The Sugar Quill
Author: Arnel  Story: New Year, New Hope  Chapter: Part Two
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New Year, New Hope

New Year, New Hope

 

Part Two

 

Several nights later, Ginny sat at a table piled high with books in the Room of Requirement.  She was surrounded by her own private library containing nothing but books about potion-making.  She had found entire sections on ingredients; the creation of new potions; potions history; master potion makers; love potions, poisons, truth serums, mind-altering draughts, shape-shifting mixtures, and healing potions among the various categories. Basically, anything and everything she needed to know in order to carry out her planned project to help herself and Harry. 

 

She sighed tiredly and ran a hand through her hair as she glanced at the book of dosage charts she had found in the medicinal section. It was currently propped on The Encyclopaedia of Common Rocks and Minerals Used in Potion Making, open to the page describing how much Draught of Peace to administer to people of various weights.  Her notes covered several feet of parchment and as she leaned forward to add more facts, her stomach let out a particularly loud rumble.  I’m beginning to rival Ron, she thought, wishing for something to eat for she had skipped dinner in order to have more time to research as well as complete the mountain of homework her teachers had set.  A plate of sandwiches suddenly appeared on a nearby chair and just as quickly, as did a glass and a small pitcher of pumpkin juice.  Glancing about the room she murmured, “Thanks” and reached for a sandwich as she turned back to her research. 

 

The facts she’d gathered fascinated her.  Not only had she found exactly the information she needed to successfully (and safely) swallow a cupful of her creation, she had found out that by adding shredded Valerian leaves to the Draught at a certain point, it became a powerful sleeping solution called “Sleeper’s Promise”.  By changing the number of drops of this potion one put into a cup of tea, the supplier could determine how long and how soundly the drinker slept; add too much and the drinker would fall into a coma, add too little and one might as well not bother administering the potion.  In other words, as Snape had so succinctly put it once, observing the correct dosage range was of utmost importance. 

 

Other changes in the basic potion produced a wide variety of draughts and tinctures which could be slipped into a goblet of water or juice or administered by the cupful.  By substituting powdered Peridot for the Moonstone, the potion-maker created a potion that protected the drinker from bouts of excessive nervousness.  Change the gem powder to garnet and the drinker was protected from bad dreams and depression.  I’ll try that one after we see how successful the Draught of Peace is, Ginny thought.  I just hope the garnet powder isn’t too expensive...

 

She had also made notes about which plants would turn her potion to poison if they were carelessly added: cherry laurel leaves, hemlock root, henbane seeds. These were the variations about which Madam Pince had warned her.  Ginny frowned as she read about the effects of adding one drop too many of essence of digitalis: just like too much hellebore, an excessive amount of this plant would cause the potion to become toxic and throw a death-like stupor upon its victim.  I still don’t understand how adding a poison to a potion doesn’t make the entire batch lethal.  Did we study that and somehow I missed it?  Ginny remembered some sort of discussion but had no idea where in her year’s worth of Potions notes she would find her answer.  Shaking her head tiredly, she packed up her quill and ink, rolled up her parchment and began re-shelving the books.  She would leave the few she currently wanted to continue reading on the table; they would be where she left them the next time she returned.

 

As Ginny slipped out the door, her mind wandered back into the Room of Requirement.  Earlier, when she was perusing the various library sections, she had looked up the Longevity Concoction her Potions class was currently studying and had found several paragraphs of detailed information which she could add to Professor Snape’s latest potions notes.  She would use them in the essay she knew he would assign the next day. She smiled as she thought of the look on Professor Snape’s face when she handed in twice the amount assigned homework and cheerfully brought up several points that she knew he had deliberately left out of his method.  It would serve him right if none of the fifth year Gryffindors failed to earn a satisfactory mark on their Concoctions.  She just hoped that he wouldn’t take away any house points for her cockiness. 

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

Hermione was sitting at her usual table scribbling furiously on an essay when Ginny clambered through the portrait hole a few minutes later.  “Where have you been, Ginny?” she asked without looking up from her parchment.  “I looked for you at dinner and again later in the library—Ron and Harry thought you’d gone there—but no one had seen you all evening...”  There was a distinct authority in her voice which Ginny recognized as Hermione’s ‘Prefect’s Voice.’ When she used that tone, the guilty party knew they could expect, at least, a lecture on proper conduct or, at worst, the rubies in the Gryffindor hourglass in the Entrance Hall to be fewer in the morning once she had spoken to Professor McGonagall.

