Because of Me

I'd never been to a wizard's funeral before, and I was rather surprised to find that it was basically like a regular Muggle funeral for the most part. Not that I was paying much attention to the people who were speaking and offering kind words of hope. No, my mind was elsewhere.

It was on Ron.

Ron Weasley was the first real friend I had ever made. We had met over seven years ago on the train that was taking us to our first day at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he had remained my best friend through all seven years of education. He was the one person I could always count on no matter what. He never judged me or questioned me when I made up my mind to do something. No, he always just accepted me for who I was. He liked me for the person I was- not because I was "famous Harry Potter." Ron was always there when I needed him, and he was the bravest person I could ever have hoped to know.

But now he was gone.


Because of me.

I could distantly hear someone saying how unfair it was that Ron's life was cut so short and how, at eighteen, Ron was more of a man than many people could ever dream of being. I didn't care to listen closely because I already knew all of what they were saying. I tried not to think of anything, not to see anything, and not to hear anything.

But it was useless.

I could hear sobbing coming somewhere from my left, and I tried my best not to notice. Yes, it was selfish, but I didn't think I could handle seeing her cry. Against my own will, I slowly turned my head in that direction and looked at the sea of red hair my gaze was met with. And there was Mrs. Weasley crying uncontrollably with her husband on one side of her and her son Charlie on the other. Both men were trying desperately to calm her, but it was to no avail. She was beyond condolence. She looked as though she was being tortured, and I supposed that by losing her youngest son she really was being tortured. Her baby boy was dead.

Because of me.

Once again, I tried to avert my gaze because seeing her like that was just too much for me. I couldn't, though, and I was forced to take in the rest of family as well. Mr. Weasley was holding his wife and trying his best to comfort her, but there were distinct tears glistening in the corner of his eyes. Charlie was doing his best to be brave and a type of support for his mother, not unlike the third Weasley child, Percy. The oldest Weasley child, Bill, was sitting with his arm around the youngest.


God, I couldn't take this. She looked worse perhaps than their mother did, but she wasn't making nearly as much noise. She was crying desperately, yes, but in small, staggered sobs. She had her head in her hands and was refusing to look up, despite her brother's attempt at comfort. I felt so bad for her. Ron and Ginny were the closest in age of any of the Weasley children, except, of course, the identical twins Fred and George. Ron used to tell me stories of the closeness that he and Ginny had shared when they were smaller and all of their siblings were already away at school. Eleven months was all that separated them in age, and this closeness in age gave them a sense of unity to each other. They had been the other's best friend until they had each started school and gotten their own separate groups of friends. They had grown apart a bit, but it was obvious that they still shared a very deep bond.

When I looked past Ginny and saw the twins, I was finally able to look away. Never in the seven years that I had known the two of them had I ever seen either of them cry. They were always laughing and joking and causing some sort of mischief, but on that day, their laughter had been silenced, and they were each crying quietly, no sign of any type of joy on their faces.

I wanted to die right then. All eight of the remaining Weasleys were grieving terribly, and it was all my fault! This was the family that had taken me in almost as one of their own and given me the love that my own family had not, and how did I repay them? I got their youngest boy killed. The Weasleys were grieving, and Ron was dead.

Because of me.

I shook my head at the irony of the whole situation. How ironic was it that Ron Weasley, the boy doomed to be second-best since the day he was born into a family of five older brothers and even more so on the day he decided to befriend the most famous wizard of his age, turned out to be the best of them all? Ron really was the best. He always had been. I knew it, but no one else did. How could anyone notice him with five older Weasley boys going before him and doing all the things they did? A Quidditch captain, two Head Boys, and two ingeniously funny pranksters whom everyone adored? Ron made okay marks in school, but he wasn't anywhere close to being named Head Boy or even Prefect. He had made the Quidditch team in his fifth year, but no one really considered him a hero when all the other members had been on the team for years. He was quite funny sometimes, but he didn't have the great mind, or maybe he just didn't have the motivation, to spend his time inventing hilarious pranks like the twins did. He was just Ron. The youngest Weasley boy who never once in his life had anything his brothers hadn't. I saw past all this, of course, and I knew that Ron was much more than his brothers could ever dream of being. But who was I to say this when it was me who had really sealed his fate of being second best in school?

