Because Ron's first kiss didn't make him die like the sixth one, which had wide brown eyes and a kind of yes-no to it, a kind of maybe I didn't plan this -- and it made him fight a little harder, it made him spit spells a little faster, it was the kind of thing Hermione would have wanted a first kiss to be, and her teeth weren't as big as he imagined when he was twelve. He keeps thinking of teeth

Because Ron spits one in the heel of his hand and he looks up to say, "you're dead, Malfoy." But the boy only grins at him because it's something they know isn't true; they both know the end of this parable, it's one rodent versus the other, and red doesn't make anything true but blood -- blood and oxygen. The boy only grins at him

Because Ron won't reach his N.E.W.T.s, (that's the truth) and he's tired of pretending it's going to be a good score, and he's tired of having to look up so many answers in books he barely understands -- he's tired of everything in steps, he wants living to be something that has no puzzle to it. He wants to barely comprehend the danger he is in, and the fate he is reaching one breath at a time now, and the certain blackness hanging over one freckled shoulder -- how it was him from the beginning, actually,

Because Ron still has the smallest scar where the queen smashed him into the floor. That is a mark for life, but it's not a grudge that is palpable today: it's not something he will regret afterward, and he walked into this with his eyes more open than they'd ever been. It's a lesson he learned once, it's a button he buttoned twice, a stich he sewed through like the new one in his side, how hard it is to breathe with blood dripping from your nose. And he has practise letting things go, he has practise

Because Ron doesn't hate Percy, not really -- not as thoroughly as he pretended at first, and not with all the words father taught him, regretting a son that wasn't his son, a brother that for some time wasn't his brother, not really. And that's how it goes: sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't, and it's black or white, you have to choose. It's a moment where he knows that must be true: he's made the choice himself, hasn't he, everyone knows it's

Because Ron is in love. Ron woke up today because there are two people he can't stop feeling ten thousand things for, and he remembers how to fight because of it, two people he thinks he wants to be with forever -- and maybe one in the bed, the other waiting to hear about it, and maybe all three of them will go on thinking grand things together. Maybe they'll get married and never forget what it's like to be young together, to be real together. Maybe it's something Ron won't have to question ever again: an object to own, an object he's paid for in years of shame and no shame in it, remembering Harry, remembering what it's like to be friends with someone like Harry. It's inevitable that Ron would be in love, and Merlin isn't it true -- inevitable. Whatever the sizes of teeth and feet and whatever color of the eyes, whatever evil they stare down the edge of a wand, whatever difference it could ever make that he is still standing and something horrible is happening. It's inevitable

Because Ron gave up for one moment. He gave up for one moment because he is that part of their equation, he is that corner of the triangle and now this is where it's turned up -- the time he lost -- the time he could have spent throwing one more punch, spending one more second in the DA with Finnigan as a dueling partner. It's like what that teacher said about an inch of gold and an inch of light -- can't buy both of them, but now his hands are empty and he says "fuck off, malfoy" -- he says "fuck you, you coward" and it makes both of them laugh because that's not an option, is it. no longer an option to be a coward about anything, Merlin, and yes: it makes him laugh one harsh little sound, and Malfoy sputters a rolling sort of glee, a kind of mad relief

Because Ron wasn't supposed to be here anyway, in that book. In that book he should have been dead a long time ago,

Because Ron is not Harry, and Ron is not Hermione, and

Because Ron can't remember what he's supposed to do now, he can't remember what they taught him, he doesn't remember yesterday or even this morning when he last spoke comfortably -- the last time he didn't scream -- and he doesn't remember where Harry was, where Harry was or if he's dead, if that's his own fault, if this is all something he deserves. Ron looks at Malfoy and he thinks about what it means to be looking at Malfoy, what it means to have said fuck off one last time -- one last time to a snake in expensive robes and himself that ripped sweater with the wrong initial on it, of course, of course -- it's going to be this way, it has to be this way, it's over. Ron looks at Malfoy and he wipes the corner of his eye. He spits on the ground and he thinks hard and he thinks slow and when Ron stops thinking it's one thing, when Ron stops looking, when Ron stops forgetting and Ron stops wondering if he's in love, and when Ron stops imagining that it could stop before the moment -- that this could go on forever -- when Ron stops doing anything at all, it's

Because Ron dies