... “to Ronald Bilius Weasley, I leave my Deluminator, in the hope that he will remember me when he uses it.”
Albus Dumbledore left Ron the Deluminator in his will, but besides it being useful for taking the light from a place, it was unclear exactly why he had bequeathed it to Ron… until he did something devastating. He abandoned Harry and Hermione on their hunt for Horcruxes.
We found out once he returned, of course, that he almost immediately regretted his decision and wanted to come back. Ron told Harry and Hermione that he’d heard Hermione’s voice somehow. And that a ball of light from the Deluminator had guided him – had floated right into his chest, right by his heart and brought him back to them.
Harry mulls this over when thinking about Dumbledore: ‘You gave Ron the Deluminator. You understood him ... you gave him a way back ...’ And now we’re mulling it over too. What exactly did Dumbledore understand about the youngest Weasley brother? Were there any clues in Ron’s life at Hogwarts, from his personality, from the trials and tribulations he’d faced, that meant he was going to leave his friends – but always want to return?
Young Ron Weasley was a firm friend to Harry Potter from the start, though he was unsure of himself and his family – within moments of meeting Harry he defended his mum making him sandwiches, uncomfortably saying she didn’t have a lot of time. This feeling of inadequacy followed Ron around right from the start – not helped by Draco Malfoy spouting things like: ‘No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles and more children than they can afford.’
And it wasn’t just other witches and wizards Ron couldn’t help but compare himself too. Ron had his five older brothers to contend with. Once he arrived at Hogwarts, Percy was already a Prefect, and later became Head Boy. Fred and George were known for being hilarious but also played excellently on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Not to mention that Bill was also Head Boy and Charlie was captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team in their Hogwarts years. Unsurprising therefore that young Ron Weasley saw himself as the best of all his brothers in the Mirror of Erised – succeeding as they had and more – revealing the depth of the superiority complex he had already no doubt developed.
By Harry and Ron’s fourth year, being friends with the famous Harry Potter was starting to grate on Ron, and it became a wedge that drove them apart quickly and easily. Ron had shown his stubbornness and his unwillingness to see a different point of view at times, back in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – refusing to speak to Hermione for ages because he thought her cat had killed Scabbers. But then in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, being in Harry Potter’s shadow became far too much when Harry was somehow entered into the Triwizard Tournament. During their weeks of silence, Hermione tried to explain it to Harry, which gave us a good insight into Ron’s character: “... Ron’s got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you’re his best friend, and you’re really famous – he’s always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it, but I suppose this is just one time too many ...”
Ron’s superiority complex only got worse with the onset of teenage hormones. And it wasn’t just about Harry specifically anymore, it was anyone. His temper was very easily raised by Ginny teasing him about not having kissed anyone – she used Harry kissing Cho, and Hermione kissing Krum, as examples, which can’t have helped at all. And then suddenly in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry was the Chosen One, and Ron was… well… still just Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s best friend. And it just wasn’t enough anymore. Interestingly, this didn’t seem to bother Hermione, but perhaps it was because she – unlike Ron – was hyper logical. She could rationalise out those feelings, whereas Ron was more of an emotional person (some might say hot-headed) – plus, she was an only child and had her own thing – being the brightest witch of her age.
It’s likely that the strength of Ron’s superiority complex, combined with his stubbornness, made it easy for someone or something to get inside Ron’s head and make him do something he didn’t really, at base, want to do. It comes as no surprise therefore that Slytherin’s necklace affected him so badly, and once all those feelings of inadequacy had built up he couldn’t shake them, even without the necklace on.
But Dumbledore giving Ron the Deluminator wasn’t just about him being the most likely of the Golden Trio to walk away from the other three. It was about him wanting to come back – after all, why give someone a magical object that means they can return to those they love, if they’re not going to use it? Of course we can only guess, but it’s hard to imagine Hermione – once she’d made up her mind – going back on a decision to leave, as she would have reasoned the whole thing out far too hard for that.
Ron was brave, like a true Gryffindor, but he was also very humble. It might have taken him a while to apologise when he was angry at Harry or Hermione, but he wasn’t afraid to admit his mistakes. He was also an extremely loyal friend, and always did the right thing, in the end. And Dumbledore would have known this. Even in Ron’s very first year at Hogwarts he volunteered to sacrifice himself in McGonagall’s giant chess game, so that Harry could rescue the Philosopher’s Stone. In Chamber of Secrets, he was mortally afraid of spiders but followed Harry into the Forbidden Forest anyway – because he’d never have thought to truly abandon a friend to their fate. He fought for and alongside his friends time and time again – in Dumbledore’s Army, in the Battle of Hogwarts – and he was afraid, but he fought anyway.
And Dumbledore would have known this too.
The Patronuses of witches and wizards take their forms for a reason, and Ron’s terrier is one of the most tenacious, loving and loyal dogs around. Ron might have left Hermione and Harry in a moment of jealousy and bad judgment – but he was always going to come back. It was decided the moment he faced that mountain troll alongside Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.