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“Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first.” -- Ron Weasley, on his brothers’ legacy at Hogwarts
There is nothing outwardly special about Ron Weasley. He’s the sixth Weasley to go to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft & Wizardry. He doesn’t have rich parents like Draco Malfoy. He’s not a scholarly standout like Hermione. He doesn’t have a tragic backstory like Harry, Neville or Luna. He’s not the best at Quidditch, and he’s not a ladies’ man, the whole “Won-Won” thing notwithstanding. You don’t get a lot of love for Ron when you ask people their favorite Harry Potter character, and most fans wish Hermione had ended up with Harry instead. (Including, at least in one online admission, J.K. Rowling). He’s the sidekick. He’s the little brother. He’s the ginger who’s always overlooked -- and he’s the bravest one of all.
It’s easy to be brave when you have a destiny. How could Harry not have tried to save the world from He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? He had dead parents to avenge, a horrible childhood, a prophecy and a Headmaster pushing him to fight. It’s easy to be clever when you’re the brightest witch of your age like Hermione. When you have to fight against your jealousy, your little brother complex and your sheer ordinariness, and you’re brave anyway? Well, that’s when it really matters.
From the time Ron meets Harry, he’s in Harry’s shadow. His new buddy is the one who has to buy the chocolate frogs and assorted magical snacks from the trolley on the train. Ron’s family is too poor for that sort of extravagance. Everyone knows who Harry is when they get to the school. He’s The Boy Who Lived. He’s important, whether he wants to be or not. Ron is just another Weasley, and not even the only one still in school. He’s got his academically over-achieving brother Percy and his well-loved, prankster twin brothers to live up to. Then this super-smart kid comes along and shows him up in class with her Wingardium Le-vi-oh-sa and her endless right answers. Being Harry’s friend doesn’t mean Ron gets extra cool points. It means he’s invisible. When Ron looks in the Mirror of Erised, a charmed object that reveals the heart’s deepest desire, he sees himself as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, having won the House Cup. Ron just wants to be thought special. But it’s his thoughtfulness that causes him to join Harry and Hermione in the first of many campaigns to save the school, nobly sacrificing himself in the best played game of wizard’s chess that Dumbledore had ever seen.
He’s loyal to his friends despite the danger it brings to both him and his family, and then he rushes to his family’s rescue, as well. When Ginny is stuck in the Chamber of Secrets, he’s there to help save her. He even wears those awful sweaters his mother Molly knits him to please her, something very few kids would do. Does he run off and ditch the Yule Ball when faced with the horror of those old dress robes? Nope, he goes anyway. (Considering the ruffles on that outfit, this is an exercise in courage as daring as any Order of the Phoenix feat.) Ron faces his almost paralyzing fear of spiders to help save the school and his friends. When everyone turns away from Harry later in the series, Ron is there with him, no matter what. He’s loyal, even when he’s chaffing at Harry’s fame, how much better he is at Quidditch, or the thought that Hermione might prefer Harry over him.
It’s true, Ron bails on Harry and Hermione for a while in The Deathly Hallows, but that was almost entirely due to the influence of the Horcrux he was wearing to help share Harry’s burden. Once free of it, he seeks his friends tirelessly, never giving up on reuniting with them and helping them finish this dreadful quest once and for all. Despite his great love for Hermione and the fear that, once again, his friend Harry would be the center of attention, he does the right thing and returns, stabbing the Horcrux with Godric Gryffindor’s sword. I would argue that returning to the woman he loves, believing that she prefers his best friend, knowing how much it will hurt him to witness that, is the bravest thing Ron has ever done.
It’s hard to live in the shadow of everyone in your life. Ron breaks down, like any of us. He forgets his good sense when a girl finally wants him, and allows himself to be made foolish by Lavender’s attention, but this could happen to any of us, and it’s just one more thing that makes Ron Weasley all the more relatable. Harry sometimes falls apart under extreme stress and no one can blame him, but Ron is like the rest of us, sometimes jealous of our friends’ good fortune, sometimes selfish and sometimes weak, but he’s never, never disloyal. When Harry’s being discredited by everyone, he could have parted ways and been admired for it. He could have told stories about him and been the center of attention. Instead he braved humiliation to defend his best buddy.
Ron is us. He’s real. We read a story or watch a film and we want to be the hero. We want to be the smartest and the most heroic. We want to be the best at sports or magic, the best-looking or the richest. We strive to be all of those things, but what stories like this really do, what they really should do, is show us that we don’t have to be the chosen one in order to be good. They should make us realize that we’re not special, but that it’s important that we do good things anyway. Do good things and know we’re probably not going to get a reward. Do good things and know that no one will notice them because we not The Boy Who Lived or the brightest witch of our age. J.K. Rowling may have said once that she should have paired Hermione and Harry, but -- forgive me, J.K. – she’s wrong. Ron is loyal and brave. He’s funny and kind. He does the right thing for the right reasons, and not because of his destiny. There is nothing special about Ron Weasley, which makes him the most special of all.