The Sugar Quill
Author: Elsha (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Disadvantages  Chapter: Default
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A/N:

A/N: Unabashed fluff. To paraphrase Katinka, angst and drama will recommence shortly in Disavowals.

 

Disadvantages

There are advantages and disadvantages to knowing Theodore Nott. YesÉI'm hedging. I go out with him. Sort of. In a very technical sense. In a literal one, I talk to him, play music with him, joke with him, and am occasionally caught in slightly compromising positions with him by my little sister. But the furthest we've ever made it if you want to be literal is the other side of the lake, under the willows, where no one can see you on a cold day. (Because they're all inside anyway.) That would be a disadvantage. My classmates would disagree. In fact, I know they do.

"But he's in Slytherin!" said Sarah disparagingly. We were sitting in our common room, and Gabby was commenting on the good looks of a fellow fifth-year. "How can you think that?"

"And I thought you were going out with Chris," added Ellie.
Gabby shrugged. "Doesn't mean I can't look."

" Yes, but a Slytherin?"

"Stuff like that doesn't stop lots of people," Mai pointed out, looking up from her Transfiguration book. "Look at Romeo and Juliet."

"Are you studying that in Muggle Studies?" I asked, curious. Mai's from a wizarding family.

"Yup," said Ellie. "We're looking at Muggle literature." She wrinkled her nose. "I don't like it that much. Shakespeare's so old and boring. Who cares what they thought four hundred years ago?"

" But it's so romantic," sighed Gabby. "'It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.' How can you not love that?"

"They were a bit stupid though," said Mai. "All that stuff about dying. Why not just run away from Verona?"

Sarah, who doesn't take Muggle Studies, just looked puzzled. "Romeo and Juliet are those two whose families hate each other and end up dying, aren't they?"

I nodded. "It is a bit silly. They only knew each other for five days. I bet if they'd had to hide the fact they were in love for five months they'd have got thoroughly sick of the whole thing and run away."

"Experience talking?" Sarah teased.

I rolled my eyes. "That joke isn't fossilised, its star has probably gone supernova."

"Huh?"

Gabby was still holding out for romance. "But Anne, the language is so beautiful! How can you not think it's romantic?"

" I do," I agreed. "It's beautiful and romantic and very, very, silly. But it's Shakespeare, so that's okay."

"I still don't see why everyone thinks some dead poet is that great," Ellie grumbled.

"We talked about that in class," said Mai. "They reckoned he - what was it? - 'held a mirror up to nature'. His plays sort of reflect what's happening in any time, so they're still important."

" So find me a play that reflects this stupid bloody war," Ellie said. Her aunt had been killed over Christmas, and she was still tense. So was I.

"Henry IV," I said grimly. "Richard III. The Histories -"

Sarah adroitly turned the conversation to other things.

*

Shakespeare made an appearance that Saturday, when I was talking to Theo (yes, talking! Just because we're teenagers and - well - we do hold coherent conversations!)

"Hogsmeade weekend next Saturday," commented Theo. I was in my usual perch on the table, which creaked whenever I shifted. One day it's going to break, but that day hasn't come yet. "What are you doing?"

I shrugged. "I'll probably go in with Sarah and Mai. I need some more ink, anyway. You?"

He frowned. "I don't know. I might go, just for the walk. The teachers seem to think we have to sit our NEWTs this year, the amount of homework we have. What time do we have to be back here?"

" Two o'clock. They're cutting it short this year because ofÉ"

"...the war." Theo sighed, shifting on the piano stool, and it creaked too. Everything in this room was old, because so few people used this part of the castle. Hogwarts had been made for more students than it held now. "Have I ever mentioned I hate it?"

" No, do you really?" I gave him a wide-eyed look of innocence.

Theo's lips twitched. "Tell me, why did we have to be born right now? Why couldn't we be born after the war, or before, orÉsomething?"

" The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." I know quoting isn't really in my line, but if Theo was going to get philosophical, I could get poetical.

He gave me a very puzzled look. "What's that supposed to mean?"

I smiled. "That the problem is of our making, not anyone else's."

