The Sugar Quill
Author: Splatt & Ada  Story: Harry's Dilemma  Chapter: Chapter One - Humiliation
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HARRY'S DILEMMA

Summary:
A momentary lapse in concentration leads to a stressful few days for Harry Potter

Rating: PG

Classification: H/G, R/H

Disclaimer: All characters and names used in these fics are the legal property and creative work of JK Rowling and/or Warner Bros. We are making no profit from these stories, merely having fun. In other words, please don’t sue us!

Chapter One - Humiliation

Night had fallen some hours earlier at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, but there was still one solitary person lying awake in one of its tower dormitories.

Not for the first time, Harry Potter found he could not sleep. Once again, he found himself in a predicament. Facing up to a problem was not an unusual state of affairs for Harry Potter, now in his sixth year at the school. He had faced many dilemmas, some of which occurred on what felt like a weekly basis. There was the Filch Dilemma, which usually resulted in a loss of points for Gryffindor and detention; there was the Snape Dilemma, which always resulted in a loss of points for Gryffindor and detention; and there was the annual Let’s-Try-And-Finish-Harry-Potter-Off-Once-And-For-All Dilemma, which tended to reach its finale around the end of each school year.

So, even though it was only the middle of October, finding himself in somewhat of a predicament came as no surprise to Harry Potter. What was troubling him was the nature of this particular challenge. His problem was that he had something in his possession that didn’t belong to him. He needed to return it, discreetly. It was absolutely essential that firstly, no one ever knew he had this thing in his possession at all and secondly, that the owner was unaware of its disappearance and therefore remained ignorant as to who had it at that precise moment in time.

With a frustrated sigh, Harry rolled over onto his back and stared at the top of his four-poster bed. He was used to sleepless nights; perhaps some inspiration would come to him during the midnight hours. He sat up, punched his pillows ruthlessly into a more accommodating mound and threw himself back down on them. With a heavy frown, he tried to focus on his current situation. He had in his possession this item that wasn’t his: an item of clothing, in fact. To be more precise, it was an item of … feminine clothing, that had to belong to a Gryffindor female. Harry sighed again; there was no escaping it. To cut a long story short, it was a bra.

Immediately, Harry could feel himself blushing at the sheer thought. He rolled on to his side again with a grunt, well aware that sleep would elude him for the rest of the night. He stared unseeingly at the thick velvet drapes that hung from the canopy of his bed, mulling over the previous evening’s events …

Ron had been missing all evening, doing yet another detention with Snape. Meanwhile, ever-keen Hermione had been putting Harry through his paces with some practice N.E.W.T. papers. Although they had started the evening sitting in front of the common room fire, they had been forced a little later to move to another table further away.

The fifth-year Muggle Studies class had been having a Muggle week, whereby magic was not allowed with regard to any household chores, (Hermione had been over the moon, as this meant less work for the house elves). As a result, the fifth years had all been doing their own laundry and preparing their own meals. Chaos had reigned all week in the common room – along with a great deal of hilarity and a general air of smugness from those involved, (to allow time for these activities, they had been given one whole week off from homework in all subjects.)

As a direct result, however, there had been assorted clothes drying in front of the common room fire almost every day. On this particular evening, seeing the approaching hoards with their baskets of damp washing, Hermione had ushered Harry to a table in a far corner – according to Hermione, being surrounded by everyone’s wet clothing was not conducive to quality studying time.

However, as they had gathered their belongings and moved away to somewhere less distracting, Harry’s attention had been caught by the fact that tonight all the clothing appeared to be underwear. It wasn’t that he had intended to notice as much as it was hard to miss when you were surrounded by it.

Harry rolled onto his front and groaned into his pillow as he recalled what had happened next.

By eleven o’clock the common room had been empty. Ron had still not returned and Hermione had shown no sign of ending his torture with the practice exam papers.

“Hermione, it’s late. Can’t we carry on with this tomorrow? It’s not like we even have our N.E.W.T.s this year, is it?” Harry had removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes wearily.

