The Sugar Quill
Author: James Bow (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Letters in the Summer After the Fall of Voldemort`  Chapter: Default
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Letters in the Summer After the Fall of Voldemort

Letters in the Summer After the Fall of Voldemort.

"While Voldemort's Huns with their long range guns

Sailed out through the Foggy Dew"

-- Folksong in Hogsmeade

July 31

Harry,

I'm in Muggle Heathrow, trying out the Muggle postal system. Are you reading this? Haha. Course you are!

Heathrow is as busy as Platform 9 ¾! We're about to head out on our Muggle Studies field trip. This had better be good, or I'm not forgiving Hermione for dragging me along.

Happy Birthday to you, by the way. Now you're old enough to vote! I hope my family is treating you well. I'll have a gift for you when I get back.

Your friend,

Ron

+=+=+

July 31, Heathrow

Dear Harry,

I've just read the 'letter' Ron sent to you.

I know, I shouldn't eavesdrop on correspondence, but would you believe that Ron didn't know how to work an envelope? Or a stamp? So, I had to post the letter for him, and that's when I discovered how short it was. Really, it was only a glance, but that's all that I needed to read what he'd written. You know me and my speed-reading abilities.

I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. When Ron and I shared letters last summer, he'd write short notes like, "Hi, Hermione! The twins played a great joke on Percy, and Bill sent us a sarcophagus. Your friend, Ron." Next day, "Dear Hermione, Sarcophagus has a curse. We're at a hotel until we can make the mummy leave. Dad's drafting the eviction papers now. Your friend, Ron."

This is from memory, by the way. I didn't hear the full terrifying tale until I got a letter from Ginny.

When Ron admitted that he loved me, his letters didn't change much, save for changing his valediction "Love, Ron" and the content being such that I had to hide the letters from my parents.

Well, Ron isn't much of a letter writer. I've got to learn to accept that. But I love to write, and I'm wondering if you would too. I'm sure the Weasleys are taking good care of you, but recuperating is often mind-numbingly boring. Believe me, I know. So, if it helps to spend some time writing back to me, please do. I'd love to hear from you.

Your owls will get to us, even though we are constrained to using the Muggle postal system. Some sort of special arrangement has been set up, which should keep the children from the all-Wizard families in close contact with their families. It's going to be a strain for some to go all month in the Muggle world without using magic, and having a week's delay between letters might prove to be too much. We want to educate ourselves on the Muggle World, not drive people insane.

Neville is here, he's really excited, as are Lavender, Parvati, Cho and Ernie. We're just waiting on another two Ravenclaws and three Slytherins. They'd better hurry up; the plane leaves in another hour.

The next time you hear from me, I'll be in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Wish me luck on my first camp counsellor job. Just address the owl to me, and it will get here. Please write. I look forward to hearing from you.

Your good friend,

Hermione.

P.S. Happy Birthday! I hope your eighteenth is a happy one. As Ron says, I'll have a gift for you when I get back.

P.P.S. It won't be a book.

+=+=+

August 1

Dear Hermione,

How's this for a letter? Please be patient with me, Hermione, as I've not written many letters myself. I've never had much cause to. I never even received any mail until that first letter from Hogwarts slipped through Uncle Vernon's fingers (and the letter slot. And the door jamb. And the window sill. And the fireplace grill). Hagrid writes to me, but they're not long notes. I don’t think he's yet found a quill that he's comfortable writing with. I've made it my personal mission to find him an extra large one this Christmas. Sirius also tried to write, but couldn't get much off while he was on the run. And, as you say, Ron's notes are brief and to the point.

You wrote to me too, Hermione, though not very often. I suppose most of your letters went to Ron. Besides, it was rare of me to write back, what with being stuck at the Dursleys. So, it's all a new experience for me, and I'm eager to know how I'm doing. Is this good, Hermione? Could you tell me?

Your friend,

Harry

P.S. I'm enclosing my note to Ron in this letter. Could you be sure he receives it?

+=+=+

August 2

Dear Harry,

We're in Muggle Calgary, home of something called 'The Stampede'. Sounds painful. I'll try to stay out of the way.

Aeroplanes are incredible! They're like broomsticks, only with flight attendants and pretzels. Nice to have someone else do the flying for you. Dad would be in heaven!

Managed to get through customs okay, although Neville got a scare. Hermione cleared things up.

We're settling into our hotel for a couple of days to get used to this Muggle city before heading to the mountains. I'd go for the reverse, frankly. There are so many people, here; why not start small and then move up?

It almost makes me want to climb these mountains!

Your friend,

Ron

+=+=+

August 2 – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dear Harry,

You did just fine! You're almost a natural. You just don't need to refer to me by name in every paragraph – I know to whom you are speaking. And you need to write more. What's it like at the Weasleys? How are you doing? How is Ginny doing? Are you able to spend time with her with no brothers present? Are your intentions towards the Weasleys' daughter honourable? Remember, I write to Ginny too, so I'll know when you're out of line.

Seriously, though, how are you? I've been worried about you since you left St. Mungo's. I wish you were here. I'm enjoying the time alone with Ron (excepting the half-dozen or so Hogwarts students), but we four (including you and Ginny) belong together after all that we've faced. We've been through wilderness in war; you deserve to enjoy it in peace.

So far, the field trip has gone well. We made it through customs at both ends of the trip -- not without some difficulty, however...

 

Neville passed through the metal detector without a beep. He went to pick up his suitcase.

"Excuse me, sir," said the customs official. "Do you mind if I search your bag?"

Neville blinked and swallowed hard. "Why?"

"Don't worry, sir. It's just a random check. For security reasons." Already the catches were coming up. The man pulled the suitcase open and sorted quickly through the clothes. Neville shifted on his feet.

Then the official picked up Neville's wand and frowned at it. "What is this?"

Neville looked decidedly guilty. "It's—"

"A conductor's stick," Hermione jumped in. "Neville's a conductor. He conducts orchestras."

The official frowned at her. "You're saying that this is a conductor's baton?"

Hermione slapped her forehead. "Baton! Yes, that's the word!"

