The distant sound of the rooster’s morning cry stirred Ron from his slumber – and then, upon opening his eyes, he was briefly blinded by the piercing light coming from the spring sunrise. He tried his best to fall back to sleep, but the cockerel in the garden’s persistent crowing ruled this out as a feasible option.
It was Harry’s fault.
He’d been the one who had insisted on keeping the window open. It was stuffy of course – and it was a warm enough night that it made sense to keep it open, but Ron never liked keeping windows open. It meant spiders and other creepy crawlies could sneak in sometimes and give him a fright when he woke.
Dean Thomas once told him that muggles reckon you can swallow up to 8 spiders a year whilst you sleep – the thought both simultaneously disgusted and horrified him.
He peered over enviously at his best friend who lay comatose, completely unstirred by the commotion in The Burrow’s back-garden.
Ron on the other hand hadn’t slept well at all, especially for somebody who had barely got a wink of sleep in several days.
The limited sleep that he did get had been plagued by nightmares and horrific flash-blacks of Fred’s cold, dead body. In the dreams where he wasn’t seeing his older brother’s corpse – he would instead see dead versions of Hermione, Harry or the rest of his family.
It was bad enough being awake, but now he couldn’t even find any solace or sleep in the bed he had longed to be back in for months.
There wasn’t even really anyone Ron could talk to about it.
Hermione was sympathetic of course, but he was scared of showing his fragility to her. He already had so many flaws and struggled to understand why she wanted to be with him when she was so perfect in comparison – the last thing he wanted was her thinking he was weak.
He couldn’t bring himself to talk to either of his parents – they were both already distraught enough at losing a son, without having to worry about him too.
George tried to put a brave face on it, but Ron could tell he was devastated by the loss of his twin. His entire personality had changed now, whilst he was still cracking jokes on a regular basis – they were much darker than they’d ever been before.
Percy was out of the question as he’d taken Fred’s death worse than anybody, even George. He not only held himself personally responsible for his brother’s death - since he’d been the one with him at the time, but he was also outraged at how unfair it all was. He’d kept repeating over and over again that it if there was any justice in the world then it would have been him who had died instead, since he was the one who had disowned his family.
Ron was far too proud to talk about his demons to his little sister – if anything, he was ashamed by how strong she was, especially compared to him. Ginny seemed as adept at coping with it as Bill or Charlie were.
Bill himself was out of the question as he was back at Shell Cottage with Fleur, but Charlie was staying in Bill’s old room. Charlie had always been a hero of Ron’s and he knew he could go to him with anything, but he was too embarrassed at the thought of breaking down in-front of him.
Charlie had always been so effortlessly cool, strong and talented and he didn’t want him to take pity on him, or think he was weak.
That just left his best friend. Most people would consider it the most natural thing in the world to talk their problems over with their best friend, but well, most people’s best friend isn’t Harry Potter. To complain about grief to Harry would be like moaning to a werewolf about the struggles of finding a well-paid job.
Ron thought he heard some distant muttering coming from the window, but then he heard nothing at all, so guessed he must’ve just imagined it.
“GEROFF ME!! GEROFF!!”
The sudden shout from the garden took Ron by surprise. It seemed he hadn’t imagined it after all.
He pulled himself up from his bed quickly to look out of the window. It soon became apparent that the shout had most likely come from a gnome that Bill had hurled away from the house. The eldest Weasley sibling now leaned against the side of the house and looked around for something in his jacket pocket, whilst in the distance a gnome scurried away to safety.
“Decent job though if you do decide to take it.”
The sound of Charlie’s voice caught Ron off guard slightly as he’d assumed Bill had been alone.
He guessed that Charlie hadn’t been able to sleep and had been pottering around in the garden or kitchen when Bill had arrived.
“Yeah well Fleur certainly wants me to… said I should’ve accepted it on the spot.”
Bill took out from his pocket what looked like a packet of muggle cigarettes. He pulled one out and offered it to Charlie, who gladly accepted. Bill reached for another cigarette and put it in his mouth, then he used his wand to light first his brother’s, then his own.
