5 Lies Ron Weasley Told Himself
I wish I was an only child
She isn't pretty
She loves him best
I will protect them
I am not afraid to die
"Charlie! 'Scuze me, dear, I meant Fre- err, Geor- oh, whoever you are just come here please!"
"Ron, Mum. My name is Ron."
"I know your name, Ronald," Mrs. Weasley says, handing her youngest son a pile of folded clothes. "Be a good boy and run those up to your brothers, will you? They should nearly be packed by now."
"Mum," Ron begins, his voice muffled through the stack of jumpers that reaches his nose, "can I go to Hogwarts tomorrow, too?"
Mrs. Weasley piles more clothes into Ron's arms. While she works she tells him, "Now you know we need you here at home to help take care of your sister."
"But that's not fair!"
The clothes teeter dangerously.
"I thought I said to run along and give those to your brothers." Mrs. Weasley tells him, giving him a stern look that means there is no more discussing the subject.
"'M not a house elf, Mum." Ron mumbles moodily.
"What was that?"
Ron turns in a huff and makes it to the top of the stairs when he hears his mum calling after him; "And you make sure they take care of those jumpers, because they'll be yours one day."
"Of course." he hisses through his teeth, his anger building with each step. "Sometimes I wish-"
"Hm? Don't mumble, dear."
He turns and bellows "I wish I was an only child!" in the loudest voice he can manage, partly so she knows he isn't mumbling, and also just to see if anyone would actually hear him for once.
"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!" she shouts, and he spins on his heel and races up the stairs, trailing jumpers behind him, a grin spreading across his face.
She remembered his name.
So it's a dress.
That's all, really. Just a blue dress that his best friend is wearing. Nothing strange about that. It's not like it matters.
Well, maybe the way it sweeps across the steps as she moves matters a little. But only because he's afraid she'll trip.
And her hair. It's fine, he supposes. Different. Especially the way it coils up onto the back of her neck... And her cheeks; faint pink like she's been in the sun too long, and her smile; a little too silly to belong to the girl he knows, and her waist tied with a sash, and the small part of her back with that huge Bulgarian hand resting on it...
This girl, she looks nice. But she isn't pretty. She's too different from his Hermione.
Not that Hermione is pretty. Or his, for that matter. Only, he likes her best when she isn't all dressed up.
He likes the way her laugh puffs out into the cold air at Hogsmead, how she throws her head back and just shakes. He likes the bump in her knuckle from where it connected with Malfoy's nose. He likes the scrunched face she makes when she's finally agreeing to let him copy homework, and when her hair is braided back and he can see all of her face. She's got a nice face, even when she's scared and her eyebrows sink down and her mouth tightens up. She does that- puts on that serious look when she's really scared, he knows because-
"Harry! Ron!" Hermione spins over to their table, breathless. She smiles that loose grin that he isn't used to, and his eyes slide down her bare arm and find the familiar knot on her fist. He watches her talk animatedly with Harry and notices that he can see all of her face. When she laughs it's a high giggle, and her head stays on straight and her mouth is too wide- it's sort of goofy, really. But her cheeks, they're pink like they get when it's cold outside, and he tilts his head and puts quite a bit of effort into recognizing her.
Under all that powder is the real Hermione, the one he knows, the one he likes much better.
But of course, this girl is nice. Lovely, even. She isn't pretty, though. She's his best friend! Well, sometimes, when she isn't off dancing with some buffoon from- but it's not like it matters.
Well, maybe it matters a little.
Ron watches them from the window.
It's cold out, a kind of watch-my-arm-freeze-then-fall-off-at-the-elbow-and-shatter chill that makes his whole situation seem even lonelier. They don't notice he's outside. They don't even seem worried.
They talk over warm mugs of tea. Ron can see the steam rising, and he imagines how it would feel hitting his face. The cold seems even harsher now.
He heaves a great sigh that bursts from his mouth and into the air around him. It doesn't make a sound.