“It’s never too early to start practicing,” Hermione had replied briskly. “Besides, Harry, you need to make sure you get better results than in your O.W.L.s, don’t you, if you really do want to become an Auror. You know what Professor McGonagall said, especially about Potions …”

Harry had slammed shut the book in front of him in an attempt to interrupt her flow of words, and Hermione had cast him an apprehensive look, but then continued: “Honestly, Harry, it’s not like you’re going to go to sleep until Ron comes back anyway, so you may as well make good use of the time. Now, where is your Transfiguration book – I thought you brought it down with you?” and she had rummaged through the pile of books and papers on the table in front of them.

“I did,” Harry had responded shortly, replacing his glasses with a resigned sigh. He’d bent down and started to sift through the pile of books on the floor by his chair.

“Oh honestly,” Hermione had sighed, then she had brightened: “I’ll go and fetch mine,” and she’d hurried over to the staircase to the girls’ dormitories.

Harry had stood up and looked around. He knew he had brought the book downstairs with him as he had used it earlier in the evening; then he’d seen it, sitting over on the table by the fire. It was pretty inaccessible - racks and racks of drying washing surrounded it. He had pulled out his wand, muttered a weary ‘Accio’ and then held out his hands. And that’s where something had gone catastrophically wrong. Clearly his mind had been focusing on something other than his Transfiguration book, because moments later he was staring confusedly down at a bra, one cup resting neatly in each upturned palm.

With a start, Harry had glanced quickly towards the stairs, realizing he could hear Hermione’s returning footsteps. A deep blush had stolen over his cheeks as realization sank in. He had to get this … this thing back over to the fire. Before he could react, however, he’d heard another noise, and shot round to stare at the portrait hole, which was slowly opening. Ron had come back from detention.

Panicking, his reflex had been to toss the bra back towards the other washing. Unfortunately, one of the metal clasps had hooked itself into the woolen cuff of his jumper – and the bra had dangled limply from his sleeve. With a whimper, Harry had snatched the bra free and stuffed it into his trouser pocket, just tucking the last strap out of sight as Hermione emerged from the stairs and Ron crossed the room from the portrait hole.

“Harry? You okay, mate? You look rather flushed,” Ron had said as he came nearer.

“Er, no, no I’m fine. Just a bit … hot. Yes, just hot.”

Ron had eyed him curiously.

“I’ve got my book – oh, Ron, you’re back. Good, you can join us!” Hermione had been as keen as ever to get back to business.

Ron had goggled at her. “Hermione! You have to be joking! I’ve just spent five hours cleaning out potion bottles without magic! There is no way I am going to start studying. I’m going to bed.”

“Er, Hermione? Don’t you think you need to go to bed too?” Harry had suggested. If he could only get them out of the room, he’d been thinking, he could replace the thing before anyone found out what had happened.

Hermione had thrown them both a fierce frown.

“I suppose you want to go to bed too, Harry?” she asked, and when he had shrugged and nodded, “Well… okay...” Harry remembered the wave of relief that had washed over him. “But I’m staying down here. I want to check the answers on that last paper. I’m sure you’ll want to know how you did as soon as you get up tomorrow”. Harry’s relief had fizzled out, as he watched Hermione settle herself down comfortably, clearly planning on a long stay.

“Oh, yeah,” Ron had responded sarcastically. “I’m sure Harry will be lying awake half the night in anticipation! Come on Harry!” He had tugged at Harry’s sleeve, “Let’s go!” Yawning widely, Ron had headed for the staircase, and Harry had had no choice but to follow reluctantly, very aware of a certain item stuffed in his pocket.

So here he was, tossing and turning in his bed. The obvious solution would be to wait a few hours – Hermione may well be a dedicated scholar, but she was also sensible enough to want a decent night’s sleep – and creep down and replace it under cover of darkness. Harry shuddered slightly at the thought of having to touch the bra again – he felt a little bit ashamed and extremely embarrassed. He had never actually been in close contact with a girl’s item of underwear before and now that he had he was in no particular rush to do so again. What bothered him most, however, was the fact that whomever it belonged to didn’t deserve to have their intimate items of clothing shoved in some boy’s pocket without their knowledge. What if it got creased, so that it was obvious it had been concealed somewhere?

