A/N: I lived bitches.

I kid, but seriously, hi. Sorry about that 13-year gap, here's a chapter thanks to quarantine and going through my old files (turns out it's been mostly done for probably at least a decade. Whoops?)


Chapter Three: Cruel Fate

As they walked, Ron and Hermione found themselves engulfed into the crowd. Ron could not help but pick up on the familiar faces within the crowd. He saw McGonagall again, her usual composure completely shattered. Kingsley strode amongst the crowd with a look on his face that bespoke of shock and denial. Ginny appeared besides them, her face ashen and her eyes wide. Hermione reached out with a reassuring hand, and took Ginny's trembling one in her own. The three of them advanced to the grounds, trembling with fear but fortified by the strength of their grips.

"No!"

The cry of Minerva McGonagall went through Ron like a physical pain. For his stoic professor to sound so anguished, well...it didn't bode well for anything. He quickened his pace, pulling Ginny and Hermione along with him in his desperation to know the truth, to be proved wrong. As he parted his way through the crowd, he caught glimpses of the scene on the lawn. He saw multiple black cloaked figures, all who seemed to be elated. The maniacal laughter of a woman floated above all of the chaos, and caused Ron to tighten his grip on Hermione's hand. Bellatrix Lestrange was happy. Jubilant. Whatever it was that could have possibly made her this happy could only prove destructive to the defenders of Hogwarts.

The crowd in front of Ron parted finally. He had a clear view of the scene in front of them. His eyes were immediately drawn to Lord Voldemort, the cause of this all. His blood seemed to run cold when he saw the smile that graced his formless lips, giving his snake like face a demented look. His red slit-like eyes however told the truth. He believed that he had won. While Ron had been studying the face of the megalomaniac responsible for all of the hurt and destruction, Hermione and Ginny had drawn even with him. Hermione's sharp intake of breath drew his attention to Voldemort's right shoulder. There stood Hagrid, shoulders heaving with sobs. However it was the bundle in his great arms that had caught Hermione's attention.

Ron saw the scene before him, but his mind refused to process it. This was strain and exhaustion speaking – Harry wasn't dead. He couldn't possibly have been thick enough to believe that handing himself over really would have helped anything. Yet there was no denying that messy hair or those glasses. The bundle in Hagrid's arms was most definitely Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the savior of the Wizarding World, and Ron's best friend.

Ron's mind seemed to have finally overcome the battle it had waged with his heart, and the reality settled in. He squeezed Hermione's hand harder and let all of his shock and anguish out;

"No!"

The cry, laced with anguish and regret escaped his throat. Ron didn't want it to be true, but it was. Of that, there was no denying.

Hermione was crying now; they were so close that he could feel her body shaking with the force of her sobs. Her cry sent another pain through him, and he closed his eyes as she sobbed.

"No!"

His eyes still closed, he felt her lean into him, felt the warmth of her tears on his shoulder as she cried. He barely registered the same wetness on his own face. Maybe I am just imagining this. Maybe I hit my head at some point in the battle. Maybe when I open my eyes, this won't be happening.

"Harry! HARRY!"

Before he even opened his eyes, he knew that he couldn't be imagining this. Another pain had shot through him with his sister's cry, this one worse than the one for McGonagall and Hermione combined. His little sister didn't cry. He opened his eyes to look at his sister, ready to comfort her, only to find that Charlie had already taken care of that, holding her in a tight embrace as she sobbed. Ron was also mildly surprised to discover that Hermione was currently clinging to him, her head on his shoulder, her body raking with sobs. He blinked back a few more of his own tears as he stroked her hair and looked around at the remainder of their forces.

Many were shedding tears, others were shouting in anger. Some, such as Neville, were doing both. Ron sought out his parents in the crowd, and what he saw almost broke his heart all over again. His mother was clinging to his father, sobbing her heart out, just as she had for Fred a mere hour ago. His father looked shell-shocked, and wearier then ever as he looked upon the lifeless body of another one of his sons. Ron's gaze turned to his brothers, to find Bill to his immediate left, his jaw clenched and his eyes hard as steel. Charlie stood slightly behind Bill, still holding Ginny, his own blue eyes wide in shock. Percy was clinging to George for all he was worth, while George simply stared forwards – dumbfounded, refusing to believe the truth. This was too much – too much too soon. They had just lost Fred, now to lose another brother…

"Silence!" screamed Voldemort.

