The longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his destiny, Who has started upon his quest for the source of his being. Dag Hammarskjold
Harry Potter quite obviously belongs to JK Rowling and her publishers. I should also point out that the structure of this fic is inspired by, "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Album. Which also doesn't belong to me.
Ron's First Summer.
It is the summer of 1980 and Molly Weasley has just walked outside to see how her husband is doing with the alterations to the house. Alterations which are needed because of the small red headed baby boy, who is entertaining himself by trying to eat his mother's hair.
Across the garden, his oldest brother, Bill, is entertaining himself by creeping up behind his father, who is preoccupied by the bundle of wood he is levitating up the side of the house, which will become yet another extension to the property.
"Bill Weasley! If that bucket goes anywhere near your father while he's working... So help me!"
"But, MUUUUM! I was only helping, I thought he might need it." Bill replied, whilst trying to look as innocent as possible.
"Really, and I suppose a bucket full of pond water will do the job better than your father's charm work, then?"
"No, Mum, I'm sorry."
"Hmm, well you can help me instead, by looking after your brother for a bit."
It wasn't often that Molly trusted any of her sons to even come near her baby, never mind look after him, so ignoring the giggles of his younger brothers, Bill jogged over to his mother, and carefully took his baby brother from her and sat down on the garden bench.
"And I don't know what you're laughing at, Charlie Weasley. Come in this house and get cleaned up for tea." With that Molly, turned around and went back inside.
When Bill was sure his brothers weren't listening, he turned to the small boy in his arms and whispered to him, "You know, little brother, you're not all that bad." and pressed a small kiss to his forehead.
Down At The Station.
Ron never saw the confusion in the first few minutes after his death. He never saw the shock and panic in his students' eyes as they managed to untangle themselves and get off the train. Nor his staff frantically trying to round everybody up and herd them all to the carriages, all of them unaware that their headmaster lay dead a few feet away.
Nor did he see the Stationmaster lead a shell shocked train driver into his office and hand him a hot drink of tea liberally laced with a calming potion.
Nor did he see the Magical Law Enforcement Squad Apparate in, followed soon after by a team of mediwizards, who, when they saw him lying on the waiting room floor, dropped their kits knowing they were already too late.
Nor did he see Maximus Malfoy look both perplexed and annoyed as he left the pub. Glancing over, he saw the arrival of the MLES squad and immediately Apparated himself home. It was, after all his day off, and the head of Magical Law Enforcement certainly deserved to be undisturbed on such occasions, besides, there were underlings to deal with this sort of thing.
No, what Ron saw were images -lots of images- vaguely familiar, but they were going too fast to tell, and the colours; pale colours, bright colours, dull colours, vivid colours, more colours than he could ever remembering seeing.
The Hogwarts Express...
The old witch...
Was he in time?
Where was he?
Why didn't his leg hurt?
The colours slowed down, orange, red, blue, green -many shades of green- and, as they came to a stop, they took shape. Fields stretched out in front of him, and in the distance was a house, but whose house it was could wait, for now he would sleep.
Ron's Fourth Summer.
It was the summer of 1983, and Ron was stumbling to keep up with his brothers before they left the garden.
"Oi, thich," his older brother Charlie turned round and spoke to him, "you can't come with us, you're too young. Now run along back to Mummy and help her with your sister."
As his brothers disappeared over the hill, Ron sat in the garden and sobbed. He wasn't too little, he was nearly as tall as his Dad's desk and didn't Dad say that desks were for big people? He was still in the garden, sniffling a little, when Percy found him.
Ron liked Percy, because he never went away and left him like his other brothers, and always tried to stop them whenever they went too far with their teasing. Sometimes he would sit and read to him, and, even though his books were really boring, Ron didn't mind. He just enjoyed spending time with his brother.
This time, however, Percy didn't read to him. Instead he took his little brother's hand and took him to go watch his brothers playing in the orchard.
Later, as they all sat drinking from a bottle of pumpkin juice, Errol, the family owl, swept down and landed in front of Bill, who, on seeing the red envelope attached to the owl's leg, groaned.
"Did you forget the time again, Charlie?"
"Hey, don't blame me, it's you who wanted that last game," replied Charlie. Eyeing the envelope with dread, he added, "You'd better open it then."
"You're the oldest."
"Right, and like that's a reason."
"Mum'll think it is, if I tell her."
"Oh, all right," replied Bill, before gingerly removing the now smoking envelope.
"DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?
