The Sugar Quill
Author: Penny_in_the_sky  Story: Science  Chapter: Default
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Science

Science

                                                                                                                                                                                      

by Penny-in-the-sky

 

Disclaimer: The characters belong to J K Rowling. The song quote is from Coldplay’s "The Scientist". So basically, there isn’t much in this story that’s all mine…

Author’s Note: Many thanks to Moey for beta-reading, and to Isaac Newton for getting all curious and contemplative when that apple fell on his head.

 

*****

...I was just guessing

At numbers and figures

Pulling the puzzles apart

Questions of science

Science and progress

Do not speak as loud as my heart...

*****

 

"I should’ve known I’d find you here."

 

A shadow was cast over Hermione’s book.

 

"Ron, you’re blocking the light," she said, without looking up.

 

The shadow disappeared and sunlight once again hit the pages of the open book lying in her lap. She heard him sit down next to her on the bench, sighing deeply.

 

"I don’t believe you," he said. "We have no more than a week left of our summer holidays, and you’re out here reading a bloody book. By own free will."

 

She snorted. Really, what had he expected? It was a mystery to her how he could still get so upset whenever he found her reading in her free time. Would he never get used to it? But she played along. As she always did.

 

"Honestly, Ron, would it be better if I spent the last few days of summer the way you do? Which is, just to clarify, doing nothing."

 

"Well honestly, Hermione," he said in a tone mocking hers, "Doing nothing happens to be a tragically underrated pastime. It’s never really gotten the recognition it deserves."

 

"From you it has."

 

"Certainly. A fact in which I take pride. I firmly believe that there is nobody in the world better than me at doing absolutely nothing."

 

"Sadly, you’re probably right."

 

His response to this was an incoherent grunt, followed by a silence in which she could almost hear him lean his head back indolently, allowing the sunlight to fall on his face.

 

They were seated on the wooden bench at the very back of the Burrow’s garden. It was here that Hermione liked to come whenever she felt like having some quality reading time, or just a few hours to herself. Because no matter how much she loved the bustling life in the Weasley house, the constant noise and activity could drive her just about insane sometimes, and then it was good to know there was a place where she could have some peace and quiet, and where she could actually hear her own thoughts. She’d come here many times during her various visits at the Burrow, and the others knew that when she went here, she wanted to be alone, and they would leave her to herself for as long as she needed.

 

Well, everyone except Ron. This summer he’d insisted on tracking her down whenever she came here and attempting to engage her in all sorts of discussions. Most of the times she’d been able to make him go away with a highly efficient wall of silence, but sometimes he’d stayed where he was, sitting wordlessly next to her while she read and then accompanying her back to the house. Despite his obvious animosity towards her having any alone time, she found she couldn’t get mad at him for this. In fact, she rather enjoyed having him sit there next to her, not saying anything, just silently keeping her company and every now and then dropping a casual comment about how nice the weather was, or pointing out a gnome hiding in the bushes. It didn’t feel strange having him there. It actually felt rather natural. And, to a certain degree, safe. The world was different nowadays, and safety was something she rarely felt anymore. But with Ron, she felt it. And it was most definitely a nice feeling.

 

"So, what are you reading now that’s so captivating?"

 

Hermione sighed at this interruption in her reading and held up the book, allowing him to see the cover.

 

"Newton’s Principia," he read, and then frowned at her. "Newton? Isn’t he the bloke who wrote our "Fantastic Beasts"-book?"

 

Hermione couldn’t help but smile. "No, Ron, that was Newt Scamander. Not Newton."

 

Ron shrugged. "Newton, Newt, whatever. Wizard authors are all the same to me."

 

"Wizard authors? Newton was no wizard author, Ron."

 

"No?"

 

"Not at all. He was a Muggle. A physicist."

 

"A what?"

 

"A physicist. Someone who studies physics."

 

Ron’s face was completely blank, and it was only then that Hermione remembered how Muggle sciences were hardly something commonly spoken of in the wizarding world.

