The Sugar Quill
Author: Katinka (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Chance and the Alphabet  Chapter: Chapter 2 -- "The Communicative Teenage Male"
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Chapter 2 – The Communicative Teenage Male

Chapter 2 – The Communicative Teenage Male

 

**

 

 

“You certain, mate?”  Owen Decker asked, after taking a loud, gurgling swig of pumpkin juice.  “I mean, there are plenty of better girls to set your sights on.”

 

Will furrowed his brow.  A fortnight had passed since the nightdress incident, leaving him to wonder again if he should have told his friends about his newly discovered interest in Abby Loomis.  They’d left the subject alone for a few days, but here they were at dinner, going on about it yet again.  What had he been thinking?  Lads weren’t supposed to be all talky and expressive like this.  The rubbish that Aunt Marlene had listened to all summer on the WWN’s “Witching Hour” must have got to him.  Next thing he knew, he’d probably be regaling them with weepy tales about Flippy, the pet Crup that had died when he was six.  The thought made his head hurt. 

 

“What do you mean, ‘better’?” he replied, spearing a sausage grouchily.  “There’s nothing wrong with her.”   From now on, Will decided, he was going to limit all conversations to safe topics, like Quidditch and dessert.

 

Owen set down his goblet and gave a look that was meant to be knowing and sophisticated.  It failed to be either, however, due to the rim of orange that graced his upper lip.    

 

“Abby’s nice,” he said, “but c’mon… You may not have noticed, but some of these other ladies are coming along quite nicely, if you know what I mean.”  He punctuated the comment with another attempt at a cosmopolitan air.

 

“A brick wall would know what you mean, Decker,” Davey Gudgeon retorted from Will’s right.  Will looked over and grinned, grateful for the backing.  At least Davey had a Knut’s worth of sense to him.

 

“Take Judy Applegate, for example,” Owen went on, unruffled.  “Now there’s a girl.  I’m telling you, it’s those Ravenclaws you really ought to be after.  You just think they’re quiet and bookish.”

 

Will simply rolled his eyes and took another bite of sausage, but Owen’s presumption seemed too much for Davey, who set his fork down with enough force to send a few Brussels sprouts flying off the table. 

 

“You re-pot one Shivering Shummelflub with her in Herbology, and suddenly you’re wise to the ways of the Ravenclaw female?” he asked, eyes narrowed behind his wire-rimmed glasses.  “Whatever, man.”

 

Owen flashed a cheeky grin.  “Well, the Shrimmelflub got out of its pot, right?  So she had to jump all over the greenhouse, trying to catch it…” He supplied the account with a few hand motions, obvious enough to cause Will to reach across the table and smack the back of his close-cropped sandy head. 

 

Ignoring the miffed expression he received in return, Will peeked at the staff table in worry.  He was in no way keen to explain that conversation to a teacher!  Once he was certain that Owen’s unmistakable gestures had gone unnoticed, he looked over his shoulder to scan the Ravenclaw table for the blonde and shapely Miss Applegate.

 

Owen had a point, he decided once his eyes found her.  Judy was nice to look at, but she hadn’t given him a moment’s notice when he weighed a measly nine stone.  No, thanks – she wasn’t Abby… 

 

Will had just begun to imagine Abby in her nightdress, cheering him on as he secured the Quidditch World Cup for England, when he realized that not only was he still looking in Judy’s direction, but that she was returning a coy gaze of her own from behind the black pudding.  When her fingers fluttered in a gentle wave, Will barely managed a wan smile before he spun back around and took a sudden interest in his mashed potatoes.  Davey, who’d been following the path of Will’s eyes, gave a snort. 

 

“What did you do this summer, Lowby?” he laughed in friendly disbelief.

 

“I told you, worked on a farm,” Will replied, shooting Davey a dirty look as he molded a potato Quaffle on his plate.  “Maybe you should give it a try.”

 

“Farm work?” Owen piped in through a mouthful of peas, grimacing,  “You couldn’t pay me to do that.”

 

“Well, I got paid – I’ve told you that already – and that’s how I made enough to go and train with the Falcons.  It wasn’t that bad.”

 

“Yeah, but up at daybreak, tilling the fields?  No thanks.  And the Falcons are dirty cheaters, by the way.”

 

“You’re just sore because the Cannons only win when the other team doesn’t show up,” Will said.  “And my uncle only keeps a few acres – he writes books for a living, you know.  Most of the harvest he gives away to some neighbouring Muggle families.” 

 

“That’s good of him,” Davey said absently, his gaze still on Judy.

 

“Yeah, and he gave me and Patrick decent wages, too.  Even smoothed things over for us when the Improper Use of Magic Office showed up.”

 

Really?”  Looks of curiosity and admiration mingled on Owen’s face.  “The Improper Use of Magic Office?  What’d you do, use your wand for something?”

