Summary: A faux Arthurian epic as told by the Lady Hermione le Fay. Danger! Seduction! Men hacking at each other with overly sharp pointy objects! A short dissertation on the idiocies of the feudal system! And true love! (Well, maybe not the last one.)

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

The story is also based on "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," an anonymously written poem in early Middle English. The specific translation used as a reference was done by Marie Borroff in 1967, and is included in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th ed., Vol. 1A, pp 156-210. The original poem is in public domain, and no infringement on Ms. Borroff's translation is intended.

Author's Note: This is what happens when fanfiction writers take courses in early English literature: they have dreams that fuse Harry Potter with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I woke up -- slightly confused by the unusual coherence of the dream -- and decided that while it might be an intriguing idea, I had no interest in writing it. But the story wouldn't leave me alone. It kept hanging around, whining that it really deserved to live and that it was just as good as any of my other ideas. Eventually I gave in; this is the result.

Thanks to Lasair, Miss Cora, and Quetzle, my betas. Any remaining canon goofs, grammar mistakes, continuity errors, implausible characterizations, bad dialogue, boring passages, French errors, Latin errors, and Americanisms are my fault, not theirs.

(Oh, and just in case anyone wonders: this is set near Christmas of the trio's sixth year. Apple is an original character from "Secrets," my retelling of CoS from Ginny's point of view. Creating a full set of classmates for Ginny was enough trouble that I tend to reuse them whenever I need her to have a friend.)

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Sir Ron and the Green Knight
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/Recording begins. A female voice speaks./

Incipe. Merry Christmas from Ginny and Apple! We now present, for your listening pleasure, Sir Ron and the Green Knight: a faux Arthurian epic as told by the Lady Hermione le Fay. Desiste.

/Here there is a brief period of static, after which the voice speaks again./

Resume. Thank you for helping me, Hermione. Let me calibrate the recording charm to you.

Vocem muta Hermione Granger.

/The recording beeps once. A throat clears, and a different female voice speaks./

Sir Ron and the Green Knight: an adaptation of Muggle literature to the modern Hogwarts environment.

Long ago, in the days of chivalry when knights were bold and did great deeds of daring out of love for fair ladies, King Harry Pendragon held court at Hogwarts during Christmastide. All the knights of the Table Round were there assembled, to feast and make merry, but the king himself ate not, for he had sworn an oath that each year he would touch no food nor drink until he had heard a tale of great deeds of arms or had seen a supplicant come seeking combat with one of his knights. Therefore, he stood on the high dais watching the fair Queen Ginny discourse with his most noble knights, such as the renowned Sir Neville or the king's foster-brother Sir Ron--

Oh, honestly, Apple, this is ridiculous. "Queen Ginny?" She gave up on Harry ages ago -- you of all people should know that. "Did deeds of daring?" Who talks like that in this era? Furthermore, Ron is meant to be Sir Gawain, who's Arthur's nephew, not his foster-brother -- this is a blatant conflation of Gawain and Kay, and I refuse to help you mangle this poem--

Oh, fine. Whatever. This is really for a Muggle Studies project? I suppose I can manage, then. May I at least narrate in the Queen's English? Thank you.

Now, as King Harry's court was feasting in Hogwarts, a strange knight burst through the doors on a Hippogriff. He was a huge man, with wild hair and a frightening appearance, and everything about him -- his clothes, his armour, his weapons, his horse, and even his hair -- was bright green.

Naturally everyone was astonished. It certainly isn't every day that wild, hairy men on hippogriffs ride into banquet halls, let alone wild, hairy men wearing bright green plate armour encrusted with an impractical amount of emeralds and gold, which would have been much better used to emancipate local serfs and improve the living standard of the kingdom.

The Green Knight rode up to the high table and said, "Where is the captain of this crowd? Keenly I wish to see him, to say to him my say and try his might."

King Harry stepped forward and greeted the Green Knight, saying, "Sir, in faith you have found fair welcome; I am Harry, the lord of this host. May it please you to linger at table with us and speak your intent thereafter."

"Nay, so help me," said the Green Knight as he dismounted, "to tarry here is not my errand. But the praise of you, lord, and your company, is so high that I felt a need upon me to seek you out. I hope to part friends, and to show my intent I bear no shield or weapon, but a branch of peace. But if you be so bold as men believe, you will graciously grant the boon I ask."

Are you quite sure I have to keep the dialogue like that? It's ever so jarring with a modern narrative voice and you haven't written it all anyway. I can't extemporize indefinitely.

