The Sugar Quill
Author: The White Lily (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Mixed Letters  Chapter: Mixed Letters
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling, not I. I hope I won’t embarrass her too much by what I do with them. : )

A/N: This is an outtake from my other story - Harry Potter and the Promise Ring. Please read that first, as it’s a great story, and this one contains a couple of spoilers for it. You don’t really need to read it to understand this story though, as it’s fairly self-explanatory.

Mixed Letters - by The White Lily

An outtake from Harry Potter and the Promise Ring

Mixed Letters

Hermione sat at her window, staring despondently out at the dark street below. What was the good of being a witch, she thought desperately, if the post was still so slow? She sighed and looked back down at the letter she had received that morning, a slight smile returning to her face. She had penned a quick response to Viktor in essence saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” but still she couldn’t get her mind off the content of the extravagant love letter.

The problem was not with Viktor. No, Viktor was a nice sort. Tall, dark… She spluttered a bit at the thought of applying the word “handsome” to Viktor, though he was attractive in a brooding sense. But that wasn’t the problem. It did irritate her that he couldn’t say her name correctly, although she would never admit it to Ron, but that wasn’t the problem either.

The problem lay with her. Or rather, with the fact that she was in love with a total moron, who also happened to be her best friend. And that he would never write her a letter like Viktor had. Especially since they were not currently speaking to each other over a particularly outrageous letter she had received from Ron “forbidding” her to go to Bulgaria. She shook her head again. A moron. She was in love with a moron.

The letter from Viktor was flattering, she had to admit that. She especially appreciated the effort he had obviously put in to make sure his English was perfect. But there was something missing. Rather than making her swoon with love for him, they made her rather giggly. She had bursting out laughing at some of the more outlandish descriptions of his love for her, which only made her feel ashamed that she wasn’t taking him seriously.

She hadn’t admitted that Viktor had been writing her love letters when she had owled to Harry asking for advice. Hedwig had shown up three nights ago to collect a birthday present for Harry. Hermione had purchased it the day before in Diagon Alley and that night had tossed and turned for hours, unable to get to sleep. Reviewing her homework was no use; she couldn’t concentrate. Finally giving up, she sat down to write a letter to Harry, confessing her confused feelings and asking for advice.

Hedwig had arrived to collect the present just as she finished the letter. She had stuffed the letter in an envelope and given it to the snowy owl before she had time to think about the real wisdom of sending it.

Now she wasn’t so sure. She had entertained the possibility that Ron returned her feelings the night of the Yule Ball, and had suggested the idea to him afterwards. He had seemed completely stunned by the notion. Since he had made no attempt to approach her since then, she had discarded the notion as wishful thinking.

Would Harry laugh at her? Would he tell Ron? She had asked him not to tell Ron, but she had always known that Harry was more Ron’s friend than hers. Would they ever speak to her again? Was… Was that an owl coming up the street?

***

Ron was sitting in the living room, idly playing chess. The white queen moved forward to take one of his pawns and he watched impassively as she brutally smashed the tiny chess piece into smithereens. He might as well practice his poker face, even if it didn’t matter on this occasion.

For the first time in ages, he was being challenged by his opponent and considered his next move carefully. No one would ever play against him any more and so last year he had looked up a spell in the Hogwarts library to enchant the white pieces to play against him. He had found the spell he thought Professor McGonagall must have used in his first year to build the giant chess set to protect the Philosopher’s Stone. He had only just managed to get the complicated spell to work correctly, having had many problems with pronunciation, wand movement, and holding all the rules in his mind while casting.

Hermione would be proud of him, he thought idly, but quickly quashed the thought. Best not to think about that. He returned to his study of the chessboard. Ah, he saw it now. He moved his knight to check the king. Immediately, the white queen moved in the only legal move for white, taking his knight. His bishop moved forward, checkmating the king. As the king surrendered, he noted the similarities between this game and the game he had played when chasing the Philosopher’s Stone. Maybe it was a product of the spell?

Involuntarily, his thoughts returned to Hermione. She had cared what happened to him then when they were going for the Philosopher’s Stone. She hadn’t wanted him to sacrifice himself. That was before she met Vicky. Now she hardly had time for her friends any more because it was “Viktor” this and “Viktor” that. And it wasn’t that he had a problem with his friend dating other people. Not at all. He didn’t like Vicky because he was from Durmstrang, he was Harry’s competitor in the competition and he was probably a dark wizard. Really.

The stupid prat couldn’t even say her name correctly. “Herm-own-ninny,” he mimicked quietly. Ignorant git. Ron did have to admit that he was good at Quiddich though, however much it pained him. And that Wronski Feint of his… But it just wasn’t right. Viktor Krum was the enemy and Hermione was fraternising. Maybe even sleeping, but no, that didn’t bear thinking about.

