The students of Hogwarts sat, numb, in the Great Hall after a terrible announcement had been made by Professor McGonagall. Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, the hope of the wizarding world, was dead. After an altercation with Professor Quirrell to save the Philosopher's Stone, he had died hours later of magical exhaustion. A raging fever had taken over him, and his body had destroyed itself, not being able to handle the magic that Harry had used.
Some students were sobbing, others were screaming, and yet others just sat there in their seats, no expressions on their faces at all. This was truly a terrible day for the wizarding world.
Then, Professor Flitwick had come into the hall and announced that all classes were cancelled. He had also said that Ron and Hermione were still in the hospital wing, and although they were both okay, no one should bother them right now. Everyone knew why; they had been the two closest to Harry and were obviously taking the news the hardest.
But as breakfast ended, one person got up from his table, determined to break that rule immediately. And this particular person was normally not one for breaking any rules, and reprimanded anyone who did.
Percy Weasley strode with purpose to the hospital wing, thoughts buzzing a mile a minute in his mind. He had always known, from the moment his brother met Harry Potter, that it was bad news. He knew Ron had always felt overshadowed by his brothers, and the young boy was determined to make his mark on the family. And after meeting Harry, his ideas of becoming a hero had multiplied tenfold.
And now it had come to fruition in the worst way possible. Ron had helped to be a hero, but lost his best friend for it. Percy had tried to warn Ron to be careful when it came to Harry, had even told him to distance himself a little, because Merlin, he didn't want Ron getting hurt. Ron had just snarled and scoffed as a reaction, not letting Percy's words even phase him.
And now, Percy had failed. Ron had had his innocence shattered all in one day, and Percy could not have done a thing about it. He knew Ron would be a different person from now on, and there was a huge part of him that wanted to find the bed where Harry was lying, look into that too-innocent, angelic face, and scream at him: how dare you hurt my brother this way! You had no right to take his childhood from him! But he knew it would be no use: Harry couldn't hear anything he said anymore. He was out of reach. What was the use of yelling at a dead person?
Percy also knew that the fact that three first-years had gotten onto the third floor would not go unheard by the Ministry of Magic. They could not brush this off like they had done other things. Headmaster Dumbledore and the staff of Hogwarts would get in trouble for this, and honestly, Percy was glad for it. If people like his twelve-year-old brother were involved in scandals like this, the whole school could shut down for all he cared. All he'd wanted since he was a little boy, no matter how cruelly his family treated him, was to keep them all safe. None of the Weasleys understood him, but it didn't matter. Their comfort and safety was all that he cared about.
His thoughts took him to the doors of the hospital wing, and purposefully, he pushed them open. As he walked inside, the first person he saw was Albus Dumbledore. Fury bubbled up inside him, but his mind told him to control it.
"Excuse me, sir," he said in a careful, polite voice.
Dumbledore turned to face him, his eyes looking miserable and exhausted. "Mr. Weasley," he said softly.
"I wish to see Ron," Percy said in a tone which brooked no argument. "Where is my brother?"
The sound of footsteps followed this question, and Madame Pomfrey came walking towards the two of them. "Ron Weasley should have no visitors right now," she said in what was supposed to be a stern voice, but it did not sound normal. "He sustained a concussion last night which is healing nicely, but his emotional state ..." She didn't finish her sentence, but Percy could guess the rest. He wasn't surprised at all that Ron had sustained an injury, and his anger towards Harry grew even more potent.
"Poppy, perhaps we should reconsider," Dumbledore said. "Since he is still refusing to take the sleeping potion, maybe his brother can convince him."
"Albus, he is too distraught to see anyone," Poppy insisted.
"Family can do wonders for family." Dumbledore replied, looking right in Madame Pomfrey's eyes. "We should allow them to see each other."
Poppy sighed wearily, what little fight she had left seeming to drain out of her. "All right, if you insist." She said. "He's over there." She pointed Percy to the bed where Ron was lying.