"Isn't he a little young to be conducting orchestras?"

Neville looked like he was going to faint.

"He's apprenticing!"

"Oh." The man looked over Neville's wand. "I've never seen one up close. It's solid. I thought conductor batons were flimsy. You always see them getting snapped on television."

He gave the wand a flick. Neville stepped quickly to one side. Behind him, the metal detector began to flash and blare.

The official looked up at the wide-eyed dark-haired young Muggle woman who had just stepped through. Security descended upon her.

The official slapped Neville's wand back in the suitcase and closed it as he was putting his hand to his gun. "Carry on you two. Welcome to Canada."

Hermione thrust the suitcase at Neville and the two dashed after the rest of their group.

 

...Calgary is beautiful. It's an exciting city, and the mountains are in the background. I'm looking at them now, and hardly believing that we're supposed to climb them.

Everybody who signed up for the trip made it out. As I said, Neville is here, as is Lavender, Parvati, Cho and Ernie. The two Ravenclaws I mentioned were sixth years Joy Moony and Rowan Laurelwood. The Slytherins include two polite (if distant) sixth years named Servalan Domi and Travis Blake. The last person on this trip is Pansy Parkinson.

Yes, Pansy Parkinson. I have trouble picturing any Slytherins attending a Muggle Studies field trip, much less Pansy, but there you go. And they were among the first of us to fit in with Muggles. It just goes to show that it's possible, especially if you find the right kind of Muggles. We ran into a group of people that I'm told are called Goths and the Slytherins took to them immediately. It actually took a little prying to get them to leave their new friends and come to the hotel.

We'll be sticking around Calgary for the next few days, to experience the Muggle City. Your owls will reach me here at the Regency Hyatt hotel. I look forward to your next letter!

Your friend,

Hermione

+=+=+

August 3

Dear Hermione,

Poor Neville! But he would be the first one those officers would pick upon.

So, how am I doing?

Fine.

You probably want more. Letter writing isn't easy. Okay, try this: my cast is off and my arm is a little stiff and sore. The twins are keeping me to my physiotherapy schedule with practise rounds of Quidditch (without brooms and Bludgers). Mrs. Weasley (I can't call her Molly, no matter what she says. I want to call her 'Mum', but that seems presumptuous to say the least) makes sure I don't starve. Makes very, very sure. Not that I mind with her fantastic cooking, but I'm supposed to be bulking up my muscles, not my stomach. Again, the twins help here.

What's it like at the Weasleys?

Awkward. I just had to say that. Ginny and I... we talk a lot. We spend a lot of time alone together. Too much time, in fact.

I've noticed that the Weasleys have an alarming tendency to disappear whenever Ginny and I are in the same room. It's only Mr and Mrs. Weasley, the twins and Ginny at the Burrow, now, but Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have been going out for a lot of walks lately, and shopping excursions. The twins too. And sometimes they even tell me where they're going and how long they're going to be away.

I shouldn't complain that the Weasleys have always been supportive and encouraging of Ginny and me being together (once they got over the initial shock, of course), and Ginny and I like a good snog as much as the next couple, but this 'encouraging' is going a little too far. I almost wish that Ginny's parents held to the cliché and were staunch defenders of their daughter's honour.

So, in answer to your next question, 'are my intentions towards the Weasleys' daughter honourable', well, I'd like them to be. But temptation is being thrust upon my path. Thrust, I tell you! Ask Ginny if you don't believe me!

How do your parents deal with you and Ron?

The twins are back, and they've brought Dr. Clutterbuck from St. Mungo's with them. Time for my check-up. The area where my scar used to be has been poked and prodded so often, a new scar has almost formed in its place.

I'm enjoying this letter writing thing, and I hope that I lived up to your expectations. Write soon?

Your good friend,

Harry

+=+=+

August 4

Dear Harry,

Thanks for your letter, Mate! I hope the family is treating you well, and keeping tabs on you and Ginny. Behave yourself, friend, or you'll answer to me! Haha!

Hotel vending machines are great! The Muggles have non-magical equivalents for everything! No wonder Dad's so fascinated by them!

Met the group leader. Another two days in Calgary, then it's off to the mountains. Tomorrow I go shopping. Can't be much different from Diagon Alley, surely, though what I'm supposed to do with this piece of plastic is anybody's guess.

Your friend,

Ron

+=+=+

August 4 – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dear Harry,

Your letter back to me was wonderful! You really know how to use a quill!

Calgary is a beautiful city, as I've said. Our troupe is really adjusting well to this Muggle vacation. For the most part. Ron went a little nuts with his credit card. We're returning most of his stuff. And confiscating his sweets.

Ron, for his part, is now thoroughly sick, and has possibly learned his lesson. Haven't you, Ron?

Excuse me for a second, Ron needs a little comforting.

So, Ginny's parents' permissive attitude has thrown you off balance? I know how you feel. Except, I get it on two fronts.

Do you know what I found on my bed the week after my parents found out I was in love with Ron? A book on birth control! If that isn't just the wrong sort of pressure, I don't know what is. I daren't show it to Ron; he'd faint!

The fact that I'd read it already is beside the point.

I think parents should be a little more prudish when it comes to their children's relations. It upsets the natural order of things otherwise.

Oh, well. They love me, and I them.

Did I tell you about our group leader? He met us at the airport and took us to the hotel. We've slowly been getting to know him during our trips through Calgary. His name's Fenton Gross and he's a tall, kind, sweet looking man with deep blue eyes and a bright, winsome smile.

Ron, the fool, was jealous from the get go. Like I'd fall for thirty-somethings.

Harry, if you're even thinking the word 'Lockhart' right now, I'll find out and hex you!

Anyway, he introduced us to the local brand of Muggle currency, which poor Neville and the others just couldn't get their heads around. However, when he gave them a handful and sent them off to buy lunch, they learned quickly. Especially Neville, who drove a very hard bargain at a nearby bookstore later that afternoon and came away with an astounding leather-bound copy of Robinson Crusoe. Nice to see him getting into Muggle literature.

