The Sugar Quill
Author: Ciircee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: With Quill in Trembling Hand  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: All my bases are belong to JKR.  I quoted (and intentionally misquoted) some dialogue from her wonderful 'Prisoner of Azkaban' and I'm not even going to pretend that it's mine. I don't think she'll sue me for this; all she'd get is fifteen cents and my in-laws.

Dedication: To Sugar Quill--Happy Birthday!  Of all the websites out there, I'm so glad that this is the one I found.  Happy Birthday and many, many happy returns.

Notes: Thank you to Chelle-sama, my esteemed twin, for a fast and nasty beta. 

Drama: A literary composition that tells a story, usually of human conflict, by means of dialogue and action. 

Dramatic: Filled with action, emotion or exciting qualities; vivid, striking. 
Maybe it's not full of 'conflict' but I think/hope that this comes close enough to being considered a 'drama'.    Why is this important...well, somebody wondered how you could write a drama about sugar quills and I took it as a dare.  ^.~

***

"Pass the bacon, Neville."  I hand Dean a platter, but I'm not sure if it's the bacon.  It probably is since I handed the tomatoes to Colin just a minute ago; at the moment I don't care if it's the right one or not.  The mail is going to be here soon and I don't intend to take my eyes off of the ceiling.  When the Howler comes I have to get it out of the school before it explodes and there's no way I'll let the Slytherins hear it if I don't have too.  Gran's barn owl should be swooping in anytime now clutching one of those horrible, embarrassing red envelopes.  That's the worst part about waiting; the fact that I know it's coming.  How many times has Gran told me that I'm not to upset Mum and Dad?  And what did I do just two days ago?

I think it would surprise everybody to know that I write to my Mum and Dad.  They don't write back, of course.  They don't remember me writing to them.  I think that everybody but the Professors think that they're dead and it'd probably surprise the Professors to know that Mum and Dad have good days.  Actually, most of their days are good.  Mum spends her time working on her manuscripts for Witches Weekly and Dad spends his time with his Auror equipment and scrying for Dark Wizards.  They shop in the stores and they eat out in restaurants when they don't feel like cooking.  They have lives just like everybody else.  It's just that they think it's four or five years before the end of You-Know-Who's reign instead of twelve years after it.  Well, and nobody else really has three or four nurses watching them all the time in case a good day suddenly turns into a bad day.  And most people don't live in St. Mungo's.  And most people would recognize their kids if they saw them.  Well, they don't know who I am to them but they do know that I'm Neville and I come to see them when Gran does, beyond that they can't remember me.  It took years of visits and writing for them to remember my name.  We don't tell them who I am because the few times we tried it turned into a bad day pretty quickly and then they were unresponsive for almost a month. 

"Hello, Frank.  How are you today, Alice?"  I can't call them Mum and Dad.  It upsets them terribly. 

Mum usually smiles really big when she sees me.  She wants to have a baby.  "Look, dear.  It's that Neville again.  He must be visiting Mother."  And then she hugs Gran.  "It's so nice of you to bring guests by, Murna!"

"Hmph."  Dad always checks me out with his Foe Glass and his AltruismMeter before he'll say hello.  "So, Neville, you're not listening to that foolish propaganda that's been going around, have you?  It's no great crusade for You-Know-Who, it's a personal matter for him and nothing else.  All those idiots prancing around in hoods, mark me, they'll be paying for their blind faith." 

"Now, Frank!  Don't badger him!  He's nice enough to keep your mother company on her visit.  Why, his own parents must miss him terribly when he's away at Hogwarts, and he's taking time out of his vacation to visit Murna and us."  Mum scolds him, but she's always smiling when she does it.  Sometimes she makes cookies with me, because she doesn't think young kids should have to be exposed to all the 'You-Know-Who' business.

