The Sugar Quill
Author: Amtamburo  Story: After All  Chapter: Chapter 1 - Sisterly Advice
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

***This chapter has been edited to correct a few word omissions, a few canon and some continuality mistakes...***


Disclaimer: Most of the characters and places mentioned in the following are the property of J.K. Rowling; I am simply borrowing them for a bit. I am making no money or gain from this story. It is simply for fun, and is written because I love the HP series and the seventh book is too far away! Thank you J.K. my life is fuller and more interesting because of your imagination.

After All

Chapter 1 - Sisterly Advice

I can't hide, it's true
I still burn for you.
Your memory just won't let me go.

- Richard Marx, ‘Until I find you Again’

Ron Weasley walked quickly through crowded Diagon Alley, his black work robes blowing around his legs and tangling with his trousers. Shivering in the chill wind, he pulled his cloak a bit tighter and picked up his pace a bit. It had been a long hard day at work, and he was more than ready to be home. Although the small flat that he lived in was not fancy, it was warm and cozy and he couldn’t think of a better place to live. Glancing up, he noticed that the sky had taken on a black swollen look, and he knew that the weather caster had been right about the storm that was rolling in over England.

Just as Ollivander’s wand shop came into view, big, heavy and very cold rain drops began to plop down on Ron’s head. Within moments it had begun raining so hard that his red hair was plastered to his scalp. Tucking the bag he was carrying under his arm, he sprinted the last few yards to the outdoor stairs leading to the flat that he rented over the shop. Stopping only long enough to retrieve the newspaper that lay on the bottom step, he ran up the stairs to the door at the top.

Stepping through the door into the gloomy room, he waved his wand and three small flames flew from the end of his wand and lit the three lamps that circled the room. Immediately, soft light filled the small but tidy studio-style flat. Glancing around, Ron took in his home from the perspective of a stranger seeing it for the first time. Studying his belongings he took note of things that looked strange, needed cleaning, or might look better were they arranged differently. This was a daily ritual for him. It was something he did unconsciously, and for reasons that he alone understood. After having grown up in a very large and quite poor family, Ron took pride in his belongings and the fact that they were his and had never belonged to any of his brothers before they were his. He also reveled in the fact that his home was neat and tidy, not the cluttered disorganized mess that his parents home always seemed to be. It was because of this that it was very important to him that his home be just so.

After checking that his flat met with his standards, he removed his cloak, waved his wand at it to dry it, and then hung it neatly on the coat rack that stood just inside the door. He then repeated the process with his shoes, adding a special odor removing charm.

Moving to the stove, he checked to make sure there was water in the kettle before he pointed his wand and lit the burner under it. He then went behind a brocade curtain that hung in the corner. Behind the curtain was a small alcove that contained his bed, dresser and a small bookcase that held several photo albums, all of them bulging and obviously full beyond capacity.

Changing quickly from his work clothes into a pair of blue pajama pants, he stepped back out into the larger room, and walked over to the bag and newspaper that he had left near the door. Taking them both over to the couch, he pulled from the bag a brand new photo album like the ones on his bookcase. Laying this on the couch, he picked up the newspaper and began to scan each page of “The Daily Prophet”, briefly pausing to read small bits and pieces of different articles.

Suddenly he sat up straight, and a smile spread across his face. There on the page in front of him was what he had been looking for and hoping to find. A full page article and pictorial spread on the American Magical Ambassador.

Intently, he read the entire article twice, the smile on his face briefly replaced by a frown when he read about the Minister’s current steady boyfriend, but otherwise the smile was firmly intact.


“American Magical Ambassador Takes Country By Storm”

by: Rita Skeeter

Though some find it hard to believe, the new American Minister of Magic, or as they refer to her,
the American Magical Ambassador, is already one of the most popular political figures in that nation!

Haven taken over the position three weeks ago, Miss Hermione Granger, who has been an employee
at the American Magical Council for nearly four years, was appointed to the position when the
former Ambassador retired.