Ron's still having a little trouble, but even he got the hang of it.

We have two more days in Calgary, and then we head over to the mountains. The last couple of days are to be spent preparing for our trek, including buying supplies and gear. I'm looking forward to the mountains, but now that I see them out my window, I must admit that I'm a little nervous. They look so tall!

Wish me luck!

Your good friend,

Hermione

+=+=+

August 5

Dear Hermione,

Good luck!

Just through another physiotherapy session, and then Bludger-less Quidditch with the twins. I'm sore all over, but Dr. Clutterbuck assures me that this is the good kind of sore – a sign that the muscles are repairing themselves after being dormant so long in the cast.

Otherwise I'm doing fine.

Really!

Well, I've been thinking about the war. A lot. I can't help it. The ache in my arm reminds me, as does the change in my forehead whenever I look in the mirror. It's hard to believe that it's over, and it feels strange to be back at a normal life after that year when nothing was normal. Do you get nightmares? I do. I remember Voldemort breaking bones in my body. I remember the look on Ginny's face when I opened her cell door. The Weasleys' are remarkably patient with me waking up screaming.

I shouldn't say more. This isn't an appropriate subject to talk about at the Weasleys, and it's not an appropriate subject here. I'm sorry I brought it up. Good luck with the mountains. Please write and tell me how you fare!

Your good friend (who's finally getting the hang of this!),

Harry

+=+=+

August 6

Dear Harry,

Our last morning in Calgary. We head to the mountains this afternoon. I'm afraid Hermione and I had a fight, but it was her fault! I'll tell you what she made me do when we get home. I'm not sharing this with the post.

Hope you're doing well. Write soon!

Your friend,

Ron

+=+=+

August 6 – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dear Harry,

Ron's finally got a hang of sending mail, I see. I couldn't see his letter to you because he'd already sealed it and put on correct postage. I guess I should be proud.

After today, I firmly believe that Muggle Studies should be a compulsory course from First Year on. I don't know why they make it optional because nobody shows the remotest interest in attending, and yet it's such a vital thing to learn.

Think about this a minute: we wizards and witches live in a society that's supposed to be kept out of sight and mind from the Muggles. We do this for the Muggles' own protection (although some, like Voldemort, turned this into a massive superiority complex). So, do we attempt to blend in with this huge civilization around us? Do we dress in their clothes? Do we try to adapt to their culture and technology? NO!

This makes NO SENSE! You and I, with Muggle upbringings, understand something about Muggle life and tradition, but those with wizard upbringings are so clueless, risking detection from the very society we hope to hide from.

Take Ron (please!). He's the best young man in the world, good with spells, great with jokes, and he can't even go into a grocery store without turning it into an adventure. It all started when I asked him to add a box of tampons to the list...

 

Ron frowned at the waggling wheel of his shopping cart. He didn't have his father's ability with Muggle machines and, of course, using magic was out of the question.

"Stupid Muggle Studies field trip," he muttered.

So, he made do, manhandling the cart up and down the aisles. Some of the Muggle carts were in even worse condition but they managed, and so would he.

He passed the selection of groceries, finding what he needed on his list. A bag of apples. Check. Granola bars. Check. Peanut butter. Yum! Sterno. Where was the Sterno?

He remembered Hermione's advice: "don't be afraid to ask the clerks for directions. That's what they're there for."

He found a clerk and asked, and then followed that clerk to the correct aisle where not only the Sterno was found, but matches as well. Check and check.

"I'm getting the hang of this," he muttered. "Now for the tampons."

He looked, and looked again. Finally, he spotted an older woman in the store's colours and approached her.

"Excuse me," he said, after a cough. "Where are your tampons?"

The woman stood up and stared at Ron in surprise. Then she smiled. "You're a brave young man!" she said. "Good for you!"

Ron blinked. "Thanks." How did she know?

The woman pointed over the shelves. "Next aisle. Feminine protection."

"Thanks," said Ron, wheeling his cart around. As he rounded the aisle, he muttered, "Muggle women get protection? I thought they didn't do magic."

Tampons, he discovered, came in boxes of bright, cool colours, and there was a large selection of types. Super. Regular. Light. What one would she need? Hermione was comparatively light. But on the other hand, he thought she was super.

He picked up two boxes and compared the labels. They included diagrams.

Pink slowly rose up Ron's cheeks. It steadily intensified until it was impossible to tell where his hairline began. Hermione had sent him here to buy—this?!!?

His head whipped around to see if anybody was looking. Nobody seemed to be, but they might at any second. The thought filled Ron with dread.

He took several deep breaths, and then tried to stop himself hyperventilating.

Just. Be. Calm. Choose a box, put it in the cart, and leave. Now.

Oh, and don't forget to pay for everything.

Darn confusing Muggle currency! It made sense that the polar bear was worth more than the bird, but why were both worth more than a caribou?

He placed the box in the cart, and then piled the apples, bananas, peanut butter and Sterno atop it. He left the aisle at the sort of walk you use when you don't want them to see you run.

He came to the checkout aisles and picked the shortest line he could find. There would be a line. Everybody seemed to be leaving the store at once. Shopping carts piled up behind him, enclosing him in his lane. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared around, pretending to be innocent. He glanced over the tabloid headlines, the rack of chocolate bars, the lit-up aisle numbers—

He noticed, for the first time, that there was something different about his aisle. Under the lit-up number was a sign: "Express Lane. 1-8 items only."

"Express lane?" he muttered. He looked in his cart and began counting. Apples. Peanut butter. Bananas, Sterno, matches, buns, sausages, granola, tampons.

One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine. Uh, oh.

The last shopper ahead of him was finishing his purchase. Five carts stood behind him, blocking his way out. He was one over the limit! He was doing something illegal! What was the punishment for taking one too many groceries into the express lane? Worst of all, they'd find out about... those!

His face changed from red to white. He had to do something. Cause a distraction! To heck with 'no magic', do something!

He pointed. "Look! An emu!"

The shoppers around him stared about. In the confusion, he whipped out his wand and cast a whispered spell. The box of tampons vanished. He snatched up the invisible box and tossed it with a quick flick, as he would a Quaffle. He breathed a sigh of relief.