 

The younger witch let her book bag drop with a resounding thud next to an empty chair which protested slightly when Ginny slumped into it.  “I’ve been doing research in the Room of Requirement,” she told Hermione quietly, even though the common room was deserted. 

 

This attracted Hermione’s attention.  “Whatever for?” she asked putting down her quill.  “Shouldn’t the library have all the information you need for your homework?”

 

“Not for this potion project,” Ginny said warily.  She didn’t really want to share her idea just yet with anyone.

 

“Project?  I don’t recall Professor Snape assigning individual projects last year.  That’s supposed to be a seventh year Potions component.”

 

Ginny sighed.  “This is something I’m doing on my own.  Madam Pince warned me that without thorough knowledge of the potion I’m going to make, I could very well poison myself or someone else.”

 

“And...”

 

“Well, the library didn’t have what I was looking for, so I went up to the Room of Requirement tonight and found everything I needed.”

 

“I find it hard to believe that the library didn’t have what you wanted.  What exactly were you looking for and how did you get your idea in the first place?”

 

Hermione’s questioning was beginning to grate on Ginny’s nerves. Unfortunately, she knew that if she wanted to get back to her dorm anytime soon, she’d have to give the older girl some sort of information to slake her curiosity.  She sighed and pulled Uncommon Uses for Everyday Potions out of her bag and held it up.  As Hermione reached for the book, she said, “This is the book I’m using for my project.  Madam Pince checked it out to me on the condition that only I read it while it’s in my possession.”

 

Hermione’s eyes widened.  “I’ve heard of that book.  It’s the one that customizes itself to the reader’s needs.  Madam Pince told me once that that book only appears to people with truly unselfish aims.”  Her eyes seemed to pierce into Ginny as she said, “Whatever you are doing or plan on doing, the recipient of your labours will be truly lucky.  Your idea is completely...altruistic.  He or she must be very special to you...”

 

A lump formed in Ginny’s throat.  “He is,” she whispered.

 

“Harry?”

 

“Harry.”

 

“Nightmares?”

 

“Amongst other things.”

 

Hermione sighed.  “Harry’s special to me, too.  I’ve been so worried about him at times this year, but had no idea how to help him...so I did nothing.  You, on the other hand...wow!”

 

“I didn’t know if he’d accept my help, Hermione.”

 

“But he did—and that’s what counts...even if it was after Professor McGonagall made him see that he was hurting himself academically.”

 

“He’s not out from under her thumb about that yet, you know.”

 

“No, but he seems a lot happier since our weekend at The Burrow.”

 

It was Ginny’s turn to sigh; she did so with a smile playing about the corners of her mouth.  “He is, but he still has an immense burden on his mind. No, I can’t tell you...he made me promise not to tell you and Ron...don’t look at me like that, Hermione.”

 

“I can’t help it, Ginny.  He hurts Ron and me when he doesn’t tell us what is bothering him.”

 

“He wants to tell you on his own terms...when he’s ready to face your reactions.”

 

“Oh, Ginny, doesn't he know whatever he tells us won't change our opinion of him one iota?"

 

“He knows exactly what your reactions will be...he’s not ready to cope with you wanting to run to the library or Ron’s disbelief.”

 

Hermione looked sheepish.  “He knows us rather well, doesn’t he?  I suppose you know what he’s facing...and you took on his burden to help lighten the load.”

 

“No, not really.  All I did was listen.  He was so upset the night he told me...he thought I’d hate him.  He thinks you and Ron will forsake him once you know.  Either that or ... I don’t know.  Part of his motivation is to shield the two of you. "

 

“And by pushing us away like he did in September, he thinks he’s protecting us, too.”

 

Ginny nodded silently.  Finally, she said, “I have to do this, Hermione.  I have to find a way to give him some peace.”

 

Hermione smiled.  “So you’re going to brew him up some sort of potion to bring him some peace of mind.”

 

“I’m going to try.”

