The Sugar Quill
Author: Miss Pince  Story: Light as a feather, stiff as a board  Chapter: Default
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Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

 

AN: Well, this one has been a long time in the making! It’s been sitting around on my hard drive since 2001, only on our old Macintosh which I never use, so I had entirely forgotten about it. I found it sometime around Christmas, thought it was a neat idea and rewrote most of it. Then I sent it to Z for beta and she proved that her status as the world’s fastest beta is well-earned. However, I was moving from Iceland to Prague at the time, and when I finally got around to taking a look at correcting it, the story refused to cooperate for a very long time. Thanks go to Zsenya for the patience, and to Hildi and Circee for the encouragement.

 

“Ouch, Mum, don’t pull at it!”

“Stop moving, Hermione and maybe it’ll be better.”

“I hate braids anyway! And I don’t want to go to Lydia’s birthday party! Can’t you call and tell them I’m ill or something?”

“Now Hermione, we’ve been through this already. You've been invited and not going would be very impolite. You’re going. End of story.”

“But why do I have to go? Lydia is so boring; she’s not interested in anything except boys and makeup! I’d much rather stay home and read or something.”

“Read or something! All you ever do is read. I haven’t seen you for the last four years not reading. All this reading can’t be healthy for a ten year old girl!”

“But Mother...”

“No buts. You’re going.”

“Yes, Mum,” Hermione sulked.

 

Thirty minutes later, Hermione was still sulking, only now in the back of her mother's car.  They were sitting outside the house where the party was being held and Mrs. Granger was considering using brute force to extract her daughter from the back seat.

“Hermione, you’ll have fun. Don’t be like this. Of course it’ll be fun. I think they’re going to order some pizza.” 

"I don't want to go! They're not my friends!" She was right, really. Hermione was a very introverted bookworm who spent most of her time either losing herself in a fictional world or studying for school. She’d already gained the dubious status of a ‘Know-it-all’ in the eyes of her classmates, and they wouldn’t let her play with them.

After a great deal of coaxing her mother snapped. “Hermione, if you’re still there when I look into the rear-view mirror, you might not find all your books in their place when you come home. I might keep ‘The Little Princess’ in my study for a while.”

Hermione sighed and opened the door. ‘The Little Princess’ was her favourite book, she read out of it every night before she went to sleep. It opened automatically at her favourite spot, right at the end, where they figure out who Sarah really is and where Ermengarde is telling all the other girls the news. She could giggle forever at the thought of the look on Sarah’s mean classmates as they found out. Sarah was a sort of a role model for Hermione, she adored her and when life at school became very difficult Hermione pretended, just like Sarah had that she lived in some sort of magical world where she was a princess... although Hermione was a very reasonable girl, and knew quite well that magical worlds simply don't exist.

“Don’t eat a lot of sweets,” her mother called before she drove away. Hermione sighed again and when her mother was out of sight she pulled at the rubber bands holding the braids and freed her hair. She wished it wasn’t this bushy, but she really, really hated braids.

 

The party was just like she’d expected it to be. It was obvious all the time that Lydia’s parents had insisted she’d invite Hermione. The girls ate pizza and then they droned on and on about boys while putting makeup on one another in Lydia’s bedroom. It wasn’t until everyone wore makeup, even Hermione, and the subject of boys had started to wear a little thin, that they started searching for something else to do.

“Why don’t we play truth or dare?” Eleanor asked.

“We played truth or dare at Justin’s party last week, and we know everything there is to know. Besides it isn’t any fun without the boys,” Lydia answered.

Despite herself, Hermione felt hurt. She hadn’t been invited to Justin's party, she hadn’t even known about it.

“Why don’t we try ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’ again?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Claire. It didn’t work the last time,” Lydia said.

“Yeah, but the boys were with us then. You know boys, they can’t take anything seriously. Let’s give it another try, I thought it was very exciting.”

Lydia shrugged. “Who wants to try if we can make ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’ work?” No one seemed to mind the suggestion and the girls started to prepare a game that Hermione had never heard of, dimming the lights and lighting a few candles instead.

“Harriet, you’ll be in the middle,” Lydia ordered.

“Sure” Harriet lay on the floor and the girls sat in a circle around her. Lydia glanced around and saw Hermione sitting in the corner.

“Hermione, aren’t you going to join us? Everyone’s got to participate.”

“I don’t know this game,” Hermione answered.

“Well then, maybe you better watch the first time.”

“Sure,” Hermione shrugged and watched the proceedings on the floor with some interest. She’d never seen a game that worked remotely like that.

“Everybody concentrating?” Lydia asked. There was an agreeing murmur. “Then join hands. Right. We’re gathered here to say goodbye to our beloved friend Harriet. She was a very special person. She was - light as a feather, stiff as a board.” Here all the girls joined in the speech and they started chanting the last words over and over again like it was an incantation. Then they let go of each other’s hands and started trying to lift Harriet with only one finger, all the while repeating “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” However, Harriet was too heavy and they couldn’t move her an inch and the mood was ruined when Harriet started laughing because she was so ticklish.

“One more try,Lydia said. “Hermione, why don’t you join us? You saw how it works; you’ve just got to concentrate on something really sad. She’s supposed to levitate if we concentrate hard enough.

Hermione moved in and took her place in the circle, although a bit apprehensively. She found this ridiculous; magic simply didn’t exist. She'd know if it did, after reading all these books. Lydia said the words and she joined in the chanting, without concentrating very hard on anything except how pointless this was. Yet something happened when she put her finger underneath Harriet. Somehow she felt heat waves rise in her chest and then surge through her veins down to the finger and suddenly Harriet was rising up into the air, her body gone rigid and her hair hanging loose, and all the girls were squealing with delight, until they realized that Harriet was still rising and going higher than their heads and coming dangerously close to the ceiling.