Oh, all right, I'll only tone down the archaisms, not eliminate them. I still say this sounds like utter nonsense, but I can probably hold off on revising for Transfiguration. At least for another hour.

Yes, I know it's Christmas holidays. That's no excuse for laziness. Now where was I? Oh yes. Arthur -- excuse me -- Harry answered, saying, "If you seek a contest, we shall not fail to fight."

The Green Knight laughed. "No, to fight is not my purpose -- I doubt you would be able to stand against my strength were I in full arms. Instead, I call for a Christmas game: if anyone is so brave as to trade blows with me, I will give him this noble axe that I have brought. Let him strike first, and one year from now, on New Year's Day, I will return his blow without blame. Who dares take up this game?"

Nobody answered.

"What, is this not Harry's house?" asked the knight. "Where are your vaunted courage and brave deeds now? One man has overwhelmed you without a blow!"

Harry, now red with anger and shame, strode forward. "Sir, take back those words! I will take up your challenge -- give me your axe and I will strike you straightway."

Then Sir Ron leapt up from the high table and said, "Nay, sire, grant this game to me. It is not right that you should do this whilst so many brave men sit by. I am the weakest and most foolish of us, and will be the least mourned if I die, unlike you, lord, who are our liege. Therefore let me strike the blow."

Harry turned the question over to the court, and though they protested Sir Ron's disparagement of himself, they agreed to let him take Harry's place. "Sir," said Ron to the Green Knight, "I am Sir Ron, and I agree to strike you now and accept a blow from you in a year."

Oh, honestly, this is impossible. I don't care about how you think an Arthurian epic should sound. I don't have enough time to think of good archaic phrases or alliteration based on this outline and I highly doubt Professor Switch wants to sit through an hour of me droning away like a cheap imitation of William Langland. I'm switching to plain English.

Well if you wanted archaic dialogue, you should have written more of it yourself. I won't do your work for you -- you're lucky I agreed to help at all. This outline is disgraceful. I was certain you were a better student than this, but I suppose we all have our weak points. I take it you aren't much of a romantic?

I thought so. Then why did you want archaic dialogue in the first place? Oh, of course, Ginny and her fairy-tales... honestly, romanticism is terribly overdone.

Let me see -- Ron introduces himself to the Green Knight and agrees to the terms of the game. "Marvellous," said the Green Knight. "In one year, come find me at the Green Chapel to receive my blow."

"Right," said Sir Ron, privately thinking this was the easiest test of honour he'd ever heard of -- how was a headless corpse going to hurt him in a year? -- and he swung the axe.

The Green Knight's head fell to the floor, but instead of collapsing, the body stooped, picked up the head, and turned its face toward Sir Ron, who gaped in shock. "Don't forget, Sir Ron. Meet me at the Green Chapel in a year, on New Year's Day, or be counted an honorless coward." The Green Knight mounted the Hippogriff, tucked his head under his arm, and rode away. The company rushed out of the Great Hall after him, but the Hippogriff took to the skies and nobody could follow.

"Ron, I think you put your foot in it this time," said King Harry, clapping his foster-brother on the shoulder. "Now do you see what I'm always telling you about being the hero?"

"He's going to kill me," moaned Sir Ron, burying his head in his hands. "And if he doesn't, Mum will."

"It's a hard life," agreed Harry. "But think of this -- if you survive, you'll be as famous as I am! Also, the ladies will love you for facing certain death so bravely."

"Thanks. I feel so much better now," said Sir Ron, glaring irritably at the king.

"Good. Now let's go back inside and finish our feast. We can't upset the queen after all." Harry manoeuvred his friend back into the Great Hall.

"You know, I can't think why I never asked before, but if I'm your foster-brother, doesn't that make Ginny your foster-sister?" asked Sir Ron, trying to take his mind off his impending doom.

"Probably," said Harry.

"Then isn't it sort of incest for you to be married?"

King Harry removed his crown and twirled it thoughtfully. "You may be right, Ron. Would you like me to divorce her?"

"No! Just don't ever let me hear about you... er, you know," said Ron, flushing at the thought of his sister and the male gender in the same sentence.

"Ron, sit down and shut up," said Harry, now glaring at his foster-brother. "You may have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon, but that doesn't give you any right to insult me. Besides, you pushed her at me."

Ron sat down, shut up, and started eating. And so the court finished their Christmas feast happily, despite Sir Ron's now greatly shortened lifespan.