Miss Granger has been responsible for much improvement during her employment with the Council, and has managed to make changes in practically every capacity of the American magical community.

During her time with the Council, Miss Granger has instituted laws regarding the misuse of magic toward Muggle citizens, something that was instituted here decades ago, and had been well past due there as well.

Working with the American Muggle leader, known as the President, Miss Granger has also instituted laws that will protect all Wizards and Witches from persecution due to differences in dress and style of home decoration and furnishing. This law is a crucial first step in the fight for Wizard/Muggle equality in that country.

On a more personal note, Miss Granger is reported to be dating Richard Connors, the son of a very influential political figure known as the Vice President. The pair has been seen dancing the night away in the famous Muggle ballroom known as The Rainbow Room, and dining at an intimate wizard restaurant called “The Silver Sickle”. One has to speculate whether a more permanent merger may be in the cards for this lovely couple.


Sighing deeply, and running his hands through his hair, Ron sat back and glanced again at the smiling picture on the page before him. ‘She looks happy’ he thought, not quite sure if that made him happy or sad.

Sighing again, he reached over and opened a small drawer on the end table. From the drawer he took a pair of scissors and a small bottle of glue. Carefully, he cut out the article and picture from the newspaper. Laying them gently on the couch, he removed the plastic wrapper from the new album, and then positioned the article and pictures on the first page. Once he had them positioned, he smoothed out the edges and made sure there were no air bubbles to mar the faces of the people in them.

Once the clippings were arranged to his liking, he simply sat for several moments gazing at the smiling eyes that were looking back at him. Without even thinking about it, he reached his hand forward and touched the picture, brushing his finger tips across the cheeks and hair of the image.

“I miss you, Hermione,” he whispered.

Swallowing back the painful lump in his throat, he continued to gaze at the pictures, watching as the woman in them shook hands with a man dressed in a black Muggle suit, and as the same woman whirled around on a dance floor in the arms of a handsome red-headed Muggle. He quickly quashed any hope that sprung up when he realized that the Muggle she was dating looked somewhat like him. It was simple coincidence… nothing more… and it wouldn’t do him any good to hold out false hope.

He was suddenly jolted from his reverie by the whistling of the kettle on the stove, and by a knock on the door. Waving his wand toward the stove, he stood up and went to answer the door as the kettle lifted from the burner, and settled on a cold burner near the back.

Swinging the door open, he smiled at the very wet, very pregnant, and quite bedraggled looking woman standing on his doorstep. “Ginny!” he exclaimed, and grabbed her arm to pull her inside.

Helping his sister out of her cloak, he glanced nervously at the photo album on the couch. It still sat open to the picture and article.

**********

Ginny’s eyes followed Ron’s furtive glance, and she smiled sadly at her older brother. Handing him her dripping cloak, she walked over to the couch and gazed down at the photo album, watching for a moment as the smiling woman whirled about on the dance floor, and then posed for the photographer with a wide smile.

“Started a new one?” she asked, indicating the plastic wrap that still sat on the couch.

“Yup!” Ron said shortly, and quickly scooped up the book and closed it on the smiling faces that gazed out at him.

“She looks wonderful doesn’t she!” Ginny stated, glancing out of the corner of her eye at her brother who was busy running his wand up and down her cloak to dry it. “Don’t you ever wonder what she…?” Ginny began, but stopped as Ron whirled around and looked at her, a fierce expression on his face.

“No I don’t!” He said, “She said all there was to say a long time ago, and there is no point in bringing up past subjects! So don’t you go sticking your nose into it!”

Sighing, Ginny shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. “Ronald Weasley,” she said, sounding for all the world like their mother. “You are completely hopeless! You have been in love with Hermione Granger since you were both eleven years old, and anyone that knows you would agree that you have been completely miserable ever since she left! Don’t you think that it’s time that you did something about that?”

“I did do…” Ron began, but Ginny quickly waved her hand through the air, cutting off his protests.

