DISCLAIMER: All of the places and characters in this story belong to the genius Ms. J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made from this story. It only serves to (hopefully) entertain.

This story is rated K+ for some mild language. Ron/Hermione with small hints of Bill/Fleur and Harry/Ginny. Enjoy! :)

~The Ghost of Christmas Past~

The first thing to surprise him was the owl. Ron was working in his study when he glanced up from his desk just in time to see the silhouette of one heading straight for his window. He furrowed his brows in confusion. Who would be writing to him so late in the evening?

When it finally landed outside, the surprise evolved into panic. He recognized the small, tiny brown owl as Bill's. Bill rarely sent letters - he much preferred Flooing over if he needed to talk - so a million different things began to run through Ron's mind. Was someone hurt? Were Louis or one of the girls sick? Were their mum and dad alright?

Ron leaped out of his chair and ran over to the window. As he hastily yanked it open, the cold December air poured into the room along with a few snowflakes. He offered the tired bird a small treat before tugging the envelope it was carrying from its leg, noting that it was a bit thicker than an average letter. Bill's owl flew back out into the winter night as Ron settled back down at his desk, ripping the parcel open.

"Bill, what the-?" he muttered. Inside the envelope was another envelope along with a loose piece of parchment. Ron unfolded the latter first to find a short note written in his eldest brother's untidy scrawl:

If my calculations are correct, tonight is the night you were meant to have this. I didn't forget, but I'm willing to bet a few galleons you did. Whatever this is, I hope it makes you happy.
Fleur sends her love. We'll see you tomorrow at the Burrow. Happy Christmas!

Ron placed the letter to the side and turned over the small, unopened envelope his brother had sent. To his surprise, his own handwriting was scribbled across it in obvious haste:

I have to leave. I've made an awful mistake. I'm so sorry, but I can't stay here knowing that they're –
she'sstill out there. Thank you so much for everything you and Fleur have done.
I know I'm not in the position to be asking you for favors, but I really need your help with this one. Could you send this to me in ten years? Don't open it and read it, but just send it. Please? Wherever I am, whatever my life is like, just make sure I get it. It's important.
Thanks, Bill. I'll be seeing you soon. Stay safe.

Ron closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Bill was right – he had forgotten, but it all came back to him in that moment. He remembered the night he'd written the contents of the envelope. He could hear the waves crashing outside the window as he sat down at the kitchen table in Shell Cottage with tears streaming down his face, pouring his heart and soul out to a piece of Fleur's fancy stationary. He remembered thinking about the only person in the world who ever made sense to him and wondering what the hell he'd been thinking when he abandoned her in the midst of a war.

He fiddled with the envelope for a minute or two, unsure if he was ready to read what his seventeen-year-old self had written on that scary, stormy night ten years before. He didn't want to relive it. He didn't want to remember.

But he had to. If he didn't, he never would have left it for Bill to send to him. Before he could change his mind, Ron tore open the envelope, unfolded the letter inside, and began to read.

Hello Ron,

It's me – er, you. I'm you. You're me. However, I'm seventeen and you're twenty-seven. Weird, eh?

You probably have no idea what this is about, but you need to read this, especially if you're exactly the same as I am now. I'm sure you know I'm not good at this stuff – feelings, that is- but I'm going to do my best. Ready? Here it goes...

You, Ronald Bilius Weasley, are a foul, rotten git. Honestly, what is wrong with you? Have you gone completely mental? You've done some really stupid things in your life, but Merlin's beard, this one takes the cake for sure. You abandoned them. You abandoned her. Even if you do find them again, they're never going to forgive you. She'll never forgive you. You've ruined any chance you've ever had with her. You're selfish and the worst kind of friend. You're lucky they stuck around you for so long, and how did you repay them? You left them in the middle of woods when a bleedin' WAR is going on. You don't deserve them. You don't deserve her.

wow... I got pretty harsh there, didn't I? Sorry about that. I guess I just proved my point that you're – er, I – am a hot-tempered pain in the arse. I'm tempted to throw this piece of paper into the rubbish bin and start over, but I won't. It was probably hard for you to read that, you needed to hear it.

I really hope you're not like that anymore. If you still are, stop it now. Getting angry when it's due is one thing, but what I – you – did to Harry and Hermione was just plain stupid. They did nothing wrong. They're friends. Of course they're going to talk and hug every once in a while. You know damn well Harry never liked Hermione in that way (he's been snogging your baby sister instead!) and when has Hermione shown any interest in Harry other than friendship?

When I abandoned them in the woods a few weeks ago, I blamed them for everything, but I've realized now that it's no one's fault but mine. I let my anger, fear, and jealousy get the best of me, and I shouldn't have done that. They didn't deserve it. I've been laying awake for hours every night since, wondering how I could have let myself become so blind. Please don't let yourself get to this point anymore. Don't be like I am now. Take a breath every once and a while and really think about what you're doing.

