A Momentous Meeting
Ron barely ate dinner that night. The way his father and Charlie exchanged knowing glances, he knew something was going on. He also knew that whatever it was that bothered them involved him. Charlie avoided eye contact with him, and his Dad was busy talking to Bill.
While Ron waited for a turn to speak to Arthur, the conversation around the table suddenly took a dive when Percy brought up Quidditch. Fred and George teased Ron relentlessly about his flying skills and blamed him for the result of the game that afternoon.
“You are the worst flyer ever, Ron!” Fred said.
“You’ll never make it to any Quidditch team with that kind of flying,” George added. “Ginny’s flying is better!”
Ron glared at them, but didn’t say anything. Suddenly, Bill said something about size and something else that he couldn’t understand, and it made everyone laugh. His mother was too busy slicing up the beef on Ginny’s plate, and Arthur had been trying to get a clear answer from Bill about his application to the Curse Breaker’s Institute in Egypt. Ron was beginning to be annoyed with their taunts, and the twins were unstoppable once they had everyone laughing. When he couldn’t take anymore of it, he told them to shut up.
“Shut up, he says,” George bantered. “We lost the game ‘cause o’ you!”
“All right, that’s enough,” Charlie said.
“Well, yes,” Fred said, “we shouldn’t blame him for being small, George!”
“Well, Quidditch is a game of brains as much as brawn,” Percy commented; this was followed by loud hooting, especially from the twins.
Ron flared and said, “Meaning what?”
“Meaning,” Fred said, “you’re too small and too dumb for the game!”
Everyone laughed, except for Ron, who looked like he was about to explode. He was breathing hard, and his face turned dark pink. When they stopped laughing, Ron tore the napkin from his shirt and threw it on his plate. Then he pushed back his chair and marched out the door.
“Ron,” Charlie called, “wait! Where are you going?” He hurried over to Ron's side. Ron walked faster, looking straight ahead. Charlie quickened his pace until they were side by side again. He looked at Ron and smiled, but he was ignored. “Hey! They were just joking, Ron. Come on!”
“What do you want, Charlie?” Ron snarled.
Surprised by his angry tone, Charlie asked, “Are you angry with me?” Ron did not answer. He didn’t even look at him. He just kept walking briskly with no apparent direction. Charlie grabbed Ron’s arm, but he pulled it back and walked away. “Hey, wait a minute!”
“Leave me alone!”
“Stop!” Charlie grabbed his arm again and held unto it firmly. “What is wrong with you?”
Ron narrowed his eyes and said, “You think I don’t know what’s going on? You think just because I’m eight, I’ve got no brains? I’m not stupid, Charlie!”
“Did I ever say that to you?” Charlie asked. “Did I say that you’re stupid?”
“You don’t have to say it; I know that’s what you think of me! That’s what you all think of me!” Ron ranted.
“Percy was joking,” Charlie said, “Fred and George have always been crazy, you know that. No one takes them seriously.”
Ron smirked, then said in a sardonic manner, “I’m interested in you, Ron! You’re my favorite brother! I want to know what happens to you! Apparently, no one takes me seriously as well!”
“Well, I am interested in you, and I do want to know what happens to you,” Charlie confirmed, slightly vexed with Ron’s sarcasm.
“You wanted to know about the vow!” Ron cried. “You knew all along, and you said nothing about it!”
Charlie sighed. “I was going to tell you about that, but I planned to do it at a much later time. I didn’t know Dad would confront us about that today.”
“Did he ask you to?” Ron asked.
Charlie frowned. “Ask me to what?”
“Did he ask you to talk to me about it?” Ron clarified.
Charlie replied, “Yes, he did.” Ron said something in an undertone, and though Charlie didn’t hear it, he knew it was something nasty. “He was worried about you, Ron. He was so scared, and he couldn’t talk to anyone else about it.”
Ron’s angry eyes slowly filled with tears. He wiped his eyes furiously, then said, “I’ve already promised Dad that I would try to forget all about it, but it’s not like I can just turn it off!”
“Well, that’s why he asked me to talk to you—to help you get your mind off it,” Charlie explained.
“Why didn’t you just tell me, then? Why did you have to go around in circles,” Ron argued.
“Look, I’m sorry for not telling you immediately, alright?” Charlie said crossly. “But you don’t need to be angry—I only did it to protect you.”
