The Sugar Quill
Author: Nic83  Story: She's a Nightmare, Honestly  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.

Author’s Notes – Thank you to my beta reader Elanor Gamgee and a special thank you to St Margarets for encouraging me to write

Author’s Notes – Thank you to my beta reader Elanor Gamgee and a special thank you to St Margarets for encouraging me to write a piece of fanfiction of my own.

 

'It's no wonder no one can stand her,' he said to Harry as they pushed
their way into the crowded corridor. 'She's a nightmare, honestly.'

Ron Weasley, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', UK paperback
edition, page 127.

 

She’s a Nightmare, Honestly.

She’s a nightmare, honestly,’ Ron grumbled as he made his way down the rickety stairs of the Burrow.

 

Hermione Granger had been in the house for less than twenty-four hours but was already bossing him around. She had decided it would be a good idea to go shopping in Diagon Alley, which was a fair enough suggestion, but was it really necessary to leave at the crack of dawn?

 

His mother had rudely awakened him ten minutes ago when she had hammered on his bedroom door, ordering him to wake up and get downstairs immediately because Hermione was waiting for him.

 

Why Hermione had to be up so early was beyond Ron. They had the entire day ahead of them; they had all summer for crying out loud!

 

He yawned loudly and dragged himself into the kitchen, where he caught sight of her unmistakable mop of unruly brown hair.

 

“Morning Ron,” she chirped brightly from the table where she sat grasping a mug of tea.

 

Ron was too tired to answer and merely grunted in response. He seated himself a few seats along from her, sprawled his arms out on the table and rested his head on top.

 

“Ronald Weasley, where are your manners?” his mother reprimanded him. Ron continued to laze on the table.

 

“Poor Hermione’s been sitting here waiting for you for I don’t know how long,” she continued. “And don’t loll about like that at the table, it’s rude.”

 

She hurled a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon onto the table in front of him and returned to the stove.

 

“I’m eager to see what new titles I can find in Flourish and Blotts,” Hermione explained excitedly.

 

Ron glanced up to see that she was directing this conversation towards his father, who sat at the end of the table with a copy of the Daily Prophet.

 

“I wouldn’t go getting your hopes up,” Arthur Weasley replied sympathetically. “Don’t forget that it’s very much a topic of taboo in the wizarding world.”

 

Ron groaned and closed his eyes. It was too early for S.P.E.W. - it was too early for anything at all except sleep.

 

The aroma of freshly cooked sausages wafted over from the stove but Ron couldn’t bring himself to eat. If only he could doze off at the table for half an hour while Hermione bored his father about her views on house-elf rights and his mother fussed that everyone had enough food.

 

“Ron, eat up,” his mother urged from over his shoulder. “Your father has kindly offered to accompany the two of you to Diagon Alley on his way to work.”

 

Ron sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Can’t we just travel by Floo powder?”

 

“You can’t be too careful thesedays. Not now that…” There was a pause as she shuddered. “Now that You-Know-Who’s back. You’ll still be using the Floo network but your father will go with you to make sure you get there safely.”

She patted her husband on the shoulder compassionately.

 

“But we’ll be going straight from here to Diagon Alley,” Ron protested, feeling that his parents were being very overprotective.

 

“Your father’s accompanying you and that’s settled,” she told him firmly. “Now eat up!” She whisked a bowl away from the table and headed for the sink.

 

“I’m not hungry.” He pushed the plate of eggs and bacon away. He didn’t normally refuse food but he was too sleepy and irritable to contemplate eating right now.

 

“Breakfast’s the most important meal of the day,” Hermione informed him cheerfully.

 

“I’ll make up for it at dinner,” he replied sharply.

 

“You’ll be hungry for the rest of the day if you don’t eat now,” she told him in what Ron regarded as a superior tone.

 

“I’m – not – hungry,” he told her slowly so that there was no mistaking the fact.

 

Hermione rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

 

“Honestly Ron, Hermione’s only trying to help. There’s no need to be so rude.” His mother shook her head disapprovingly and swiped Ron’s plate away.

 

Ron could have sworn that he saw his father suppressing a grin before lifting his newspaper so that it covered his face.

Ron was busy deciding why everyone had it in for him this morning, when all of a sudden, Mrs Weasley shrieked.

 

“Molly!” Mr Weasley cried, almost jumping out of his skin. “What’s the matter?”

