Ron remembers being naive enough to think that death is the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it is a distant, faded memory. Written for Cateagle.
Being a hero means a lot of things that Ron doesn't want - would never have wanted if he was smart at all. They are all heroes.
Being a hero means losing at life. (It means losing Hermione to the surprise ambush that is the start of open war, and he remembers her splayed limbs - stop. Nothing. It means losing his fellow redheads one-by-one, and it is only more painful that way, especially when it comes to be Fred's turn but not George's. Ron never really realizes that they are Fred-and-George-Gred-Forge quite so wholly until they aren't anymore, and blanker eyes than George's cannot be found on an actual corpse.)
So the first one to go is Fred. It is three weeks after the first anniversary of Hermione's death, and it does not happen the way Fred and George morbidly fantasized that one night months before with the firewhiskey and the nundu and the polka-dotted stripper and the hula hoop. It is not a blaze of glory - it is another ambush because the two twins are never separated. Because they are weak alone but too strong together, and Voldemort smartly decides that their inventions are dangerous to him. The shrouded figures slip out of the shadows of the alley behind the twins' flat as Fred takes out the trash, and he never even has a chance to pull his wand. George finds his brother's cooling body ten minutes later (Oi, Fred, are you banging a bird against the bins or something? And laughter is cut off, disbelieving silence broken by the sound of knees hitting the ground and quiet whimpers and hands and knees scraping against the concrete, skin breaking and bleeding and not mattering - the background noise of people walking by the alleyway is unnoticed and disconnected) which is ten minutes too late. When Ron apparates to them early the next morning, only there because his older brothers are late for an Order meeting, George and Fred are entwined together in the filthy, sticky alley with wide, empty eyes. For a horrible moment, Ron thinks they are both dead. He has nightmares of that cool gray morning for a few nights after before battle blessedly gives his subconscious fresh material. Ron does not think he can ever stand to see the scene again (Fred's body had stiffened in the way George had positioned him, legs tangled and arms wrapped in a returned embrace - the way George wouldn't let go and Fred was incapable of letting go, and identical blank blue eyes stared above blue-tinted lips), to live through prying them apart and hearing George's frantic screams.
He learns later that he can stand it, and he does. A hundred times, now a regular part of the horrorshow that is his dreams. Two hundred times, but by the one hundred and ninety-ninth Ron has lost much more and he stops waking with tears on his face.
The second to go is Charlie. He is such a natural flier, and as a dragon-handler he has something much better to ride than a broom. The war has been going on for two years when the Weasley death count raises from one to two, and Charlie goes in a blaze of glory he never cared about. (But Fred did, Ron remembers. Fred did. He wanted to wreak havoc with Voldemort's plans and throw a wrench in the works. As a hero, Ron is allowed to find this ironic. As a hero, he loses the ability to lie to himself.) He and his friends swoop in on their dragons and turn the tide of a crucial battle the Order is losing. It takes nineteen Unforgivables and a well-aimed blinding hex to take out Charlie's dragon, and he manages to kill forty-three Death Eaters before he goes. He free-falls to his death, but they win the battle and his name becomes a battle cry. Ron breaks down in a musty closet at Headquarters as soon as he can get a moment alone, and the sickening crunch of all of Charlie's bones breaking when he hit the hard-packed dirt is the new soundtrack to his nights.
The funeral is closed casket.
It is eight months later when Bill is killed in the attack on Gringotts, and the image of how Ron and the rest of the recovery team found him - with his long ponytail floating in a pool of blood, blending and congealing to the broken marble floor of the foyer - is the little piece of his oldest brother that haunts Ron. They find Percy in the rubble two days later, the tattoo on his arm a taunt that is stark against the bloodless flesh. Ron knows he should be furious, but all he really feels is drained. He wonders distantly if Percy was the one to kill Bill and arranges whisper-slip for Percy to be buried away from the family plot.
His mother is three months after Bill and Percy, and it is the first time a loved one's death makes him happy - relieved. Guilt drowns him, of course, and a smidgen of that relief is that she passes quietly, leaving no words that will whisper in his sleeping ear or vicious death scene that will bring him that much closer to breaking. The rest of his relief is purely that she won't sob alone in the darkness of the HQ kitchens at night - that she won't have to lug the family clock around with her everywhere she goes. He is relieved because the death of four of her children transformed the strong matriarch's life into an existence of pure pain, and Molly Weasley is (was) a mother who doesn't (didn't) deserve sleepless nights and newly fragile, old hands and constantly red eyes and fifty-three new wrinkles to remind her of her loss every time she looks (looked) in the mirror. She doesn't (didn't - get it right already, Ronald; it's past tense now) deserve the war or the worry or the pain of losing her children, and she died softly and gently (like the lullabies she used to sing them) in her sleep. Poppy's resigned conclusion of "broken heart" makes Harry protest, but he is practically Muggleborn and doesn't understand that, yes, witches and wizards can die from that. His father's grieving death a month later silences Harry's mutters of "must have been poison", but it is not a victory. George and Ginny are his only blood family left, and the three of them live with the knowledge that in the end their parents valued their peace more than fighting the good fight. So there is guilty relief and happiness and terrible grief and fury, and Ron loses his emotions because he is a hero and heroes need to keep being heroes.