I'm packing my things and leaving Shell Cottage tonight to begin looking for them. I know how dangerous that is, but I don't care. I can't keep sitting around doing nothing and waiting for some sign that they're okay. I have to try to fix things, to clean up this complete mess I made, and I can't do that here. I have no idea how I'm going to find them (I'm sure you remember how strong Hermione's protective wards were,) but I have to try.

Now that this letter is in your hands once more, don't be mad at yourself for what you did back then. Seriously, I've punished us enough during these past few weeks. I'm only writing this to remind you of how easy it is to lose yourself in rage and how much that can damage the best things in your life. This is also a plea. Please don't be that person anymore. I'm a wreck right now, and I can't imagine living like this forever. I'm making a vow to do everything I can to stop being such a nut, so if we've lost track of that promise somewhere along the way, it's up to you to revive it. Be a better person, Ron, because you can.

As for Harry, give the guy a break. I mean, bloody hell, look at the life he's had. All things considered, he's pretty grounded. He's a good person and an even better friend, so I hope you've fixed things with him. If not, try again. He's worth the trouble. Just don't give him a hard time about Ginny, alright? They really do care about each other, and he'll treat her right.

And Hermione...

I'd like to think that after I'm finished writing this, I'll find her and Harry easily and she'll forgive me right away. She'll throw her arms around me, tell me how much she's missed me, give me a big kiss, and tell me she's mine forever. We'll win the war, and then we'll get married right away. By the time you get this letter, we'll have lots of kids all running around the house we built ourselves. But something tells me it's not going to happen quite like that.

If you ever manage to win her trust back, don't take her for granted. She's smart, beautiful, strong, and kind, and she deserves nothing less than to be treated as such. Don't rely on her for everything. Instead, offer to help her out every now and then. She'll like that, I think, even if she doesn't always take you up on the offer.

And if, by some bloody miracle, she becomes more than just your friend, just like you've always wanted, treat her like a princess, okay? No, a queen – treat her like a queen. Be good to her. Don't yell at her for no reason. Never take your frustrations out on her. Of course you'll argue sometimes, but make those arguments mean something. And most importantly, trust her. Hermione has never given you a reason not to trust her, but you forgot that in the woods, didn't you? If she says she doesn't like Harry, then she doesn't like Harry! Simple as that. No matter what the situation is – happy, sad, difficult, or confusing – just remember how special she is to you, and you'll do the right thing. I know you will.

I'm leaving this letter with Bill so he can send it to you in ten years' time. Since you're reading this now, it should Christmas Eve, 2007. Happy Christmas! At least, I hope it's happy. Wherever you are now, I genuinely hope you're happy. After all, I'm you, so if you're happy, so am I.

I'll be seeing you.

-Ron, age 17
24 December, 1997

Ron stared down at the letter for a long time after reading it. He couldn't believe he had forgotten about writing it, though he never forgot how horrible he felt during those few weeks at Shell Cottage. The guilt had torn him apart, and the worry about Harry and Hermione's safety had made him sick to his stomach.

He couldn't help but smile, though, as he looked down at the words he'd written on the same night ten years before. He had told himself to really work on his attitude, to think before speaking or acting, and he had done just that. That was one thing he didn't forget about. Once he left Shell Cottage that night, he had been determined to fix his temper, and he did. Of course, he'd lost his cool a few times since then, but on those rare occasions, it was justified. He didn't freak out over the little things anymore, and that was probably why his life was so pleasant now.

"I am happy, Ron," he said to the letter with a smile. "I'm happy. You did good."

Content with that, Ron folded up the letter, tucked it back into its envelope along with the short note Bill had written, and put it into the top drawer of his desk. He also put away the tiny bit of work he'd been finishing up. What had he been thinking, doing work on Christmas Eve? Sure, it was only touching up a couple of order forms for the shop to give George a hand, but it still wasn't very Weasley of him. There was only one thing he wanted to do on Christmas Eve, and work certainly wasn't it.

After turning out the lights in his study, Ron tiptoed down the hallway and, after a quick peek into the last room on the right, proceeded down the stairs. Once in the sitting room, the sight that greeted him warmed his heart and made a goofy smile spread across his face. After everything he'd just read, somehow she was more special and beautiful than ever before.

Hermione was sitting beside the Christmas tree doing some last-minute gift wrapping. The one she was working on at that moment had a bit of an odd shape to it and she was struggling a bit with the wrapping. Her hair kept falling into her face as she worked, so she kept blowing it out of the way, determined not to let go of the piece of wrapping paper she was holding tightly to the box as she reached for tape that was a few feet away from her. Crookshanks had probably walked by at some point and kicked it just out of her reach, so in an attempt to get it, she ended up losing the paper she was holding down to the box. She sighed in frustration. Ron knew he shouldn't think it was cute to see Hermione struggle with something, but he couldn't help it. She was cute no matter what she was doing.