Next year, Sir Ron left Hogwarts around Hallowe'en, wearing lots of fancy and heavily jewelled armour and clothing; this was to overcompensate for his impoverished upbringing in a small country castle. (Oddly, Harry, who'd been brought up in worse conditions before becoming Sir Ron's foster-brother, had no such inferiority complex.) The other knights wished him well and swore that he was the most noble among them, for they might not have had the courage to face certain death like him, let alone go out looking for it on purpose.

Sir Ron found this sort of talk ever so cheering and left as quickly as he could, riding his great horse Ford Anglia.

He rode for nearly two months and had many adventures, but they're irrelevant to this story. Eventually it was Christmas, and he desperately wanted to find a warm house with some chocolates and mulled cider. He also needed to borrow an owl to send a Christmas card to his mother, who was still peeved about the nearly certain death business.

Suddenly a mist sprang up around him. Suspicious, Sir Ron dismounted and walked forward, waving his arms and poking around with his sword. Just then, the mist cleared as quickly as it had arrived and he found himself staring at a castle wall two feet in front of him.

"Lucky I didn't dent my sword," he muttered, before tilting back his visor and yelling, "Hello the castle! Let a wandering knight in for Christmas?"

"Certainly -- wait a moment while we lower the drawbridge," someone yelled back over the wall. The drawbridge clanked noisily to the ground and Sir Ron led Ford Anglia over the moat...

I hope you realize that it's impossible for him to have been two feet from the castle wall if he's across a moat -- that is, if the moat's at all practical.

Yes, I know it has no bearing on the plot. I simply thought I should point it out. There's no excuse for fuzzy thinking.

Sir Ron was met by a group of servants who led his horse to the stables and escorted him into the main keep to meet the master of the castle, Lord Sirius Black.

That's an interesting choice, particularly for this role. Sirius was a good man, even if he was overly rash at times. I'm glad you paid attention to the investigations over the summer.

Yes, I met him; he's Harry's godfather, you know. No, I won't tell you how. In any case, it's irrelevant to the story and I'll thank you to mind your own business, Apple Rumluck, particularly since I'm already doing you a favour by turning your outline into a proper story!

Where was I? Oh yes, Lord Sirius greeted Sir Ron as a brother, saying, "Welcome! Please consider my house yours."

"Thank you!" said Sir Ron. "I hope I can repay your kindness."

"Oh, don't worry about that. You're a guest," said Lord Sirius, and he led Sir Ron to the table. Sir Ron, though nearly starving, managed to restrain himself from attacking the food in his usual manner, possibly because he was seated between Lord Sirius's beautiful wife and an intimidating old lady. Instead, he answered Lord Sirius's questions, explaining his agreement with the Green Knight and his search for the Green Chapel.

"And I have to be there on New Year's Day, but I still don't know where in blazes it is!" finished Sir Ron, belatedly remembering to wipe his mouth with an embroidered silk napkin (which was probably made under near slave labour conditions by people who really ought to have been emancipated and educated, but let that go).

"Aha! You've come to the right place," said Lord Sirius. "The Green Chapel is only a few miles from here. You can stay until New Year's morning and still be there by midday. I'm sure you're worn out from your travels, so let me invite you to stay and relax for the next week."

"I shouldn't impose -- remember, I'll probably be dead by New Year's evening, so I won't be able to repay you," said Sir Ron.

Lord Sirius laughed. "Nonsense! Hospitality is a gift, not something you trade for. Stay! We don't get much news from Harry's court out here in the wilderness, and we're always eager to entertain visitors. Also, we've heard a lot about your courage and nobility, Sir Ron. You'll set a fine example for my men."

"I guess I could stay," mumbled Sir Ron.

"Wonderful!" cried Lord Sirius. "Everyone! Sir Ron, our king's own foster-brother, the noblest knight of the realm, is staying with us for a week. Break out the wine!"

Everyone got flaming drunk and slept in the next morning. They did this three days running, until Lord Sirius decided to go hunting. However, he refused to let Sir Ron join him. "You're a guest," he said. "You stay here and relax -- you've been riding for months and the last thing you need is to crash around in a winter forest all day."

"But I don't think I should just lie around--" began Sir Ron.

"I insist!" said Lord Sirius, slapping the knight's back. "But to make it more fun, let's play a Christmas game. Whatever I win in the woods, I'll give to you, and whatever you receive here, you'll give to me. And I expect to get something decent in the evening!"

Sir Ron flinched at the mention of a Christmas game, having bad memories of the last one he'd taken up, but agreed and swore on his honour to trade earnings in the evening.