“Girls, you can stop now.” Harriet's voice was a bit timid. “Don’t you drop me. Let me down!” The girls looked at their hands realizing that nobody was still keeping the charm going and Harriet was levitating very much on her own now.

“Um, Harriet we’ll figure out how very soon” Lydia said timidly.

“What! This is not funny! Stop! Now! Let me down! I’m scared of heights! Let me down!” Just about then Harriet reached the ceiling and stopped. She was now levitating like a balloon and screaming extremely loudly. The noise soon attracted Lydia’s parents, who came running to see what was wrong and paling when they saw the girl that was bobbing by the ceiling. Mr. Clark tried to reach her and pull her down, but she was too high up now and he wasn’t reaching her by several feet. Mrs. Clark had gone very angry and was now shaking Lydia, trying to figure out what the girls had done and how to undo it. Nobody noticed Hermione, who had retreated into a corner and was standing there timidly, still feeling the power in her veins and wondering if this was somehow her doing. When Mr. Clark went to the garage to try to find a stepladder, Hermione had to fight back laughter and she felt the birthday party had turned out to be rather much more fun than she had expected. It was quite amusing to hear that Harriet was scared of heights, because Harriet was the kind of girl who pretended not to be scared of anything and just last week she and a few friends had held Hermione dangling over the railing in the stairway on the third floor at school while one of them stole her homework. Harriet really was the typical bully - she had once said that the only thing she feared was waking up one morning with Hermione’s hair - and Hermione was only too happy to see her squirm a bit.

Harriet remained close to the ceiling, and continued to scream, although nothing coherent came out of her mouth.  Suddenly there was a popping noise. If Hermione hadn’t felt the power surge in her veins she would have guessed that Harriet had hit an electric line or something. Her hair now looked like a tangle of curly wires, it didn’t even hang down any more, it was too bushy. Hermione was now certain that whatever was going on she had something to do with it. She was torn between trying to figure out a way to stop all this and thinking of more things Harriet would absolutely hate to happen to her when the doorbell rang.

Mr. Clark who had just brought in the stepladder looked at Mrs. Clark. The doubt was evident in their faces. What if this was Harriet’s mother coming to pick her up? How would they explain to a parent what their daughter was doing levitating by the ceiling? Then Mrs. Clark raced out of the room with a look of determination on her face, obviously intending to get rid of the intruder as fast as she could. Yet there were soon voices from the hallway and the sound of hurried footsteps and Mrs. Clark saying, “Really, mister, get out or I will call the police...” A very tall man wearing something that looked a bit like a grey cloak burst into the room. His hair was receding but what was left of it was vibrantly red and he had clear blue eyes which surveyed the scene in front of him; the chaos on the floor and the screaming girl by the ceiling. Finally they settled on Hermione and she thought she saw the corners of his mouth creep upwards, but it might have been a mistake because the next second the man had turned around and whipped out a... stick... and shouted; ‘Finite Incantatem’! Suddenly Harriet seemed weightless and then she started drifting very slowly towards the floor. The man was still pointing the stick at her, and suddenly Hermione realized that the man was actually guiding Harriet to a soft landing. When Harriet finally reached the carpet, she remained vertical, apparently in shock. The whole room was quiet when he turned around and looked at Hermione and this time he was definitely smiling.

“Good day, Miss Granger. If you would please follow me...”

The man ushered her out the door and then pointed his stick inside muttering to himself: ‘Obliviate’.

“They will feel a bit confused for a while now,” he said, still smiling. “Meanwhile, I want to talk to you. My name is Arthur Weasley, and I work for the British Ministry of Magic. I usually just work with Muggle artefacts, but the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad was a little short of staff at the moment so I offered to step in for a while...” he obviously noticed Hermione’s confusion. “Ah, you apparently have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Ministry of Magic before?” Hermione shook her head. Her mind was whirring. Magic? Ministry? She was torn between fascination and indignation – he just had to be crazy... “A Muggle-born then. When is your birthday, Miss Granger?”

“Only a couple of months away. I’m going to be eleven,” she answered shyly. She didn’t quite know what to make of Mr. Weasley, with his stick, and the strange things he was talking about.

“Ah, so you’ll be starting Hogwarts this year. My guess was right. You’re going to be in Ron’s year.” The man smiled like this was something quite pleasant while Hermione didn’t have the slightest idea of what he was talking about.

“What do you mean? Who’s Ron?”

“Ron is one of my sons. Maybe you’ll be friends. But one thing I can tell. You’re going to be very good with Levitating Charms, young lady. Well, Miss Granger, I must get going. It was a pleasure to meet you.” He shook her hand like she was a grown-up, and she was already planning to head to the nearest library to look up information on this ‘Ministry of Magic’  when he turned towards her and pointed his ridiculous stick at her and said something...

 

Hermione stood dumbfounded in the hall, and not quite sure what she was doing there. The last she’d remembered was sitting in Lydia’s bedroom watching some ridiculous game involving nonexistent magic that wouldn’t work. There were footsteps on the pavement outside, which suddenly quit, like someone had gotten into a car or something. Still, there wasn’t any sound of an engine. Suddenly a shrill scream emanated from Lydia’s bedroom. Hermione turned on her heels and ran down the hall, tearing open the door. The sight that greeted her was so surprising she stopped dead in her tracks. In the middle of the bedroom, Harriet was standing with hair that looked like a very badly done afro.

 

“So how was it?” Hermione's mother asked in the car.

“It wasn’t that bad, I guess."

Her mother beamed at her in the rear-view mirror. "See! I told you that it wouldn't be all that bad! Now, you ought to start thinking about what you want to do for your birthday!"

 

//
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