The Sugar Quill
Author: CornedBee  Story: Hermione Granger and the Philosopher's Stone  Chapter: Family Problems
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Hermione Granger and The Philosophers Stone

All belongs to Rowling, as always. Thanks to all the people who helped me – my parents and sister and my beta reader, Silver Phoenix.

Family Problems

Hermione was lost in dark thoughts and didn't move until her father called her for lunch. She wasn't hungry at all, but she still got up and went down, just as her mother came home. Both her parents didn't work very much during the holidays so they could spend more time with Hermione. Right now Hermione wished they would both be away. That was unfair, she realized, her mother didn't even know anything yet.

Lunch was unpleasant. David didn't look at Hermione at all and she shot him dark looks every now and then. Jane noticed this too after a while. Both Hermione and her father jumped slightly as she cleared her throat.

“Hermione, are you well?” she asked. “You look like someone died. And you,” she added, looking at her husband, “look like you're the one who died. Or maybe you murdered the one?”

Hermione flinched slightly. She didn't really enjoy her mother's morbid humour at the best of times; now she found it terrible, not least because it came awfully close to the truth in a way.

“I'm a witch, and he doesn't believe me,” she said matter-of-factly.

“I never said -” David started but was drowned out by his wife's laughter.

“That letter from this morning?” Jane asked in a highly amused voice. “Oh, Hermione!”

All mirth was suddenly gone as Hermione narrowed her eyes.

“Hermione, you must not believe this nonsense,” Jane scolded, but there was also sympathy in her voice. “You're really too old to fall for such stupid jokes.”

“It wasn't a joke,” Hermione said, barely suppressing her rage. “I did magic! Dad saw it.”

Jane looked doubtfully at David.

“Darling?”

“I-I -” her father stuttered, his mouth full of pasta, “I'm not sure. I mean, it was strange, but -”

It was too much. Hermione jumped to her feat, toppling over her chair.

“You saw it!” she yelled. “You saw what I did! You saw the parchment! You -”

Suddenly her father's eyes bulged. For a moment like he might choke, then he spat his spaghetti back on his plate. They all leaped back with shrieks. The noodles were wriggling on the plate, making their way into the other noodles and apparently waking them to life too; more and more spaghetti started to curl like long, thin worms. They started to creep off the plate and onto the table, leaving trails of sauce on the tablecloth. Hermione's parents were pressed flat against the walls, staring at the table in horror, but Hermione was too angry to be afraid.

“See?” she hissed. “Do you now believe it's real? I'm a witch!”

Her parents shook their heads in quiet horror, not taking their eyes of the pasta. It had now spread over the whole table, but the worms carefully avoided falling off the edge of the table.

“Make it stop,” he mother pleaded suddenly. “Please, make it stop.”

At her frightened tone, the anger drained out of Hermione. She realized that she probably couldn't stop it.

Stop, she thought desperately. Stop! But nothing happened.

“Hermione,” her mother whimpered. Hermione looked at her ghostly pale face. Tears were running down her cheeks.

“I can't,” Hermione said quietly. “I can't control my magic. That's why I need to go to Hogwarts.”

David made a strange strangled sound. Hermione looked over at him. He was still pressed against the opposite wall, but now looking at her instead of the table, his eyes wide open, an image of terror.

Hermione knew she had to get rid of the spaghetti somehow. By now every single noodle was alive, creeping around the table, forming thick knots that looked like they would never come apart, then flowing apart again, only to find another cluster of noodles and repeat the same ritual. It looked fascinating to Hermione, but it still had to go. She swallowed hard and approached the table. Taking the large bowl she turned it over and shook all noodles on the table. She placed the bowl on the floor next to her and repeated the same with all other dishes, until nothing was left on the table except the worms. Then she took the tablecloth and made a sack out of it that contained all spaghetti. She held it tightly closed and went outside. There she threw it all into the large trash can.

When she came back into the kitchen her parents were both where Jane had stood previously. David had embraced his wife and she sobbed heavily into his shoulder.

Hermione went over to them.

“Mum?” she said quietly. “Mum, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to.”

Her mother didn't seem to hear her, but her father did. He took one arm away from Jane and laid it on Hermione's shoulder.

“It's okay,” he said softly. “Leave us alone for a bit.”

Hermione nodded. She only lingered long enough to place the dishes into the dishwasher and went up to her room.

She couldn't stay there of course. She felt very uncomfortable in the house at the moment. She decided she would go to the library, as she might as well do something useful, like looking if she found any hints about magic in the books there. The letter had said wizards were hidden, but maybe she could find something.

She wrote a short note for her parents where she had gone and left.

She didn't return until the evening, when the library closed. She had spent hours flipping through dozens of books but hadn't found anything beside silly stories and some information about various cults, nothing that sounded anything like what she did. That was remarkable – the library had never before let her down.

When she got home her parents tried to pretend that nothing unusual had happened during lunch. Nevertheless Hermione noticed that neither would quite meet her eyes and that her father hesitated before each bite. Dinner passed in silence, with neither Hermione nor her parents wanting to bring up the day's events. Jane chattered a bit about her morning, but Hermione didn't care about what happened in the dentistry and David had apparently already heard everything, so Jane fell silent again quickly.

It was not until Hermione lay in bed, when her mother came to say goodnight, that the subject came up again. She should have been happy, Hermione realized, at being a witch, but her parents' reaction had thoroughly spoiled it. She feared that they wouldn't ever believe her, not even with what happened at lunch, and that she wouldn't be able to go to Hogwarts. In a matter of hours, Hogwarts had become a refuge for her, a place where she knew she would be happy, where she would be among people like her, where she would find friends. Not a place she would ever have nightmares about, she was sure. The thought of not being allowed to go there was like a ball of lead in her stomach.