They are framed by the frost on the window pane. A picture of contentment. Harry with his round glasses and his I'm-an-orphan stare, all that fame and his skill and his bravery. He talks to her in that awkward way he has, and she stares only at him. Ron frowns into the glass. She loves Harry. Who wouldn't?
Her with her sensibility, her nurturing side that comes out when she's not so busy nagging at them all the time. The way she looks at Harry makes jealousy beat in his ribcage; a mixture of sympathy and admiration for The Boy Who Lived.
Ron knows that she loves Harry. But she loves him, too- she has to. Still, it's different. He feels like she loves Harry more. That she loves him best. Ron can't blame her; after all, it is Harry Potter.
And what is he? The Boy Who Stands Out In The Cold. The Boy Who Is Not As Smart As His Brothers.
The boy who is Harry's best friend.
Harry says something and a laugh bubbles out of her; Ron doesn't need to hear it to know. His smile stretches and they're both laughing, hands curled around their tea cups. Harry's eyes grow misty rather fast, but Ron doesn't see anything but her arms reaching across the table and circling around his shoulders. Without thinking he races around the house to the door and throws it open, plunging himself into the warm kitchen.
Mrs. Weasley pulls back from a tearful Harry to look at her youngest son. "Yes, dear?"
"We have to go with him."
"Mm." Ron says. He doesn't trust his voice.
"I mean, he'll need us. Of course he will." Hermione stands from where she was perched on the edge of Ron's bed, circles the room, and sits right back in the same spot. "He's crazy to think he can do this alone."
"But he'll try, don't you think?" Ron mulls this over as Hermione wrings her hands. "And we shouldn't just let him go, don't you think? When he tries, I mean, because you know he will- we shouldn't just let him leave. We can't."
Ron pauses, eyes trained on his bedspread.
"Wouldn't you say?"
Ron remains silent.
"We can't!" she repeats, and her voice cracks.
"Are you finished, then?"
Hermione's head snaps up at Ron's blunt question, and she is back on her feet pacing the room. "You're joking? This is the most important decision we will ever make, and you're joking? Honestly, Ron."
"I've already made my decision."
"Oh, is that so!" Her eyes cut into him, and he looks at his large feet.
She sits on the bed numbly and presses her face to her knees. "I know." It's quiet and muffled, but Ron hears her.
"Look, we need to stick together. That's the most important thing. I made a promise-"
Hermione raises her head. "To who?"
"Just myself." Ron says carefully. He thinks back a few weeks to a time when he was standing over the coffin of a man his own father respected above all others. A man who had kept his friends safe for six years. If he, a man far greater than anyone Ron knew, could die, then what was to stop death from overtaking a few kids?
Without Dumbledore, who was going to protect them?
But he had always known the answer. Harry was the Chosen One, and Hermione was the Bright One... and he, well, he could be the Brave One. He could try.
I will protect them. No matter what, I promise. I will never leave them.
And Ron reckons he'll never have to tell them because he doesn't ever count on living through this war, and a grave always tells the truth.
There is a moment during the battle at Hogwarts in which Ron's brain takes a time-out from the chaos and asks the entirely logical question of what is the worst that could happen?
Then a voice answers you could die.
He is cold and wet and exhausted in every way, and he feels like falling to his knees and laughing at himself for doing all of this just so he won't die. Honestly, he thinks it would just be like one big nap, and after the year he's had he knows he deserves a nap.
But, because he doesn't quite know how to do any differently, he just keeps running (only now it's like a big game called Open-The-Chamber-And-Destroy-The-Horcruxes-So-You-Can-Maybe-Save-The-World, and it's almost fun, like chess). He can see Hermione looking at him like he's brave, and it makes him want to laugh even more, but he doesn't because she'll think he's insane.
Inside the Chamber she takes his hand and his reassuring smile has a trickle of sadness in it. A hand in his own, Ron thinks perhaps it would be rather sad to die. I would miss some things, maybe.
But the thought is erased when Hermione drops his hand to pick up a pointy fang and an explosion is heard from above. Ron lets go of hope willingly; he decides in war there is too much at risk for the sane.