All screams of anguish and anger were cut short as the silencing charm took hold. Ron's blood seemed to boil in his veins as Voldemort ordered Hagrid to lay his body, Harry's body, at his feet – where is belonged. Ron didn't think he had ever been angrier. After taking a moment to savior his triumph, Voldemort continued to speak:

"You see? Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now deluded ones? He was nothing ever but a boy who relied upon others to sacrifice themselves for him!"

Bullshit.

Now Ron was sure he had never been angrier. He let go of Hermione and rose to his full height, fury coursing through his veins. With surprisingly little effort, he felt rather than heard his furious retort pierce the silencing charm; "he beat you!"

His cry seemed to have done the trick; now all of the defenders of Hogwarts shouted their abuse at the monster that had killed their hero. Hermione stepped forwards to join him again, grasping his hand as her tear filled eyes contracted in rage, her own anger being shouted for the rest of the world to hear.

Merlin, was she beautiful when she was angry.

As abruptly as it had ended the charm was reinforced, sending their fellow warriors back into silence, and shattering Ron's peaceful moment of revere. Voldemort continued, but Ron wasn't making sense of anything he said. It all processed as white noise. All he knew for sure is that the bastard was lying about Harry, who he had killed.

Ron wasn't about to stand for that. Harry had always been there for him, had always been the best person Ron had known. He wasn't go to stand here and let this bastard gloat over his body. Ron was going to end this, for Harry. He tightened his grip on his wand and was about to move forward when out of the corner of his eye he say Hermione begin to do the same. The thought of Hermione moving towards Voldemort was enough to extinguish the white anger that had been blinding him. He reached out a hand to stop her.

She spun around, eyes blazing, "Let go of me Ronald, I need to do this!"

"Hermione," he said softly, "I can't lose you too. Not yet, not today."

Her eyes softened, but her grip on her wand did not loosen. "This is about more than just us Ron, you know that."

"I know, but can't we be selfish, just this once?"

"Ron…"

"You stay here then, and I'll go."

"Ronald you are not—"

But she was interrupted by a commotion from the front of the crowd. They both spun around, wands raised and ready to face the new threat, but all thoughts of fight faded when Ron saw Neville on the ground at Voldemort's feet. He was on his knees, but starring defiantly at the wicked man who held his wand to Neville's face. Ron felt another rush of panic. Not Neville, he silently begged, Ron couldn't lose another friend tonight. He watched with bated breath, looking for an opportunity to break through, to do something, to stop this horror show from playing out. Before he could come up with an answer or a plan of attack (what was the bloody good of being a chess champion if you couldn't come up with a battle plan when it actually mattered?), the night lit up with fresh horror as Neville was set a blaze.

Ron barely had time to process the sheer horror of what he was seeing before all hell broke loose. It was all he could to grasp Hermione's hand one last time before they separated in the crowd, to help where they could. Their parting glance was a promise. They would see each other again, if not in this life than in the next. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to share one last kiss with her, but there were screams from every side and they were needed. Now was not the time for such selfish desires. Now was the time to do what Harry would have done and save every one he could, until the end or his dying breath – whatever came first.

From that moment, time was a blur. Madness had descended on Hogwarts and while it looked like reinforcements had arrived there were still so many death eaters to take out. Ron did his best to keep track of his family, of Hermione but he soon lost sight of them in the fray. He told himself that they would be fine (that she was better at this than any of them) but it did little to ease his worry.

So he channeled it. He took it out on each and every death eater he saw. He was circling Fenir Greyback, looking for the best angle to attack while avoiding those teeth when an ally appeared out of nowhere, sending a hex at Greyback from the side distracting him long enough to Ron to take him out. He glanced over at newly arrived ally to see Neville, only slightly singed from his time on fire.

"Glad to see your not a pile of ashes," he called to the other boy. Neville flashed him a slightly manic grin.

"Me too!" he called back.

Without another word they rushed back into the fray, sticking close and watching each other's backs. Ron wasn't going to lose another friend tonight if he could help it.

Things continued in this vein for several minutes and it seemed to Ron that maybe the tide was turning in their favor. He hadn't stopped moving, hadn't stopped fighting. The death eaters kept coming and he kept firing hexes. It was never ending, but it might be slowing a bit. It was possible that they actually might be winning this after all.

But at what cost, he couldn't help but ask himself, his heart aching with thoughts of Fred and Harry.

