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A/N: The events in this story closely follow those of The Gift. It is recommended that you read The Gift first. Enjoy.The Letterby redlightspecial
October 31, 2006
She awoke with a start. A disturbingly rapid return to the land of the conscious. She rolled on to her back, her gaze moving to the window. It was still dark, as the morning light had yet to break over the horizon. She released a deep sigh. Sleeping through the night would have been preferable, but she wasn’t the least bit surprised that she had been unsuccessful in doing so. She slid out of the bed, her bare feet gently touching down on the plush carpeting of the bedroom floor. She padded off to the kitchen, hoping some warm milk might help send her back to dreamland.
She placed a small pot of milk on the stove, a low heat radiating from the burner. She leaned against the counter, absent-mindedly smoothing the front of her well-worn nightshirt down over her stomach as she waited for the heat to flow through the milk.
With a cup of her sleeping remedy in hand, she moved into the parlor. Bookcases lined the wall, and as she walked across the front of them, she allowed her fingers to brush lightly across the spines of the books. Her fingers paused as they reached Hogwarts, A History. She pulled the large tome from its resting place, swinging the book upward so she could cradle it in her free arm. As she did so, the covers separated slightly, allowing a folded piece of parchment to escape from in between the pages. It floated softly to the floor, landing right at her feet. She hefted the book on to the coffee table, placing her cup down beside it and moved to pick up the parchment, placing it on the table with the other items.
She curled up in a chair, taking a small sip from the cup. She set it back down and turned her attention to the parchment, carefully unfolding it. Her face lit up in recognition of the distinctive scrawl that worked across the page. Hermione smiled to herself, and read.
One day, back at Hogwarts, you told me your secret to writing a great essay. Even though I never used it, I’ve never forgotten it. You said it was such a simple process, the whole thing could be explained in one sentence. Tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. This isn’t an essay, but I’m going to try and use this here.
I miss you.
September 2, 1996
She had risen long before the sun, though this year it wasn’t due to the excitement that came with the start of term. Her mind had been overactive, filled with the events of the evening as she tried to fall asleep. When sleep had finally come, only her body rested. Her mind, on the other hand, had busied itself working out the logic behind kissing Ron Weasley. The kiss was what the entire summer had been building up to. It was clearly the next step. This was what she wanted and this was what Ron wanted, wasn’t it?
Try as it might, the logical part of her brain wasn’t able to wrap itself around that reality, so instead it rationalized. Even if it wasn’t the correct move, there was nothing for her to regret. After all, wouldn’t her action now demand a response? Perhaps what she had done would push him in the right direction.
She sighed as she came up with the answer. No. If Ron had wanted this, he would have said so. He wasn’t much for keeping things bottled up.
Just when it seemed that logic would carry the night, the dreams started. She had dreamt of Ron before, which wasn’t really surprising as he was her best friend, but this was different. This was much more intimate. She dreamt of Ron saying things that she knew he would never say, and doing things she could never expect him to do. Logic had fought back valiantly, breaking into her dreams. Reminding her that based on Ron’s performance last year, one could safely assume that he cared more about Harry’s potential relationships than his own. He’d never shown interest in any girl, other than a certain part-veela. Then she had thought of the perfume, and the dreams started anew. She had awoken from her last dream blushing. Until that moment, she hadn’t been aware that people could blush in their sleep.
Lavender and Parvati had looked stunned when she told them she wasn’t ready to go down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Normally she would be the first one ready to go down, as she typically longed to see her new class schedule. Instead of following her dorm mates down to the common room, she sat on her four-poster bed, arms wrapped tightly around her knees, wondering how long she could avoid a one-on-one conversation with him.
She closed her eyes, her mind drifting back to the previous night. The portrait had swung open and the rest of the Gryffindors had filed in, just as she had removed her fingertips from covering his mouth. Whatever his unspoken words were, she found that she didn’t need to hear them. She had seen it in his eyes. He had known how it should end before she did.
She glanced at her watch and determined that the entire school would be at the Great Hall. She moved down the stairs to the common room. All was quiet. As she made her way across the front of the fireplace she heard him clear his throat. She turned to see him, slouching in an armchair.
“Running a little late?”
“Well, no- I just-” she stammered.
“C’mon. If we don’t hurry, I’m not going to get any food,” said Ron.
She glanced around the empty common room. This was sooner than she’d wanted, but she would set it right.
