The Sugar Quill
Author: redlightspecial  Story: The Gift  Chapter: Default
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The Gift
by redlightspecial


September 1, 2004

The Keeper for the Chudley Cannons stumbled in through the front door of his flat. He was still wearing his bright orange robes, though they were tinged with a streak of blood. Remnants from an errant Bludger that had found the side of his head. It had been the longest match he could ever remember playing. He stifled a yawn as he shuffled off to the kitchen. Saying that he was exhausted would be one major understatement. He grabbed a bottle of water and dropped into a chair. His back screamed in protest so he shifted around to try and get more comfortable and closed his eyes.

It may have just been thirty seconds. It could have been half an hour. He wasn’t sure if he'd even fallen asleep at all. He shook his head and struggled to get back up. Why try to sleep in the chair when he had a perfectly good bed waiting for him? He crossed the room and his gaze fell upon it. The gift. Not tonight, he thought. He made to leave the room, but a habit that was now three weeks strong took hold. He walked over and picked it up. It’s plastic and metallic smoothness was oddly comforting, considering what the item did to him.

“Stupid Muggle invention,” he said. “Why would Harry think I’d want this?”

Despite his verbal reservations, he slid the earbuds into place and caressed the clickwheel, determined to break the cycle. The words passed his eyes in a blur. He closed his eyes and moved his thumb faster. Suddenly he stopped and his eyes opened, staring at the item that had become his nemesis over the past twenty days. The title that he couldn’t escape shone back at him. Make it twenty-one. He sighed, resigned to his fate, and thumbed the button in the middle of the circle. Bull’s-eye.


I see our stars tonight
Do you recall that light?
Or do you ever think of me?

March 1, 1995

A shiver passed through him. It was colder than he thought it’d be. He glanced at Hermione. She had bundled up pretty well, as she had told him he ought to. He finished setting up his telescope and started rubbing his hands together. Thankfully, Astronomy wasn't a double. He blew into his hands trying to get a little more warmth. Hermione made a tutting noise, and he immediately stopped blowing. She was not going to get the continued satisfaction of knowing that he was cold.

Professor Sinistra beamed at the class. “It’s a very exciting night tonight, class. Very exciting indeed. Does everyone have their telescope set up?”

Everyone nodded.

“Excellent,” Sinistra said. “Who can tell me about the star named J. Brown?”

“Is that one of the stars that predicted my death when it crossed Mars?” Ron asked Harry.

Harry sniggered. “You’ll have to consult with Trelawney on that.”

Hermione shot them both a look as she raised her arm.

“Yes, Miss Granger?” asked Professor Sinistra.

“J. Brown is a star that can be found in the general vicinity of Venus. It was only discovered fifty-seven years ago by a Gryffindor fourth year, here at Hogwarts, named Ewan Davis.”

“Anything else?”

“The star is only visible once every nine and a half years.”

“Very good Miss Granger, but there’s more.”

Hermione frowned.

“But this information is something that we do not share, lest someone get a head start,” Sinistra continued. “As per the wish of Mr. Davis, the star is to be renamed by the Gryffindor fourth year who rediscovers it every nine and a half years. Hence, John Brown is having his final minutes as star namesake.”

Parvati raised her eyebrows at Lavender.

“I don't have any relatives named John,” Lavender said. “Brown is a quite common name, like Thomas, or Evans.”

“All right everyone,” Professor Sinistra said, “take a good look at your star charts for Venus. The first one that finds the unplotted star gives it its name for the next nine and a half years.”

The students pulled out their charts, quickly trying to cram the locations of the plotted stars into their short-term memory.

“That’s enough time,” Sinistra said. “Ready? Go!”

Telescopes swiveled, scanning the night sky above. Ron located Venus and started working in small circles around the planet. All these bloody things look alike, he thought. For nearly twenty minutes, he searched the area surrounding the planet. Two times he thought he had it, only to be proven wrong by his star chart. He was just thinking how surprising it was that Hermione hadn't found it yet, when he heard a voice bark.

