna go to my room!" Ginny cried, still playing the part of a little child well. Her angry expression lifted and was replaced by a heartwarming smile. "I'd rather stay here with my big brother."
"Well good," Ron said. "'Caus big brother would have been very sad if his little sister left." Then he scooped Ginny up in a big bear hug. Slowly, he felt the pain of the memories lifting. She hugged him back, as if she thought she would die if she let go. Even more of the pain, the sadness, the terror evaporated and floated away. Though it would never truly be gone, Ron knew, at least the pain wasn't so close and so suffocating.
"I'm glad everything turned out all right Ginny," Ron whispered fiercely, hugging his little sister tighter. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"There's no way I could leave," Ginny said, tightening her grip on him, "knowing I would have to leave you behind.