"Because I started the war," he scoffed.

"No," I said, "because if neither of us really cared what anyone else thought - if you didn't care about what your family thought - then it wouldn't matter about the war. Or not as much. But you do, and I do, a little, so it does matter."

" Well, I couldn't not, so it's rather a moot point." Theo dismissed it, fairly enough. How can you not care about your family?

"Maybe, but it is an appropriate one."

"Who said it?"

" That depends," I told him. "William Shakespeare wrote the play, but Cassius has the line."

" Who and who?"

I raised my eyebrows. Surely Theo had heard of Shakespeare. "You know, Shakespeare? Greatest writer of the English language? Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

Comprehension failed to dawn on Theo's face. "Is he a Muggle?"

" Well, yes, but he's so famous-"

Understanding did dawn, and Theo chuckled. "Famous in your world. Not ours. Of course I wouldn't know him, if he's a Muggle. Why is he so famous?"

I groped for words, waving my hands for emphasis. "He's - well - he's Shakespeare. His plays areÉthey'reÉhe just is. No one's ever written anything better. He invented thousands of new words. He invented half the sayings we use. He wrote the greatest speeches ever in English."

"Like what?" Theo seemed genuinely curious. He wasn't usually this interested in Muggle things, so I decided to encourage it.

"If it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. To be or not to be, that is the question. If music be the food of love, play on. JustÉeverything. We have this dictionary of quotes at home, and the Shakespeare section is about three times as long as anything else."

Theo blinked. "Well, I've heard that last line, but I couldn't say where. And sayingsÉwhat sort of sayings?"

"It's Greek to me, but me no buts, dead as a doornail, more in sorrow than in anger, the milk of human kindness, to be cruel to be kindÉyou name it, he wrote it."

Theo's eyebrows went up. "Well. That is fairly impressive. I had no idea that a Muggle -"

"-could write something like that?" I gave him a sharp look. I accept that Theo has some prejudices, but lately I'd begun to think he'd outgrown all of them. It never pays to assume things.

He scowled. "No, actually. That a Muggle could have such a strong impact on the language that we're speaking."

"Theo, wizards make up what, one percent of the population? Of course Muggle literature has an effect."

"Yes, but on the wizarding world?"

I shrugged. "Of course. We can pretend we're separate, but think about it. Wizards have Muggle parents, Muggle wives and husbands and in-laws. We live in the Muggle world, we're just a cut-off part of it."

Theo gave me an oddly appraising look. "I supposeÉweÉdo."

*

It bothered me a bit that Theo didn't know anything about Shakespeare. I'm not the most literary of people, but I'm familiar with his work. Sort of. I mean, reading Shakespeare isn't something you think of doing much, although Eddie does for school. Besides, Terry Pratchett or Jane Austen is more my thing.

Anyway, I wanted to prove a point, so I owled my parents. I knew we had the collected works of Shakespeare knocking around the house somewhere, and I asked them if I could borrow it. I only remembered it was a hardback when Gwaihir dropped it almost in my porridge. He does that when he thinks I'm not paying attention to him - not ever in my food, but there have been some near misses. This time he hit the spoon and splattered porridge all over Brian Lochore, who was sitting opposite me. My hand flew to my mouth, mostly to cover a smile.

"Oops, sorry, Brian!"

He eyed Gwaihir darkly. "It was that stupid bird, not you. Don't worry about it. Oh, thanks, Dave."

Dave Hewitt had just cleaned him off with a quick charm. Gwaihir hooted and tried to snatch some of Jack Mitchell's bacon. I shooed him off.

"Get away, you silly thing, go to the Owlery!" He's too smart for his own good.

Gabby handed me my spoon, which had ended up halfway down the table and been passed back.

"Thanks, Gabby."

"I hope that was important," Brian added, nodding at the book.

I busied myself with my porridge. "Just some light reading."

He made a disgruntled noise, and I made a note to be seen reading the book at least once in our common room.

