Author's Note- I've reworked this very old one shot to try to get back into writing. I hope you enjoy it!~GW
“Hello? I’m home! Anybody here?”
Letting the door swing shut behind him, the boy stepped into the empty kitchen, listening for a response. None came. Sighing, he sat on the worn stool at the bar and took a biscuit from the tin his grandma left last visit. Alone again. Nobody would notice that he wasn’t at the match. They never did. Devouring the biscuit, and two more after that one, he contemplated the last week. Pitiful. He may as well have been invisible.
Absently, he brushed the crumbs from his t-shirt and stood up. Running his hands through his curly brown hair, he stopped to listen intently to the sounds of the familiar old house. A soft shuffling sound, followed by a curse word, drifted down to him. His father claimed too much paperwork covered his desk, and had begged off attending the match to get some work finished. Undoubtedly he sat hunched over the desk in his study, face ink blotched and screwed up in concentration, painstakingly filling out all the forms that came with capturing dark wizards. He often mentioned that he’d not known that being an Auror came with so much “homework.” It was the only part of his job he didn’t love. Ron Weasley directed an entire squad of Aurors, led them on hair-raising and dangerous missions, and never broke a sweat. A load of parchment sitting on his desk, on the other hand, gave him serious heart palpitations.
Shaking his head at the image in his mind, Hugo climbed the stairs and stepped into the expansive library. To most people, the sheer volume of books and tomes would be awe-inspiring, but not to Hugo. The only part of this room he enjoyed sat in the far corner by the large picture window. The chess table. Sitting at the worn, well-used table, he ran his hands over the mahogany wood of the beautiful board. How many games had he and his father played here? He couldn’t begin to count them.
Hugo knew that if he went to his dad and told him he had a problem, he would get the usual response. His father’s ears would turn red, he’d stutter a bit, and he’d send him directly to his mum.
“She’s the smart one, Hugh. If anyone can fix a problem, it’s your mum. Why don’t you ask her?”
But sitting at the chess board, relaxed and in his element, Ron Weasley could easily solve the world’s problems. Hugo counted on that. He’d finally reached the end of his tether, and no one else but his father could help him sort it out, he was sure. His dad was a hero.
Reaching under the table into the drawer, Hugo drew out the oak box that encased his father’s prized chess set. Rattling it loudly, he set it on the table and waited. After a few moments with no response, he withdrew his wand from his pocket and pointed it at the case. “Sonorous,” he whispered. Then he took the ornate box in his hands again, and rattled it while the amplifying charm made the sound carry farther down the hall toward the room where he was sure his father worked. Sure enough, Ron’s fiery head peered around the corner within minutes as Hugo set out the pieces onto the board.
“Hey, Hugh.” Ron grinned at his son as he crossed the room and flopped into the chair across from Hugo. Stretching his long legs under the table, he gave him a light kick.
“What are you doing hanging out in here on a beautiful day? Aren’t you supposed to be at the match with Lily watching James and Rose play?”
Studying Hugo’s dark eyes, so like his mother’s, Ron knew something stirred in that mind of his. Although he looked like Hermione, Ron knew without a doubt Hugo was completely his son. Poor kid, he smiled ruefully. Whatever was on his mind would come out eventually, and Ron would send him to Hermione for help. He knew he was useless at these sorts of things.
“Ah, I wasn’t in the mood for Quidditch today, Dad. Fancy a game with me? Maybe I will actually beat you this time.” Nobody doubted the chess expert in this family sat holding his son’s eyes with his own penetrating blue stare, but he smiled and nodded.
“Maybe you will. Finish setting them up and we’ll have a go.”
Hugo completed laying out the chessmen, and his father took the first move. As he studied the board, he felt the tension begin to ebb from his body. Part of him wished he could stay there forever, and not return to school at all. Who would miss him, anyway? That thought furrowed his brow, and he sighed again.
“Dad,” he began, striving to keep his tone of voice casual, “why do you think that Rose got all the talent and intelligence from you and mum and I got, well, nothing much?”
Ron’s eyes jerked from the board he’d been contemplating. Feeling his heart rate begin to increase, he forced his eyes back down. He wasn't equipped to deal with any emotional problems his son may have. Maybe if he just kept playing, Hugo would drop it. In the back of his mind, however, he heard the double-edged sword of his wife and his mother’s voices telling him to suck it up and talk with his son. Taking a deep breath, and keeping his gaze averted, he offered a question.
“Why would you think that, son?”