Harry sat up in bed with a start. He had to take it out and lay it somewhere flat while he was waiting for the right time to slip downstairs and replace it. Quietly, he slipped out of his bed, picked up the trousers he had been wearing earlier and glanced quickly around the room, reassuring himself that none of his friends could see what he was doing. Reluctantly, peering through squinted eyes, as if only half-looking would make it go away, Harry tugged at the strap and the bra sprang free of his pocket and swung tauntingly from his fingers.

He gave it a little shake, hoping this would encourage any creases to fall out and then looked around for somewhere safe, somewhere discreet, to lie it until later. Concealing it would be difficult, so he opened his trunk and laid it on top of his clothes, pulling his hand back quickly as soon as it was in place. He grabbed a Quidditch book from inside the trunk to read until he felt it was safe to head down to the common room and quietly closed the lid.

*****

“C’mon Harry, get up!” Ron’s voice penetrated the thick fog swirling around Harry’s sleepy brain.

He opened one heavy eyelid and peered at Ron, mumbling, “Whass time?”

“It’s late, didn’t you sleep or something? I’m off to breakfast, see you down there.” There was a thud as the door closed behind Ron and then silence. Harry stretched, shaking his head free of the dreams that lingered. He had had a weird one about …. Oh no! It wasn’t a dream, was it? And he had fallen asleep! As if to underline the point, his Quidditch book slid noisily to the floor with a thump.

Harry sat up quickly and glanced around. The room was empty; his friends had already left. If he was running late, then perhaps everyone would have gone down to breakfast and he could sneak down now and replace it before anyone noticed.

Harry threw his school clothes on, opened the trunk, took a deep breath and grabbed the offending item, stuffing it once more into his trouser pocket. He dashed down the stairs into the common room and was relieved to find it exactly as he’d hoped - empty of people. Hurrying to the fireplace he skidded to an undignified halt, staring helplessly around. The common room was definitely empty, but not just of people. All the washing from the night before had gone! It had obviously dried and now its various owners had collected it. The only problem was that one of those owners was going to realize very soon that a certain item was missing. Harry swallowed with difficulty and glanced round the room, trying to squash a faint sense of rising panic, looking desperately for some idea of what to do next.

“Brilliant, Potter,” he muttered to himself, his brain refusing to accommodate his need for inspiration. “How on earth are you going to get rid of it now? You don't have a clue who it belongs to!” and he trudged wearily out of the portrait hole on his way to a late breakfast.

*****

All through that day, Harry paid very little attention to his lessons. All he was aware of was the lump in his pocket that was the “thing”, as he had taken to calling it to himself, and the fact that wherever he looked there were girls and he was suddenly very aware that they were all probably wearing “things” just like the one in his pocket.

Just like in his fourth year, when the Yule Ball had been announced and Harry had suddenly become aware of how many girls Hogwarts actually contained, he now came to a similar horrified conclusion, against his will. How many things must there be at the school? Surely each girl would have more than one … boys were, in fact, probably out-numbered more than three to one by those … things.

He buried his head in his textbook in each lesson, but paid little attention to the words on the page in front of him. His mind thrashed around helplessly for a way out of this mess. “Treat it like another task in the Triwizard Tournament,” he kept muttering to himself, but he had to stop that, because Ron was casting him ever more suspicious glances as the morning wore on. Now lunch time was approaching, the Transfiguration lesson was nearing an end and he was no nearer a solution.

Once again he thought about the tasks he’d had to face the year before last – he’d had help with all of them. It wasn’t like he’d solved any of them with the sheer genius of a plan he’d thought up all on his own. So perhaps that was it; perhaps he’d have to enlist someone’s help. But this was a … delicate situation. Whose advice could he ask, whom could he trust?

