Birthday Presents – HBP, Ch19 p384

I opened my eye a crack, just to make sure Lavender was really gone. The Hospital Wing was, thankfully, clear, and I sighed and rolled onto my back. The ceiling of the Hospital Wing is really boring, by the way, but I knew it inside out from the amount of time I spent staring at it. How the hell did my life get so complicated?

Well, I know exactly how actually – I'm a complete and utter idiot. I mean, what do Lavender and I actually have in common? Absolutely nothing. I couldn't remember a single conversation we'd had in all the time we'd been dating that lasted more than two minutes. Dating – ha. All we ever did was meet up and snog.

And it's not that I didn't enjoy it – well, at first anyway – but it had got really samey after Christmas, and the only thing that made it bearable was the fact that Hermione wasn't speaking to me. Knowing that she hated me made what I was doing okay… knowing that I had lost any chance with her made being with Lavender okay. But now she was talking to me again it seemed… wrong… to be with Lavender.

Plus I just didn't want to be.

But there was no knowing if anything would ever happen between me and Hermione, and how in hell was I supposed to break up with Lavender. I mean, how do you do that? 'Hi Lavender, I don't like you anymore, in fact I never really did like you all that much anyway, sorry 'bout that, see you later?' Oh yeah, that sounded good.

The Hospital Wing door creaked open again and I quickly shut my eyes in case it was Lavender, but just before they closed I got a glimpse of brown hair, and my eyes popped open again.

"Hermione! Hi!" I said, sitting up in bed hurriedly.

Hermione smiled and walked over towards me. I was still trying to get used to having her smile at me again – I'd been getting glares for so long.

"Hi," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Better, thanks," I said, meaning it. Both words – just the fact that Hermione wanted to know how I was feeling actually made me feel better.

"I can't stay long – I've got to get to Arithmancy. I, er, I've got something for you," she said, holding out a largish rectangular wrapped gift. "Here, Happy Birthday."

I took it from here, shocked beyond belief. "You got me a birthday present?"

Hermione blushed. "Yes, well, no – I bought it for you last summer, for Christmas," she said. "But, you know – and I remembered today I still had it in my trunk, so… happy birthday!"

"Thanks," I said. She smiled a little and looked away, obviously embarrassed. I looked down at the present in my hands, and noticed that it was wrapped in very Christmassy-looking paper, all red and green. I could tell by the feel of it that it was a book, and the… Hermione-ness… of it was unbelievably reassuring. I started to unwrap it.

"You do your shopping really early," I said, trying to fill the quiet. "You must have got this before you came to my –" My jaw dropped. "No way."

I stared at the book in my hand – if you could call it a book. I mean, that is such a mundane term for what it actually was. Treasure, is more like it. Priceless is another one.

I was holding, in my humble hands, a very early edition of The Arte of the Noble Game. A very early edition.

"No way," I repeated, staring at it.

"I know – I saw it and I had to get it for you," Hermione said. She sounded really excited.

I was still staring at the… well for want of a better word, book. Its hardback cover was bound in green cloth that was slightly frayed at the spine, with tarnished bronze corners. The title of the book was stamped on the front with gold letters that were magically enchanted to flash different shades, and though the charm was old it was still going, though pretty feebly. It was amazing. I'd seen pictures of this book, pictures just like this. But it couldn't be… it wasn't possible.

Very carefully I opened the book to the first page, just to check. And gulped.

"Hermione… this is a first edition!" I couldn't believe it.

"Yeah," Hermione said. She sounded so modest. So casual. I looked up at her – still gaping – she looked so happy. So pleased with herself.

My mind was racing, but the one thought that was loudest was that it was too much. Way too much. This book was stupidly rare. How much had it cost her?

I looked back down at the book. It was so… so… Bloody hell this was going to hurt.

"I – I can't take this. Take it back." I held out the book to her, trying hard not to think of what Fred and George would have said if they'd seen the book. Or what they'd do to me when they'd found out I gave it back.

Hermione looked confused. "What?"

"You can't give me something like this," I said firmly. And she really couldn't. It wasn't only how much it must have cost but also… well come on – I hardly deserved it, did I?

"I thought you'd like it," she said. She looked hurt. Really hurt. Damn.

"Hermione, this is a first edition," I said, trying to make her understand. "I can't even imagine how much it cost you…"

Hermione shook her head. "Oh no! It really didn't cost that much-"

"Yeah, right."

"No, really it – well, if you must know, it cost me £8.50, which is about a galleon and a half."

I almost dropped the book. "WHAT? How is that possible?"

Hermione smiled again. "I found it in an old Muggle bookstore near my house that I always go to with my Dad. Whoever had it before had put a charm on it so that Muggles didn't pay any attention to it, and there were all sorts of wards on it but Tonks helped me remove them all," she explained.

I couldn't believe it. What an amazing find! I was speechless, just gaping at her. Hermione took a step forward, placed her hands on the book and gently pushed it back at me. "Please take it, Ron," she said seriously. "I want you to have it."

She was deadly serious. I could see it in her eyes. I gulped again. "You're sure?" I asked.


That was her decided face. There was no arguing with her when she was like that.

"Okay," I said feebly. "I mean, thanks Hermione. It's incredible." Ha. That's the understatement of the century. "I can't believe you found it for me – it's… thank you."

Hermione smiled brightly at me, and I smiled back, a rush of adrenaline I usually only felt when flying running through me.

"You're welcome," Hermione said after a moment. "I've got to go."

I nodded. "Yeah, er, see you later then." Merlin I hoped so.

Hermione started walking back across the room towards the door. "I'll be back this evening," she called over her shoulder. I was glad she wasn't looking and didn't see the stupid smile on my face at those words.

She stopped at the door and looked around. "I'll bring your homework along," she said.

"I missed you."

Now why the bloody hell did I say that? It actually just slipped out. I could feel my ears growing red and was sure Hermione would be able to see, even from across the room.

There was a moment of silence, and then Hermione opened the door. She smiled at me again. "I'll see you later, Ron." And then she left.

I watched her hair bounce down her back as she stepped round the door and then the door thud shut behind her. Then I looked down at the book in my hands.

That was it. Lavender had to go.