"What's happened?" Fred asked, bolting into Muriel's with an armful of products and a levitating trunk; George following behind. But no one had time to answer, Arthur was far too busy, as soon as the twins entered he darted out, wand in hand. George and Fred shared a look.
"I don't remember saying you could all invite yourselves round, Ginevra," Murial screeched from the next room. Ginny's response was too quiet to hear.
"It's got to be Ron," George said, pale in the dim light. "The only reason we would all have to run, would be if Ron was found."
Fred was also pale, but he shook his head, "Ron will be fine, he's with Harry." He said that as if it meant that all would be well, but George didn't quite get that same feeling.
"Dad will tell us in a second," Fred said firmly and George knew that he didn't want to discuss it. Where George was being more openly worried he knew that Fred was just as concerned, but unlike him, airing his worries would only make him feel worse.
The door banged open and Arthur hurried in, locking the door behind him, he sank against the door in exhaustion. His face was slack, grey, his eyes unseeing.
“We're all under the fidelius charm. We will be safe here,” Arthur said dragging himself into an overstuffed armchair and mopping at his sweating brow. Ginny slunk in, she was worrying her lip, it was already beginning to swell.
“Dad,” George said quietly. “What's happened?”
Arthur's grim face did nothing to alleviate their worries, in fact George’s stomach lurched and rolled as his father rubbed at his neck, not looking any of them in the eyes. “Bill sent us a message, he said that You-know-who knew where-- where Ron was.”
They all held their breath. There was only one way they could know that, they all knew that.
“Ron?” Fred whispered, too afraid to ask anything else. Was he alive? Was he okay? Had he disappeared?
“Bill could only give me the warning.”
So they waited.
After an hour (or an eternity- it was hard to tell) Bill’s patronus appeared, and Arthur rushed out to meet him and give him the secret. They returned seconds later. Bill’s face was grim and all their hearts began to hammer.
“Where's mum?” He asked gruffly.
“Muriel,” Arthur replied. Bill nodded stiffly.
“Bill is Ron….” George trailed off.
Bill startled, as if only just realising how worried they all were, “I can only tell you what I know, which isn't much.” He paused, “An hour or so ago, out of nowhere, a house elf appeared in our garden. He had come from Malfoy Manor- where You-Know-Who is occupying- and, well, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas and Ollivander were with him. Luna and Ollivander had been there awhile, but Dean had just been captured- along with a girl and two boys.” There was a gasp, “Yes- Ron, Harry and Hermione.” He licked his lips, “It looks like they wanted information from them, they used Hermione to get it. The boys got the others out and then saved Hermione. But the Death Eaters know now that Ron was with them all along- we are in danger.”
“Hermione, is she-” Ginny whispered in horror.
Bill rubbed at his face, “Fleur’s treating her, she's okay. Just weak and shaken. Ron was sitting with her when I left.”
It was Fred who spoke next, “and Ron?”
Bill paused considering, the others didn't know about Ron staying at Shell cottage and Bill would never tell them. “Different- I hardly recognised any of them. He's alive, unharmed. That's better than we could ever have hoped for.”
“No,” said Fred darkly, “the best we could have hoped for would be for him to not be involved.”
George winced at Fred's harsh tone. They'd spoken about this often, they knew that Ron had a mission- that it was important, but they still couldn't help but wish that he'd never been involved. They understood why he was, they were proud of him. Except, they were all together- Ron was on his own.
“Ron is of age, a capable wizard and a loyal, courageous friend. There is nowhere Ron would rather be.”
“He would never leave Hermione,” George muttered, thinking of now his brothers annoying friend must have been tortured, hurt, while his brother desperately tried to save her.
“Or Harry,” Ginny said weakly, “and he’s alright too?”
“Yes, the elf died- he was burying him when I left. He's distraught,” there was an odd tone in Bill’s voice.
“Good,” Ginny said, nodding slightly.
“Can we see Ron?” George asked, needing to see his brother to know he was safe.
It was Arthur who spoke, looking pained, “no, it wouldn't be a good idea for us to move from one house to the other- or to know the secret if it is where Harry is.”
The twins reared up is disapproval, “we need to see him!”
“Boys, I want nothing more that to see my son, but you know that we can't. It would put everyone in danger to dilute the secret.”
“I'll keep you updated,” Bill said, “and tell them that you are thinking of them.”
“Don't tell them that!” Fred howled, “Ronnie will start thinking we like him.”
Ginny rolled her eyes, “yeah and that would be stupid wouldn't it?! When we could all be murdered at any moment!” Ginny sniffed. She stood suddenly, vibrating in anger, “pass on my love to everyone, let Luna know I've missed her.” With that she stormed out of the room, her hair rolling down her back as she strode. Arthur signed heavily, old beyond his years, and followed Ginny into the other room.
There was a pause, “is Ron really okay?” George said softly, looking down ashamed of the prickle in his eyes.
“I won't lie, they are all a mess. They are skin and bones, haunted. Who knows what they have done and seen in the last few months,” Bill thought back to Christmas, to the horrible new scars that covered Rons arm, “I know that Ron must've been injured, quite badly, he's got awful scars… But he's alive, and that's the main thing.”
George and Fred shared a look, and then George cast his gaze to the gleaming wooden coffee table on front of him. All they'd wanted, for months now, was some piece of tit-bit on how their little brother was doing. George had thought (wrongly it seemed) that any information would make him feel better. It hadn't. George could picture his brothers battle hardened face, perhaps the fresh scars were on his face, visible to all- like Bill. Maybe they criss-crossed the brain scars that littered his arms.
George itched at the place his ear had once been.
Would any of the Weasley’s escape unscathed?
He had the sudden thought of Percy and shook himself firmly. He looked up at Fred whose face was tight and angry.
“Why can't Ron come here?”
Bill looked at them sadly. “He's where he needs to be.”
Fred tensed up and was on the verge of saying something else when George gently tugged at the back of his robes. Bill sighed, running a hand down his face, running one of the raised scars left by Greyback. “I'd best go- look after Mum, and Ginny.”
He turned and left the room.
Fred growled and shook the hand off his back standing up suddenly. He shook with- anger or fear? George wasn't sure.
“Ron should be here, with us.”
George didn't say anything, he agreed. Of course they all did. The Weasley’s were strong together. Divided they all seemed to fall. George didn't really speak to Ron much, not really. There were years between them and too much mischief on his and Fred’s part. Yet, Ron had always turned to them for their, but mostly his, support. He had confided about his feelings for Hermione to them. He'd always sought them for comfort after battles and fights. Now though, when Ron needed them most, he wasn't here.
“He's fine, he's alive.” George said without much feeling.
“Do you think- do you think he knows? That we love him?” Fred asked. “I don't think I've ever- I don't think I've told him that.”
George was silent. While his relationship with Ron had always been more open, Ron and Fred had always been volatile. They fought more than anyone else, and their fights had always been the most explosive. In recent years however…
“I just, what if… If anything happened before I could- if he died before I could…”
George felt tears at his eyes. “Fred, he knows.”
George didn't tell Fred that nothing would happen to Ron because they knew it was a lie. If any Weasley wouldn't see this war out, they'd known for sometime that it would be Ron. He would always be the biggest target, stood at the right hand of the man who would kill Voldemort.
George grasped Fred’s hand and both fell silent.