Disclaimer: I still own nothing.
Ronald Weasley walked down the dusty path that lead away from his families home, The Burrow. He had to get away for a while. He could not endure to hear the stories, to share the memories and to pretend everything would be just fine.
His family would never be 'fine' again, he thought. Charlie and Bill, his oldest brothers, had lives and families of their own. As soon as they had buried Fred, they had left, removing themselves from the oppressive air of The Burrow and the silent meals at a table that now held an empty seat. Ronald had almost asked to leave with them, only the thought of his mother's tears keeping him.
Percy was still at an emotional distance from his parents, and with the death of Fred, the distance grew. Always the coldest of the Weasley boys, he could offer no comfort and did not know how to console.
Fred's twin tried to throw himself back into the work he had shared with his brother, but his heart was gone. George was no longer the smiling young wizard, full of energy and joy, that he had been only a month earlier. The others had a hard time looking at him. Seeing Fred's face looking back at them from the grave, they avoided talking to the surviving twin, not understanding that in doing so they were also burying him.
Ronald's parents would sit and stare into the fireplace. Neither of them talked to the other, only watched the golden embers until it was time to go to bed. Then Molly would slowly climb the stairs to the bedroom and Arthur would stretch out on the sofa to sleep. They only talked when others were in the house. Then talking of Fred and telling stories until the visitor left.
Ginny, Ronald's little and only sister, had managed to escape the Burrow from time to time. She would visit with Hermione or disappear with Harry for days at a time. No one seemed to care. A month ago her parents would have been shocked, demanding that Harry show more respect. It no longer mattered.
At first, in the days following Fred's death relatives had come. Ronald would hear the wards go off and run to the gate. They would ask 'How is Arthur doing?' and 'How is Molly holding up?'
At first, Ronald tried to tell them. He sought some one to help. He wanted to stop the hurt that bled from Molly's eyes and rolled off his father. He would receive instead, a pat on the back and a sigh. Not one person asked 'How are you?'
Ronald walked, with hands shoved into his pockets and his head down. He walked until it was dark, then he apparated home.
The next morning it was just the three of them at the table, he and his parents. Molly busied herself in the kitchen while Arthur spread out the Daily Profit in front of him. Leaning back in his chair and folding his arms across his chest, he frowned.
"So, Ronald," Arthur said. "What have you got planned for today?"
"Nothing Dad." Ron sat up straighter and pulled his chair closer to the table. "I thought I may just stick around here, maybe do some gardening. Looks like it hasn't been done for a while."
"I thought you may want to get out a little, you know, see your friends." Arthur said, opening his paper and looking over the top.
"Yeah," Ronald said, and then jerked his head toward his mother. "I'll see."
Arthur looked over to Molly. He knew Ronald would not leave until he felt Molly was put right. He also knew Molly would never be completely the same.
"I have to go to work today. If you have any problems you can floo me," Arthur said quietly. "I don't think you will. She just needs time."
"Maybe I'll go over to Diagon Alley for a while. Mum, do you need anything?"
"No, I don't think so, just be careful," she said as she gave her now familiar hollow smile.
Ronald did not even know why he was in Diagon Alley. He had nothing to buy, no errands to run. He just liked the noise and crowds of the pavement. He walked aimlessly for at least an hour before finding himself near the Leaky Cauldron. Deciding to have lunch, he went in and found a booth. After putting in his order he sat back to wait, surprised when at the same time Tom brought the bowl, a stranger approached him.
"You are Ronald, Ronald Weasley right?" A soft voice came to him.
Looking up he saw a dark haired girl about his age. Nodding to her, he started to get up.
"No," she said. She put her hand on his arm to restrain him from standing. "That is not necessary. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss."
"Thanks." Ronald returned to his stew uncomfortably.
She slid in the booth opposite him and rested her arms on the table.
"Are you alright?" she asked in concern.
"I'm fine." He kept his head down, looking at his stew.