Harry rested his head in his hand and dipped his quill into his ink bottle in an attempt to look busy. He stared at the blank parchment in front of him, but didn’t see it. He was casting his mind back over who had helped or tried to help him with the tasks. There was Sirius – Harry felt the familiar lurch in his heart when he thought of Sirius these days, and tried to force out the accompanying tension in his shoulders that just wouldn’t seem to leave him when his mind revisited events from the end of last year. Well, he could hardly write to him now, could he?

Automatically, his mind then drifted to Professor Lupin. Well, of course, he wasn’t strictly ‘professor’ anymore, but Harry had a hard time thinking of him as anything else. He had certainly always been very supportive, but what could Harry ask? ‘Dear Professor, got any bright ideas on how to return a piece of underwear to someone? By the way, don’t know who it belongs to…’ No, perhaps not.

Well, he would die before he approached Hermione about it, so who did that leave? Dobby? Harry paled, and sat up quickly. He tried to shut out the uncomfortable thought of Dobby’s high pitched squeal reverberating around the school with “Harry Potter has a bra, Sir? What is Harry Potter doing with a bra, Sir? Is there something Harry Potter isn’t telling Dobby, Sir?” No, that wasn’t an option either.

Ron? Possibly, but then again, possibly not. After all, that was the added complication. There was another thing that was worrying Harry in all of this. There were five Gryffindor girls in fifth year. One of them was Ron’s sister, Ginny. So what this boiled down to was the fact that there was a one in five chance that the thing he had in his possession belonged not only to his best friend’s sister, but also the girl he … well, what? He couldn't put it into words to himself, so how was he supposed to explain himself to his friend?

“Hey Ron, I’m in a bit of a fix. I think I'm having some strange sort of feelings for your sister, oh and by the way I have a bra in my possession which may or may not be hers, got any ideas?’

Harry was certain Ron would have some ‘ideas’, but he was equally certain that they wouldn’t be along the lines of helping Harry out.

*****

By the end of the day, Harry was a nervous wreck. He had been told off in every single lesson for his inattention, and felt lucky that he’d only received one detention. Ron and Hermione kept exchanging glances, and were now watching him with the intensity of a pair of hungry hippogriffs. This day could not get any worse.

He dropped his school bag by his bed, checked there was no one in the room and once again tugged the offending thing out of his pocket. It was now extremely crumpled.

Thinking he could hear footsteps, Harry quickly opened his trunk, tossed it inside and dropped the lid with a clatter. The footsteps went past, someone climbing to one of the higher dormitories. He changed out of his school robes, tugged on jeans and a t-shirt and headed downstairs to find Ron and Hermione before going to dinner. Thoroughly preoccupied as he was, he bumped straight into someone as soon as he set foot in the common room.

“Sorry,” he said distractedly, “Didn’t see you.”

“No, odd that, isn’t it?”

Harry blinked at the cool tone and realized who it was: Ginny Weasley. She was standing in front of him, hands on her hips, one eyebrow raised as if in question. He stared down at her, unsure what he was supposed to say. He wished he could think of something wise or witty, but all he could think was what a nice brown her eyes were. In fact, some words were almost on his lips, he had almost summoned up something, anything, when she said:

“Well, Harry, I don’t have all day to stand around chatting, fun though this is.” She pushed past him. “Excuse me, got to go look for something,” and she charged up the girls’ staircase without a backward glance.

Harry watched her go, and then her words sank in. Oh no! He recalled the thing he’d been hawking round school all day and that was now festering inside his trunk. Was life really doing this to him? Was it the worst of all possible scenarios, and actually hers?

Looking frantically round the room, he spotted Hermione reading a book by the fire.

“Er, Hermione, can I ask you something?” he approached her cautiously. He didn’t actually have a clue what he was going to say.

Hermione looked up and smiled. “Harry! Are you okay? You seem very distracted today. Have you been having dreams again?” There was a note of concern in Hermione’s voice as she scooted over on the sofa to make room for him.

“No, no I have a … er… thing … on my mind, that’s all.” He replied as he sat down. “I was just wondering …. I just ran into Ginny – I mean literally. She was … well, a bit … abrupt. I wondered if she’d said anything to you about … any … thing that might be troubling her?”