*

I would have given the book to Theo at the DA meeting on Thursday, but we were too busy. Harry Potter seems possessed, this year. We know why, too. Zacharias Smith muttered something about Potter acting like he was trying to train us for our NEWTs. Everyone else wished Smith would drop dead. He may be a fellow Hufflepuff, but he doesn't know when to shut up. Potter just looked at him.

"No. I'm just trying to help you stay alive. Myself, I think that's rather more important."

Zacharias was unimpressed. "Why would you care?"

" Because I will not watch anyone else die!" The answer was hard and fast and we all flinched.

Theo nodded. I don't think he even knew he was doing it. I remembered some of what he'd said in his letters, about his cousin.

So I didn't get around to lending him the book that night.

*

I think I surprised him on Saturday. I'd put the Shakespeare in my bag with my music, after curling up with it in the common room a few times during the week - I'd even chatted about it to Mai for a few minutes. I didn't know why I bothered acting like someone was out to get usÉexcept that I felt I owed it to Theo. If it was common knowledge we wereÉacquainted, the serious consequences would all fall on him. I'd said to my classmates I had got the Shakespeare to read, so I did so. That's one thing Theo's taught me. Always do what people expect. Nobody ever gets suspicious because you're acting out their expectations. It's when you do something they haven't mentally predicted that they'll get suspicious. This allows you to get away with almost anything.

And he says I'm a corrupting influence.

So when I handed the book over to Theo I was a bit sorry to let it go. It wasn't what I'd call an easy read, but it was beautiful - Gabby had that right.

"I thought you might like to borrow this," I told Theo, handing him the book.

Theo's eyebrows shot up behind his fringe. Theo's hair is never what you'd call long, but it's never really short, either. I don't know how he does it. I always have this vague urge to find some scissors. Or to run my fingers thr - moving right along here.

"The Collected Works of William Shakespeare?" he read aloud.

I grinned. "Just read some, and tell me you don't recognise half of it anyway."

"Baroque Muggle plays aren't really my thing," he said dubiously, but he flipped it open and scanned a page. He frowned.

"What is, Baroque Muggle music?" Not that IÕd heard anyone describe a playwright as Baroque, but I knew what he meant.

"The Romantic period, you know that," he said absently, but he wasn't paying attention to me anymore. He turned the page over, muttering something under his breath.

"Could I borrow this?" he said after he'd turned another page.

"No, of course not, give it back immediately."

He blinked and closed it with a snap. "Yes. Anyway. Thanks, Anne."

"It was nothing." I picked up my bag and stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. The fact that I sort of missed has no bearing on this story and five minutes later is an excellent time to return to it.

"I really should go now," I said reluctantly.

"I suppose so," Theo admitted. "Parting is such sweet sorrow, and all that."

I shot him a very sharp look. "You do know that's Shakespeare."

"It is?"

"Of course it is!"

"Oh. Right. Hmmm." He picked the book up off the table and frowned at it again.

Hah. Teach him to think that Muggle literature isn't important.

*

That Theo was reading the book was evident from the questions I got asked over the next few weeks. It was drawing very close to the end of term and the OWLs, so I didn't think about the reasoning all that much. Theo had his exams, of course, but they didn't count quite as much as mine. Even the DA was temporarily halted to give everyone a chance to concentrate.

Theo, though, kept coming up with queries that I knew had to be associated with Shakespeare. Some were of the incredulous sort, such as "Did Muggles really think witches hung around on freezing moors making potions?" Others were more technical.

"What's a cannon?" Theo asked one Saturday.

"It's basically a round, you know that - remind me to try and find Pachelbel's, it's great -"

"I know Pachelbel's canon," he said in exasperated tones, "I meant the weapon. It is a weapon, isn't it?"

"Oh, you mean a cannon," I said. "It's a type of firearm."

"A what?"

"ErÉgun? Like with gunpowder? It's used to blow things up?"

"Well, I'd got that much, but Shakespeare doesn't tell you what it is," he explained patiently. "All it really says is that it makes a loud noise, there's fire involved, and it causes a lot of destruction."

I was trying to find out what was making the third key on my flute stick, and nodded, not really listening.

