The Sugar Quill
Author: AmyWeatherwax  Story: Halloween Sugar Highs  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Halloween Sugar Highs

Halloween Sugar Highs

 

 

Note: This is a sequel to Sour Mix & Snape, so will only make sense if you read that first.

Disclaimer: Snape, Hogwarts, etc belong to JK.  Haribo sweets belong to Dunhills. Mercy belongs to me, but if you want to borrow her we’ll both be down The Three Broomsticks looking for Weasleys (they’re lower maintenance than Snapes).

Big thank you to GorgeousWeasleyBoy for beta-ing and to TrolleyTiger for approving the ending.

 

 

Halloween Eve

 

Mercy didn’t know quite how the conversation had got round to Professor Snape.  In fact she was almost sure she hadn’t mentioned the man at all.  Yet her aunt was fixing her with a piercing look over the top of the October edition of Quidditch Supplies Monthly and enquiring tenaciously, ‘And what have you and our esteemed DADA professor been arguing about now?  Honestly, Mercy, I think you go looking for trouble where Severus is concerned!’ 

 

No, he just is trouble, and he’s the one who’s always snooping around my classroom.  Except he doesn’t.  Anymore.  Ever since the pink potion ‘incident’ at the end of the last school year her dungeon had been a Snape-free zone.  The fact that he now knocked on her office door and asked with brief and careful politeness for any potion ingredients he needed, was infinitely more annoying.

 

When she had arrived at the Potions classroom that summer morning he was nowhere in evidence and every trace of the rogue pink potion had already been meticulously scoured from the dungeon.  She had stood there wondering if she had dreamt the whole thing, despite the chocolate frog card on her desk (Mother Shipton - rather a rare card, actually). 

 

Unfortunately, Snape’s subsequent behaviour was all the proof she needed.  That very afternoon he had scurried scurried! away when she popped into the staff room to talk to Professor Flitwick.  She would have laughed at his hunted expression, except . . Aunt Minerva said she was far too eager to laugh at anything and everything, but Mercy found she couldn’t laugh at him.  Not anymore.

 

And here was her aunt wanting to know why the two of them acted like bad tempered Manticores whenever the other was around.  Mercy sighed.  Though Aunt Minerva was usually a sympathetic, if irritatingly calm and logical, audience for her weekly woes, she had resolved never to breathe a word about the grim DADA professor’s secret midnight sugar cravings.

 

‘Mercy?  Are you trying to avoid my question?  It was Dumbledore who mentioned it.’

 

Mercy grimaced. ‘Dumbledore?  What did he say?’

 

‘He said if he had to sit between the two of you at lunch again he would don his extra-thick thermal winter under-robes as a safety precaution.’  Minerva pursed her lips as her niece’s mouth twitched in apparent amusement.

 

Mercy caught the movement.  ‘I’m sorry, Aunt.  You know I don’t like to upset the headmaster.’

 

‘Then don’t.  And don’t fight with Professor Snape either.  It’s Halloween tomorrow and we’ll have enough trouble with the students getting up to every ridiculous kind of mischief they can devise.’

 

Mercy wondered if her aunt would ever stop treating her like a naughty toddler who wouldn’t tell where she had magicked auntie’s spectacles to.  She adopted a suitably serious expression.  ‘I shall attempt not to duel with him until the feast is over, Aunt.’

 

‘May I remind you that duelling is just as improper for teachers as it is for students?’  Minerva said sharply, before realising Mercy was just baiting her as usual.  She was about to add an admonishment to this effect when she noticed the blush that had suddenly risen to her niece’s cheeks and gave her a searching glance over her spectacles.  ‘What’s the matter, dear?’

 

‘Nothing, nothing.  Actually, I must go.  I have things to prepare for the Halloween Fair.’ 

 

Minerva frowned a little as her niece hurried out of her office, then her eye was caught by an article comparing the torque and relative wind-speed compensation in Swedish and Japanese designed broomsticks, and she forgot all about it.

 

As Mercy made her way down to Hagrid’s pumpkin patch in the late autumn sunshine she was grateful for the sharp breeze that cooled her cheeks as it sent golden leaves whirling across the grassy hill.  It was ridiculous, but something about the word ‘improper’ had caused a rather too vivid memory to pop into her head, involving black robes, bare feet and the DADA professor looking terribly tall.  Of course, lately staring at the door in the Potions dungeon had the same effect.  And eating Haribo sour cherries had become equally distracting.

