"What? Books and cleverness? There are more important things. Friendship, and bravery." Hermione
Harry watched as Ron ran from the clearing and felt anger drain from him, leaving him with layer upon layer of guilt.
He had known from the moment Ron had appeared in the clearing, from the moment the boy had begun talking, that Ron was a step behind him on the process of grieving. Denial never seemed to last long for Harry.
You couldn't help but love the twins, Harry thought as he walked slowly after Ron. Deliberately slowly, to let Ron cool down, though quick enough to get there before anything permanent happened. It was a delicate balance, one that could only be achieved by not thinking about it. But the twins were a particular specimen, a being of themselves, completely made of each other and separate from everything else. They were twins, of course, an oddity, and closer than the few other twins Harry knew had been, infinitely closer. But there was something else --- an aloofness without being cold, compassion without being close, morals and values while laughing. Nobody else could achieve that.
With only half of a being, could it still survive? Harry preferred not to think about George, not now when he was trying to comfort Ron, make up for his mistake. He'd worry about George later.
He'd been the first Weasley to talk to Harry (was he? Or was it George? That kind of thing would matter, now, if it hadn't before.) He --- they --- had played with Harry on the Gryffindor Quidditch team until they had been kicked off with them. They'd been the first to sign up for the DA. They'd been in the first wave of people to come to the…to the battle.
Harry regretted yelling at Ron --- oh, how he regretted it. He had just been looking to make someone as angry and upset and frustrated as he was, and it had worked and then some. Ron's emotions must be even deeper, even more poignant than Harry's. Brothers, brotherhood. Another thing the Weasleys had taught him.
Disjointed thoughts filled the journey towards Ron (who must have been crashing though the forest, by looks of the trail of destruction he'd left behind him.) Most revolved around twin red-heads as Harry combed through his memories for one with Fred or George without the other nearby, just around the corner, at hand. He couldn't find one. That was depressing.
The Weasleys, in a kind of twisted reality, were lucky (a terrible word) to have suffered only one casualty in the war, after all the fraternizing they'd done with Harry. Casualty. That was a another terrible word. It did nothing to show the emotions, the depth of what it represented. Death was permanent, endless, and difficult, if only for those left behind. The thought of waking up every day, going through laughter and tears and miracles and tragedies without someone who previously had been so important was heartbreaking and depressing.
He had finally stopped running, and Harry, in turn, slowed his pace so he was just behind a cover of thin branches. Harry watched, mortified, as Ron collapsed onto a convenient stump, new scratches stretching up his arms and over his face, crying. Oh, Ron.
There was no way Harry deserved him. None. Ron was too loyal, too funny and brave and hopeful for pessimistic and angry Harry. Ron had never deserted him (well, except for that one time, but that was stupid and they won't mention it. Oh, and Fourth year…yeah, that was stupid too, but everything but those), and had always stood up for him. He had been present for a good number of Harry's nightmares, had listened as Harry recounted attacking his father, had patiently stood by the Heir of Slytherin without missing a beat and with a fair few laughs.
There was no way Harry deserved this kind of loyalty. Not when he said such terrible, unforgivable things. Fred. As carefully as he could, Harry took a step towards Ron. Another. He pushed aside branches quietly, watching, fascinated and embarrassed, as Ron cried for his lost brother.
Ron never cried, not that Harry knew of, probably another product of growing up in a family of boys. Seeing his break down was new for Harry. He didn't like it.
Clearing his throat, Harry took one more step forward. Another. "Ron?"
The boy looked up. A thousand emotions reflected in his eyes — pain, betrayal, grief, anger, regret, love— before he passed his fists over them and the emotions were gone, replaced with compassion. "Wh'a the matter, Har?" Ron began to stand up but Harry waved him back down, himself kneeling on the slightly damp ground.
"Ron," his voice must have betrayed him, for Ron began to shake his head, smiling slightly. "Don't bother, Harry. Remember Fourth Year? Remember what you told me? We're blokes, we don't need apologies." His statement was weakened somewhat by the low sob at the end.