I really like my parents.  It's why I don't mind so much that they don't remember me; knowing who I am hurts them.  It brings them bad days.  The bad days are the days they relive what happened to them the night that the Death Eater's came.  When that happens Mum and Dad are placed under restraining spells and tranquility spells until those memories pass.  It doesn't mean that they don't relive it, it just means that they can't hurt anybody trying to save themselves.  I've never seen them when things are bad; I'm not allowed in because Gran thinks it'll affect me.  I don't tell her that I sort of remember what happened that night.  I was almost two and...well, there are Dementors outside the school.  They bring it back.  And now I've brought the bad days back to Mum and Dad. 

I'm only supposed to write cheerful things, things about my friends and my classes and all the good things that happen at Hogwarts.  Sometimes it's hard to find enough good things in a week to fill a letter, especially if I'm writing after Potions; I don't mind.  It helps me to remember all the good things that happened.  But this last week there wasn't anything good at all.  And so I wrote to Mum and Dad about all the bad things.  I told them how I'm not allowed into Hogsmeade anymore because an escaped madman nearly murdered us all in our beds and it was my fault for being forgetful.  I wrote about how I'm not allowed to have the password to Gryffindor Tower anymore and I have to wait until somebody lets me in, with those trolls leering at me the whole time and the Fat Lady glaring.  I wrote about all the Slytherins teasing me and most of the Houses are shunning me, except my own and that's because they've got to let me in and live with me.  I told them what Gran said in her Howler; I've brought shame to the whole family.  And it was just by being me.

So I know that a Howler is coming and I know just what it'll say.

"Neville, how dare you bring back those memories for your parents?  Don't you realize that they still feel everything that happened to them?  If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times not to upset them!  The nurses at the hospital will be busy for weeks with all those security measures they have to follow when something happens in that section!"  It's a good thing that Howlers don't come with pictures or with people actually inside them.  I don't mind the Howler so much, I guess, but I don't want to give the Snakes two tables over anything else to be mean about and I don't want everybody else to feel sorry for me.  I'm so intent on watching for Juno that I don't even see the sleek, grey hawk owl that's sitting by my plate until it pecks my hand.

"Ow!  Oh, hullo Airmed."  I scratch behind her ears, still watching the ceiling for Juno when it hits me.  Airmed is the owl that the nurses at St. Mungo's use and I recognize Head-Nurse's Fianna's writing.  She and the other nurses often write to me to tell me that my parents got my letter.  It's usually something like 'Dear Neville, your parents read your letter this morning and were quite pleased with your news.  Of course, unfortunately, they have no memory of it now.  But we thought you should know that they were happy for you.'  This doesn't look like that.  That type of letter isn't usually six sheets of paper long.  This is a note from each of the nurses who take care of Mum and Dad.  Even Cormac wrote, and he doesn't even say that much when I see him.  I flip back to the first page and see the words 'Dear Neville, your parents have read your letter and, due to rather unforeseen circumstances, we have as well...'  I read all six pages and the last one twice.  I can't believe it.  I barely notice that Arimed's been eating my toast until I pick it up and get only a handful of feather and indignant owl.

"Neville?"  Seamus pokes me, hard.  "Neville, let go of the bird before it gets you in the eye!" 

My hand is bleeding because of owl scratches.  Great.  "You should see Madam Pomfrey."  Ginny Weasley is looking at my hand in concern.  "Why'd you grab your owl?  Neville?  Are you okay?" 

What can I say?  "I'm fine.  I'm going up to the Common Room.  I need to get something."  I'm shaking and I don't think I ate any breakfast.  Behind me I can hear Seamus and Dean talking about Quidditch.  Things are normal in the Great Hall, they're normal for everybody; but not for me.  In the Dorm I grab all the money I've had saved since Christmas and run for the doors. 

"Where are you off to, Neville?"  Parvati stops me as I'm about to head out for the carriages.  "You're not allowed into Hogsmeade after you nearly killed us all in our sleep."   Lavender shrugs at me from behind her and climbs into one of the carriages in front of the castle.  I'm left with Parvati, and she's glaring at me.