"Mmm. Yes. It does." There seemed to be a fragment of parchment in there. Maybe if I used the tip of a quill -

"You're not listening," came a severe voice from just behind me. I almost jumped, and laid the flute carefully on the table.

"I was just concentrating."

"On the wrong thing, clearly." When I turned around Theo was close enough that I had to lean back a bit to see his face.

"And what would the right thing be?"

"What I was saying, of course." He also just happened to be leaning with both hands on the table, which meant that I was effectively trapped. Very subtle, Theo.

"You don't seem to be concentrating much, either," I countered. That was not quite correct. He appeared to be concentrating in great detail, just not on what I was saying.

"Don't I?"

"No."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Positive?"

"Ye-" at which point Theo rendered further comment impossible and proved that he was, indeed, concentrating on one thing, which happened to be me.

Not that this was in any way upsetting. Quite the contrary.

*

As caught up as I was in exams, I barely noticed that he hadn't returned the book. In fact I didn't really remember until Bronwyn flew in my kitchen window one morning shortly after we'd returned home for the summer holidays. It was a weekend, so for once in what seemed forever most of my family was sitting at the table. Terry had gone to stay at the house of a Muggle friend overnight. I noticed it, wistfully, when I thumbed through the sports pages of the Daily Prophet. (Thanks to Theo, I could just about understand it, but I still preferred football.)

"Hey, Viktor Krum's signed onto the Tornadoes!" I commented aloud. I remembered Krum from the Triwizard Tournament. A student of DurmstrangÉand Hermione Granger's partner to the ball. Whose side was he on?

My family stared back at me blankly.

"Who?" asked my father. "I didn't know they had any East Europeans lined up for the league this year."

"Pass the jam?" said Eddie. My mother handed it to me, and I passed it on.

"Not football, Quidditch," I said weakly. "He's a Quidditch player. He was in the Triwizard Tournament." Surely I'd mentioned it to them?

"What's a triwiÉtriÉthat thing?" asked Nicola, looking up from her cereal.

"Wasn't that some sort of sports competition at your school a couple of years ago?" Mum does try to keep up with our world.

I opened my mouth, then thought better of it. Explanations would doubtless devolve into events at the end of said tournament.

"Yeah. Yeah, that was it."

Dad, next to me, frowned at the Prophet. "I'm never going to get used to those moving photos."

I gave a hesitant shrug, and turned the page. "I'mÉI'm still getting used to them myself."

Which was, of course, why my first thought when Dad had shown me some photos from his brother in New Zealand was that something must be wrong because they weren't moving.

Eddie snorted. "Moving photos. They're not even in colour."

I pressed my lips together. I didn't need to argue with him about the wizarding worldÉagain. I wished Terry was there. She would have understood. Mum had struck up a conversation with Dad about what everyone was doing today, so Nic alerted me to Bronwyn's arrival.

"Anne, there's a bird hitting the window!"

She wasn't hitting it, but she was flapping at the glass impatiently, risking tangling herself in the potato vine hanging half over one corner. Dad was planning to trim it this weekend. I folded my paper, pushed my chair back, squeezed past Dad, and unlatched the window. Bronwyn shot in and settled herself on my paper. Owls are like cats in some respects. If you're reading it, they will do their best to perch on it. Or perhaps that's just Bronwyn. I shut the window and excused my way back. Dad was eyeing Bronwyn warily. She was eyeing his toast.

"None of those owls look tame."

"They don't bite, I promise," I assured him. Bronwyn chose that moment to make her move, and snatched half a piece off Dad's plate before he could blink.

"I take it you mean they don't bite humans," Mum said dryly. "Want me to put another piece of toast on, Jon?"

" I'll do it. Stupid bird," volunteered Eddie, who was closest to the toaster.

"Come here, you silly thing," I said, sitting down. Bronwyn had dropped the toast on the paper to dissect it. It had landed on Cornelius Fudge, so I was philosophical about it. "Hold still." She waited patiently while I untied the neat parcel carrying the book - and, it was revealed, a note - from her leg.

" Can I pat her?" Nic asked.

"Sure, go ahead," I said absently, pulling the paper off the book. I'd known what it was when I saw it. Typical of Theo, making sure the weather wouldn't get to it.