Everyone in school knew Ron, but they knew him as "Ron Weasley- Harry Potter's best friend." Yes, he was my best friend. But I always hated the fact that he got stuck with that title. I was famous, of course, for something I really couldn't even take credit for, but still, I was regaled as a hero. I couldn't help it. I couldn't change it. If it were up to me, I would have gladly given up all my fame or given it to Ron. It was what he always wanted. He always wanted to be the hero. He always wanted to do something that would set him apart from his brothers and from me. Honestly, I don't know if I would have been able to deal with being Ron. Wherever we went, people flocked after me and gawked at the stupid scar on my forehead, and often times, people didn't even seem to notice that Ron was there. And yet, he put up with it. I knew he got jealous sometimes, but Ron always just accepted it. There was that time in our fourth year when he had gotten so jealous that he hadn't been able to hold it inside any longer, but so much had happened since then that those weeks hardly even seemed significant at all. Aside from those weeks, he never mentioned it at all. He didn't complain that no one noticed him. He just dealt with it by himself. I knew it must have been hard for him, but there really wasn't anything I could do to change it.

But that's where the real irony came into play.

Ron's greatest desire was to be a hero of some sort and make a name for himself. A name that wasn't "the youngest Weasley boy" or "Harry Potter's best friend." He wanted to be known for something that was entirely his and his alone.

And now he was.

Ron Weasley was now the greatest hero in the wizarding world, and he didn't even know it. Of course, he didn't know it. He was dead.

Because of me.

He had saved my life and given his own. How could anything that I had ever done or anything that any of his brothers had ever done compete with that? He had sacrificed himself to save another person. To save me.

Just like my mother did seventeen years before him.

We had just graduated from Hogwarts only two months before, and we should have been having the time of our lives. But we weren't. There was a war going on all around us, and much to our chagrin, we were right in the center of it. Ron was, as he always was, willing to do everything he could to help me. I had been battling with Voldemort for the past three years, and he was gaining more and more power all the time. I couldn't destroy him, but somehow I managed to keep him from destroying me. Ron was always there to help. That was Ron Weasley- always there when you needed him. Two months after graduation, we found ourselves cornered by a group of Death Eaters. How many times had we been in this situation before? It was becoming too many times to count, but I was still terrified. I knew that Ron was scared, too, because despite his abnormal bravery, he still had normal emotions, and fear was one of those. It was different this time, though; the Death Eaters had stripped us of our wands and were taking us straight to Voldemort himself. It was there that Ron had done it. He had forced himself in front of me and given his life for me. Voldemort had turned his wand on Ron and yelled the words I had been having nightmares about for years: "Avada Kedavra!" There was a brilliant flash of green light, and I knew what was happening. I was too stunned to even scream, but I knew at once that Ron was dead.

Because of me.

However, Voldemort was dead, too. For some reason, killing Ron had completely destroyed Voldemort. Ron had destroyed Voldemort. Ron was the hero. The dead hero.

And yet, I, "the boy who lived," was still living. And the real hero was dead, never knowing what he had accomplished. Never once hearing himself referred to as "Ron Weasley- the greatest hero of his time."

God, I suddenly realized I wasn't breathing correctly. There was a horrible tugging feeling at the back of my throat, and my eyes were burning horribly. I was about to cry. For the first time since Ron had died, I was about to cry. Oh, who cared? I was only human. Supposed hero or not, I was entitled to cry, right?


I very quickly became aware of the person directly on my right, and I knew that I couldn't cry. Not in front of her.

Hermione Granger.

She was my other best friend- the cleverest, brightest, most intelligent witch of our age. Of course, to me she was much more than this.

And to Ron, she was the entire world.

They had started out as bickering children, but through the years, they had grown to like and eventually to love each other. I, along with everyone else in our school, had known they were meant for each other for ages before either of them realized it. They refused to see what was right in front of their eyes for a long while, but eventually they came around. It was sometime near the middle of our sixth year when things had changed between them. Since that day, though, they were inseparable.

They were in love.

I admit that I was jealous at first. It was stupid and petty of me, but I didn't have any clue as to how to react to the major change taking place. Of course, I had known that they liked each other for a long time, but when it had actually happened and I was finally being faced with it, I was completely lost. We were still best friends- all three of us. But things weren't the same anymore. They started spending more time alone together, and I was left out most of the time. When the three of us actually were all together, things were different as well. We could be doing something as seemingly normal as working on our homework or playing Wizard's Chess, but these things weren't even normal anymore. Was it normal for us to be in the library and for me to suddenly find myself staring at the two of them kissing? Was it normal for us to be discussing our hatred of Snape and then suddenly have the conversation somehow switch to an exchange of "I love yous" between Ron and Hermione? Of course not. But I had grown used to it. And I even had to admit that the two of them were insanely right together- sickening sometimes, but completely right.

