(...)'No-' said Harry quickly; he had not counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone.
'You said to us once before,' said Hermione quietly, 'that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We've had time, haven't we?'
We're with you whatever happens,' said Ron.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
His own words were ringing constantly in his head, as they had been ringing for the past days.
We're with you whatever happens
He wasn't anymore. She still was, but he wasn't.
Her voice had been ringing in his head for the past days as well. The angst of her tone, vanishing in the fierce of that night's storm, calling his name, was yet another source of torture. That night he knew he wanted to follow her voice the minute he stopped hearing it. But once he had left it was too late to go back.
He had been driven away from them, and it was no one's fault but his.
He would have given anything to hear her voice again, as long as it lead him to the only place he truly belonged in. He closed his eyes, listening to the record of her voice again, hoping that wishing to hear it would be enough. But not even magic is that simple, he knew that, but he couldn't help trying, and he had been trying for days now.
Ron was holding the deluminator, playing with its cold surface between his fingers, turning it around, and shutting the lights every other second, it was becoming a compulsive behavior. The radio of his room had been on for hours, but he wasn't listening at all. His head remained still on the pillow, and his eyes remained still on the ceiling. He already knew that ceiling well enough, he had been staring at it for the past nights, unable to find a way to fall sleep. It was torture either way, when he slept he had the most unbearable nightmares about Harry and Hermione being attacked, or Harry reproaching him for leaving, or Hermione screaming his name. But in his dreams he would never see their faces, he would only hear their voices, and there was no way he could reach out and touch them. In his dreams they were far away from him.
Ron couldn't take it anymore. Each day that passed by reminded him how unforgivable his behavior had been. He couldn't talk to Bill about it. When he arrived at shell cottage he told him what he had done, but he left out the details, he was too ashamed.
He had to get back. He knew he had to back, but he also knew he couldn't find his way back. He was physically and emotionally lost. As days had passed by he felt his friends even more distanced. He had left too impulsively, he didn't think straight that night. He had heard her screaming his name, and he still didn't react in time. That was Him. That was Ronald Weasley: the guy who always reacts last, the guy who needs more time. Well, he had his time now, and he didn't want it, he just wanted to find the way back.
The door of the room opened and Ron woke up from his unhealthy trance. He slipped the deluminator back to his pocket in a quick move. Fleur slid in making no noise at all. She held a tray in her hands, but for once Ron didn't feel like gazing at it to find out what it held.
"Oh! I'm sorry. I zought you were sleeping."
He raised his body from the bed and sat on the border of it, almost pretending he hadn't seen Fleur.
"I brought you tea...and somezing to eat. You 'aven't eaten today."
"--'ungry, I know."
She placed the tray on the night stand and sat on the border of the bed, by him. He didn't want company, and up until then Bill and Fleur had been very comprehensible about it. He was already wishing she would leave soon, but she started talking.
"Bill's worried about you." Ron opened his mouth to tell her that he wasn't going to talk about it, but Fleur spoke ahead of him. "'e didn't send me 'ere. But you are 'is little brother and I 'ate to see 'im worried."
Ron understood that she wasn't going to leave the room until she finished saying whatever it was she came to say. She fell silent, but it wasn't long before she retook the speech.
"I 'ave a little seester too, as you know. And the 'ardest zing about leaving France was leaving 'er behind. I zought she needed me, I zought I was the only one capable of taking care of 'er." Ron looked at her, wondering whether the conversation had a real point or not. "The fact is zath I did leave 'er, and I miss 'er everyday. Eet's 'ard...to leave behind the people we love the most. But sometimes...eet just 'appens."
Ron held his breath, she had touched the wound in the place it hurt the most, the place where he was punishing himself for leaving them behind.
"This...this is nothing like that, Fleur." He took his closed wrist and covered his mouth, trying to restrain the need of yelling out his impotence.
"Sorry, but I don't know, do I?" She took a deep breath that leaded Ron to think she was losing her patience. "But...Ron, as I tell Gaby: eet's never too broken to be fixed. Eet can't possibly be zat bad."
"What I did was bad enough to break everything." He made emphasis in that last word, because he felt it was all broken, and he didn't want anybody telling him that it was going to be okay when, thanks to him, it wasn't. He felt better torturing himself, he didn't need Fleur or anybody else to console him and make him feel any different.
"Well, you're wrong," she said firmly. Ron looked at her again, his anger was starting to move towards her. "You couldn't possibly 'ave done anyzing zat bad..." He was feeling worst and Fleur was showing no intentions of leaving, he wished strongly that she did so. He stood up from the bed and leaned against the wall, Fleur remained still, sitting calmly in front of him. Words were beginning to rise from his stomach, to his chest, and across his throat. He felt like collapsing, he was tired of remaining silent for so long, but at the same time he was too embarrassed of himself to talk about it.
He took his hands to his head and pressed them hard against it, involuntarily he felt his body sliding on the wall, and sitting on the floor.
