The Sugar Quill
Author: Scabbers  Story: A Crazy, Stormy Evening  Chapter: Default
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A Crazy, Stormy Evening

Authorís note:This story was written before Order of the Phoenix, so donít be alarmed by any inconsistencies.That being said, I donít think youíll find many things that seem too off, even after OOTP.

 

A Crazy, Stormy Evening
By Scabbers

"Hermione, are you awake?"

"No, sound asleep."

"Very funny."

I rolled over on the pullaway bed so I was on my side facing Ginny. My eyes could only make out her outline: arms wrapped tightly around the neck of a stuffed cat, chest moving slightly up and down as she gazed at the ceiling with wide eyes. A flash of lightning illuminated the room, suddenly, and she buried her face in her pillow with a squeal. "I hate storms," she moaned, her voice sounding muffled," I can't sleep through this." Her declaration was punctuated by an impressive explosion of thunder that prompted even me to nestle further into my sheets.

I squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them again. I wasn't tired, I realized. I suppose the storm was getting to me, too.

"We don't have to sleep, you know," I said over the wind's whistle and the rude rattle of the shutters. "We could talk."

"Good idea." She yawned, and then clapped her hands together once, halfheartedly.The little lamp resting on her nightstand flickered slightly.Grumbling, she tried again, a bit more loudly and deliberately.This time, the lamp flared with a modest light that cast a glow throughout the room."I hope you don't mind," she said, "It's just that I get scared when it's dark. In a thunderstorm, I mean."

"Not at all," I assured her. I liked a little light, and I had to marvel at the convenience of a source that wasn't dependent on the stability of outdoor wires. "You know," I remarked, "Wizard kids are lucky. I remember there would be power outages during storms when I was growing up. I would be too scared to get out of bed in the dark, so I'd have to wait there by myself and hope my mother would eventually come rescue me with a flashlight." I glanced at Ginny, who looked bewildered. "Flashlights run on batteries, like your dad collects."

"Oh, I get it," she said, but I could kind of tell I had lost her at the phrase "power outages". I decided not to give her a crash course in electricity; she seemed to be suffering enough already. I noticed the way she jumped a little every time the house creaked, which it did a lot. The Burrow, I had to admit, was a scary place to ride out a thunderstorm.

"Do you think the boys are asleep?" she asked, as another noisy clap of thunder seemed to shake the floorboards.

"I can't imagine how they could sleep through this."

"I don't know. You'd be surprised what my brothers can sleep through." I thought of Ron, snoring softly through Professor Binns' lectures, and allowed myself an appreciative giggle. Usually, I tend to be more of a chuckler, or even a snorter, but being with Ginny in a thunderstorm made me want to giggle like a girl.

My entire week of sharing a room with the youngest Weasley had been a refreshingly different experience for me. Ginny was a true girls' girl, despite her surplus of brothers, and I was constantly aware of the changes in me when I was around her. I didn't feel the need to think so much before I spoke, for one thing. Something about Ginny Weasley made me want to confide in her.

I came close, then, to confiding to her one of my deepest secrets- one that embarrassed me greatly, and one that was to be revealed a few hours later (though not in a manner I would ever have imagined). At the moment, however, I was interrupted by a low moan that might have sounded like the wind, except the sound was coming from directly outside Ginny's door, and it was broken up by choppy bits of laughter.

"Go away, Fred and George!" Ginny yelled, obviously annoyed to have a good conversation about boys put on hold for the sake of "those obnoxious identical gits". The twins, however, apparently viewed her acknowledgement of their presence as an invitation, grinning as they swaggered into Ginny's room and shut the door behind them.

One twin planted his blue pajama-clad backside on the foot of Ginny's bed, while the other turned her desk chair around and straddled it, resting his chin on its back. "Ow, George, you're smushing my feet!" Ginny complained, removing them from underneath her brother's bum and using them to nudge him away. I was impressed at her ability to tell them apart, especially in the half-light.

"So sorry," said George, resettling so he was sitting, not only on Ginny's feet, but on her ankles and calves as well. Ginny rolled her eyes. "What are you doing in here, anyway?"

The twin on the chair, evidently Fred, ran his fingers through his tousled hair and grinned. "We're here to protect you. We know how you are in thunderstorms, Gin."

I raised my eyebrows. "You came to protect us by standing outside Ginny's door and moaning like sick cats?"

They laughed good naturedly at this, and Ginny stretched her hand out to give me a high five.

