Written for diesel writer's birthday today.
He would always stand before me. I should have known how it couldn't last forever. I should have prepared myself to lose him, to have to let him go.
Then that day came.
He would no longer be able to stand before me.
A twelve-year-old boy standing on a chessboard would step up and take a beating for me so I could go on. The first time he stood between danger and me he was only just twelve. He was a Gryffindor. He was related to the fearless Prewitt brothers, the great heroes.
Of course Ron Weasley was brave. He was the bravest person I'd ever known.
He was barely thirteen when he followed me into the forbidden forest to find a way to help Hermione, a lifelong arachnophobe deliberately following spiders into dangerous woods. He had been so traumatised that he had lost the ability to speak for some time, he had been physically sick with fear, and despite this crippling terror he still followed me into those woods.
Just a kid. Braver than anyone else I'd ever known before or since. He would follow me beyond the veil if I were to fall through like Sirius did.
His loyalty scared me more than I liked to admit. The more time that passed, the more people I loved would die for me, and I knew that the day would come when Ron would fall and not get back up. Still there was no stopping him.
So, at the ripe old age of fourteen, he puts himself between apparent danger and me once again. A big black dog is running at me, running and jumping, and Ron shoves me away and gets dragged off in my place. He gets hurt fighting to stay with me. He tells himself his number is up just like it had been for his Uncle Bilius.
The Grim had taken him down into the pits of hell to die.
So what did he do when I arrived? What did the frightened kid with the broken leg at the mercy of a supposed criminal do when I found myself in apparent danger?
He stood before me.
On a broken leg.
Without a wand.
My best friend, the bravest person I know. The person nobody ever notices despite his striking hair and towering height. In my shadow he's invisible, insignificant, unimportant.
How can people so eagerly goggle at my scar while ignoring the most remarkable young wizard they could ever hope to meet?
Ron had been shoved aside once too often. During the Tri Wizard Tournament he had been pushed away as if nothing more than a hanger-on and he'd stayed away. It had been the first time Ron's courage had deserted him. He had lost his faith in our friendship, in me. For the shortest of times I knew what life would have been without my shadow, my shield, my right arm.
As soon as he saw me at risk he was back. He never did have it in him to stand and watch someone he cared about in danger and simply worry. He had to step in. He had to help. He had come back.
He had come back only to be taken. My most treasured prize, my 'Wheezy' as Dobby called him that day, he could not stand before the danger and me then. He was the danger, the terror, the fear. Nothing could keep me from protecting my protector. For all the times he had followed me into trouble I had dived head first into trouble to get him back.
He might have been nothing to the rest of the world but he was precious to me. He was irreplaceable.
Ron faced Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries with me. He stood at my shoulder, he fought at my side, and he fell in battle. He could have been killed.
Not my Ron though, not my amazing best friend, he always gets back up again. He will be scared but he will stay strong.
I got a lot of people hurt that day. I got Sirius killed. I scarred Ron for life. He never once mentioned it to me. He stayed at my side. Always at my side until...
...until he stepped before me again.
He stood his ground and defended Hogwarts with the others while I was away on a wild goose chase with Dumbledore. He faced evil without me. He fought with luck on his side but much more than that in his favour. He fought with pride and power and bravery, more bravery than even I knew.
He watched the most powerful wizard he had ever known buried and still followed me into the unknown. He would follow me into the dark. He would, and did, follow me anywhere.
Always standing before me, ready to take the blows and the curses on my behalf, and never failing me once. He would fall so many times but every time he would get back up again. Nothing could keep Ron down. Nothing could keep Ron from defending me. I couldn't even keep Ron from defending me.
But it had to stop eventually. Ron was no longer able to stand in front of me and take the force of any attacks. Ron couldn't be my protector anymore. Ron wasn't my shadow, my shield, my right arm or my left. Ron was no longer mine.
Somebody had taken Ron Weasley away from me forever.
I had to be strong for him. I had to make it okay. I had to stand behind him for one last time and give him a push away from me.
I stood watching him in St Mungo's, the bravest kid I'd ever known who had grown into the bravest and most incredible young man, and said a silent goodbye to him inside my head.
"I can't do this Harry," Ron said fearfully, trembling all over, "I'm not cut out for this stuff. I'm gonna mess it up I know it!"
"You can do anything." I said with determination, "I've seen you do everything against all sorts of odds and I can't wait to see you do this. You're going to be incredible."
"I'm gonna be crap," Ron said with a dejected shake of the head.
I put a hand on Ron's shoulder and gripped it firmly.
"You couldn't be crap if you tried."
"But this is too important for me to mess up Harry," Ron said frantically, "and I will, I always do, I mess things up!"
"I'm alive and Voldemort's not," I said fiercely, "Hermione's alive and happy and right next door waiting for you to pull yourself together. Ginny's alive because you went down into the Chamber of Secrets with me for her, you went into Aragog's lair to get to the bottom of the whole thing. Your family live in peace because of what we did...what we did Ron. I'm not the saviour of the wizarding world, I'm just one of the pieces on the chess board."
Ron stared into my eyes.
"But this isn't the same as all of that stuff."
"No?" I frowned.
Ron shook his head.
"This is really important." He said roughly.
I smiled at my worried best friend. He had stood before me through thick and thin. He was always the last line of defence, the last man standing before I was left exposed, and now he was exposed and I couldn't come between my best friend and the thing that scared him more than spiders. I had to step back and lose my closest companion. I had to give him up. Ron would no longer stand between danger and me again.
Ron wasn't able to go on being my great protector.
"I'm bloody terrified Harry." Ron said weakly, his voice cracking with emotion.
"You never let that stop you before." I smiled.
Ron drew in a bracing breath and looked down at the bundle in his arms.
"Hi," Ron's unsteady voice wavered, his eyes burning with tears, "I'm your dad."
The tiny newborn baby, a shock of vivid red hair on his head and huge brown eyes just like his mother, curled his tiny fingers around Ron's strong thumb. Ron let out a shuddering breath and smiled down at his new son, Robin Weasley, while his eyes flooded.
I leaned over my Godson and whispered to him.
"Hey Robin," I said softly, "he isn't just your dad. He's gonna be your hero."