The Sugar Quill
Author: Alanna Granger (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Sweets, Snape, and Scouring Spells  Chapter: Default
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Hogwarts gleamed like a beacon beneath the starry sky, and Hermione Granger hurried up the steps into the warmth and light. She stood for a moment in the Great Hall, feeling the heat slowly penetrate her body, then removed her scarf and watched the ice crystals slowly melt into water and drip onto the floor. It was the coldest night she could remember. Hogwarts had experienced an unpleasant cold snap immediately following Christmas break, and the short, icy days and long, frigid evenings were beginning to run together in a frostbitten week. The giant squid was hibernating deep at the bottom of the frozen lake; Professor Sprout was sleeping in the greenhouse, so that she could cast Heating Charms on her precious plants; Filch was constantly patrolling the castle, attacking sleet with a vengeance; students were cautioned to be careful of frostbite when traveling out-of-doors.

So, of course, Harry had decided that it was a wonderful night to visit his godfather. Sirius had been doing some work for Dumbledore, which involved a great deal of traveling in Animagus form and sleeping outside without the comforts of lodgings, but when the cold snap hit, Dumbledore booked him a room at a Hogsmeade inn. He’d been staying there for about a week, but Harry hadn’t yet seen him.

The journey to Hogsmeade hadn’t been bad – the secret passage under the one-eyed witch was far enough underground to be insulated against the cold, and they slipped into Honeydukes with no problem. Sirius was using a simple Glamour charm when he ventured into the streets in human form, but he barely needed it – two years after leaving Azkaban, he was hardly recognizable as the hollow-eyed fugitive from the Daily Prophet. They’d ordered dinner and Butterbeer at the Hog’s Head, began talking, and stayed too long. By the time the three had risen from their chairs and said farewell to Sirius, Honeydukes was closed. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had walked from Hogsmeade to the castle.

It was lucky, Hermione thought, that they hadn’t been missed. On the other hand, it wasn’t exactly surprising. The weather was forcing everyone to stay inside, and the common room was crowded with students basking near the fire. When someone was missing, they were assumed to have fled to a quieter place to study.

"Come on, we’d better get rid of this wet stuff and get up to the common room," Harry said, wringing his soaked scarf. "I can’t believe we’ve been gone so long – with our luck, McGonagall will be looking for us right now." His feet made squelching noises as he walked from the Hall, leaving a trail of sleet in his wake.

Hermione and Ron followed quickly. They were halfway to the common room when the former stopped short. "Oh, no," she exclaimed. "I just remembered – Filch is probably after us already – there’s snow all over the Great hall. You two go on – I’ll just use a quick Scouring Charm, it’ll only take a minute." She rushed off, leaving the two boys staring at her. "If you two come with me, it’ll just make Filch mad at all three of us!"

She reached the Great Hall in record time, and was just casting a Drought Charm on the first puddle of muddy sleet when a grating meow made her turn sharply. Mrs. Norris was standing directly behind her.

If Hermione had ever seriously considered Avada Kedavra, it was then. She hadn’t as much as lost a point for Gryffindor all year – but Ron had already received a detention. And Filch would take one look at the mess and indict Ron and Harry along with her, and that could mean another detention for them, which could mean the loss of his Ron’s Prefect badge – the badge Ron was so proud of, that he’d worked so hard to win – and it would be all her fault.

But Hermione followed her better instincts, turned reluctantly away from illegal curses, and only gave Mrs. Norris a steely glare and muttered "Defricio!" to the next pile of slush.

"Ah. Miss Granger. How charming to see you."

Not Filch, but Snape. Hermione cursed herself.

"Doing a bit of cleaning? How magnanimous. I’m sure Mr. Filch would love to know that you’re delighted to help him. Or perhaps you were cleaning up after someone else – someone like Potter and Weasley. Just what were they doing to get so filthy?" He didn’t expect an answer, and Hermione didn’t give him one. "Sneaking out, perhaps? Endangering your lives by frostbite? Ten points off Gryffindor. Ten points apiece."

"No, professor, it was just me," Hermione said quickly. "I had to go out to the Astronomy tower – I thought I’d left my dragonhide gloves there – but they weren’t there, they were in the common room." She produced the offending articles from her cloak’s pockets, but Snape wasn’t convinced.

"Then a double detention, Granger. For – yes, I think that’s about right. Lying, showing contempt for Hogwarts rules, and besmirching the castle. To be served Saturday night."

* * *

Saturday night, Hermione was engrossed in hating sugar quills.

They were the double bane of every Hogwarts professor. It wasn’t a proven fact, but anyone who had ever taught knew: besides being temptingly sweet and ridiculously fragile, the quills promoted inattentiveness in class. They dripped onto papers; stuck pages of textbooks together; and left permanent sticky marks on desks!