 

“Blasted bird!”

 

Ron looked over his shoulder and saw that his mother was swatting a tea towel at a small, grey, furry lump that was hovering above her head. Ron watched as the tiny owl dropped the letter it was holding into the sink full of dirty dishes with a splash before soaring haphazardly around the kitchen.

 

“I don’t know why he’s so excitable.” Mrs Weasley heaved a sigh and fished the envelope out of the sink. “Never had that kind of trouble from any other owl…in all my years…Errol would be disgraced!”

 

“Stupid owl,” Ron sulked. Why did his owl have to be so hyperactive?

 

“Ignore him, Pig,” Hermione cooed as the tiny owl circled her head, twittering noisily.

 

“I think it’s from Harry,” Mrs Weasley speculated with a note of despair, frantically wiping the envelope on her apron in an attempt to dry it.

 

Ron suddenly felt more alive than he had all morning and jumped up to take the letter. The ink had smudged but he ripped it open as quickly as possible.

 

“Well, what does it say?” his mother asked anxiously.

 

“Not a lot,” Ron replied disappointedly. He turned the small piece of parchment over to check that he hadn’t missed something but he hadn’t - Harry had barely written two lines.

 

“Does he sound OK?” Hermione asked worriedly.

 

“Here.” Ron threw the letter so that it landed on the table in front of her. “See for yourself.”

 

Pig began flying around Ron’s head as Hermione picked up the letter but Ron batted him away with his hands.

 

“Bad news?” Mr Weasley enquired.

 

“Go on, read it to them,” Ron instructed Hermione.

 

Dear Ron,” she read aloud. “No, the Dursley’s aren’t treating me any better than usual but they aren’t treating me any worse, which is a bonus, and no, I haven’t had anymore weird dreams. Harry.

 

They all sat glumly, contemplating what a horrible summer Harry must be having, but muffled hoots from Pig broke the silence.

 

“Stupid owl,” Ron repeated as he watched Hermione tentatively pull Pig out of her empty mug. It appeared the owl had somehow become wedged in it head first while they had been engrossed in Harry’s letter.

 

“A stupid letter from a stupid bird,” Ron moaned, feeling very much that he should have stayed in bed this morning.

 

“Ron!” Hermione said haughtily. “It’s no wonder poor Pig hasn’t got any confidence the way you speak about him.”

She tenderly stroked the owl’s feathery chest. “It’s exactly that kind of treatment that the house-elves have to endure.”

 

“A fine house-elf he’d make.” Ron laughed sarcastically, jabbing his thumb in Pig’s direction. “I know Dobby and Winky are mental too, but at least they know how to do their job properly.”

 

Hermione’s eyes widened. “What an awful thing to say!”

 

“Time to be making a move,” Mr Weasley announced, folding his paper and rising from the table quickly.

 

Ron guessed that it was a tactical move to prevent the argument that was brewing.

 

“Goodbye dear and don’t worry, we’ll have Harry here with us as soon as Dumbledore deems it safe,” Mr Weasley assured his wife with a peck on the cheek.

 

“Thank you for breakfast,” Hermione thanked Mrs Weasley.

 

“You’re welcome dear. I’m glad someone appreciates my cooking.”

 

Ron ignored the scornful look in his direction.

 

“Now, have a lovely day you two but take care of yourselves.”

 

“Yes Mum,” Ron replied obediently, barely having time to register anything because she was hurrying him towards the fireplace.

 

In a swish of robes and a flash of flames he was spinning towards Diagon Alley.

 

*

 

“The selection of books you offer on the plight of house-elves is terribly inadequate,” Hermione complained to the shop assistant in Flourish and Blotts.

 

Ron sniggered quietly. As far as he was concerned, she’d undermined her point due to the fact that she had dumped a huge pile of books onto the counter as she made her statement.

 

“I can assure you madam, we stock the widest variety of literature available to wizardkind.” Ron admired the man’s customer focus; he even had the decency to keep a straight face!

 

“I know it’s not your fault that there’s such a lack of research on the issue, but I do think that you should encourage those writers who are brave enough to voice their views on house-elf rights by promoting their work.”

 

“Of course madam. A fine and noble suggestion that is duly noted,” and indeed he did jot something down on a piece of parchment under the desk. Ron guessed it was probably a warning to the other staff to avoid Hermione on future visits to the shop and not a word-for-word account of Hermione’s speech.

