The Sugar Quill
Author: Elsha (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Discoveries  Chapter: Meeting (1)
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Discoveries

A/N:This is somewhat later than I expected to get this up, due to real-life concerns. Hope you all enjoy. This first chapter is quite short, but that's due to natural ending points - the whole story is slightly longer than Distractions.

Also, due to the new info on Theo (glad as I am to have it!) it has become clear that he was not at home with his mother over the summer, as his mother is dead. I will shortly be uploading revised versions of Distractions and Discussions to account for this, but for now, please accept that over the summer he was staying with his Aunt Karena, who was mentioned in Discussions.

Discoveries

Chapter One - Meeting

Anne had almost forgotten her younger sister’s intention to find the music rooms. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, the first of the new school year, and she was sitting in a stuffy, windowless room She thought wistfully about sitting at the side of the lake, but mostly she wondered about Theodore Nott's whereabouts. She’d been looking forward to seeing him again – far more than she would admit – and to discover that he wasn’t here…it was disappointing. To put it mildly.

He’s probably just late. That’s all. We’ve both been late hundreds of times – lots of times anyway – when we’ve met in here, and it doesn’t mean anything. I am not nervous about seeing him again. I’m not.

With a brisk motion she snapped open the clasps of her flute case. She was here to play music, after all. She could warm up with some scales, and stop worrying about Theo not being here. She pushed the flute together with unnecessary force. What was there to worry about? Two and a half months wasn’t that long, and they’d exchanged enough letters. Nothing would have changed. Taking a deep breath, she began to play.

She’d run through half a dozen scales before she felt a hand tap her on the shoulder.

"Anne?"

Startled, she spun around, nearly knocking over a nearby music stand. Theo was standing not two feet away, looking just the same as ever. His dark hair was still an inch or two longer than it seemed it should be, he was still nearly a foot taller than her, and his grin was still oddly shy, like he never used it much. Anne reached forward to hug him in greeting before she knew what she was doing.

"Theo, it’s great to see you again!"

To her surprise, Theo hugged her back enthusiastically, and did not seem to mind the unusual display of affection.

"Good to see you too, little Hufflepuff," he said warmly. She gave him a warning look for the nickname but he just grinned. "As long as you call me Theo…"

Anne shrugged, clutching her flute to herself and feeling suddenly shy. "Fair turnaround, huh?"

"Hufflepuffs understand the meaning of fair, don’t they?"

" Do Slytherins?"

"We try." Theo pushed his hair back, and Anne realised just how used she was to seeing him do that. "I’d ask how your first week was, but I have a fairly good idea."

Anne groaned. "Every single teacher has to start their class with a lecture on how hard this year is going to be! Are they trying to scare us?"

Theo seated himself on the room’s only table. Anne couldn’t remember him ever using a chair.

"Oh, they’re trying, but the reality is worse, believe me."

She leaned back against the piano. "Hey, you’re still alive."

Theo indicated with his finger and thumb how narrow the margin was. "It was this close for most of us. Except for people like Anthony Goldstein and Hermione Granger."

Anne held up a hand in mock terror. "Don’t, I’m scared already!"

Theo chuckled. "I am glad to talk to you again."

"I missed it, over the summer." Anne gestured around the room. "This. Us. Talking."

"Letters aren’t the same, are they?" Theo said. "Harder to understand…but more dangerous, too."

"Far more," Anne said wryly, and realised half the reason she was so nervous. "You can say anything you want to, and then when you meet again, you remember what you said…"

"You do indeed," Theo replied, and there was a silence. Both of them looked away.

"I’ll burn your letters if you burn mine," Anne joked, trying to break the silence.

"I couldn’t possibly get rid of blackmail material, now could I?" he shot back.

"What did I say that was blackmailable?" Anne asked with raised eyebrows.

Theo shrugged. "Nothing in particular, you were just fraternising with the enemy."

"Now that’s a double-edged sword."

"True." He looked down, and Anne remembered what was going on in the outside world.

"Are you glad to be back at school?" she asked quietly.

"Aren’t I just." Theo looked up at her again, and the old hurt was there. "If I never see my cousins again, it'll be too soon. Brats. I know Dad’s alright, but he wasn’t there. And knowing what he was doing – is doing --" he broke off. "I hate this war. I thought I could ignore it, but you can’t."

"You can’t, no." Anne thought of the Dark Mark floating just a few doors down from her own home, and empty rooms. She had a sudden wish to hug Theo again, for comfort, but that was going too far. And why is it going too far, if Theo’s just another friend?

When was he ever that?

"I saw your sister got Sorted into Gryffindor," Theo said. Anne was grateful for the change of topic.

"Yes, she’ll be better off there. I would have liked it better if she’d been in Hufflepuff with me, but -"

"You can’t always have that," Theo filled in. "Look at the Patil twins, in my year – identical, but they’re in different Houses. Most families are; there are only a few who all end up in the same House."