"I--I, left them," He begun, although that information was redundant. "I swore myself I wouldn't, I promised them I wouldn't, but I left." His hands remained pressed against his head, he could feel Fleur's eyes upon him. "I abandoned them."
"So...you made a mistake. You're 'uman, Ron, maybe you 'ad reasons."
"No! This isn't like that, what I did was..."
"Fixable. You can mend eet. Whatever eet was, you can still find them and mend eet." Ron's face felt insanely hot, he was afraid he'd start crying if he kept talking, which would only embarrass him more.
"I broke him a promise and..." he tried to control his voice from breaking down, "I--I let her down." He wasn't sure why he admitted that last, maybe it was because Fleur wasn't one of his brothers.
Neither Bill nor Charlie would have behaved as badly as he did. Charlie was strong, he wasn't that hard to manipulate, and Bill was…Bill: responsible and well centered. Although Bill had shown sympathy at Ron when he confessed with little detail what he had done, he knew his older brother was silently judging him, and he couldn't blame him. Fred and George wouldn't have done such a thing either. Ginny…Ginny had too much character, clearly drawn out from their mother.
It was a fact that none of the members of his family would have ever left their best friends in a clear time of need. He was leaving out Percy, but that was because comparing himself to Percy made him feel even worst.
But Fleur wasn't his mother or his father, Fleur wasn't Ginny, and that was making it easier to be honest about it.
"'ermione? You let 'ermione down..." Fleur wasn't hesitating about getting the information straight out, but Ron was still showing resistance. He nodded and took his hands away from his face, no point on covering it anymore.
"She...she asked me not to leave, she ran after me, she was screaming…" he wrinkled his face painfully, "but I did it anyway. At that moment I thought I had to, it was weird I--" For a moment he felt like blaming it all on the locket but that would have been too much, it was wise to keep everything else in secret. "I swear… I wanted to get back as soon as I left, but I couldn't."
Fleur was silent, she was thinking of what was best to say. She looked at him deeply, stood up from the bed and kneeled close to his sitting spot in the floor.
"You zink she won't forgive you."
"They're not going to forgive me, ever."
"No, I mean 'er", she corrected. Ron remained silent. "You know Harry might forgive you, but you zink she won't." He raised his eyes and looked at her, his frown deep. It was true, he was sure Hermione wouldn't forgive him, not after everything that had happened. He nodded, it was as far as he could go. Fleur placed a hand on his cheek, her soft fingers held his face.
"Ron, look at me," he obeyed, "she will forgive you." Fleur spoke very sure of herself. The security in her words was admirable, and for a moment it gave him a little ray of hope he had not felt before.
"You don't know Hermione, you don't know anything, you have no idea." He was right, she didn't know Hermione, not like he did, not even close. She didn't know what was going on.
"I don't. But I know women," she said sharply, surprising Ron once again with her high level of security. "And I know she'll forgive you. She might show resistance at first but I can assure you she won't be mad at you forever. You know…" she hesitated, as if she was about to hand out restricted information. "We women are pretty good at…forgiving. But don't tell Bill I told you zat," she said with a clever smile. "But if it gets tough, zen all you 'ave to do is give 'er a reason, I'm sure you'll find more than one."
She caressed his skin before letting go of his face. She stood up, smiling, and fixed the wrinkles of her dress. "But, before they forgive you Ron, you're going to 'ave to do so yourself." He looked up at her, he couldn't find a way to forgive himself, not before they did. "They need you, just as much as you need them."
"I thought they were better off without me."
"Is zat so? Then why are you so desperate to get back?"
"What if I can't find them?"
"You will, Ron. You 'ave to look 'arder". She looked around the room. "But you won't find them in 'ere, zat's for sure." She walked away, to the door.
"I won't say anyzing, I'll just tell Bill you're doing better," she said, her hand on the doorknob and a sweet smile across her face. Ron smiled back, the first time in weeks.
He rested his head against the wall and remained as still as possible. He replayed Hermione's voice inside his head and wondered if he should try to apparate in the forest again to look for them in the woods, hopefully they hadn't moved much. No, knowing Hermione they had moved at least 20 times since he left.
He heard her voice again, this time softer, clearer, and closer. He felt her as close as ever, this time her voice wasn't crying or screaming, it was soft, natural. At first he didn't know if he was imagining it or actually hearing it. But the voice drew closer, and he understood that it wasn't inside his head, it was coming from some other place. When he heard it clear enough, he understood it was his name what the familiar voice was pronouncing, and it was in his pocket. As weird as it seemed he didn't hesitate to draw the deluminator from his pants. His chest was filled with excitement. He closed his eyes, and opened the deluminator. The lights of the room went off, and when he opened his eyes he saw nothing but a powerful glow coming through the window. Without thinking it through he packed his things and followed the light.
He was gone.
A/N: This will probably be a three-shot. I hope you liked the first one! Please, don't forget to leave a review!