“I don’t need protection!” Ron cried.
“Stop being so bloody arrogant!” Charlie berated him. “This thing you’ve gotten yourself into is no small problem, Ron! It could mean your life! Dad was really scared!”
Ron lowered his gaze. “I didn’t mean to scare him.”
“I know you didn’t, and Dad knows you didn’t mean it,” Charlie said, “but it scared him nonetheless. So before you go into a rampage, try looking at the situation from his point of view.” Ron didn’t answer. He kept his eyes on the ground, breathing hard. “Anyway, you needn’t worry about it anymore. Dad told me this afternoon that you’re off the hook.”
Confused, Ron looked up and asked, “What do you mean, I’m off the hook?”
“You’re not the Defender, Ron.”
“What do you mean I’m not the Defender?”
“What you saw—or dreamt of the other night,” Charlie said, “that wasn’t real. It must have been your imagination.”
“It is not!” Ron cried. “I saw the star! I made the vow—”
“It is not you, Ron,” Charlie cut in, “it’s someone else.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because Dad told me!”
“How does he know that?”
“Because Albus Dumbledore told him so!” Charlie said. Ron’s shocked expression prodded Charlie to complete his explanation. “The Defender was chosen years ago; he’s been recruited by the Bureau already, perhaps to train him to be a knight.” Ron hung his head; a look of dejection filled his face. “Don’t feel so bad, Ron. It’s a lucky turn if you ask me.”
“Well, I’m not asking you,” Ron said crossly.
“Fuck!” Charlie swore. “Why are you so bloody stubborn? Do you want that life? Do you want to end up rotting for eternity? Because that’s what’s going to happen to you, Ron. You will fail and you will rot! Forever!”
With an injured look, Ron cried, “You don’t know that! You say that because you think I’m no good! Too small and too dumb to do anything! Well, I was chosen—they wouldn't do that if they thought I couldn’t do it!”
“Is that why you want it so badly? To prove yourself?” Charlie asked angrily. “Then you ARE bloody stupid!” For a while, both of them just stood there, looking at each other, breathing hard. Ron had a shocked expression on his face, but in a matter of seconds, it quickly changed, and soon heavy sobs shook his whole body. Sorry for what he had done, Charlie pulled him closer and hugged him. “I’m sorry, Ron. I’m sorry—” He kissed Ron’s head, and Ron slowly wrapped his arms around Charlie’s waist. He kept crying, unable to stop the tears he had been controlling since dinner. Ron’s loud howling was heard in the house, and Charlie saw his father and Bill come out the door. He waived his hand at them, and guided Ron to pond.
“I didn’t mean to say that, Ron,” Charlie said after a while. They sat on the small dock, and Charlie dangled his feet and let them dip in the cool water. “Ron?” However, Ron couldn’t stop crying, and so Charlie decided to let him cry until he got tired.
It took a while, but after a few minutes, Ron sniveled and said, “Am I really stupid?”
“No,” Charlie said, smiling. “I only said that because I was pissed. “You’re not stupid, Ron. A little stubborn, and you are a terrible flyer,” Ron laughed a bit, “but you’re not stupid.”
“I’m also not the Defender anymore,” Ron added.
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure if Dumbledore was telling the truth,” Charlie said. Ron said nothing, but he looked at Charlie expectedly. “I think he only said that to calm Dad.”
“Did it work?” Ron asked.
“Hmm? You mean, did it calm him?”
“Well, he’s not worried that much anymore,” Charlie said.
Ron nodded. Then he suddenly remembered something Charlie said earlier and asked, “Charlie, what was that thing you told me about Defenders rotting?”
Charlie was not sure if he should tell Ron, but he figured it would be better for him if he knew about it. “Dad said that all Defenders suffer the same fate; they all struggle to keep the Bearer alive, but fail, no matter how good they are. He said that they don’t die, but they rot.” Ron looked at him and grimaced. “It’s the penalty for their failure, Ron.”
“That’s not fair,” Ron said in a shaky voice.
“No, it’s not,” Charlie agreed. “And that’s why Dad was really frightened about it. It scared me too, you know; I would have rejoiced to find out you weren’t the Defender.” Ron wiped his face with his shirt. “But I know you were telling truth.” Ron looked at him, and Charlie knew he was grateful for what he said. “But I don’t want him thinking about this anymore. You should have seen his face when he came to see me. The last time I saw that look on his face, it was during the time when You-Know-Who was still here, prowling.”