 

“Well, have you ever tried to muck out a stable without one?” Will asked meaningfully, shoveling half of his Quaffle sculpture into his mouth.  “It’s not pretty, and that’s all I’m going to say over dinner.”

 

Davey finally tore his eyes away from the Ravenclaw table and let out a sigh.  “Pity you didn’t get thrown out of Hogwarts for it.” 

 

Will flicked a carrot at him.  “Pity you’re still four inches shorter than Judy Applegate.”  Another carrot went soaring.  “But maybe she won’t mind stooping to talk to you.”  He ducked as Davey propelled a spoonful of peas toward him.

 

“So why’d they let you off?” Owen interrupted, before the return barrage escalated into full-fledged food warfare. 

 

After giving Davey a cautionary glare, Will put down his potato laden fork long enough to answer.

 

“So my uncle writes these books, right?  The witch who showed up just happened to have a daughter who’s a fan, so he gave her an autographed set, and she left us with just a verbal warning.”

 

“Can they do that?”  Owen questioned.

 

“Well, you know the Ministry.  My dad says that kind of stuff goes on all the time there.”

 

“What books does he write, then?” Davey inquired.  “I don’t know that you’ve ever told us.”

 

“Oh, nothing important.”  He ducked his head and pretended as if he’d given a satisfactory answer.

 

“Then why won’t you tell us?”

 

“It’s not interesting, really.”   

 

“You know, I think I’ll just stroll down the table and have a chat with Abby Loomis…”

 

Davey had started to rise from the table, but Will, panicking, pulled him down with a sharp yank on his arm.  After casting his eyes about to see if his Ravenclaw cousin was within earshot, he leaned in with a low growl.

 

“Okay!  Just don’t tell Patrick I told you, all right?  He hates for people to know about it.”  He lowered his voice even further.  “His dad writes that ‘Drew Hardy, Teenage Sleuth’ drivel.  I think he only does it for the money.  Seriously – you tell Patrick, and I’ll hex your knees off.”

 

Will waited fretfully for his friends’ responses – he wouldn’t have told them, but he’d pitch himself off the North Tower before he’d let either of those two prats tell Abby that he fancied her.  They probably would tease Patrick now, and him, too – everyone at Hogwarts knew about Drew Hardy, a teenaged git with cobalt blue eyes and perfectly coiffed hair, who solved wizarding mysteries through a combination of wandless magic, innate charm, and fluency in Gobbledegook, Parseltongue, and Mandarin Chinese. Now his head really hurt.  But rather than laugh, Owen and Davey looked moderately impressed.

 

“Blimey, Will!”  Owen exclaimed.  “My sister has that entire series!  Must be two dozen of them – takes up half the bookshelf.”

 

“Yeah, and my mum’s in the Drew Hardy fan club,” Davey added with a wry grimace.

 

“Your mum?”  Will couldn’t resist a snicker.

 

“Don’t ask.”

 

“Yeah,” Owen added, “and Priya used to doodle pictures of him all the time in class, remember?  I think Abby even had one of them taped to the inside of her Divination textbook.”

 

Abby?  Will felt his spirits deflate.  Abby couldn’t like that rubbish!  She was brilliant, and pretty, and she surely cared about important things, like Falmouth’s standing in the league, and their bid to acquire Declan Lynch from the Wigtown Wanderers.  He stared down the Hufflepuff table, where Abby was just visible beyond Chrissy Bonham’s cloud of fair hair.  Her head was tilted to the side in an appealing sort of way, and she was listening intently to whatever Priya Sharma was saying.  Abby just had to be above that Drew Hardy dreck.

 

“How do girls ever get so worked up over a fictional bloke?” he groaned.

 

Davey shrugged.  “My mum says it’s easier than you’d think.”

 

“Must be.”  Glumly, Will finished off the last of his pumpkin juice, then allowed his eyes to wander back to Abby, where they stayed until Davey spoke again.

 

“So, Will.  Abby.  What’re you going to do about her?”

 

“Dunno.”

 

“You’re going to talk to her though, right?”

 

“Yeah, how about I walk down there and chat her up right now!  That’d be smooth,” Will grumbled.  This was becoming a bloody confusing mess.

 

Owen leaned in on one elbow and wagged a finger at him.  “Here’s what you do,” he said rather smarmily.  “You know how Abby’s always doing something with needles?  Embroidery and stuff?  So, you cut a button off your cloak – haphazardly, so it looks like it was ripped off – and ask Abby to sew it back on for you.”

 

“Decker, that’s actually a good idea,” Davey seemed startled to say.  “Where’d you come up with that?”

 

“Sew it back on?” Will cut in.  “Won’t she think that’s rather…insulting?  Like she’s supposed to be my mum or something?”

 

“No, because – will you let me finish? – she’ll probably ask you for something in return.   That’s what she did last year when she mended my good robes.  I ripped a seam getting off of a hippogriff in Care of Magical Creatures, and I knew Mum would give me an earful if she ever knew about it.  Abby did a smashing job, but she made me give her a dozen chocolate frogs for it.  Mum never found out, though.”