 

“He’s lucky to have you, Ginny.”

 

“And I, him.”  The two girls were silent; Ginny thinking how much seeing Harry nightmare-free would mean to her, Hermione absently toying with her quill. 

 

At length, Hermione broke the silence.  “Would you like some help?”

 

Ginny hesitated, still unwilling to share her idea.  Unfortunately, she’d given away too much information to clam up now.  “I’d like that.  Maybe you’d find something I’ve overlooked in my research.”

 

“And the brewing of the potion?”

 

“I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

 

“But when you do, I can help...I’d like to help because Harry’s...”

 

“...your friend, too.” Ginny finished for her, smiling. When Hermione nodded back, she said, “I’m going back to the Room of Requirement tomorrow night.  I did my homework in there before I looked at the books I took off the shelves.  I hope they’re still piled on the table where I left them tomorrow.”

 

“They should be.  What if I meet you in front of the tapestry at half-past seven tomorrow night?  That should give us enough time before curfew.  Erm, what potion are you researching anyway?”

 

“The Draught of Peace.”

 

Hermione was thoughtful.  “That’s not too hard to brew.  But why all the research?”

 

Ginny held up the book she still had in her hand.  “I’m just following Madam Pince’s admonitions,” she said smiling.  “After all, I don’t want to poison Harry...or myself for that matter.”

 

“You’re going to swallow some, too?”

 

“Harry and I seem to have a mutual attachment to the common room fire around two in the morning.”  She looked at her watch.  “I’d better get to bed.  I’ve got double Potions tomorrow.”  She gathered her book bag.  “See you tomorrow.”

 

“Until then, Ginny.  Good night.”

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

Hermione was breathing hard when she joined Ginny in front of the tapestry the following evening.

 

“Honestly, Ginny...that brother of yours...”  She left the sentence unfinished, but Ginny knew the exact exasperated feeling her friend was talking about.

 

“What did he do now?”

 

“He lost his Transfiguration notes from the other day that he needs for our latest essay; Professor McGonagall had us write down some additional information not found in our textbooks, so he wanted mine.  Like a fool, I gave them to him at dinner and he promptly spilled pumpkin juice all over them because he was talking Quidditch with his hands again with Harry.”  She held up several soggy pieces of smeared parchment.

 

“And his essay?”

 

“I told Ron to go to the library and look up the information himself.”

 

“He’ll be there all night!”

 

Hermione grinned.  “I thought so, too.  Serves him right.”

 

Ginny opened the door to the Room of Requirement and led the way in.  She was pleased to find everything where she had left it the night before.

 

“Oh, my!” she heard Hermione gasp as she put her own book bag down and went to inspect the books which were still neatly piled on the table.

 

“My sentiments exactly,” Ginny agreed pulling out the notes she had taken the night before. 

 

“What have you been researching?”  Hermione pulled up a chair beside Ginny’s.

 

“For the basic potion?  Mostly dosage charts.”  She pointed to one of the books.  “The rest of this is information on ingredient changes and how they affect both the potion and the drinker.  I’ve discovered that by changing or adding one or more ingredients I can make potions which will do all sorts of things.”

 

“Smart, Ginny.  I don’t think I’d have thought about dosage until it was almost too late.” Hermione was thoughtful as she dropped her bag next to Ginny’s.  “What sort of changes are you researching?”

 

Ginny held up the rocks and minerals book.  “This one talks about exchanging the moonstone for either garnet or peridot,” she said setting the book down and picking up a tome on magical plants.  “If you add Valerian at a certain point the Draught of Peace becomes Sleepers’ Promise.  I also took notes on substituting henbane, hemlock, and cherry laurel for the hellebore.  Those plants produce different affects, but need to be added carefully so that they don’t turn the mixture into a poison.  I shudder to think what adding too much digitalis will do to you.”

 

“That’s impressive, Ginny.  I hate to say this, but you taught me something tonight!  I had a vague suspicion that there was a whole group of related potions based on the Draught of Peace, but hadn’t come across the information confirming my hunch when I was revising last year.”

