Ron so often gets overlooked. He's nearly as accomplished as Harry, has seen nearly as much. When Lupin refused to let Harry face the boggart, he thought that it would spare the other students a shock. Then Ron steps up and suddenly there's a big freakin' acromantula...
"In chess, knights are usually sacrificed early and seldom last to the end of the game." And he'd said, "I'll be a knight," in their first year.
Totally. I suspect that Snape didn't know the full extent of Draco's mission when he made the Unbreakable Vow.
What mars this for me is the concept of Dumbledore as a manipulator. It's overused in this fandom and usually completely undefended. This is the only time I've seen someone even come close to a reasonable explanation. I can't see Dumbledore sneakily using Harry to accomplish an end, but I can see him thinking of the Voldemort issue as a chess game with Harry as the king.
"Harry can hate now. Avada Kedavra hate, green as his eyes." What a perfect expression.
What's not clear in here is why Ron pulls his punches with Harry, what he suspects that Hermione knows or why he thinks winning the game/playing his full deck would risk their friendship.
I'm afraid I do see AD as a big time manipulator--from PA where he makes sure Harry has that cloak, to POA where he leaves it to Hermione to fix things with the Time Turner, to OotP with the way he withholds information--I could go on--I don't think that fanon comes from no where, and before I ever read fanfic I saw him that way, and didn't much like the way he used children to fight a war.
To my mind that doesn't make Dumbledore evil--he's in a difficult position.
As for Ron pulling his punches, what I tried to imply in explaining the gap between the Ron we saw in PA and the Ron we saw since is that he doesn't really like putting himself forward, and in this particular instance he knows Harry's hate is beyond rational. With Hermione I tried to imply that she too might be making some of the same deductions.
Thanks you for the thoughtful and critical review--that kind of response is precious and all too rare.