 

A look of amusement passed between Will and Davey.  “Falling off a hippogriff” would have been a better word choice, but that wasn’t Will’s only reason for smiling.  Abby had just risen to a whole new level in his estimation. 

 

“Er, Owen…” Will said, “you do know that the house elves will do your mending for free, don’t you?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“The house elves,” he elaborated.  “You take your things to the little room down by the laundry, and they’ll mend them right there.”

 

“They will?”

 

“Aye,” Davey nodded.

 

Owen fell silent for a moment.  “Well, maybe Abby didn’t know that,” he said at last.

 

“Everybody knows that.”

 

“Well, I didn’t!” he cried, now clearly affronted.  “That means she – ”

 

“It means she bilked you out of a dozen chocolate frogs, Decker,” Davey crowed, looking quite happy.

 

“That put me out two weeks’ pocket money!”

 

Will looked down at his plate and smiled.  He could forgive her Drew Hardy for this.  Now, if he were only to find out that she knew a Porskoff Ploy from a Wolloongong shimmy, then life would really be perfect.

 

“So, are you going to give Decker’s idea a try?”

 

Will shook his head.  Admiring her and actually talking to her were two different things.  “No, no way.  She’ll think I’m a right plonker.”

 

“She probably already does, so what could it hurt?” Owen muttered under his breath.

 

“You know,” Davey said, tapping a finger on his chin, “I might just have a go at Abby myself.  She is looking rather nice these days – thanks for pointing that out, Lowby – and she’s also in my study group for the O.W.L.s.  Think of all the quiet hours we’ll be spending together, head-to-head, poring over books, writing essays…I really think she’d prefer my company any day to that of some thick sportsman.”

 

Will scowled, and shoved away the elbow Davey was jabbing in his side.  It wasn’t his fault that the regular study group coincided with Quidditch practice.  Fortunately, he had means to foil any of Davey’s plots, real or imagined.

 

“Yeah, you do that,” he said, “and I’ll tell Judy Applegate about the photograph of you in a pinafore that your mum showed me.”

 

Davey’s jaw dropped.  “I was two!”

 

“Well, you seemed to be having a lot of fun…”

 

“My sisters dressed me up!” he hissed, his face now a mottled shade of violet.

 

“You were dancing, if I recall – twirling and spinning to your little heart’s content.  Come to think of it, you weren’t much taller than you are now…”

 

“You wouldn’t!”

 

Sensing triumph, Will poked a finger into Davey’s chest.  “Then I’ll have you remember that she’s mine, thank you.”

 

Without bothering to sort out how Abby could be “his” when he’d barely spoken to her this year, Will gazed down the table and mulled over the one thing he hadn’t given Owen and Davey the satisfaction of knowing.  Abby either had an odd preoccupation with Binns’ clock, or maybe, just maybe, she’d been trying to look at him.  Which meant that maybe, just maybe, she fancied him too.  He fervently hoped it wasn’t because she had trouble telling time.

 

Abby really was fabulous, Will thought as he watched her eat.  The way she held her fork, the way she sipped her pumpkin juice, the way…Cor!  His musings were cut short by Abby’s misplaced elbow, which had just launched a plateful of shepherd’s pie onto her lap.  A gasp rippled out from where she sat, followed by uneasy silence.  Heads turned from all directions.  Abby sat motionless for a moment, stunned, before her shoulders began to shake.  Will looked away, feeling uncomfortable.  Bugger, she was going to cry.

 

But when she pulled her hands off her face, she wasn’t crying, but laughing – a gasping, hiccoughing sort of laugh that kept her bent over, scattering bits of vegetable and potato across the floor.  She regained control only long enough to throw a roll at Priya, who had almost teetered off the bench in helpless giggles.  The crowd, relieved, went back to its dinner, and the tension dissipated as the usual chatter started up again.  Will let out the breath he’d been holding.

 

“So, it’s Abby Loomis for you, is it?” Owen asked slowly, his eyebrows raised.

 

Will nodded and grinned.  He’d never been more certain.

 

 

~*~

 

 

A/N – I neglected to mention after the last chapter that Professor Tetley is from Alkari’s "A Most Unusual Student" universe.  She also gave me the idea of Abby falling off the Sorting stool. 

 

I also forgot to say that Abby had an appearance of sorts in a fic that has me checking every day for updates, alchemilla’s great “The Test of Time”. 

 

The Shivering Shummelflub is borrowed from Ara Kane’s delightful “Sounds Like a Breakfast Cereal”.  Go Huffs!

 

Chocolate frogs and sherbet lemons go to the members of the SQ Workshop and British beta extraordinaire soupytwist for their insights, as well as to all of the lovely people who reviewed the first chapter.  J

 

//
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