 

Hermione raised her eyebrows smugly nonetheless and Ron simply smiled back to keep the peace.

 

“Does madam wish to purchase these now?” The man asked, indicating the books that were towering on his desk.

 

“Yes please,” she replied politely.

 

“A school project due in September, is it?” The man made conversation whilst adding up the price of the books.

 

“Hardly,” Ron spat but he was silenced by a stern look from Hermione.

 

“Actually, I’m researching the history of house-elves voluntarily,” she explained to the bemused shop assistant. “I already got the basics from the school library but I thought it only appropriate to use as wide a range of sources as possible. I didn’t get much time to pursue the cause last year because of working for my OWL’s but I’m hoping to make a bigger impact this year. I can’t believe the wizarding world has tolerated house-elf enslavement for so long, can you?”

 

Ron guessed the shop assistant valued Hermione’s custom too much to stop her ranting. Luckily, he had finished totalling the cost of the books, so rather than answer Hermione’s question, he told her how much money she owed him. Ron made a mental note to remember that trick.

 

“Where to now?” Ron yawned.

 

There was no answer so he turned around to see that Hermione was struggling with her books and hadn’t managed to exit the shop yet.

 

“Where to now?” He asked again, once she had succeeded in squeezing through the doorway and joined him in the street.

 

“Need some help?” He smirked, noticing that he couldn’t actually see Hermione due to the colossal amount of books that she was holding.

 

“I’m quite capable of carrying them on my own,” she huffed defensively.

 

Although part of him couldn’t help feeling that she deserved to carry the heavy load after all of the fuss she’d made about getting the books, Ron didn’t like to see her suffer.

 

“I think if you carry them under your arm it might be easier,” he suggested, taking the top couple of books from her so that he could help her rearrange them. “I might even be able to see your face then!”

 

Thud. The books tumbled to the floor and several passers by complained loudly about the obstacle in their path.

 

“Now look what you’ve made me do,” Hermione complained, her face flushing red, whether from anger or embarrassment, Ron wasn’t sure. She bent down to collect the books that were scattered across the road.

 

“Sorry,” Ron apologised quietly. “I was only trying to help.”

 

How he wished he had stayed in bed today. He couldn’t seem to do anything right. As soon as his father had left, he and Hermione had headed straight for Flourish and Blotts where Ron soon become bored of searching for books that might be of interest to Hermione. His stomach had started rumbling and he regretted that his plate of bacon and eggs had gone to waste. Hermione didn’t have much patience with his stomach and pointed out that she had warned him that he’d be hungry later if he didn’t eat his breakfast.

 

Ron had sloped off to look at Quidditch books at this point and the two of them had practically ignored each other until Hermione was ready to leave.

 

“What’s next on your agenda?” Ron asked, hoping that he wasn’t going to provoke another argument.

 

Hermione dusted off a book and added it neatly to the others she had piled up. “Quality Quidditch Supplies?”

 

You want to go to a Quidditch shop?” He asked with astonishment.

 

“No, but I thought you would.” She swept the books to one side so that they were balanced under one arm and straightened herself up. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

*

 

Whoah!” Ron rushed over to a glass cabinet in Quality Quidditch Supplies and pressed his hands against it in awe. “Signed by the entire English Quidditch team over fifty years ago. Bet you’d need to rob Gringotts to afford that.”

 

“Honestly Ron, it’s only a piece of old clothing with a bit of ink on it. I expect it’s dreadfully overpriced,” Hermione’s cynical voice warned from a few steps behind.

 

“There’s no price on it,” he noted, eyes frantically scanning every last inch of the display case.

 

Hermione snorted derisively; supposedly the lack of a price tag confirmed her point.

 

“Roderick Plumpton has signed it, Hermione. I’d do anything just to touch it.” He kept his face pressed against the glass, gazing in admiration at the shirt he so desperately desired.

 

“I didn’t think you liked the Tornados. At least, that’s the impression I got when you admonished Cho about her team last year,” Hermione observed.

 

Ron almost cricked his neck as he swung his head round to look at her; how did she know that Roderick Plumpton had played for the Tornados?

 

He watched her wander off to another display, lugging her pile of books awkwardly under her arm.

 

“Here, let me help you,” he offered instinctively, walking over to her and reaching out for the books.

 

“Oh.” She seemed rather surprised by his offer and he couldn’t help noticing that her cheeks appeared considerably pink when he took the books from her.