 

Mercy pulled the escaping strands of wind-blown hair off her face, looked down the hill and stopped.  Snape was coming out of Hagrid’s hut carrying a bucket.

 

Of course this was not in the least important, so she continued walking, training her features to convey friendly and professional indifference.  She was concentrating so hard on looking suitably dignified while descending a steep hill with a breeze tugging her robes in three directions at once that she almost tripped over him when he halted four-square on the path in front of her.

 

‘Good afternoon,’ he said.

 

‘Professor,’ she nodded politely, wondering what to say. 

 

She looked at the lidded wooden bucket. ‘Is Hagrid in?’

 

‘Yes.’

 

‘I was just going down to talk to him about pumpkins.’  He looked at her blankly.   ‘For the Halloween Fair.’  Well this is a scintillating conversation. 

 

‘I see,’ said Snape, who didn’t seem to at all.

 

Mercy could cheerfully strangle him.  There he was standing right in her way, forcing them to have this inane conversation, all the time looking like he wanted to hurry away before something awful happened.

 

‘And you?’ she couldn’t quite keep the impatience out of her voice.

 

‘Some Doxies.  For class.’  He didn’t add more.  The silence stretched until it brushed the edge of toe-curlingly awkward.

 

‘Well, I really must – ‘ Mercy began, but he was already moving to let her pass.

 

‘Yes, of course. Good afternoon, Miss McGonagall.’ 

 

‘Professor,’ she gave a quick nod of farewell and escaped gratefully into the smoky warmth of Hagrid’s hut.

 

 

 

Halloween Night

 

The Halloween feast was still in full swing in the Great Hall, but Mercy had left early and was enjoying relative peace under the high candlelit vault of the Entrance Hall.  The muffled sound of gaiety drifted under the heavy wooden doors and every inch of the hall and stairwell was decked in festive orange and forest green, with rosy apples and golden corn sheaves showing amongst the evergreen branches woven up the banisters.

 

A house elf in a frilly apron and little mobcap was stirring a large pot of orange goo which sat next to the largest cauldron Mercy had been able to find.  It was big enough for a cannibal to stew a hapless Victorian explorer in, though Mercy really hoped that that had never been the case.  She went over to help light the fire beneath it and get her other ingredients ready.  To her right, other stalls were already ready for business.  Two trestle tables faced each other across the hall, one a bric-a-brac stall piled high with second-hand Quidditch supplies and slightly scuffed chess sets, the other, Professor Sprout’s, had a jungle of plants for sale – one rather vigorous Flitterbloom was already colonising the throw-a-gnome-and-win-a-prize stall next door and snapping at the heads of the two 5th years charming their sign to flash different colours.  At the far end was an open space with a banner announcing ‘7th Year Magical Demonstrations’. 

 

With the cauldron heating nicely Mercy began to measure in the sugar.  One of the 5th years wandered over to watch.  She looked up and smiled at him and he nodded towards the stall opposite hers.  It was a wooden booth with a doorway. 

 

‘Professor Snape’s Wardrobe of Doom,’ he said, grinning. 

 

To Mercy it looked far more sinister than a wardrobe; made of mahogany, dark and polished with age, it was carved with ancient symbols and the open door space was inky black as though it consumed the candles’ glow before the light could reach inside.  However, she was smiling at the cheeky description when Snape stepped out of the booth. 

 

Mercy and the 5th year both jumped guiltily.

 

‘Um, Miss McGonagall.  Trick or treat?’ the 5th year said quickly, sticking out his hand, obviously hoping that Snape hadn’t heard him and that Mercy would play along.

 

‘Ooh, treat, I think,’ she said, trying not to look at Snape who was glowering at them, ‘but this isn’t ready yet . . oh wait,’ she put down the sugar scoop and rummaged in her a pocket, ‘Pepper Imp?’

 

‘Thanks, Miss M,’ he said, taking the whole handful, then turned to Professor Snape and asked with, in Mercy’s opinion, an unwise amount of swagger, ‘Trick or treat, sir?’

 

Snape considered the student in silence for a moment, then with a little flick of his wand said, ‘Trick.’

 

The boy twitched once and was suddenly sporting a pair of magnificently long and hairy donkey’s ears.  His eyes widened as he felt above his head. ‘Oh,’ he swallowed.  ‘Um, yes sir.’

