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Chapter 1: Ron Explains
The stars hung high in the sky and the waves made a repetitive sound that seemed to beat against the sand in time with his heartbeat. Sitting on bent knees in the dew covered grass , Ron steadied his breath before trying to stand. The task of apparating drained him immensely. Taking slow, deep breaths he stood, gripping his wand tightly in his hand. He muttered 'lumos' and held the wand out in front of him as it cast a ghostly glow on the garden around him.
Slowly he was able to make out the outline of a cottage and he stumbled forwards turning the corner of the garden which brought into view two brightly lit windows. They danced like gems as he approached and popped in front of his eyes from the fire light. As he made his way closer he stepped on a twig that gave out a resounding 'snap' in the empty darkness. His wand still being held out lazily in front of him moved swiftly to the window as he sensed movement. A woman appeared and let out an ear piercing scream. Ron quickly looked panicked as Fleur's hand pointed at him as if he were an apparition while the other hand made it's way to her mouth to stifle her fearful mutterings.
He heard the sound of shuffling inside the cottage and a wooden door bursting open with a large heavy thud. Ron raised his wand back in alarm as he stood there now facing Bill who was also standing with his wand at the ready. A wild look shown across his scarred face as he stood there judging the situation before him.
Finally after some time he asked, "What was it our brother Fred did to your Teddy bear when we were younger?" His gaze pierced Ron's soul daring him to answer the question.
"H-he tur-turned it into a-a spi-spider." Ron spluttered, fear was consuming the already pale features of his face as he held tightly to his wand.
Bill stood there for a minute taking in Ron's expression and answer before he finally lowered his wand.
"Ron," he started forwards, "where the hell are you doing here? Where's Harry and Hermione?" He finished as his eyes scanned around the garden behind Ron for the presence of the other two.
Ron gave Bill a defeated look and fumbled his wand around in his fingers. "It's sort of a-a long story." He finished lamely.
Bill placed his hand on Ron's shoulder and guided him inside. His lanky frame hobbled through the doorway. Fleur peeked around the corner.
"It's okay," Bill called to her, "could you get him something to eat and drink please?"
She nodded and made her way quickly to the tiny kitchen as Bill lead Ron to the table.
After sitting down at the table, Bill looked expectantly at Ron, but knew that it would be pointless until he had something to properly eat. He had taken in Ron's gaunt and bruised appearance. Ron's pale features shown like a ghost in the well lit room. Ron kept his gaze directed at the table with a look of a broken man on his face.
A few moments later, Fleur reappeared with bread, cheese and Butterbeer. She gently set the plate and goblet down in front of him and made her way over to sit next to Bill. He leaned over and whispered something into her ear as she had finished taking her seat. He stood up quickly leaving the room and drawing his wand as he went.
"Eat." Fleur said with an encouraging voice as she gestured towards the food. "Bill won't make you explain anything until you've ate something."
Ron nodded at her and began to scarf down the food in front of him. Bill re-entered the room a minute later.
"It's taken care of," he announced as he took his seat and drummed his fingers on the table top. Ron looked up curious as to what Bill meant and upon seeing his curiosity Bill continued to elaborate.
"I sent a Patronus to Mum and Dad."
Ron's face paled and he began to stand as Bill raised his hand in a "slow down" gesture.
"No," Bill said cautiously, "don't worry. I didn't tell them that you were here, but being that it's close to Christmas and that they will be expecting us, I told them that Fleur and I wanted to spend our first married holiday together alone." He finished. "I want answers though so don't you dare think that you're off the hook."
Ron nodded appreciatively and settled himself back down into the chair. Because of the situation and his nerves he unknowingly began to rub his hands on his thighs in a gesture to calm himself before he could begin explaining. He happened to bump something in his pocket, reached in, and pulled out the deluminator that Dumbledore had left him. Gripping it for strength, he took one last mouth full of Butterbeer and set the goblet down before looking up at the anxious faces across from him.
He sighed heavily, "I've been a complete git. We've been struggling to figure out the clues to the job that Dumbledore had left for us and then, well we had a row," he stopped short for a second and his gaze returned to the table top. His ears and face had gained back some color after eating, but that didn't stop the familiar red hue that was threatening to creep up onto his face. "I walked out on them."
"Why?" Bill asked.
Ron hesitated and thought for a moment before he answered, "because it's been hard not knowing what's been going on with everyone else while we've been running around chasing down leads. We constantly change places, hardly have any food and on most nights we've been freezing our backsides off."
Bill nodded. He understood Ron and the way that he became when there was lack of accommodations or news. Growing up in the Weasley family all of those things were provided round the clock with three meals to look forward to each day.
"I know that I have been a coward, but from the moment I left them I wanted to go back." He said in a deflated voice.
"No, Ron, you're no coward. You just have been in a tough situation and now you need to figure out what you're going to do about it." Bill said quietly. "I am sure you will make the right choice in the end, but, "He stopped quickly standing up and making his way to the kitchen to get something. When he came back Ron noticed that he was carrying an old wireless. "This should help you keep in touch with what is happening to to wizarding world." He set it on the table in front of Ron. "There is a program that I will have to get you to hear before you leave again."
Ron nodded his head. "But I don't know if they want me to come back." he said childishly.
"Ron don't be thick. Harry and Hermione need you and you need them. Whatever it is that you're doing it needs to be done. That's what the Order is about. You do what needs to be done. We fight until we have nothing left fighting for." Bill finished and stood up. "Come on I will show you where you can sleep."
They made there way up the small stair case to the first landing and entered the door into a little room with a single bed. Ron walked in and turned around to look at Bill. "Thank you." He said honestly.
"You're welcome." Bill smiled sleepily and shut the door behind him as he left the room.
Ron walked over to the nearest bed and sat down. He set the wireless radio down on the bed stand and set his wand down next to it. He still had the deluminator in his hand. Laying back on the bed, Ron clicked the button of the deluminator and flicked the lights on and off as he thought of how he was going to get back to Harry and Hermione.
For whatever reason he felt braver than he had when he left them in the woods that night. He knew without really knowing how he knew that he would get back to them again. Because of this he vowed to himself to be a better friend and a braver man. He knew that they needed him and that he needed them. He would step up and be a leader this time around. If this war was going to teach him anything it was that forgiveness is a strength as much as redemption is.