The next day, Lord Sirius left before sunrise and hunted deer all day. It was a thrilling chase, but while it adds to the aesthetic value of the original poem and has thematic resonance with Sir Gawain's forthcoming violent death and his own hunt for the Green Knight, I won't describe it in detail. Suffice it to say that Lord Sirius was successful, and he wasted an appalling amount of time, manpower, and animal life in the hunt.

Meanwhile, Sir Ron slept late and was awakened when Lord Sirius's wife, Lady Fleur Delacour de Black, crept into his room.

Why Fleur? Because you need a temptress and Ron's brains, what little of them he has, turned to porridge around her. You remember what she did to all the boys... Yes, exactly. May I continue without interruptions this time?

Thank you. Lady Fleur crept into Sir Ron's bedroom while he was still asleep, thus causing him a bit of consternation when he woke, since he wasn't dressed. He pretended to be asleep, wondered what she was doing there, and tried to decide whether he wanted her to stay or leave. She simply sat on his bed and watched him, showing no signs of leaving, so finally he yawned and stretched as if just waking and acted surprised to see her.

"Bonjour, Sir Ron!" said Lady Fleur. "You are quite the sound sleeper, to let me slip into your room -- if I were a knight, I'd have captured you fairly."

Sir Ron blushed and eventually managed to say, "Good morning to you too, my lady. I don't mind being captured, but would you please leave and let me put on some clothes?"

"Non, non!" said Lady Fleur, laughing. She leaned forward and spread her arms over his chest, pinning him under his covers. "I shall not release you so easily. After all, you're the noble Sir Ron, King Harry's foster-brother and the most noble and true chevalier in the land, whom everyone praises. And look -- we're alone! My husband is away, the servants are asleep, and the door is locked. Now that I have you to myself, I am yours to command and do with as you will."

Sir Ron blinked. Had she just hinted what he thought she'd hinted? She was beautiful...

"Really, my lady, I'm not so great as you say. I'm not worthy of your praise, even though I'd like to be," he told her as he gently tested the strength of her arms. He discovered that he had about two inches of wiggle room under his sheets, and that she had her full weight on her arms.

He tried very hard not to look at her chest. He was a man. He failed.

Lady Fleur smiled knowingly. "Truly, Sir Ron, how can I not praise you? I know many women who would give away all their wealth and jewels to spend an hour with you in their arms, as I have you now."

"Er, thanks," said Sir Ron, now very nervous. "But really, your praise comes from your own kindness, not anything special about me." He tried twitching his legs, only to discover that that was a bad idea with her sitting astride him.

"Non, I do not agree," said Lady Fleur, shifting her seat and causing Sir Ron to hold very still. "If I were queen of the world and were to search for a husband, I could not ever find anyone better than you, Sir Ron. Truly, no other man could have me."

"Thanks for the compliment," said Sir Ron hastily, "but your husband is a much better man than I am and has my deepest respect."

"Ah, a noble knight." Lady Fleur sighed and placed one hand over her heart. "I would love to stay with you longer, but sadly I must beg your leave. I have duties in the hall." She leaned forward a bit more.

"Oh, don't worry, my lady!" said Sir Ron, quickly bringing his freed arm out from under the covers. "Truly, you're beautiful and kind and I'd love to talk more, but we can't always have what we want. I give you leave to go."

Lady Fleur shot him a sharp look and rose from the bed. As she stood, she laughed and said, "I take back what I said about you being noble and true, strange knight. You can't possibly be Sir Ron."

"What?" squawked Sir Ron, bolting upright.

"Oh, no lies, strange knight! Sir Ron would not have let a lady leave his side without a kiss, non, jamais!" said Lady Fleur, eyes dancing.

"Er, well," mumbled Sir Ron, scratching his head. "Sorry about that. Can I make it up to you?"

"Bien sûr," said Lady Fleur. She leaned down and kissed him firmly on the lips. After a moment, Sir Ron kissed back.

"There! And now I take my leave, chéri," said Lady Fleur, drawing back and straightening her dress. She slipped out the door, leaving Sir Ron in confusion.

That evening Lord Sirius returned from his hunt with many deer, all of which he presented to Sir Ron before sending the meat to the kitchens and the skins to the craftsmen. "All this is yours, my friend," he said. "When you leave, take it with you or take fair value instead."

