An Unconventional Fairytale: Believe
"I know you've been reluctant to share your thoughts with me, as are most of the students here. But that time is over." Margaret leaned forward. "Your fate is hanging in the balance, Ron."
Sullen, Ron looked at his consular skeptically.
"Everyone comes into these sessions thinking I'm here to dig out their weaknesses and report them to the instructors, so they can find cause to fail you. And despite my assurances to the contrary, everyone continues to believe it." With a worried look, Margaret leaned forward, elbows on knees. "Ron, right now I'm the only one who can keep you here. At face value, what happened today is grounds enough to expel you; unless I can assure the faculty that what happened was a singular event."
That caught his attention.
"Do you want to be expelled?"
"Then you better start talking."
Ron took a deep breath. "I'm not quite sure where to start."
"Yeah," he shrugged, "not sure what that is."
"Then start with today. You were dueling with Jack. Let me guess, he was taunting you."
His eyes rolled. "Yeah."
"This isn't the first time; normally you can ignore him. Something was different this time."
He squirmed in his seat, nervous. "Yeah."
"'Yeah'? Ron, your spell hit him so hard he flew back into a tree and cracked his skull. Nothing a little Skelegrow can't fix, but not really the point of practice dueling. Do you even remember the spell you used?"
Ron thought about the moment; it was blurry. "No, I honestly don't."
"Come on Ron, let me in." Margaret sat forward. "You've got to let someone in."
Ron sighed. She was right, dammit. "He said I was weak. That I wouldn't be able to protect… anyone."
His eyes cast down.
His eyes snapped up.
Margaret's voice was gentle. "He said you wouldn't be able to protect Hermione. She is what was different this time."
Ron felt his eyes close and shoulders drop. "Yeah."
"Why?" Her head shook as if she had misspoke. "You love her, obviously. You want to protect her, but why did his taunts have such an effect?"
Once again, Ron resigned himself to having to tell the whole story. "You asked for the beginning. That would be last spring. Everyone's read Harry's story, so you know we had been captured by Death Eaters and taken to… Bellatrix Lestrange. The bit Harry left out was that she had Harry and I locked in a cellar while she… she tortured Hermione for information. Kept hitting her with Crucio while I was wandless in a cellar and couldn't do a fucking thing but hear her screams."
"It was the house elf that got you out."
"Yeah." Nodding. "Dobby got us out in time to hear that bitch give Hermione to Greyback. I'm not sure what spell I hit him with either.
"After… everything was over, it was summer. Hermione was back with her parents when the first nightmare hit me. I'm back in that cellar, I can hear her screams. But, in the dream, I can see her. The spell is cutting her. She's in a pool of blood. If I'm lucky I wake up before Greyback gets her."
Margaret sat in stunned silence, hand to mouth, as if she could see the image in his mind.
"I still have the nightmare, even now. It usually hits if I have a bad day. I actually try not to sleep, but I'm too exhausted. Wake up sweating, sometimes shouting her name. Puked once."
"Jack doesn't know this story?"
"But he knows you have nightmares about her."
Ron looked her in the eye. "Yeah. People ask me why I want to be an Auror, and I honestly do think it's something I could be good at. But really, I'm here to learn how to protect her. I never want to be that fucking helpless again. But apparently I can't do that either."
"What do you mean? You're doing well."
"In strategy, potions- sure." His voice rose in frustration. "But not where it counts in dueling and spell work! Strategy isn't going to do me any good if some fucker has a wand to her throat!"
She was nodding. "I understand now." She sat back, flipping her hand to dismiss him. "Well, that's it then. Might as well call it now, no point dragging this out any longer. No one wants to be with a failure."
Ron looked hard at her. What?
"Sure, it will hurt, but she'll be better off with someone else. Someone who can be there for her; not let her down. She doesn't want to be with a failure."
He jumped to feet, his eyes dark and hard. "I am NOT nothing! I am NOT a failure! I will be an Auror and I will protect her!"
He was fuming, and Margaret just sat there with a smug look on her face. "Excellent. Now we can begin."
Caught off guard, he shook his head. "What?"
"I have your history, Ron. You suffer from a lack of confidence, which you've overcome for the most part. But, as your nightmare shows, there is still some lingering doubt in your abilities and that impedes your progress.
"I needed get under that, to see who Ron Weasley really is. He is not a failure. But, traditional teaching methods are not working for you, so we need to find something else. I'm going to speak with Alan and arrange a couple times a week for special training for you."