 

Ginny smiled at her friend.  “You can’t expect to learn everything before seventh year, Hermione.  There needs to be something left for the teachers to pass on just before your NEWTs. I know one thing for certain; you will never stop reading, questioning, or learning…especially after you leave Hogwarts.  What good would it do you if there wasn’t anything left to explore?  Can you really believe that even Professor McGonagall knows everything about Transfiguration?”

 

“Hey, don’t pick on her.  She’s our head of house!”  Hermione exclaimed pretending to be shocked.  “She might deduct house points if she heard you questioning her knowledge!”

 

Ginny tried to keep a straight face, but her mouth twitched upwards and Hermione gave up trying to maintain her outraged expression. Both girls burst into gales of giggles.

 

“I suppose I deserved that,” Hermione said once they could breathe again.  “Your brother accuses me of being a know-it-all at least four times a week, so hearing it from his little sister shouldn’t be too much of a shock.”

 

Ginny made a face and opened both the plant book and the dosage book.  “There’s something I need to check on that’s been bothering me all day,” she said.  She picked up a book called Chinese Potions Ingredients for the Dim-witted and handed it to Hermione.  “The library book said something about substituting powdered tiger bone or rhino horn or some other wild animal part to change the potion in a different way.  I don’t think I want to try something like that, but would you look up what this book says about those ingredients, please?”

 

Hermione reached for the book and the room grew quiet as they bent to their tasks.

 

Sometime later, Hermione closed the Chinese potions book and shoved it away from her parchment and took a soft-cover Muggle book out of her own bag.  “Ginny...” She began tentatively. “How much do you know about sleep and sleep disorders?”

 

Ginny looked up, curious.  “Not much.  Why?”

 

“Bear with me, Ginny.  What I want to tell you is relevant, but needs a little background story-telling,” she began.

 

“Tell me,” Ginny requested.

 

“When Harry began having odd dreams before fourth year,” her friend began, “it bothered me a little, so I searched my parents’ book shelves for something to help me understand what he was going through. (Ginny smiled at how predictable her friend was.) I found this.” Hermione held up the book she had placed in her lap seconds before.  Ginny noted that it was entitled, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.  “I never thought I’d keep it this long, but since Harry’s still having bad nights sometimes I keep going back to various chapters.  I’ve learned a lot about the stages of sleep and the differences between a real nightmare and the ‘visions’ Voldemort sent Harry last year.  I don’t know if anything in here is relevant, but you can borrow it if you’d like.”

 

Ginny was intrigued.  “You mean Muggles study sleeping people?”

 

Hermione smiled.  “Yes.  It’s a scientific field of study all on its own.”

 

“Like something behind that locked door Harry couldn’t open at the Department of Mysteries.”

 

“You could say that.  Many Muggles spend their lives watching people sleep and trying to discover what goes on in the brain while our eyes are closed.  Some, like the author of this book, study the things which disturb sleep and try to find ways to help people who aren’t sleeping well.”

 

“So why did your parents need a book like that one?”

 

Hermione smiled as she put the book on the table between them.  “My mum read it because she and Dad needed to stop me from sleep-walking when I was little.  They got tired of finding me sitting in front of the bookshelves at two in the morning.  They tried some of the author’s suggestions and I suppose they worked.  I haven’t been found combing the shelves for books that aren’t there for many years.”

 

“That makes sense,” Ginny said thoughtfully, pulling the book toward her.  “I’ll read anything that might help me help Harry.” 

 

“You never know.  It might just help you, too.”  Hermione gave her a significant glance and changed the subject again.  “Ginny, have you given any thought as to where you’ll be making the potion?”

 

“I thought I’d just make it in here one evening.  It only takes an hour and a half to brew, so it wouldn’t be as if I’d need to hide an entire caldron of Polyjuice Potion or something like that.”  She smiled at Hermione’s obvious discomfiture.

 

“Well, what would you say to actually using Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom?  It might even be safer than this room since nobody ever ventures into that loo.  Even after all this time, Myrtle’s still causing floods anytime someone insults her.  I’d be glad to introduce you.”

 

Not certain what the polite refusal should be, Ginny asked, “Shall we go, then?”   When Hermione stood to repack her bag, Ginny did the same, even taking the time to shelve some of the books she had used the previous night.  “I’m going to leave my bag here.  I just remembered about something I wanted to look up and I don’t want to keep you.  Why don’t we stop by the common room and leave your bag with Harry,” she suggested from behind one of the stacks.  “I’m just taking a look at the bathroom, so why carry our heavy bags when we won’t need them?”

