The Sugar Quill
Author: ivy & Gracie (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Very Harry Cliche  Chapter: Chapter 2: The Middle
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this film.

A/N: Our profoundest gratitude to Yolanda; a beta-reader who changed our lives. Well, o.k. she didn’t exactly change our lives, but she did give us a nice tutorial on commas. Also, to Rugi & Gwena, whose "Tough Guide to Harry Potter" we mined shamelessly for cliché gold, and hit the mother lode. Ara Kane reminded us of the food value of Hermione’s hair, and Asha dared to wonder aloud what color ‘titian’ really is. Cap’n Kathy appears courtesy of herself.

By seven o’clock Saturday evening, Hermione, Ginny and Mary Sue were cloistered in the girls’ dormitory. Harry and Ron had disappeared up the staircase to the boys’ room, Ron wondering aloud what in the world he was going to wear that night, and Harry muttering dark things under his breath that sounded like "Yule Ball" and "October."

Now, the new Third-Best Friends were searching the depths of Hermione’s wardrobe, while Mary Sue dusted Lavender and Parvati’s four-posters for fingerprints.

"The theme of the Yule Ball this year is ‘A Merry Muggle Christmas,’" Hermione said, as she sorted through the contents of her wardrobe. "So of course we’ll be wearing Muggle clothes."

"Theme?" Ginny wondered. "Why?"

"It’s a Cheesy Plot Device," explained Hermione "designed to get us to show as much skin as possible in the story. This will titillate readers, and draw them in."

Ginny looked uncertain. "Just how much skin do we have to show?"

"Here," Hermione tossed her a few articles of clothing. "Try these on."

She helped Ginny arrange the few scraps of fabric over herself, then propelled her in front of the mirror so they could survey the effect together. Ginny gasped and crossed her hands protectively in front of herself.

"Do Muggle girls dress like this?" She was wearing a red lace bustier that ended just above her navel, and a shiny, black plastic miniskirt with thigh-high black leather boots. Why Hermione suddenly had these clothes in her wardrobe was a mystery to both girls, but it probably had something to do with the fact that Hermione was Muggle-born.

Hermione sighed. "Sometimes. Here, we forgot one thing." She flicked her wand toward Ginny’s midriff.

"Ouch!" Ginny looked down. Her navel was pierced with a silver ring. "Ouch! Ouch!" Another ring appeared in her eyebrow, a diamond stud in the side of her nose.

"I hope you’re not going out in public like that, dear," the mirror said.

Hermione looked her over, and appeared to be satisfied. She herself wore a knee-length tunic of floaty, periwinkle-blue fabric. Ginny eyed her with suspicion.

"Aren’t those your dress robes from last year, only shorter?" she asked.

Hermione had the grace to blush. "Yes, well…" she mumbled.

"Oh no you don’t!" Ginny exclaimed. "If I have to dress like this, so do you!" She seized her own wand and gave it an irritable twitch. The blue robes shrink-wrapped themselves to Hermione’s figure, which in the last several hours had grown inexplicably ripe and luscious. The fabric hiked several inches up her leg and turned a glittery blue.

"Ginny!" she wailed. "Look what you’ve done! Now I’ll have to shave my legs above the knee!"

" Just be glad I didn’t give you any body jewelry," muttered Ginny. Then she leaned in closer. "Wait, turn around…Hermione, is that a tattoo?"

"Never you mind," snapped her friend. "Let’s just go meet the boys, shall we?"

***************************

At the sight of Hermione, descending the dormitory stairs, Harry sucked in his breath. Her sleek hair was a rich, chocolatey brown and she had it pulled into some sort of elegant twist. Under the soft, romantic lights of the Common Room, it reminded him exactly of a glazed, chocolate cruller. He was suddenly consumed with a burning desire to take a bite out of her coif. With an effort, he quelled this unseemly burst of passion and hoped no one noticed how his stomach was growling.