No, not cute. Beautiful. She was glowing. She was perfect. His eyes fell to her tummy, which was round with their second child. His son. Their son. Their little boy would be arriving in the early weeks of spring, and Ron couldn't wait. It didn't matter that they had already gone through this once before. The second time around wasn't any less exciting or special. Every time Ron thought about Rosie's soon-to-be baby brother, another little piece of both himself and Hermione, it made his heart burst with joy.

Hermione attempted to grab the tape again, but her swollen belly once again prevented her from reaching far enough. Ron couldn't help but laugh.

"Have you forgotten that you're a witch, love?" he said happily. It always amused him that there were some things she simply refused to use magic for, insisting on doing them the Muggle way. Wrapping presents was one of them, evidently.

She looked up from the box that appeared to contain a toy of some kind and smiled.

"Oh, there you are! Could grab the tape for me?" she said, completely ignoring his remark about her magic. "Your son keeps getting in my way."

"How very Weasley of him," Ron said with a chuckle as he walked toward her. He remembered all the times years ago when he and his brothers knew their parents were wrapping Christmas presents in their bedroom. They were always trying to listen in and peek under the door. One time, Fred and George intentionally caused a ruckus in the kitchen, hoping their parents would burst out of the room in concern so Charlie could run in and take a quick glance at the gifts.

When he reached where Hermione was sitting, he didn't fetch the tape. Instead, he sat down behind her and wrapped his arms around her middle. He gave her a kiss on the cheek before nuzzling her neck and soft, bushy hair that smelled of her favorite citrus shampoo.

"You have no idea how much I love you," he murmured.

She sighed contently.

"I love you, too."

"Go upstairs and relax. I'll finish this up."

She pulled away from him slightly, just enough so she could turn her head and look at him. Her eyebrow was raised.

"Are you feeling alright?"

"What do you mean?"

"Ron, you're offering to wrap presents. You hate wrapping," she commented.

"True," he said, "but you deserve a break. Really, I've got this. Go to bed."

"Are you sure?" she said. "They all have to be done by tonight. We're going to the Burrow early tomorrow morning."

"I know, I know," he said. "I'll be up soon, I promise."

"Well, alright," she relented. "I'll just check on Rose first."

"Already did," Ron replied. "She's sound asleep."

"Oh, good. You know I'm still going to look in on her, right?"

"Of course."

Hermione giggled and kissed him again.

"I love you, Ron," she said, hugging him. "Thank you."

"Mm, love you too," he said.

He helped her stand up, and before Hermione headed upstairs, Ron couldn't help but give her tummy a kiss, too. He then proceeded to put away the tape and scissors Hermione has been using. His wife was right. He really did hate wrapping presents... the Muggle way.

"Redimio munia," Ron said, pointing his wand at the small pile of presents, wrapping paper, and ribbons Hermione had left. Before his eyes, all of the remaining gifts were neatly wrapped and adorned with pretty bows. After tucking them all under the tree, he turned out the lights in the sitting room.

Once upstairs, he took one last peek in Rose's room. It was impossible for him to walk down the hallway at night without checking in on her. Just as before, she was peacefully asleep. Part of her face was covered by her Weasley red hair, and her chest rose and fell with her steady breaths as she sucked on her thumb. She was too adorable.

"Just think, Rosie," he whispered to the sleeping one-year-old, "next year, you'll really get to fall in love with Christmas. You'll get to send letters to Santa Claus, leave treats out for him, and open your presents all by yourself. You'll even get to help your little brother open his gifts. Won't that be fun?"

Rose just shifted slightly, but Ron smiled nonetheless.

"See? I knew you'd be excited," Ron said lovingly to his daughter. "Goodnight, Rosie. I love you. I love you so much."

He placed a gentle kiss on the little girl's forehead before quietly slipping out of the room. As he walked down the hall, however, he realized he couldn't go to bed right away. If he did, Hermione would know he'd used magic to complete the gift wrapping, and he would never hear the end of it. Remembering the shop's order forms he still had to do, he tiptoed down the hall to his study. He'd finish those, then go to bed.

As he sat down, however, his eyes fell on a blank piece of parchment on the corner of his desk. Suddenly, he had an idea, and the order forms once again were forgotten once more. He grabbed the parchment, a quill, and some ink. This had to be done by the following morning so he could give it to Bill. Given, this wouldn't be for Bill, but his eldest brother would have to be the one to hold onto it... for the next ten years, anyway.

Dear Ron, he began to write, It's me – er, you. I'm you. You're me. However, I'm twenty-seven and you're thirty-seven. I genuinely hope you're as happy as I am now, because honestly, life can't get much happier than this...

Author's Note: This was written as a gift for A Bittersweet Smile as part of the V-day Story Exchange on the HPFC forum. I hope you liked it, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with Valentine's Day. :p

This was also part of Taragh McCarthy's "Talk About Categories" Challenge. I was given the prompts Christmas, mistake, awake, and waiting.

Thanks for reading!