They had been together for a year and a half. And now Ron was dead. And Hermione was alone.

No one but Ron and myself knew that he had a huge surprise planned for her eighteenth birthday. It was only three weeks away when he had gotten killed, and perhaps this added more poison to the knife in a sense. He had never gotten to give her the huge surprise he had been planning for months, and she had never gotten to receive it. I could hardly believe how unfair it was for both of them. They never even got their chance.

Ron was going to propose to her on the night she turned eighteen at the beginning September. He was going to ask her to be his wife. He was going to ask her to spend the rest of her life with him. The rest of her life, though, was doomed to be spent without him. Because he had died only three weeks before he was going to ask her the most important question either of them would ever be faced with.

And it was all because of me.

I wanted to kill myself. They were my best friends for Christ's sake! How could I let this happen to them? How could I rip him out of her life for good? How could I destroy any chance that they had of being happy? How could I take away from Hermione all hope for the perfect little redheaded family of children I knew she desperately wanted? How could I do this to them?

I should be the one that was lying dead in that casket! I was so angry! Angry with Voldemort for killing the best friend I had ever known. Angry at the Fates who had given Ron what he had always wanted in the most cruel way possible. But most of all, angry with myself for being the cause of it all!

It took everything that I had in me to look at Hermione then. I had to literally force my head to the right to glimpse her. I immediately wished I hadn't.

She wasn't crying. No, she had cried herself dry during the days in between Ron's death and the actual funeral. I wasn't surprised that she didn't have any tears left in her. I cringed remembering her reaction to the news that Ron, the only man she had ever loved, was dead.

I don't really remembering many of the details that immediately followed Ron's death, but I know that somehow I ended up at Hermione's parents' house. Word had already been sent to the Weasleys, but I knew that I needed to be the one to tell Hermione. And so I had gone to her. Her mother had answered the door and let me in. I vaguely remembering asking if Hermione was there, and I know that I ended up at her bedroom door. She had looked so happy to see me then. Her arms had flown immediately around my neck as she exclaimed how happy and relieved she was that everything had gone alright and that we were safe.

We. There was no we anymore.

I suppose she must have noticed my lack of response because she pulled back a bit and looked me in the eye. Or at least she tried to; I was looking somewhere far over her shoulder, almost as if into another world. She asked me what was wrong. I remained silent. Growing more panicky, she asked me where Ron was. Hearing his name brought me out of whatever daze I was in, and I looked into her eyes for the first time that night. I didn't know of any easy way to tell her, so I had just told her. Ron was dead.

The main thing I remember after that was the slap that had come across my face as soon as the words were spoken. Hermione called me a bastard and demanded to know why I was joking about things this serious. I couldn't speak. I just looked at her and shook my head solemnly and silently. How I wished that it was all a joke. But it wasn't. Ron really was dead.

Hermione had stared at me in disbelief, and I distinctly remembered the mix of emotions covering her face all at once. Her anger at me had suddenly changed to shock, and the shock quickly transformed itself into horror, and then all at once the horror had changed into agony. She hadn't cried immediately. No, she had stared at me, biting her lower lip and her eyes searching mine frantically as though begging me to tell her that it really was a joke. I still couldn't find my voice, so I had closed my eyes and shook my head once more. When I opened my eyes again, I saw that she looked as though she were about to faint. In fact, I was nearly positive that she really was going to hit the floor at any moment, so I had reached out to her. She had refused me, turning away from me and suddenly letting out the most horrible scream I had ever heard in my life. I couldn't bear to see her like this, but it only got worse from there. She all at once turned back to me, and I could barely comprehend that the look on her face was real. It was a horrible look- one that was a mix of anger and pain. She started cursing me again, telling me that it wasn't true, and that she hated me for lying to her like this. I didn't know what to do. I ducked, narrowly missing the Muggle lamp she had suddenly hurled at me. I heard it shatter against the wall behind me as I watched her in horror. I think the sound of the breaking glass finally snapped her out of her rage, and she let me approach her. I tried to comfort her, to put an arm around her, to let her know that I was there for her, but it didn't matter. She didn't even notice that I was there. She was all at once in a heap on the floor, her body consumed in the wracking sobs that were taking over her body as her hands pulled furiously at the mess of brown curls on her head. I vaguely noticed her parents rushing in, but I couldn't answer their questions about what was wrong with their daughter. I couldn't see Hermione like this... Not after seeing Ron as I just had...

