Grief Like Fear
by Dream Painter

Summary: When tragedy befalls Ron, he finds himself drowning in grief and unable to face his friends. But help can come from unlikely sources; and he isn't the only one who knows a thing or two about loss...

Story Notes: AU, basic canon through end of third year; will contain mass character death, self-harm, adoption, and language

Author's Note: As a writer, I seldom feel any guilt for that which I put my characters (or, rather, the ones that I borrow) through. That said, this – this has me feeling horribly guilty and cruel and sadistic right from the onset. And all just so I can write a fic.

I've warned you in the Story Notes and I will warn you again: Mass Character Death! And before the story even begins – good, innocent people who didn't need to die, except it was the way I chose to set up this story. Those who are faint of heart, turn back now. You've been warned.

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." - C.S. Lewis


"Does he really have no one, Albus?" the woman asked quietly.

The old wizard shook his head. "Nearly all his family were gathered together for his parents' anniversary, and his great-aunt is unable to care for the boy." His eyes, for once entirely void of their frequent twinkle, rested on the youth sitting a short distance away, staring expressionlessly into the barren fireplace. Minerva McGonagall, on the other hand, couldn't bear to witness his grief-induced numbness.

"There have been rumors of former Death Eater activity," she murmured, "attacks against muggleborns and marked blood traitors, but this – Albus, what about..?"

"I have contacted both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. We will not be having the Tournament next school year. After this, it just wouldn't be wise."

"Nor in good taste," Minerva agreed, finally turning her gaze on the boy. "What are we going to do with him?"

"I think the best thing would be to take him back to Hogwarts, Minerva, away from all this," Dumbledore replied. "There should be no reason why he can't stay in his dormitory for the rest of the summer. I do want Poppy to put him on a Watch, though."

"A Watch? Albus, surely you don't think the boy would-would..."

"Minerva, he has lost his entire family in one fell swoop, and I would think that he wasn't meant to be absent from the house at the time it happened. It's the perfect recipe for Survivor's Guilt, wouldn't you say?"

Studying the boy, Minerva nodded slowly.

"I'll leave you to bring him along when you feel he's ready," Albus told her. "Meanwhile, I shall go and speak with the rest of the staff."

"Very well, Albus. I'll bring him shortly."

"Take your time." The headmaster turned and left as the Transfiguration teacher approached the boy sitting in a broken chair, gently laying a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her with such despair in his eyes, that she had to struggle to keep from weeping for him that very moment. For several seconds, she simply stood there, wishing to convey her condolences but knowing that words could never be enough.

"Mr. Weasley... Ron," she finally spoke, her voice soft, "come, I'm taking you to stay at Hogwarts."

Managing a barely perceptible nod, the redhead rose to his feet. He glanced once more around the last standing room of his ruined home, numbly noting that his younger sister's textbook was still open from when she'd been studying that morning. Drawing in a trembling breath, he headed out the door.

They were gone.

To be continued...