Chapter One-The Decision

As he got ready for the graduation ball, he thought about the decision he had recently made. "I'm an idiot," he thought to himself.

"Hey Ron! You alright? You blanked out on me there," Harry called to his friend.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking about how tomorrow is our last leaving feast," Ron answered.

Harry sobered. "Me too. I'm also worried about stepping on Ginny's feet tonight. You'd think by now that I could handle a simple ball."

Ron laughed at his best friend. "It's a mystery to me as to why you can't dance yet. You've certainly had enough chances to learn after…well, you know. The four of us have attended enough balls, that's for certain."

"Ron, he's gone now, and you still can't say his name." Harry shook his head in disbelief before changing the subject. "You ready to head down to the common room and wait for the girls?"

Ron looked in the mirror one last time before answering his friend. "Yeah, sure. Let's go."

Together, the two friends made their trek downstairs to wait for their dates. They each sat down in an armchair facing the fireplace. As soon as they were comfortable, they heard someone come down the stairs. They both turned to see who it was.

"They'll be down in a few minutes. They're almost ready," Lavender told them.

"That's good to hear. It's not surprising, though, that we might actually be on time for this ball. It is the graduation ball, and I know Hermione wants to be there on time," Ron commented.

"The four of us on time for something? Never!" Harry gasped, laughing.

"Oh, come on. It is our last ball. What's wrong with actually being on time for once?" came a voice from the stairs. Both young men turned to see who had spoken.

" 'Mione," Ron whispered when he saw her. She was wearing lavender color dress robes and her normally bushy brown hair was braided and then pinned up.

"You can pick your jaw up now Ron," Hermione remarked, giggling.

Harry heard a giggle from behind Hermione. As Hermione walked down the staircase, Harry could see Ginny behind her. Like Ron, his jaw dropped to the floor at the sight of his date. Ginny was wearing ice blue robes and her fiery red hair was in tight ringlets, with some of the curls pulled back.

"That's my sister you're eyeing, mate," Ron whispered in Harry's ear.

"Huh?" Harry said. At Harry's reaction, Ginny began giggling almost uncontrollably.

Hermione shook her head at her close friends. "Come on, let's go."

"My lady?" Harry inquired, stretching out his hand for Ginny.

She took his outstretched hand. "Thank you, kind sir."

Ron looked at Harry and his sister. "Are you finished yet?" Harry glared at him. Ron held his hands up in surrender. "Alright, alright."

"Are you two finished yet? I'd like to go down sometime soon," Hermione remarked.

"Let's go," Ginny said, laughing.

Together, the four friends headed through the portrait hole down to the Great Hall, talking and laughing as in days of old. They walked into the Great Hall to find it decorated for the ball. Gone were the house tables and in their place were many small, round tables. They chose a table with several other Gryffindors, including Seamus, Lavender, Neville, and Luna. For several minutes, the eight friends talked amongst themselves as they waited for Professor Lupin to officially open the ball.

"Can I get your attention please?" Professor Lupin remarked from the head table. "I had the privilege of teaching each of you several years ago, and I had the privilege of being your headmaster this past year. I must say that I am proud of the way each of you has grown up. As seventh years, you have graduated from Hogwarts and become adults. After tomorrow's feast, you will officially enter the adult world, but for tonight, you are still students of this school. Tonight will be your last night as students. Enjoy."

There was clapping in the Great Hall as people began to order their meals. The eight Gryffindors ordered their meals before restarting their conversations.

"So Hermione, what are your plans?" Lavender asked.

"I honestly haven't decided just yet. I heard back from all of the places I applied to, but I just don't know. I have a little while yet to decide though. None of them expect responses until September."

Words of assent were heard around the table. "What about you, Ron?" Luna asked.

Ron was quiet for a long moment. "I don't know, honestly."

"What about being an Auror? It always seemed like that's what you and Harry wanted to do," Neville queried.

"I thought about that for awhile, but then decided I'd done enough of that over the course of Hogwarts."

The table laughed as his last remark, everyone that is, except Harry. Ron could have sworn Harry shot him a concerned look before finally joining in the laughter.

"Well, if we're going to ask two members of the Gryffindor trio, we'd better ask the third, right?" Seamus joked. "So Harry, what about you? What are your plans once we become adults?"

"I definitely want to go into the Auror program. However, I can't decide if I want to take a year off first or not."

"We've been trying to convince him to go into the program in a few weeks, that way he'll be almost done when Ginny graduates next year," Hermione commented.

"I'll have to side with Hermione on this one," Neville began. "You're Harry Potter. As much as I know you hate it, you also know that for you Auror training will be cut at least in half. Remember, that's more time with Ginny." Neville raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"Hey! That's my sister you're talking about. None of that stuff!" Ron exclaimed.

Ginny glared at him. "Ronald Weasley, I'd watch what you say."

