The Sugar Quill
Author: Amtamburo  Story: After All  Chapter: Chapter 2 - Nostalgia
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I would like to thank all of you who reviewed the first chapter of my story... I really hope you are enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it! :-) I would also like to send a special thanks to NightZephr, my beta. Thank you so much for all your help!

Thanks again for reading...


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 2 - Nostalgia

Wouldn’t dare to hope and yet.
Everywhere I turn, I see your silhouette
Been so long but I never will forget.

- Scott Bakula, ‘Somewhere in the Night’

Hermione’s heels clicked loudly as she walked across the lobby of the American Magical Council Headquarters. It was nearing midnight, and the building had been deserted for several hours.

She coughed, and the sound echoed eerily through the big empty room.

“Evening, Ambassador,” the guard at the front desk said as she passed him.

“Good evening, Arnold,” she replied with a tired smile.

Drawing her cloak closer around her shoulders, she stopped at the door and gazed out into the gloomy darkness. The doorman who usually stood outside had gone home hours earlier, and the streets looked eerie and deserted.

“What a nasty night!” She thought as she watched the rain pounding on the asphalt and car roofs. With a sigh, she pushed the door open and stepped out onto the sidewalk, walking as close to the edge of the awning as she could get without getting drenched.

Looking both ways, she saw that there were no Muggle taxis in site. This was not surprising considering it was a Friday evening and most of the taxis were on the other side of town where the clubs and restaurants were.

Glancing around quickly to make sure that there was no one watching, she removed her wand from her pocket and as she waved it in a circle over her head she thought “Impervius”. Feeling a slight tingle spread through her body as the shielding charm took effect, she placed her wand back in her pocket, and began walking home. As she walked, large drops of rain rolled off her hair and shoulders. However, the charm kept them from penetrating so that she remained quite dry and comfortable.

As she walked, Hermione began to think about the weekend ahead. She had no plans and there were no charity or political affairs to attend. A feeling of dread washed over her as she pictured another long lonely weekend looming ahead. At least that had been one perk about the long hours that had come with her new position, she had found that she didn’t spend nearly as much time alone and brooding.

She briefly debated calling Richard to see if he wanted to do something, but then decided that she couldn’t handle his constant groping and come-ons. Not only that, but if she called him and asked him out on a social basis, she would never be able to get rid of him and it was bad enough that she had to put up with him at political functions. The more she thought about it, the more she decided that Richard was the last person she wanted to see at the moment. Not only was he an insufferable bore with his constant bragging and roaming hands, but his resemblance to another red-haired man was sometimes more than she could bear.

As she stood waiting for the crossing light to change, she decided that she would go to London to visit Harry and Ginny this weekend. She had received an invitation a few weeks ago to attend a surprise anniversary party for Molly and Arthur Weasley. At the time, she had been so swamped with trying to get the former Ambassador’s files into some sort of order that she had simply scribbled a quick reply saying that she couldn’t come and sent it along with a Council owl. The next day she had received a note from Harry saying that they would miss her but that they understood the situation.

With her new responsibilities as Magical Ambassador, she had been too busy to get away for several weeks, but now, because she had the weekend free, she decided to attend the party after all.

She looked forward to seeing Ginny. Regardless of how hectic things were at times, they always found time to sit and have nice long “girl” talks. She also looked forward to seeing little Lily. Her Goddaughter was the image of her mother, although she had her father’s green eyes and stubborn chin. However, even though she looked forward to seeing them, she mostly looked forward to seeing Harry. He was truly her best friend, and the only person with whom she felt totally comfortable discussing her true feelings for Ron.

She knew that, despite Harry’s protestations to the contrary, holding out hope that one day they might be together again was a foolish waste of time. No matter how they might feel about each other, they simply wanted different things for themselves, and she knew it just wouldn’t work. Regardless of how deeply she felt this, she still couldn’t get him out of her mind and heart. She had tried so hard to forget him and move on, but somehow no matter how hard she tried, he simply wouldn’t go away. Lately it had become almost impossible to concentrate on anything without an image or thought of him bursting in to interrupt her thoughts.

Sighing, she straightened her shoulders, and mentally shook herself. “Let it go!” she admonished herself, and began to make plans for her trip in order to occupy her mind elsewhere. Given the nasty weather and the hour, she decided that she would Apparate to England that very night. Generally the way stations were practically deserted this time of night, and the nasty weather would deter travel even more which would make checking in at the customs station that much easier. Also, with the time difference she would arrive at her parent’s home around 5:30 a.m. Her parents usually left for work at six o’clock, so she knew that they would be up.