He stood up and took a step towards her. He was looking at her uncertainly. “About last night.”
A wave of deep disappointment washed over her, twisting her insides as he started to speak, though logically, she knew this was all for the best. She looked up into his eyes, losing track of his words.
“ . . .and that’s the way it should have been,” he finished.
“I agree,” she said. Her voice sounded small.
“You do? So can I fix it?”
“Sure.” Fix what?
He moved on her quickly, surprising her with a kiss that nearly buckled her knees. She had read him wrong. She had read the whole situation wrong. What she had believed would be an ending instead felt very much like a beginning. As Hermione Granger’s train of thought derailed, she became aware of a simple truth. Logic was fighting a losing battle.
The days seem to run together now, where before time seemed much more defined. I miss the “occasion” days: birthdays, Valentine’s Day (though it took me a while to learn to appreciate that one) and especially Christmas.
December 25, 1997
“Ron! I thought that we decided that we wouldn’t exchange gifts this year!”
“No,” he said, holding the brightly wrapped package out to her, “you decided that we wouldn’t exchange gifts. I never agreed to it.”
“But my birthday-”
“Was months ago, and has absolutely no bearing on today.”
“This is silly. I didn’t get you anything, just return it.”
“Honestly you two! On Christmas Day?”
Hermione turned toward the couch, where Harry and Ginny were, until a second ago, sitting silently. She started to apologize but Ron beat her to it.
“Sorry, Ginny. You’re right. Today isn’t the day for this.” He turned towards her. “I wanted our last Christmas at Hogwarts to be special, so I needed to get you this.” He waved the package under her nose. “Open it. If you think that it’s not worth keeping, I’ll return it.”
She eyed him uncertainly. “You know that I’m going to like just about anything that you get me.”
He smiled broadly. “You put a qualifier on it. You said, ‘just about,’ so you think you might not like it after all. Let’s open it and find out.”
She reached out and took the gift from him, quickly turning the small, flat rectangle in her hands. She took one last glance at him, his smile had grown broader still, and gently pulled the wrapping paper off of the package.
Ginny sucked in a sharp breath.
“What?” asked a startled Hermione.
“That box is from Diamonte’s,” she answered rapturously.
“Diamonte’s?” She looked back down at the now unwrapped gift, a purple case with gold piping around the middle.
“Diamonte’s is Britain’s oldest jeweler,” said Ginny. “They have some amazing pieces.”
“No. I know. I remember reading the name somewhere. The Diamontes are an extremely old wizarding family who made a fortune in the jewelry business. In fact-”
“Um, ladies. If we could stop talking about the people that made the present, and maybe open the present, that’d be okay by me.”
She looked up at Ron. The bemused expression he wore on his face caused her to giggle. “Sorry. Blame Harry, I think he bought me the book in question.”
He smiled. “You’re stalling. Open it.”
“Ron, you shouldn’t have bought me jewelry. Let’s take it back.”
He stepped over to her, covering her hands with his own, and pulled the case open. A golden heart lay on the center of a purple velvet pillow. A thin, gold chain snaked through a loop at the top of the heart, leaving a glimmering trail that disappeared behind the pillow. The heart was polished so brilliantly, in her reflection she could see a tear start to form in the corner of her eye. She blinked hard a few times.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
Ginny appeared at her shoulder, leaning in to get a better look. She nodded approvingly. “Very nice. What does it do?”
“Do?” asked Hermione.
“If he bought it at Diamonte’s, it’s not just ordinary jewelry.”
Ron carefully removed the locket from the case and laid it in Hermione’s open palm.
“Open it,” he said.
She gently worked her thumbnail into the opening on the right hand side of the locket. She felt her heart pick up the pace from a canter to a gallop as she heard the clasp pop. She eased the two sides of the heart open and found two pictures, herself on the left, and Ron on the right. The images in the photos were gazing at each other longingly across the space of the centimeter or so that they were separated.
“As if we don’t get to see you moon at each other enough in person, now we get to see it in pictures,” said Harry, who had made his way to Hermione’s other shoulder.
“We don’t moon at each other!” exclaimed Hermione, a warm heat rushing to her face.
Harry laughed. “Of course you do.”
Her gaze dropped back to the locket where the images continued to stare across the expanse.
“You’ll always know,” started Ron. “You’ll always know how I feel about you. How we feel about each other. For all time, our images in there, us as sixteen-year olds, will show how we feel. The pictures have been enchanted to feed off of our emotions. If I’m away, and you want to know how much I miss you, just open the locket.”