 

"Never mind," she said. "You wouldn’t have heard of him."

 

They went silent, and Hermione returned to reading her book. Her mother had given it to her a year ago, on her fifteenth birthday, but she hadn’t started reading it ’til this morning.

It was a truly fascinating read. Hermione knew a bit about Newton and his theories from listening to her parents scientific discussions at the dinner table, and her bookcase back home did include the odd science book given to her by various relatives aware of her thirst for knowledge, but she’d never before sat down to read a book focusing solely on physics. It was, in many ways, an eye-opener.

 

Going to Hogwarts was something she knew she’d never, ever regret, no matter what happened. It had given her so much in terms of knowledge as well as experiences, and most importantly, friends. But no matter how much of a full-fledged witch she would be after her seven years at the school, there was no escaping the fact that she’d grown up in a Muggle home, and lived for a long time in the Muggle world. For years now she’d been taking in completely contradictory information from two directions at the same time, and sometimes she found it a bit hard to know what to believe. For Ron, it was easy. He scoffed at Muggles who walked around, blindly believing everything they saw and not for a moment stopping to think if it was possible that there were some other forces at work in the world. In his mind, witches and wizards had it all figured out and their truths were universal truths.

 

But for Hermione, it was a bit more complicated. During the five years she’d been a student at Hogwarts, she’d seen and learned so much, and it was clear that the wizarding world held a lot of knowledge that Muggles couldn’t even begin to comprehend. But then she would listen to her parents have fiery discussions about elemental forces and scientific theories and great, Muggle minds who had made enormous imprints on the world, and she would think that there was such a great deal of knowledge there as well, knowledge that witches and wizards didn’t even bother to try and access, as they immediately took them for lies. And she would try to look at it all through the eyes of somebody who’d never seen professor McGonnagall turn a chair into a basket of fruit; never watched a fellow student move a sofa with a flick of his wand; and it would be easy to understand how Muggles could "blindly believe" everything they were taught. It all made pretty good sense, so why wouldn’t they believe it?

 

"Wait a minute," Ron suddenly said. Hermione turned to look at him, questioning. His eyes were narrowed and his lips pursed, as if he’d just realised something. Slowly, he turned to look at her.

 

"I know that guy," he said.

 

Hermione frowned. "Who?"

 

"That Newt bloke. I know him."

 

"Newton," Hermione corrected. "And I hardly think you can know him, seeing as he was active more than three-hundred years ago."

 

Ron gave her a don’t-be-such-a-smart-mouth-look. "I don’t mean know him know him, like, personally. But I know about him. Isn’t he the one who saw an apple fall and made up a bunch of stupid laws of gravy or something?"

 

"Gravity, Ron, not gravy," Hermione said. "And they’re not stupid," she added, once again picturing her parents at the dinner table, passionately talking about Newton’s ideas and theories.

 

Ron grunted. "Sure they are."

 

"Says who? You?"

 

"Yeah, me! And just about every single witch and wizard on this planet."

 

"You’re so small-minded, Ron. Just because you think it’s stupid, you automatically assume everyone else does too." She was getting rather worked up.

 

"Are you saying you actually believe all that?"

 

She shrugged. "Not all of it. He has, after all, been dead for over three hundred years. But I believe it’s important to keep an open mind about things."

 

Ron looked incredulous. "How can you say that?"

 

"Say what?"

 

"Hermione, you’re a witch!"

 

"And…?"

 

"After all you’ve learned about magic and how it’s performed, how can you still believe anything Muggles consider to be the truth?"

 

"I just don’t think that one belief has to rule out the other," Hermione said. "Why do you think it’s so outrageous of me to show an interest in Muggle science? My parents studied it for years in school, and I would as well if I hadn’t been called to Hogwarts."

 

"Well, you were called to Hogwarts. And you know stuff that your parents can’t even begin to understand."

 

"Yes, well they know a lot of things that we can’t even begin to understand!" Hermione said in a high-pitched voice. "And I don’t like how you make them out to be less intelligent than you or me just because they don’t have the ability to perform magic!"