Hugo rolled his eyes, and moved his man. “Oh come on, Dad. Rose got mum’s incredible brain and your Quidditch talent. Everyone wants to borrow her notes or get her on their team. She’s impossibly popular. Most of the time when people talk to me, they ask me about her. I just think I missed out in the gifts department. I left the match today, and nobody even noticed.”
This conversation was beginning to feel familiar to Ron. Nodding at his son’s move, he gave him a smile before moving his own piece. Leaning back, he laced his fingers behind his head and contemplated the lanky boy across from him. His fortune in having such a beautiful boy just overwhelmed him. How could Hugo not know how special he was?
“I’m sure somebody noticed, Hugo. You’re a Weasley. You only had about a million cousins there with you. How could they not notice you’d left?”
Hugo snorted. “Half of those cousins are Potters, for God’s sake, Dad! They wouldn’t notice if a hole opened up in the earth and swallowed me. Everyone wants to be friends with the famous Potter kids. Then there’s Victoire, part Veela and all attitude. She doesn’t even acknowledge I exist. Freddy and Roxanne pull outrageous pranks, play Quidditch, and their dad owns Weasley Wizard’s Wheezes, the most popular shops in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Like they have time for a no-talent, boring cousin!” In his frustration, he moved without really thinking and realized too late that he’d just given his father one of his men like a present.
“Your cousins love you, Hugo. No matter how they act at school, family is everything to us. You are just as important to everyone as any of them.” Ron tried his hand at reassuring his son, but felt he was failing badly.
“You just don’t understand, Dad. You don’t know what it’s like to live in someone’s shadow all the time, even if it is the shadow of people you love. You were one of the ‘Golden Trio.’ I just feel so… pointless.”
Glancing at the board, he waited for his father to make the move he anticipated. Ron never just let Hugo win. He knew that tarnished the victory. No, Hugo knew he would remain a loser.
Ron sat up then, staring intently at the young man across the table from him. Then he chuckled. His chuckle became a laugh, then a loud guffaw. Hugo watched in amazement as his father went into fits of hilarity over his heartfelt admissions of feelings of inadequacy.
“What’s so funny, Dad?” Hugo shouted, affronted.
Ron wiped his streaming eyes with his hand, and focused back on Hugo’s angry face. The hurt in his eyes helped Ron to stifle his laughter.
“I’m sorry, Hugh, I couldn’t help myself. Of course I understand you! Do you know who the rest of that ‘Trio’ was? The bloody Chosen One and the brightest witch of our age! I was the third wheel, the extra whose name nobody remembered. Not only that, but I was the sixth son of a poor, Muggle-obsessed, Ministry paper pusher! Bill broke codes for Gringott’s, Charlie raised dragons in Romania, Percy was head everything and the twins were, well…the twins. Your aunt Ginny, being the only girl, even had it better than I did. I know exactly how you feel, Hugo. Exactly.”
Hugo’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. “I don’t understand. Everyone always says you were a war hero. Didn’t you save Uncle Harry from drowning in the Forest of Dean?”
Closing his eyes for a moment to remember that brutal year he spent with his friends, he shook his head. The shame from that particular memory still humiliated him.
“Yes, Hugo. But did you ever hear that I did it after deserting him and your mum? I left them because I felt pointless. I hadn’t discovered my purpose yet.” He stared into his son’s eyes. They reminded him so much of Hermione, but he saw his own childhood insecurities reflected there with such raw pain. He wanted so desperately to convey this message correctly, for his son to understand the message. It had taken him so long to get it himself. He wanted to spare Hugo that miserable feeling of uncertainty.
“Your purpose? What are you talking about, dad?” Hugo’s confusion grew, but he wanted nothing more than for his dad to keep talking. Never had Ron been so open about his past during the war. He usually evaded questions. Hoping to finally hear the details he had wondered about for so long, Hugo hung on his every word.
Ron gave him a melancholy smile, thinking back to that very dark time. “I believe that everyone has a purpose in life, Hugo. Uncle Harry’s purpose was to save our world from the darkest wizard ever to walk the earth. That is a big purpose. I think your mum’s purpose is to free people. Back then, she helped to free us from Tom Riddle. Now, she works to, as she says, ‘break the bonds of oppression’ for other magical creatures. That is a noble purpose. In comparison, I used to believe I had no gifts. Just like you.”
The sun began to set, sending pink and orange streaks across the sky. The golden light sparkled in Ron’s russet hair, but his eyes seemed to look far away. Hugo almost felt like an intruder when he asked his next question.
“But, Dad, didn’t you help save those Muggle born wizards at the Ministry?” he pressed gently, urging Ron to continue.