They both took a fairly sizeable drag and then exhaled.
“I thought she made you quit these?” Charlie probed.
“She did,” Bill replied bluntly.
“We both took them back up after the wedding, helps with the stress. They’re not great for your health... but you stop worrying about that so much when you’re not even sure if you’ll make it to the end of the week.”
Bill took another long toke, but Charlie simply sighed and run his spare hand through his hair uncomfortably.
“I should have been here, man. I was selfish, Bill. Really selfish. I can see that now. I was up all night thinking about it and-
“Do yourself a favour and don’t blame yourself, Charlie. You worked long and hard to get the job of your dreams – you would’ve been foolish to throw it away. There’s nothing you could’ve done and-
“But look at everything that you have done, Bill! You were there the night Dumbledore died. You were there the night they flew Harry to safety. You took Ron, Harry, Hermione and countless others in at great personal risk at the height of the war. You were there from the start at the battle. If I’d just been there-
“There’s nothing you could’ve done, Charlie! Don’t you think we’re all thinking the same thing? Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“But he’s dead, Bill! Our little brother, dead.”
What Ron saw next was one of the most peculiar things he’d ever seen in his life. Charlie threw his half-smoked cigarette to the ground, then pulled his hands into his face and… and he started to cry.
It was an almost surreal experience to witness someone who had always displayed unwavering strength reduced to such a state, but Ron took significant solace from it. If it was okay for Charlie to cry, then maybe, just maybe, it was okay for him to not be okay too.
Bill had now also discarded his cigarette and he pulled his younger, yet much bulkier brother in for a hug. He patted Charlie’s back and whispered words of encouragement that Ron couldn’t hear over Charlie’s sobs.
“Little Freddie, Bill! Little Fred!” Charlie whimpered and wailed into Bill’s shoulder.
Ron couldn’t watch any longer – it was making him want to cry himself, besides that, he felt like it probably wasn’t a moment that he should be witnessing anyway.
He shut the window carefully so as not to make any noise, then lay back in bed as his brain raced away with his thoughts. It took no longer than two minutes for him to fall into a deep sleep.
Ron awoke some time later to the sound of someone knocking on his door.
“Who is it? Door’s unlocked!” he grumbled.
The knocking continued.
It took a few seconds for him to realise, but Ron then noticed that the noise wasn’t coming from his door after all – it was coming from the window.
There was a big, brown owl with piercing green eyes and funny looking ears who was persistently tapping its beak against his window.
He’d never seen the owl before and had no idea who it was that was sending him post.
As he opened the window he heard Harry stir.
“W’as tha’ noise?” he murmured.
The owl wasted no time in hurtling its way into the room. Ron had to duck out of its way as it flew straight at him whilst hooting aggressively.
“I think I’ve got some post, mate,” Ron replied.
The little brown beast swerved straight over Ron’s head, then flung its letter very flamboyantly onto Harry’s bed.
“Oh. Maybe it’s for you.”
Harry barely even acknowledged that a letter had landed on him. This was a grave mistake, as the funny-eared owl dive-bombed onto his face and started pecking.
“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed, before grabbing a leftover sausage that Harry hadn’t finished from his dinner last night.
“Maybe he’s just hungry,” Ron mused as he seized the owl’s attention and motioned for it to come and eat the sausage. Its eyes lit up and it hooted madly before darting at him and snatching the sausage out of his hands with its beak.
Harry had grumpily reached for his glasses and began sitting up.
“I hope you weren’t planning on eating that, mate. The little monster’s gobbled it down already!”
“I think the only person I’ve seen eat a sausage that quick before is you,” Harry joked as he ripped open the envelope.
The owl was hooting loudly once again. Ron presumed it was after some more food, which was a big problem, as they didn’t have any more.
“Who’s the letter from?” Ron asked nosily.
“It’s from Hestia. She says her and Dedalus have gotten the Dursleys back home safe.”
“Well that’s great news!” Ron said sarcastically, as he noted the deranged little owl was now nibbling at some of Harry’s discarded socks.
