I had been standing outside the back door of the Burrow for about a quarter of an hour now and still hadn't plucked up the courage to step inside and face the music. I took in a couple of deep breaths and let them out in an attempt to calm myself before inhaling for a third time and holding it as I reached for the door handle and gripping it tightly. I still didn't open the door.
"Shit!" I hissed as I let go of the door handle and began pacing up and down again.
Why was being such a chicken about this? They were my family not a firing squad after all. Harry and Hermione would be in there too. My back-up, they'd help me out and defend me if it got too much. Well maybe Harry wouldn't, maybe he was still a bit angry about me neglecting him in his time of need and worrying him unnecessarily and...
"Oh Godric they all hate me!"
I ran both hands through my hair and tried the calming breathing technique again.
"You can do this, you can do this, you can do this," I chanted as my hand reached for the door handle again before I yanked it back as if an electrical charge was threatening to zap me on contact, "No you can't!"
I paced back and forth once again.
Why was I so scared to face them all? I had faced Death Eaters, I had faced Lord Voldemort, I had killed...
I swallowed involuntarily and froze on the spot. Maybe that was why I couldn't face them. I had killed somebody. I had murdered somebody with a flick of my wand and never even bothered to look at their face or learn their name. True, that person was about to kill Harry and would have killed me and Hermione without a second thought for what our names were but that wasn't the point was it? Killing so clinically like that was what made them an evil Death Eater. How was I any different?
I looked back to the closed door and tried to imagine Jim giving me a pep-talk.
"You didn't get those scars waiting outside closed doors did ya red?"
"No but I got them going through a door into a place I wasn't welcome," I mumbled to myself and squatted down on the doorstep to think.
I had gone to the twins' shop but they were apparently out 'looking for their brother' so the sales assistant informed me without once looking up from what he was doing to see that it was me. I left the shop and kept my head down all the way to the Leaky Caldron where I found a dark corner to apparate right here and now I was a gibbering mess who couldn't even set foot inside his own house.
It wasn't my future that scared me anymore. I had a future now. I was going to work in the grey wing of St Mungo's where nobody ever visits or volunteers to take a shift and my back was finally cured once and for all. I had plans and aspirations and I'd talked out some of my crap with Jim and Rosie while I was away. Why was I so scared of? What could they say to me?
"I'm going to kill you ya selfish bastard!"
Well yeah, there was that.
I got to my feet again and took another deep breath as I put my hand on the door handle and gripped it tightly.
"Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it..." I ordered myself, "Just fucking do it you pathetic whiny bastard! Open the sodding door."
I almost turned the handle, almost, before spinning away and letting the deep inhalation out as I deflated totally.
"Godric what the hell is wrong with me?" I asked the heavens with a shake of the head, "They'll understand, they will."
I nodded to try and convince myself that I believed this statement and turned around to face the door again and I jumped to see Fred and George standing at the open door with amused grins on their faces. My voice caught in the back of my throat and all I could do was let out a strangled yelp.
"Twenty minutes you've been out here swearing little bro," George smirked.
"I was beginning to think that maybe the door was stuck or something," Fred said with a similar expression of amusement on his face as he swung the door back and forth before looking back to me and shrugging, "Nope seems to be fine."
"So what's the problem then ickle Ronniekins?" George said with an arched eyebrow.
My jaw was hanging open but my voice still wouldn't come. Had they been watching me this whole time? Were they going to put me away with Lockheart? None of them would ever believe there was nothing wrong with my head now, not after that little display.
"Will you two stop it?" an impatient voice snapped as the twins were shoved apart and Hermione forced her way between them to stand and smile at me despite her frown lines and worried looking eyes, "We heard you apparate and were waiting until you were ready to come in but..."
"But you seemed to think you weren't going to be welcome so somebody had to open the door to point out that you were," Harry said over Hermione's shoulder, "You're more than welcome Ron. You're stupid but welcome."
I almost managed to smile at that.
"Well are you coming in Ronnie?" I heard my mother's watery voice calling from within the crowded kitchen somewhere and I looked back to Harry, Hermione and the twins.
"Whenever you're ready Ron," Hermione said with a more natural smile this time around.
"Yeah," I nodded but my feet didn't move an inch from where they were rooted.
The twins moved to one side and Harry and Hermione to the other so I could pass through the door. I saw Ginny worrying her hands in that very 'mum' like way of hers and tried to give her a nod or a smile or something. I don't think anything I tried to do actually happened though. Ginny took a step forward and held out her hand for me to take with a pained smile at my degree of caution.