“Found it!”

“Everyone, step back from your telescopes while I check on Mr. Finnigan’s star,” commanded the Professor.

Hermione looked disappointed.

Professor Sinistra peered through Seamus’ telescope. “No, I’m afraid that’s not it, Mr. Finnigan. You may want to consult your chart again. Everyone back to your telescopes, J. Brown is still out there.”

Ron was making ever larger, circular sweeps around the planet, when a dim light caught his eye. That doesn't look right, he thought. He zoomed in. That’s got to be it.

“Found it!” two voices cried out.

Professor Sinistra moved over to Hermione and checked her telescope.

“Well done, Miss Granger. You have located J. Brown! Let's see if Mr. Weasley has done the same.”

With a quick glance into Ron’s telescope, a wide smile broke across Professor Sinistra’s face. “Splendid, Mr. Weasley, you have also discovered J. Brown. Remarkable! Two of you locating it at the same time.”

“I’d be okay calling it Granger-Weasley, professor,” Ron said. He felt his ears getting warm.

“Lovely,” said Sinistra. “Miss Granger?”

“That’d be all right,” she replied, looking down at her feet.

She turned to him, smiling. Ron grinned back at her, the cold of the night forgotten. What was that? he thought. Is she blushing?


And in your world somewhere
Do memories rip and tear?
The ones that always keep you hanging on to all that might have been

September 1, 1996

“I’m so happy to finally be back at school,” said Hermione.

“Me too,” said Ron, “even doing Prefect stuff doesn’t seem such a bother this year.”

He turned, casting a watchful eye on the group of first years following behind them. They stopped and waited for a staircase to stop moving so that they could continue their trek to Gryffindor Tower.

“Scurvy dogs! Stand and fight!” a voice shouted from alongside, startling the first years.

“Beat it, go bug some second years,” said Ron.

“Ah,” said Sir Cadogan, “found some worthy adversaries for me, have you? I will find these second years and see if they are up to the test.”

“You do that,” Ron replied, as Sir Cadogan galloped off.

They reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, covering the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. Ron smiled at Hermione.

“Say the password,” he said.

“Oh, honestly,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

“Come on, you know you want to.” He folded his arms. He would enjoy this.

“Fine.” She looked at the Fat Lady. “Chudley Cannons rule.”

“They really don’t, dear,” answered the Fat Lady as she swung open.

Hermione smiled at the scandalized look on Ron's face as the group scrambled through the portrait hole.

“This password might not be so bad after all,” she laughed.

“I’ll need to speak to her about the Cannons,” he replied, watching the back of the now closing portrait.

She touched his arm lightly. “Oh, don’t take it personally. She’s probably never read Flying With The Cannons.”

He fixed his gaze on her. Her eyes were shining brightly as she smiled at him. Unable to stop himself, he smiled back.

She broke the momentary silence.

“We should show them where they are sleeping,” she said, gesturing to the younger students.

“Oh, right. You lot! Follow me to the boys’ dormitory.”

He wandered back to the common room after showing the boys around. Hermione was already sitting on a couch by the fireplace, reading a book. He dropped down beside her.

He gave her and her book an incredulous look. “Already?”

She didn’t look up from her reading. “Must we go through this every year?”

“Of course we do! It’s our thing.”

“Our thing?” she asked. She dropped her book to her lap and made firm eye contact.

“Well, you know. Our routine, things we do over and over,” he started.

Her eyes were a deep brown, the pupils slightly dilated. A strand of wavy brown hair, broken free from her curly locks, fell straight down, gently touching her nose. Her nose, with five freckles working horizontally across it. He could count her freckles. Was she getting closer?

“I know what a routine is. What our routine is,” she broke in softly. “Maybe it’s time for a change up.”

“A change-”

Her mouth pressed gently against his.

She pulled away. His head was swimming, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

“What was-”

She touched her fingers to his mouth, shaking her head.