"Thanks," said Sir Ron. "I'm afraid you won't come out so well in our bargain, since I didn't get much today. Only this." He screwed up his courage, remembered he was in an era where there was nothing wrong with brotherly affection between men (not that there necessarily ought to be anything wrong with it today either), and kissed Lord Sirius on the cheek.

"I count that a fair trade," said Lord Sirius, "but I'd like to know where and how you won that."

"That wasn't part of the bargain," said Sir Ron. "Please don't ask. It's time for dinner anyway."

They ate venison that night and got flaming drunk again, until Lord Sirius talked Sir Ron into extending their game another day.

The next day Lord Sirius again left before sunrise, but this day he hunted a boar. All day long. He took hours of useful time, dozens of hounds, hundreds of weapons, and dozens of men to kill one animal that wouldn't even feed the whole castle for one night. It was a textbook example of the idiocies of the feudal system.

Meanwhile, Lady Fleur again came to Sir Ron before he was out of bed (though one would think he'd have learnt his lesson and risen earlier) and sat beside him on his bed. Sir Ron moved toward the headboard, making sure his arms were free of the covers and that it would be very awkward to sit across his legs.

Lady Fleur sighed. "Sir Ron, it is a great wonder to me that a man so noble can so easily forget lessons of courtesy," she said.

"What lessons?" asked Sir Ron, a bit worried.

"Why, my lesson on kissing!" said Lady Fleur, leaning towards him. "If you have found favour with a lady, you should press your claim."

"Oh. But you can't assume favour," said Sir Ron, "and it'd be rude for me to ask when you might say no." He did not like the direction the conversation seemed to be taking.

Lady Fleur shook her head and poked him in the chest. "I could not deny you, mon coeur, and you are strong enough to change my answer were I so rude as to say no."

Sir Ron frowned at her. "That wouldn't be right," he said firmly. "I'd be as bad as Voldemort and his invading Saxons--"

Oh for goodness' sake, you're as bad as Ron! We have to learn to say his name -- even though it's only a childish anagram of his real name -- or he'll have more power over us than he already does. Name him and he becomes something real, and therefore something that can be defeated. Leave him as a bogeyman and you'll always be looking over your shoulder. In any case, it's a good analogy and ought to get you credit for linking literature to current events. Professor Switch appreciates that.

Your recording charm does allow for editing, right? Otherwise this will be for nothing, considering all the times you've interrupted me. It does...? Good. I suggest you use it extensively. And find a way to explain the language shift from archaic to modern.

Where was I? She tells him to press his claim... "That wouldn't be right," said Sir Ron. "I'd be as bad as Voldemort and his invading Saxons if I threatened you, especially since I'm your guest and ought to obey your wishes."

"Wonderful!" said Lady Fleur, and kissed him.

Sir Ron blinked. That hadn't been quite the result he wanted.

"That was a gracious consent, chéri," said Lady Fleur as she drew back. "Still, I would like to know why such a noble knight as you has spent so many days in this hall without speaking words of love as chivalry demands. You, whom everyone knows as the noblest of knights, who for love has braved many dangers! Are you unworthy of your praise? Or do you think me too dull and ugly for such things?" She leaned close and whispered, "No one can spy on us here. Instruct me in the arts of love, mon coeur, whilst my husband is away."

Sir Ron blinked again. She really was hinting at that. And not just hinting anymore. A beautiful woman was almost literally throwing herself at him with no strings attached... No, he couldn't break his honour just days before he was going to die. Besides, she was married!

"My lady," said Sir Ron, "I'm awfully flattered that you like being with me, but for me to teach you about love -- when you have far more skill in that art than I'll ever have -- really wouldn't be a good idea! In any other way, anything I can honourably do, I'm at your service."

Lady Fleur pouted, but courtesy prevented her from disagreeing with Sir Ron's self-disparagement. Knights are supposed to be humble, after all, particularly in the presence of ladies, so she couldn't fault him.

After another half hour or so of hints and narrow escapes, Lady Fleur left, kissing Sir Ron on her way out. He was too surprised to object, though he wondered how he was ever going to explain this when Lord Sirius found out -- and he was certain Lord Sirius would find out eventually.

With any luck, by that time Sir Ron would be dead and beyond his reach. Not that his death was something he particularly looked forward to, but at least one of his problems would solve the other instead of compounding it.

That evening Lord Sirius returned with the single boar he'd wasted so much time hunting, and jovially retold the story of the hunt, including the three men the boar had gored to death and the dozen hounds it had torn apart.