"True. My friend Mai’s sister was Sorted into Ravenclaw, and her older brother was in Gryffindor. Terry’s too impetuous to make a good Hufflepuff, anyway."

"Does she play any instruments?"

"The cello, but she couldn’t bring it here. She was really hacked off."

Theo laughed. "I know the feeling. I spent my first three weeks searching Hogwarts for a piano. I’d complained every day about practising at home, but as soon as I couldn’t…"

"I know what you mean." Their eyes met in a wry smile. Anne looked away first, at her music folder, on the table. Music. That was a good idea. She coughed.

"Um, so, I copied some music from the local library during the holidays -"

The door banged open, and Theo’s head jerked around. Terry stood in the doorway, wincing.

"Oops," said Terry with a guilty expression, "didn’t think it’d crash like that."

Theo looked nothing short of panicked. Anne felt a sudden rush of apprehension. Gryffindor and Slytherin. A scared Slytherin. Plenty of ways this could play out, and none of them good.

 

Theo froze, staring at the young girl in the doorway. There would be absolutely no getting out of this, with he and Anne clearly involved in a perfectly amicable conversation. This girl would certainly spread the gossip – and the repercussions…his loyalty to his House would be more than called into question. And his family. Questions would be asked that he could not answer – not and maintain any semblance of -

"Hey, Anne, there you are, took me ages to find you," the girl addressed his friend cheerfully. She wasn’t even surprised! "Your friend – oh, what’s her name, Mai – said you’d be in one of these rooms, I spotted her in the Great Hall at lunch. It’s nearly impossible to find. I got lost three times." She was tiny, even for a first-year, with straw-coloured hair the exact shade of Anne’s in a cut just above her ears. Anne's hair. That was it - this must be her sister. It didn't make Theo any more relaxed.

Anne had straightened in surprise when the door had crashed open. "What the – oh, Terry, I, uh, wasn’t expecting you to turn up. Shut the door, will you?" Theo could see her eyeing her sister warily.

"Sure," replied the girl, suiting action to command. Her gaze switched to a wary Theo. "Oh, hi. I’m Terry, Theresa, I’m Anne’s sister. Who’re you?"

Theo shifted on the stool. His first instinct was to say something, anything, to get her to leave, but with Anne there it might not be such a good idea. He said it anyway.

"What are you doing here?"

Terry was surprisingly unaffected by either tone or words. "Looking for Anne. It’s usually polite to tell people who you are, you know."

The best thing now would be to tell her that he didn’t have to say anything to a Muggle-born, let alone politely. He had a terrible feeling it would slide off.

"Why should I tell you, Gryffindor?" She was one, after all. A Muggle-born Gryffindor who had burst in here and was now probably going to spread it all over the school unless she could be intimidated, Anne’s sister or not.

"Well, someone got out of the wrong side of bed this morning," declared Terry. "Will you tell me who he is, Anne? I don’t think much of your friends."

Anne’s eyes were shifting from her sister to her friend and back again. She looked…trapped. Theo felt a small pang of guilt, but squashed it immediately. He had nothing to feel bad about.

"This is Theodore Nott, Terry," said Anne weakly. "He – we play music together sometimes. Theo, this is my younger sister, Theresa. You mentioned you saw her being Sorted?"

The last seemed a slightly desperate attempt at reconciliation.

"Yes," he said stiffly.

Terry sniffed. "You’re a Slytherin, aren’t you?"

"Of course I am."

" I’ve heard about your House," she replied darkly, glaring. "What is your problem, anyway?"

" You."

"If I might interrupt?" Anne interposed from the sidelines.

"No," said Theo and Terry at the same time.

"Finally, agreement." Anne’s voice was more than tinged with sarcasm. "Theo, you’re being an idiot. Terry, you’re being provocative. Do you mind?"

" I’m a what?" demanded Theo. Anne had never insulted him before! "Your sister just barges in here and-"

"-and you display all Malfoy’s finest social skills. Can my sister talk to me or not?"

Theo glared at Anne, quite furious. She had no right to talk to him like that. What on earth had got into her? Just because someone else was in here- did she have to choose now to be argumentative -

"I’m being provocative? He’s being rude." Theresa Fairleigh seemed just as furious with her sister. "I was coming to ask you if you knew who to ask to use the practice rooms. But I don’t know if I’m going to bother now. It took about half an hour to get here, too."

"Half an hour? What did you do, fall in the swamp?" Theo knew that was unfair. All first-years took a while to learn the ins and outs of Hogwarts. It would have taken him longer to get here, after his first week. He said it regardless.

"Swamp? You mean the swamp on the third floor? I saw that. Why’s it there?" asked Terry, momentarily diverted.

"It’s a memorial to two extremely foolish Gryffindors," said Theo darkly. "They never found the bodies." Because there hadn’t been any, of course, but a little intimidation couldn’t hurt.

It misfired.