Hermione tilted her head to one side and studied Harry for a moment. The pause was long enough for Harry to realize that Ron had just come through the portrait hole and was approaching them. He willed Hermione to say something quick, or to say nothing at all, just in case it was incriminating.

“What happened exactly? If you tell me what she said, I might be able to shed some light on it for you”.

Not the right response, Hermione, thought Harry, casting a glance towards Ron again. With relief, he saw that Ron had stopped to chat to Seamus and Dean. Aware that Hermione quickly hid a smile, Harry frowned and snapped, “She just seemed bothered, okay?”

“You seem very … concerned, Harry?” and she raised her eyebrow at him in question.

“Not now, Hermione!” he hissed at her, again furtively glancing in Ron’s direction.

Hermione followed his gaze and smirked at him. “Okay, not now. Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about her seeming out of sorts – it’s not you. She’s been wound up all day, ever since she got up this morning and realized some pervert in Gryffindor has run off with … an item of her clothing.”

Harry clenched his jaw in an attempt to stall the curse that had been about to come out and swallowed hard on the wave of frustration that swept through him as his worst fears were realized.

That thing did belong to Ginny, and she thought he was a pervert. He closed his eyes, and rubbed his scar distractedly, thankful that Hermione’s attention appeared to be on Ron now, who had finally reached them. At some point, someday, something had to go right for him, didn't it?

“Ron!”

Harry opened his eyes again at Hermione’s protest. Judging by the accompanying thud and Hermione’s indignant expression as she sought to find her page again, Ron had flipped her book closed – it was hardly the first time just lately. Ron, Harry mused grimly, was getting a little too fond of doing things that led Hermione to slap his hand.

"Hey Harry... have you heard the one where Snape walks into a bar with two goblins, a Flobberworm and... no, hang on..." Ron leaned over and flipped Hermione's book shut again, ignoring her enraged expression and not even flinching as she thumped him hard on the arm. "Ah, never mind mate - don't want you letting Snape in on it at detention," Ron tapped his head meaningfully. "It’d be bound to come back to haunt me. Just keep me out of your thoughts, okay? I don't need any more attention from old Snapey this week."

Harry felt his stomach drop several inches, as he realized what Ron was implying. He fought the urge to kick something, hard. Didn’t he have enough on his damn mind, without having to try to hide … things from the prying mind of Snivellus Snape?

Just as Harry contemplated the horrors of how his poor Occlumency skills could be his undoing, Ginny Weasley came sprinting back down the stairs and took the chair next to the sofa. Hermione raised her eyes in silent question and Ginny angrily shook her head.

Harry tried to look as though he didn't know exactly what this communication was about because in an ideal world he wouldn't know and he wouldn't have this thing in his own trunk at that very moment. Apparently, however, his attempt at looking innocently disinterested wasn't successful because Ginny caught his eye and frowned at him.

She smoothed her hair carelessly and snapped: "What, Harry, is my hair sticking up or something?"

Harry, who hadn't meant to be looking at her hair at all, was now staring at it. "Err - no." It actually looked rather nice, he felt. Not that he was about to say so.

"Then why are you looking at me as if I've done something wrong?"

"I wasn't!" Harry retorted. He was certain of one thing though: if he didn't have this damn thing weighing on his mind, he would surely be more on top of this conversation.

"I was just thinking... er …" Think, Potter, think … about anything but the fact you now know for a fact that this is Ginny’s – thing, anything but the fact that you've got her thing stashed in your trunk right now. “Er ... we’ve got Quidditch practice coming up." Harry winced. Quidditch. Yeah. Right. Inspired.

Ginny was looking at him through narrowed eyes, one eyebrow raised skeptically, but whatever she was about to reply with was cut off by Ron.

“Bloody hell, Ginny, lay off Harry will you? Whatever’s got your knickers in a twist, it‘s not him!"

With a stifled groan, Harry sank back further into his corner of the sofa, and wished with all his might that he was somewhere, anywhere, else.


To be continued in Chapter Two - Realization
//
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