 

"Hermione, I didn’t mean…"

 

"Yes you did! You believe that anybody who isn’t a witch or wizard is for some reason a lesser human being! A poor, misguided fool whom it’s alright to look down on and whose beliefs couldn’t possibly have any foundation in reality!"

 

Ron looked truly ashamed. "I didn’t mean it like that," he said. "It came out wrong, I’m sorry."

 

"How was it supposed to come out, then?" Hermione snapped, not willing to forgive him right away.

 

He shrugged. "I don’t know. I just…" He turned to face her. "Look. All I mean is that it’s a bit hard for me to accept anything that Muggles take for facts, seeing as I, well…" He seemed to be struggling to find the right words, probably fearful she’d blow up at him again. "All my life, I’ve been told that magic has an answer to everything. And I do believe it has. So I can’t really, you know… accept any other explanation to things."

 

Hermione found herself softening at his words. He was really trying not to upset her any more than he already had. "I understand that, Ron, I really do," she said. "But for Muggles, it’s just the same. Only for them, it’s science that holds an answer to everything."

 

At this, Ron looked sceptical. "To everything?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Do you believe it does?"

 

She shrugged. "I don’t know. Maybe. I do think it has just as many answers to things as magic does. And I believe that their respective explanations to how everything works not only can, but should be studied parallel to each other, because I think that not only could scientists learn a lot from magicians, but magicians could also learn a lot from scientists."

 

Ron neither consented nor disagreed. Instead he fell silent and turned his gaze to a gnome shuffling about in the shrubbery, leading Hermione to believe that the conversation was over. But she had no more than opened her book and found the right page when he spoke again.

 

"So, what about You-Know-Who?"

 

The question came so completely out of the blue that Hermione wasn’t sure how to respond. What did he mean? It sounded a lot like a light-hearted conversation-starter of a question, something like "So what to make of that Voldemort fellow, eh?", but considering Ron’s intense, present-since-birth fear of the man, she didn’t think that was what he meant.

 

"What about him?" she finally said, though not feeling any less puzzled.

 

Ron turned to look at her. "What would your science say about him?" he asked. "How would it explain… all that?"

 

Despite the warm, afternoon sun shining down on them, she shivered, knowing what he meant with "all that".

 

"I don’t know. I guess they don’t really have an explanation for him, seeing as he’s, well… not a Muggle."

 

"Yeah, but there must be bad things happening in the Muggle world as well, aren’t there?"

 

"Of course there are."

 

"And what does science say about them?"

 

Hermione was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable. "I don’t know. Not much. Scientists don’t really study people and their actions."

 

"Well then, who does?"

 

"Psychologists do."

 

"But scientists must have an explanation to why there’s evil in the world. Don’t they?"

 

Hermione shifted in her seat, bothered. "How would I know?"

 

"But you said, just a few minutes ago, that science had the answer to everything."

 

Now she found herself getting annoyed with him again. "Well, maybe it doesn’t!" she spat. "Who cares? It’s not as if magic has any explanation to evil either!"

 

"Sure it does," he said, looking infuriatingly self-assured.

 

"Oh really? Your beloved magic has an explanation to why Voldemort, completely unprovoked, tortures and kills people?"

 

Ron raised his index finger at her. "Firstly, you know I hate hearing his name spoken out loud. Secondly, it’s your beloved magic as well. And thirdly--", here, he lowered his hand and leaned back against the back-rest of the bench, "--yes, it does have an explanation."

 

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Which is…?"

 

Ron shrugged. "He’s evil."

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "He’s evil?" she echoed. "That’s your brilliant explanation?"

 

"Yep."

 

"But that’s no explanation! That’s just… an obvious fact!"

 

"Yeah. As well as an explanation to why he does all the things he does."

 

Hermione shook her head, incredulous. "You’ve hardly proven anything with that, Ron."

 

"Sure I have. Magic has an answer to everything, while science doesn’t."