Ron shuddered, trying to convince himself that he didn’t care, but gave up. He didn’t know why he was trying to deny it anymore after his ill-advised letter to Harry three days previously. He knew that Harry had his own problems, but he just couldn’t concentrate on anything other than what Hermione was off doing with Vicky. Unfortunately, once he’d decided to briefly run the idea past Harry, he’d written eight pages before he knew what he was doing.

And then the twins had asked him to come flying with them to practice his Keeping. He had tacked on a couple of sentences wondering how Harry was and just sent the whole damn thing. Oh, he knew that Harry would be all right about it and that he wouldn’t laugh at him or anything. Harry was great like that. But these secrets are always much safer when you’re the only one who knows about them.

Ron descended into glum reflection, staring unseeingly at the chessboard in its final state. Suddenly, something small and grey skidded across the chessboard, scattering chess pieces all over the coffee table and the floor and breaking his reverie. The greyish lump picked itself up and shook itself briefly, as though trying to regain its senses. Then it saw Ron and hurled itself at him, hitting him full in the chest, joyously hooting at a job well done. It was Pigwidgeon. And he had a letter from Harry attached to his leg.

***

Hermione flung open the window and stood breathlessly awaiting the entrance of what was definitely Harry’s owl. Hedwig soared into the room, landing softly on her outstretched arm. She untied the letter, fumbling in her haste and apprehension, and pulled out the sheet of parchment with trembling hands.

Dear Ron,…

She almost dropped the letter in surprise. Harry had sent her the wrong letter! She struggled briefly with her conscience, but surmised that there was no way Ron would know that she had read his letter, since the envelope was already open. Besides, this was her big chance to find out what the others said about her behind her back. Would Harry respect her confidence? Or was he planning to have a big laugh with Ron?

…Don’t worry, I don’t think Hermione’s too serious about Viktor Krum. …

The dirty sneak. He was going to tell. He was going to ruin everything and Ron would laugh at her and never speak to her again. Hermione realised that she was hyperventilating, so she closed her eyes and took deep breaths until she was calm enough to continue.

…Seriously, you should tell her how you feel. …

Hermione had to close her eyes again to regain control. He hated her. He was only pretending to like her and she had gone too far by going to the ball with Viktor. Oh, how she regretted that now. She was going to be alone this year at Hogwarts. No one would talk to her and it would be just like her first year and third year all over again. She opened her eyes again, determined to finish the letter before bursting into tears.

…You love her. Doesn’t she deserve to know? …

She emitted a short squeak and really did drop the letter this time. Scrambling to pick it up, she reread the message from the beginning, finishing it in seconds. She read it six times, then hurriedly shoved the memorised letter back into the envelope. She resealed and readdressed it, writing a quick note to Ron that Harry must have labelled the envelope incorrectly.

Giving the message to Hedwig, she let the bird go, then lay down on her bed to stare at the ceiling. There was still a long way to go, but there was hope. Oh yes, there was hope.

***

“Stay still, you feathery piece of junk,” Ron was muttering under his breath, irritated with his hyperactive owl. Finally the letter was free and Ron raced up to his room to lock Pigwidgeon in his cage. As he left, the owl was flying back and forth in the cage, banging against the bars on either side before going to the other.

“Idiot bird,” he shot back over his shoulder as he bounded down the stairs, before returning to Harry’s letter. Ron attacked the letter eagerly, even though he was still mildly apprehensive about the fact he had finally admitted his feelings to Harry.

Dear Hermione, …

Ron had stuffed the letter back into the envelope and readdressed it before he realised the opportunity he was missing. He considered his options briefly, but his curiosity gained the upper hand over his principles quite quickly and he read on.

…I wouldn’t worry too much about Ron’s griping regarding Viktor. I reckon that the only reason Ron is so wound up is that he’s afraid that Viktor’s taking your attention away from him. …

Ron groaned in frustration. This is why he hadn’t wanted to let Harry know about his feelings for Hermione. Now Harry was trying to set them up in some unsubtle way, and Hermione was going to see straight through it. Ron knew she didn’t return his feelings. The message of how she felt about him had come through quite clearly when she had screamed in his face after the Yule Ball.

…Seriously, you should tell him how you feel. …

Great. Harry wasn’t going to set them up; he was going to tell her to put him out of his misery. But Harry didn’t know that Ron had tried. Ever since the Yule Ball, he had tried to forget Hermione. Forget her and find someone else to crush on. Fleur Delacour – she was a good choice for a crush. Her Veela blood made her easy to drool over, but most of his stares had been feigned to let Hermione know that he wouldn’t chase her since she wasn’t interested.

After all his hard work at hiding his feelings, she was going to find out. And then she would give him the “you’re a really great friend, but I just don’t feel anything else for you” speech. He would be too embarrassed to look her in the face ever again.