"Look, Parvati," I'm not even going to try explaining again how I didn't try to kill anybody, "I need something from Honeydukes.  I want a box of sugar quills.  The big box, the one with all the different flavors, alright?"  I hand her my money bag, or try too. 

She steps away from me as though I've got some horribly contagious disease.  "No.  McGonagall told you that you weren't allowed into Hogsmeade as a punishment and I'm not going to interfere with her plans.  You deserve to be punished and I'm not getting you anything.  Nor will anybody else.  You'd have a better time getting Snape to run your errand."  She flounces out the door without looking back.  For a moment I just watch her.  She's right, really.  It's been too close to the day Black broke in and there hasn't been even a hint of him.  We're all worried that he'll be back.  And it's my fault. 

But even as I think of it, something in my head shoves forward the picture of Professor Boggart-Snape in my Gran's dress and hat. "Riddikulus, Parvati."  I mutter.  Lavender told me, after Parvati refused to let me into the Common Room,  that Parvati isn't trying to be cruel to me; she's just scared and she was really embarrassed about running around in the middle of the night in her nightdress and facial mask.  I remember how she looked, actually; and it was a lot like that banshee that Seamus faced in Defense Against the Dark Arts, only with butterflies in her hair.  I smile, just a bit.  "Riddikulus.".  I turn around to have a look, somebody else has got to be willing to do me a small favor.  Most of the Gryffindors are already gone, but Terry Boot is on  his way out the door too. "Terry!"  I wave him over; we have Runes together.  "Can you do us a favor?"  I hold up the moneybag and hope. 

He looks around and winces.  "Sorry, mate.  Not today."  He nods quickly behind me and leaves.  I can almost feel McGonagall behind me and when I turn she really is there and she's frowning hard at me.

"Mr. Longbottom?"  It's not the same furious, icy-cold voice from last week but it's almost as bad.  "I presume you'll be going back to your Common Room to ponder the reason why you are not allowed into Hogsmeade?"

I don't even bother to try to explain what I want.  I just nod.  "Yes, Professor."  I pass Ron as I round the staircase, but I don't stop him.  He and Hermione are spitting mad with each other yet.  If I ask him to get me the sugar quills, and he does it, then Hermione will be angry with both of us.  I don't want to make her mad; she's been helping me all year even though she has a full schedule of her own.  She's always helped me and I don't want her to think I don't appreciate it.  Speak of the devil, I see Hermione coming down the stairs on her way into town, too.  But I won't ask her help because it would enrage Ron.  He still thinks the rest of us should avoid Hermione because of her cat.  I can't have him angry with me; I have to live with him in our Dorm and Black nearly stabbed him thanks to my list of passwords.  I wave to her as she leaves, though, since she was my last chance to get my hands on those quills.  Or maybe...

"Percy!"  He's just shutting the Fat Lady.  "Percy, here!"  I shove my money into his hands.  "I need a box of sugar quills from Honeydukes.  The big, mutli-flavor box.  Please!"

He tries to hand back the money saying, "Neville, you know McGonagall won't be happy about it and my position makes it imperative that I uphold the letter and the spirit of the law."  I shove it back into his hands.

"Please!  It's important!  It really is."  He juggles the bag for a moment, studying me closely.  "They're not for me, I swear it.  I know you're Head Boy, I know that you really shouldn't but you're the only one left to ask!" 

He shakes his head, eyes shuttered  "I'm sorry, Neville.  I can't get them for you.  I've got to go, I'm meeting somebody." He walks off and I slump against the wall, ignoring the trolls.  I'm alone.  There's nobody left to ask.  Not that I could ask anybody to buy me sugar quills now, Percy has all my money.  Oh, well.  He's a Weasley.  He'll give it back to me when he comes back from town.  I can't get back into the blasted Common Room either, now that I think on it.  I should have asked Percy to let me in before he left. 