"Really?" Terry looked fascinated. "Wicked. This school is neat."

Theo eyed her with some confusion.

"Terry, look," Anne took a deep breath. "Just ask Professor McGonagall about the rooms, she’s your Head of House. And I do promise I’ll talk to you, but Theo and I were in the middle of practising this, so if you don’t mind -"

"Fine, I know when I’m not wanted," huffed Terry. "But if I go now I want to have a listen to what you're playing another time."

"Next week," promised Anne quickly, clearly eager to get rid of her sister. "Same time. Oh, and Terry – I’d rather you didn’t go spreading this around. Hufflepuffs and Slytherins-"

"Slytherins don’t talk to Hufflepuffs. Or Gryffindors. Let alone Muggle-borns, so as far as the rest of the school is concerned, I have never met either one of you two ladies. It would be-" Theo didn’t want to be polite to the little brat, but his choices were limited. He needed a favour. "-appreciated if you didn’t mention it. I do have to spend the next two years with the rest of my House."

"Hmph. All right. Not that I’d want to mention meeting someone like you." Terry scowled at him. "I’ll be going then. You two can continue doing - whatever it is you were doing before I arrived."

She slammed the door on her way out.

"Your sister is far too young to be using innuendo," said Theo after a short silence.

Anne didn’t say anything. He turned to look at her. She was staring fixedly at the music on her stand, fingering notes to herself. She didn’t move.

"Anne?"

"What?"

"Are you – is – um – is something wrong?" Theo knew it was the wrong thing to say, but it was all he could think of.

"Did you have to be so – so damn Slytherin?" Anne burst out suddenly, still not looking at him."Terry’s not – she hadn’t done anything! I hate it when people fight like that! I hate fighting!"

Theo debated moving, and decided to stay there. Anne was still holding her flute, and it was probably lethal when used as a club.

"I’m sorry."

" You’re just saying that so I’ll stop being upset at you."

" Yes, I am."

They remained in silence for several seconds. Theo’s eyes wandered around the room for something to look at before fixing on the back of Anne’s head. It was easy to stare at her hair. It caught the light easily, like her sister’s; pale yellow-brown burnished to gold. Acting on impulse he stood up and moved a step or so towards her. It was always easier to talk face-to-face.

So he was caught unawares when she whipped around to look at him – or more accurately, up at him. Theo had put on another inch over the summer, and he now had close to a foot on Anne, who was never going to be anything more than average height if she really tried.

"You were staring at me," she said defensively.

"Probably," he replied blandly.

"Theo-" Anne bit her lip. So she was unsettled.

No, really?

"Why did you go and pick a fight with Terry? You don’t with me. I know you could have been perfectly polite to her, if you’d wanted to."

Theo blinked. It wasn’t quite the question he’d been expecting.

"I-"

"Because I think you were scared," she ploughed on. "You didn’t expect her and you were scared she’d tell everyone about us – I mean – oh, you know what I mean. So you went all Slytherin pureblood on her. And that probably wasn’t a good idea, because Terry gets snappy. She wouldn’t have said anything, you know, even if you hadn’t asked, but now she doesn’t like you, and Terry takes a long time to change her mind about people she doesn’t like. Sort of like you. So. Um. Anyway, that’s what I thought." She trailed off under Theo’s perplexed stare. "I might be wrong."

She wasn’t, and they both knew it. It was one of the things he hated about Anne sometimes, her uncanny ability to understand why people – why he did things. He suspected it came from years of watching everyone around her, and years of being confided in. Anne invited confidences. He just wished, at times, she could be a little less perceptive. It would make life so much easier.

He ignored the little voice that said if Anne wasn’t so good at understanding motivations she would never have spoken to him again after the first time he’d talked to her.

"You know you’re not," he gave her as a peace offering. "I’m sorry. I mean, I’m not really sorry, but I’m sorry I upset you. And I’ll try-" He stopped, and had to begin again. "I promise I’ll be polite to your sister. Next week." He didn’t want to be, but he knew the atmosphere would be positively poisonous otherwise, and he resented anything that ruined his time with Anne. He needed it to be safe and calm, and arguing with Theresa would not make it so.

"Thanks-" Anne offered a half-smile back.

Don’t say you understand. Don’t. Because I don’t want to fight with you, as well.

" -so, shall we continue what we were doing before dear Theresa arrived?" She plucked a sheaf of music from her folder and handed it to him.

"Certainly."

Was that – what on earth has got into her?

She raised an eyebrow. "The piano’s behind you, you know."

Theo realised he hadn’t moved. "Oh. Right. Well. We should get started, then."

He sat down quickly and began to spread the music out. He could have sworn he heard Anne giggle, except that Anne did not giggle. She had far too much sense.

For once, he was very glad to get back to the restricted topic of music. Music was easy. It didn’t involve…other considerations.

Half a year later and I’m still trying to use music as a distraction. I never learn.

Oh well.

 

 

 

//
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