The Sugar Quill
Author: Arabella (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Hermione, Queen of Witches, Book Five  Chapter: Chapter Three
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Hermione, Queen of Witches

Hermione, Queen of Witches

Book Five

 

By Arabella

Based entirely on JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

A/N:  I love you guys.  Don’t worry – my scam/cheat/loophole isn’t very exciting, and it certainly won’t burn Gwen to a crisp.  I’m too fond of her for that.

Plus, she’d kill me.

 

Thanks to Honeychurch for the beta

 

Disclaimer –  It's all JKR's.

 

~*~

 

 

HQoW

 

I have a sort of strange question for you.

 

Excellent.

 

Would you mind if Ginny wrote for a bit?  She just wants to say hello and… things.  I don't mind letting her write to you, but I wasn't sure if you would care.

 

You didn't give me a choice last year.

 

Well, I couldn't.  My fingers were all covered in pus and bandages.  Then… you do mind?

 

Of course I don't mind.  But to be fair, if Ginny has things to say to me other than "hello", you might ask her to choose a password.

 

Hm.

 

What?

 

I don't know.  It's just strange.

 

What is?

 

The idea that someone might write in you, with another password, and that I won't be allowed to see it.

 

Oh, but it's been happening for centuries. 

 

Yes, but not in the now.  It feels… different, somehow.  The idea that Ginny might talk to you for pages and pages… when you're mine.  But I know you're not really mine - you belong to yourself, and you've had a million other owners. 

 

Well, not a million.

 

How many?

 

We will talk about my other owners at another time.  Perhaps.  Someday.  In the meantime, let us determine whether it's really all right with you if Ginny writes in me.  It's not my decision.  I may belong to myself, but this diary is yours.  You may hand it to whomever you like. 

 

Would it bother you to know that I had a relationship with Ginny that was absolutely separate from my relationship with you?

 

I don't know.  Perhaps.  Just a little.

 

Then perhaps it's best that you don't lend me to her.

 

But that's so selfish.  She just wants to say hello.  And I want her to get over her diary phobia, if she can. 

 

Still, you don't like the idea of me keeping someone's secrets other than your own, just at present. 

 

Well… but Ginny's and my secrets are pretty much the same right now, I think.  Although this isn't anything about the Order.  All she's told me is that it's about a boy and that it isn't Harry. 

 

She'd better tell me who it is.

 

But I can wait.  She must need someone to talk to, just like I do.  No, I don't mind.  I really don't.  If you don't. 

 

I don't.  But it is your decision.

 

All right, hang on.  I'll get her.  

 

 

 

7777777

 

Hi, it's Ginny.   I just thought I'd say hi.

 

What an interesting password.

 

Oh that.  Yeah.  Well, I doubt Hermione’ll ever write that many sevens in a row. 

 

No, I imagine not.

 

Not that it matters.  She can know things if she wants.  So… how’ve you been? 

 

Just fine.  And you? 

 

Fine.  It was nice of Hermione to let me borrow you.

 

It's very pleasant to hear from you again.  I often wonder how you are.

 

Do you?  Well, I'm okay.  I just… Look, I know you're busy with Hermione's problems.  But if I was trying to work something out… Would you mind if I asked you a question? 

 

Not at all. 

 

Because I can't ask Mum, and - well, I'll probably end up asking Hermione in about five minutes, because I really want to tell her.  But I thought - you're older.

 

Slightly, yes.  Go right ahead.

 

Okay.  Well, the thing is, I've been asked out.

 

You've been - 

 

By this bloke Michael Corner.  I didn't tell Hermione about it, because it happened during exams, and you know how Hermione gets during exams.  And then there was the third task.  That made it hard to care about other stuff.  Michael asked me out about two days before that happened, and I said yes, but then I barely talked to him for the rest of the year. 

 

Hardly your fault. 

 

I know, but now he's sent a letter and I'm not sure what to say back to him.

 

What did he say?

 

He said he misses me, which is really nice, except I wonder why he does.  We've only been going out for a few weeks, and we just left school a week ago.  It's not really enough time to miss a person. 

 

Depends on the person.

 

True. 

 

He said he hoped I was feeling better, because I seemed "distant" at the end of the year, and he's not sure whether I still want to be going out with him, but that if I don't, I should tell him and not leave him hanging.  And he's not sure what I think of anything, let alone Dumbledore's speech, but he hopes we'll have more time to talk in September, if I still want to talk.

 

It bothers me. 

 

Which part?