 

“I mean…they look really heavy.” Somehow her embarrassment at this gesture had rubbed off on him and he could feel the tips of his ears turning red.

 

“Blimey, these weigh a ton!” he exclaimed after the brief moment of awkwardness had passed and he registered how very heavy they actually were.

 

“Thanks Ron,” she smiled gratefully.

 

 He was willing to bet the price of the signed England shirt, whatever it may be, that he had matching pink cheeks now as well.

 

“How did you know Roderick Plumpton played for the Tornados?” he asked, remembering the conversation they were having before the blushing book-swapping incident. He was greatly surprised but highly impressed with her Quidditch knowledge. Was there anything she didn’t know?

 

“Viktor constantly makes reference to him. I think he sees him as something of a hero, being a fellow international Seeker. Did you know that Plumpton once caught a Snitch in…”

 

“Three and a half seconds. Yeah, I know.”

 

Suddenly it wasn’t so much fun to talk about Quidditch. Why did she find the sport so fascinating when Viktor relayed facts about it, and yet she never listened to a word he had to say about it?

 

“Didn’t think Viktor would take any interest in the England team.” He was surprised that comment hadn’t sounded nastier; he could practically feel the anger burning up inside. Why did Viktor have to be so perfect?

 

Hermione shrugged her shoulders, seemingly more engrossed in examining the displays that surrounded them. “England might not have made it to the final at the last Quidditch World Cup but Viktor still holds them in high regard professionally.”

What was Viktor, some kind of expert on the English Quidditch team? He was Bulgarian, what did he know!

 

“Ron, look!” He felt a tug on his sleeve and the pile of books almost toppled onto the floor. After regaining his balance, he wondered what had excited Hermione so much.

 

“Probably a life-size poster of Viktor bloody Krum,” he muttered angrily to himself, walking over to join Hermione who was staring up at a poster on the wall of none other than…

 

“Wilberforce Swift.” Ron gaped open-mouthed at the picture of a dark-haired wizard in bright orange robes, winking occasionally as he tossed a Quaffle back and forth between his hands. “He’s one of the greatest Chasers the Cannons have had for years.”

 

“I know. He’s a real role model.” Hermione beamed.

 

Ron looked at her suspiciously. Surely she was making fun of him. “I suppose it was the orange robes that gave it away.”

 

“Gave what away?” she asked with confusion.

 

“That he played for the Chudley Cannons. That I’d be a fan of his.”

 

“Ron, Wilberforce Swift isn’t only a talented sportsman, he’s an advocate of freedom for the house-elves.”

 

“He is?” Ron scratched the side of his head with his spare hand and stared harder at the poster in the hope of finding a hidden clue that revealed this fact.

 

“Do you know how rare it is to find someone with his level of fame and influence who supports the cause?” Hermione’s attention was also focussed solely on the poster before them.

 

“As much as I love them, the Cannons are hardly number one on the list of most influential wizards,” Ron conceded glumly. “I doubt they’d even make the top ten in a list of influential British teams!”

 

“Well, they have my full support and yours too, of course.”

 

“I knew you couldn’t resist Quidditch forever.” Ron gave her a lopsided grin. “This is great, we can cheer the Cannons on together. Maybe we can even get tickets to a game!”

 

OK, he was getting a bit ahead of himself, but to think that Hermione was choosing to support the Chudley Cannons - the team that Ron had proudly supported for years - instead of Krum and his Bulgarian teammates - it was very satisfying.

 

Hermione seemed to be just as cheerful as he felt right now. She picked up a vibrant orange flag from the small Cannons display, which was arranged underneath the poster and waved it above her head enthusiastically. The Cannons logo of a speeding cannonball and a double ‘C’ glowed fluorescent as she waved it. After erupting into a fit of giggles at her uncharacteristic act of stupidity, she placed the flag back with the dozens of others on display.

 

“I think I should write to Wilberforce and inform him of S.P.E.W,” she pondered now that her serious side had returned. “I’ll ask Harry if I can use Hedwig. She’s never failed to find a recipient before.”

 

Ron thought it best just to savour the pleasure of discovering that Hermione was a Cannons fan and let her get on with her musings about S.P.E.W.

 

“I know,” she said passionately. “You could write to him too. I’m sure it would have a lot more impact coming from a lifelong Canons fan.”

