"Oh, it's you."
Bill woke up at Charlie's voice and the sound of a door closing. Well, if 'waking up' meant being able to hear what was going on. He was having a bit of trouble opening his eyes. And moving his limbs. But he was able to hear Harry's voice greeting Charlie, "Good evening."
"Is it?" Charlie asked. He seemed hostile. Bill was too tired to understand. He had stayed up all night last night comforting his mum and George and Percy on the eve of Fred's funeral, and hadn't been able to sleep until a few hours ago, when the anguish and exhaustion had finally caught up to him. He had wanted to forget all about the funeral and the fact that Fred was . . .
He heard Charlie's voice again, as well as a sound of movement. "I don't think it's a good evening. My brother is dead because of a feud between you and You-Know-Who. You and You-Know-Who dragged the rest of the world along in your personal little war, and Fred died for it." Charlie was shouting by the end.
"I don't think . . ." Harry sounded upset, and it took Bill a few seconds, in his lethargic state, to understand what Charlie had said.
"I don't want to talk to you. Get out," Charlie snarled, and Bill jerked himself awake just in time to see Harry, looking distressed, slip out the door again, away from Charlie standing aggressively in front of him. The rest of his family rushed into the room, having clearly heard Charlie's rant.
Everyone was reacting to their grief in different ways, but this was unacceptable. "What the hell, Charlie," Bill began, but Ron got there first.
BAM! Charlie was much more solidly built than Ron, so he didn't fall over when Ron slugged him, but he did stagger back a few steps.
Bill looked at Ron, amazed that their baby brother had the guts to do that to Charlie, his biggest brother, and also probably the one most likely to attack him back.
"WHAT WAS THAT?" Ron asked furiously, shaking and red faced.
George slipped out of the door, following Harry.
"HAVEN'T YOU REALIZED THAT IN THE END IT WAS JUST HARRY AND YOU-KNOW-WHO?" Charlie asked, matching Ron in fury. "NOBODY ELSE NEEDED TO BE THERE! Harry should have just walked up to You-Know-Who and finished it before anybody else died!"
"YOU THINK WE PLANNED ALL THAT?" Ron shouted, being held back by Hermione, Percy, and Ginny. "HARRY'S SEVENTEEN! He hasn't even taken his NEWTS yet, and he had to go up against the most powerful Dark Wizard in history!"
"You think we knew what we were doing?!" Ron gave a short laugh. "We didn't. We had no idea. We- He didn't even figure out the last thing he had to do before defeating Voldemort until after Fred d-died." Ron choked up for a few seconds.
Ron continued venomously. "And you know what it was? Do you know what he had to do?"
Nobody answered. Ron and Hermione both had tears running down their cheeks, and Bill suddenly wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"He had to die. He had to walk up to Voldemort and let him kill him. Could you have done that? Could you have spent your entire life fighting Voldemort, trying to survive, hunting for ways to kill him . . . and then, when you realized that the only way to finish him was to let him kill you, would you be able to walk up to bloody Voldemort without hesitation, without protection, and stand there patiently so he could kill you?"
"What?!" That was Ginny, looking thunderstruck.
But Ron kept his eyes on Charlie, who looked shocked. "You know what happened?" Ron continued. "Harry found out during that lull in the fighting, when Voldemort gave him an hour to give himself up."
"But Voldemort wouldn't have kept his word," Ginny interrupted.
Ron ignored her. "There was a part of Voldemort inside Harry, and for Voldemort to die, all of the parts of him had to die. Do you understand? Do you realize what Harry did? Because he didn't flee Britain and live his life, like any sane person would, leaving the rest of us to live under Voldemort's rule."
Hermione gave a choked laugh.
"No," Ron continued. "What he did is he put his wand under his robes where he couldn't reach it if his instincts kicked in and tried to keep him alive. And he made sure to avoid me and Hermione and Ginny, because he knew he wouldn't be able to do it if he had to say goodbye to us first. And then he walked out to the Forbidden Forest and walked straight up to Voldemort and stood there while Voldemort hit him with an Avada Kedavra, so that nobody else had to die, and then you go and blame him for Fred's death, when he's the reason the rest of us are alive at all." Ron's words were said with such ferocity that Charlie, the dragon tamer, actually took a step back.
"I'm going to kill him," Ginny said weakly, sinking into a chair. "I'm actually going to kill him."
"Why isn't he dead, then, if You-Know-Who killed him?" Percy asked, rather tactlessly.
Ron finally looked away from Charlie. "We don't really know. There's a couple of possible reasons . . ."
"What?!" Ron said, turning to her. "Just because you don't believe the story doesn't mean it's not true! You didn't believe the objects existed, either! Is it that impossible that owning all three would make him Master of Death?"
Bill felt he should know what Ron was talking about—Ron's words sounded familiar, but he didn't quite remember where he had heard them before.
"Ron!" Hermione replied, exasperated, "That would only be true if they had actually been made by the personification of 'Death,' which is absolute rubbish!"
Ron was about to respond, but Percy interrupted. "What objects?"
Ron turned to him, "You know the Tale of the Three Brothers?"
It all connected for Bill, but there was no way . . .
At the nods around the room, Ron continued. "Well, it's true . . ." Hermione was about to interrupt, but Ron just spoke louder, ". . . and Harry owns all three Hallows, making him Master of Death."
"But that's not why he didn't die," Hermione interjected. "He couldn't die because Voldemort used his blood to resurrect, so Harry's mother's blood was also in Voldemort, keeping Harry alive until Voldemort died."
"Wait," Percy said, "Hermione, you believe the Tale of the Three Brothers is true?"
Ginny slipped out the door, following Harry and George.
"Hermione doesn't have a problem believing things that are true," Ron sniped, causing Percy to flush.
"I don't think Harry's 'Master of Death', at least not the way everybody thinks," Hermione answered Percy, "But he does own the Resurrection Stone, the Elder Wand, and the Cloak of Invisibility, as far as I can tell."
"As far as you can tell!?" Ron said incredulously, turning to Hermione. "What more proof do you need?! . . ."
Bill tuned their bickering out, and caught Charlie's eye. He hoped Charlie would get the message and stop being stupid and go apologize to Harry. Charlie grimaced in resignation, but headed for the door.
Well, now that was resolved, Bill really wanted to finish his nap in a proper bed. Maybe he'd get lucky and Fleur would already be there.