 

“Good idea. Actually, I’ll leave mine next to my favourite chair so I can find it easily later.  No one will bother it.  I refreshed the repelling charm on it this morning.”

 

Ginny extinguished the reading lamps on the table and the two girls left the room.

 

The second floor corridor leading to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom was gloomier at night than it usually was during the day.  As Hermione led the way, Ginny clutched an angel pendant her mother had given her for Christmas.  The figure was charmed with a spell to enhance her own courage and right now, four years after her Chamber of Secrets ordeal, Ginny was feeling rather anxious about going back. 

 

“Here we are,” Hermione said unnecessarily, pushing the door open.  She seemed unaware of the significance of this room and the memories walking in here brought back to Ginny.

 

  The bathroom looked much the same as it had the last time they each had been in there, although this time, the floor was dry.   Hermione led the way over to one of the cubicles and opened the door.

 

“This is the stall Ron, Harry and I used to brew the Polyjuice Potion.  Myrtle’s toilet is over there,” she said pointing. 

 

A youthful ghost rose slowly from behind the partition.  “Oh, it’s you,” she said eyeing Hermione.  “Come to stink up my bathroom again?”

 

“No, Myrtle.  I’m showing Ginny what a wonderful place this is.”

 

“I remember you,” Myrtle said pointing at Ginny.  “You’re the one who opened the Chamber and let that monster with the big yellow eyes out.  Have you decided to terrorize the school again?”

 

Ginny scowled at the ghost.  “What an awful thing to ask!  You’re not very friendly are you, Myrtle?”  She paused before continuing.  “As a matter of fact, I’m looking for a place to have some privacy.”

 

Moaning Myrtle thought a moment, then said, “Ooh. You’re planning on doing something illegal…like brewing a love potion.”

 

“Yes,” Ginny answered honestly.

 

“Well, I’m telling. You weren’t very nice to me the last time you were here.   You threw a book at me, so I think I should tell.”

 

“Please don’t.  I’m doing this for Harry.”

 

“Harry Potter?  I haven’t seen him in ages.  Quite a modest little twit in the bath he is, I’d say.  Won’t let a girl have her thrills, you know.”

 

Both witches glared at the ghost.  “Just when did you spy on Harry like that?”  Hermione demanded.

 

“During the Triwizard Tournament.  He and Cedric Diggery each spent hours in the Prefects’ bathroom with some sort of screechy egg.  Made me close my eyes when he got out of the tub, Harry did.”

 

“Good!” Ginny and Hermione exclaimed together.

 

Moaning Myrtle looked affronted.  “I wasn’t looking, if that’s what you mean.  Besides, there were too many bubbles in the tub to see anything!”

 

“Thank goodness!” Ginny said.  She turned to Hermione.  “I like this place.  It’s really out of the way and I suppose I should make peace with Myrtle to make up for throwing the book at her.”

 

“I’d like some company sometime.  Would you come back soon?” they heard Myrtle murmur behind them.  For the moment, they ignored her.

 

“When do you want to make the potion?”  Hermione inquired.

 

“I don’t know.  I still have to get certain ingredients that aren’t part of my potions’ kit.  It might take a while.”

 

“All right.  Just let me know when you’re ready.”

 

“I will,” Ginny said looking around.  She turned to leave, but remembered that she didn’t know how to make a waterproof fire correctly.  She’d need one if she was going to brew her Draught in one of the toilets.  “Hermione, you’ll have to be the one to cast the Bluebell Flame charm.  I’ve never been able to do that one properly.”

 

“I don’t see why you’ve been unsuccessful with that charm, but I’ll be glad to help with whatever you need,” Hermione said as they walked toward the door.  They bid Moaning Myrtle good-bye, promising to come back very soon, and left the bathroom.

 

“Ginny, I’ve been thinking,” Hermione said as they walked back upstairs toward Gryffindor tower.  “Do you have any idea how you’re going to know when Harry needs something like the Draught of Peace?  I mean, you can’t start sleeping in the common room every night.  People will start talking.”