 

‘Run along,’ Snape suggested quietly.

 

‘Yes, sir.’  The boy departed, sensibly without a word of protest.

 

Mercy picked up her sugar scoop again.  Snape looked at her across the cauldron.

 

‘Well.  Aren’t you going to complain?’ he asked sourly. ‘I’m sure you’re just itching to.’

 

Mercy poured a large jugful of the orange goo onto the sugar mountain in her cauldron.

 

‘No.’  Her lips quirked.  ‘I always thought that boy was a bit of an ass.’ 

 

She looked up at him to see the effect of her terrible pun.  If anything, he was frowning deeper than usual.

 

Sighing inwardly she went back to her measuring, all too aware of his continued silent inspection.  She picked up a pot of brown powder as he finally cleared his throat. ‘What are you making?’

 

‘Ah,’ she said, adding the cinnamon with a flourish and taking out her wand.  With a brief charm it slid from her hand and began to mix her ingredients; faster and faster it went, first there was a sticky pale orange paste in the cauldron’s depths, then, as her wand blurred with speed, a ghostly sparkling mass began to rise up towards the brim.  

 

Judging the time to be right, Mercy called back her wand and dipped a quite ordinary unmagical stick in instead.  One turn around and she was holding it out to him topped with an enormous soft orange mass.  ‘Pumpkin-flavoured candy floss?’ she offered.

 

‘No,’ he said, ‘thank you, I don’t care for it.’

 

What a surprise. She looked across at his stall.  ‘And what’s that?’

 

‘My – contribution – is educational,’ he said gravely.  ‘A boggart.’

 

‘Educational and frightening.  Clever.’ 

 

She smiled and could’ve sworn he was almost possibly about to smile back, but at that moment the doors of the Great Hall swung back and the noise level climbed steeply as excited students poured towards them.  The house elf tugged on her robes to offer her more sticks, and when she looked up again Snape was gone.

 

After half an hour or so of strenuous cotton candy winding Mercy was sticky up to the elbows.  She was doing good business despite the filling effects of the Halloween feast, and perhaps as an antidote to close encounters of the boggart kind – some of the younger students were exiting Snape’s ‘wardrobe of doom’ looking rather pale and shaken.  Peeves was helping in his own special way by swooping around, and occasionally through, the nervous queue-ers.

 

Mercy’s queue looked much more cheerful.  Sugar addicts of the castle unite. She picked up the powdered cinnamon, topped up her mixture with a generous shake and reached for another stick.  She twirled till it was supporting a pillow-sized portion, handed it to the little 1st year at the front of the queue and picked up another.  The cauldron seemed to be getting rather overfull, she noticed.  Perhaps her twirling arm was getting tired.  Easy to fix. She tapped the cauldron with her wand.  The candy floss level continued to rise.  She frowned and tried again. 

 

A low, ominous rumble sounded from the cauldron’s depths.  A fluffy sugar cloud rose over the rim and began creeping swiftly down the sides.  This is not good.   Her happy queue-ers were backed away looking slightly nervous.  Mercy tried a different charm, but she was quite sure her spinning spell had already stopped.   The cauldron groaned and belched an orange-silver mushroom into the air.  Within seconds the top had broken off and was floating along the hall accompanied by mixed cries of concern and laughter.  This is really really not good.  The nearest students were already up to their ankles from the creeping tide, while overhead more clouds rose and broke away.

 

‘Everyone move back, please,’ Mercy was surprised she managed to sound so teacherly and calm.  What have I done?

 

Along the hall Professor Flitwick and two prefects were fighting off a large cloud of rogue floss that was threatening to engulf them.  Mercy looked back at the eruption.  It was still picking up speed.  The rumble sounded louder and deeper and her cauldron spewed out a high rustling wave of spun sugar.  It flowed across the hall taking several surprised students with it and broke against the base of the stairs.  

 

A deep voice sounded through the growing chaos.  ‘Everyone make for higher ground.’  Dumbledore’s hat was askew, his beard streaked orange. There was a general rush for the stairs.  ‘Calmly please!’ 

 

I’m fired, Mercy thought, trying a spell that would put out the fire below the cauldron, though it was obscured beneath the rising volcanic cone of floss.  I’m so fired.

 

‘Miss McGonagall.’  She looked up to where Dumbledore had stopped, halfway up the first flight with the sugary tide already licking at his toes.  ‘I think this problem is for your capable hands.’