"The lady has a point," said Fred.

"Did we scare you?" asked George.

Ginny smiled smugly. "Better luck next time."

"But it was a valiant effort," I added. I find that late at night, I tend to use words like "valiant".

George stretched and covered a yawn with one large hand. "So, can we join this little slumber party, or is it girls only?" he asked.

"Girls only," said Ginny, "But I suppose you'll refuse to leave anyway."

"I suppose you're right," said George regretfully. Fred sighed and shook his head. "When will we ever learn?"

Ginny couldn't help but laugh a bit. "All right, I give up. But you have to be nice, okay. And you have to do what we want to do, or leave."

"Fair enough," said Fred agreeably, "So what's on the agenda for tonight?"

"We could do each others' hair," suggested George.

"And makeup!" exclaimed Fred.

"Don't you wish you had brothers?" groaned Ginny.

"Okay, we'll be serious," said George, "What does one do at a slumber party, anyway?" For some reason, everyone was looking at me, like I was supposed to be the supreme authority on girly friendship rituals.

I tried to remember back to my pre-Hogwarts days. I had sort of half-belonged to a group of girlfriends- awkward types like myself, still uncomfortable with their own intelligence. I was never really close to them; we were at the age where girls are just beginning to notice boys, except with me, it didn't happen until later. Until Hogwarts, actually. Now I'm rather proud that I was never one of those prepubescent love machines, obsessing about the opposite sex before I even knew what sex was. At the time, however, it was somewhat of a liability to my social life, being the only girl at the slumber party who wanted to talk about books.

I remembered one particularly wretched party, one night of red-faced, steamy confessions from the depths of our nine-year-old souls. It was the first and only time I had ever played the game "Truth or Dare", and I still blush remembering how carelessly the lines of privacy and modesty were crossed. Having no desire to passionately kiss my teddy bear, I had picked "truth", and had been forced to select, from three choices, the gangly fourth grade boy I would be most willing to French kiss. What I did not tell my friends was that, not only did kissing not interest me in the slightest, but I had no idea how the French supposedly did it. Confused and embarrassed, I had spent the rest of the night sitting in my friend's bathtub, reading and trying to figure out exactly why I was crying.

"Hermione, that's a great idea!" exclaimed Ginny, jolting me back to the present. "How do you play again?"

"Huh?" I asked, rather stupidly.

"Truth or Dare. A girl in my year told me about it once, but I forgot how you're supposed to play it."

Truth or Dare- had I somehow accidentally suggested Truth or Dare? I hated that game, loathed it, despised it.

"I've heard of it," said Fred. "You get to pick. Either you answer an embarrassing question, or you do something embarrassing. Either way, you humiliate yourself."

"Sounds fantastic," declared George, "Shall we begin?"

"Wait, I'm not so sure I want to..." I began, but a loud clap of thunder drowned out my voice as I expressed my reservations. I looked at Ginny's excited face- she hadn't even seemed to notice the thunder- and decided it wasn't worth repeating. How bad could this be? It was only Ginny- and (gulp) Fred and George.

Then, suddenly, there was a halfhearted knock at the door, and in stumbled a sleepy looking Ron and an only slightly more alert Harry. Apparently, none of Ginny's brothers felt the need to wait for an invitation to enter her room in the middle of the night.

ďWe heard you guys talking," said Harry, and Ron nodded with a yawn. I stole a glance at Ginny, who was wide-eyed and nibbling on the nail of her index finger. Even in the minimal light, I could tell she was blushing.

"Join the party," welcomed Fred, "You're just in time for Truth or Dare. Who's going first?"

Harry, Ginny, and I stared blankly at him, George smirked, and Ron just yawned again. "Okay, then. I guess that would be me," Fred said, shrugging. "Somebody give me a dare!"

"All right," said Ginny, "I dare you to go downstairs and fill Percy's shoes with chocolate pudding."

George quickly reached over and covered her mouth. "That doesn't count- he would do it anyway. Try to think of something creative."

He could French kiss Ginny's stuffed animal, I thought, but kept it to myself. I had no desire whatsoever to watch that.

"I've got it!" declared George, looking dangerously smug. "I dare you to sneak in and steal some of Mum's makeup, put it on, and then we'll take a picture of you."

Fred, well up for the challenge, blew a kiss at the five of us, and strutted out the room. He returned five minutes later, arms laden with what were apparently the cosmetics of witches. "Oooh, I'll help him put it on," volunteered Ginny, eagerly opening a small compact and applying it to her brother's freckled cheeks with a large brush.

