Summary: The impact of chess on Ron Weasley's life.
When Ronald Wesley was three, his grandfather lifted him onto his lap and showed him a board filled with toys. He reached out to grab one, but was stopped by his grandfather's strong hands.
"Not yet, Ronald," he said, his voice rumbling deep in his chest. "This isn't just a game. The man who knows the chessboard could rule the world."
He showed Ron the wonders of the chessboard, the careful alignment of black and white. There were the pawns, little sacrifices that could reap great rewards; the knights, loyal and true; the bishops with the cunning moves; the queen, ruthless and clever.
"But don't underestimate the king," his grandfather said, smelling of pipe smoke and wool, holding him safe. "You think the king must always be protected - and it's true - to neglect the king is asking for defeat. Don't forget though, that the king has the strength for daring moves - he can save the day."
When Ronald Weasley was eight, his grandfather died. He woke up, in the middle of the night, to find his mother sobbing in front of the fireplace.
The funeral was a week later, hot and stuffy in his best dress robes, which had been Percy's, or maybe even Charlie's. Everyone was there in the Burrow, even the Muggle accountant cousin, whom everyone referred to as 'Poor Maurice'. Percy had come home from Hogwarts, though he seemed more upset about missing classes than Grandfather Prewett's death.
His mum called him into the kitchen, which was full of food, but mercifully empty of relatives. She was dressed in hastily charmed black, her eyes red, but cheeks dry.
"I wanted to give each of you something to remember him by. I hope you'll like this - it isn't new, of course, but..." She trailed off.
She held out his grandfather's chess set, worn with age.
"No, Mum, it's great. It's what he taught me to play on. It's all worn in."
Later that night, when the relatives had finally left, he set up the chessmen on the board. They looked up at him.
"I guess I'm in charge now. I'm Ronald Weasley."
When Ronald Weasley was eleven, he met Harry Potter. Harry Potter was 'the Boy Who Lived,' but he was also utter bollocks at wizard chess.
He tried hard to teach him, though Harry had trouble controlling his pieces. It was almost comical, watching Harry listen to all the conflicting voices. Ron had his pieces well trained, but they could sense Harry's hesitation and struggled to sway him.
Ron was glad there was something he was better at than Harry, who excelled in classes, Quidditch, and even causing trouble. So when they found the giant chess set under the trapdoor in the forbidden third floor corridor, he knew there was something he could do to recover the Philosopher's Stone that neither Harry nor Hermione could.
He was almost frightened at the thought of controlling the huge pieces, but somehow he could hear his grandfather's voice in his head.
"Just pay attention to the pieces. They know what to do; you just need to guide them."
Ron climbed up on the knight and began to direct the battle. The world divided itself into neat rows of black and white. Occasionally he would see Harry, as a bishop, looking determined and pale or Hermione's worried face.
Soon he saw it, the only play that could successfully win the game - and the sacrifice it would entail.
"Yes..." Ron said softly, "It's the only way...I've got to be taken."
Protests rose, but he persevered. There was pain, and a fleeting sense of satisfaction, of proving himself as much a hero as Harry - "You've got to make some sacrifices."
But when it was all over, everyone praised Harry, Harry who defeated Quirrell and You-Know-Who, Harry who made such a sacrifice.
Ron smiled, praised Harry, told everyone how dangerous it was. It wasn't until the Leaving Feast that anyone recognized his accomplishments. For a brief moment, he had the admiration of all the Gryffindors. Soon it passes, as first Hermione, then Harry and finally Neville are acknowledged and rewarded.
He's always said you can't have everything in life.
When Ronald Weasley was fourteen, he realized his role in life. It's a rare day that Harry beats Ron in chess, though it doesn't help that finishing a game is often difficult in the crowded common room. It doesn't matter to them; they play for fun, to relax - even when Hermione is having a fit.
Today, however, is a completely different matter.
Yesterday was the final event of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Yesterday Voldemort was reborn. Yesterday Cedric Diggory died.
Today, Harry plays with uncharacteristic concentration and ferocity. It's as if Harry is fighting his battle again, this time on the strict, regulated field of the chessboard.
Ron plays recklessly, without thought, knowing that Harry doesn't care. For Ron, it's almost cathartic, to play mindlessly, to resist thinking about what happened during the final task. Hermione watches over his shoulder, hands moving nervously.
He thinks as he plays, about chess, about Voldemort, about Harry. Voldemort is the black queen, sweeping across the board in unfathomable, manic, moves. Hermione is the bishop, wise and able to move swiftly and unexpectedly. Harry is the white king, aloof and the only one who can save the game in the direst moments.
Ron is the gallant knight, who leaps over his opponents in defense.
He has learned his role. He protects his king.