TEA WAS READY OVER AN HOUR AGO! YOUR FATHER CAME HOME EARLY FROM WORK ESPECIALLY SO HE COULD EAT WITH THE FAMILY FOR ONCE!
IF YOU ARE NOT WASHED, CHANGED AND AT THIS TABLE IN TEN MINUTES FLAT, YOU WON'T LEAVE YOUR ROOMS AGAIN UNTIL MERLIN HIMSELF STEPS THOUGH THE DOOR AND LETS YOU OUT.
NOW MOVE IT!"
Bill was the first to react, picking up Ron, and setting off at a trot towards The Burrow, yelling, "Last one there's a drunken Clabbert!"
Journey's End or Journey's Beginning?
When Ron awoke, he found himself nestled in the bow created by two gnarled and ancient branches of a large oak tree. Whether he was unwilling or unable to move he wasn't sure, and he didn't intend to find out just yet. He was far too comfortable where he was.
Anyway, he was mesmerised by the first rays of light glinting through the canopy of leaves above him, and he knew if he just turned slightly, and angled his head just so, he would be able to see the sun rise slowly above the distant hill.
It was by far the most amazing sunrise he had ever seen (and he had seen a few over the years), but none were like this one. The air was as crisp as the colours were sharp, and yet the light filtered by the numerous trees was soft and dappled. As the colours faded and the sun rose yet higher still, pushing its warmth farther into the glade where Ron rested, he felt energised and leapt nimbly to the ground and walked along the path he knew would lead him out and along the riverside path. The path that lead home.
At first, it didn't occur to him that his leg wasn't hurting as much as one would expect it too when you were over one hundred and twenty years old and had just leapt from one of the taller trees around. Even the abundance of energy coursing through his body wasn't immediately apparent.
Realisation came slowly, as he strolled along the riverbank, whistling a tune he couldn't place. For as the sun reached it's apex, he sought refuge from the heat and sat under a nearby weeping willow. Its branches drooped low over the water and created a shady area in which he could lie down.
It was here that Ron realised a few things.
Firstly, he felt young again; full of energy and as if he would never feel tired ever again.
Secondly, it was very quiet; in fact, he was almost certain he was alone.
Thirdly, he knew where he was. He had known since he awoke this morning of course, but this was the first time he had fitted the clues together. That house had been The Burrow; he was home.
Fourthly, that water looked very inviting...
As he climbed up the bank and lay panting at the top, a large grin was plastered across his face. That had been fun.
Before he could catch his breath, a large grey rabbit leapt on to his stomach, twitched his nose at him and jumped back off heading across the fields.
"Oomph!" Ron exclaimed, "I'll get you for that, you little sod! Come here!" With that, Ron set off laughing, and followed the rabbit into the fields.
He soon lost it, but carried on regardless. It felt too good to be able to run again and vaulting the many fences took no effort at all. As he moved ever closer to the house just about everybody knew as The Burrow, he realised something. This was not the Ottery St Catchpole he had spent time in only a few weeks ago, this was the Ottery St Catchpole of his childhood. The trees were not quite so broad, the layout of the fields was different, and as he looked down on the village, it was much smaller, more like it was when he used to help his mum with the daily shopping all those years ago. The Muggle developments of later years were decades away.
As he approached The Burrow it looked empty, but not abandoned. It was as clean and tidy as first his mum, and then Harry and Ginny, had kept it. The garden was trim and well kept, and there wasn't a garden gnome in sight.
With some trepidation, he pushed open the back door and stepped inside. It looked just as well kept in here, and everything was just as he remembered it.
Even though it was perfectly quiet, someone must be about as there was a steaming mug of tea on the kitchen table; it was even in his old Chudley Cannons mug. Cupping it in his hands, he took a sip and continued to walk round the room. He stopped and moved back a couple of paces and stared at the clock on the wall. It was his mother's old clock and it had a few more hands than it used to. His mother had added Harry's and Hermione's soon after his fifth year. Others had followed, and one had been removed. The last time he had seen it, it had numbered sixteen hands, but now it was just like it had been all those years ago with just his mum's, dad's and siblings' hands. Nearly all of them were pointing to 'At Peace'. The only one pointing elsewhere was his own, and it was currently pointing to 'Travelling'.
Not entirely sure what to make of it, he shook his head and made his way into the living room. As soon as he opened the door, he knew somebody was in there.
Sitting in the chair by the fire was that last person Ron expected or, more importantly, wanted to see.
Standing up from the chair and walking over towards him was Percy.
A/N: Many thanks to Robert, Cara and Allie for doing their pre-beta/beta magic on this chapter.