 

At this point, Ron froze with horror.

 

“Maybe we can even convince him to be a guest speaker at an S.P.E.W meeting! What do you say Ron?”

 

“What do I say? What do I say?” Ron’s voice suddenly sounded very high-pitched.

 

His temper had snapped; yet Hermione was nodding her head in delight, clearly expecting an optimistic response. “I say, you must be joking. There’s no way I’m making a fool of myself by writing to Swift about spew.”

 

He expected Hermione to emit a tirade of comments in defence of the cause and for the two of them to bicker, that’s what usually happened. But Hermione didn’t answer back. Her mouth was hanging open slightly as if she was in shock and her brow was furrowed like it always was when she was thinking hard, but she was silent.

For some reason, the hurt and disappointment evident on her face hit him harder than any abusive comment could have.

 

He swallowed hard and wished that he’d been more tactful.

 

“I...I think I’m going to go to Madam Malkins,” she announced timidly, more to the floor than to Ron’s face. “I need to buy some new robes.”

 

“I’ll come with you,” he offered as she turned to leave.

 

“No. I expect you’d be bored.” She sighed. “Besides, you’ve hardly had any time to look at the things you want to in here. I’ll meet you outside in a bit.”

 

“Wait,” he called as she hurried out of the shop without looking back.

It was difficult to chase after her with the amount of books he was carrying and so he stayed glued to the spot. He took a deep breath and rolled his eyes, chiding himself for handling the situation so badly.

 

He looked up at the poster of Wilberforce Swift, who was still smiling away.

 

“How did it all go so wrong?” he asked out loud. “A few minutes ago I was the happiest bloke in the world.”

 

He shook his head and lowered his eyes. She was a nightmare all right; they couldn’t go anywhere without arguing, and now he’d gone and upset her.

 

A mass of orange caught his eye and his spirits lifted. He supposed the good times they had together made the bickering worthwhile.

 

*

 

Half an hour later, Ron sat on a stone bench adjacent to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. It wasn’t practical to go anywhere with half a library stacked under his arm and he hadn’t expected Hermione to be the type of girl to spend hours browsing for robes (He had some experience of female shopping habits thanks to Ginny and his mother).

 

Finally he saw her bushy mop of hair emerge from the shop. He leapt up and called out her name, forgetting that she might still be angry with him.

 

She traipsed over slowly, clearly in no rush to see him.

 

“Buy anything?” he asked brightly, trying to break past the frosty exterior she was displaying.

 

“No. Nothing took my fancy,” she replied coldly and folded her arms across her chest.

 

“I got you something,” he announced excitedly, reaching into the back pocket of his jeans. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.”

 

“Don’t be so ridiculous,” she snapped irritably, turning her nose up with disgust. “I’m not falling for that trick. I expect you’ve been to see Fred and George in their shop and plan to humiliate me with their latest invention.”

 

“I’ve been waiting out here for you the whole time,” Ron said dejectedly.

 

“Here.” He handed her one of the orange Cannons flags that she had waved in Quality Quidditch Supplies. “Sorry I made fun of S.P.E.W.”

 

Hermione gasped and clutched her chest before reaching out to take the flag.

“You bought this for me?” she asked with disbelief.

 

Ron nodded as she examined the flag, a smile playing on her lips.

Gotta have one now you’re a Cannons fan, haven’t you?” he joked.

 

“But I thought you wanted to save up for that shirt?”

 

“There are better things to spend my money on.” This was apparently the right thing to say as Hermione was blushing again. “It’d take me a lifetime to save up enough money for that England shirt. Plus, the image of you waving that flag was priceless.”

 

They both laughed at Hermione’s flag-waving antic.

 

“That was really sweet of you Ron,” she told him sincerely once the laughter had fizzled out. “Especially after I stomped off like I did.”

 

“I deserved it,” Ron shrugged and began to draw imaginary patterns on the ground with his foot; his ears were starting to feel awfully hot.

 

“Thank you,” she said softly and Ron risked glancing up.

 

He gulped and his heart began to race. For a horrible moment he was certain that she was going to engulf him in a hug. A stupid, unnecessary embrace would only lead to more awkwardness between them, but a part of him found the prospect rather exhilarating.

 

Hermione was gradually leaning closer, watching his face carefully as she did so and he hoped with all of his might that she couldn’t hear his annoyingly loud breathing. He must be coming down with something. But then she merely patted him on the shoulder and whispered, “thank you,” rather breathlessly. Maybe there was a shortage of oxygen in Diagon Alley today.