“My uncle had a heart-attack whilst they were in hiding,” Harry noted curiously.
“Bloody hell! Did the old git cop it?”
“Nope. Dedalus managed to save him and oh…”
“What is it?” Ron asked, wondering what caused the sudden pause and change of tone in his best friend’s voice.
“Hestia says something went wrong when she wiped their memories of any knowledge of magic.”
“What happened? They’ve not forgotten who they are like our old pal Lockhart, have they?”
“No. Not quite. They forgot all about magic, but they also forgot about...well, me. Hestia says they’ve got no recollection of me existing whatsoever,” Harry said dumbstruck, re-reading the letter to make sure he’d got it correct.
“Blimey!” Ron exclaimed. “All those happy memories of you, gone, just like that!”
“Dudley did say he didn’t think I was a waste of space when we said goodbye,” Harry mused.
“Would you have even seen much of them anyway? Might save you a few awkward visits over the years.”
“Yeah. Yeah I suppose you’re right. Oh. Oh no! Oh dear...”
“What is it?” Ron asked nervously.
“Well it seems that Hestia felt really bad about making them forget I existed. So much so that she’s bought me a present to say sorry.”
“That’s funny. He just had the letter when he flew in,” Ron pondered, looking down at the owl which had now moved on to a pair of Harry’s trousers. “You don’t think she bought you some sweets or chocolate, do you? Maybe that little savage ate it on the way here!”
“No. No see that’s the problem Ron. That little savage IS the present!”
“What?! You’re joking!” Ron laughed.
“She said she heard about Hedwig dying and thought I could do with a new owl.”
“Bloody hell! She's certainly picked you out a nice one... what’s his name?” Ron queried.
“She didn’t say anything about him having a name, just that he’s from the Canary Islands and was the owl in the shop with the most character.”
“Well he’s certainly got some of that!” quipped Ron. “What are you gonna call him?”
“Hmm,” Harry pondered. “I think... I think I’ll call him Dudley.”
“After your cousin?!”
“Yeah. I think-
“Why would you name an owl after that prat? All he ever did was-
“Gorge himself on food and attack me,” Harry said sassily, looking down at the owl with a funny expression on his face.
“I hope you never get to name your kids, mate.”
It was a warm spring evening, which was just as well, since if it hadn’t have been The Burrow would’ve been very cramped with all of the guests huddling inside of it.
It had taken Ron and Harry a good while to make their way through the house and out into the garden.
They’d first been stopped by a very excited Dedalus Diggle, who excused himself from his conversation with Elphias Doge and Neville’s grandmother to come running over and shake all of their hands.
The silly old wizard had then spent the best part of five minutes reciting ‘hilarious’ tales of his time with the Dursleys. As Ron drifted in and out of listening to him he had overheard Augusta Longbottom, who was loudly boasting about how the Minister for Magic himself was headhunting her grandson to be an Auror, just like his father.
Ron eventually managed to slip away as he saw Hermione for the first time in an over an hour. He was pleased to see her and have the chance to talk, as she’d been very quiet and distant since they returned to the Burrow, but then Hermione had noticed Professor McGonagall on the other side of the house, chatting to his Mum, who seemed pretty pleased about something.
Hermione had immediately ushered Ron to join them with her to discuss the completion of their education, but he saw little point in tagging along as he had absolutely no intention of returning to Hogwarts. He wasn’t averse to letting his former Head of House and newly reinstated Headmistress know this, but he certainly wasn’t going to do it whilst his mother was in earshot.
Harry had eventually managed to wiggle away from Diggle, but just as he’d reached Ron again he had been cornered by an extremely apologetic Hestia Jones. It took Harry several minutes of insisting he didn’t hold any grudge, before she then broke down in tears over Tonks’ death and hugged Harry very tightly. She then returned to the sofa, where she’d been sitting with Bill, Charlie and Sturgis Podmore.
Just as Ron thought they were in the clear they ran into Aunt Muriel. Ron had been very surprised to see her face lit up when she saw him, but it soon became apparent that this was only due to her delight at finally meeting Harry.