As they leave the Chamber and enter the fray a sense of peace follows Ron, and it's a nice contrast. His arms are full of poison and weapons and he runs through the corridors and thinks about all of the things he's never fully appreciated; he'll at least want something to dream about during the long nap the world has promised for him.
A life of being the good guy, fighting the bad guy, dying for his friends- that should warrant some good dreams, right?
Harry's face comes into view, and Ron looks between his two tattered friends and smiles, actually smiles, before a sharp pang shoots right through his chest. The thought that he just got hit with a spell flickers through his mind before he realizes the jolt was only his heart reacting to what his mind told him was the last time he'd be seeing those faces.
I am not afraid to die he stubbornly tells himself, and a voice answers you are.
But Ron doesn't want to be afraid; he doesn't want to leave this carefree place in his mind. He looks at Hermione and tries to memorize something about her, and the only thing her determined face can make him rest on is S.P.E.W.
Ron almost laughs at how absurd it is to spend his last few moments thinking of house elves, but he remembers Dobby and decides if he has to die today, he doesn't want anything else dying for him. He voices this, and in the flash of a second her lips crash onto his.
And suddenly there's so much more to live for.
I would miss some things, maybe.
The really funny thing about a lie is, as Ron Weasley would tell you, they have this nasty habit of coming true.
"My boy. My boy," comes Arthur Weasley's moaning voice, and Ron belatedly realizes that his dad is standing over Fred's grave but calling to him.
"I'm right here, Dad," he croaks, and watches with great difficulty as his father flinches at the word.
Arthur's hand finds Ron's shoulder, and his grip is terribly strong. Ron notices that he doesn't particularly mind the physical pain. He hangs his head, but snaps it up again; he can't bear to look at the flowers laid out across the grass and the name carved into the stone. As if Fred would have ever wanted anyone bringing him flowers.
"How did you find me?" Arthur asks, not looking up.
A pause, and Arthur Weasley almost smiles.
"It's the anniversary." Ron mentions casually.
"Oh." he says.
Another silence, followed by "How is George taking it?"
"Well, he's stopped talking to mirrors." Ron quips. When his father doesn't laugh, he continues in a softer tone. "Not so great. Mum called him Fred this morning."
"Said the blind man." Ron adds, and this time a smile breaks onto Arthur's face. Fred always said that.
"Listen," Arthur starts, a desperate look on his face. "Maybe you should think about staying at home for a while. Your bedroom isn't going anywhere, and it would do your mother some good to have you-"
"Dad." It's all that needs to be said for Ron to realize he's seeing his father in a rare moment of weakness.
A heavy sigh. "I know. You need to be where they are, Harry and-" he lingers on this last word, "Hermione. It would just... be nice. To have you close by, where I know you're..."
He nods. Ron shifts from foot to foot, uncomfortable having this conversation so close to the wound. But he needed his father to understand; after what happened, Ron understands that the scariest thing isn't his own mortality, but that of those he loves. "You don't need to be afraid, Dad. I'm not. I'm not afraid to die. Not anymore." (Not after this)
He nods again. "Of course not." he says, startling Ron. "Fred will be there."
The year Hugo turns ten Ron finally loses it in front of the kids.
Hermione supposes she should have expected it. It was only a matter of time.
They were in the Forest of Dean just finishing up their annual trip, just the four of them and the children. It had become an unspoken tradition after the war, a sort of place where hope picked back up and forgiveness sat on every branch and fell with each leaf.
This particular year was the last before Hugo was off to Hogwarts with the rest of the boys and, a bit desperate to fit in, he agreed to a dare posed by James: jump in the the pond, butt naked, in the middle of the night.
It was a harmless dare. Not dangerous, really, when a locket wasn't trying to choke you and temperatures weren't threatening to freeze you to death. It was all in good fun. So, being like his Uncle Harry in many ways (always on the lookout for a good adventure) and much more like his father in every other way (I've got to live up to all these boys before me) Hugo stripped down and ran through the woods, prepared to jump in and get out without waking any of the adults- or girls- up.