His only brother still alive hates himself and hates the world and hates that he can't seem to manage to get killed - just look at everyone else who's doing it, George mutters into his shot glass one somber night. it seems to be fairly easy to those buggers - and he doesn't grin or joke or prank or mock the silence the way he and Fred did when Fred still could. He fights with preternatural precision, slaughtering mindlessly and efficiently and cruelly, but that is okay because everyone has long since sprinted past the point where any of them give a bleeding fuck how much of their soul is torn as long as this war ends. There is gaping space between the two remaining brothers made by the way they are not the boys who grew up as brothers anymore, and everything has been said between them that can be said. They move around each other with knowing eyes and grim lines where smiles used to be.
Ron rarely sees Ginny, but he is used to that. She and Harry have been partnering together on assassinations and covert ops for the last three years, and he rarely sees his old best mate, either. The last time he saw them was at a mission briefing two weeks after his father's funeral. Both of them came in from the field for that. Really, the family funerals are the only time he sees them unless he is handing them a mission and an objective, and he knows the next time he sees either of them will be at Ginny's or George's funeral. It is too late to rebuild bonds, and the three siblings blend into night sky as they part ways.
He is so tired of wearing black. He wears black robes to the skirmishes and black dress robes to the funerals. He wears black boxers and black socks and black tees and black jeans just to keep doing laundry simpler, and he is so sick of it that he wants to just stop. He doesn't want to punch something or make something bleed or scream - he gets enough of that already, and he wants it all to just. Fucking. Stop. He doesn't want to be responsible for every one of his subordinates' deaths. He doesn't want to draw out another bloody strategy or sit through hours-long meetings and listen to desperate, frantic, tired voices argue over life-or-death issues before they look to him for a decision. They are all heroes. Why can't someone else step up?
The next time he sees George is at Ginny's funeral nineteen months after his father's. His brother is dry-eyed and blank-faced and does not comment on Ron's freckled, pale face that is not tear-stained. They listen to the service in silence, and Harry's clenched fists and bleeding palms tell General Ron Weasley what they need to do. They tell Ron that Harry is ready now in a way that Ron has always known the fated man wasn't before. His sister is a hero, he knows. She has saved them all from another decade of war, even if it was never her intention. Even if it never even crossed her mind - real heroes never mean to be.
The small section of his brain not strategizing and analyzing as he stares at Ginny's elegant marble coffin is just glad that he wasn't there to see her fall. There is no guilt. Not this time - what time is this? How many has it been? He doesn't want to count so he doesn't.
He has an unremovable - even by magic - blood stain in the carpet of the foyer to remember her by.
It is a month and a half after Ginny's funeral when the war ends and the drunken revelry begins. Harry kills Voldemort and dies with him, and Ron is vaguely happy for him. He remembers being naive enough to think that death is the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it is a distant, faded memory. Harry was a hero, after all, just like Ginny and Charlie, and being a hero means losing at life. Ron is somewhat jealous that Harry is the one who gets to lose for a last time. He arranges whisper-slip for Harry to be buried in the family plot next to his late lover.
Ron isn't surprised when an Auror - he thinks he knows the other wizard, maybe. Old dorm mate, right? Derrick Thompson or something? - knocks on the door of his inherited mansion (from some well-meaning person who wanted to make life a little easier for the world's remaining hero; as if money means anything to him) five days after Voldemort's death, salutes, and tells him, "General Weasley. Your brother..."
He is glad George has finally died. He has been expecting this knock and the refusal to meet his eyes ever since Fred was killed, and George has gone out heroically enough for both of the twins. Every single Death Eater who escaped the final battle is dead, and the Wizarding World is truly safe now. They can start to rebuild.
Ron really can't find it within himself to give a shit.
He has fought the good fight to the very end and won, and none of his brothers can say the same. None of his family can, actually. His friends are dead and he wants the awed looks and worshipful tones and pleads for advice to stop. He is twenty-seven going on Dumbledore, and he knows that he will be expected to take control and recreate the Wizarding World in a new, ideal image that he can't even imagine having dreamed about, even though he is sure that at one point he believed he was fighting for something. He doesn't want to do it. He will do it anyway.
Being a hero means losing at life.
Being a hero means a lot of things that Ron doesn't want - would never have wanted if he was smart at all. He is the last hero left, and it leaves a bitter taste in his blood and a cold bite in his blue eyes. It is not worth it, but even his memories of who he was before he was a goddamned hero and General Weasley and head of the Order have blurred like tea spilled on the parchment where the things that made Ron himself - before - are written in scrawling, messy script. Being a hero means losing in every way that really matters to a human.
Being a hero means losing.
A/N: My first Ron fic, written in fulfillment of Cateagle's request - and it isn't femmeslash! Not even a hint! Celebrate, veteran readers who hated me for writing things you didn't want to read! Be merry!
Anyway, for my HP-only readers: as I said in the AN of my last Naruto fic, I probably won't be doing title competitions anymore. If you want to request something, just tell me and I will do my best to comply.
Review! Tell me which lines you liked, which ones you didn't, if any part confused you, how it made you feel... You get my drift. Tell me if you hate it. If you love it. It you think it to be a pimple on the ass of the HP fandom.