 

Oh, she could’ve hit him! "If you consider that a legitimate answer to the question why an evil person performs evil deeds, then… then… then I can assure you that any scientist could’ve come up with an answer a million times better than yours!"

 

"Whatever you say," Ron said and looked away; a small, infuriating smile playing on his lips.

 

"Don’t look so smug! I state again: you’ve hardly proven anything. Especially not that magic has an answer to everything."

 

"It does."

 

Hermione snorted. "You’re so convinced you’re right, yet you can’t seem to come up with any decent arguments."

 

"Just give me a minute, and they’ll come to me." He squinted up at the sun, then turned to look at her again. "Okay. Let’s try again. What would your precious science say about this?"

 

"About what?"

 

"This. You and me. Talking."

 

Something fluttered in her stomach when he said "you and me", as if they actually were a "you and me". A "Ron and Hermione". A pair. A couple. But she quickly gathered herself.

 

"What do you mean ’What would it say about it’?"

 

"I mean what I said."

 

"Well, I…" She still didn’t understand his question.

 

"Make a scientific report of this situation for me. Make me understand."

 

She narrowed her eyes at him, then took a deep breath, wordlessly accepting his challenge. "Okay. A scientific report. Well, first of all, it would probably describe us as two humans, sitting on a bench in a garden, sharing thoughts and opinions in a, more or less, civil manner. Then, maybe a physical description of us would follow, where it states what species we are, and which other species are in our nearest surroundings."

 

"Only it wouldn’t include the gnomes," Ron interrupted. "Because gnomes aren’t featured in your, you know… scientific books."

 

Hermione shot him an annoyed look, before continuing. "Right. Where was I? Okay. Following that, it would probably state under which conditions we’re having the debate."

 

"Meaning…?"

 

"Meaning what the weather’s like, what the temperature and air pressure is, and so on."

 

"Right."

 

"And finally, there would probably be a drawing of us on the bench, showing the different forces acting upon us."

 

"Such as…?"

 

"Gravity. And the normal force."

 

"What, if I may ask, is the normal force?"

 

"In this case, the bench."

 

"And is there an abnormal force as well?"

 

"Ron!" she exclaimed, frustrated. "Why do you ask me to give you a scientific report of the situation if you’re just going to make fun of it?"

 

"Alright, alright, I’m sorry," he said, raising his hands as if to ward off any possible, physical attack. "No need to get all worked up." He sat back and peeled off a flake of paint from the armrest of the bench, then carefully crumbled the flake to dust between his fingertips. "I just think it sounds a bit sad."

 

She snorted. "I take it you mean sad, as in pathetic. Well, let me…"

 

"No!" he interrupted. "Not pathetic. Just… sad. Tragic."

 

"What’s so tragic about it?"

 

He shrugged. "Dunno. Just… the way you said it, I guess. The way you described it. As if we’re just two creatures sitting on a bench, and being – what was it you said? – acted upon by a bunch of forces. As if there’s no purpose to it."

 

Hermione frowned. Had it really sounded that bad? When she thought about what she’d said, she realised that it did sound rather tragic. But that was science. No pretty words or glamorous phrases, just cold, hard facts. It was supposed to be like that.

 

Ron looked away, his fingers still working on freeing the armrest from flaky paint. "I guess I just hope there’s more to it. That there’s, I don’t know… a reason. I guess that’s what I want to believe. Or need to believe. And with magic, there’s always a reason. Even if it’s bad, or short, or obvious, there’s still always an explanation."

 

Hermione studied him, moved by his words. Was this really Ron, sitting here? Saying how he needed to believe there was a reason to everything? Actually sharing his feelings with her? She concluded that, yes, it was indeed Ron, sharing something with her, and she found herself suddenly overcome by a feeling of such infinite fondness that she had to close her eyes and take a deep breath to stop her mind from spinning.

 

"So, what would magic say, then?" she asked quietly, her eyes still closed, not aware of the fact that she’d spoken until the words were out.