A lump worked its way up into her throat and she swallowed hard to push it down.
“I love it,” she whispered.
I miss the sharing. I miss borrowing your homework. I miss the comfort we took in each other as we worried if our best friend was prepared to face his destiny, and the joy in his ultimate success. I miss the feeling that anything we achieved as individuals was our accomplishment.
February 8, 1999
They were met with a cheer as soon as the door opened. Arms reached out, pulling them inside. There were hands clapping Ron on the back, shaking his hands, and moving him to the center of the room. He laughed as George put him in a headlock and proceeded to mess up his hair.
“This is why you wanted to take me out to get something to eat?” he asked, as he wiggled free from his brother. “So this lot could lie in wait to attack me when I got home?”
“It was a big part of it,” she answered.
She watched as Arthur and Molly approached their youngest son. Arthur lay his hand on Ron’s shoulder, beaming with pride. “Amazing job tonight, son. Just amazing.”
“We’re both so proud of you,” added Molly, who looked to be on the verge of tears.
Ron’s ears turned bright red. “Thanks mum and dad, but we were a little lucky tonight. If we were playing a better team, I don’t know-”
“Don’t listen to him Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” said Larry, a Cannon Chaser, “Any win for us is a great win.”
Ron studied his feet. “You know, you two made it all possible. If you hadn’t bought me a broom for my fifth year, I would have never made the House team. Then who knows what I would have done.”
“You would have been our primary tester, of course,” said Fred, holding out his hand. “Would you like a lemon drop?”
Ron laughed. “Really mum and dad, you’re lifesavers.”
“To Arthur and Molly!” yelled Larry.
“Arthur and Molly!” cheered the crowd.
Hermione walked up behind him and put her arms around her Keeper. “This has been an amazing night.”
“It has. You didn’t need to do this for me.”
“It was your first win as starting Keeper. I needed to.”
The party rolled on for hours with butterbeer and firewhisky flowing freely. Individual conversations would have to be halted every so often as the Cannon players found someone new to toast. Ron and Hermione moved about the room, hand in hand, doing their best to speak to everyone and thank them for attending.
As the end of the night neared, the group gathered again for one final toast. “To the Chudley Cannons!” shouted Larry.
“The Chudley Cannons!” echoed the group.
“Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best!”
Everyone turned to look at Harry.
“What?” he asked. “That’s still the team motto, isn’t it?”
As the laughter subsided she reached for Ron’s hand, her fingers entwining with his, and gave it a sharp squeeze. Her smile grew broader as she scanned the room filled with friends and family, her eyes finally resting on a grinning Ron. Everything was perfect.
Life is far from perfect. I’m far from perfect. I’ve made more mistakes than I care to count. I’ve made mistakes that should have already been corrected. Maybe we both have.
August 12, 2001
“Is everything okay?”
“You seem a little distant. Are you sure that you’re okay?” There was concern in her mother’s eyes.
“Oh. There’s a lot going on at the Ministry. It’s just been a lot of work lately.”
“You’re sure there’s nothing else?”
“I’m okay, mum. It’s just that today-” she paused, her gaze moving somewhere to the left of her mother. “It’s just been a long year. You know?”
Her mother tilted her head. “I’m well aware of what today is, Hermione. Are you missing London?”
Hermione was quite sure that her mother wasn’t speaking specifically of the city. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think I do.”
Her mother reached over, placing a reassuring hand on her forearm. “Do you think you ready to cross that bridge again?”
“I don’t know,” she responded, her voice getting softer.
“Are you not ready to forgive him?”
Pretense had just been thrown out the window.
She closed her eyes, her voice now barely more than a whisper. “I’m not sure that I’m ready to forgive myself.”
They say that making mistakes is a part of life, a part of growing up. Something that you need to do and learn so you won’t repeat them in the future. I think I’ve done a good job avoiding repeat mistakes, but what do you do when you’ve been living the same mistake day after day?
September 2, 2004
“Hermione, hold up!”
She turned to see Adam Wainright, a lanky blond-haired wizard, jog up to her. He was the Australian Ministry’s Chief Liaison to the Centaurs living on the continent. An invaluable resource to Hermione, as even after four years in Sydney, she had still not fully earned the trust and respect of the Centaurs. Despite learning of Professor Trelawney’s prophecies concerning Harry and Voldemort, she remained skeptical of Divination and the reading of the planets. Adam had reassured her that the Centaurs wouldn’t mind her continued disbelief, but she felt that she may have offended them.