It was all the greater a surprise, therefore, when her mother suddenly started talking as she sat beside Hermione's bed.

“Strange day, wasn't it?” she said.

Hermione didn't raise her head at first.

“Yeah,” she murmured. She didn't really want to talk about it.

“You gave us quite a scare.”

That made Hermione raise her head.

“Sorry,” she said, smiling apologetically.

Her mother looked at her for a time.

“Your father told me about the parchment,” she finally said. “Can I see that too?”

Hermione wanted to say no. If what she did at lunch wasn't proof enough, how would a few changing words be?

Something must have shown on her face, for her mother added, “I'd like to see something more ... harmless than spaghetti returning from the dead.”

That actually lifted Hermione's mood. If her mother had her humour back...

“Okay,” she said. “It's there, on my table.”

Her mother retrieved the letters and gave them to her. Hermione concentrated and gave the first command, shortly followed by the second. Come to think of it, the ink flows reforming looked a little like the spaghetti crawling over the table. She quickly hid the smile from that thought.

“I guess,” her mother said after a long pause, “that magic is the only logical explanation for this.” She snorted. “Stretching the meaning of 'logical', of course.”

Hermione chuckled. Her mother seemed much more inclined to believe her. And if her mother supported her, going to Hogwarts suddenly seemed much more likely.

“Well, I guess we'll see in two days,” her mother went on and bent down to kiss Hermione. “Good night, and sweet dreams.” She stood up and left the room, turning off the light on her way.

“Good night, Mum,” Hermione called after her. She rolled over and sighed happily. She fell asleep soon after and dreamt of a large castle, the walls lined with endless rows of interesting books, witches flying on broomsticks through the corridors, cats sitting on their shoulders. She was one of them, and her cat was very large, with reddish brown fur and a slightly squashed face. It was the best dream she had had in a long time.

The dream was driven completely from her mind as she was awoken rather rudely by muffled shouts coming from the kitchen. It took her a moment to notice that her parents were having a row. That scared her; she had never witnessed any real disagreement between them before. Hearing her name drove these thoughts away and she fell absolutely silent, trying to hear what was going on.

“It's just not normal!” she heard her father shout. “It's absurd! It doesn't make any sense at all!”

“It's the way it is, David!” her mother shouted back. “You saw it! There isn't any other explanation!”

“There has to be! This just can't be!”

“For heaven's sake, use the common sense you pride yourself so much on! Listen to me: This. Is. The. Way. It. Is.”

They either fell silent after that or continued not loudly enough for Hermione to hear anything else. She fell back into her dark thoughts. Apparently David still didn't believe she was a witch. But she no longer felt angry at the thought, just sad. She wondered if it was safe to go down and decided to stay in bed for a while longer. She didn't want to see her parents this way. She didn't want to see her father at all at the moment.

What seemed like an eternity later she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. A knock came at her door, then Jane looked in without even waiting for an answer. She looked rather angry, her face slightly flushed.

“Up already?” she asked shortly. “Good. Breakfast is ready.”

“Good morning to you, too, Mum,” Hermione said silently to the door that was already closed again. She stood up and dressed, then went down into the kitchen.

Breakfast was as unpleasant as dinner the night before. Her father would still not meet her eyes, nor her mother's. A heavy silence lay over the table, thick enough to spoil every bit of appetite Hermione had. Yet she didn't dare bring the subject up. Luckily her mother did.

“Family council,” she announced when they were finished. Hermione suppressed a sigh. The formal council was an obsession of her parents. Every important decision was made in the council, which even had written-down rules. Hermione didn't mind rules, but having them for a family of three seemed like over-doing it to her. Not that she would object. Since the issue concerned her directly she had a full vote, so if worst came to worst she hoped that her mother would support her.

They took their places in the living room. Jane, having called the council, was the first to speak. At least, Hermione thought dryly, there isn't any other ceremony attached to it.

“Very well. Hermione, you say you're a witch. You've made a good point yesterday. David, you don't believe her. Why not?”

Hermione knew her father hated the formal tone Jane took at these meetings as much as she did. He looked thoroughly annoyed now, too.

“I don't say I don't believe her,” he said darkly. “I just don't believe this whole thing. I mean, I've lived thirty-five years without any sign of magic and now I'm expected to believe Hermione is a witch?” He made a sound that might or might not have been a chuckle.

“Well, do you have a better explanation for what she did yesterday?”

“No,” David said, lifting his hands in exasperation. “I mean, I don't know. Any explanation has to be better.” His arms dropped back to his legs.

“I like this explanation,” Hermione said. “I know it's right. I feel it.” She couldn't explain what she felt, just that it felt right.

David looked at her. Their eyes met. They held each others gaze, trying to silently communicate their feelings. Hermione could see the confusion in her father's eyes. A sense of... loss. But what did he lose, she asked herself. She couldn't come up with an answer.

Her father broke the contact and sighed.

“Let's wait for tomorrow,” he said silently. “Seeing this representative will help.”

Jane nodded and stood up, effectively ending the council. Hermione went to her father and hugged him.

“Thank you,” she whispered. She knew that when her father gave in a bit, he easily gave in completely.

“I'm not promising anything,” he quickly said, but he was clearly amused. Hermione chuckled and curled into his lap.

“Not yet,” she whispered.

Then, at long last, after she had nearly gone mad from anticipation, Hermione woke once more to find it was the twenty-eighth and the representative should arrive shortly.

//
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