The Sugar Quill
Author: Kala Phoenix  Story: A July Afternoon  Chapter: Default
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A July Afternoon

By Kala Phoenix

This is an I Wonder If? story. What if Ron had met Luna, however briefly, before that train ride? A long time before, when his mind was still a child’s, and differences weren’t so important….

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

Ronald Bilius Weasley was miffed. Downright displeased. The seven-year-old’s mother had the nerve to give him a bath, twice in two days!

And it was all because of Fred, that miscreant brother of his, getting him covered in sap and mud as they played in the forest.

His peachy, freckled skin was squeaky clean, fiery hair dripping, as Ron shuffled out into the orchard that bright summer afternoon. He picked up an apple from the ground and munched on it pensively. What to do today, what to do…. Suddenly he jumped about a foot into the air. “I KNOW!!!! I’LL play a trick on Fred!” he just barely remembered to keep his voice down so the other redhead wouldn’t hear. “I’ll go out in the forest and collect some sap in a pail. Then I’ll just have to figure out how to get it on his head.” he whispered to himself, and then collected a pail from the area near his father’s shed.

Ron walked quickly over to the house and yelled into the screen door. “MUM!!!! I’m going into the forest!!!!!” “OK, just be sure that you’re back by 5 o’clock, or I’ll make you take another bath!”

The jubilant redhead hopped to the edge of the forest and entered its emerald depths on a well-worn path, used often by the Weasley family. He immediately set to work scraping sap off of drought-affected trees with a small shovel and continued to walk through the forest.

Every few minutes he would stop and examine a particularly interesting bug or small, frightened animal that happened to pass by. As Ron got further into the forest, he stepped on a carpet of half dead moss and rotting leaves; the ground becoming slightly mushier and the plants healthier as he went.

Suddenly, like passing from one world to another, he entered a lush grove. Large bushes with oddly shaped leaves towered above him, and banks of ferns nestled between willow trees and rings of mushrooms. A pond fringed with cattails and covered with floating lily pads and green algae dominated the scene. Far at its other end, he saw… well, at first he wasn’t sure what he saw. A girl, maybe? Pale, and wearing a green dress made out of fabric resembling huge leaves, with flowers tangled in her long white blonde hair. But what were those? Were those silvery, flapping wings on her back? They glowed softly and cast off sparkles at every movement. From where he was, Ron couldn’t see any sort of mechanism holding the wings on her body.

“Hullo!” the puzzled boy called.

“Oh, hello,” the girl spun slowly round and replied in an absentminded voice. Quite unexpectedly she jumped up off the ground and flew across the pond towards him at a reasonable pace. “I’m Luna Lovegood. What’s your name?”

“Ron Weasley,” Ron replied shortly as she landed quite easily on the soft ground next to him. He noticed her dreamy grey eyes and the fact that she wasn’t wearing any shoes.

“Why don’t you have shoes on?” he asked, quite scandalized that she was out in the middle of nowhere with no shoes.

“I am being a fairy today,” she answered simply, “and fairies don’t wear shoes. Except for maybe the Souli Fairy. Daddy told me that they make their own cross trainers and run races on dirt roads in the middle of the night when nobody’s there.”

Ron snorted. “That’s rubbish! Where did he find that out?!”

“In The Quibbler. He reads it all the time.” She bent down to examine a toadstool as Ron made his next statement.

“Well, Mum and Dad don’t read it, so it must not be very good.”

At this, Luna started up and stared him straight in the eyes. It was very unnerving. Her grey orbs seemed to look inside his very soul and examine his faults. “That is my Daddy’s magazine! He’s the editor, so you better not say anything else!” she spat this out almost venomously and Ron took a step back.

“Er…Sorry?” “You’d better be sorry! Mummy says he works very hard to make his magazine interesting for the readers!” In reality, Luna had no idea as to who the mysterious “readers” were, but the previous phrase was something her mother often said when Luna was wondering why her father wasn’t home yet and why they didn’t eat dinner together as much anymore. Luna’s mum would say,

“He’s under a lot of stress, dear. This magazine takes up a lot of his time so he can give the readers what they want and make money from it.” “Oh.” She would reply, no more understanding about the situation than the moment before.

“So…. Where do you live?” Ron asked finally, after a long, uncomfortable silence.