Muriel took off her hat and offered her sincere gratitude to Harry, even kissing him on the cheek – Ron had only ever seen her do that to Bill before. She then muttered a monotone well done to Ron, then gave him a feint pat on the back before scurrying off to the kitchen, which left Ron and Harry to finally escape outside.
“Honestly. You’d have thought you were the one related to her!” Ron sneered as the cool evening breeze ambushed his unkempt hair.
“I’d happily swap that kiss on the cheek for your pat on the back any day,” Harry replied smiling. “Say, what do you think Hermione was talking to Professor McGo… Minerva about?”
“She wants to do all of her N.E.W.T.S. next year doesn’t she?” Ron replied, as if it was the most obvious question anyone had ever asked him.
“Oh. She’s serious? I know she was talking about it, but I thought, well with Kingsley offering us all jobs and all, it seemed a bit, well…” Harry seemed to be hedging, as if he didn’t quite want to say what he was thinking.
“Pointless?” Ron queried.
“Yeah,” Harry concurred.
“Yeah well I thought that when she first mentioned it, but I suppose it makes sense really doesn’t it?”
“Does it?” Harry asked, sounding very confused.
“You’ve got to look at it through Hermione’s shoes, mate. She’s spent all these years studying and slaving away in the library. If she doesn’t finish school and get all of her N.E.W.T.S then she’s got nothing to show for it, has she?”
“Nothing to show it for it?” Harry responded, utterly bewildered. “Nothing to show for it?” he repeated, almost outraged.
“Again, from her shoes mate. Her mind works differently to yours or mine. I think she’d feel like it was all a waste if she never graduated. Completely barmy of course. Helped take down the most evil wizard of all time and has the Minister for Magic practically begging her to take a job, but well, I think it might be good for her in a way.”
“Yeah, well, I think the last year or so has taken its toll on her. She hides it well, but she struggled a lot with stress and anxiety in the last year. And she still has nightmares from when Bellatrix tortured her. I think getting back to a steady routine will help her out. She’s at her happiest when she’s studying in the library isn’t she?”
“True,” Harry agreed. “She’ll have Ginny and Luna too, won’t she? So she won’t miss us too much.”
“I bloody well hope she misses me!” Ron snapped. Harry chuckled as he gave Ron a knowing smile.
“I don’t really know what’s got into her the last day or so though. She’s barely come out of Ginny’s room,” Ron said sadly.
“I’m sure she’s just glad it’s all over. Like you said… it must’ve all just taken its toll on her,” Harry replied. Ron was very grateful to be reassured that it was nothing to worry about.
He thought he spotted Neville in the distance having a conversation with Luna and Ginny, but Harry didn’t seem to notice and instead started walking towards George, Percy and Lee Jordan, who were all sitting on some garden chairs with some drinks.
“You should take it Perce,” they heard George say, before he took another swig from his bottle of beer. “It will do you good to be back at work. Keep your mind off things. I’m sure you’ll love being back in the swing of things. ”
The trio all acknowledged Ron and Harry’s arrival. Lee reached into a bucket filled with ice and passed them a bottle of beer each, noted that they were the last bottles left, before swishing his wand which removed the two lids.
“Cheers Lee,” Ron said, before taking a gulp. He’d never tried an alcoholic beer before and his face grimaced at the unfamiliar taste.
“But what about you and your shop? I’m more than happy to give you a hand if you want the-
“It’s fine, honestly,” George stated firmly, interrupting Percy. “Lee’s gonna give me a hand whilst he’s still setting up stuff with his radio business.”
“I’ll look after him, don’t worry!” Lee added with a smile, clinking his beer bottle with George’s.
“What job’s that then, Percy? Kingsley asked you to be an Auror too has he?” Ron asked.
“HA!” George exclaimed. “They’re not that desperate!” he chuckled.
Ron couldn’t prevent himself from letting out a slight laugh himself. Percy grimaced at first, looking quite offended, but he then smiled slightly, perhaps just pleased to see George somewhat resembling his old self again.