As for Ron, he gazed reverently at Mary Sue who was stunning in a black Versace cocktail dress and twenty-seven carats worth of real diamonds. And pumps. Mary Sue Drew was never without her pumps. Whatever they were. Her hair was the exact shade of…titian that Ron had always idealized. Although he wasn’t, himself, sure just what color titian was. It could have been taupe, or mauve, or possibly even plaid. No matter, she was beautiful. Ron wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how. So he simply drooled, instead.

"Hey!" squeaked a mousy voice. Colin Creevey stood before them with his camera, eyeing them all suspiciously. "How come you and Ron look so different, huh Harry? Huh? You’re lots bigger than you were this morning, and Hermione and Ginny-" he broke off, his eyes widening. "Ginny! What did you do to your hair? It makes me feel so…so…."

"Hungry?" Ginny supplied.

"Yeah, hungry. It almost makes me want to date you. If only I were big and handsome, and could be sure I wouldn’t turn out to be gay. Hey, what’s going on here? How come you all look so great anyway?"

Ron’s new-found sensitivity was pricked by the personal nature of this question. "You‘re crossing boundaries here, Colin," he warned. "I’m feeling very uncomfortable with the direction this conversation is taking." Then he added in a worried tone, "You don‘t feel threatened by that, do you?"

"You’re holding out on me!" Colin complained. "How come nobody ever tells me anything?"

"Hey! Hey! Let’s try to use some ’I’ statements here, shall we?" interrupted Ron. "It’s really more constructive to say, ’I feel that you’re holding out on me,’ and ’often I feel that people are not telling me some things.’ Otherwise, the tone gets accusatory, and your listeners might shut down, emotionally. And nobody benefits that way."

"Oh," said Colin. "I didn’t know that. Want me to take your picture?"

*****************************

The Great Hall was festive with life-sized, plastic Santas lit up from inside, and green wreaths on the walls made of plastic garbage bags knotted together. The same little, round tables they had used the year before were covered with red felt cloths trimmed in green bobbles, and loopy strings of pastel lights blinked disconsolately over it all. As each person passed through the door, a battery-activated reindeer was supposed to break out singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The trouble was, so many people were coming through the door at once, that the figure had stuck, and was burping out, "Rudolph the-Rudolph the-Rudolph the-" over and over and over again. In one corner, a pink, aluminum tree listed to one side, covered with random globs of clumped, silver "icicles."

The group halted, dumbfounded by this garish, yuletide spectacle. "What the--" began Ginny.

"‘A Merry Muggle Christmas,’" said Harry gloomily. "Makes me miss my Aunt Petunia. All the happy memories…" his eyes brimmed over with tears.

"They really know how to do it up right, don’t they?" Ginny’s voice dripped sarcasm.

"Now sis, let‘s try to find something positive in this," Ron broke in. "Come on, help me find a table."

Harry was the first one to the table. He was desperate to get some shepherd’s pie into his stomach, anything to quell this craving he felt to eat Hermione’s hair. Ginny tried to slide into the seat beside Harry’s, but Mary Sue was too quick for her. In one fluid movement, she grabbed a fistful of Ginny’s flowing, paprika tresses, and yanked her backward. Ginny stumbled and fell onto her back. The American girl stepped on Ginny’s chest and slipped into the seat by Harry, smiling around at them all. "Well, this is fun, isn’t it?" she said brightly.

Harry ignored her, pulling out a chair for Hermione. "Sit here, ‘mione. Have I told you your hair looks luscious tonight?"

"Shouldn’t someone help Ginny up first?" asked Hermione, concerned by the moaning coming from the floor.

"She’ll be all right," chorused Harry and Mary Sue. This, Hermione reflected grimly, was worse than a love triangle. This was getting to be more like a love dodecahedron.

"What’s all the eckeltronic equipment for?" Ron wanted to know, when Ginny had limped to the only empty chair left at the table, and their shepherd’s pie had appeared on the golden plates before them.

Harry and Hermione exchanged a resigned look.

"What?" Ron insisted.

"Karaoke," Hermione mumbled reluctantly.

"What’s karaoke?"

She sighed. "People can request songs, and the DJ will play the music while people…you know."