 

He had safely escaped having to handle a hug situation but the relief was accompanied by a feeling of disappointment. He supposed it was similar to the England shirt scenario - it was something that he wanted badly, but if he was honest with himself - it was far too precious for him and he’d only end up ruining it.

 

“I’m hungry,” he announced to break the silence and patted his stomach. That was a much more reasonable explanation for the feeling of butterflies in his stomach afterall. “Want to go to the Leaky Cauldron for something to eat?”

 

He expected an, ‘I told you so’, after the argument that morning, but Hermione responded with an enthusiastic, “I’d love to.”

 

“Here, let me,” he offered as Hermione made a move towards the pile of books on the bench.

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

 

“Course I don’t.” He picked up the books and hoisted them up so that he could rest his chin on the topmost cover. “Can’t have these getting in the way of your flag waving, can we?”

 

“You look like a bookworm and I look like a Cannons fan!” Hermione noted with humour.

 

“We must be spending too much time together,” Ron teased, although he didn’t think they were spending too much time together at all.

 

To his great amusement, Hermione raised the flag in the air and waved it so that the Cannons motto glowed fluorescent as they set off towards the Leaky Cauldron.

 

*

 

“So then, the Keeper dived left.” Ron mimicked the move as best he could with an armful of books. “And he whacked the Quaffle right over his head. It was a spectacular move.”

 

He wasn’t sure if Hermione was even listening to his tales about the Chudley Cannons greatest moments, but she hadn’t told him to shut up, which he took as a positive sign.

 

They reached the Leaky Cauldron and Ron pushed the door ajar with his foot, holding it open for Hermione to pass through before he did.

 

She smiled and went to step inside but a man was exiting the pub at the same time and barged into her in his haste to leave.

 

“Watch where you’re going!” Ron yelled at the well-dressed plump wizard who had collided with Hermione.

 

“So sorry young lady,” the man apologised, lifting his top hat. “In a bit of a rush. No harm done, eh?”

 

“No harm done? You practically pushed her over,” Ron told him scathingly, thinking how very much he sounded like his mother.

 

“I can assure you that it was quite unintentional. A complete accident.” The man rounded on Ron, his well-spoken voice becoming increasingly louder.

 

“I’m fine,” Hermione interjected.

 

“Good Lord, do my eyes deceive me?” the man gasped theatrically.

 

Ron and Hermione exchanged looks of confusion.

“A Chudley Cannons fan, in broad daylight!” He clutched his sides and laughed vigorously.

 

Ron frowned and felt the overwhelming urge to clench his fists but was prevented from doing so by Hermione’s books. He had endured taunts about the Chudley Cannons for years but was appalled that this seemingly well presented wizard was standing here laughing in Hermione’s face.

“Show a bit of respect,” he said through gritted teeth.

 

The man’s laughter quietened. “My apologies young lady. One should admire your loyalty and optimism. You must be made of strong stuff, all those defeats. Fingers crossed and all that.” He crossed his fingers and winked.

 

Ron was steadily losing his patience with the rudeness of this man but before he could open his mouth to defend Hermione and the Cannons, Hermione began to speak.

“Actually, the Cannons have won the League twenty-one times and judging by their current level of performance, I’d say it won’t be long before they repeat that kind of success.”

 

“That’s the spirit dear.” The wizard patted her on the head with a patronising manner. “The only way is up!”

 

“And who do you support?” Hermione demanded inquisitively before Ron had a chance to get a word in.

 

“The Wimbourne Wasps.” The man stuck his chest out proudly. “Fine team.”

 

“A fine team of cheats.” Hermione laughed.

 

“Well….I say!” The man sounded extremely insulted and appeared to be at a loss for words because he hurried off, as if suddenly remembering that he had been in a rush.

 

“How did you know that?” Ron asked.

 

“With Ludo Bagman as a role model, it’s hardly surprising is it?”

 

“But how did you know all that stuff about Quidditch?”

 

“Honestly Ron, I have read Quidditch Through The Ages.” She marched inside as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

“Plus, I do keep my eye on the league tables,” she added when they were both inside the pub.

 

Ron had to marvel at this fact.

 

“What can I get for you?” The innkeeper inquired when they approached the bar.