So, I had run away then.

I hadn't seen Hermione much in those few days following his death, and I had absolutely refused to go to the Burrow and face Ron's family. I know it was incredibly selfish, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't look them in the eye without wanting to kill myself.

But then again, I should be dead anyway. Not Ron. Me. I should be the one up there lying stone-cold in a bloody casket.

Hermione looked awful. Her usually rosy cheeks were now the palest of pale, and her brown eyes were sunken in so deeply that I almost thought they had disappeared completely. She didn't notice me looking at her. I could tell she didn't notice anything at that moment. Her face was set to the most solemn of expressions and she was looking straight ahead of her at something no one else could see. Her parents sat on the other side of her, but she didn't notice their presence anymore than she noticed mine. She looked almost dead inside, and the only thing I could even think of to compare it with was the time in our second year when she had been petrified. I was sure that a tornado could have ripped through the building, and she wouldn't even haven taken notice of it.

There was no life left in her at all.

I heard the same speaker who had earlier been praising Ron tell his family that they were about to close the lid on his casket. He told the family that, if they wished to, they could pay their final respects to the body. I looked over at the Weasleys and saw all eight of the immediate family rise slowly. Mrs. Weasley had to be steadied greatly by Charlie, and Ginny nearly had to be picked up from her chair by Bill. I also noticed some other redheaded people rising to. I could only assume that they were the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents I had heard so much about. The rest of us sat quietly as the Weasley family made their way back to the front where Ron's body was lying in an oak casket.

I barely noticed the man in front of me until he spoke quietly. "Please, join us." I looked up and noticed Mr. Arthur Weasley standing over me, a sad expression on his face. He gave me the smallest of smiles and said, "You two were as much of family as anyone to Ron," his gaze falling on Hermione.

I didn't know what to do. I was a coward, okay? Honestly, I had not even looked at Ron in his casket at all- even when all his other friends and family were paying their respects earlier. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want to see him like that. Wasn't it enough that I had seen him dead immediately after it had happened? Wasn't it enough that I wanted nothing more than to be the one lying there instead of him?

"Please?" Mr. Weasley was still looking at me expectantly. I glanced once more at Hermione, and, for the first time that day, she turned to meet my eyes. Without saying a word, she nodded very slowly and carefully at me.

I knew right then that I had no choice. I looked up to accept Mr. Weasley's offer but found that he had already joined his family at the end of the line again. I took as much time as possible getting out of my seat and turning back to Hermione. Silently, I offered my hand to her, and, much to my surprise, she took it and stood. At that moment, I felt just a bit better for some reason; I didn't know why. Together, we walked toward the Weasley family and joined them in line.

The aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents were all taking their seats again, and I knew that it was time for me to face everything. Still holding Hermione's hand, I approached the place where Ron lay as though I was approaching a sleeping snake. I felt Hermione's grasp tighten on my own hand, and I found comfort in this.

And then we were there.

I looked at him and was shocked at what I was seeing. I had expected some gruesome and horrific scene for some reason- perhaps because of the fact that I had seen him immediately following his death. But it wasn't like that at all. Ron looked rather happy and peaceful lying there as though he were in a deep sleep. It wasn't the horrible picture I had imagined, but it was even worse in a way. Seeing him look so peaceful and content made it seem as though he weren't really dead. He looked exactly like he always did when he was sleeping. We had spent seven years sleeping in beds right beside each other, and the Ron lying in front of me looked no different than the one who had lay in the bed beside mine for all those years. He even looked as though he were having a rather enjoyable dream. I found myself smiling at the memory of a very young Ron telling me that in his dreams he was always winning the World Quidditch Cup for the Chudley Cannons.

Was he dreaming of Quidditch now?

And then I cried. For the first time since his death, I allowed myself to cry. I didn't sob uncontrollably or cry in such a way that I needed support from another person to hold me up, but I cried. I could feel the hot liquid tears falling down my cheeks as I stared at the one person I knew I would miss more than all others.

Ron Weasley- the hero.

My hero.

This wasn't fair at all. He shouldn't be dead. He was too young. He had never gotten the chance to play Quidditch for the Chudley Cannons. He had never gotten the chance to be a partner in Fred and George's joke shop. He had never gotten the chance to make Hermione his bride. He had never gotten the chance to send his own children to Hogwarts. He had never gotten the chance to see his name added into any of the history books that his beloved girlfriend cherished so much. He had never gotten to do any of it.

Because of me.