“In the most wonderful house in the world! There’s pictures of Daddy on expeditions for the Quibbler, our Puffskein family, Mummy’s laboratory in the backyard, my room, Daddy’s front office, the kitchen, the secret cellar, and…and I guess that’s all. But Mummy let me decorate my own room and I can make my own breakfast and help Daddy with his papers and lots of other things! And Mummy made this fairy dress for me, too.” Luna prattled on aimlessly about Crumple-horned Snorkacks and Blithering Humdingers until Ron used a small break in her one-sided conversation to get a word in.

“Your dress is very pretty.” He said shyly. “And your wings are brilliant!”

“Thank you.” She replied, equally shy. “Mummy made my wings too. It’s a new spell that she’s going to get a-” she pondered the word, “— patent for.” Both children had no idea what a patent was, but Ron nodded knowingly.

“Do you want to play Damsel in Distress?” She asked him, shyly.

“What’s that?” he asked incredulously. “It’s where I’m the princess and I get kidnapped by a dragon and you come save me on your trusty flying carpet, silly! It’s wonderfully fun!” Luna giggled musically and the boy agreed, if doing so would augment his knowledge on how to save girls from dragons.

“Hello, my fair sir.” The girl spoke in a considerably adult voice.

“What’s going on?” her companion asked.

“Ask me to dance with you! You need to get to know me before you come save me from the dragon!” she replied in a furious whisper.

“Um…sure. My fair maiden, will you have this dance?” he bowed elegantly and held out a dirt-stained hand, copying what he had seen in the novels his mum often read.

“Indeed,” she replied gravely, and they both held each other’s hands and danced some sort of polka, not knowing anything else.

“I regret, but I must take leave of you. It is high time that I rest for tomorrow.” Luna let go of his hands and walked off behind a tall bush in stately fashion. Then she began to scream, small terrified shrieks. “Oh! Oh! A dragon has come to carry me off!”

“Come with me, my pretty, and I won’t burn you up…yet.” She did an excellent imitation of the dragon’s growl-y voice. The strange girl then flew over the pond and sat down in the tall grass at the other side, weeping pitifully.

“Please fair knight, come rescue me from this terrible dragon!” She imitated a dragonish laugh, which Ron took to be his cue. He ran gallantly over to Luna and began fighting with the “dragon”, thrusting and cutting the air with a stick he had found, using it as a “sword”. He grunted, and with one last thrust he gave a victorious yell, jumping up and down. The girl spontaneously began to jump with him.

“Yay! The dragon’s dead!” The two linked arms and pranced around the clearing, gleefully chanting, “The dragon’s dead, the dragon’s dead!”

Unexpectedly, Ron stopped and checked his watch. The hour hand was a great deal past four, and the minute hand was on seven. “Oh no! Mum told me I had to be home by five, and if it’s what…. 4:35 now, I don’t have much time to get back. What if she really does make me take a bath again?” he shuddered, and then spoke louder, “Luna, I have to go home. Mum wants me back before dinner, or else I’ll have to take a bath!”

“But why wouldn’t you want a bath? They make sure that Nollypiggles don’t roost in your hair,” was her odd reply.

“Well, I’ve already had a bath today. I don’t want another one!” he tried to help her understand his chagrin.

“Oh. All right. I suppose I’ll see you again sometime.” The girl began to walk away, looking sad and dejected.

“We can still be friends, right?” Ron asked. “The clearing can be our secret. I’ll definitely come back here!”

Despite this, Luna still looked sad as she stood at the beginning of a path out of the clearing. The boy impulsively strode up to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She brought her hand up and absently touched the place he had kissed. “Farewell,” she said with a smile, “I hope we’ll always be friends. Remember this place, and come back again soon!”

She and Ron walked off in opposite directions, she to a small, cozy house where her mother waited, and he back to his busy home, where cooking smells came out the kitchen windows and his siblings played in the spacious yard.

Ron in fact, did not return to the pond that summer. He discovered the true joy of Quidditch (that is, his mother finally let him play), and was so occupied for the rest of the summer. And the one after that. And the one after that, and so on. He passed memories of the whole afternoon off as some sort of mystical dream. Eventually he totally forgot about it. And Luna? She still remembers. She looks back on that afternoon fondly, thinks of the redheaded boy, and the kiss he gave her.

//
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