Ron's brow furrowed. "So this means… I'm not expelled?"
"Oh no, certainly not. You are the last student this institution should be expelling."
"So you lied."
Margaret grinned. "Not exactly, expulsion is an option in this sort of occurrence, but not for you. I just needed a way to… crack your nut, so to speak." She sat forward, clasping her hands. "You have it in you to be the Auror you want to be. I see not only your potential, but also the passion and strength you need as well. Unfortunately, I also see a nugget of anger in there. And anger, while powerful, can be a problem. Just when you think you have it under control, it is controlling you. So we need to deal with that, and I have some ideas."
"So… you'll train me?"
"Just a couple times a week for an hour or so. Until I think you've got it. In the meantime, I want you to keep doing your best to ignore Jack. He's an arse and I'm afraid cracking his skull will not be enough to shut him up, although it would a normal person."
"Are you allowed to call students an 'arse'?"
"I'm a trained professional psychologist. I call it as I see it."
Ron smirked. She really wasn't too bad. "Fair enough. Though I should warn you. The last thing that told me I was nothing, I ran through with a sword."
Margaret smiled, unfazed. "I'll keep that in mind."
Ron arrived at the clearing. In the two days since 'the incident', other students (except Chris and Olive) had been giving Ron a wide berth. And despite his mouth going off, that included Jack as well.
Today would be his first lesson with Margaret. The clearing was ringed with trees, and there was a large boulder, nearly as tall as Ron, just off center. It was pocked with scars and cracks.
"You're not the first wizard to take a crack at the Rock."
Margaret walked up to Ron and nodded to the stone. "They call it The Rock; students have been practicing spells against it for generations. I think it's the reason the school was built here." She contemplated the monolith for a moment. "All those spells and no one's broken it yet."
"Give me a lever long enough, and I can move the world."
"Archimedes." Margaret looked impressed.
Ron shrugged. "Don't know who that is. It's just something Hermione said once."
"At the beginning of term, we read through the students files to decide who will consult each one."
What did this have to do with rocks and levers? "I thought it was random."
"Oh no, that wouldn't do anyone any good. For some students it doesn't matter, but for some it does. I requested you."
He looked confused. "Why?"
"Because I'm the only woman psychologist."
Ron's brow furrowed, his confusion growing deeper.
"Your file, test results and recommendation letters all point to the same thing. You respond better to female authority. Not that you're openly defiant to men, you just do better with women."
In that moment, so many things made sense.
"If anyone was going to help you, it would be me. It also explains your friendship with Olive and why she is your confidant when Harry is not."
Looking affronted, Ron straightened up. "Harry's my best friend."
"I know. But he doesn't know about the nightmares, does he?"
He kept his posture, but damn she was perceptive. "He's burdened enough; he doesn't need that on him too."
"If you are his best friend, helping you with pain is not a burden."
Ron had no response to that. She was right, but, as Harry's friend shouldn't he also try to keep pain from him?
"So, let's begin. First, I need you to be able to identify your anger. Know it; know when it's overpowering you so you can stop it. I need you to think about that moment, when Jack was taunting you. I'm going to cast a memory charm that will bring the memory forward. You're going to relive it, and that boulder is going to be Jack. The memory will be so clear, you'll remember every detail once it's over and we can discuss it. Are you ready?"
A deep breath filled Ron's lungs. "Yeah."
For the first time, in a long time, Ron was feeling very confident. His anger issues ran a bit deeper than he thought, but the afternoon had been cathartic. (Damn you and your vocabulary, Hermione!) He was angry with himself for not having more faith in himself. He was angry with stupid, old wizards at the Ministry that had disrespected his father all those years, which resulted in his family being poor. He was angry with pure bloods and all their pure blood bullshit. He was angry with Death Eaters for killing so many good people.
He had never been so happy to be angry. Well, perhaps it was better to say he was happy to finally understand where his anger came from. He had shrugged off so much if it in an attempt to ignore it that it had just built up and festered. To finally know it and accept it was a relief.
Because now, according to Margaret, he could start to shed it. And what was left, he can learn to recognize it and stop it consuming him. Keep a level head. And that was a long time coming.
"Well. It was bound to happen some day."
"It's been hit with spells for over a hundred years."
Ron and Margaret stood in the practice field; arms limp at their sides, as they looked at the silent dueling partner.
Eyes wide, Ron turned to her. "Am I going to get into trouble?"
"Trouble? Whatever for? That's why this thing is here remember? That was the whole point."