"No I don’t. What do they do?"

Hermione cringed. She tried to say it aloud, her lips working futilely, but she couldn’t make the words come out.

Harry put a protective hand on her arm. "What she’s trying to say, Ron," he lowered his voice to a whisper, "is that people--students--can get up and sing."

Ginny gasped, putting a hand to her mouth involuntarily. Hermione whimpered aloud, but Ron looked intrigued.

"You don’t say? Well, maybe I should try it." He sat back and waggled his eyebrows at Mary Sue, as though she might find this a treat too tempting to resist. She ignored him.

"Care to dance, Harry?" she murmured, as the strains of Elvis’s Blue Christmas floated over the dance floor.

Harry‘s face grew red, and he squirmed. "Erm…I actually--"

"Look!" Ron interrupted, "Isn’t that Professor Lupin?"

Harry craned his neck. "Where?"

Ron pointed. "Over there in the corner, mate. He’s standing alone, looking Pale and Interesting."

"Let’s go talk to him!" Harry jumped up, knocking his chair over in his haste to get away from the table.

"You three go ahead," Hermione suggested. I want a word with Mary Sue." She watched the others walk toward their Erstwhile Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher and Sometime Werewolf, then turned to the beautiful sleuth.

"All right, Mary Sue, I want to know what you’re doing here."

The American girl affected a look of supreme innocence. "I’m enjoying the Yule Ball, the same as you," she said coyly.

"Don’t mess with me, Mary Sue," Hermione warned. "I can be much more of a hard-buttocks than anyone realizes." (She almost said "hard-ass," but that would have brought the fan-fiction rating up to PG, and she wasn’t willing to take responsibility for that.) "I mean what are you doing at Hogwarts? This has nothing to do with the International Confederacy of FanFiction Writers, which for the purposes of brevity we will henceforth refer to as the ICFFW, does it? This whole weekend is just a setup to get you inside the school, isn’t it? I want to know what‘s going on."

"Whatever do you mean?" Mary Sue countered evasively.

"Cut the crap Mary Sue. You’re searching for something, and I want to know what it is!"

The young detective stood up. She hadn’t expected Hermione to catch on to her so quickly, but in her line of work she had learned it was best to be prepared for unexpected twists like this, which was why she always carried a flashlight and a small notebook in the glove compartment of the blue coupe convertible her father had given her for her eighteenth birthday, back in 1932.

Unfortunately, her convertible, along with the flashlight and notebook, was back in River Heights. Damn! What could she do? She thought of her Versace dress and her diamonds. Yes, she was infinitely better-dressed than Hermione, and the thought gave her courage.

"You’re on to me, ‘mione," she confessed. "You’re right, I’m undercover here at Hogwarts, on a case for my father. The ICFFW hired us to solve The Greatest FanFiction Mystery of All Time. My job is to get close to you and see if I can get you to spill the beans."

Hermione was puzzled. "But how can I help? I don’t even know what The Greatest FanFiction Mystery of All Time is."

"You’re supposed to be the cleverest witch at Hogwarts, Herms. Figure it out."

Hermione pondered this. "Is it…‘Who is Dumbledore and McGonagall’s secret love child?’"

Mary Sue waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Everyone knows the answer to that one. It’s Severus Snape."

"Snape?"

"Of course," said Mary Sue. "You didn’t think all those references to Dumbledore being ‘like a father to him’ were coincidental, did you?"

Hermione chose to ignore this. "Wait, don’t tell me," she said instead. "Let me try again. Is it…‘Are Remus and Sirius ‘just friends’?"

"I’m not going there," said Mary Sue."Better detectives than I have tried for years to solve that one, and failed at the job. One more try. Think really, really hard." Hermione thought really, really hard. Suddenly, comprehension dawned, and she began to back away from Mary Sue in horror. "You don’t mean--no! I can’t tell you!" she cried. "No FanFiction writer is supposed to know that. It’s highly classified information!"