“I’ll try harder, Charlie,” Ron said. “I’ll try my best not to make Dad worry about me so much.”
“But that doesn’t mean you have to keep all this to yourself,” Charlie said.
Ron sniffed again, then said, “What do you want me to do?”
“Whatever happens, Ron, I want you to trust me enough to tell me,” Charlie said. “I won’t tell them if you don’t want me to. But if I feel that it’s something that they need to know, you will have to tell them.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then I will have to tell them,” Charlie said. Ron frowned, but after a while, nodded in agreement. “Good. I don’t want Dad to see you bothered by this anymore; if you need to talk to someone, talk to me,” he brushed Ron’s head, “and don’t pay attention to what the others say; they don’t mean it. It’s how they show affection for you.”
“I’d rather they didn’t,” Ron said.
Charlie laughed a little. “They’ll change… and so will you. Don’t grow up too fast, Ron.”
Three years had passed since Ron saw the golden star outside his window. He had forgotten about it already because for the past few months, his mind had been occupied with school. He was now eleven, and he had just got his letter of acceptance to Hogwarts. He excitedly waited for September, but as it neared, Ron’s excitement dampened for he had learned that his parents could not afford to buy him anything new.
“Here’s your wand, Ron,” Molly said, as she handed Charlie’s old wand to Ron. Charlie had been sent to Romania to study dragons, and now had a new wand.
Ron grimaced at the sight of the old, used wand in his hand, and swallowed. Then Molly took out a robe, the color of faded black, several white shirts and trousers, his pajamas, and two pairs of wooly knitted socks.
“Percy, were you able to get a new cauldron for Ron?” Molly asked.
“No, Mum, but he can use my old one, it’s still good, and the bottom’s not cracked. Made of fine pewter, that is,” Percy said in an effort to convince their mother.
Molly looked at Ron, patted his freckled cheek, and kissed it. This was her way of saying she was sorry that they couldn’t buy him anything new. Ron smiled; he loved his mum, and understood their situation, but he would never accept it as a permanent arrangement. He swore one day, after he got a good job, he’d give them enough money—perhaps more than enough—and they wouldn’t be poor ever again.
Finally, the day came for them to go to Hogwarts. As they arrived at the train station in London, Ron followed his brothers—the twins and Percy—towards the barrier between platforms nine and ten. This barrier was a gateway between the Muggle world and the Magical world, and on the other side of it waited the bright red steam engine called The Hogwarts Express. It had only one destination: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
One by one, they went through the gateway; Percy went first, followed by Fred and George. Finally, it was his turn; Ron geared his trolley and prepared to run into the barrier when suddenly someone spoke behind him.
Ron felt a surge of energy run through his entire body at the sound of that voice. The hairs on his back stood on end, and his breath caught in his throat. He turned around to see the source and saw a pale boy with round spectacles standing behind him carrying a trolley filled with similar items as his. Something about this boy made him start; it was like he’d seen him before. When the feeling of déjà vu subsided, he noticed how shabby his clothes were and how sickly he looked. Ron felt sorry for him and immediately found him likable. He smiled, and as the boy smiled back, he remembered a face and a bright golden light. The recollection was gut wrenching, and he would have been sick, if Molly did not call his attention.
“Ron, dear, show him how it’s done,” she said.
Ron shook his head and swallowed hard. Still shaken by the vision, he prepared himself for the rush of the entrance to the gateway. He looked back at the boy who was watching him intently, and then with a deep breath, he ran straight into the barrier that magically opened into another world. He wondered for a moment if he should wait for the boy, but decided to move ahead and find himself a seat.
The train had begun its journey, when the twins told Ron that there was only one car that had space for him. He immediately went to it, and to his great surprise, he found the pale boy inside. Awkwardly, he asked if he could join him. The boy welcomed him immediately, almost excitedly. Ron went in cautiously, arranged his trunk inside the car, and then sat across him. For a time, they just sat there, smiling at each other until it became unbearable. Ron decided to initiate a conversation.
“My name is Ron, by the way,” he said, cutting the uncomfortable silence, “Ron Weasley.”
“Oh, I’m Harry,” the boy replied, “Harry Potter.”