"The whole point was that there was this big rock to hit with spells because you couldn't hurt it."
Margaret shrugged. "Yes, well, now there's a rock and a second, smaller one. Premise is the same."
It had been a month since 'the incident'. Twice a week, Ron met with Margaret to confront his anger and confidence issues. First, they identified his anger and then she showed him why that anger was unnecessary. He had to let the past go, and move to the future. However his past had brought him to this place at this time, good or bad, it had been necessary.
He was no longer angry at pure bloods. He pitied them and their lonely existence.
He was no longer angry with old, ministry wizards. Most had gotten their dues, and more were being rooted out every day.
He was still angry with Death Eaters, but it was more diffused now and he would be helping solve that problem once he graduated.
And now, staring at The Rock, split in two, he was no longer angry with himself and his lack of faith. In fact, he was feeling rather smug.
He had been casting Stupify and other defense spells at the rock, like every student before him. And he had left scratches and chips of his own. Each spell had felt good. They were good, solid casts. But the rock never flinched. Dueling had been going well as a result. He hadn't been on his arse in weeks. His instructors were still reluctant to put him against Jack again, but he was sure the day was coming. He was feeling ready for it. Margaret would have that memory replay in his head, and he had learned to ignore it. To see it for what it was and move beyond.
Why he cast Fragmantium today he wasn't sure. Perhaps he needed some feedback. Perhaps he needed the rock to finally flinch.
He didn't mean to break off a third of it.
But, damn, it felt good.
"So, um, what would happen if I hit a person with Fragmantium?"
"Well. If you hit them with that power, you'd probably shatter every bone in their body."
Ron's lips pursed. "So, I shouldn't open with that one then?"
Margaret laughed out loud. "No, I'd go with a nice disarming to start. I'd hold this one in reserve." She turned to look up at him, holding his gaze. "Tell me, what did you learn today?"
Ron didn't think the question had anything to do with the effects of the spell. "I've had people telling me I'm a good wizard for a while now. But today…" He looked to the broken stone. "Today, I believe them."
"Then it's time to face Jack again."
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Alan turned back to Jack. "I thought you would look forward to the rematch."
Jack was looking at Ron with some reluctance, and more than a hint of anger. The other students, who had been matched up for dueling practice all stopped to watch what would happen. No one had known where Ron went twice a week. He was sure many thought he was being punished. Chris and Olive were the only ones who knew, and they didn't dispel the rumors either.
"Come on, Jack." Looking resigned, Ron lifted his arms and dropped then with a futile gesture "Let's just get this over with. I've learned my lesson."
Jack took up position across from Ron. "I'm still trying to figure out why you're still here. You should have been expelled."
"Well, I wasn't. You've been waiting to take a shot at me ever since; here's your chance."
Taking the invitation, Jack no longer hesitated. He cast the spell from the hip, trying to take Ron off guard.
As a result of the last several weeks, Ron no longer tensed in a duel. He didn't try to brace to the taunts and uncertainties. In fact, he felt himself relax and the world slowed down.
Hand up. Protego.
The spell caught Jack in the shoulder; he struggled to hold the wand. Don't wait.
Jack staggers, gets off a spell of his own. It hits Ron hard, he takes a step back, but Protego had already been cast.
Jack is mid-cast. It's over. Twenty seconds hadn't past.
Ron walks over to Jack, flicking his wand to release the spell. He reaches a hand down to help Jack from his knee. "I've learned a few things about anger." Ron spoke softly, just to Jack. "Using anger for strength works for a while, but eventually it will fail you. Real strength comes from a different place."
Jack stared hard at Ron, before taking the offered hand. "What would that be?"
"It's something Dumbledore tried to tell us for years, but I just got it the other day. Love. Not from admiration, or obligation, or a desire to please someone. But people who love you for all that you are, good and bad. And you return that love. Believing it as truth… it's an amazing feeling to finally experience."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Jack looked torn between frustration and curiosity. "I never even touched you."
"Not this time. Pushed me back once, but that strength also brings clarity and I was ready. Your anger with me made you sloppy, and I know you're better than that. Want to go again- give me a real challenge?"
"That was rhetorical, right?"
A/N: Don't look now, but I think it's a *gasp* update!
I promised I hadn't abandoned the story, and I keep my promises. I hope this chapter works the way I mean it to- Ron's been needing this kick to the arse for some time.
A hardy shout out to Pan's Box for her beta-ing and J.K. Rowling who continues to look the other way.