"Isn't it kind of dark in here for that?" Harry asked uncertainly, "What if you mess up?" Ginny shrugged. "Witch makeup is different than Muggle makeup. It doesn't really matter if you put on the wrong color or too much or anything, because it evens itself out."

"Hey, turn the light on anyway," requested Ron, who seemed to have woken up a bit. "I'd like to see the full effect."

"The full effect" was indeed interesting, and George gleefully captured it on camera. "We're sending this one to Angelina!" he announced. Fred simply batted his newly thick, black eyelashes.

George, seeming almost jealous of the fun his twin was having, insisted upon going next; naturally, he requested a dare. This time, Ron was inspired. "Okay, here it is. You have to make up and recite a love poem to someone in this room. A passionate love poem."

George shrugged. "Rather juvenile, but I reckon I could have fun with it. Does it matter who I pick?" He was looking at me, naturally enough, I suppose. I was the only girl in the room who wasn't his sister.

"Um, not Hermione," Ron said suddenly. "Do it to...um...Harry."

George raised his eyebrows. "A dare is a dare, I guess," he said. He clasped the hand of a scared looking Harry, cleared his throat dramatically, and began. "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad- ow!"

Ginny, cheeks as red as a fresh tomato, had immediately given him the slap he deserved. She then proceeded to scrunch herself into a fetal position, her face buried in the stuffed cat.

George, vaguely aware that he had gone a bit far, dropped Harry's red hand (Harry's whole body was blushing), and tried to make Ginny laugh by tickling her feet. Much to my delight, she kicked him.

But then, the loudest, most ominous thunderclap of the evening sent Ginny catapulting into George's arms (he was, after all, sitting at the end of her bed). He patted her head awkwardly, seemingly relieved to have been forgiven so quickly. "Well, I'm glad you've moved on with your life," he said breezily, but you could tell he still felt guilty for embarrassing her. "So are you next, or what?"

"Fine," Ginny said, "Truth." I saw Ron's eyes light up as he glanced back and forth from Ginny to Harry. Oh no you don't, I thought. The poor girl had suffered enough humiliation for one evening.

"Okay, I'm asking Ginny's question," I declared, before Ron could even open his evil mouth. "Which Hogwarts teacher, past or present, do you think was the best looking?" It was a shallow question, I realized, but at least she wouldn't have to admit to Harry that she still fancied him after all these years.

Ginny seemed relieved, and barely batted an eye as she gave the most obvious answer; Professor Lockhart, for all his faults, was the most physically attractive. "Thank you," she mouthed to me. I winked.

The boys were less satisfied. "What kind of a question was that, Hermione?" demanded George. Ron rolled his eyes, and Harry actually looked somewhat disappointed, if I may say so myself.

"Pretty weak," concluded Fred, "For that, you have to go next."

"That's fine," I lied. I bit my lip- I hated this game. The words "truth" and "dare" opened the door to so many dreadful possibilities; I could hardly begin to imaging what brand of torture the twins would dream up for me.

"Dare...I guess," I finally said. Whatever they asked me to do, I told myself, it couldn't be worse than admitting to Ron that thing I didn't want to admit, and admitting it in front of everyone. Fred and George smiled wickedly at each other. I was beginning to find them extremely unfunny- and they were starting to make me nervous.

"All right," said George, "We'll make it simple. All you have to do is kiss our baby brother Ron."

"Big, wet, and on the lips," specified Fred, gesturing to his own lips, which still bore traces of his mother's makeup.

I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. The room suddenly seemed very quiet.

I could just walk over there and do it.

I dared a glance at Ron, who looked positively stunned, and rather green. Everyone in the room was watching me and grinning. There was only one thing to do.

"Hermione, where are you going?" I was vaguely aware of Ginny's voice calling after me as I fled the room. Thunder rumbled quietly around me, building to a crescendo as I burst into the bathroom and shut the door behind me. If only I had a book, I thought desperately, as I lowered myself into the empty bathtub, my knees cradled to my chest.

This was not how it was supposed to happen, I thought miserably. My love story was supposed to be sweet and spontaneous- not a dumb joke, and certainly not a dare. I hated all of them, I decided. I hated Fred and George for dreaming up the stupid dare in the first place. I hated Harry and Ginny for looking so amused. I especially hated Ron for looking so bewildered and unhappy. He could at least pretend I'm a real girl, I thought, burying my face in the sleeve of my purple pajamas. Stupid git.