“I don’t mean the inexperienced fumbling and mumblings of a boy Ron,” she said, “You are twenty-four years old! You have… I assume… been around at least one woman at some point during that time, you must have some idea how to talk to one. For heaven’s sake, Ron! Go to America and tell her how you feel!”

“I told her!” Ron inserted “The day she left with Him! I stood in King’s Cross station and told her that I loved her, that I had always loved her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her… and her response was to get on a train and leave with him!” Sighing loudly, he walked behind the curtain in the corner and placed the photo album on the bookshelf next to the rest of his scrapbooks.

Dropping her arms resignedly and sighing again, Ginny walked to the couch and settled herself as comfortably as possible on the soft cushions.

She could well remember the day four years ago when Hermione had left with Viktor Krum. Ginny had begged her for days not to break Ron’s heart, but Hermione had looked at her with sad eyes and tears on her cheeks and told her that things between her and Ron were over and she needed to move on. Everyone had tried, she and Harry, her and Ron's Mum and Dad, Hagrid, even Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood had gone to see her and tried to convince her to give things with Ron another try. No amount of arguing or cajoling had been able to convince her to stay.

Finally, when the day of her departure arrived and Hermione had still not budged, in a last ditch effort Ginny and Harry had dragged Ron to the train station. Hermione had not known he was coming with them, and Ginny could see how shocked she had been to see how awful he looked. Although it had only been a few weeks since she had last seen him, it was clear from the horror and discomfort on her face that she had noticed immediately how much weight he had lost. His clothes literally hung off his tall frame, and there were dark circles under his eyes.

After much prodding from Harry and Ginny, Ron had approached her slowly, gazing into her face and trying to control himself. Stepping forward, Hermione had said quietly, “Hello Ron.”

Ron hadn’t realized how painful it would be to see her again and it had taken him several seconds to be able to swallow his emotions enough to say, “Hello, Hermione.”

Ginny had noticed Hermione flinch at the choked sound of his voice. Glancing quickly at Krum, who looked extremely uncomfortable as he stood off to the side a bit with their trunks, Ron had asked if he could speak to her for a moment. Sighing, she had agreed and they had walked a little ways down the platform.

Ginny didn’t really know what had been said between them that day. She had stood with Harry and watched as they went from discomfort to anger. Finally, just when Harry had been about to step in to prevent a serious row, Ginny had seen her brother’s face crumple and she had heard him say, “But Hermione, I love you!” She had not heard Hermione’s reply, and she had stood in shock for several moments when Hermione suddenly whirled about and walked away, leaving Ron standing there within a stricken look on his face as though he had been slapped.

Hermione had gone back to stand by Krum where he waited at the gate with their bags, and to Ginny’s surprise, she had immediately looped her arm through Krum’s in a gesture that showed that they were perhaps more than mere traveling companions. Ginny had glanced at Harry and saw that he wore an equally surprised look that quickly turned to a scowl.

“What’s she playing at?” He muttered darkly, and started to walk toward Hermione and Krum, but he was intercepted by Mrs. Granger, who wanted to ask him what they needed to do to get their home hooked up to the Floo Network so that they could visit Hermione. By the time he finished explaining, the loud speaker was announcing the final boarding call.

Looking as though he had been punched in the stomach, Ron had retreated to the other side of the station, and although Ginny had glanced at him several times and seen him watching with a pained expression on his face, he had not approached Hermione again. As for Hermione, she had refused to speak about it when Ginny and Harry had approached her to say their good-byes, and then she had been gone.

Ginny and Harry had stayed in close contact with Hermione over the years. They exchanged frequent owls, and she had been the first one to visit Ginny and Harry’s apartment when they had finally moved in together. She had attended Harry and Ginny’s wedding, and had been present at the birth of their first child, who they had named Lily after Harry’s mother, and to whom she served as Godmother.

Somehow, at each of these occasions Ron and Hermione had managed to avoid running into each other, and Ginny was positive that they had not exchanged so much as a word since that day at the train station.