James and Albus tagged along, the former sniggering and the latter glancing nervously around in the dark. Hugo dived in and dunked his head in the water, opening his eyes to peer about. As silently as he could Hugo swam under the surface of the black water until he came upon the pebbly edge. He popped up, momentarily forgetting about the secrecy of the mission and letting out a wild banshee yell that made Albus go weak in the knees. Hugo seized the opportunity to grab Albus's ankles and yank him into the water.
James let out a roar of laughter and was in the business of dodging splashes when a shout of "WHAT IS GOING ON?" made him freeze and a pair of strong arms pushed him out of the way.
"Dad-" Hugo barely choked out before Ron plunged into the pond and proceeded to grab each of the boys and haul them to the edge. Albus was sputtering out the water that flooded his mouth when Ron had leapt in, and Hugo was hosting a competition between his face and his hair to see which could end up redder.
By the time Ron had dragged the two dripping boys to land the noise had woken the rest of the family, and they all rushed toward the pond. Harry broke into a run.
"Dad, Dad, don't- I'm naked!" Hugo shrieked and Ron tried to lay him on the ground. At these words Hermione instantly whipped her wand around and muttered accio towel.
"Well put some bloody shorts on then!" Ron shouted back, scandalized. Hermione tossed Hugo the towel and dropped to her knees to comfort him, but he only shoved her off.
"Ron, please, the children-" Hermione began, scolding him for his language.
She was cut off by Ginny, pulling a terrified Albus toward her, staring at Ron like he was a mad man. "What were you thinking! Tackling a couple of boys like that."
"I thought- I thought," Ron stammered, looking all around him but not making eye contact with anyone.
"You thought what?"
"That they were, they could've been. Drowning?" he answered, dazed.
"Ginny, don't-" Harry pleaded, stepping in between her and her brother, "you don't understand,"
"Because none of you ever tell me." she whispered, looking utterly hurt.
Ron grasped at his neck, scratching at his soggy jumper until Hermione had managed to wrestle his arms to his sides ("Ron, Ron, stop, it's not there!"). Ron blinked at her, and looked at his son, breathing heavily (but no glasses, no scar, no soggy black hair) and came back to the present with an angry yell that only grew louder. He shoved the the rock nearest to him with all that was left in him, and Lily had to jump out of the way.
Hermione turned sad eyes to Harry and Ginny, and Ginny took the clue and rounded up the kids, leaving the trio at the water's edge.
"I was asleep," he moaned, "and when I heard it I thought it was Harry, I thought- I"
"Shhh" Hermione soothed, holding on to Ron though his head was in his hands.
"I have to protect them. Just like Harry. I promise I will."
Harry kicked a stone into the pond. "The war is over Ron. You don't have to protect anyone, it's over."
Hermione pressed her forehead to his damp hair. "I know."
And for the rest of his life, he does.
Full of Christmas dinner Ron searches for a place to recline. With everyone's families expanding things are getting quite tight at the Burrow, but his mother insists they all turn up for holidays. "Cozy" is the word she uses (Hermione makes Ron promise not to tell anyone about the word she uses when she bangs her shin yet again trying to get up from the table).
Ron's eyes instantly land on Harry, and he makes a grab for a tart sitting on the coffee table and settles himself down beside his best friend.
"Ron!" Ginny protests from his left, and he turns to face his sister.
"Gin." he acknowledges. She looks at him pointedly, and Ron stares back blankly.
"Are you really that dense?" she exclaims, and Hermione chimes in a quiet "mhm" from over the top of a book. Harry chuckles.
"You sat right between us, mate."
Ron looks at Harry, puzzled. "But I always sit here. This is my couch."
"I lived here too! It's as much my couch as it is yours!"
"Well, Harry's as much my friend as he is yours."
"I'm his wife."
Lily pauses a game of Exploding Snap to giggle.
"Well, me, Harry, and Hermione-"
"Harry, Hermione, and I-" Rose corrects.
"-have been on countless adventures and have saved each other tons of times and have a bond I wouldn't expect you to understand."
"Oh, Ginny and I have had a few adventures." Harry adds suggestively, and James moans and covers his ears. Hugo stops playing chess and looks wildly around the room, aware he missed something. Ginny reaches to smack Harry in the back of the head but Ron is in the way.