Harry laughed at their antics. "Alright, I'll do it in a few weeks instead of a year from now." There were nods of approval around the table. Ginny squeezed his hand in support.

Their conversation continued for several more minutes before Professor Lupin stood up again. "Before we open up this ball for dancing, we'll hear a few short words from our Head Girl and Head Boy."

"That's a few short words, Hermione," a voice called out as she and Harry made their way to the front of the Great Hall.

"Our year has dealt with a lot over the last seven years," Harry began. "We have all lost people close to us. Some of us even fought in the war. Sadly, many of us lost our childhood in the process. But we are stronger for it, and the wizarding world is accepting into its ranks a group of young wizards and witches ready to make a difference."

The Great Hall was silent as Hermione shook her head sadly and began to speak. "I don't think there's anything I can add to that," Hermione remarked as she and Harry walked back to their seats.

As Harry got closer to his seat, Ginny stood up. When he reached the table, she hugged him fiercely. Then she stood on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear. He leaned down to make it easier for her. "I'm so proud of you." Then she pointed to the Head Table where Professor Lupin was standing and clapping. Soon, all of the professors were standing, quickly followed by the 7th years and the few 6th years present. Tears came to Harry's eyes as a lump grew in his throat.

"Thank you," he managed to squeak out before sitting down.

A few moments later everyone was once again seated and Professor Lupin began to speak once again. "I now officially declare this Graduation Ball open." A cheer went up from the females present, whereas many of the males let out a groan.

"Hermione, would you care to dance?" Ron asked.

"I'd love to Ron." Ron extended his hand to her and she took it.

"Ginny, would you like to dance?" Harry asked with more confidence than he felt.

"Certainly," she responded as Harry repeated Ron's actions. Together, the four teens walked onto the dance floor.

Ron pulled Hermione close to him and put his arms around her waist. She, in turn rested her head on his chest. Ron took a deep breath. "I love you, you know that 'Mione?"

She looked up at him. "I never get tired of hearing you say that." She was silent for a few moments. She looked up at him again. "I will always love you Ronald Weasley, no matter where we are. Do you know why I haven't picked a job offer yet?" He shook his head. "Because I wanted to talk them over with you. I don't want to go off and start a career without you."

They danced quietly for a few moments, as Ron was too shocked to say anything else. A lump grew in his throat as he thought back to the decision he had made and the conversation he'd had with Professor Lupin just two weeks before.

*~*~*

Two weeks earlier


"Ah, Mr. Weasley! What can I do for you?" Professor Lupin asked. "Please, have a seat."

Ron sighed and sat down. He was quiet for a minute before speaking. "After graduation, I want to disappear."

If the Headmaster was shocked at Ron's revelation, his face did not register it. Professor Lupin merely raised an eyebrow as if to say, "Explain."

"I've never been known simply as Ron Weasley. I've always been the brother of whoever Weasley or Harry's sidekick. Don't get me wrong, Professor. I love my family and Harry's my best mate. It's just that I don't feel I'm my own person. If someone recognizes me, I want it to be because of something I've accomplished, instead of who I know or who my family is."

"But what about helping Harry defeat Voldemort? Granted Ginny created the spell and Harry performed it, but he never would have been able to had you not helped fight off the Death Eaters."

Ron sighed. "Harry did the hard stuff there and besides, that's still more a function of there being no other empty cards almost seven years ago. Unless you're a Slytherin, I don't know how you can meet Harry and not automatically befriend him."

Remus sighed. "What do you propose to do about it?"

Ron answered simply, "Leave Britain."

"And then what?" Professor Lupin asked.

"Well, unfortunately, I'm not Hermione in the plans department."

"Speaking of Miss Granger, do you plan on telling her that you're leaving?"

Ron shook his head sadly. "I hadn't planned on telling her, or anyone else for that matter. I know they would try to stop me. I had planned on writing each of them a letter for them to read after I leave."

Professor Lupin was quiet for several minutes, deep in thought. "How about this, Mr. Weasley? I would think the best time for you to leave would be at Platform 9 ¾ during all the commotion using a portkey. Letters for Mr. Potter and Miss Granger are good ideas and perhaps one for Miss Weasley as well. You realize your family will have many questions, right?"

Ron sighed. "Unfortunately I am well aware of that fact." Ron was silent for a moment, as if debating whether or not to ask the question on his mind. "Would you mind answering their questions Professor?"

"Certainly Mr. Weasley. Now two questions remain. Where will you go and what will you do once you get there?" Professor Lupin sat, thinking for several minutes. "Ah hah! I have it!" He threw some powder into the fire and called out, "America Fire Network."

A voice answered saying, "Hello Headmaster. Who do you wish to contact?"

Professor Lupin answered, saying, "Headmaster Rankin at the Colorado Institute of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

"One moment please."

Professor Lupin turned to Ron. "Mr. Weasley, what would you say to being a professor?"