I think about wandering the halls until I see Harry hurrying up the stairs.  I wonder why Harry's here until I remember that he doesn't have his permission form.  Well, that's something!  I'm not entirely alone.  "Harry!"  I follow him down the third floor corridor.  He's standing by some weird statue when I round the corner.  "Harry!  I forgot you weren't going to Hogsmeade either!"

"Hi, Neville.  What are you up to?"  He walks a bit toward me, smiling a little bit.  I guess he's not so happy at being left behind either, especially since he hasn't been in town at all.

"Nothing." I shrug.  "Want a game of Exploding Snap?"  It's one game I'm very good at.  But Harry's shaking his head, he's got that vampire essay to work on.  "I'll come with you!"  Anything is better than doing homework alone.  "I haven't done it either!"

"Hang on, I forgot.  I finished it last night."  Harry says suddenly.   Even better, really, because I don't understand much about vampires.  Next to our Potions Master they're one of the things I'm most frightened of.  I hope Harry has good information about the garlic, which is a real mystery to me, I mean, how do they check that information out?  I'm just asking if vampires have to eat it or see it when Snape walks up.  I get behind Harry.  If he can stop You-Know-Who he can probably take on Snape too.

"And what are you two doing here?"  Snape doesn't walk, he glides--like a big, scary bat.  He's talking but I can't hear a word he's saying.  I try to picture the boggart version of him, but it's fuzzy and it's not working.  I almost faint when I hear the words 'Gryffindor Tower' and it's all I can do not to run back.  Harry gives me the password and heads off to grab his essay from the library while I set myself up at a table away from the first and second years.  But Harry doesn't come back.  I spend over two hours working by myself, still not understanding the garlic thing, before Harry and Ron come bursting into the Common Room.  They're talking about Snape; apparently Snape caught onto Harry again.  I don't need to hear anymore.  If I got Snape after me twice in one day I'd forget about homework too.  I gather my things and head up the stairs to our dorm.  I don't want Harry to see me and feel bad about not coming back. 

It's maybe an hour later, and I'm finally starting to get the point of the garlic--it's the smell--when I hear a knock on the door, which is odd; nobody ever bothers to knock unless...It's Percy.

"You're to go see the Ravenclaw prefect at once."  He folds his arms, standing just inside the door.

Oh, what have I done now?  "Do...do you know what about?"  I sigh as I close my books.  Percy tucks his tongue into his cheek and shakes his head, slowly.

"Haven't a clue, really."  That's just great.  Better and better my day gets, doesn't it?

"Alright then.  About the favor I asked you earlier...I left my moneybag with you..." I hold out one hand and wait.

"See Penelope Clearwater first."  He shakes his head again.  Oh, sure.  Great.  He really is as pompous as Ron always says.  Nobody notices as I pass through the common room and I'll have to remember to thank Harry for giving me the password, because if nobody knows I'm gone then nobody is going to come out to let me back in.  Grey Lady is waiting in the hall to lead me.  We end up in the library, where Madame Pince glares at me and smiles at her.

Grey Lady leans through the walls of one of the study rooms.  "Penelope?  There's a boy here to see you."  I hear her say.  This is followed by giggles and lots of 'ooo, Penny's.  Girls.  I roll my eyes.

"That's right 'ooo'.  Percy's walking me up to dinner."  I hear a voice laugh.  The door opens and a girl with long, curly hair steps out.  "Hi, Neville."  She says quietly, smiling.  She begins to make her way out of the library and I follow her.  Once in the corridor she looks around and then pulls a package out of her school bag.  It's from Honeydukes and she hands it to me with a wink.

"What?"  It's the sugar quills I asked for, but how?  "How?" 

She gets a really dreamy smile on her face as we walk to the entrance hall.  "Percy couldn't be seen giving these to you or buying them. So he asked me to do it."

He did?  "I...I don't know what to say."  I stutter out.  "Thank you.  Thanks so much."  I'm clutching the package and grinning.  "Would you...could you tell him..."