He had given all of that up to save me. Why? I knew the answer, though. He did it because he was the bravest, most loyal person anyone could ever hope to know.

He did it because he was my best friend.

A house-elf's words popped into my head as I stared down at him lying there looking so peaceful.

"The thing Harry Potter will miss most..."

If I only I had known then how true the words were....

Suddenly, I became very aware that Hermione had once again lost herself. She had let go of my hand while my mind was wandering and reached down to grab Ron's. She had obviously found more tears to cry because she had slumped herself over the side of the casket and buried her head into Ron's lifeless chest, sobbing terribly. I didn't know what to do for her. I could see Mrs. Weasley out of the corner of my eye and noticed that seeing Hermione react so terribly was obviously having an effect on her as well, as she seemed to be crying even harder than before.

I reached for Hermione, and she let me guide her up from Ron's body. She turned to me and began sobbing into my shoulder, and I did the only thing I could do for her. I held her and comforted her, my own tears falling silently. I led her back to our chairs, and she immediately pressed her face into her father's chest and cried loudly. I turned my attention back to the Weasleys, not being able to look at Hermione in such pain for much longer. Percy, Fred, George, and Bill had all passed Ron's body solemnly and kept moving. Charlie and Mr. Weasley were still having to literally hold Mrs. Weasley up as she stood crying over her youngest son's lifeless body. Ginny was clinging to her mother's hand like a small child, and it reminded me of the way she had looked on her first day of Hogwarts- terrified as she had clung to her mother's hand then as well.

I turned away from them all, unable to bear it any longer. I saw other familiar faces sitting in the room around me; I hadn't bothered to look before. Many of our schoolmates were there, and so were many of our teachers. The headmaster of Hogwarts was there, and he met my eye. I felt better as he nodded at me reassuringly. I was shocked to see the strict and stern Professor McGonagall crying and wiping her eyes with a white handkerchief. Even Professor Snape was there; he wasn't crying, but he looked undoubtedly upset by the situation. Everyone was there. Even Draco Malfoy, who had recently forsaken his father and refused his secured position as a Death Eater after graduation, causing himself to be disowned. Seeing everyone there to mourn Ron only made me feel worse, though. They were all there to pay their respects to Ron who was now dead. Dead.

Because of me.

I'm not sure when the service ended, but I do know that somehow I ended up outside alone with Hermione. She had stopped crying and was now back to her near-petrified state.

"Why did this happen?" she asked me suddenly, after a very long silence shared between us.

I shook my head. If only I knew. I wanted nothing more than to answer her questions, but I didn't have a clue as to how I was supposed to do this. "I don't know, Hermione." I looked at her, and she looked back. I was glad to see that she had calmed a bit.

"I'm sorry I was so awful to you when you told..." Her voice drifted away, but I didn't need to hear her apology.

"Don't!" I told her threateningly. "Don't you dare apologize to me for anything. This is all my fault."

"No," she shook her head. "No, Harry, none of this is your fault."

Now that I was talking about it, I had no choice but to let it out. "Yes, it is. Ron died because I was too bloody incapable of taking care of myself! The same way my mother died! Hermione, this is all my fault!" I didn't realize that I was yelling a bit louder than I expected to.

Hermione reached out and soothingly put a hand on my shoulder. I immediately felt guilty because I should have been the one comforting her- not the other way around. "Harry, please. Please, don't do this."

I shrugged away from her. "It's the honest truth," I muttered. "I should be the one that's dead. I wish I was."

Hermione put both of her hands on my shoulder and whipped me back around to face her. "Don't you dare say that! Ron did what he did for a reason, Harry! Why can't you realize that? He did this all because he cared about you!" Her hard gaze was making me feel incredibly guilty for being so selfish.

Hermione always had a way of making me realize I was being stupid. She had a way of doing that with everyone, actually. "Please don't hate me," I said very quietly. I could feel my lip quivering, threatening to cry again.

As soon as I had said this, Hermione's eyes filled with tears and she pulled me into a comforting hug. I think it was as welcome for her as it was for me. We were able to find condolence in each other, and I was happy about this. Being in her arms like this made me feel ten times better than I had just moments before.

"I'm so sorry," I whispered as I felt tears fill my own eyes. I was taller than Hermione by only three inches, so it was easy for me to bury my face into her hair and cry there.

Hermione didn't speak, and I could tell she just needed to be held as much as I did. We stayed like that for a long time. I have no idea how long it was before we finally pulled away from each other, and I realized that there was at least one thing I could do for her. Reaching into the pocket of my jacket, I realized that it was still there. I had been wearing the same jacket the night Ron had given it to me for safekeeping; he never was much good at keeping up with things.