He heard the box smack something across the store. There was a sound of something giving way and things falling on the floor in an avalanche. People cried out as they slipped and fell with great squelching thuds. A solitary orange rolled past the checkout counters.

Ron took a deep breath and kept his mouth tight shut. As he paid for his purchases and headed for the exit, he allowed himself a smile. Not a bad escape, even if he said so himself.

"Cleanup on aisle three," buzzed the PA.

As the doors parted, he ground to a halt, his smile disappearing.

Hermione stood before him, her arms folded, tapping her foot.

 

...It was quite an argument that followed. Ron ranted about being put to such a hideous task, as if it really was so hideous. I respectfully tried to point out that he had used magic when he wasn't supposed to, risked detection by several Muggles, caused a huge mess, and that an emu was a native of Australia, not Canada, and especially not the foothills of the Rockies. Also, he still had to get me my tampons. Eventually, I convinced him to go back inside and pick me up a box. Honestly, he had the air of somebody going off to his execution.

He came out five minutes later, a little surly, but calmer. He seemed quite surprised that nobody commented on his purchase at all.

Honestly, what is it with you boys?

Your (exasperated) friend,

Hermione

P.S. I won't even mention the dangers of creating two separate societies where deception is allowed to ferment into distrust and hatred. We know the bitter fruits of that policy.

I wish there will come a day when wizards and witches can operate openly. Muggle technology is catching up with us so that we won't be a threat to them, and there's great advantage in combining our strengths, I'm sure.

P.P.S. Yes, I do get nightmares.

P.P.P.S I've got to write more about this. I really do. But it's hard, Harry. For once you have the letter-writer the quill equivalent of tongue-tied. But I sense that I've got to talk about this. So, Harry, tell me more about your nightmares, and I'll tell you mine. Okay? If this correspondence isn't an appropriate place for this discussion, then I don't know what is.

The group leader is calling us to the lobby. We're off to the mountains.

+=+=+

August 7

Dear Hermione,

Er... what are tampons, exactly?

Hope to hear from you soon about the mountains!

Your friend,

Harry.

P.S. Okay, this is not fair. I sense it took a lot out of you to write those postscripts, so I should reciprocate. As you say, it's hard.

I've been thinking a lot about the war. You know that. It's hard to believe that Voldemort's dead, and I think a part of me doubts that he is.

I once scared myself senseless looking in the bathroom mirror without my glasses and mistaking a towel dangling from a hook for him. I was just out of the shower. I slipped and banged my head against the bathtub. Ginny came running, followed by the twins.

That was embarrassing. But more alarming was the look on the twin's faces when I told them why I'd slipped. They didn't laugh. They shuddered. You're not supposed to shudder! You're supposed to laugh, damn it! Make fun of me! Don't take this seriously!

Damn them.

I shouldn't say that. Fred still has a picture of Angelina on his bedside table, you know. I accidentally saw him crying over it. The war has been over for six months, now. How long will the scars last?

It amazes me how Muggles can look back at wars with fondness as well as horror. Ginny and I went into town and watched a Muggle movie. Maybe we should have known better, but we selected Saving Private Ryan. Ouch. Ron's right: there are Muggle equivalents for everything we do.

But what struck me the most was a couple in the seat behind me. They were old enough to remember the Muggles' last great war, and they were reminiscing. Reminiscing! They were talking about rationing, and Winston Churchill's addresses on the radio, and 'the boys' coming back on leave. We were watching people getting shot at, and they were talking fondly about sleeping in the Underground.

Will we look back at our war with the same fondness as the years go by?

Well, maybe.

I sometimes dream about the days that you, me and Ron were mired in the Slough of Despond, trekking slowly through the swamp as part of our sneak attack on Voldemort's fortress. This isn't a nightmare. Though there was no dry ground, no warm food, and only the most cramped places to sleep and no room even for modesty as we swam the last stretch, I look back on those days with a certain fondness. Perhaps it's because nobody was casting death spells at us, but I think there was more to it than that.

The surprise attack was the first time I'd really worked hard to fight Voldemort. I didn't believe I was going to live, much less win, but I wasn't afraid anymore. Live or die, I was finally doing something. And you and Ron were with me every step of the way. I'll never forget that.

I don't know what else to say here, but... thank you. We've been through so much that I can't ever contemplate not thinking about you as a friend. Indeed, the word 'friend' seems hardly to cover it.

Try not to let your parents' pressure or lack thereof stifle your moments with Ron. You're a big girl, now, and know how to take care of yourself. And you've got to cherish these moments together. Looking back on the war, I now know how lucky we are to be at peace.

I'm going to go and spend a little time alone with Ginny, if you don't mind.

P.P.S: Your very good friend,

Harry

+=+=+

August 8 – Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Dear Harry,

Tampons are... Actually, let's drop the subject of tampons. I'll move it on the list of things to talk about with Ginny. Although, I will say: the wizardry equivalent is MUCH better.

We climbed our first mountain in order to reach our lodges at Lake Louise. I'm told that, technically, we climbed up some foothills, but I don't care. Judging from the ache in my body, that was a mountain I was on, and I'm sticking to it. Ron had far less trouble with the slope than I did, and was his usual smarmy self about it. He's off swimming in some secluded corner of Lake Louise, and I hope he freezes!

It is a beautiful place, no doubt about that. We can see out over the great plain that Calgary sits on. The view is astounding. It's hard to believe that it can get any better, but we're going to go higher in the next couple of days.

Oh, my aching arms!

We were talking about the Muggle equivalents to magic around the campfire this evening, and noting that the Muggles were catching up. Neville predicted that the Muggles would be as adept with their technology as we are with our magic within the next twenty years, and nobody challenged that assertion. I voiced my own opinion that the separation between the two worlds was foolish and dangerous, and I was shocked to find most of the group agreeing with me, including Pansy Parkinson.