"Yes!" cried the American sleuth. "Tell me! I’ve come halfway around the world to find out, Hermy. It is a secret that all of Fandom must be allowed to know!" She leaned in close and grasped Hermione by the shoulders. "Tell me!" she hissed, giving her a little shake. "What is the word that Cap’n Kathy hates?"

"No!" cried Hermione in desperation. "No! I won’t tell you!"

Mary Sue let go of her, but leaned so close to Hermione that the British girl could feel her breath when she spoke. "You listen to me, and listen good, Hermy. I am entitled to this information, perhaps more so than anyone else in the Wizarding world. If you won’t help me, I’ll find someone who will." She lowered her voice to a menacing level. "Maybe one of your precious House Elves?"

Hermione gasped. "You wouldn’t!"

"Oh wouldn’t I?"

Hermione studied the American for a moment. Her threat was decidedly un-Mary Sue-like. Was it possible this girl was a hoax?!?! Using an alias?!?! "What makes you think you’re entitled to know information that’s so highly classified?" She asked. She was stalling, and Mary Sue knew it.

"I’m entitled, because…because I’m the Heir of Ravenclaw!"

Hermione was stunned. She had read Hogwarts, A History forty-two times so far, and she’d found nothing about any of the Founders having Heirs. Well, except for Salazar Slytherin, and everyone knew his Heir was Tom Riddle. And of course, Harry was probably going to turn out to be the Heir of Godric Gryffindor. But the others? "You‘re the Heir of Ravenclaw?" she said, "Really? Who‘s the Heir of Hufflepuff then?"

"That‘s not important," exclaimed Mary Sue. "But if you don’t believe it, you can ask my cousin, J.K. Rowling. She’ll vouch for me!"

"J.K. Rowling is your cousin?" said Hermione, skeptically. "I thought the Queen Mum was your cousin."

"I have a big family. So, are you going to help me or not?"

Hermione considered this for a moment, before she stood and answered. "No, I’m not going to help you, Mary Sue. You might as well go back to River Heights now; because this is one mystery you’ll never solve." And she flounced off to join her friends and Lupin, as well as any girl can flounce in a piece of thigh-high, glittery blue Saran Wrap.

*************************

Remus Lupin greeted Hermione with a grave handshake. "How are you doing, Hermione?" he asked.

"Fine, sir, and yourself?" Hermione noticed his hair was grayer since the last time she had seen him. His hair was always grayer after the full moon. It grayed and grayed, but never turned completely gray. It was like he had an endless, secret cache of brown that kept magically replenishing itself. It was beyond the laws of physics. She wondered, briefly, if he had implants.

"Oh," Lupin sighed, "I’m the same as always. You know, an unlovable monster who’s ultimately unworthy of human affection. And who is this?" Mary Sue had approached the group.

She held out a slim, graceful hand. "The name’s Drew. Mary Sue Drew."

Lupin took the proffered hand and kissed it gallantly. "Are you the OC I’m supposed to fall in love with?" he asked.

"That’s possible," Mary Sue purred. "Why don’t you come into the garden with me, and after you answer a few salient questions-" here, she looked pointedly at Hermione-"then we can snog."

Remus considered this. He had been planning to sit alone, here in the cold corner, and brood about the deaths of his Best Friends, Lily and James. How the future without them stretched before him, dark and dismal and empty. How he wished he could have died in their places. How much Harry reminded him of James, only with Lily’s eyes…Now this lovely girl-woman, with the titian hair and Versace dress was beguiling him into the shadows. He was willing to bet his life she was also good at tennis.

He consoled himself with the thought that it looked like rain, and that always lent itself well to brooding. How much better to brood in the garden, with a beautiful girl, where it was possible he might get wet. It was no more than he deserved.

"All right," he conceded. "But the authors hate the word ’snog.’ If it’s all right with you, I’d rather ‘kiss you in a passionate, yet respectful manner.’" And he allowed himself to be led away by this vision in twenty-seven carats.

************************

After Lupin and Mary Sue had left, Harry turned to Hermione. In the glow of candlelight, her eyes were a liquid caramel color, her skin the hue of ripe apricots. Harry groaned inwardly and tried to silence his stomach with small talk.