Sir Ron felt slightly ill at the pleasure Lord Sirius took in recounting the deaths. Nevertheless, he praised the hunt and the size of the boar. "Very impressive," he said. "Thanks."

"So, what do you have for me, Sir Ron?" asked Lord Sirius.

"This," said Sir Ron, and grabbed Lord Sirius's shoulders, holding him steady while he kissed first his left cheek and then the right. "There you go; we're even."

"By God, if you keep turning profits like this, you'll drive me to debt and ruin!" said Lord Sirius, laughing. "Let's play again tomorrow and see if I can't recoup my losses."

Sir Ron agreed, but this night he avoided the wine and mead, wanting to keep a clear head and wake before Lady Fleur came in the morning. All through the feast she cast him sultry glances and filled his plate with delicacies. Sir Ron blushed, but courtesy kept him from objecting or leaving before his host. Besides, it was flattering to have a beautiful woman so interested in him.

On the third day, Lord Sirius rose before dawn and departed with his men to hunt a fox. Why he was hunting a fox, I have no idea -- I suppose it was thought to be a challenge, despite the inedibility of fox meat and the relative pettiness of their intrusion into human lives, particularly when compared with the Saxon invasions during the times in which King Arthur is supposed to have lived. Nevertheless, Lord Sirius chose to waste his time in that fashion. Perhaps the poet simply ran out of other animals for him to hunt, or perhaps he was alluding to the cleverness Lady Fleur showed that morning.

Sir Ron had planned to rise at dawn, but Lady Fleur outfoxed him and entered his as soon as her husband left. She flung open his windows and waited for him to wake.

Sir Ron had slept badly that night, dreaming both of his approaching death and his very possible dishonour with Lady Fleur. He woke quickly, filled with dark thoughts, yet when he saw Lady Fleur framed by the dawn light streaming through the window, he couldn't help but feel happy even though he knew she was hunting him. How bad could it be, really, he thought, if she wants me?

But as she finally asked him straight out to be her lover, he came to himself and managed to refuse her. Which was more than he managed in real life, come to that, but he might get better as he gets older.

Lady Fleur frowned when he refused. "I find you much at fault, sir," she said, "that you can be so cold to a poor woman so close to you, and so wounded by love for you. My only comfort is that you must already have une petite amie, to whom you have sworn yourself, and that you are true for her sake. Tell me this is so!"

"My lady, I don't have a lover," said Sir Ron nervously, "and I don't think I'll be ready to take one anytime soon. I'm sworn to defend King Harry and I don't want to divide my loyalties."

"Oh!" cried Lady Fleur. "Your words are hard! But I have my answer, and now can only mourn and lament my lost love." She bent and kissed Sir Ron, not giving him a chance to protest. "Before I leave, I ask a gift from you, mon ami -- your glove perhaps, something from your hand -- that I may remind myself of you and lessen my grief."

"I wish I had something worthy of you, my lady," said Sir Ron, "since a glove certainly isn't. But I didn't bring anything with me. Sorry."

"Well, in such a case, let me give a gift to you," said Lady Fleur, "and I will take comfort in knowing you carry my token." She slipped one of her rings from her finger and held it out to him. It was a heavy band of gold set with a rich emerald, worth a king's ransom or the upkeep of the castle for half a year -- a very high payment for a mere love token.

Sir Ron was tempted, memories of his impoverished childhood rising in his mind, but he recalled his present high station in King Harry's court and his impending death. "I'm sorry again, my lady," he said, "but since I have nothing to give you, I can't accept a gift like that."

"Well then," said Lady Fleur, "if my ring is too rich, take my girdle instead. Then the scales shall be less unbalanced between us." She unknotted the cloth from her waist -- it was green silk, embroidered with gold thread -- and held it out to him.

Sir Ron shook his head. "I really can't accept any gift, my lady, not until I know whether I'll live to return your favour. Thanks, though."

Lady Fleur smiled knowingly. "Ah, now you think that my gift is too little for you, mon ami, as your glove would be too little for me. But listen -- this cloth has a special magic. He who wears it may not be harmed by any weapon or blow. Is it not worth more now?"

Sir Ron blinked slowly, trying to hide his astonishment. Magic in the hinterlands, away from Dumbledore and Hogwarts? And such strong magic! Why, if he took that girdle to the Green Chapel, he could live...

He let her convince him and kiss him twice more in her joy at his acceptance. The rest of the day he spent at ease in the castle, singing and dancing with the ladies in waiting as if he had no cares in all the world.