She's really impressed me. Barely a week in Canada, and she's already gotten up a regular correspondence with that Goth boy she met when we first arrived in Calgary. Fenton Gross was the most conservative of us, warning Pansy not to reveal her magical background to her correspondent, and questioning whether Muggles were truly ready to discover a civilization of wizards in their midst. I think he was being overly pessimistic. It's not like we're without small minded, fearful individuals, but we beat back those forces. I was born a Muggle, and I know that most Muggles are, in their temperament, not much different from your average witch or wizard. Certainly there are people out there who would react out of fear. We all remember the Salem Witch Trials, but Muggles have beaten back their own forces of hatred and intolerance.

About the war, yes, I have do nightmares about it. I've told you that already. I'm reminded of it constantly about it, day to day, from the most normal things. The flash of my scars when I look in a mirror after a shower. I shudder at the thought of Ron's reaction when he sees them at last. I shudder at the memory of when my parents first saw them.

My parents. That's the worst part of all this. They love me as much as they have before. I don't think the shock of the Wizard war has really hit home to them. The only parallel that my parents have to draw upon is their parents' experience. My paternal grandfather bombed Dresden. Both of my grandmothers lived through the blitz, and I never knew my maternal grandfather, a merchant marine drowned during a U-boat attack.

I think my parents may have sworn to themselves that they'd never let me experience what their parents experienced. It's natural for them to want to protect me, I guess. And the fact that I ended up on the frontlines of a war that they themselves were involved in only peripherally fills them with a sense of failure.

But they didn't fail. Far from it. They've been the most kind and loving parents that you could ever ask for. They hugged me when I broke down crying (which, I have to admit, was rather frequently in the month after I came home). I don't want to see the guilt in their eyes. I just want them to smile and laugh and be happy for me, and tuck me into bed, just as they used to do, without a lingering suspicion that they did something wrong by letting me go to Hogwarts. I'm a witch. The Wizarding world is where I live, and this war was one I had to fight.

Yes, I remember the Slough of Despond, and with a certain fondness too. The way we struggled together, ate the cold meals together, really built upon our sense of camaraderie. Yes, there was no room for modesty, but honestly I didn't have time to notice, even as we swam that final stretch. You and Ron were both very mature about it too; not a single joke between you on either shore. I guess it only makes sense, given what was at stake, and how much we'd been through together already, but still, I appreciate that.

We are all quite mature, now. We're eighteen, and we've been through a war. We are officially adults. Ron, especially, for all his cluelessness about being a Muggle and buying tampons, is the sweetest, most compassionate person I know, and he hasn't once pushed me farther than I want to go in this relationship. We still fight, but now with a sense that we know each other's boundaries and limits.

You know what, Harry? You're right: I should just cherish these moments for Ron as the gifts that they are. You've decided something for me, and again I'm in your debt.

Your good friend,

Hermione

+=+=+

August 8

Harry,

Great day today! The sun is shining and the lake is beautiful (though cold). I was by myself swimming, and Hermione joined me. We... shared things. And we laughed. And we cried. Then we laughed some more.

It's good to be alive.

Your happy friend,

Ron

+=+=+

August 9

Dear Hermione,

Ron won't tell me for sure, but is he okay? He sounds quite happy, but still... There's an edge there, and I don't think I can press the question.

Listen, when you get back, you, Ron, me and Ginny need to spend some time to ourselves. Perhaps go to a Hogsmeade pub and share butterbeer, and remember the war. You have no idea how much better I feel from having told you how I feel.

In fact, let's invite the twins, too. Actually, let's make it an annual event, on the anniversary.

Now I know how Muggle remembrance traditions begin.

Some sense of normality has struck here at the Weasleys. Maybe Fred and George picked up on some signal from us, but they've taken it into their heads that they have to protect "young Ginny's" honour. They claim that now that I'm out of my cast and the physiotherapy is working, my wandering hands might become a problem. Ginny is suitably affronted, and we've been playing a game that's part hide-and-go-seek.

I can't tell for certain, but I think Fred and George are quietly allowing us to win one or two rounds.

One of the sessions, however, was interrupted by Headmistress McGonagall. Yes, I agree with you: ouch. It was pretty obvious what Ginny and I were getting up to, but she didn't say a word. That made it all the more embarrassing – which I think she secretly enjoyed.

However, she came bearing news. I have a job offer. A couple, actually. The Ministry of Magic is giving me a junior clerk position, entry level, but McGonagall tells me that they'd probably train me extensively and fast-track my promotions so I could end up at the assistant deputy minister level within a couple of years. McGonagall says that Fudge would appreciate the public relations benefits of employing the Boy Who Toppled Voldemort – which apparently is my new title.

I wrinkled my nose at that. I find all this publicity distasteful. I'm proud of what I did in the fight against Voldemort, but what about everybody else? What about the Aurors who fought; Snape who spied; Charlie who led the dragon squadron; even you and Ron?

McGonagall could see my distaste and said she understood completely. However, she noted that the Ministry was a good place for a young wizard to work, and I would have considerable control over where my career went. It's not like Fudge would turn down many requests from the Boy Who Toppled Voldemort.

She also noted that the Defence Against Dark Arts teaching post was open at Hogwarts, again, but we both agreed that the Ministry job would probably be much safer. Besides: I suggested Snape should finally get the nod. He deserves it.

I hope this letter finds you well, and coping with the mountain climbing. And, though I hope you and Ron spend a lot of time making each other happy, don't forget that you have other students to counsel.

Your good friend,

Harry

+=+=+

August 10 – the Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Harry! What are you suggesting? That I'd abrogate my responsibilities all in the name of a good snog? The nerve!

Besides, Ron and I aren't just snogging. We're looking at the stars. And talking!

Really!

Would I lie to you?

Another hard day of mountain climbing. We're now in a cabin about 6000 feet above sea level. I swear to you, I can feel the air getting thinner with every step. The other students don’t seem to notice, but I'm sure that they're just faking their stamina to spite me. Ron especially. If he offers to carry me one more time, I'm going to wipe the smugness from his face.

There is no doubting that the view is wonderful, and the experience has been a great education to the non-Muggle wizards. Everyone's coping admirably without using magic, and we even learned how to make fire.