An uncertain knock at the bathroom door interrupted my healthy bout of self-pity. I sighed noisily, settled myself into the most dignified position the bathtub would allow, and mumbled a quick "Come in". Harry shuffled sleepily into the room, pulled the lid down on the toilet, and sat on it like it was a chair. He peered at me inquisitively through his glasses; even when he was half asleep, those green eyes seemed to take in everything. I shifted uncomfortably and stared at my hands as he started to speak.

"So, um," he began in that awkward boyish manner, "You have a problem with Ron or something?"

I looked at him, surprised. I had been expecting a clumsy attempt at comfort, a weak assurance that Ron hadn't meant to look so repulsed by the prospect of physical contact with asexual me. Ron was, after all, immature.

But instead, Harry was almost glaring at me from his perch on the Weasley toilet, as he might have confronted anyone who dared to mistreat his best friend.

"What are you talking about?" I asked weakly, the implications of my own rash departure dawning on me. I thought of Ron as I'd left him, Indian-style on Ginny's floor in his maroon pajamas, thinking I had a problem with kissing him.

Well, it's a good thing he doesn't care, I thought, and expressed as much to Harry.

"No offense, Hermione," he said, rolling his eyes to the heavens, ďbut you're being stupid. You know he...well...you're just being stupid. You know what I'm talking about."

"No, Harry, I don't. Why don't you explain it to me."

Harry blew a stubborn piece of hair out of his face and regarded me impatiently. "If you don't know, then I shouldn't be the one to tell you. But- just tell me what's the matter with Ron. You don't fancy his looks, is that it?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Harry!" I felt my cheeks reddening as I lowered my voice to add, "Ron looks fine, okay?"

Harry made no effort to hide his frustration. "Well, what's the problem, then?"

"I have had enough of this!" I exclaimed, standing up in the tub so I was looking down at him. "Why are you treating me like I'm some kind of...I don't know... heartbreaker, out to toy with the emotions of your best friend? I'm supposed to be one of your best friends, too, Harry, or didn't you remember?"

Harry looked so surprised and hurt by my outburst that I began to feel rather guilty. "Look, Harry, I didn't mean to yell," I said softly, "It's just- well, look at me." I gave him a moment to drink in my mismatched pajamas, rebellious hair, sleepy red eyes. "I'm no Fleur Delacour, you know? I don't think Ron is crying over me."

"Oh, honestly," muttered Harry, "Hermione, you'll forgive me, won't you, if I tell you to shut up?"

"There are more polite ways to get your point across."

"Well, I'm afraid I was raised by the Dursleys, and therefore never properly learned manners, especially late at night. So you're just going to have to believe me when I tell you that we love you how you are, and we think you're pretty amazing, even when you're being ridiculous. Like you are now. So will you please take a minute here to work through your issues, then come back with me to Ginny's room? Please!"

I looked at him, yawning on the Weasleys' toilet, struggling to keep his eyes open behind his crooked glasses. The Boy Who Lived looked about ready to pass out from exhaustion. Far from my initial impulse to slap him, I fought the urge to give him a suffocating hug.

"We can go back," I said.

"Great! Great idea!" Then he actually pulled me back to Ginny's room.

"Hey, Harry?" I said softly, just outside her door.

"Yes?"

"Thank you." Suddenly, I felt very shy. "For what you said. And for making me come back."

"Hey, no problem," he said, grinning sleepily. "After all, bringing you back here was my dare."

In the middle of the night, with the storm still raging around us, all I could do was laugh.

"Nice work, Harry," said Fred, jumping up to shake his hand as he led me into the room. Everyone was still positioned exactly as I'd left them: Ginny in her bed, with George by her feet; Ron on the floor by mine. Harry resettled facing him, and Fred reclaimed his chair. "Well," he said lightheartedly, "Who's next?" He had to be kidding.

"Ron's the only one who hasn't gone yet," said Ginny. "Ron- truth or dare?"

He was quiet for a moment, and I became very aware of how hard the rain was hitting the roof. Finally, he answered, "Truth."

Suddenly, Harry piped up, "Let me ask the question. And Ron, you have to tell the truth."

"Well, duh," began George, but Ginny quickly shushed him.

"Ron," asked Harry plainly, "Did you want Hermione to kiss you?"