Seeing each other had become more difficult lately given the fact that Apparating and Disapparating were not allowed during pregnancy, (to much chance of splinching the baby or worse, leaving the baby behind), and the fact that Hermione was so busy with her duties to the American Magical Community. However, they did their best to get together at least once a month for dinner.

Several times, Ginny had tried to bring up the topic of Ron and his continued feelings for Hermione. Each time, Hermione had blanched and refused to discuss it. She asked frequently how he was, and insisted on being kept informed about his job and his life; however, she adamantly refused to discuss their breakup or anything to do with their past relationship. For his part, Ron was just as bad in his continued refusal to tell her why the breakup had occurred, and his adamancy about Ginny “keeping her nose out of it!” At times Ginny felt so frustrated and fed-up with both of them that she wanted to bang their heads together. Of course this would require them being in the same room, something that seemed more and more unlikely as time passed.

Over the last four years, she and Harry had tried their best to help Ron move on with his life. They had fixed him up with every witch they knew, and had made it their own personal mission to make sure that he did not spend every night locked away in his flat gazing at newspaper clippings and moping. It had become a ritual; every Saturday night they dragged him out somewhere, either to their place for dinner, or out somewhere on the town.

Several times, Harry had suggested that they should find a way to get Ron and Hermione into the same room. Perhaps “accidentally” inviting them both over for dinner on the same night, or even better, “Lock them in a bloody broom closet together until they come to their senses!”

He was positive that if they were thrown together long enough they would eventually talk things out and if nothing else, they might at least be able to be friends again.

“Either that or they’ll kill each other and put us all out of our misery!” he had stated one night after a particularly depressing outing in which Ron had managed to somehow insult his date, a very nice medi-witch from St. Mungo’s, so badly that she had left in tears. When Ginny asked him what had happened, Ron had shrugged and said that he didn’t know why she was upset and refused to discuss it further. Later that night Harry had told her that Ron confided that he had simply stated that he preferred brunettes to blondes, and that blondes always looked “washed out and empty” to him.

Lying in their bed with Ginny’s head on his chest, Harry had stated grimly, “If Ron would just stop being so darn stubborn and simply talk to Hermione I’m positive they could at least learn to be friends again!”

Sighing again, and glancing toward the curtain, she decided that Ron had forgotten about the tea, so she struggled to her feet, and went to the stove to make them each a cup. After putting the Muggle tea bags that Ron favored into two cups, she went to the curtain to ask Ron if he wanted honey in his tea. What she saw when she peeked through the curtain made her wince. Ron had picked the photo album back up and was once again gazing at the picture of Hermione and her date dancing around and around the lavish ballroom.

Feeling anger rising up in her, she suddenly flung back the curtain and snatched the album from her brother’s hands.

“Hey!” he exclaimed, “What the…?”

“That’s enough!” Ginny interrupted, and tossed the photo album on the bed, where it flopped open to the picture of the smiling, dancing couple. “For four years I have stood by and watched you torture yourself, I simply can’t do it anymore! Why don’t you go talk to her? What are you afraid of… that she’ll tell you to get lost… that she will say she doesn’t love you? For heaven’s sake, Ron… how will you know how she feels if you go on avoiding her!?”

Ron opened his mouth to protest, but Ginny continued before he could utter a sound.

“Alright, I know that you told her that you loved her before she left! I also know that you have told Harry every detail about the breakup and your last conversation. He won’t tell me any of it because he says you swore him to secrecy,” she spat and rolled her eyes.

“That’s fine!” she continued, “Although I don’t completely understand why I can’t know… that is beside the point! Harry and I are both SO tired of the both of you! Here you sit, moping and pining over her, but do you do anything about it? No… all you do is collect pictures and stories about her rather than take a chance and see if there is a future with her!”

Ginny took a deep breath, and then she continued, “And there she sits, depressed, unhappy and totally miserable! She is lonely and works eighteen hours a day to fill up the space that should be filled by a life with you! But does she do anything about it? Oh, no! And why? Because she is just as bullheaded as you are!”