That evening, as Lord Sirius came to the table, Sir Ron called him over and kissed him three times on the cheek without waiting to see what he was trading for. "By heaven, a noble gift," cried Lord Sirius, "and all I have for you today is a mangy fox fur."

"No matter!" said Sir Ron. "Sit and eat!" They laughed and made merry, and once again got flaming drunk. And through the whole feast, Sir Ron told no one of the green girdle tucked under his tunic.

The next morning, Sir Ron rose, went to confession (because the British were all at least nominally Catholic in those days), and prepared himself for his promised meeting. He dressed in his newly polished armour and mounted Ford Anglia, who was groomed until every hair gleamed. He rode from the castle, following a man at arms who led the way to the Green Chapel.

When they reached the edge of the valley in which the Chapel lay, the man at arms turned to Sir Ron and said, "Sir, I've led you here as I was ordered to, but I beg you to turn back. Listen! In that valley is a giant man who kills any person who rides by the Chapel, no matter his strength or station. I don't want to see a brave knight like you die for no reason, so ride away! Go home! I swear by God that I won't tell anyone if you do."

Sir Ron, armed with Lady Fleur's girdle, was not as moved as the man hoped. "Thanks for your kindness," he said, "but I can't turn back. I swore an oath, and whatever happens, I need to keep it."

"It's your head," said the man at arms. "I wish you luck, though you're a fool." He saluted Sir Ron and spurred his horse away, crashing heedlessly through the forest.

Sir Ron rode Ford Anglia down into the valley, and eventually came across a low hill, hollowed inside to serve as a meeting-place. If this was the Green Chapel, it had obviously stood empty for many years, doubtless due to the Green Knight's efforts.

Sir Ron dismounted and took his sword in hand, determined to explore the ruined Chapel, but a strange noise from beyond the hill -- the grinding ring of a whetstone scraped across a blade -- caught his attention. The Green Knight was sharpening his axe.

"Hello?" called Sir Ron. "It's Sir Ron, and I'm here to fulfil my oath."

"Aha! So you did come," said the Green Knight, and the noise ceased as he walked over the crest of the hill, seeming even more massive than Sir Ron remembered. "I wish you well, but now I ask you to bend your neck to my blade as I did to yours."

"I will keep my oath." Sir Ron removed his helmet and knelt, baring his neck to the Green Knight's axe and praying that the girdle was truly as powerful as Lady Fleur believed.

The Knight heaved the axe into the air, but as it descended Sir Ron flinched -- only a little, but enough to see.

The Green Knight halted his stroke. "You are not Ronald the glorious, brother to Harry, who never falters in the face of danger," he said scornfully. "I never flinched when you struck off my head, but you flinch before the edge even reaches you. You are no true knight."

"No!" said Sir Ron. "Strike again, and I won't flinch. But I don't think it's a fair comparison, since I can't live without my head like you can."

The Green Knight laughed and raised his axe once more, but deliberately swung wide. Sir Ron didn't flinch. "Oh, well done!" said the Green Knight. "I see your courage does exist, Sir Ronald, and now I can strike in truth."

"For God's sake, do it," said Sir Ron, "and stop mocking me."

"Hah! So commanding for one about to die." The Green Knight swung for a third time, but guided his axe so carefully that it only sliced the shallowest of cuts at the side of Sir Ron's neck, the hooked point releasing a few drops of blood.

"That's it!" yelled Sir Ron, pushing to his feet and drawing his sword. "I've taken a blow from you as promised. Our deal is done. If you try again, I'll meet you more than halfway."

The Green Knight made no move toward Sir Ron, but lowered his axe and leaned on the haft. "Calm yourself, Sir Ronald. It was my right to give you a blow and I gave it. Be happy with the result!"

"We agreed on a blow, not on insults and feints."

"Those were for our other agreements," said the Green Knight. "The first feint fulfilled our first bargain, since I was unhurt by your blow. The second was for the times you kissed my wife. And the cut..." Here the Green Knight smiled and snapped his fingers, still leaning on his axe, and suddenly his figure shifted, shrinking into a more familiar man.

Sir Ron gasped.

"The cut was for the girdle you wear around your waist, Sir Ronald," said Lord Sirius. "You broke your oath."

"Why?" was all Sir Ron could say.

"Why? Let me tell you a story." Lord Sirius straightened and looked into the forest, as if he could see something beyond the trees. "When I was a young knight like you, I served King Harry's father, James Pendragon. But I failed him in the end. When Voldemort and his Saxons first came to our kingdom, James fought them. But before the battle he sent a messenger to parley.