 

She was up to her waist, struggling to stay upright, and not entirely sure he wasn’t being sarcastic, but she managed one last gasp of professionalism – before my career is over – ‘Thank you Headmaster.  I’ll have it under control in a moment, I’m sure.’

 

She waded off through the orange drifts, firing scouring charms as she went, but the stuff simply expanded to fill the holes she’d created.   The dizzying smell of too much warm sugar, pumpkin and cinnamon filled her nostrils.  She tried a melting spell - ‘Ow!’ - and stumbled back as hot drops of burning syrup flew through the air.  

 

Her arm was caught in a hard grip before she fell.  She turned.  ‘Professor Snape!’ Her already over-wrought nerves jumping to double time.

 

‘I already tried that.  It doesn’t seem to be a good idea.’  He glanced down. ‘My foot,’ he winced.  She stepped off it quickly and grabbed a handful of his sleeve to keep from being swept away.

 

‘We need to get this under control.’  He had to speak up over a rising roar.

 

‘Yes, but I don’t know what happened!’  The tide threaten to overwhelm them and they fired off scouring spells in unison to keep a pocket open around them.

 

‘I finite incantatem-ed my charm!  It should have stopped right then!’ she was having to yell now.

 

‘It’s not a spell, it’s the potion!’ He barked a repelling spell to keep them from being completely engulfed.  ‘We need time to think!’  Before she knew what he was doing, he’d whirled them both round, blasted a tunnel through the drift in front and pushed her through a square of blackness.

 

There was silence – dark, cool and blissfully empty.  Lumos,’ Mercy gasped and leant back against the wall.  Snape tumbled through the opening and landed at her feet.  There was nowhere else to go – they were safe inside the wardrobe of doom.

 

Snape gathered himself quickly and backed away across the tiny space.  He suddenly looked very worried.  Mercy squinted at him through the gloom and opened her mouth to speak.

 

There was a movement in the shadows and a third person stepped forward to join them in the box.

 

‘Woah!’ Mercy flattened herself against the wall. 

 

Scarlet robes, long dark hair, it was hardly ghoulish, but all the hairs on the back of her head rose up as one. 

 

Mercy was staring at herself.

 

Riddikulus!  She jumped as Snape’s voice boomed in the tiny space.

 

The boggart crossed its – her – arms and began to laugh mockingly at him.

 

Riddikulus!!’ he roared.  The doppelganger took one look at his thunderous face, tried to turn into several things at once and vanished in a puff of smoke.

 

There was a long silence.  Mercy found her hands were palm flat against the wall for support.  She felt worn out.

 

‘That’s what you’re most afraid of in all the world?’  Much to her annoyance she was unable to keep her voice steady.  ‘Me in my dressing gown?  Am I really that frightening?’

 

Snape lifted his head tiredly. ‘No. Rationally, you are not -’ 

 

Rationally I’m not? Mercy felt her grasp on the situation slip right through her numb fingers.

 

‘ - but as you have just demonstrated, where you lead, chaos follows.’

 

She straightened up.  Ordinary insults she could deal with.  ‘Where I lead - ? Excuse me, but the slight problem we are currently having outside was nothing to do with me!  At least, I’m almost entirely sure it didn’t, isn’t –‘

 

‘It wasn’t,’ he said rather begrudgingly. ‘It was Peeves.’

 

‘Peeves?!’

 

‘Yes. I saw him lurking around the mess of ingredients beside your cauldron earlier on.’

 

‘Then why didn’t you – ‘ she burst out.

 

‘Because I didn’t think anything of it at the time,’ he snapped angrily,  ‘and if you weren’t so disorganised as to –‘

 

‘Disorganised! Why you –‘

 

‘- the lack of discipline –‘

 

‘joyless, overcompensating –‘

 

‘- ridiculous and infuriating –

 

‘idiot!

 

Snape stopped his lecture and narrowed his eyes.  Mercy suddenly regretted her final choice of word, it was not particularly grown-up or well-thought-out.  Neither was the finger which she had been poking him in the chest with.

 

‘Overcompensating?’ Snape moved closer, a dangerous edge in his question.  With her hand flattened against his robes, the space round them felt awfully small.  ‘What do you mean by that?’ 