“She doesn’t look so lonely to me,” Ron muttered, and glanced toward the photo album on the bed.

Ginny rolled her eyes and smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand. “That, is all for appearance!” she said, her exasperation obvious in her voice.

“Remember, Ron, she is the American Magical Ambassador… it would not do for the leader of the wizarding community to sit around alone sipping tea and mourning her lost love… now would it?”

Ron lifted his head and looked at Ginny. She could see the slightest glimmer of hope shining in his eyes.

“You think so?” he asked his voice barely audible.

“Yes, Ronald!” Ginny said, “Honestly! For four years, Harry and I have had to sit around and listen to the two of you whine and cry over each other, but when either of us even suggest you two talking to each other, you both freak out and declare that it is over and talking would do no good! My question is this… if you are both still in love with each other, then why do you both insist that talking would not help? Obviously what you have been doing hasn’t!”

Suddenly, Ginny pointed a finger at her brother whose face was a mask of shock at his sister’s tirade. She paused for a moment when she realized that she also detected traces of hope, doubt, and strangely enough, amusement in his expression. Feeling angry that he was, for some odd reason amused, while she was very serious, but not wanting to lose her momentum now that she was finally saying what she had been dying to say for so long, Ginny decided to ignore his expression for the moment and continued.

“You are a Prat, Ron… a giant Prat! And Hermione is just as big a Prat as you are! Why are you both so blind? She loves you and you love her… so what is there to keep you apart?”

**********

While she had been talking, Ginny had been pacing. It was a rather amusing sight. His very pregnant sister was striding back and forth across the room, her face flushed, and her hair whipping out around her with each turn. For a moment Ron was trying so hard to fight back a chuckle as he watched that what she had been saying hadn't really sunk in.

Suddenly, what Ginny was saying finally penetrated and settled on him. Shocked, and somewhat irritated at being chastised by his ‘little’ sister, Ron wrestled with his indignation briefly before finally admitting, albeit grudgingly, that maybe she had a point. However, more than anything, he had to make sure that he had heard her correctly.

Standing up, Ron walked over to his sister. Placing his hands on her arms he stopped her furious pacing and held her still for a moment. Looking her in the eye he asked, “She still loves me? Did she actually tell you that she still loves me?”

Looking at the ceiling, Ginny stated sarcastically, “Rescue me from idiotic men!” and placing her hands on either side of his face she said, “Of course she still loves you, silly!”

Whirling away, Ron fought to keep himself from shouting for joy. He wanted to believe it… more then anything in the world he wanted to believe that there was a chance that she could still be in love with him. For so long he had secretly harbored a hope that some day he and Hermione would be together again.

Things had been wonderful when they had first gotten engaged, a little less than two years after what would have been the start of their seventh year at Hogwarts. However, they had only been engaged about six months when things started to become increasingly tense.

He had known for weeks before the breakup that things were not good. He had seen Hermione’s mounting unhappiness, and although he had known her feelings on the matter, he had continued to insist that they get married immediately and start a family as soon as possible. He wanted a big family like his parents had, and with his position at the Ministry as the Co-Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, (he shared the job with Lee Jordan Fred and George’s friend,) he could actually afford to raise a lot of children.

Hermione had continued to state that she wanted to wait. She wanted to concentrate on her career and making a difference in Wizard/Muggle politics, and she knew that this would take up a great deal of her time and energy.

She had told him over and over again that she loved him, but that she was not ready to “settle down” just yet. They had argued repeatedly about the matter. Ron had even enlisted his mother’s help in trying to persuade her that she could do both.

He had been such a stubborn jerk, and even though he had known that he was pushing her further and further away, he had done nothing to stop it until it was too late. As many times as she had said that she couldn’t go on the way things were, he hadn’t truly believed that she would leave… he had believed that they loved each other too much for that, and that somehow they would get past all the fighting and find a way to compromise. That had always been how it worked with them. As long as they had known each other, they fought and didn’t speak for a few weeks and then they made up. Foolishly, Ron had believed that would be the way it would work out this time as well.