"You don't look fine," she told him truthfully. "You look like shite."
"Thank you," he muttered sarcastically.
"Is there anything I can do? Anyone I can floo for you?" she queried.
"You could just let me finish my meal." He scowled at her.
"Sure, then you can tell me about your brother," she said solemnly.
"Why would I do that?" He looked up at her in surprise.
"When my brother died I felt like you look." She shrugged her shoulders and leaned back. "I couldn't talk to anyone about him. It took me a long time to get over it."
"Why couldn't you talk about him?" Ronald frowned at her.
"He was a Death Eater." She looked straight in his eyes without flinching. "No one asked."
Ronald only nodded at her and went back to his stew. No one had asked him either.
"Were you mad at him?" Ronald asked not raising his head.
"About being a Death Eater?" She raised an eyebrow.
"No," he answered quietly, "about dying."
They sat not talking while he finished his meal then ordering a couple of butter beers he pushed one over to the girl and took a drink of his before saying anything.
"Most of the time I am mad as bloody hell at him," he started. "He should have been more careful. He was better then that. He got sloppy and didn't have someone watch his back. He should have known not to stand where he was, he … he didn't think."
They sat in silence a while longer before he could continue.
"Do you want to walk?" He asked abruptly. "I need to get out of here."
He suddenly felt trapped, closed in, panicked. He needed to move. He got up quickly and tossed enough on the table to cover the bill. Striding to the door, he did not see the girl following him. Once again, he was in the Alley walking. He felt an arm on his and looked down to see the girl had followed him.
"I don't know you name," he stated flatly.
"Grace, Grace Harrington," she said. "Bruce Harrington was my brother."
Ronald's step didn't slow. He knew that name. Bruce Harrington had been killed about two years ago during a botched attack on the Ministry. His father had been involved and injured in the attack.
"Did you know that he was a Death Eater?" he asked curiously.
"Yes, but I loved him too," she sighed.
"Yeah, I guess I felt the same about Fred," he agreed. "Sometimes I could get angry at him, well, most of the time really…but still…you know?"
"Don't you still?" she chided. "Love him I mean. He is dead, but you still love him don't you?"
Ronald could not answer her. If he did, he would start crying. He did not want to be reduced to tears in the middle of the Alley. He needed to get out of here. He needed to return to The Burrow and take care of his mother.
"Listen Grace," he stumbled on his words just thinking to leave quickly. "I have to leave now. We left my Mum alone. It has been long enough already."
Hurrying away to an apparation point the he spun back to The Burrow and ran down the dusty path from the gate. He started for the house then changing directions, he headed for the garden. Sitting behind the greenery that would keep him from being seen he lowered his head and cried. He sat there for the rest of the day, until the sky was turning bright orange and signalled the end of the day with a glorious sunset.
"Hey Ron," George said as he sat down on the ground next to his brother.
"Hi, George." Ron did not raise his head, or even turn to look at George.
"So, are you finally going to be alright?" George grinned at him.
"What are you talking about?" Ronald angrily wiped his face with the back of his hand.
"Good Merlin Ron, every one has been worried sick about you," George said honestly. "You never cried at the funeral, or since. Mom and Dad have tried every thing to get you to let go."
Ronald looked up at George not seeing Fred for the first time.
"Yeah, I know," George smiled weakly, "They meant well enough. They figured that if they talked about him all the time you would finally break down. Dad sleeps on the sofa so he can watch you on your midnight walks you know. Bloody Hell, even Bill and Charlie couldn't take your silence anymore."
"George?" Ronald looked into his eyes. "Does it ever go away?"
"Nope." George answered standing up. "You may be able to go a little longer each day without thinking of him, but it never goes away."
"Good," said Ronald getting up and brushing off his clothes. "I guess I can stand him dying, I don't have a choice, but I couldn't stand forgetting him."
Together they walked back to The Burrow to have dinner.