Ron turns on Harry, outraged. "That's my sister!"
Harry shrugs. "That's my wife."
Ginny makes a move to stand triumphantly, but struggles a bit getting up from the overstuffed couch. "Harry used to be an orphan, but you're just going to accept the fact that he has a family now and doesn't need you for everything."
"Thanks to me!" Ron responds, jumping to his feet.
"Hang on," Harry says weakly, "I still need Ron-"
"No, thanks to me!" Ginny says fiercely, gesturing to her children.
"Can you believe her, Harry?" Ron asks, and Harry rolls his head around in his hands.
"I can't believe either of you, actually." he mumbles, but the siblings talk over him.
"Just because you know that best friends beats wife-"
"Ron!" Hermione interrupts, and Ron turns to her with an exasperated look.
"Come on, Hermione, you know I meant you, too. You're one of us."
Hermione mutters something like "Oh, wonderful" dryly and goes back to her book.
"Besides," Ron continues, turning back to his sister, "I knew him first."
"Oh, we're playing this game, are we? Well, you might've known Harry first, but I know him best. And I love him best."
Harry goes slightly red.
"Not true!" Ron babbles madly, and Hermione puts her book down and pinches the bridge of her nose. "I love Harry!" Ron turns to Harry and Hermione for support, and they both only stare back.
"Uh, she's my wife." Harry states simply.
"Fine!" Ron shouts, throwing his hands up. He moves to let Ginny sit next to Harry, and glances around the room once more.
When Ron, Hermione, and the children finally get home late that Christmas night, Hermione sees that something is troubling Ron. She puts the children to bed and then climbs into bed, hanging on to one of his arms. "What's on your mind?" she asks softly.
"She loves him best." Ron says gloomily. Hermione blinks.
"Are you... are you really upset because Ginny loves Harry more than she loves you?"
"No. She loves him more than I do."
Even though Hermione knows that it's borderline hilarious that it took this many years for Ron to finally understand, she can feel her heart break a little in her chest at the look on his face as he realizes he lost his best friend to his sister.
She isn't pretty.
Not exactly. It's not that simple anymore.
They're old now. And not old like Ron used to think his parents were when he was eleven. The kind of old that wakes him up at night just to feel the aching deep in his bones.
Hermione's skin sags right under her chin. She hates it, he knows, but he doesn't mind. Ron finds that he rather likes the way her neck settles when she throws her head back to laugh; it makes the movement bigger. Her eyes are framed with little lines flaring out at the corners. They're delicate, but she's got them, and Ron loves them most when she laughs and her crows feet get so deep they could cast shadows.
And her brows, sunken low, hang like curtains above her eyes and make her appear seriously in thought most of the time- or if she's smiling, like she has a secret. Her eyelashes stick straight out from under them. She had never taken to all of those eye-hair curlers or any sort of makeup. Ron had always had a bit of pride in that; every day Hermione would show the world her honest face.
She moves slowly now. She looks at everything very carefully, and moves from room to room taking her time. Ron likes to plant himself in a chair and watch her looking around like that, as if she's rediscovering the world all over again. He isn't sure what makes her do that, but he suspects it's the fact that every item brings old memories forth, and she has to take the time to dust them off and examine them. It's just something that comes with living so many years.
She wears her hair short, just at her shoulders, and wild. Some days it curls and some days it waves, and each day when they go for their walk through the garden the wind picks it up and restyles it. Some days the garden that Rose planted ends far too quickly and they keep on walking, right through the fields and up the hills. Their hips always bother them the next day, but there is a simple glory found in the ability to just walk as far as you like for as long as you like.
Ron loves her arms. They are soft now, softer than a baby's, and he thinks it's from all of the care that came from them. She's been a mother all her life, really. First to Harry, who had none, and then to him, who was a bit sloppy right after he moved out of The Burrow, and then to Rose and Hugo and any one else who needs a lap to sit in or soft arms to be held in.