Then the day came when she received an invitation from the American Magical Council. They wanted her to be the chief liaison between the American Magical Ambassador and the magical community itself.

They had gone out to dinner, and Hermione had excitedly told him about the invitation and what it could mean to her career. Not fully understanding how serious she was about the offer, Ron had congratulated her and commented that it was too bad she would have to say no to the position. Hermione had sat in stunned silence for several seconds before asking him what that meant.

Things had gone from bad to worse from there. They had engaged in the worst fight of their relationship, which had ended with him asking her how she expected to be a liaison to the American Magical community and his wife as well, and her throwing a spoon at him and telling him that she wouldn’t marry him if he got on his hands and knees in a pile of nails and begged.

Hermione had stomped out of the restaurant, and had refused to speak to him again. She had moved out of their flat and into a small place of her own the next day and sent back every one of his owl posts still sealed.

He had found out from Harry that she had accepted the job in America, and that she would be traveling with Viktor Krum, who had also accepted a position at the American Magical Counsel.

Their conversation at the train station had been horrible. He had demanded to know why she was traveling with Krum, whom Ron greatly disliked, and had never forgiven for taking Hermione to the Yule Ball during their fourth year at Hogwarts. Hermione had retorted that Viktor understood her desire to make a difference, and that he was a good friend. They had argued a bit more, and then Ron had broken down and begged her to stay and give him another chance. To his horror and embarrassment, Hermione had flatly refused to even entertain the thought of giving him another chance, and then she had driven the knife to his heart home by walking back to Krum and looping her arm through his.

At that point, Ron knew that he had truly lost her, but he had never completely given up hope. Even as hopeless as it seemed, he couldn’t wipe the memory of her from his mind. As time passed, the hope had begun to fade, and had been replaced with a painful resignation. He had begun collecting the newspaper clippings and articles about her as a way to keep her in his life, but even though the hope had faded, it had never truly disappeared.

“Ginny,” he finally choked out, his voice hoarse and strained. “Are you sure?”

“Other then my own love for Harry, I have never been surer of anything in my life, Ron!” Ginny stated as she walked to the coat rack and wrapped her cloak around her shoulders.

“The only thing keeping you and Hermione apart is your own stubbornness! Go to her… talk to her, lower your guard and your stubborn pride for a few minutes and let her see how you feel! Believe me… she still loves you, Ron… you just need to take the first step!”

With that said, Ginny gave her brother a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Go for it, big brother, put Harry and I out of our misery, because frankly we are both sick to death of the two of you acting so stupid, and if you can’t do it for us… do it for Lily and the new baby.” At this she patted her rounded belly. “They need their Godmother and their favorite uncle to at least be speaking to each other!”

Smiling sweetly, she patted Ron’s shoulder and said, “Ok, now for the real reason I am here! Harry and I are having a dinner party to celebrate Mum and Dad’s forty-fifth wedding anniversary. It is supposed to be a surprise, so naturally Mum knows all about it!” Ginny grinned when she saw a weak smile cross Ron’s lips. “The party is Saturday night,” she continued, “I told Mum that she and dad should be there at about seven o’clock which means that you can arrive around five-thirty if you want to help!”

Sighing, Ron nodded. “I’ll be there around five-thirty then.” He said, and then trying very hard to sound nonchalant, he asked, “Will anyone be there besides family?”

Grinning again, Ginny turned around and walked toward the door. Just as she stepped out into the rain, she threw back over her shoulder, “Don’t worry Ron, Hermione sent an owl saying she couldn’t come! You can continue to be a coward a bit longer!” and before Ron could respond, she vanished into the night.

After she left, Ron stood there in the open doorway for several minutes trying to take in everything that Ginny had just said. Was it possible? Could Hermione really still be in love with him?

**********

//
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