I looked Ginny in the eye and managed to speak, barely a whisper but it was there.
"It's okay Ron. As long as you're okay now we don't mind. We forgive you," Ginny said before being blocked by the huge form of my brother Charlie.
I held my breath as he took a step outside and leaned forward to look me directly in the eye.
"Did you go to the hospital like Hermione told you to?" he said firmly.
"Magical or muggle?" Charlie said without blinking.
"Magical, I went to St Mungo's. My back's fine now I promise."
Charlie lowered his head and moved even closer towards me, I braced myself to get shouted at.
"And your head?"
I looked at the ground and mumbled my response.
"Healer said there's nothing wrong with it."
"Look at me Ron," Charlie said firmly but calmly and I looked up and met his piercing eyes, "Tell me you're going to be alright."
I stared right into him and said loudly and clearly for everyone inside the kitchen to hear as well.
"I'm going to be alright Charlie. Everything is better."
Before I could flinch he had grabbed me and hugged me with such ferocity that all the air was knocked out of my lungs and the twins laughed before jumping onto Charlie's back and attempting to hug the pair of us.
I don't remember walking into the Burrow. I was just hugging outside and when the hug ended we were all inside and everybody was either laughing or wiping their eyes. My dad winked at me and Bill and Fleur hugged each other and laughed as I was ambushed by my mother and her determination that I looked on the brink of starvation despite the fact that all that fried food at the hotel had actually fattened me up quite a bit. I braved it enough to look over to where Harry stood, leaning against the pantry door with his arms folded and a slight smile on his face and we seemed to silently agree that it was his turn next.
Harry needed to work through his own post war issues and he needed to do it with me and Hermione at his side. I sent a smile of understanding his way and he nodded before heading upstairs to our room. He would be waiting for me. I would go to him as soon as I could get away from the homecoming celebration that I felt I didn't really deserve.
Hermione sat beside me and I felt her hand slide into my own under the table. She squeezed tightly and didn't say a word. When most of the family were distracted in one way or the other I leaned over and whispered into her ear.
"I'm sorry I..."
"Don't," she said quietly but with fierce determination, "you didn't do anything wrong Ron."
I felt her other hand rest on top of the one she already clasped in her own and she leaned in so close that her lips brushed against my earlobe.
"You came back and that's all I ever wanted."
I sat at the foot of the war memorial in the town square at Ottery St Catchpole and scribbled onto the paper Hermione had given me after she had explained all about stamps and letterboxes and postmen to me. She and Harry were waiting over at the cafe for me to finish up and join them. I could feel their eyes boring into my back the whole time I was writing.
It's not that they don't trust me to stick around. Harry had told me that he thought it was because he needed to reassure himself that we were all really there. We had all survived. That was part of his problem with my absence that week, he couldn't see me to confirm that I was okay and I had come through it all with him.
I shuffled the pages of my letter back into the correct order and re-read what I had written.
Hey Grandpa Jim!
Well I'm back at home now and my mum and dad asked me to thank you, Rosie and Dolly for looking after me. My brothers also wanted to thank you for the mental image in their heads they all have of me hurtling off the promenade in an out of control wheelchair, they did like that story.
Well I've got a job now. Don't laugh but it's working with the frail and elderly, can you believe it Jim? You crazy old geezers have turned out to be my vocation. It was just that I saw how neglected the folks were in my local hospital and I remembered how lively you all were and all the things you told me you did and I sort of thought that I could help these guys to have some fun. My girlfriend's found this book about speech therapy and I'm trying to help this one guy to make words again.
Oh yeah, and I have a girlfriend now. She's nice; you'd like winding her up!
She wants to meet you actually and I thought that maybe if you weren't off on another adventure next bank holiday Monday we could stop by for tea or saveloys or something? We'd be in that area so it wouldn't be a bother getting there. Anyway, let me know.
My back is all better now, tell Rosie I owe her for that porridge snake pillow thing, and somebody at the hospital asked me if I would drop in on the permanent scar damage ward to talk to the patients seeing as I was 'so comfortable with my own deformity'. They didn't mean to be rude and my family went spare when I told them but I thought it was kind of funny. I didn't even realise that I hadn't been covering my arms up as much as I used to.
It's all thanks to you y'know Jim?