I thought it was a cheat to use a butane lighter, but that was just to start. Group Leader Gross said that most Muggles came prepared with such equipment to survive in the wilderness, but when that failed them, they used materials at hand. Then he showed us how to make fire by rubbing sticks together – much harder than it looks on television. I found this part to be the most fascinating, but all the others wanted to look at the lighter some more.

Honestly, Wizards haven't seen a piece of technology that they aren't fascinated by.

After two days trekking up these blasted mountains, we're taking a well-earned break. We've met up with a group of Canadian wizard and witches who are coming down the mountain, and we've basically taken over the cabins in this campground. The no-magic rule still applies, but the temptation to use it has just been doubled, so I'm going to be very busy being bossy, I'm afraid.

Tonight, we and the Canadians are going to have a champagne and strawberry social.

In the wilderness.

Hogwarts sure knows how to pamper us.

Everybody's looking forward to it, and I'm sure that we're going to have a great time.

Your good friend,

Hermione

+=+=+

August 11, 2:15 a.m.

To my dearest, sweet Harry,

I love you! I just had to say it! I've loved you from the moment you and Ron saved me from the troll! I've loved each and every noble, rulebreaking, honourable bone in your body! My love for you always!

Love,

Hrmn – Herniome – Hermilne – Hermioninny

+=+=+

August 11, the Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Harry,

The champagne and strawberry social went well, I think. Possibly a little too well if this headache of mine is any indication. I don't think I drank that much. Just three glasses of champagne. It tasted very sweet – surely, it couldn't be as harsh as three butterbeers...

But now that I think of last night, before everything went sort of fuzzy, things do seem a little strange. Ron was especially charming, for instance, even as he tried to see how many strawberries he could stuff into his mouth at once and still say 'fluffy bunny'.

Oh, my god, I was drunk! And I have a nagging sense of having done something stupid. I see one of my stamps is missing; you didn't get any weird letters earlier, did you?

I'm getting something for this headache. I hope my parents' old cure works for me, and fast, or else I'm using my wand, banned magic or no banned magic.

Your (agonized) friend,

Hermione.

+=+=+

August 12

Dear Hermione,

I would say that your letter was a little weird. Here it is. See for yourself.

I look forward to your response, if you have one.

Your friend,

Harry.

+=+=+

August 13 -- the Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Dear Harry,

Oh my God.

Harry, what you must think of me! You're either red to the hairline, or you're gasping for air between laughter. Either way, I'm thoroughly humiliated!

Oh, how do I make up for this? How do I regain your respect?

How about if I tell you the truth?

Truth is, Harry, I do love you. I meant every word. I've loved your strength and courage and willingness to stand up to Voldemort. I've loved your compassion, your vulnerability and even your anger. It has been a great joy to me to have been your friend. I would follow you to the ends of the earth if you asked me. I'd lay down my life for you if needed (and during the war, it almost came to that). There is nothing I wouldn't do for you.

But no, I do not love you the way I love Ron.

Don't look so relieved. I bet you are, you sod!

There's something different about my love for you and my love for Ron that I'm hard pressed to explain, and I felt this long before Ron and I... went further in our relationship. There has been a spark between us, catching at me, making my heart burn, and making my brain whirl and quite possibly lending a fair amount of energy to our arguments.

Maybe it's cliché, but I've only ever seen you as my brother. Well, much more than a brother, but something along the brother line. Ron... to be honest, I didn't know quite what I saw in him as until I was fourteen. The thought unnerved me until then, and then terrified the wits me for a whole year afterward. If you will recall, our fifth year at Hogwarts had you acting as go-between between me and Ron until you shook some sense into both of us by locking us in that closet in Snape's dungeon.

Have I ever thanked you for that, beyond punching you in the eye, I mean?

So, I love you, and I think you love me, just as you love Ron.

Don't flinch! Friendship is a form of love, after all. And when you're friends with somebody to the depth that you're friends with Ron, you love him.

So, if now you're at least as embarrassed as I was at the start of this letter, my work here is done.

Actually, not quite. You asked me once and I didn't answer: is Ron all right? Well, yes he is. I think.

Right now, we're so close to each other that we're in unfamiliar territory. It's frightening, though it feels like the most right thing in the world.

I don't think I'd be telling you something you didn't already know if I told you that recently Ron had a chance to... see my scars. He was swimming alone at the lake; a secluded part away from prying eyes. I threw caution to the wind and... surprised him.

You can use your imagination as to how.

Anyway, he laughed, sort of nervously, but was quite happy to play along.

Then he saw the scars.  And that's when he started to cry. Cried like a little baby. I held him and shushed him for a very long time. I won't detail what followed. That's between Ron and me, but by the end of it, he was laughing.

He's been spending the past few days looking as though he's walking on a foot of air, and yet at the same time I sense that he's ready to cry at any moment. He's like china, and I'm afraid of breaking him.

But I mustn't pull away. We both – we all have a lot of healing to do, and it will go better if we do it together.

Love (for that's what it is),

Hermione

P.S. Ron's just asked me why my cheeks are so red. In a fit of masochism, I handed him the letter you just sent back. He's now on the bed doubled over with laugher. Excuse me a second while I extract revenge.

P.P.S. Well, the revenge didn't go quite as planned, but I feel better!

+=+=+

August 13

Dear Harry,

I have to ask, are your intensions towards my Hermione honourable?

Hahahaha! I've never seen Hermione so flustered! I'm not going to let her forget this anytime soon!

Your friend,

Ron

P.S. Never mind. Hermione has just persuaded me to forget that she ever sent that letter. She can be quite persuasive, so I will. For now.

+=+=+

August 14

Dear Hermione,

I admit, I am relieved. I do love you, Hermione, I see that now. But attractive though you are, my feelings towards you have always been of the brotherly nature.

Sisterly nature, I mean.

Well, I see you as the sister I never had, which makes me the brother you never had, and—

Oh, heck, I've messed up this letter. You know what I mean. You've shown me plenty of affection, but never of the sort Ginny and I get up to. But still, more than I'd received in my life up to that time, so you'll forgive me a moment's confusion, won't you?

But I think that at the back of my mind, I've known that you and Ron were meant to be together. I remember how he reacted when he learned that you had been Petrified by the Basilisk. I was upset, but Ron was frantic.

I never thought about that difference until Ginny fell into the hands of Voldemort. Then, there was a burning at the back of my mind that threatened to swamp my objectivity. If I look hard enough, I can see hints of that earlier in my life as well. There was an echo of that feeling when Ginny was taken by Tom Riddle into the Chamber of Secrets.

But you and Ron are farther along as a couple than Ginny and I. You two know how to fight, and make up afterward. I'm still working on that.

Ginny tells me that fighting is important to a good relationship. She fights with her brothers constantly, but always manages to forgive them once the dust settles.

My first fight with Ginny did not go well, and not because of anything that I did, but because of what I didn't do. I didn't say anything. At the first sign of discord between me and Ginny, I clammed up. I didn't respond to any of Ginny's attacks, and that made her madder and madder until she had to stop herself, and storm out of the room.

I actually thought it was over between us, but then, a little while later, she came back. Having cooled down, she asked me about my childhood, noting that I was an only child, and lived all that time in a household where no give-and-take was allowed. It was Vernon's law and no other. A fight was always one-sided verbal abuse or worse.

Ginny pointed out that I've never fought before. And I shouldn't think of fighting as a bad thing. When properly expressed, it is a means of communication. Ginny and I are different people, with independent desires at any given moment. It's natural that these should into conflict, and that we should speak out to communicate each side in the conflict. That's a real fight.

The worst thing I could do is not fight, and let the pressures build up and up until something gave uncontrollably.

So, Ginny has begun teaching me how to fight. That will take a while to learn, although I do think that I have the wrestling part of it down pat. I outweigh Ginny by several pounds, but though she is small, she be fierce.

There's a lot to learn about this strange thing called love, isn't there?

Love (yes, that's what it is),

Harry

P.S. Tell Ron that I love him, will you? In fact, give him a kiss for me. A big, wet sloppy one.

+=+=+

August 15

Harry!

What the bloody hell are you playing at?!

Your (perplexed) friend,

Ron

+=+=+

August 15

Dear Harry

More mountain climbing! I hate to say this, but I'm getting sick of it. Sick, I tell you! I'm always the last one up the trail, and I know that everybody thinks I'm the weakest of the bunch, even if I am a counsellor. I thought I heard one or two of the troupe say something about me 'holding them back'.

I'm not going to let this mountain beat me. I'm not!

The campfires almost make up for the climbing. That, and getting a chance to know everyone better. This past night, Ron talked more about the war.

Before I go on, let me get this out of the way: yes, we're sharing a cabin. When I booked the arrangements, it was purely platonic necessity. We have an uneven number of boys and girls, so there had to be mixed arrangements somewhere. It seemed a natural fit for me.

But it's given us the chance to talk about the war, and our future. Ron's great to talk to when in bed.

I guess there's no good way to say that line. But, it's true. We already knew how to trust each other during the war, so the discussion comes easily, and we now know more about each other now than we did at the start of the trip. It is a very comfortable place for us now, and not just about... you know.

He told me about how afraid he was. Him, afraid? I thought I was the only one. He told me more about how he felt about me, and why he cried when he saw my scars. This prompted more tears from him, and more comforting, each in turn. We're getting better at that with practise.

Then we talked about us. Now that this war is over, what about the future?

Well, one answer that's got to be considered is marriage. It is, more often than not, a natural milestone in a relationship that is as deep as the one Ron and I share. But now? We're only eighteen, Harry. I know of no Muggle friend or acquaintance my age who is married. I haven't established my career, or even decided if I should go into further education. Ron's even less organized than I am on this.

But, right now, I know that Ron is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. So, why not now?

I'm so confused.

And that's not natural for me, you know.

We resolved nothing with our conversation, but it was good to talk about it. Just talking brought us closer. Who'd have thought that was possible?

So, you have the wrestling aspect of fighting worked out between you and Ginny, do you? Ron and I are learning about that ourselves, and it's good fun!

We're almost at the top. I'm looking forward to that. But until then, we have another five hundred vertical feet of climbing to do. I wish I were more limber. I wish Ron knew massages.

Love,

Hermione

+=+=+

Hermione grunted, clutching crumbling rock, wincing as the scrambling stones barked her shins. The mountain tilted away from her with the angle of a staircase. "Keep going," she muttered. "I won't be the last at the camp again!"

She crabbed sideways along the path and began a methodical ascent.

"Hermione?" Ron's voice. There was a scrabble of legs and rocks above her on the mountain, but to her left. Hermione huffed.

"Hermione?" Ron's scrabbling stopped. Alarm touched his voice.

"I'm over here!" she shouted.

Ron clambered over, frowning. "Hermione! You're off the trail! The nearest blazing is twenty yards away!"

Hermione flexed her fingers and gripped the next rock. "I'm fine, Ron! This way's easier."

"But Mr. Gross said not to stray from the trail," said Ron. "This part's tricky, he said. You should come back over here."

Imagine, she thought bitterly, Ron being the sensible one. The thought filled her with anger. "Ron, I'm all right!"

A rock gave way beneath her feet. She fell hard against the mountain. Her gear clattered on her back.

"Hermione." Ron's voice was unnaturally calm – its tone the precursor of disaster. "Hermione, come on. Take my hand." He shuffled closer, reaching out.

She batted his hand away. "I'm fine!" She grabbed the next rock. It pulled free.

"Hermione?!"

The mountain skidded out from under her, scraping the skin from her hands and legs. Twigs snapped. Stones rattled. She screamed.

"HERMIONE!!"

+=+=+

August 16

Harry,

There's been an accident. You've heard how Hermione was having difficulty climbing these mountains, and you know how stubborn she gets? You remember how she almost worked herself to death in third year with that time turner?

Well, again, Hermione pushed herself too hard, and she slipped. She fell a great distance and she's in hospital now.