 

"Sorry?"

 

She opened her eyes and looked at him. "What explanation would it give?"

 

"To what?" he asked, but she could tell he knew.

 

"To this. You and me." She was about to add "talking", just as he had said, but then decided against it, seeing as this was more than just a regular conversation now. They both knew that.

 

"An explanation?" he asked. "You want magic’s explanation to this?"

 

She nodded, waiting, and watched him take a deep breath and close his eyes. It seemed to her almost as if he was mentally preparing himself for something. She furrowed her brow, somewhat perplexed. But just as she was about to ask him if he hadn’t come up with a good explanation yet, he turned to face her, and the unfamiliar, quite puzzling look in his eyes efficiently prevented the question from leaving her lips.

 

Ever so slowly, he lifted a slightly shaking hand, and Hermione watched, wide-eyed, as it came closer to her face. Would he really…?

 

It appeared he would. His fingertips touched her cheek, lightly, lightly, and the sensation was so utterly overwhelming that she found herself squeezing her eyes shut in a desperate attempt to keep her self-control from abandoning her. But it was proved to be in vain, as he tore any hopes she had of regaining her composure to shreds, by placing his whole hand on her cheek. It was wonderfully warm and somewhat rough against her skin.

 

Hermione wanted desperately to know what this was, what he was doing, but found she couldn’t possibly open her eyes, so she kept them shut, wondering how they could ever keep on being just friends after this, and it was at that moment that he kissed her.

 

It was a soft, impossibly gentle kiss, but it made Hermione’s head roar and her ears ring. Her eyes were still shut, but she could feel how close Ron was to her now; she felt his warmth against her whole body. The hand on her cheek moved behind her head as the kiss grew slightly deeper, and stopped at the back of her neck, as if he wanted to pull her even closer to him.

 

But then, just as she had started getting used to it all; sitting at an insignificant distance from Ron, with his hand on her neck and his lips on hers; he stopped. She found herself panicking as the hand on her neck drew away and the moments ago, so evident warmth in front of her disappeared. Had she done something wrong? Was she such a horrible kisser that he didn’t even think it was worth the effort?

 

Opening her eyes, she found he was sitting several, painful inches away from her again, his head turned away. She felt a lump forming in her throat. He hadn’t liked it. She had been an awful kisser. Now he was probably regretting having given it a try, and wondering how he would survive the awkwardness that was bound to lie between them in the future.

 

But the lump in her throat didn’t have time to travel up to her eyes in the shape of tears, because at that moment, he turned to look at her again, and she saw that his cheeks were just as flushed as she could feel her own were. In his eyes was something adorably bashful, and he gave her a small, almost apologetic smile before speaking.

 

"It’s just magic. You know?"

 

And Hermione knew. She understood completely. What he meant when he said magic had the answer to everything, why he needed to feel like there was a purpose; she understood exactly what he meant and how he felt. But it was impossible for her to say this, to put it in words, so instead she just gave him a shaky smile and nodded. Hopefully he understood. That she understood.

 

And she felt he must’ve, because his cheeks flushed even redder and he hastily got to his feet, suddenly very awkward.

 

"Right," he said, looking everywhere but at her. "I should probably, uh… go see if Mum needs help with anything. Dinner, or… something."

 

Hermione nodded again. "Let me know if she wants my help as well," she said weakly.

 

Ron shook his head. "I think it’s alright. You can stay here and, you know, go on reading, and someone will come get you when dinner’s ready."

 

Without giving her any time to object, he walked off with long strides, his hands in his pockets and his eyes fixed intently on the ground. Hermione looked down at the book, which was still on her lap. Picking it up, she studied its cover for a while, before placing it next to her on the bench. She drew up her knees and rested her chin on them, closing her eyes and breathing in deeply. Her heart hadn’t quite recovered yet; it was still hammering like crazy inside her chest. And her cheeks still felt hot.

 

She wouldn’t be doing any more reading today, that was one thing that was certain.

 

 

~The End~

//
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