Flesh and Blood
Charlie had his share of scars of course. He was a dragon-keeper. It wasn't possible to be a halfway decent dragon-keeper for any length of time and not have scars. There were burn-marks on both arms, a long jagged scar on one leg, even a faint scar down one side of his face, although you wouldn't notice it if you didn't know it was there.
If you wanted to look at it that way – and mostly Charlie didn't, because he was a matter-of-fact type of bloke, and not prone to dwelling on things – each scar was a memory, a story retold on flesh.
But he couldn't help thinking that maybe it was the wrong story. He had been looking after his beloved dragons while the rest of the family had been fighting – properly fighting – You Know Who. Apart from Percy, of course. But at least Percy had thought he was doing the right thing. Charlie had known what the right thing really was, but had still stayed safely in Romania for most of the war, coming back for the odd Order mission, turning up at the end of the final battle – and not being there for most of the things that mattered.
Oh yes, he had scars, but sometimes Charlie couldn't help thinking that they were the wrong sort.
No one really remembered Ron's scars, and that was fine by him. Everyone was so used to him wearing long-sleeved shirts, even in the hottest weather, that they never commented on it. And the scars weren't really noticeable, just fine white lines lacing his arms from the wrists to the elbows. Even Hermione seemed barely to remember that they were there. She certainly never commented on them.
But Ron himself was painfully aware of them. Logically, he knew they were healed, that he should not feel them, but sometimes at night when he could not sleep, he felt them burning. And – much more disturbingly – he felt that the scars on his arms were just a visual reminder of the scars in his mind. "Brains scar more deeply than anything," Madam Pomfrey had said, as she dosed him, and used the horrible-smelling ointment on his arms after he was injured, and he hadn't realised then what she meant. Perhaps she hadn't realised it herself. But now he knew. Sometimes he had thoughts and memories that he knew were not his own – places he had never been, people he had never met, conversations he knew he had never been part of. The scars the brains had left in his mind were much worse than those on his arms, but he never told anyone about them. Doing so would make them so much more real, so much more frightening. He ignored the unrecognised thoughts and pushed them away, wore his long sleeves, and was glad that no one else remembered his scars.
(Of course, there were the other scars in his mind. Memories, all too real, that were all his own. Ron did his best to ignore those too, most of the time.)
Bill's scars were the obvious ones, the ones that no one could ignore or pretend they didn't see. He was used to people staring at him in the street, to the comments they made – sometimes thinking he didn't hear, at other times loud enough to let him know they didn't care if he heard or not, as if having a scarred face must mean that he was immune to hurtful comments or that he somehow deserved them. He was used to people avoiding looking at him properly when they spoke to him, or to them pointedly looking at him too much, as if to emphasise just how unprejudiced they were.
He was used to it, but that didn't mean he hated it any less. Once – just once – he would like to have an encounter with someone other than his family or close friends where the way he looked wasn't an issue, where the other person would look at him normally.
But he knew it would never happen.
Bill knew that there were worse things to have to live with than a scarred face. Everything that his parents had suffered in the first war, with young children to protect, and with his uncles being killed. All that his family had endured the second time around. Losing Fred. All those things should have been – were – worse than any physical scars, however bad.
But Bill hated his scars, more than anything in the world.
The outward scar was easy to hide. George kept his hair long, shaken slightly forward over his face, and most people never even noticed that he had an ear missing. If they did, he made a joke of it, because that was who he was. A joker. One of the Weasley twins.
But he wasn't. Not any more.
Losing Fred was bigger, more all-encompassing than any physical scar. George had learned to live with it, so that even those closest to him thought that he was coping most of the time, and so that people who did not know his history never realised the huge hole at the centre of his life. But it was an act, a charade, a scar that never faded and never stopped hurting.
If only the physical scars were the only thing left from the war.
He had no scars, and he would never stop feeling guilty about that. He should have been there, with his family.
He should have seen the truth earlier, or admitted it when he did see it. He should have stopped making excuses and fudging and putting off doing the right thing because he hated to be wrong.
He should have gone home sooner.
Percy had no scars that anyone could see, and he hated himself for it.
Ginny had her own scars, the memories she wished she did not have. But she saw her brothers' too – the obvious ones like Bill's face and George's missing ear, and the less obvious ones – the regrets and guilt and sadness that they all lived with every single day and tried to keep to themselves.
She wished they would not try to hide them.
She wished she could help them more, that they would help each other. She wished that they would acknowledge they are hurting.
But it would never happen.
(Sometimes Ginny felt as if she could shake the lot of them.)