*~*~*~*

Present


"Ron," Hermione called softly. "Ron."

He blushed. "Sorry, I was just thinking a moment."

"It's alright." Hermione laid her head against his chest again and sighed contentedly. As another lump grew in his throat, he wondered once again if he'd made the right decision.

An hour later the group was sitting at the table talking while the band took a break. Lavender spotted the band getting ready to start up again. When the notes of the next song reached her ears, she turned to Seamus.

"Let's go dance," she pleaded. Groaning, he agreed.

"Want to dance, Luna?" Neville asked.

"Sure," she responded with a slightly dazed look in her eyes.

"Let's go talk to Professor Lupin, Hermione." Ginny pleaded, dragging her friend toward her mentor and their Headmaster.

Ron laughed at the sight of his sister dragging his girlfriend across the room.

"Ron, are you planning on leaving?" Harry asked bluntly.

"What do you mean?" Ron asked, taking a sip of his pumpkin juice.

"Ron, are you going to disappear after the Leaving Feast?" Harry asked calmly.

Ron looked at his best mate incredulously. "What would make you think that?"

Harry sighed. "I see the same signs in you that I saw in myself two weeks ago. I was confused, quiet, moody, and totally incapable of making a decision, not to mention I was shutting out Ginny. When I talked to her at all, I was incredibly nostalgic."

"So why aren't you disappearing then?" Ron asked, anxious to keep Harry away from thinking he was leaving.

Harry laughed. "Ginny sat me down a week ago and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't allowed to leave. She also reminded me of one of the things I'd be running away from."

Ron's brow wrinkled in confusion. "What's that?"

Harry said simply, "Her. She reminded me I'd be running from one of the things that has always made me happy." He sighed. "So you're not leaving then?"

Ron laughed nervously. "Calm down Harry."

*~*~*~*

Later that night, Ron was sitting on his bed with the curtains pulled around it waiting for his dorm mates to go to sleep. When he was sure they would not awake, he took out his wand and muttered, "Lumos." He brought out the parchment and quill he had taken to bed with him and finally settled in and prepared to write the letters he knew needed writing. He started with Harry, knowing that although none of the letters would be easy to write, his would be the easiest.

Dear Harry,

Hi mate. Yes, you called me on this. I can't tell you how hard it was to sit there and not tell you I was leaving. I can't tell you how hard it has been to actually go through with this. Over the last several weeks, I've debated time and time again if leaving everything behind was the best idea. All my life I've been the brother of whoever Weasley or your friend. You're my best mate, and I hope you always will be. But I need to build my own identity, and I don't think I can do that here. I think you understand what I'm trying to say, even if there are times where I don't. I know that Hermione won't understand why I'm leaving. I ask you to try and explain it to her. If you have any questions, you can ask Professor Lupin. Please, Harry. Don't be mad at him for not telling you. You need him as much as he needs you, and don't deny it. I will be back, someday.

Your best mate,
Ron Weasley


Ron felt the ever-present lump return to his throat as he signed Harry's letter. He put it in an envelope and sealed it. Then he put a time sensitive hex on it that would make sure Harry didn't open it until Ron had left already. Then Ron began on Ginny's letter.

Dear Ginny,

Oh sister of mine. You and I have always been the closest. Yes, I have left. You know, your boyfriend's a smart one when he wants to be. He called me on this during the Graduation Ball. Thank you for figuring out that he was planning on leaving and sorting him out. No, I don't wish someone had realized I was leaving and had sat me down. While I know Harry will understand why I've left, he'll still try to blame himself. Help him see that this was my choice. I chose to leave and that has nothing to do with Harry. I think you too understand why I've left. Your mentor knows I've left, so if you have any questions, just ask him. You and I always did get lost in the shuffle when we were younger. However, you can be assured that you will never get lost in the shuffle again. I just need to find out for myself that I won't be lost either.

Your favourite brother,
Ron


Ron went through the same things with Ginny's letter as he had with Harry's before beginning to think about writing Hermione's letter. He'd left her letter for last, knowing it would be the hardest to write.

Dear Hermione,

I'm not sure I know where to start, so I'll start with this. I love you. I think I have since that first day on the train, but I was just too much of an idiot to believe it. I have left. I'm gone. I've always been proud of the fact that I've been me. I've never tried to be someone else. But now, now I don't know who that person is. How can I be me, when I don't know who me is? So I've left to find out who I am, to create an identity for myself. I don't expect you to wait for me, nor do I want you to. You deserve someone better than me. I know you're angry, hurt, and confused and I don't blame you. Know that I'll always love you, wherever you are and wherever I am. Hopefully I'll be back someday, after I've found my identity.

Love,
Ron


As he finished Hermione's letter and sealed it up, tears were quietly streaming down his face. He finished sealing her letter and put away the extra parchment, along with his quill. Then he put out the light from his wand and fell asleep, once again wondering about his decision.