“Don’t ruin it,” she said.

How could I? he thought. It was simply amazing.


And I love you now
And I hate you now
And I miss you most of all
All those times we laughed
The scars that you left
Still I miss you most of all

September 19, 1996

“You are being a total prat!”

“What the hell did I do?” he yelled up the girls’ dormitory stairs at her retreating figure.

He threw his arms up in bewilderment and turned back to the common room. Ginny stepped up in front of him.

“Here, eat this,” she said, holding out a Chocolate Frog.

“What for?” he asked, accepting the sweet.

“It should cover up the taste of foot in your mouth,” she answered with a smile.

She brushed past him and followed Hermione up the stairs.


And by the waterside
The tall grass where we lied
The nights we cried ourselves to sleep

October 7, 1997

He lay on his back, staring up at the rapidly darkening sky. His right hand, linked with her left. He gently rubbed his thumb back and forth over her skin, patiently waiting for her to say something. To say anything.

She took in a deep breath. He held his.

“How is your studying for N.E.W.T.s coming along?”

Her voice was shaky.

“Is this what you really want to talk about?” he asked softly.

“I don’t really know how to deal with the other thing,” she said, her voice wavering. “How could he keep this from us?”

A touch of anger was creeping into her voice. This is good, he thought. He’d already passed the stage of anger. It would be nice for her to catch up.

“I reckon that he needed to deal with it himself first,” he answered.

Her eyes closed, but two tears squeezed out, leaving crooked tracks going back to her ears.

He sat up, got an arm underneath her, and lifted her into an embrace. A sob shook her body.

“I can’t lose any more friends,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I know.”

He looked back up at the castle, and squeezed Hermione a little tighter.

“We should go back inside.”

“Okay.”

He led her back across the grounds and up to the common room. At the stairs leading to the girl’s dormitory, he bent down and kissed her forehead. He turned to walk away.

“Wait.” She grabbed his arm. “Stay with me down here.” She motioned to the couch.

He lay back on the couch, with Hermione nestled against his side.

Her voice sounded against his chest. “Harry is not going to be defeated by Voldemort.”

“You’re right, honey. He’s not.”

He felt a tear escape from his eye as he drifted off to a dreamless sleep.


And most Septembers now
I break down somehow
Remembering all we said and all those dreams we never got to see

July 27, 1998

“This is crazy. What is he waiting for?” she asked.

Ron studied Hermione intently. He’d rather thought that completing school at Hogwarts would have eased her mind. Instead, thoughts of what could be a happy future were clouded by the lingering presence of Voldemort.

“We’ve been through this, Hermione. The Order is looking for him. When we find him, we find him.”

“Remember the prophecy? Harry’s in danger as long as Voldemort is still alive, however weakened he appears to be.”

“Everyone’s in danger as long as he’s out there,” he answered.

He moved behind where she was sitting, and started massaging her shoulders. Her knotted muscles gradually began to loosen. She sighed contentedly, and her head fell back against his stomach.

“There are Muggles who do this for a living, you know,” she said.

“Rub shoulders?” he asked.

“Shoulders, backs, legs, whatever.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “What’s it pay?”

“First,” she said, smiling at him, “I am your only customer.”

He laughed. “But I’m sure my talents could be put-”

“Second,” she interrupted him, “I will pay, not with Galleons, but in a manner that I’m sure you will find suitable.”

“Oooh, dirty.”

She slapped his hands away, laughing.

“Oh stop! I meant that I would give you a massage.”

She patted the bench next to her, an unspoken request for him to sit. He eased down beside her, aware that she was examining him closely. She bit her lip as her hand moved to her chest; seeking and finding the heart-shaped locket he had given her for Christmas. Her fingers worked the locket open, and snapped it shut again. She did this a few times and Ron held back a smile. It was an all too familiar routine she followed while contemplating whether she should broach a subject. He tilted his head, awaiting a question that clearly was coming.

“Do you ever think about the future?”

Not a question he expected.