 

“I thought I’d just take my chances,” Ginny said somewhat evasively.  “I mean, I’ve had a pretty good track record so far.”

 

Hermione looked at Ginny with one eyebrow raised.

 

“All right, so it’s not a good idea to go sneaking around the tower after lights-out.  Honestly, Hermione, my first thought was to just be ready when we did run into each other in the common room.  We certainly seem to do that often enough without an alarm bell of some sort.”

 

“But wouldn’t you have more of a chance at success if there was some sort of alerting spell or mechanism?  And if you had one, what would it be?”

 

Ginny didn’t answer immediately.  “I’m still thinking about both of those.  If I did link us somehow the object would have to be unobtrusive, something Harry would not object to.”

 

“Like the D.A. galleons,” Hermione said helpfully.

 

“Yes, like that, only how many gold coins can you successfully carry around at our age and not arouse suspicion if Snape demands that we turn out our pockets?”

 

“I don’t have an answer to that, Ginny.  I hope you do.”

 

Ginny did have an idea and an object to turn into an “alarm bell” but she didn’t want Hermione to try to disparage her idea.  Ginny conceded that she didn’t mind sharing the potion idea with the older witch because talking about her ideas aloud had given her a fresh perspective and focus on what she wanted to do for Harry and herself.  This particular idea, however, was just too personal to shelve.  Besides, she was half-way through the multiple spell process and had spent too much time researching this second project in the last few days to have to start over. 

 

“It’s almost curfew,” Ginny said, glancing at her watch when they arrived on the seventh floor.  “You go back and see how Ron fared with his essay.  I’m going to look something up just to double-check it.”

 

“Prefect duties call.  See you later, then,” Hermione said getting Ginny’s hint.  “Don’t be too long.  I don’t want to have to send Ron after you.”

 

“I won’t.  See you in a bit.”

 

As Hermione disappeared down the corridor Ginny walked swiftly to the Room of Requirement and, once the door was firmly closed and locked, drew a shining silver bird charm on a chain from her pocket and held it up to one of the nearby reading lamps.  She took out her wand and cast a spell that left her feeling tired, yet satisfied as she gazed at the almost-completed phoenix pendant.  It glowed softly in the lamplight and seemed to disappear into her palm.  At least this part of the process is a success, she thought remembering the side effects listed in the old spell book; a footnote at the bottom of the page stated that the spell would leave the castor feeling magically drained.  The book did warn about this, Ginevra.  It also stated that the other two spells can’t be done at another time.  You’ll just have to dig deep down and find the magic within to complete the process.  Remember, this is for Harry.  You know he won’t object to wearing your gift once he understands its power.  She placed the phoenix gently on a nearby table.

 

For herself, Ginny had chosen the angel pendant she was wearing tonight.  She fished it from beneath her robes and slipped it over her head before murmuring a second spell.  The angel and its chain glowed briefly as the phoenix had done and Ginny hoped that this and the next spell would not interfere with the angel’s original enchantment. The books she had read had indicated there wouldn’t be any problems; the three spells did completely different things. 

 

The final step in the process was a binding spell.  Ginny picked up the phoenix again and dangled it and the angel together in the air.  She cast the charm on the two necklaces feeling the spell’s power surge up her arm and out through her wand.  The ancient enchantment caused the metal in her hand to glow a bright gold colour and grow hot to the touch; she nearly dropped the jewellery.  Instead, she held on tightly until the angel was cool enough to hang around her neck again.  Smiling tiredly to herself and thinking just how nice it would be to be in her four-poster at that moment, Ginny pocketed her wand, transferred the phoenix pendant to her other hand and slipped it into a cloth pouch she had withdrawn from her bag.  Now all she needed was the opportunity to give it to Harry.

 

End of Part Two

 

 

A/N: As always, many thanks go to Yolanda for the helpful suggestions and hints makes as my beta.  She has an eagle eye for sentences that sound too American and is trying very hard to make me think like a Briton. 

 

Credit also needs to be given to the author of the Muggle book Hermione lends Ginny.  Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems was written by Richard Ferber, M.D. and the book has been a valuable resource to me in real life as well as in my writing.

//
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