Smiling at the thought that she would not have to spend another dreary weekend finding things to do, she crossed the street and walked the last two blocks to her apartment with a little bit more spring to her step.

Letting herself into the spacious and tastefully decorated apartment that the Council provided for her, she removed her cloak, shook the last few drops of water off of it, and hung it neatly in the coat closet. With a flick of her wrist, she waved her wand over her head again and said “Finite”. The slight tingle traveled up from her feet this time, and the shield charm was lifted. Walking into the kitchen, she placed her satchel on the table, and crossed through the living room to her bedroom.

The bedroom was a small and somewhat sparsely furnished room. Other than an armchair in the corner and a small stand with a lamp, the only major piece of furniture was her bed. The bed was a large antique Victorian piece that was decorated with a handmade quilt (a Christmas gift from Molly Weasley) and a frilly lace-covered pillow. The pillow’s pattern and colors were quite different from Hermione’s normal taste and didn’t really go very well with the rest of the décor in the room. However, it had enough sentimental value that she continued to keep it even though she had not spoken to the person who had given it to her for almost four years. Walking to the bed, she gazed fondly at the pillow and remembered the occasion on which she had received it.

It was her nineteenth birthday, and she and Ron had gone out to dinner to celebrate. They had plans to meet Harry and Ginny later on for drinks at the Three Broomsticks but, at Ron’s insistence, they decided to have a candlelit dinner alone first.

All through dinner Ron sat with a smug smile on his face, as though he had a secret that he was very proud of. After dinner, while they sat sipping the last of the bottle of wine, Ron reached down and brought forth a bag that he had been hiding under the table. In the bag was an elaborately wrapped package with a small card attached.

Smiling at the hopeful and boyish look on Ron’s face, she accepted the package and opened the card. In Ron’s neatest handwriting (which wasn’t all that neat) she read:

To My Dearest Hermione
On her Birthday.
I Love You!

Fighting back tears, Hermione looked at Ron with a trembling smile on her face. Even though they had been dating since the end of their sixth year at Hogwarts, this was the first time Ron had stated the words “I Love You” in such a way that made her feel that he truly did love her.

Seeing the fiery blush on Ron’s face and the way he looked down quickly when he saw that she was looking at him, Hermione dropped her eyes, and set about opening the gift rather than saying anything and embarrassing him further.

When she had removed all of the paper, and pulled the cover from the box, she looked in to see nestled among many layers of sky blue tissue paper, the ugliest pillow she had ever seen. Although the material that is was made from was soft and luxurious to the touch, the color and pattern of the cloth was a hideous collection of pinks, purples and greens in different shades and tones. Hermione tended to favor more plain and simple patterns and earthy tones. Therefore, the colors and garish patterns caused her to wince when she looked at them.

She ran her hand across the soft material in an attempt to stall while she found something to say. She couldn’t help but feel a bit of disappointment at the fact that Ron was still so bad at choosing gifts to her taste after all this time. As she caressed the pillow, she felt a lump inside a small pocket hidden amongst the lace frills on the front of the pillow. With a puzzled expression, she reached into the pocket and withdrew a baby blue box. Holding the box in her hand, she raised her eyes to Ron’s face. A small smile played across his mouth, but Hermione saw trepidation and something like fear in his eyes.

“Open it,” he whispered hoarsely.

Tearing her gaze from his face, she carefully pulled up the cover on the little blue box. Nestled in a soft bed of baby blue velvet was the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. The ring was not large or garish in any way. In fact, as she gazed at the sparkling ring, Hermione decided she had never seen anything more beautiful. A trio of round diamonds surrounded by intertwining bands of white and pink gold, it could not have been more perfect for her had she picked it out herself.

There had been little time to discuss true feelings during the year following the end of their sixth year at Hogwarts. After Dumbledore’s funeral, she and Ron had accompanied Harry to his aunt and uncle’s house. After a two week stay, which had seemed to last much longer given that Harry’s aunt and uncle were less then gracious hosts, the trio had gone to The Burrow where they had remained until after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. From there they had traveled to Godric’s Hollow to visit Harry’s parent’s graves and the site where their house had stood before the night Voldemort had attacked and killed Harry’s parents.

After that, they had been too busy tracking down Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes and helping Harry to destroy Voldemort once and for all. Even though almost a year had passed since the final horrible battle, their relationship had progressed very little beyond what it had been when they were teenagers.