…You love him. Doesn’t he deserve to know? …

Ron drew in a sharp breath and read the two sentences again. Surely she didn’t. He ran over her words from the night of the Yule Ball, the words that had haunted him since then. Well, if you don’t like it, you know what the solution is, don’t you? Next time there’s a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!

He had taken it to mean that he had lost his chance: that she was with “Viktor” now. Unbidden, a new interpretation occurred to him which he had never yet considered. Had she been telling him that she would have liked to go with him? But that she had gone with Viktor Krum only because he had asked her first? Had she actually been encouraging him to ask her next time, rather than telling him she wasn’t interested?

Ron was dumbfounded. He had tried to forget Hermione. Had all his efforts been misguided because she actually liked him?

He quickly returned his attention to the letter and read the rest. Really, he had to give Harry some credit – it was a very well worded letter. It hinted vaguely that Harry might know how Ron felt, without breaking his confidence.

Deep in thought, Ron packed away the chess set and returned to his room for the night. He read the letter over and over, hovering between rejoicing and a deep-seated anxiety that set him to trembling. He was still clutching the letter as he fell asleep, an hour after he had turned out the light.

***

Ron sat bolt upright in bed. It was late in the morning and a horrible thought had occurred to him. Harry had mixed up to whom he was sending this message. Did that mean that Hermione had received Harry’s reply to his letter?

He fell back into bed, groaning. Of course it did. The stupid git! How could he do something like that? What did Harry write in his reply? And what would Hermione think of it? Would she think that he was a pathetic love-struck fool?

Ron shut his eyes tightly, attempting to block out the world. It was so close to being perfect! But this put an unknown into the equation. The tapping on his window confirmed his worst suspicions. There was Hedwig, with an open and readdressed envelope attached to her leg.

His heart in his mouth, he opened his reply from Harry. His eyes fell first on the note Hermione had scribbled to him, concerning the incorrect address. It didn’t seem to have occurred to her that he might have her letter.

Hedwig hooted questioningly and he shook his head at her. “Go back to Harry. If I want to send a reply, I’ll use Pig. Thanks!” The snowy owl shook her feathers and launched herself back out the window.

Returning to his letter, he read all that Harry had written and groaned. If she had read the message, she would know. Know that he loved her and there was no going back. No stalling or it might turn into another ordeal like the weeks after the Yule Ball. And he couldn’t take the chance that she hadn’t read it, because he knew that Hermione was as curious as her cat, Crookshanks. And Crookshanks was a renowned busybody.

It was time to get this out in the open. Ron sat down at his desk and pulled out a sheaf of parchment to begin a letter to Hermione.

The finished product was rather good, he thought, several hours and many false starts later. It put across the message of his feelings quite clearly, but let her know that her friendship and her happiness were the most important things to him and that he would understand if her heart was elsewhere. When the twins had sat him down at the beginning of the holidays to give him a talk about “girls and all that stuff” they had said that’s what girls wanted to hear. And even more surprising than the fact that he had believed something his twin brothers had said, he had actually meant it. Her friendship was the most important thing to him.

He read it through a few more times, making small corrections, and then took out his best quill and a new sheet of parchment to rewrite it. Blowing softly on it to dry the ink, he folded the precious piece of parchment and sealed it inside an envelope, enclosing the letter from Harry. It was only when he took his tiny owl out of the cage that he reconsidered.

How many things could possibly go wrong? What if Pig took the letter to the wrong person? Or lost it? And what if Hermione really didn’t return his feelings? Pig was being uncharacteristically quiet and still, obviously sensing his master’s distress. The owl cuddled up against his neck, nibbling gently. “Pig,” Ron said seriously, cupping the fluffy bundle of feathers in his hands and bringing the owl around to face him, “this is the most important letter I’ve ever given you. You need to take this straight to Hermione, no one else. And please, Pig, behave yourself.”

Pig hooted reassuringly and flew down to grasp the letter in his claws, then slowly and sedately, he flew out the window.

Too stressed to think about his tiny owl’s uncharacteristic behaviour, Ron took his shaky old broom and went flying to forget his troubles. Once in the air, he was Ron Weasley, Keeper for England, chess champion, the man who never had any problems with girls, or friends, or mixed letters.

***

It had occurred to Hermione not long at all after she had sent off Hedwig with the letter to Ron that Harry’s reply to her might have been sent to Ron. Oh dear. She had spent the next day worrying over what Harry might have said in response to her (admittedly very long) letter. Perhaps it would prompt Ron into action? Or perhaps it would be the cause of embarrassment for years to come. Either way, she wished that Ron would hurry up and write to her, because she was going crazy from not knowing what his reply would hold for her.