She tried not to think of the fun that Ron and Harry must have been having in the common room as she scrubbed harder on a gluey spot. Snape was infamous for his horrible detentions, and this one was a classic. After Christmas, the students – especially the younger ones – had attacked their holiday sweets with a vengeance, mostly in class, and the desks were coated with a sugary substance that undoubtedly came from sugar quills.

Snape had, therefore, assigned her the hideous task of scrubbing every desk in Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration classroom until each was cleared of sugar. And scrubbing them by hand. No magic. Just to make sure, he’d confiscated her wand.

She hated sugar quills. Hermione spent a few moments pleasurably imagining a very painful death for whoever invented them. Being stabbed through the heart with his creation seemed about right.

Ron had always considered sugar quills the perfect gift for her. He’d given Hermione a whole box every Christmas since first year. This year, he’d snuck them into her bag, and reveled in her confusion when she found herself writing with spun sugar rather than eagle feathers. He and Harry once challenged each other to a quill-eating contest. They’d both been violently sick after dinner, but the look on Ron’s face when one of the sugary feathers tickled the back of his throat was priceless.

She hated sugar quills.

And she hated Valentine’s day, for that matter, Hermione thought, as she found a crumpled heart on the ground. It read, Will you go to the dance with me? Colin. The dance. It was coming up, as Parvati bemoaned daily, and no one showed any sign of asking her. "It’s just disgraceful," Lavender had said at lunch the week before. "Here we are, three charming girls, and there are boys absolutely withering without partners in this school – and we haven’t been asked!"

Unfortunately, Malfoy had been close enough to hear. "Well, no one’s going to invite Gopher Granger, are they? Except – maybe – a weasel?"

That was how Draco had received charming tufts of green fuzz on his ears, and how Ron had received his detention. But Hermione still didn’t have a partner.

She hated sugar quills. Maybe, just maybe, someone would have taken a hint and asked her to the dance tonight. She’d certainly made it blatant enough last year. But with the detention, her nice invitation was out of the question. Ron was probably sitting in the common room now, trying to pick the prettiest girl to be his partner.

"Hermione?" a voice asked.

Or maybe he wasn’t.

She jumped. "Ron! But – you’re not supposed to be in here, don’t use any magic or you’ll get a detention too. I told you what I went through to keep you and Harry out of this. Snape’s just dying to grab that prefect badge. Why aren’t you in the common room with Harry?"

"Common room life?" Ron asked urbanely. "It got old. What’s a Saturday night, after all, without Hermione nagging you to study?"

She threw him a glare. "Are you going to be useful, or are you going to demonstrate your wit?"

"I thought you didn’t want me to be useful."

Hermione attacked the eighth desk. "Where is Harry, anyway?"

"In the broom shed." Hermione raised an eyebrow. "De-icing his Firebolt. He said he was busy. Don’t look at me like that."

"I’ll look at you any way I want, Ron Weasley!" Hermione blushed. She hadn’t meant for her retort to sound like that. She managed to cover her embarrassment by scrubbing on a particularly stubborn stain.

She hated sugar quills.

When her face was pale enough to turn around, Ron was gone.

Some day, she would hunt for every sugar quill in the wizarding world. And very, very slowly, she would crumple them into fragments, until only miniscule grains of sugar were left.

Another spot. She could have sworn that desk was clean a moment ago. "I – hate – these – bloody – stupid things."

Hermione had never sworn aloud before, and hearing the word echo around the empty classroom gave her a curious sort of satisfaction.

"Miss Granger!" said a falsetto voice. "I am shocked and appalled at your language. Twenty points from Gryffindor!"

How did he do that? Ron was standing behind her again, doubled over in laughter.

And the ninth desk, miraculously, was clean. But there was a perfect, whole sugar quill lying on it. And when she looked at it incredulously, it flew into her hands.

"Um, Hermione?" Ron asked hesitantly, finishing the Banishing charm and tapping the tenth desk with his wand. "Well – what I was wondering was – I mean, I don’t have a partner yet, and we’re running out of time – and so I think so we may as well – that is to say – d’you want to go to the dance with me?" With a flourish of his wand, he finished the task.

Hermione suddenly realized that Snape was nowhere in sight. And her job was done. And she might never get her wand back.

She realized, just as suddenly, that she didn’t care.

It was amazing how much she loved sugar quills.

A/N: Happy birthday, Sugar Quill! I know I could have improved this plot bunny somewhat, but I didn’t want to risk it hopping away! Wishing you a very happy birthday and a wonderful year, with many, many more birthdays to come!

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