She began walking again and Adam fell in step beside her. “The Minister isn’t too pleased with the way the last meeting with Anders went,” he started.
“Neither am I. Anders needs to have a better understanding of why we deem it so important to protect Muggles.”
“I know,” he responded defensively, “but remember, he hasn’t been the Centaur leader for very long. He’s young.”
“He’s going to have to move past that quickly. You’re going to have to be more forceful with him. We cannot have another situation like we did in Brisbane.”
“I agree. But you must understand, being forceful with him could very well just lead to him telling me how green Pluto looks tonight, and that won’t get us very far.”
She sighed. He was right, of course. “Just do the best you can.”
He reached out and caught her by the crook of her elbow, turning her towards him. He tilted his head, studying her. “What are you doing now? Maybe we could go over how to approach this problem. Maybe over tea?”
“Sorry. Not today,” she said, as the hopeful look in his eyes faded. She patted her briefcase. “I have a lot of paperwork to go over. I’m actually going to head home, clear my head and take care of it.”
“Perhaps some other time on the tea then?”
“Sure,” she answered, though she found that she couldn’t meet his eyes as she said it. “See you tomorrow Adam.”
She made her way out into the early morning sunshine, deciding that she would walk home and enjoy the weather.
A brief walk took her to her destination. She closed the door behind her and dropped her briefcase on the kitchen table. She moved into her bedroom, taking a couple of minutes to change into something more comfortable. She walked right past her briefcase as she moved into the parlor, making her way to her favorite chair by the window. She sank into the chair, and for one fleeting moment she considered grabbing the parchment from her briefcase and starting her work. She shook that thought off and instead picked up her wireless from the table beside the chair. She found the program she was seeking and set it back down.
“Thomas, leads for Mitchell,” the voice from the wireless said. “Mitchell utilizes the Bagman-Roll to avoid a Bludger and the Tornado Beater. He goes for the long pass ahead, but it’s intercepted by Grieve! A bad mistake by Mitchell and Grieve is going to have an open run at the goal. He fakes at the left hoop and throws . . . Weasley makes the stop!
“Fine work by the Cannon Keeper tonight. He’s had to be sharp as the Tornados have carried the play thus far, but only have one goal to show for it.”
The match was very tightly contested, the lead changing hands several times. The Cannons suffered a brief scare when Ron was accidentally struck by a Bludger hit by one of his own teammates. The announcer reassured the Chudley fans by stating that Weasley had the hardest head of any player he’d ever met.
The longest match for the Cannons in recent history was completed a couple of hours later when Marcia Hennessey, the Cannon Seeker, caught the Snitch right at the center of the pitch.
She tapped the wireless with her wand, turning it off, and wandered into the kitchen to make some toast to munch on while starting her work. Toast in hand, she busied herself sorting through the rolls of parchment, prioritizing and reading those that she felt were in the need of the most attention. As she read she found her mind wandering back to the match. She found it odd that she seemed to know that the Cannons were on an extraordinarily long winning streak, by their standards anyway. She dismissed the thought quickly, assuming that the announcer must have mentioned it during the match.
Thoughts of the match were not so easily dismissed, however, and soon she found herself reading the same sentence multiple times. She pushed the parchment away from her and began drumming her fingers on the table. Something was amiss and she found it troubling that she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.
Deciding that her focus wasn’t suited for getting her work done, she wandered back into her bedroom, looking for something to occupy her mind. She scanned the small room and silently cursed her own cleanliness. Tidying up usually helped get her mind back on track, but her room was still spotless from its last cleaning just two days ago.
“This is insane, I should just get out of the house for a while.”
Disregarding her own words, she opened her wardrobe door and began sorting through her clothes. She pulled out some old faded robes and threw them on the bed, deciding that going three years without wearing them made them eligible to be sold to a second hand shop. She found a couple of jumpers and a pair of blue jeans that also hadn’t been worn in some time and put them in a separate pile. She’d give those to Sarah, the young witch who took care of the Ministry’s owls. She didn’t make all that much money and could probably use the extra clothes. She smiled as she found a few more items to add to Sarah’s pile. Then, Hermione turned back to look into the wardrobe and gasped.