Slowly, Percy walked over to it and drew back the curtains. What he saw broke his heart, making his hatred for Harry swell up all over again.
Ron was lying in the bed, staring up at the ceiling. His eyes were hollow and haunted; he looked as though there was nothing left to fight for. He looked broken, and this in turn broke Percy. He had never, ever seen his brother look this way, not in all these years.
Ron heard the curtains open, and he stared at the newcomer. When he saw it was Percy, the expression on his face seemed to grow even more dull. "Oh, it's you," he said in a monotone.
Percy said nothing; he just pulled up a chair and sat by Ron's bed, simply looking his younger brother up and down.
After a few long minutes of silence, Ron slowly sat up in bed. He finally looked Percy right in the eye and said, "You got what you wished for, didn't you? You wanted Harry gone, and now he is. I'll never see him again. Congratulations, Percy, you got your wish."
The words tore a hole through Percy, because he knew there was a modicum of truth to them. He maintained eye contact with his shattered brother and said softly, "I just didn't want you to get hurt, Ron. That's all I wished for."
Ron started to tremble, and his voice began to rise as he replied, "I didn't want ... or need ... your ruddy protection, Percy. I didn't want it then ... and I don't want it now. So get the bloody hell away from this room, from this bed. You have no right to say a damn thing to me anymore."
This struck Percy hard, but he didn't do as Ron asked. He stayed there by his brother, determined not to leave his side.
"I said GO AWAY!" Ron suddenly shouted, his entire body shaking by now. "I don't want you here! What part of that do you not understand? GO AWAY!"
But despite the continuous words of bitterness and anger coming from Ron, Percy did the only thing he could think to do in this situation. He put his arms around the distraught boy, wishing to gather him close to him. Ron struggled in his grip, his furious shouts of "GO AWAY!" still persisting.
But finally, all the anger, all the resentment, all the fury seemed to drain out of him, and he relaxed against Percy, letting himself be held. And Percy saw his brother do something he hadn't seen him do in a long time: Ron Weasley let go of all restraint and started sobbing. Tears streamed down his face as he repeated the name of his best friend over and over again along with cries of, "He's gone, Perce, he's really gone. What am I supposed to do now?"
Percy didn't answer Ron's questions, because he knew no words would help at this point. He just continued to cradle Ron to him, letting the boy cry himself out. The need to go to Harry's body and scream at it doubled; how dare he reduce his brother to this! He had to fight every instinct in him not to go and demand where the stupid, foolhardy boy was lying. Ron needs me, Ron needs me, he chanted over and over inside his head. Harry is dead. He won't be able to hear you. It's no use.
Finally, Ron's sobs subsided, and Percy gently stroked his hair as he said, "Ron, you really should take that sleeping potion. I know you've been refusing to swallow it."
"I don't want it," Ron said hollowly, sniffling. "I'll go to sleep, but then I'll wake up and remember all over again, and ..." But as he said this, he yawned; his exhaustion could not be denied.
"I know, Ron, but you need to rest. It is important for your own health," Percy tried to persuade him. He gave his brother a long stare, pleading with his eyes for him to listen.
Eventually, Ron disentangled himself from Percy's embrace and lay back on the bed. He reached over to his bedside table and picked up the goblet of potion. "Okay, fine," he said softly.
And with one last lost, heartbroken look at his older brother, he lifted the goblet to his lips and drank it down.
The effect was immediate: Ron's eyes instantly closed and his breathing became deep and even. Sighing in sorrow, Percy took the goblet from Ron's hands and placed it back on the bedside table.
And as he watched his younger brother sleep, a thought dominated his mind, a thought he couldn't get rid of even if he tried.
Be careful what you wish for, Percy. You always wanted Ron to grow up, to take life more seriously. Be careful what you wish for. \
Because when you wished for Ron to grow up, this is not what you meant. This is not what you meant at all.