“Well,” he started, “tryouts are in five weeks, I’m looking forward to that. A little nervous though.”

There was something in her eyes, something that told him he wasn’t on the right track.

“But,” he continued, “if you are looking more long term, I’d imagine I'll be spending quite a bit of time with the Ministry’s new Inter-Species Liaison.”

“And how much time will you be spending with this person?” she asked brightly.

“Well,” he rubbed his chin, “as much as possible, I reckon.” He leaned in and whispered, “I hear she’s quite the charmer.”

She blushed. “I’m sure she learned it from the best.”

“No doubt.” He took her hand. “I’m so proud of you. You are going to do an amazing job.”

“And you,” she said, her smile was radiant, “will be the finest keeper the Cannons have had in thirty years.”

He laughed. “Maybe, but in a few years it’s more likely that I'll only be known as the politician’s husband.”

Her breath caught.

“Ron, did you just say . . .”


And I love you now
And I hate you now
And I miss you most of all
And did you ever find
The star in your mind?
Or do you miss me most of all?

August 12, 2000

“It just seems so unfair,” she said.

“What does?”

“Everything! Everything that has conspired against us.” She sighed. “Just when it seems we’ve turned the corner and can move on, something else happens.”

He reached over and squeezed her hand. “It’s all behind us now. All of the craziness, all of the obstacles.”

She looked down at her feet. “Not all of the obstacles,” she said softly.


Are you somewhere
Without a care?
Or are you alone as I?
Did you ever make it home?

November 23, 2001

He rolled his peas in ever faster laps around his plate. The smallest pea had an inside line and was clearly going to be the winner of this ten lap race. He angled his fork slightly and the medium sized pea started to make a run for the lead. It would be a close fin-

“Are you not enjoying your meal?” a voice asked.

“What?” he said, shaken back into reality.

Diane brushed her straight, black locks back from her face, looking a little put out.

“Are you even here with me, Ron? I feel like I’m talking to myself,” she said.

He balled up his napkin, dropping it on to his plate. “I have a long day tomorrow. I should call it a night.” He dropped more than enough Galleons on the table to cover the bill and stood up. “I had a good time. Perhaps we can do it again? I’ll send you an owl.”

He quickly made his way to the door, and out into the night. He set off towards his empty flat, knowing that an owl would never be sent.


January 18, 2002

“How was your date with Lori last night?” Fred asked.

“Smashing. A bloody good time was had by all,” Ron answered without conviction.

George looked affronted. “Did you even try? I mean, I’ve been trying to date her for over a year now without success, she meets you for five minutes and you’re in!”

Fred nodded approvingly. “She’s quite an attractive girl too. Best looking girl I’ve seen come in the shop.”

George raised his eyebrows at his brother.

“Right,” said Fred, looking over his shoulder, “let’s keep that amongst ourselves.”

“Yeah, I guess she’s good looking. Just, maybe not my type,” Ron replied.

The twins shared a sympathetic glance.

“Yeah, Ron,” said George, “we know what you mean.”


And I love you now
And I hate you now
And I miss you most of all
And did you ever find
The star in your mind?
Or do you miss me most of all?

September 1, 2004

His eyes still closed, a dry sob escaped from his throat as the music faded away. A wave of emotion crested, threatening to crash over the wall around his heart he had carefully built with four years of denial. He fought to bury it, only to be surprised when he felt two arms pull him into a hug. Blindly, he reached out and returned the embrace, pushing the hurt into the emptiness beyond the wall.

“Hermione?” he asked, hardly daring to believe.

“No, Ron. It’s me.”

The embrace now released, Ginny Weasley stepped back, concern etched onto her face.

“I was at the match tonight,” she said. “The way you played, I would have expected some type of celebration to be going on. Not this.”

A tug on the cord popped the earbuds out and he placed the gift on the table. He eyed it warily.

“A gift from Harry,” he said. “Some Muggle nutter’s idea of entertainment.”