"What is that, the Bible?" asked my father.

"No, close," I told him. "Shakespeare. I lent it to a friend."

"That's right, I remember," my mother said, starting to gather up plates. "That was a long time ago. Did she forget about it?"

I'd just read the note that came with the book. I startled everyone by laughing aloud.

"Is it a funny letter?" asked Nic gravely.

Anne,
You were right. I suppose. I do recognise most of this, and he is a very good writer. If this is the kind of thing the Dark Lord wants to get rid of I know he's insane. Although some of the poetry was rather silly. And the plays were well-written, but the plotsÉnobody is
that stupid. No wizard, anyway.
This was meant to be a note saying here's the book and thank-you, so I'll continue later. Send Bronwyn back, please?
Theo

"What? No, not really, Nic. Just veryÉveryÉwell, very typical."

"You have friends who want to read Shakespeare?" Eddie, getting up from the table, sounded appalled.

"I do indeed," I told him, still grinning. "And you know what, I have this awful feeling he read the whole damn thing."

"He?" inquired my mother. "Eddie, could you empty the dishwasher, please? It's still full."

"Not my job, it's Terry in the weekends," he called back on his way out the door.

"He," I said smoothly, offering Bronwyn my last crust. Why she likes toast, I don't know. Gwaihir just steals my bacon. "Back to Theo's, please, Bronwyn, he wants to write a letter."

She hooted at me in the inflection that meant "No. I'm tired."

"All right, then, upstairs with you. Gwaihir's in my room."

Hooting again in what seemed to be approval, she took off, circled the room, and flew into the hall, causing my brother to give a startled yell. I don't think our laughter helped matters.

Rising from the table, I picked up book and note and made a quick exit before Mum decided I could do the dishwasher. Dad called after me as I left.

"Anne. Can I borrow your paper?"

I looked over my shoulder. "If you want to. Why?"

He picked it up, grimacing at the smeared jam. The esteemed ex-Minister for Magic didn't look too happy either.

"I just thought I'd like to know what's going on inÉyour world."

I regarded him thoughtfully. That was new, for Dad. For either of my parents. They preferred to not know.

"Oh, good," I said without thinking. I left before I saw his face.

*

My first misgivings had come when I realised Theo had read the whole of Shakespeare's collected works. They grew into a full-blown decision I'd made a mistake when he insisted in quoting - or discussing - Shakespeare in every letter I got from him that summer. It was certainly interesting. I discovered just how much I didn't know about Muggle technology. I mean, how was I supposed to know what gunpowder was made of? I ended up going to the library to find out. Then there was the half-page explanation of why Henry the Fifth was totally unjustified in invading France. Not to mention his withering deconstruction of why Othello and Desdemona were total idiots, and why Mark Antony absolutely should have been in Slytherin.

I should have realised. Theo and Shakespeare suited each other perfectly. Both were old-fashioned, occasionally poetic, mostly predictable but sometimes surprising, and surprisingly necessary in day-to-day life. Theo also took a positively malicious delight in turning my own weapons against me.

Some people would call Theo's new-found penchant for quotation a disadvantage; I didn't. It was mostly amusing, and (don't tell him I said this) really sweet. Besides, I was the only person he could quote at. For Theo, who preferred to speak little but pithily, that would have been frustrating. Not that he's ever lost his liking for Shakespeare. When Nicola was visiting a few days ago, she threatened to find the person who'd introduced him to it and stab them. (Theo was feeling eccentric that day and answered everything she said to him with a quote. I would have owned up except I was laughing too hard.)

No, there are disadvantages to being Theodore Nott's - yes, well, girlfriend.

This isn't one of them.

 

 

 

A/N: For a couple of less relevant things. A few people asked about my fencing Ð I fence, insomuch as I fence for anyone, for the Central region of New Zealand. I came eighth in my section at nat U-20s (out of seventeen, it must be noted.)

And to forestall commentsÉI know Shakespeare would normally be described as an Elizabethan playwright. But the Baroque music period covers his time. Theo, as a good musician, thinks in music periods.

//
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