 

“Two butterbeers and two roast beef platters with the works,” Ron ordered promptly.

 

“Ron, do you think it’s safe to eat in here?” Hermione asked timidly, inspecting the bar dubiously.

 

“It’s OK, they don’t have any house-elves cooped up in the kitchen. All the food’s prepared by an old witch.” He stopped as comprehension dawned. Judging by the grotty cloth hanging over the innkeeper’s shoulder and the dusty tables, it was probably safer to assume that house-elves were responsible for the food preparation.

 

“That’s one Galleon and ten sickles,” the innkeeper sniffed, plonking two bottles of butterbeer on the bar.

 

“Right.” Ron rummaged around in his pocket. It was too late for second thoughts about the food, his stomach was crying out to eat.

 

“Here.” Hermione placed some money on the bar.

 

“No, it’s fine.” He poured a handful of silver coins into the innkeeper’s hand; thank goodness his father had slipped him a couple of sickles this morning.

 

“You didn’t have to do that,” Hermione said briskly, leading them over to an empty table with the two butterbeers in her hands. 

 

Ron mustered up every ounce of self control he possessed to prevent himself from asking out loud why it was that no matter how hard he tried to do the right thing, she was never satisfied.

 

He followed her in silence, dropped the books onto the wooden table and sat down opposite her. She was sipping her butterbeer and immediately began flicking through one of the books.

 

Ron grabbed the other bottle and guzzled down the butterbeer, savouring the pleasant taste of the bubbly liquid. He gazed around; it was fairly empty but the din of chatter still filled the air.

 

Hermione was fiddling with a page of the book that was lying open in front of her.

“Ron, I’ve had a really nice morning with you,” she began after the few moments of silence had passed between them.

 

Ron listened intently, the bottle still poised at his lips.

 

“Thank you.”

 

He slowly placed the bottle on the table, wondering briefly if he had misheard. He could have sworn that she had been angry with him a few seconds ago but here she was, paying him a compliment and thanking him. He felt a warm swelling of pride rise in his stomach. (Or was that the effect of the butterbeer?).

 

“No need to sound so surprised.” He grinned modestly, although even he’d had doubts about her enjoying their day together.

 

Before she had a chance to answer, two plates heaped high with roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and vegetables levitated over to their table.

Completely forgetting about table manners and etiquette, Ron began tucking into his food, shovelling as much as could fit on his fork into his mouth.

 

“That’s disgusting.” Hermione cringed. “How can you possibly taste what you’re eating? You’re just gobbling it down.”

 

“You sound like my mother,” he replied in between mouthfuls.

 

Hermione pulled a face. “It’s rude to talk with your mouth full.”

 

“Then don’t talk to me when I’m eating!” he said cheekily, taking a break to wash down his food with a swig of butterbeer.

 

His attention returned to the plate of food in front of him but he was soon distracted by something hitting him in the eye.

 

Ow!” he cried, dropping his cutlery so that he could rub his eye.

 

“Serves you right,” Hermione told him complacently, settling down to eat her own meal.

 

Ron stared at her incredulously. Didn’t she have any sympathy for him? He noticed that a trail of peas were scattered across the table.

 

“It was you!” He pointed at her accusingly. “You flicked a pea at me and hit me straight in the eye!”

 

Hermione continued eating, but was unable to hide a sly grin.

 

“You could have blinded me, Hermione!”

 

“Oh Ron, don’t be so melodramatic,” she replied without a trace of remorse.

 

Ron’s jaw dropped and he gaped at her open-mouthed, not quite believing what had just happened. He had been on his best behaviour all afternoon and here she was starting a food fight with him. Maybe he had been right earlier on; they had been spending too much time together because it appeared that he was having a bad influence on her.

 

“Ron, close your mouth,” she ordered in her familiar bossy tone of voice. “Or I’ll be forced to use it as target practice.”

 

Her last comment made his mouth drop all the more and before he knew it, she had flicked another pea at him, this time narrowly missing his mouth and bouncing off his cheek instead.

 

“That was a waste of good food that was,” he teased.

 

“Ha!” Hermione laughed sarcastically, throwing her head back and pointing her knife in Ron’s direction. “You’d know all about wasting good food.”

 

Ron supposed it was worth letting her think that she’d won this particular battle just to see the contented smile that adorned her face.

 

She’s a nightmare, honestly, Ron thought to himself with amusement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

//
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