 

She knew she had a good answer.  She had considered the matter carefully many times.  But with the subject of her analysis directly in front of her she couldn’t quite remember.  ‘What I meant was, that is, you really don’t need to be so, well – ‘ she trailed off and took a deep breath.  ‘I would never laugh at you like that.’

 

Snape frowned in the oddest way, not looking at her at all.  ‘Is that a promise?’ 

 

‘I wouldn’t dare,’ she said truthfully.

 

‘Good.’  He bent his head and kissed her.

 

Oh, said the small part of Mercy’s brain that hadn’t immediately shut down the moment Snape’s lips made contact, this is what it felt like, I remember.

 

All the way down to my toes. 

 

She buried her hands in the folds of his woollen robes, leaning in closer. What were we arguing about, anyway? Can’t have been very important . . . hang on!

 

She pulled back and said peaceably enough, ‘Professor Snape you are a huge enormous liar.  You do like my candyfloss – you taste all cinnamony.’

 

He almost smiled, but just kissed her again instead.

 

‘Cinnamon!’ she gasped a moment later.  He pulled back and looked at her blankly.  ‘That’s what I added right before it started . . exploding.  Peeves must have put something in it.’

 

‘Or swapped it for something else.’  Snape was all business again.  ‘A brown powder . . ground fire crab shell, perhaps?’

 

‘Swelling Solution?  Or Bubotuber pus?’ she wondered, then shook her head.  ‘But the effect was too violent.’

 

‘Erumpent fluid?’

 

‘No, there wouldn’t be any in the castle.  That’s class B tradeable.  Too dangerous.’

 

‘Well – ‘ Snape ducked his head a little guiltily.

 

‘What?’

 

‘There might have been some in my office.’  She looked at him in disbelief.  ‘But no one comes into my office.  Ever.’ he defended.

 

‘Well, unfortunately Peeves wasn’t put off by your charming personality!  At least it can’t have been much or there’d be no cauldron and possibly no castle left either. 

 

Snape stepped away from her.  ‘Perhaps you’d like me to take myself and my personality back to my office right now,’ he said coolly.

 

‘You could clean up your mess on the way there,’ she found herself suggesting airily. 

 

‘Really?’ Snape folded his arms.  ‘Unfortunately the Potions Mistress is yet to think of a solution to that sticky problem . . Why are you smiling like that?’

 

‘Because the Potions Mistress just did.’  So simple in the end.  ‘Excuse me for a moment.’

 

‘Would you like some assistance?’

 

He seemed to have warmed back up to polite neutrality.  Well, two could play at that game.  ‘Thank you, professor.  A repelling spell or two would be helpful.’ 

 

They exited into a cocoon of orange sugar.  Mercy breathed in the sweet scent one last time then raised her wand.  Accio Sanguis draconis!  And after a pause, ‘pluer!

 

All around them the cottony menace sank away, a fine black mist settling over the grainy crystals which was all that remained.  Mercy’s cauldron appeared out of its mound and gave a final sad burp.

 

‘An elegant solution,’ Snape said grudgingly.

 

On the stairs, students were grabbing at the remaining rogue puffs that had floated high over their heads and having sticky-orange-ball-fights - much to the annoyance of the portraits.

 

‘7th years will please scour-charm the hall and stairs.’  Dumbledore had ventured down to survey the damage.  ‘And the corridor to the dungeons.’  He looked up at one of the candelabras.  ‘And somebody rescue that house elf. . . Professor Snape?  Miss McGonagall?  A wise use of Dragon’s Blood.  However, may I see you both in my office?’

 

They looked at each other.  Mercy smiled at Snape’s frown.  ‘You realise I shall blame this entirely on you,’ she said.

 

‘And I shall blame it on your sugar obsession,’ he countered, already warming to the argument.

 

They followed the headmaster up the sticky staircase. 

 

My sugar obsession?’

 

They reached the first landing and looked down on the wreckage below.  The Flitterbloom plant was refusing to let go of one of the gnomes that had been swept into its grasp.  A tug of war involving several 7th years was already in full swing.

 

‘So,’ said Snape, changing the subject, ‘another Halloween to remember.’

 

‘At least it wasn’t a troll,’ Mercy replied innocently.

 

‘I don’t know.’  Something in his dry tone made Mercy glance sideways at him.  And there, for a brief moment, half-hidden under his hair, she caught it – his lip curled up in that almost-smile.  ‘I think I preferred the troll.’  

 

 

 

 

 

//
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