 

Well… all of it.  What does he mean, I was distant?  Of course I was distant.  Weren't we all?  Did he miss what happened?  And why does he want to know what I think of Dumbledore's speech?  It's like he's going to base his opinion on mine.  Why doesn't he just tell me what he thinks of Dumbledore's speech?  I know what I think.

 

Ginny, may I ask you… and this may sound impertinent.

 

You can't out-impertinent Fred and George.

 

Well then.  Why did you say yes to Michael Corner?  You don't really seem to like him.

 

Yes I do!  Yes I do.  I'm not putting him in a good light because I'm worried about things that he doesn't understand, you know?  It's hard to fit him in.  He just doesn't fit.  He doesn't know any of the secrets.  I assume you know?

 

I can't tell you what I know. 

 

Still, I'm sure you know enough to be getting on with.  But I do like Michael.  We met when he asked me to the Yule Ball last year.  I was surprised he asked, because he's not in my year and we'd never spoken.  I couldn’t go with him anyway, I’d said yes to Neville.  But we got a few dances in, and he was a good dancer, which was lucky for my feet - Neville's great, but dancing's not his strong point.  At one point, Michael said he thought I was really pretty, which made me wonder if he's right in the head.  But he found me a few times after that, during the year, and one day during exams, he sat down next to me and said, "Want to study together?"  And I said yes, but that I wanted to go outside, because I was tired of being cooped up.  So we went outside and studied together for about five hours, but we didn't actually study much.  Mostly we just talked and laughed and told stupid stories.  He's easy to talk to, and fun to be around.  And he's fit, and he thinks I'm really fit as well, which is –

 

Fit?

 

You know.  Good looking.  They didn’t used to say that in your day?  Doesn’t Hermione say it?  Guess it’s a bit slangy.  But what I’m saying is, we like each other.  And Michael doesn't make me nervous at ALL, which is a bloody nice change.  I wasn't even nervous when he asked me out.  We were just sitting around out there, and he said we should get to know each other better. And I said all right.  And he said, how about we go out?  And I said that would be good.  And then he kind of touched my arm and said he thought I was really cool, and he’d liked me since the Ball, and he wondered if I'd mind if he kissed me. 

 

Well.

 

I thought about saying no, because I didn’t know him too well.

 

But?

 

I thought it might be all right.  So I went ahead.

 

And what did you think?

 

It wasn’t what I expected.  But then, I didn’t really open my mouth. 

 

Didn’t really?

 

Well, I half did.  Not like kissing Mum, but not drooling all over myself.

 

Right.

 

Not like when people try to suck each other’s heads off in public.   Though we were in public, and I wasn’t too fussed about that.  Anyway, we never got to go out together to Hogsmeade or anything, because the end of the year was a mess, and now I’m here.  And his letter's strange.  And I can't answer his questions anyway.  I'm not going to talk about Dumbledore in a letter. 

 

Then how will you answer him? 

 

I thought I'd just say that I was really glad to hear from him, and I hope he's having a good summer and all that.  And then I'll say that the end of the year was difficult, but we'll be able to sort things out between us a bit better in September, which I'm looking forward to.  And I'll tell him that we're still going out, since apparently he needs telling. 

 

What an idiot, I can't believe I have to tell him that.  He asked me out, didn't he?  I said yes, didn't I?  If I didn't want to go out anymore, does he think I'd just drift off like a coward and not say anything?

 

But what do you think of that for a letter?  Just the first bit, not that last part obviously.

 

Sounds perfect.  You don't need my help at all. 

 

Really?  You think that's all right?

 

Perfectly friendly.  Yes, I think that's more than all right.

 

Oh good.  I was thinking it was too standoffish. 

 

No.  You don't need to get into details in letters.  Better to do things face to face, especially when you haven't known a person for very long.

 

That's what I think too.  All right. 

 

Hermione's right.  I feel better.  You're really good at stuff like this.  You don’t say all the wrong things and get embarrassing about it.

 

Did she really say that? 

 

Yes.  I said I needed advice on a boy, and I wished I could tell Mum, but Mum would just get nosy and ask for too much information and start cooing or something.  Hermione got so excited.  She fluttered her hands around and said, "Oh, Gwen's amazing for talks like that, do you want to talk to her?  You'd feel so much better."

 

So.  Thanks for letting me go on.

 

Anytime. 

 

I might just take you up on that.  Well, but not too often.  Hermione's eyeing me.  I'd better give you back.  But I'll say hello again, one of these days. 

 

I hope so.  Take care, Ginny.

 

Take care yourself.  Bye, