by Flye Autumne

A/N 1: Just your typical disclaimer for this entire work: I own nothing. All of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. This is why I'm not rich.

A/N 2: This fic will be fairly AU. It will more-or-less follow canon plot for the first year, then it will diverge. The first three chapters should give you a pretty good idea of what's going on. It also will have multiple points of view. If anything is confusing, just let me know via reviews! With that being said, let's begin.


The Muddy Hippogriff

Sydewaize Alley, London

June 1989

Ron Weasley was hungry. He stole a quick look at the clock - it was only half-six - and sighed before plunging his hands back into soapy dishwater. As payment for his job as the washing up boy at the Muddy Hippogriff, Ron was guaranteed dinner, but that wouldn't be served until half-eight at the earliest. Ron scrubbed another dish, ignoring the rumbling in his stomach. He hadn't eaten since breakfast that morning. There just wasn't enough food to go around now that Charlie, Percy, and the twins were home from Hogwarts.

And now that Dad is -

"Ronald!" Mrs. Bunbury's sharp voice cut through his thoughts. "Ronald! Oh, there you are! Timothy just owled in ill, and I need someone to wait on tables - you know how to do that, right?"

Ron looked at her in disbelief. "Er, no, ma'am, not really." There was a reason Ron was the washing up boy - he was too young to do anything else. For Merlin's sake, he wasn't even old enough to be paid - not that he minded too terribly. He did get dinner for his efforts, and the portions were large enough that he had enough to bring home for lunch the next day.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bunbury had been sizing him up. "You're a tall lad. Timothy's uniform should fit you well enough. You won't have to take any orders. Steven and Anna will take care of that; you'll just need to carry the food out to the appropriate table. Come along now."

"I, er..." Ron stalled. He really didn't know how to serve tables, and he could just imagine the customers sneering at poor little Ronald Weasley. He was fairly certain Mrs. Bunbury only hired him because she felt bad, but she never actually said that or gave him any of those disgustingly pitying looks. That was the perk of working in the kitchen: none of the customers could come back to laugh at him.

Mrs. Bunbury rummaged around in her pocket. "Here," she said, dropping several knuts and two sickles onto the counter. "Consider it a bonus. I've owled Brendan and Michael, and, Tiw willing, one will be able to work."

Ron stared at the coins on the counter, ideas on how to spend it flashing through his mind. The latest installment in Auror Bartleby and the Scepter of Thunor had just been released - and he could actually afford it -

Mrs. Bunbury was looking at him expectantly.

"Er yeah," Ron said hastily. "I can help out."

Mrs. Bunbury beamed at him. "Excellent! Timothy's uniform is over there on the hook. Find me or Anna once you've put in on."

Ron nodded, crammed the coins in his pocket, and wandered off in search of the uniform.

"Alright," Anna was explaining. "The color of the tablet corresponds to what table you bring the food to. Each table has a light above it that will change to the color of the tablet. Once you've served a table, bring the tablet back to this box over here. If anyone gives you trouble, just holler for me or Steven. Make sense?"

"Yeah. I just have to bring the tray to the table with the matching color. Then I bring the color tablet back to the box."

"Exactly! You can get started with this one here."

It turned out that bringing food out the tables was a busy but easy task. The customers barely acknowledged him outside of the occasional grunt to indicate who ordered what. They were far more interested in their firewhiskey (which Ron was Not Allowed To Touch) and whatever card game they were playing. The Muddy Hippogriff always got progressively noisier as the night went on. Whatever was in the drinks certainly made people crazy, causing them sing ridiculous songs and spill drinks over the rough hewn floors. Luckily, it wasn't his job to clean the floors. There was a house elf the Muddy Hippogriff shared with several of the other restaurants who took care of the less savoury cleaning tasks. Ron shuddered at the thought of scraping mysterious goop off the floor and glanced over at the wall clock. There were only a couple minutes left and a large piece of steak and kidney pie, a pile of mashed potatoes and several chocolate biscuits were sitting in the back room with his name on them. Ron's stomach rumbled at the thought as he hurried back towards the kitchen. He only had a couple more orders left to carry out, and then it would be steak and kidney pie time.

"Hang on second, Ron!" Anna hollered from the back of the kitchen. "There's a coupla more things to be added to red table's tray." Anna soon appeared, floating several bowls of stew and a basket of crusty bread in front of her. "Red table's in the back corner by the chessboard."

"Chess?" Ron asked in surprise. He didn't think the Muddy Hippogriff was the sort of place people would want to play chess in. It was far too noisy! How could anyone possibly concentrate on strategy?

"It's a grown up game," Anna said, slightly exasperatedly.

Ron resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He'd been playing chess since he was six!

Anna was still talking. "Some of the regulars there are a bit odd, so don't take it too badly if they say something strange to you. Oh, and Brendan just got here, so once you've finished up this lot you're done for the night."

Ron grinned, and set about carrying trays. Only three to go until steak and kidney pie time! He carefully balanced the trays for the orange and purple tables - they didn't have anything that would spill easily, so Ron could carry both at the same time - and brought them out. The noise level inside the pub had reached a dull roar, and he had to neatly sidestep a couple mysterious puddles as well as a tipped over bar stool. Ron quickly headed back to the kitchen, grabbed red table's tray and wove his way between the tables to the back corner of the pub where a strange group of wizards sat with a chess board between them. A bald man with the darkest skin Ron had ever seen and a scarred man with a whizzing magical eye were laughing uproariously.

"C'mon, Dawlish," the scarred man laughed raucously. "Can't even beat Shacklebolt in chess! And he's fresh out of the Academy!"

The pain-faced dark haired man - Dawlish - blushed darkly. "I'm a fair enough chess player," he said sulkily.

"'Couse you are." The scarred man's voice was laden with sarcasm.

Dawlish opened his mouth to object when the bald man, Shacklebolt - from the Shacklebolts of Ísìsí? - interrupted. "Gentlemen, I believe our food has arrived."

Dawlish continued to glare at the scarred man, and Ron stood uncomfortably. Did he interrupt?

"Look, Dawlish, just accept that most wizards can kick your arse in chess," the scarred man said patronizingly.

"I -" Dawlish began.


"Sorry, boy," the scarred man told Ron.

In Ron's opinion, the man sound very un-sorry, but he remembered Anna's words and kept his mouth shut. He neatly placed the bowls on the table and kept his mouth shut once again when the scarred man started casting all sorts of spells on his.

"Bet I could beat the server boy in chess," Dawlish grumbled.

Ron froze midway through putting the bread basket on the table.

The scarred man harrumphed. "Sure," he drawled, "you can beat a kid."

Ron's eyes darted between the two men and he set the bread basket on the table. Maybe if he left quickly, they wouldn't notice.

The scarred man continued talking. "Kid probably hasn't even heard of chess, have you?"

Bugger. "Er, yeah," Ron said, deliberately being vague.

"Ever played?"

"Er, a bit," Ron hedged. It wasn't strictly true - Bill had taught Ron to play chess, and now Ron could easily beat him and Charlie and the twins. Percy always gave Ron a hard time when they played, but Ron could occasionally eek out a victory.

"Think you're good enough to beat Dawlish here?"

Ron shifted his weight uncomfortably as he studied the board. Based on the pieces left standing, Shacklebolt was either a god among chess players, or Dawlish was worse than Fred and George.

"Possibly," Ron began, ready to protest that he was need back in the kitchen.

Dawlish scowled. "I doubt it. Look, boy, I'll give you a galleon if you can beat me."

Ron's protests died on his lips. A galleon? A whole galleon, just for him? "Really?" he asked suspiciously.

"Sure, sure," Dawlish said. "It's not like you're going to beat me, anyways."

Ron bit the inside of his cheek. It's better if Dawlish thinks he's little and stupid anyways. "Er okay," Ron said, trying to sound uncertain. "My shift's over. D'you mind if I grab my dinner first?"

"Go ahead," Dawlish drawled smugly. "Take your time."

Ron hurried back to the kitchen where he hastily changed out of Timothy's uniform and scarfed down a decent portion of his dinner. Grabbing one of the biscuits to eat on the way, Ron headed back over to the chess table. Dawlish looked almost disappointed to see him back.

"Alright," said the scarred man. "I have a king in each hand. Which do you want, kid?"

Ron pointed to the man's left hand, and he opened it, revealing the black king.

"Tough luck, kid. Dawlish, you'll be playing white. Kid - what did you say your name was?"


"Right then. Ron'll be playing black."

Ron quickly set up his pieces. "Whenever you're ready."

"Pawn to d4."

"Pawn to d5," Ron countered.

"Pawn to c4."

Ron studied the board. Dawlish obviously was attempting the Queen's Gambit. Ron was quite familiar with the opening - Charlie wasn't a terribly creative chess player and would consistently start the same way. Ron drummed his fingers on the table. Dawlish probably was banking on him accepting the gambit and falling obliviously into the trap it presented. If he accepted the gambit, but avoided the pitfalls, he could catch Dawlish by surprise. On the other hand, if he declined the gambit, Dawlish would have to reconsider his strategy and Ron would have a stronger defense.

"Pawn to c6."

Annoyance flashed briefly across Dawlish' face. "Knight to f3."

Ron continued to build his defense. "Knight to f6."

"Knight to c3."

Ron smiled to himself. Dawlish was playing exactly how he wanted him to. "Pawn to c4." Ron watched happily as his pawn wrestled Dawlish's pawn to the chessboard and beat it to a pulp.

"Told you the kid was better."

Dawlish scowled at the scarred man. "Beginner's luck. Pawn to a4."

Ron weighed the options. "Bishop to f5."

The game heated up from there, with Dawlish taking out one of Ron's pawns a couple moves later. Dawlish then captured one of Ron's bishops with his knight, but it ended up being in Ron's favor because he then captured the knight with his pawn. From there, Ron was able to solidify his control of the center, putting Dawlish on the backfoot.

Once Dawlish started playing defensively, Ron was able to cramp him into a corner.

"Checkmate in three moves."

Dawlish studied the board, then cursed.

The scarred man smirked. "Told you, didn't I?"

"Shut yer gob, Moody."

"You owe the kid money."

Dawlish reluctantly flipped a galleon across the table. "All yours, kid."

Ron pocketed the coin and stood to leave when a hand settled on his shoulder.

"Well played, Ron," Shacklebolt's deep voice rumbled.

Ron blushed slightly. "Thanks."

"If you could wait a moment." Shacklebolt pulled a piece of parchment out from his robes' pocket and handed it to Ron. Gilded letters spelled out 'The 45th Annual Young Wizards' Chess Tournament'. "You should consider this."

Ron looked at Shacklebolt in confusion. "Sir, I don't think I'm good enough - "

Shacklebolt sighed. "Ron, if I were to be completely honest with you, I would say even I would have difficulty beating you in chess."

"Do you really mean that?"


Ron studied the parchment closely. The tournament was sponsored by the Department of Magical Education, and the entry fee - Ron gulped - was ten sickles. But, the prize for winning the tournaments was five galleons. Ron quickly re-read it. Five galleons. Five galleons. Ron did some quick mental math. If he could somehow manage to win the tournament multiple times before going to Hogwarts, he would be able to buy an owl and all the snacks on the train that he wanted. Fred and George would be so jealous.

Ron turned to ask Shacklebolt another questions, but the man was gone. Ron shrugged. Shacklebolt, especially if he was one of the Ísìsí Shacklebolts, was clearly smart, or at least smart enough to see that Ron wasn't a slouch at chess.

Ron pocketed the parchment and headed back to the kitchen with a spring in his step. He would enter the tournament, and, with any luck, he'd win it too.

A/N: I hope you all have enjoyed the first chapter! I'd like to give a virtual round of applause to Scintilla of Myself and Satanniel who've beta'd this fic for me. It wouldn't be this nice without their help! In typical author fashion, I will now shamelessly beg for you to leave me feedback via the review function.