"I'll let him know." She smiles.  "Now go, I can't really be seen with you either."  She waves a bit.  "And if you're giving them to a girl...just make sure she isn't already taken.  I'd hate to have Percy take house points just because Ronald hit you."  She grins and then turns to face the marble stairs that Percy is just beginning to descend.  That dreamy smile from earlier is plastered all over her face again.  Girls are weird.  I wave to Percy, who ignores me, and make my way to the owlery.  I wrap the sugar quills in some of the heavy-duty brown wrap that's stored with the rest of the mail supplies and send them and a hastily scrawled note on their way.  Then I pull out the letter I've been carrying all day.

Dear Neville,

Your parents have read your letter and, due to rather unforeseen circumstances, we have as well.  It's not often that your letters to your parents evoke anything other then smiles and laughter.  This last letter had them in tears.  Once we, the staff, read your letter it became quite apparent why.  As usual, your parents cannot recall your letter.  We, however, recall it all too clearly and that is why we've all taken time to write to you.

There were words of support and stories of similar problems remembering the password, tales of getting lost inside the castle, and horror stories from classes as wide-spread as Divination, Flying, and Arithmancy.  All the nurses had a story to tell about feeling friendless, or stupid, or clumsy, or useless.  And they had the same thing to say 'it'll get better' and 'it's not your fault' except for Cormac who only wrote 'who cares what those Slytherins think?  The less they like you, the better.'  I smile, looking at the rainbow of ink and encouragement.  But the last page is definitely my favorite.

Neville,

I'm sure that your Grandmother never told you what I'm about to tell you and I would appreciate it very much if you didn't share with her that fact that I am telling you this.  I was Head-Nurse in the newly formed Cruciatus Ward the night that your family arrived here at St. Mungo's.  Not your parents, your family.  You see, Neville, for a short while you were also a patient here.

You've mentioned in your letter what you feel and remember when you pass the Dementors stationed outside of Hogwarts, so I know that you are aware of the fact that you were home with your parents the night they were attacked.  You do not, of course, remember being attacked yourself.  This is because you were not attacked by Death Eaters that night.  Your mother and father, wandless and under torture, reached out to save you.  They attempted to hide you under some sort of  fidelity charm, though we still don't know for certain which charm it was.  We suspect it was a Fidelius Charm and, had they been successful, no one but the holder of the secret (which would have been one of your parents) would have been able to find you.  They were able to keep you hidden from the men and women responsible for their condition, however they were not able to keep you safe from their own spell.  Because their minds were damaged so badly, and because you were shielded by their minds, you were affected as well. 

You were kept in a private room for several weeks while your Grandmother and other relatives helped our doctors to determine the extent of your injuries.  Fortunately you escaped serious mental impairment; the only lasting affect of the charm was on your short-term memory.  What happened with the passwords is not your fault and you are in no way responsible for the actions of Sirius Black. 

I have watched over your parents for twelve years, Neville, and I have seen you grow from a small boy who could barely remember what he'd done ten minutes beforehand into a young man, who is a fairly good student at most subjects and a budding herbology expert, whose sole problem seems to be remembering passwords.   You are not in Gryffindor without reason and neither were your parents.  After all the distance you've come, all the obstacles you faced, they would be as proud of you as we are.

It's not the first time somebody has told me that they're proud of me.  But this time it means the most.  It's the first time somebody has told me that my Mum and Dad would be proud of me.  And knowing what happened to me...well, it doesn't seem to matter as much as knowing the other things.  I lean far out the Owlery window, watching the twilight fall, and grin.  I know that they'll understand how much it means to me.  Even if the only words on the paper were 'I'm sending you a new supply of quills, to replace the ones you used up writing to me.'  And tomorrow I'm going to ask Professor McGonagall to let me have the passwords again.  I'm Neville Longbottom, and I'm not in Gryffindor for nothing.

 

 

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