"I should have been that messenger. It was my duty to look for treachery, to spy out the enemy's position. But I thought a knight would rouse too much suspicion, so we sent the Lord Chancellor, Peter of Pettigrew instead. Nobody would suspect him of having a mind for battle and I could guard James's side."

Lord Sirius sighed. "Peter betrayed us. We won the battle, but only at the cost of James's life, and of Queen Lily's, for she died of a broken heart not long afterward. I should have trusted Sir Remus Lupin to guard James. I should have realized that Peter would not be able to stand against Voldemort's savagery. I should have kept my oath and done my duty instead of sending another in my place."

He turned back to Sir Ron. "So when I heard of you, Sir Ronald Weasley, foster-brother and trusted knight of Harry Pendragon, I knew I had to test you, test your loyalty. And for the most part, I find you worthy. Your failure, ultimately, was not lust or treachery, but only an unwillingness to die for no purpose. Think on your motives, Sir Ronald, and decide if you wanted to live because you fear to die, or because you fear to leave your lord."

Sir Ron stood astonished by Lord Sirius's story and abashed at his own failure of honour. "I'm sorry, my lord," he said, "and I'd like to thank you for your lesson."

Lord Sirius waved this off. "You're a good man, I think, and I trust you with my godson's life. Would you like to stay at my castle a while longer before you return to Hogwarts?"

"No, I should get home," said Sir Ron. "But I'd like to keep the girdle if that's not a problem."

"Not at all. Why, though?"

"I want a reminder of your lesson, and my failure."

Lord Sirius smiled. "It wasn't all a failure, Sir Ron. And it was a difficult test. My wife is a very beautiful woman, and Hermione le Fay herself cast the disguise I wore. I don't blame you for any hesitation."

"Hermione le Fay? King Harry's sister?" asked Sir Ron. "When did she come to recast the spell?"

Wait a minute. This was going ever so well, no need for interruptions, but since when am I Harry's sister? I'm glad I'm still a witch, at least, but that's ridiculous.

Oh? Ginny's idea? Hmph.

"The Lady Hermione has been at my castle all this time," answered Lord Sirius. "Do you recall my wife's aged companion?"

What? Now I'm old, too? I am going to hex Ginny Weasley when I finish this!

"Do you recall my wife's aged companion? That is the Lady herself, disguised as she disguised me."

Oh. Well, I suppose I'll forgive her for that one.

"That's an astonishing disguise," said Sir Ron, "to hide such a beautiful woman. But I suppose your wife was glad."

What? Where did this dialogue come from? How much of this did Ginny write, Apple? You'd better edit this very extensively...

Lord Sirius laughed and agreed, and the two men parted ways. Sir Ron rode home to Hogwarts, where he was welcomed with great joy even after he showed the girdle and told the story of his broken oath.

"Don't worry too much about it," Harry told Sir Ron after the crowd had dispersed. "Nobody can be perfect, and I'll always trust you with my life. Wear the girdle to remember my faith as well as your failure, and I'll make it a symbol of honour to remind us that while we all make mistakes, we can also rise above them."

Sir Ron smiled at his foster-brother, and the two went into the castle together.

And there you are. Finished. Here, go edit the recording.

Ginny? Where did you come from?

Ginny, what are you doing with that charm?

Ginny! Get back here with that! Don't you dare give it to Ron!

/Here the recording breaks into yells and laughter, presumably as the speaker chases the person who has taken the recording charm. Then there is a minute of silence before the female voice resumes./

Ha. I showed her. Is this still recording?

I think it is. I wonder how to turn it off? I suppose I should ask Apple or Ginny, but I doubt they'd tell the truth. A simple Finite ought to do it.

Hmmm.

I'm going to turn this off and hide it until I can figure out how to wipe the recording, but in case Ginny nicks it... Ron, Harry, if you're listening to this, I didn't really mean to insult you. Much. Oh, just call it one of those mad things girls do and don't try to figure it out.

I really do love you. Both of you. And don't you dare go making promises like in the story or I'll hunt you down and kill you myself.

Maybe I should just give this to you before they steal it. I'm sure Ginny can steal it. I wouldn't put it past her to have a second recorder linked to this charm, actually.

No, I won't. I'm going to erase this. You don't need to think about death and Sirius now.

But Merry Christmas anyway. Just in case.

Finite Incantatem.

/Recording ends./

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

AN: Thank you for reading, and please review! I appreciate all feedback, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.