Her few grew a few sizes with the pregnancies and bother her quite a lot now. Ron rubs them at the end of each day, and though he doesn't particularly enjoy it he likes that she's still incredibly ticklish right on the arch. Her forehead is creased with thought lines and worry lines and all of the knowledge in that incredible head of hers, and folds up just like it used to when she concentrates on a book. Her fingers are decorated always with a diamond from Ron and a ruby from Harry, and she wears the small pearl earrings Hugo gave her for her fiftieth.
The hollow of her throat has deepened, and the back of her neck has a large freckle from afternoons spent in the garden with Rose that makes a great spot to place a kiss. She wears clothes that flow; light cotton and lots of white.
Of course, those are just the things that have changed.
Hermione still has that spark of intelligence in her eyes that make them shine, and her lips still curl just slightly at the corners in the way that makes Ron's breath leave him, and she still stands chin up, shoulders back that somehow, without being cocky, tells the world I was too special to be normal.
She's stunning. She makes a bun bunched at the bottom of her neck look graceful, and a thick middle something enviable. Ron finds that perhaps she isn't pretty, not the same as she was when they were young, but she's Hermione. Every little thing she does is gorgeous, and Ron especially loves the parts of her that show aging because it proves that they lived through a war and grew old in peace.
They begin leave this world in the order they came into it.
Well, except for Fred of course, and George who follows shortly after (an accident, most say, but they all have their doubts). The twins never liked to be very punctual, anyway.
So Bill is the third to go. Fleur is distraught, and although many an offer comes from different Weasleys to take her in, she leaves for France almost immediately after the funeral. Vitoire moves in with her. Ron is never entirely clear on how it happened- he asked to be spared the details. All he knows is that Bill is supposed to be the invincible one, and it is several years before he can even think of going back to the seaside.
Charlie is next. He dies the way he would've liked to; a particularly vicious dragon (though he is long retired). Harry goes to Egypt to get the body and to arrange things with the Ministry there so that the dragon will be allowed to live. They all agree it is what Charlie would have wanted.
Things are quiet for a while; family gatherings are frequent and awkward. They cope with the loss in different ways. Hermione and Rose spend a lot of time outside. Ginny busies herself taking care of the grandchildren. Lily paints walls over and over (for a change of scenery, she says) and Ron spends a lot of time with Harry, shut up in his old orange room. A few times a season he sees Cannons tickets slip under the crack in his door.
The owl comes as a shock to everyone. It is right in the middle of Sunday dinner, and Percy is late. The letter drops into the mashed potatoes. Ron can recall exactly how is mother cries when she reads it. His father kicks a hole in the wall and keeps muttering about how his son has been killed and they don't even bother to show up to the door and say it to his face. He wouldn't have liked the pity, anyway. Ginny folds her hands on the table and very gently lays her forehead on them. Harry and Hermione round up the grandchildren and take them for a walk.
The news makes the post the next morning. Some rubbish about a rebel who killed Perce because of his stint at the Minister's side during the war. Ron decides he'd rather not know.
No parent should outlive a child. Five sons, gone. Ron thinks they die from the pain alone.
Their funerals are quiet. There is hardly any family left to make any noise except for the children, and they seem to know how serious it is. Over the years, while everyone was dying, they were growing up.
Ron looks at his baby sister Ginny, and notices her cough is getting worse. He expects it won't be much longer. Harry seems to know this too, though the two of them haven't talked much since Hermione left last fall. Ron supposes it should be terribly sad, but it isn't. Not like when he was young and he lost Fred. There is an understanding these days that it is the natural order of things, and he won't be missing anyone for long.
It seems a little ironic, he thinks, that for the first time in his life he is nearly alone; an only child. No pretty wife to keep him here, grown-up children who can protect themselves... just a best friend and a little sister whose name is Potter.
On the last day of Ron Weasley's life he sits in his old orange room and says his name aloud. He wants to hear it one last time, to make sure it isn't missing anything. It sounds quite full as it bounces back to him. Ronald Bilius Weasley. Almost bursting. I've had a good life, he thinks to himself.
That's the truth, isn't it?