“Good one, George,” he sniggered. “And no Ron, not quite. Kingsley’s asked me to go back to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. He wants me to head up an operation to try and convince talented foreign witches and wizards to come and work at the Ministry. It all sounds quite important really. He said he’s even managed to talk someone very exciting out of retirement to go along with me to help sell it. I’ve got a hunch that it’s Newt Scamander. He just had that new book out and-
“Why would one of the most talented and well-travelled wizards of the last century sign up to go gallivanting around the world on Ministry business with YOU Perce?!” George chuckled. “I’ve told you. He’s gonna stick you with Fudge, anything to get that daft berk out of the country and out of the way.”
Percy raised his eyebrow and grumbled silently under his breath.
“Why is it Kingsley needs any one to go?” Harry asked. “To convince witches and wizards from abroad to join the Ministry I mean.”
“Well it’s just, a lot of very talented and experienced Ministry staff were lost or injured in the war,” Percy began. “And many who did survive are now awaiting trial or have been arrested.”
“There’s been arrests?” Harry blurted out before Ron had the chance.
“Oh yes,” Percy began, with a grave look on face. “Gawain Robards led a team which arrested a lot of the worst offenders yesterday.
Most of them just turned up at work as normal, so it wasn’t that hard. Runcorn, Hopkirk – Umbridge too.”
Ron shared a look of shock with Harry, who looked quite please at that last one.
“The trouble is,” Percy mumbled. “They’ve all been arrested for following orders. Terrible ones of course and some of the stuff they did is unforgiveable. But I can’t help thinking, well… I was working there and following orders too, wasn’t I? If they’re all in a cell then I deserve to be there with them. I told Kingsley as much. I-
“You’re talking bollocks, Perce,” George scolded. “What was it you said? You ended up in the Department of Transportation after they killed Scrimgeour? Keeping tabs on the Floo Network and illegal Portkeys is hardly the same thing as rounding up the muggle-borns or doing the Death Eater’s dirty work for them.”
“George is right,” Ron added firmly in defence of his brother. “Besides, you came back to our side when it mattered. Right, Harry?”
“Right!” Harry agreed strongly.
“That’s settled then!” George said smugly. “If you’re alright with The Chosen One, then you’re alright with me,” he concluded, before draining what remained of his bottle and hurtling it in the direction of a watching gnome in the distance. The bottle smashed, George cheered loudly and the gnome scampered away swearing.
Harry had been spotted by Ginny in the distance and she motioned for him to come and join her little posse. He excused himself before walking over to join her, Luna and Neville.
“Right I’m all out. I’ll be right back,” George said, before pulling his wand out of his pocket.
“GEORGE!” Percy barked at him. “At least 10 percent of all splinching incidents occur after alcohol consumption. Don’t even think about it!”
“Honesty Perce, you’re worse than Mum!” George sighed. “Fine. Don’t suppose you fancy popping to the shed to get your dear brother another beer, Ronnikins?” he asked cheekily, looking over to Ron. “Just make sure you don’t pick me up a Foster’s. Awful stuff. Tastes like rat piss,” he added.
“Don’t listen to him,” Lee chirped. “Foster’s is definitely the best one. Feel free to take one from my crate in there if you fancy it, Ron.”
Ron thanked Lee, stood up and began to walk over to the shed. He’d only had one beer himself, but Percy triggering the memory of his own horrific splinching was enough to put him off from apparating.
“Make sure mine’s a Heineken!” George shouted. “Get Percy another one too. He’s been nursing this one for half an hour! He might lighten up if he has some more!”
“How did you even get into muggle beer anyway?” Ron heard Percy ask.
“Went into hiding in a muggle village when we were broadcasting Potterwatch…” Lee began, before the conversation was fully out of earshot for Ron.
George and Percy had been in better spirits than he’d imagined they might’ve been, but he supposed that might just be the alcohol. He hoped that a few more wouldn’t sour their moods.