"Oh, Ron." Why, why hadn't Harry noticed him before? For three days he'd been next to Harry, taking whatever Harry dished out patiently. He had been around, a constant reminder that a friend was not far off, while Harry had been gone in his own world, completely removed from Ron's grief. "You don't get it. I'm wrong." He hesitated, then leaned forward slightly to rest his hand against Ron's pant leg.
Ron glanced at him, eyes shielded, wary, thought a candle of hope flickered. Harry continued. "I shouldn't have been taking the Battle out on you. And Fred…" He watched as Ron flinched away from the name and tried a different tactic.
Gently, Harry pressed against Ron, propping himself upright. "Why aren't you with your family, Ron?"
The other boy didn't seem to notice the question and he was evading Harry's gaze, "I didn't….I mean, I guess I knew he was….that he wasn't coming back. I knew all along, but I couldn't stand to be around them. Mum and dad were both crying. I don't think I've ever seen dad cry. And George…none of us could look at George. We all felt so guilty, like it was out fault, because of the all the people to die, Fred wasn't supposed to be one of them."
Harry gave up on his attempt to stand and collapsed again to the ground. "Who was supposed to die, then? Does anyone really deserve it?"
Ron nodded absently, confirming this statement, then burst out, seemingly against his own will, "But Fred." His voice broke on the name and Harry looked up to find Ron crying.
He never knew how to deal with tears. Harry was always grateful that Ginny wasn't a crier, because he wasn't a very good comforter. He didn't know what was different about this situation either, as he leaned forward and grabbed Ron's hand. The security he felt just holding the large, freckled appendage was overwhelming. Ron's hand tightened around his and Harry guessed that his friend, like himself, was grateful for an anchor in this storm of overwhelming emotions.
"It was supposed to be me." Ron muttered as the tears subsided. Blue eyes opened, lashes still rimmed with tears, and locked onto Harry's waiting green ones. "It was supposed to be the sidekick, Harry, that's how Beetle always wrote it. I was ready. I don't mind dying. Not for someone I…" There was a manly aversion to the word love, possibly because it was unnecessary. Love was the reason the two were together, sitting in the clearing. It was the reason Fred and George and all the others had joined in the battle. It was the thing they fought for, in a way, protecting those they loved.
Harry hugged him fiercely and felt Ron's collapse against his chest. It was an odd feeling to not be the one breaking down, for once, but the one picking up the pieces, or attempting to. He said several useless things, mostly assurances that everything would be okay, before setting Ron straight. "Ron." He almost hoped Ron wouldn't look at him, or else he'd start crying again too. "Ron, if you had died…" a cold pit settled into Harry's stomach at the very thought, "I… don't know what I would have done, what Hermione would have done." It was slightly more manly to bring Hermione into it, to keep from admitting total weakness. "I definitely wouldn't have been able to kill Voldemort. I was barely able to, with everyone…else."
Fred, Dumbledore, Dobby, Snape, Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey, Sirius, Cedric, his parents, a hundred more, a thousand more. Ron would have been too much, would have tipped the balance. Harry would have not had the….the strength, the guts, whatever it had taken….to defeat the greatest enemy of their time.
Ron wiped away the tears with a sense of finality, as if sending himself a message that that was it, he wasn't going to cry any more. He looked at Harry and smiled slightly, and Harry smiled back, locking the secret between them. "C'mon, Ron." Harry held out his hand and Ron grabbed it, wrapped his arm tight around it, pulled himself up. "Best be getting back."
As if to make up for the rare intimacy of the moment in the woods, the two spent the walk back in laughter and jokes. Harry watched as Ron struggled to smile throughout it all, a battle he ended up winning with himself, if only for a while. He knew that the coming night would be filled with more nightmares for the both of them, but for the first time he was thinking not about if he would rejoing the Wizarding World, but when.
Go Harry. You can be sympathetic if you try!
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