She was currently on her knees in the flowerbeds, digging weeds away from the roses. She had been volunteered for this task by her mother to stop her from “moping around the house.” Stupid Ron. It was all his fault. Rather viciously attacking a nettle, she felt a white-hot pain shoot through her right hand. Oh. She had forgotten about that hole in her glove. She had been very carefully pulling nettles with her left hand only for the entire afternoon to avoid this. This was all Ron’s fault, too.

Hermione carefully drew her gloves off and made her way up to the bathroom to wash her hands, in the hope of ridding herself of the pain. She stood with the cool water gushing over her hands and as she watched the water swirl down the sink, her thoughts wandered back to Ron again. He was such an idiot. Couldn’t he just write back and put her out of her misery?

She was so wrapped up in her thoughts and the turbulence of the water flow, she didn’t notice Pig’s sedate entry, and it wasn’t until she attempted to turn the water off that she noticed his dignified perch on the tap.

Hermione’s response was not dignified. She grabbed the letter from the tiny owl and tore it out of its envelope and then sank to the floor of the bathroom, beginning to read.

Dearest Hermione,

I guess I should start this letter with a confession. I read the letter Harry wrote to you when it was delivered to me by accident. I could tell you that I had hoped for some news from Harry, but it would be a lie. I had hoped for news of you. Ever since I sent that letter to you at the beginning of the holidays, I have been wishing that I had reconsidered. I have come to realise exactly how much our friendship means to me.

Harry’s letter gave me a hope I had not had since the night of the Yule Ball, when, as far as I was concerned, you made it quite clear you wanted nothing more than friendship from me. That hope was that you returned my feelings.

To be honest, I love you. I have for some time. I hope that you feel the same way, but I understand if you do not. Our friendship is the most important thing to me, and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost that. If Viktor makes you happy, then I will try to be happy for you. If this is the case, I guess things will probably be uncomfortable between us for a while. So be it. It is not fair to either of us for me to pretend that I do not have these feelings for you.

Please forgive me for the letter I sent you earlier in the summer. I hope that now you can understand a little better why I did. Please write back soon.

Love from your friend,

Ron

Hermione had tears in her eyes when she reached the end of the letter. She had been wrong to think that Ron was not every bit as capable of eloquence as Viktor was. Racing to her room, she pulled out a piece of parchment and scribbled quickly before giving the note to Pig and sending him back to Ron. “Take it as quickly as you can,” she told the bird and threw him out the window to speed him on his way.

The tiny bird, concentrating fully on his mission, never heard the very loud cry of “YES!” coming from the house he had just left and the stampede down the stairs as Hermione went to tell her parents about the new development. Pig struggled furiously to beat his wings faster as the countryside slipped away beneath him so seemingly slowly. He reached his master’s house in near record time, finding the familiar lanky redhead flying his broom nearby. His letter was nearly torn from him again and the exhausted owl was forgotten as his master attempted to control his trembling in order to remove the letter from its envelope.

Half a minute later the letter too was forgotten, drifting to the ground to rest beside Pigwidgeon as Ron let out a whoop and began to run towards the house yelling, “Mum, can we have Hermione over for the holidays?” The tiny owl looked in puzzlement at the parchment that could produce such a response. Obviously he had done his job well. He would have to try being a responsible post owl more often, even though it didn’t get him much in the way of gratitude.

Pig grabbed the abandoned letter in his beak and moved his exhausted wings into action once more to return to his master’s bedroom. Leaving the note on Ron’s pillow, Pig went back to his cage and promptly went to sleep. He did not notice a pair of identical redheads silently open the door, sneak in and filch the letter from the pillow. They giggled quietly as they read the letter.

Dear Ron,

Yes, of course I love you, you git. Of course I forgive you, although just so you know, Viktor was never in the equation. I will send this immediately so that you will know.

Love always,

Hermione.

“What brilliant blackmail material, brother mine,” whispered one twin, slinging his arm around his brother’s shoulders. “It seems that our advice did some good after all.” And with that, the first twin tucked the letter into his pocket and the two walked out of the room, happy that they too had done their job well.

*********************************************************************

A/N: I know that Ron’s letter is quite fluent and expressive and thus not particularly in character. This is both because of the talk he has had with the twins about how talk to a girl, and also because he cares a lot about Hermione, and went to a lot of trouble to get that letter perfect for her.

Also, I believe it is quite accurate that a romance developing out of friendship should go through love before physical intimacy, at least that’s the way my relationship developed with my boyfriend of four years, best friend of five. A friendship like Ron and Hermione’s merely takes one person with enough courage (and enough prompting from friends!) to take the first step to flourish into a serious romance. In my real life relationship, it was me. In this story, it was Ron. So for those who choke on the fluff, bugger off, because in real life, fluff happens. : )

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