She wasn’t exactly sure why the shoebox had startled her. After all, she knew it was in there. It was exactly where she had placed it. She leaned in, removed the box and carried it gingerly to the bed where she set it down. She sat cross-legged next to it, staring, transfixed by the brown and red lid. Steeling herself, she reached out and opened the box.
One by one she began to remove the items from within: a broken eggshell, neatly folded pieces of used wrapping paper, handwritten notes on parchment, a handful of photographs, two pink Sugar Quills still in their packaging, and an empty crystal bottle. She felt her eyes start to itch as she studied each of the items. In the end, a purple and gold case sat alone at the bottom of the shoebox.
She opened the case and gazed at the locket, sparkling in the sunlight shining through her bedroom window. It was a beautiful gift, that for years had been much too hard to look at. She picked it up and worked her thumbnail into the opening, popping the clasp. She closed her eyes as she opened it, covering each side with her thumbs.
She knew, before she even moved her left thumb, what she would find. In that moment, Hermione Granger knew that her image would be there, staring across the expanse. She would always love Ron Weasley, even if that love were unrequited.
She moved her right thumb. The tears came in droves, and she made no effort to hold them back. Something as simple as a picture of a freckled, red-headed boy had brought about tears of joy and she wasn’t about to let that experience pass. Sitting here, on her bed in Sydney, she recalled that she had once asked Ron to return the locket. Now, that seemed impossible to believe. After all, it was her most prized possession.
If you are lucky, perhaps someone or something sets things in motion. The mistake was made but it doesn’t have to keep running your life. You make changes. You work towards the positive. Mostly, you pray that after all of this time, she feels the same.
October 8, 2005
She felt exhilarated as the room spun around her, smiling as she embraced the moment. When the spinning stopped, the couple settled into an easy rhythm. She followed his lead, allowing him to guide her, his left hand linked with her right, his right hand firm at her waist. There was an ease and a simple grace about his movements. He was a superior dancer, and she hadn’t expected that.
“This is rather surprising.”
“Is it?” he asked.
“Yes. Who taught you how to dance?”
“No, really. I’m just happy he taught me to lead, or we’d have ourselves a situation here.”
She laughed as he spun her once more.
“You’re not such a bad dancer yourself,” he said.
She smiled. “I do okay.”
They danced quietly for a few moments and she watched as his face grew more serious. “What is it?” she asked.
“You know, this is how I always thought it would be.”
“I know,” she responded, turning slightly so she could follow his gaze across the room, “but sometimes things don’t work out the way we want.”
Through the breaks in the crowd she caught glimpses of Harry and Ginny sharing a quiet conversation as they danced. Then watched them share a laugh as they bumped into another couple.
“Things have a way of sorting themselves out,” she said.
“Second chances,” she agreed.
There’s something different now about the air in London. I can’t explain it, but it doesn’t taste the same and the change isn’t for the better. Playing for the Cannons doesn’t give me the satisfaction that I once believed that it would, and now I know why. Why should I stay in London when what’s most important to me is half a world away?
Do you feel the same?
I miss you.
October 31, 2006
She looked up from the parchment as she heard the front door open. He moved into the room, smiling at her sitting there in just her nightshirt.
“That’s a good color on you,” he said.
She laughed. It felt good to laugh.
“What are you doing up?”
“I couldn’t sleep. The bed was empty and I wasn’t expecting you home until morning,” she responded.
“If it was up to all of them, I’d still be there celebrating.” He pulled off his cloak. “I think it’s bedtime now. You coming?”
“Go ahead, I’ll be right there.”
She took one long last look at the letter before tenderly folding it back up and placing it in between the book’s pages. She slid the book back into its place in the bookcase and moved to the window, looking out at the night sky. The light from the street lamps shone through the window, illuminating the already bright orange of her nightshirt, and set a contrast to the dark outline of the London skyline beyond them.
Hermione Weasley drew the curtains closed and followed Ron’s path to the bedroom. Reminiscing had its place, but now she and Ron were home, and it was time to make the most of the second chance they’d been given.
Additional A/N: Thanks to my beta, Lallybroch. Thanks goes to moonette who came up with “Diamonte’s” for me ages ago. Even more thanks goes to magicaljules, KatieO314, Genesse, and St. Margarets, all who got to read bits and pieces of this in varying stages of done-ness. This fic is much improved because of their help. And last, thanks to CornedBee, my original beta on The Gift, who came up with the idea of “the letter” a very long time ago.