Ron was silent. I couldn't decide if I wanted to break for the bathroom again or give Harry a hearty beating with my pillow. I ended up doing neither, for the simple reason that I wasn't altogether certain that I would be able to breathe again until I heard Ron's answer. I struggled to keep my expression blank as I glanced around the room. The twins were positively beaming. Ginny was gnawing nervously on a fingernail. Everyone was staring intently at Ron- except Harry. Harry was looking straight at me.

I looked quickly away and found myself staring at the back of Ron's head- the magenta ears, the flaming hair I knew so well. He reached back behind his neck, nervously scratching an itch, or pretending to.

"Yeah," he said finally, and so miserably that even Fred and George found nothing to tease about, "Yeah I did." He shrugged his shoulders. "Look, can we go to bed now, or something?"

"If you're that tired," said Ginny, who looked wide awake herself, and very excited. "But why not sleep in here? I'll go find some extra pillows and blankets."

"Fine," said Ron dully.

I opened my mouth to say something to him, but everyone was watching, so I quickly shut it again. I was torn between a sudden desire to speak with Ron alone, and a desperate need for everyone to stay, to salvage any normalcy from a crazy, stormy evening. My relationship with Ron, I realized with a combination of excitement and dread, was about to change irrevocably.

"All right, here's the blankets and stuff," presented Ginny, bursting into the room. "It's past three- I suppose we should get some sleep." The boys nodded and yawned, a physical reaction to Ginny's announcement. They quickly established themselves on the floor, surprisingly docile about letting us retain the beds. Ron, I noticed, was stretched out next to my pullaway, the vibrant colors of his face and hair subdued by the darkness.

A half hour later, I was still noticing Ron stretched out by the pullaway. And another half hour after that- ridiculous, really, though, that I should be expected to sleep after an evening like this. I stole a glance at the dozing Ron; my eyes, well adjusted to the dark, could make out his freckles and the ginger eyelashes fanned out across his cheekbones.

Suddenly, the two rows of eyelashes separated with a snap, and Ron, pupils dilated but wide awake, stared back at me. He seemed not to know what to do with his mouth, experimenting first with a tiny smile, but eventually forcing a yawn and holding the classic post-yawn mouth position.

"So...um...lovely weather we're having tonight," I whispered over the low rumble of the weakening storm.

"Yeah," he agreed halfheartedly, without a glance at Ginny's rain-streaked window.

"I mean it," I said, desperately chasing away any awkwardness that threatened to hover between us. "I suppose I like storms, you know, when everything's all scary and urgent and dazzling..." Ron gave me a quizzical kind of glance from the corner of his eye. I tried not to look at him as I continued. "And then, when it's about over, but the sun hasn't quite broken through yet, and time seems suspended-"

"Like right now?"

"Exactly. It's peaceful, don't you think, and eerily beautiful."

"Yeah." A moment's silence, and then, "Um, Hermione?" Ron's voice cracked a bit. "Were you very scared by the thunderstorm tonight?"

I sat up in bed and looked down at him. Ron looked terribly anxious, and suddenly I felt very warm. "You're not talking about the weather, are you?"

Ron stared at me, wide-eyed and pale. Wordlessly, he shook his head.

"Oh, right. That," I said, sighing nervously. "I guess I owe you an apology." With a wry smile, I motioned for him to sit next to me on the pullaway.

"You asked if I was scared...yes, I was. Very. But not because," I glanced sideways at Ron, who was sort of staring at his knees. "I'm no good at this, Ron. What I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't have left. And I didn't want to leave. I just thought- the expression on your face..."

Ron appeared to consider this for a moment before he responded, "Well, I reckon you're not as smart as we all thought you were. Harry says I'm completely obvious."

I shook my head. "I thought so, maybe, for a while, but then I figured I was wrong. You can't learn this stuff from a book, Ron, or work it out logically. It's the opposite of logic."

"I kind of like it that way." He was smiling now into a fist, his other hand idly patting one of Ginny's stuffed animals. My cheeks felt hot, and I imagined they were roughly the color of Ron's pajamas. I had no idea what to do next, no idea how this scene was supposed to play. I had only the vaguest notion of how it should end. Luckily, the next line seemed to be Ron's.

"Hermione?"

"Yes?"

"How come you got away with not completing your dare?"

"I did, didn't I? Well, that hardly seems fair..." And so I kissed him. It was the only thing to do. A bird chirped, and I noticed the storm was finally over and the sun was rising. The entire world, it seemed, had been poised, waiting for this moment.

Ron looked at me and smiled. "Good morning, Hermione," he said.

 

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