Thinking of Reg Cattermole’s Christmas cards that came every year without fail, Ron smiled and nodded. Reg’s daughter had given birth to a baby boy last year. Ron sent loads of presents to her out of sheer delight at being included in their celebration.
“What about the Hogwarts house elves? Mum said you freed them before the Battle of Hogwarts so that they would not be forced to fight.” Ron shook his head again. The image of Kreacher stabbing Death Eaters’ ankles with a kitchen knife came, unbidden, into his mind.
Lowering his voice, Hugo voiced the question burning question he’d had about an issue he’d only heard bits and pieces of before. “And I overheard mum say you saved her from being tortured and killed by the Death Eaters.”
A slight shudder ran over Ron as he recalled those haunting memories. The feeling of helplessness that had overtaken him during their stay at Malfoy Manor still swirled through him whenever he remembered Hermione’s terrified screams. What he’d done had not been done out of heroic tendencies, but out of desperation. He simply knew that Hermione’s death would be the end of him. If she didn’t survive, neither would he. Pushing the echoes of her pain from his head, he sighed.
“I had help with that one, but yes, Harry and I got your mum out of that place with the help of a very special house elf.” Ron’s voice was almost a whisper.
Hugo looked at his father. His hero. He couldn’t reconcile his father’s version of events with the man he’d always seen as invincible. “You said that you deserted mum and Uncle Harry, but you came back. You helped them beat Tom Riddle. You were a part of something big and important. I’m nothing.”
Ron put his hand on Hugo’s. “Yes, I came back, but not because I wanted to be special or important. I came back because I had found my purpose. Even if nobody wanted me, or noticed me, or loved me best, I knew my gift.” The smile that lit his face at that moment caused Hugo to smile in return.
“What is it? Your gift?” Hugo couldn’t help but ask. Maybe there was a talent his father could still pass down if he only knew about it. Something to make him stand out in a sea of Weasley and Potter kids, and get him the recognition he yearned for.
Ron saw the hope in Hugo’s eyes and chuckled to himself. He knew his answer wasn’t what Hugo hoped, but it was the best thing he’d ever discovered about himself.
“My gift? Loyalty. Simply being there for those I love. Through all the terrible things that happened during Tom Riddle’s reign of terror, I stuck with them. I was there to save them when they needed me. I did what needed to be done. I stayed faithful. That doesn’t seem so big in comparison with being The Boy Who Lived, but it was enough for me. You know, I once complained to your mum that my Patronus was nothing but a plain old dog. Boring. She didn’t quite see it that way. She had already determined my purpose long before I had it all worked out. She’s smart like that, you know. Anyway, she told me that my terrier Patronus was one of the most loyal breeds of dog in the world. She’d read stories of these dogs that had crossed continents in search of their lost families. So you see, sometimes our gifts aren’t the flashy, fame-creating, noticeable kind of talents. Sometimes you get something even better. Being loyal pays off in the end. For example, I get to sit here with you this evening and watch you beat me at chess. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world.”
Hugo glanced down at the board and realized that he was, indeed, in a position to win. He took the move, and then looked up at his father. The victory tasted bittersweet. He suddenly found he didn’t really want to beat his dad. He liked thinking of him as invincible.
“Just so you know, Dad, mum never mentions anyone else in that story. The one where you saved her from the Death Eaters? You’re the only person she ever said anything about.”
The tips of Ron’s ears turned pink and a slow smile crept across his freckled face. From the doorway, a soft voice responded.
“That’s because there never was anyone else for me. Your dad has always been my hero.” Hermione crossed the room, sat on the arm of his chair, and kissed the top of Ron’s head. Reaching up, he took her hand in his. The bond between his parents had always mystified Hugo. Now he thought he understood it a little better.
Hermione looked at the chess board, then up at Hugo. “You actually beat him? How wonderful!”
Hugo shrugged, beginning to feel embarrassed about his disappearing act at the Quidditch match. Of course his own mother would notice he’d left. His mother fixed him with that gaze that always made him feel as if she was performing Legilimency on him.
“I wondered where you’d gotten off to today.” she said. “Lily looked everywhere for you when you vanished from the match. She said she just felt lost without you.”
“Sorry. I should have told her,” Hugo mumbled. “I didn’t think she’d notice.”
Hermione ruffled his dark curls. “Oh, Lily noticed it, Hugo. You’re always there for her. You’re not just her cousin. You’re her best friend.”
Ron raised his ginger eyebrows at Hugo and grinned knowingly.
“Hugo’s gift is his loyalty, you know. It’s a wonder she managed without him.”