I've had a bunch of doctors tell me how fortunate she is to be alive, and the records for the farthest anybody has ever fallen and survived. I suppose these are meant to comfort, but they don't comfort me. I know why Hermione survived: her own innate magic. It's the only thing that's holding her together. She's in a coma, now, and unless a Wizard tends to her injuries, the magic will slowly drain away, and she'll die.

That idiot of a group leader, Gross, has been worse than useless. He's confiscated our wands, would you believe, until wizards from St. Mungo's arrive and arrange a transfer – a MUGGLE transfer, to the United Kingdom. Doesn't he know how long that's going to take? Doesn't he know that Hermione doesn't have that much time to spare? We have the means to heal Hermione right in our hands, and he won't let us use it, because she's in a Muggle hospital surrounded by Muggle doctors, and we can't let them see our Wizardry powers.

It doesn't make sense! After all that she's been through and all that she's faced, to die of something as simple as a mountaineering accident? It's not fair. We beat the monster. We were heroes. It shouldn't be possible to die of bad luck and blood loss!

Get the hell over here and help me. Now.

Ron

+=+=+

August 17

Dear Mr. Weasley,

By the time you read this, I will be in Alberta, Canada, most likely committing magic in front of Muggles. Don't try to stop me, although you might think about bailing me out after Fudge's Aurors arrest me.

Yours sincerely,

Harry Potter

+=+=+

August 17

The Burrow,

Ottery St. Catchpole

Dear Mr. Weasley,

Arthur, I must say that I respect your decision to report the disappearance of Mr. Harry Potter to this office. All signs point to him Apparating to Canada yesterday afternoon. I trust the reason this matter was not brought to my attention sooner was due to you not knowing that Mr. Potter had disappeared from your own house.

I know how you feel about Mr. Potter, and your own son's interest in this matter, but I remind you that the law is the law, and we can't go about making exceptions. We have sent Headmistress McGonagall after Mr. Potter to try to reason with him, and three Aurors if he doesn't listen. And rest assured that we will have Ms. Hermione Granger back to St. Mungo's as soon as is possible to receive the best treatment that is possible. You must content yourself with that.

I shall see you at work tomorrow, and I expect your diligent support in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Cornelius Fudge – Minister of Magic

+=+=+

September 30

Dear Minister Fudge,

Enclosed you shall find the full report on the use of Magic by former Hogwarts students within the Muggle hospital near Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

I should reiterate in this letter, which I am carbon copying to the Daily Prophet, that I Apparated to Canada as soon as you ordered that Mr. Harry Potter and Mr. Ron Weasley be stopped and brought back to England. By the time that I got there, a lot of spells had already been committed in order to get Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley through hospital security and to Ms. Granger's room in the middle of the night.

Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley are both guilty of performing at least three spells in full view of Muggles. This fact cannot be contradicted. However, Mr. Gross, the group leader of this field trip, has confessed to me that the fourth stupefy spell, performed on the last Muggle security guard, was performed by himself, after he Apparated to the hospital and tried unsuccessfully to convince Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley to cease and desist.

But I want the record to show that the majority of the magic, which was responsible for repairing Ms. Granger to full health in full view of Doctors Smith, Jones and Remmy, was done by myself. Ms. Hermione Granger was a former student of mine, one whom I am still very fond, as I am of Mr Potter and Mr. Weasley. Furthermore, their record of distinction through the war grants them, I believe, considerable leeway in interpreting Wizardry conventions with regard to interaction with Muggles, especially in matters of life and death.

You certainly didn't expect me to let Ms. Hermione Granger die in her hospital bed, or whilst in transit to St. Mungo's, did you Minister?

I also believe the fact that there was no lasting harm done, that sufficient memory charms were placed on the security guards and the three witnessing doctors, should go a long way towards preventing charges from being laid.

But I have to agree with Ms. Granger (she and I had a chance to talk in St. Mungo's while she recuperated): the present policy of separating the Muggle and Wizardry worlds is backward and dangerous, especially when no attempts have been made to attune Wizards to Muggle ways. As Muggle technology develops, they will have less to fear from us, and we should not let isolation foster a fear of them in ourselves.

Enclosed is a petition, organized by myself and Ms. Granger and signed by the majority of sixth and seventh year students, and their parents, to end the present separation between Wizard and Muggle worlds. Note that even members of the Slytherin house have signed this petition: over 75%, in fact. Ms. Pansy Parkinson has become a strong voice for her house in favour of integration.

I leave this matter in your hands. I expect you will be busy fielding calls from reporters from the Daily Prophet soon after you receive this report.

Your loyal servant,

Minerva McGonagall

Headmistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

+=+=+

November 10 – Oxford, England

Dearest Harry,

I know I'll see you at Hogsmeade tomorrow as we all gather to remember the war, but I just had to write.

What did you think of Fudge's announcement on WWN? I swear, that man is a quintessential politician – he knows how to turn policy on a dime when popular opinion swings against him.

And McGonagall has just paid me a visit. Apparently the Ministry wants to hire me for their new Department of Wizard/Muggle Integration. I'm considering the offer. It would be my first real job and the pay is tempting. I'd be in the same building as you, though a different floor, and we could arrange to meet for lunch. I'd miss our letters, but I would still enjoy your company.

Best of all, I'd not be too far from the Auror academy where Ron's just been accepted.

I think I know Ron well enough to know that he sees this as an opportunity. The question is, will he have enough courage to suggest looking for our own apartment, organizing a ceremony or thinking of where to go for the honeymoon?

I've dropped enough hints. And I think he has something up his sleeve, though I can't be sure. As close as we are, he can hide a secret from me when he really wants to.

Well, if he doesn't suggest it tomorrow at Hogsmeade, I will. I'll go down on my knee and propose, right in front of everybody, and turn his face scarlet. How could he possibly say no?

We could return to the Rockies for our honeymoon.

That settles it. My answer to this job offer is 'yes'. It promises to be an interesting few years, and I, for one, am looking forward to it. Take care of yourself, Harry, and Ginny. I'll see you in Hogsmeade!

Love,

Hermione

//
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