"So…" he began, "this is fanfiction, is it?"

"Mmmm" Hermione was unable to form a reply, because just then, Professor Snape waltzed by them, in the arms of a woman more beautiful than moonlight. The Potions Master was lean and sensual tonight in bottle-green robes, and Hermione was amazed that she had never before noticed his strong, animal attraction, or his rakish good looks. For a moment she felt a strong desire to bear his child. Regretfully, she decided that there probably wouldn’t be time for that this weekend. "Yes Harry, this is fanfiction," she murmured.

Blaise Zabini waltzed by, alone. "Is Blaise a girl or a boy, Harry?" Hermione asked him.

Harry shook his head. "Nobody knows for sure," he said.

Hermione scanned the room. "Where did Ginny get off to, I wonder?"

Harry shrugged. "I saw her head out toward the gardens with Draco Malfoy. Wonder what she sees in him?"

Hermione nodded sagely. "That’s right. It’s just about time for Draco to force himself on Ginny. It’ll be the naval ring that drives him beyond control."

Harry looked startled. "Force himself? You mean..."

"Yes, Harry, Draco is probably Almost-Raping her behind a rosebush somewhere, even as we speak."

Harry was astonished at her complacency. "What?! ‘Mione, we have to DO something!"

 

Hermione waved off his concern. "Oh no, Harry - this happens in all the best fanfictions. Ginny will put up a tremendous fight, but eventually she’ll be swept away by his strength and passion, coupled with his truly tender concern for her afterward. Don’t worry - they’ll be fine. It was meant to be."

Harry regarded her dubiously for a moment, but then became distracted by the thought that the tiny sprinkling of freckles on her nose looked exactly like cinnamon sprinkled over the top of a pie. He salivated, and only just reached for a napkin in time.

Just then, the music stopped and the DJ began to speak in low, mellifluous tones.

"And here with us tonight to start off our karaoke section of the Yule Ball is my good friend Ron Weasley. Ron confessed to me earlier that he’s always cherished a secret dream of becoming a lounge singer. Tonight, he’ll be treating us to a medley of Barbra Streisand tunes. Folks, put your hands together, and let’s hear it for Ron!"

The Great Hall was eerily silent as the opening chords played. Harry and Hermione gaped at the stage in horror. Ron stood alone, in a green spotlight, clutching the stand mike in both hands as he swayed and hummed, his eyes closed. Then he began to sing.

"People.....People who need.... people

Are the luckiest people in the world…."

Although his voice was surprisingly rich and fruity, sultry and beguiling, rivaling that of any professional Hermione had ever heard, she nevertheless turned to Harry in pure panic. "You’ve got to do something!" she hissed. "He’s making a fool of himself!"

"Actually," said Harry, swaying to the music himself, "I didn’t know he was such a good singer."

The music changed key.

"You don’t bring me flowers

You don’t sing me love songs"

The crowd in the Great Hall erupted, clapping and cheering, throwing roses onto the stage.

"I remember when

You couldn’t wait to love me

Used to hate to leave me…"

Harry clearly wasn’t going to be any help at all. Hermione threaded her way quickly to the stage, and reached it at the same time as Ginny. Now Ron was belting out:

"Mem’ry, all alone in the moonlight

I can smile at the old days

I was beautiful then

If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is

Let the mem’ry....live again."

Ginny reached up and grabbed one of Ron’s ankles. Following her lead, Hermione grabbed the other, and both of them yanked. An astonished Ron crashed to the stage floor and the girls dragged him off. At once, he was mobbed by screaming girls waving lipstick-stained hankies at him. He sat up, a dazed smile on his face.

"I’m good! Look, they’re encoring me; lemmee go back just for one number!"

"Oh no you don’t," chorused Hermione and Ginny. And, hooking their arms under his armpits, they dragged him from the room, as he shouted,

 

"I’ll be here all week! Thank you ladies, thank you!"

And on that happy note, the Yule Ball was over. At least for another year.

A/N: Did you find the clever Pride & Prejudice quote?

//
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