They had spent a great deal of time together and had done a fair bit of snuggling and snogging, but there had been little discussion of their true feelings. Hermione had thought that perhaps he was close to declaring his feelings on more then one occasion when they had been discussing the future, but each time Ron had become tongue-tied and ended up changing the subject to something much less intimate.

Now, Hermione raised her eyes to search Ron’s face, her own expression almost unreadable, unshed tears that she fought to control glimmering at the corners of her eyes.

“Ron,” she said her voice low and surprised.

“Ummm…” Ron interrupted, stumbling over his words and appearing to be unsure what to say, “Hermione, I know this is… umm…sort of sudden…but I was thinking that we have been … umm… dating for awhile now… and… umm… well I was wondering… I know we never really talked about…but I have been thinking…” He paused, his face so red it was nearly purple. Suddenly he exhaled loudly and blurted, as though he was afraid that he might not be able to say it if he didn’t say it quickly, “I wondered if maybe you might want to marry me!”

As soon as the words left his mouth, the color had completely left his face and he cringed. The look on his face said that he was scared to death of what she might say, and Hermione wondered wryly which answer would scare him more… yes or no.

However, Hermione’s heart told her there was only one answer that she could possibly give. Slowly she reached across the table and put her hand over Ron’s, which was very shaky and sweaty. Smiling through the tears that she was no longer even trying to hold back, she said in a surprisingly steady voice, “I was hoping you might say that someday! Yes, Ronald, I would like to marry you.”

Every head in the restaurant turned to stare at Ron as he jumped to his feet and let out a whoop.

“YES!” Then he grabbed her hand and pulled Hermione to her feet, wrapping his arms around her and snogging her passionately right there in the middle of the restaurant.

Finally, the sounds of the surprised crowd’s murmurs and questions had penetrated, and Ron had pulled away, his face once again almost purple. “Oh… sorry!” he stuttered, “but… well… she said yes!” a huge grin spread across his face as he spoke. “She said yes!”, he repeated, squeezing her again and lifting her off her feet he had swung her around in a circle before putting her down and letting her go.

The patrons in the crowded restaurant were apparently delighted and happy for them, because a round of applause and calls of congratulations rang out through the dining room, and the waiter brought them a bottle of champagne, “compliments of the house”.

By the time they arrived at the Three Broomsticks to meet Harry and Ginny, Hermione had been feeling very good, incredibly happy and optimistic about the future.

When she arrived home that evening, after a wonderful time with Ginny, Harry and Ron at the Three Broomsticks where they had shared another bottle of champagne and had been toasted repeatedly by Madam Rosmerta and several of the other patrons, Hermione had been quite tipsy.

As they stood on the stoop, Ron wrapped his arms around her, and held her back from him a bit so he could look into her face. He hoarsely whispered the words that he had expressed in his birthday card, leaning in for another long intense snog.

From that night on, the pillow had resided on her bed. Even when she and Ron moved in together, she had insisted that it be placed on the bed they had shared.

When she broke off their engagement and left for America, she had placed the beautiful engagement ring back in its little blue velvet box and slipped it into the pocket on the front of the pillow. It had been there ever since.

Rubbing the back of her hand over the surface of the pocket where the ring box was, Hermione bit her lip to stop the tears that pricked at the back of her eyelids.

“Oh Ron! What happened to us?” she whispered.

Sighing deeply, she went into the bathroom and splashed cool water on her face. After peering into the mirror for signs of tear tracks, she went to the kitchen and wrote a hasty letter to Harry and Ginny letting them know that she would be attending Molly and Arthur’s party.

After sealing the tiny scroll with her official Council seal, she went to the corner where her owl, Barnabas, was asleep on his perch. Reaching out her hand she softly stroked his feathers until he removed his head from beneath his wing and blinked blearily at her.

“I have a letter for you to deliver.” she said as she continued to stroke the owl’s silky brown feathers. Ruffling up into a big feathery ball, Barnabas shook himself, and then stood regally with his leg outstretched while Hermione attached the small scroll to it.

As soon as she was finished, she opened the window, and Barnabas swept out into the rainy night.

With that done, she went into her bedroom and packed a small bag with a few essentials. On a whim, and because she was still feeling nostalgic, she placed the pillow on top of her dress robes and quickly closed the clasp of her satchel.

Then, she glanced around her apartment, checking to make sure that everything was in order. Once satisfied that all the doors were, windows locked and all the lights off except the lamp in the living room, she went to the closet and put on her cloak. Stepping to the middle of the room with her bag in her hand she spun around once, and Disapparated.
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