"Hermione," I looked down into her cinnamon colored eyes which were so heavy with sorrow at the moment, "I have something for you."

She glanced back up at me questioningly, but she didn't say anything.

"Ron was going to give it to you on your birthday," I tried to explain as best as I could. "He asked me to hold it..."

"What is it?" she asked quietly.

I took a deep breath and reached into my pocket once again. Pulling out the tiny box, I presented it to her warily. Hermione looked at it carefully before reaching for it slowly. She swallowed, her breath getting shorter, as she slowly opened the box and peered at it. She was silent and motionless for a long moment before her tears started flowing again.

Inside the box was a beautiful white gold ring with a princess cut diamond in the center surrounded by five smaller diamonds. Ron knew that Hermione wanted a traditional Muggle engagement ring and wedding, and he had used his entire savings in order to buy this ring. It was perfect.

I watched Hermione as she cried quietly, staring at the ring in awe. I spoke softly. "He was going to propose to you on your birthday..." I wasn't sure what else to say. "He would have wanted me to give it to you..."

Still not looking up from the ring, Hermione whispered her thanks to me. "You have no idea what this means."

I couldn't imagine what it must have been like for her to hear that Ron would have been proposing in only a couple of weeks time if things had gone differently. I knew that she wanted nothing more in the world than to be his wife and have a huge family filled with tons of redheaded children. Ron wanted that, too. I wanted that for them. They would have been so happy together. I found that picturing their wedding was just a bit too easy, as well. Ginny would have been the Maid of Honor, and I would have been the Best Man. Everything would have been perfect. Hermione would have had her hair straightened and pulled up into an elegant bun with a gorgeous veil flowing down the back of her beautiful, yet conservative, gown. Ron would have been a mess of nerves and wouldn't have been able to make his hands work well enough to tie his necktie. His face would have been flushed and red from his nervousness. Mrs. Weasley would have been crying that her baby boy was getting married. Mr. Weasley would have spent the last few hours before the wedding, trying to give Ron advice that would accomplish nothing except embarrassing the both of them. Hermione's parents would been happy that their little girl was in love; they weren't the crying type. Ginny would be yelling orders at anyone who would listen, and she would have found her brother right before the wedding and threatened to do him bodily harm if he ever in any way hurt Hermione. The twins would undoubtedly have tried to do something that would make the wedding memorable for other reasons beside the obvious marriage. I would have sat back and watched it all in quite an amused fashion. It really would have been perfect.

Hermione was still crying as she lifted the ring out of the box and slipped it onto the same finger Ron would have slipped it only a few weeks later. She gazed down at it for a long moment and then looked back up at me. "Thank you."

I nodded slightly. "He really loved you. You know that, right?" I remembered the one time Ron had poured his heart out to me about his feelings for Hermione. It had been the night after he had given me the ring to hold. I couldn't comprehend it then, but I slowly understood. He had told me, in a very unlike-Ron way, that Hermione was the one thing in his life that made sense. He had said that being with her was what made getting up in the mornings so easy and going to bed at night so hard. He said that he couldn't bear to be apart from her and that the only way he would ever be truly happy was when he had her beside him all through the day and all through the night. And that was why he couldn't wait to marry her. That was why he couldn't wait to start their life together.

Hermione smiled just a tiny bit when I said that. She nodded faintly. "I loved him, too. I'll always love him." She glanced back down at the ring. "I don't know what I'm going to do..."

Out of pure instinct, I reached for her hand and noted how strange it felt now that it was adorned with the ring. "I'll always be here for you, Hermione. I promise."

She nodded, looking down. "But we'll get through it, Harry. Ron would have wanted us to get through this."

She was right. Ron would never in a million years have wanted us to mourn him forever. He would have wanted us to move on with our lives and keep living. "I'm sorry that you'll never get the life you wanted. I'm so sorry..."

Hermione looked me right in the eye then. "Harry, it's not your fault. Ron did what he did because he had to. He did it because you're his best friend. He died because he was being noble. Harry, he didn't die because of you."

Because of me...

Maybe she was right. If she was, I hoped that in time I would come to realize it and forgive myself. It would take time, but I was prepared to try. I was now determined to keep living and make Ron proud. But God, I was going to miss him.

But I felt a bit better knowing that Ron Weasley was no longer the man beside the hero.

He was the hero.