His concentration was broken when he heard a familiar voice sounding over the cacophony. It was his mother, he would recognize the sound of her yelling anywhere. He pushed through the crowd, needing to be closer, needing to help. He arrived at the edge of the gathered crowd in time to see his mother blast Bellatrix Lestrange away. Good, he thought with grim satisfaction. The world would be a better place without her in it.

His rejoicing was short lived though, as with a roar of anger, Voldemort put a decisive end to his duel and turned to face Molly Weasley.

Ron felt ice in his veins. No, there was no way he was going to let that monster take his mother away too. He needed to do something, anything. He moved forward, ready to shoved his mother out of the way, to jump in front of her if need be. He knew she would never forgive him, but he didn't care. If he didn't, he would never be able to live with himself.

Before he had taken three steps, a familiar voice rang out and a shield charm erupted. Ron faltered, almost toppling over. He was finally cracking; the stress had finally gotten to him. He could have sworn that was Harry's voice, but Harry was dead. He felt another pang of grief as he reminded himself. Harry was gone, so who—

Ron's thoughts were abruptly interrupted as suddenly the air shimmered and Harry James Potter himself appeared. Ron simply stared, not believing what he saw. He had seen Harry dead, had heard Voldemort's gloating, had shed his own tears over it. This had to be a trick, one last blow to shatter their moral, their hope.

Harry had always been all of that, and more; especially to Ron.

He was still staring unbelievably at the scene before them when Hermione appeared at his side, her hand frantically grasping his arm. "Ron, she said frantically, Harry, he's…he's not dead!"

It was that, that declaration from the most brilliant person he had ever known that tipped the scales into believing this miracle before him. Harry Potter – his best friend – was alive.

At least, for the moment. Ron watched with renewed fear as Harry and Voldemort circled each other. He heard words being exchanged but he didn't process them. He was laser focused on Harry, on each movement he made. Some part of him thought that if he took his eyes off of his friend this new chance that they had would be over, that the only awful nightmare of Harry being dead would come back. Some part of his brain still ruled by logic recognized that this was insane, but the larger part did not want to risk it. He couldn't go back to that reality now that he had a chance that it was false. He just couldn't.

So he watched with bated breath (and hope; he knew his friend, he knew he could do this) as the two circled, each preparing for the moment that would decide it all. Then the moment came, and was over almost as soon as it had come.

When the light of the curses faded, Harry was left standing over the body of Voldemort. He looked tired and worn, bruised and battered, but he was very much alive. Ron wasted no time in running up to him, Hermione and Ginny at his heels. He needed to be next to him, to be able to put his hands on him and reassure himself that he was alive, that this was over. With his long legs Ron reached Harry first. Harry turned to face him, words (an excuse, an apology?) forming on his lips, but Ron cut him off.

He placed his hands on Harry's shoulder (they were warm and trembling every so slightly but they were proof that he was very much alive and breathing and Ron cherished it). He locked eyes with Harry and saw exhaustion and relief and so much more in them. Before Harry could try to get words out again, Ron spoke, "Harry, if you ever go and die on me again, I will kill you. Got it?"

His friend let out a shaky laugh and breathed out a reply, "got it," he said softly. Ron looked at him for another moment, letting his gaze say everything else he couldn't put into words. Then he pulled Harry into a tight hug as Ginny and Hermione caught up with him.

Things would never be the same after tonight, he knew. There had been so much loss and destruction. The scars would take a long time to fade, some never would. Ron knew that the loss of Fred alone meant that there would always be a hole in his heart.

But Ron still had his best friend, so they would be all right. It would just take time.


A/N: So there it is, hope it was worth the 13-year wait! If nothing else it should be a journey as the writing switches from that of a 15 year old to a 20 something, but these are strange times we live in so why not?

I hope your all safe and trying your best in this time. It's stressful and scary and while I am absolutely mourning the loss of normalcy and the day to day, I suppose the silver lining is the fact that I have time to do shit like this and can add another finished fic to my roster (and what a ride it was revisiting 2007 me and where I was with writing then).

My account is pretty much abandoned these days (save for this) but you can find me over on ao3 as brilliantbanshee these days. Come over there and say hi/maybe check out some new stuff if you want.

At the very least, leave a comment! Have you been reading this since 2007? Are you also revisiting the archives of your life simply for something to do? Is this trash that should have been left for history? Let me know in the comments!