As he reached the edge of the shed he noticed some quiet voices coming from inside it. His first thought was that some of the gnomes might have sneaked inside, but he soon realized that it was actually just two people whispering to each other. He carefully pushed the door open just far enough that he’d be able to hear who it was.
“Just think about it, Arthur,” he heard Kingsley murmur.
“You know I couldn’t possibly accept such a position!”
Ron was surprised by the firmness and slight anger in his Dad’s voice.
“I need people by my side that I can trust. I trust you more than anyone. Thus it is only natural that I would-
“I will not accept a high-level promotion purely out of nepotism, Kingsley. It’s not right. I simply couldn’t-
Ron’s grip on the shed door suddenly slipped and he stumbled forward into the light, which alerted Kingsley and his Dad to his presence.
“Sorry!” he blurted quickly. “Didn’t mean to interrupt. George sent me to get some more beer, have you seen it?”
“Ah err yes. Yes I think it’s just over there,” his Dad said, pointing towards a big black cauldron which George and Lee must have filled with cans and bottles of beer.
“Muggle beer is that?” Kingsley said sounding interested. Ron nodded. “Never really got with the taste myself. Gin on the other hand, well that’s a different story. Developed a real taste for that when I was shadowing the Muggle Prime Minister. They were stressful times. He practically ran on the stuff.”
Ron slipped past his Dad and rummaged through the cauldron looking for the Heineken that George was after.
“I’m surprised you haven’t taken it up yourself yet,” Ron’s dad replied.
Kingsley chuckled a little.
“Check back with me by the end of the week. And you Ron,” Kingsley said, turning to face him now.
“Have you given any thought to your prospective career at the Ministry?”
“Yeah…Yeah I have. I want to do it,” Ron said with a slight hesitation in his voice. He glanced at his Dad who showed no signs of discouragement or disappointment.
“Excellent! When you’re ready to start…you’ll make a fine Auror, my boy,” Kingsley roared, before reaching out and giving Ron a very firm handshake. Ron felt a bit of pride at being addressed by Kingsley like that, as usually he only reserved ‘my boy’ for Harry.
“Harry’s very keen to join of course,” Kingsley started. “Minerva told me he’s wanted to be an Auror since he was 15. Same for you was it?”
“Yes!” Ron lied.
If he was honest, he’d never really given much thought to future employment opportunities. When he was much younger his only aspiration was to be seeker for the Chudley Cannons. He’d often daydream of catching the snitch that won them their first league title for one hundred years.
But in reality he hated the pre-match nerves and stress of even playing in the House Cup at school – he would never be able to cope in a professional match, which was just as well as he wasn’t good enough to play at that level anyway.
“What about Hermione? She seems less keen on a job at the Ministry than you and Harry,” Kingsley mused. “I’m sure you of all people would know the reason for this?” he added with a very obvious wink. Ron’s dad laughed slightly.
“Well I think she wants to go back to school and finish her N.E.W.T.S,” he replied.
“Yes, she said as much to me earlier tonight. But she even turned me down when I offered her a temporarily placement for a few months before school starts up again. I suppose if anyone’s deserving of a break it’s you kids. But it seemed odd with you and Harry so keen to jump back into it.”
“I can’t say I blame her,” Arthur chipped in. “She’s probably just looking forward to spending some time with her family.”
The realisation suddenly hit Ron. His mind ran into overdrive so fast that he momentarily blanked out the conversation around him.
Ron’s thoughts were then interrupted by the sound of a man shouting outside.
“MISTER SHACKLEBOLT!! MISTER SHACKLEBOLT!”
Kingsley quickly bolted past Ron and flung open the shed door. It seemed somewhat of a scene had gathered outside, with many of the guests now staring curiously at Kingsley’s frantic and exhausted looking assistant.
“Ah! There you are, sir,” Basil began, breathing heavily with sweat dripping off his face. “Mr Robards said they’ve done it, sir. They got him!”
“Thanks Basil,” Kingsley said urgently. “It seems I’ll be bidding you goodnight, Arthur. It looks like we’ve caught ourselves a crab.”
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