My best mate has quite a nasty scar on his head and one of my brothers, I think I told you about him, well he has some all over his face from an accident a couple of years ago and I've got them to come along with me. I'm quite proud of Harry, my mate, as he has always covered his scar up with his hair but after we talked for a few weeks he just cut all his hair really short and keeps saying he doesn't care if anybody stares at it anymore. The three of us do look like we've been through the wars...
...well we kind of have.
So anyway I get paid at the end of the month and I'm going to but a car, a Hillman Minx came highly recommended, and I thought that maybe you could give me some lessons or something. You don't have to if you don't want to, it's just an idea.
I just wanted to let you know that I found my way home and ask if it was okay for me to come and see you sometime.
Keep causing trouble!
(Sorry, I forgot!)
I frowned, I thought it was a pretty crappy letter to be honest but it said what I wanted it to say so I folded it and stuffed the pages into the envelope and liked the vile tasting glue before sealing it and getting to my feet.
"All done?" Hermione said from behind me.
She had obviously got up and crossed the square to see if I was ready to join them yet, Harry was still sitting at the table sipping his tea and making some kind of bird shape out of his paper napkin.
"Yeah I just need to post it," I smiled.
"Did you ask him?" she asked me nervously.
I laughed and gave her a short peck on the lips before putting my arm around her shoulders and walking with her to the post box.
"Don't worry, he's gonna love you."
A/N I know, a very different kind of style for me. I'm experimenting with length at the moment (Oh didn't that sound unintentionally saucy?).
As most of you know I do tend to go for very in depth slow burning plots so I wanted to try to do a short fic as it's something my storytelling style isn't really suited for, you know me and my self imposed challenges?
This was more of a character study then a plot driven fic but the next one will definitely be one of my more complex plots. For the record, if any of you feel that there are any challenges I've yet to set myself feel free to throw down the gauntlet. I'd also like to know what you prefer reading; first person narrative (like this one, Timeless, Lost for Words and Blue Eyes on the Sukhumvit) or third person narrative (like Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Parasomnia, The Man Who Wasn't There and many one shots to numerous to mention!) I've now found that I can write comfortably in both but am not quite sure which works best.
So anyway, thanks to the dedicatees Scrib, Magnolia Lane and Harry Lvr.
Thanks also to my 'groupies' (Don't look at me like that! Magnolia Lane called you that in a review)
Wayne (Eckles) and Amy - self declared number one and two fans.
diesel writer - You mentioned that you were writing something yourself after Timeless and I kept a look out but didn't see anything. Do you have a different author name; I really want to see what you've done?
Baka No Katsu - I know what you mean but I'm glad I still held your interest mate. It's a toughie keeping a story short for me; hope it made more sense as a whole.
Kwala - My family used to have two Ford Anglias (Yes THE WEASLEY CAR!) and a Robin Reliant (YES DEL-BOY's THREE WHEELER, it was even yellow!) and an old fashioned London cab (not black though, it was orange and white) so I do indeed have a thing for vintage cars and surreptitiously put them in everything I write.
Dansgirl34 - I see you have a yahoo address, I may be contacting you sometime soon!
Xedra - You came out of nowhere very recently and suddenly you were everywhere at once! I love you!
Clairellyn Smith - another newbie who says wonderful things to me, I love you too (Wow I've said that twice within a minute and I'm not even drunk!)
existence92 - You went away and then you came back...I missed you!
allivra - I'm making new friends all over the place, where did you guys all come from?
tincat - sorry I made you cry...I tend to do that to kindrered spirits.
Autumnrosey - I hope I spelled that right.
rupertlovesme - Always big love for Beth!
JediPabst - fastest reviewer in the west!
Sir Isaac - The last of the great newbies! I can't believe you actually read my blog. I also can't believe you still wanted to associate with me after reading my blog. Do you not get that I'm NUTS? You, allivra, xedra and Clairellyn Smith are getting a fic dedicated to you soon. (Another one with a yahoo address I see...hmmm...)
NCC jellybean - "I'd like to teach the world my slang in perfect harmony..." oh well I'm getting silly now!
Roodle - Sorry I didn't give Ron dementia, maybe next time!
Well there's the thank-yous over with now to the damn you to hells...
There are none! Oh well maybe somebody will piss me off at a later date and I can come back here.
I really am weird today aren't I? I think it's the enforced abandonment of the computer for a while. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I've been commissioned to write a short play and that will involve lots of time in front of the computer so I'm preparing for it by drinking and sleeping a lot instead of writing a chapter a day for you guys.
I hope you don't forget me and please send me a PM if any of you write something (I'm talking to YOU diesel!)