“I know what it is,” she replied. “Do you not find it entertaining?”

He gave a weak laugh. “No, it makes me think a little too much about . . .things.”

“Things, or people?” She eyed him thoughtfully. “This has gone on for far too long. Let me tell you a little something about you and Hermione Granger.”

He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off.

“She’s built this amazing political career,” she started. “One that took her out of the country. One that took her away from you. And from the outside, it appears that she’s doing just splendidly. How could she possibly need you?”

“But-” he interrupted.

She held up her hand. “Let me finish. You have helped restore the Chudley Cannons to far beyond respectability. You are currently involved in their longest winning streak in five decades.”

“Six,” he corrected.

“Not the point, but okay, six decades. You play for the team you’ve worshipped for as long as I can remember, and certainly as long as she can remember. You are the Keeper for the Cannons, your dream job. Why would she think that you need her?”

She paused, apparently gathering her thoughts.

“Your knowledge of each other is killing you,” she continued. “Her belief that playing for the only team you ever worshipped, your belief that her career track that all started with S.P.E.W., is enough to make each of you whole.”

His sister sat down in front of him and leaned forward, her gaze firm, and her voice now filled with resolve.

“Everything that you’ve accomplished, it really isn’t enough, is it?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“So tell me, Ron. What could you possibly want more than all that you have here?”

“Her,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

Ginny looked at him fondly. “I’m so proud of you. Some people take a lifetime to figure out what they truly want.”

“I had some help,” he smiled weakly, brushing his fingertips over the gift.

“You were stuck in a rut, Ron. You just needed-”

“A change up?” he broke in.

“Yes, a change up. That fits.” She smiled at him. “And honestly, I think Harry’s gift got the ball rolling.”

He closed his eyes, forcing his memory back to a warm August night, four years ago. To a time his brain had learned to avoid like the plague. A memory where his mind would fade the images to a bright, white light before reaching the conclusion, much like the screen would look at a Muggle movie theater, were the film to snap in half while it was showing. Ginny remained silent, allowing him time for this internal struggle. He drew a deep breath.

“But the way it ended . . .”

“You are both to blame,” she answered promptly. “You can’t let any lingering resentment you might have, over how it ended, stop you.” She paused. “She knows that she is as much to blame as you. And honestly, do you care who admits it first?”

“Of course not,” he said. For the first time, in what felt like ages, a tiny pit of hope could be felt in his chest. It was small, but it was fighting against the emptiness that had lingered there for the past four years.

“Then don’t wait, go after her. Learn from me.” The glow in his sister’s eyes faded a little. “Learn from someone who knows that waiting too long leads to heartbreak.”

He reached out and gave her hand a squeeze. The affection he currently felt for his sister was far beyond anything he could have imagined. Her strength, her conviction, was turning him into a believer.

She smiled at him and stood up, the light in her eyes returning full force. “I should get going. You have more important things to do.”

He jumped up and hugged her tightly. “Thanks for being there.”

“Always,” she replied. She stepped back, and with a loud crack, she was gone.

He sat back down and began to formulate his case. All of the facts that he should have presented to Hermione Jane Granger, on that warm August night, flooded his mind. He willingly plunged into the depths of his feelings for the only girl (only woman, he corrected himself) that he’d ever loved.

Living in Britain, without her here, wasn’t the same. And he would tell her so. Playing for the Cannons, without her cheering him on, was meaningless. And he would tell her so. His life, without her by his side, was empty. And he would tell her so.

The hope that had started out the size of a fingertip now filled him. His pulse quickened, and the most sincere smile that had been seen on Ron Weasley’s face in years, broke free. He knew he would succeed in his quest. It was what he wanted most of all.

The gift sat proudly on the table. His nemesis had been an ally all along.


A/N: JKR owns the characters and the Cannons. The song “Most of All” is owned and performed by Fuel. Ron owns his iPod (it was a gift after all), but it was created by Apple. My thanks goes out to my beta, Lallybroch.

//
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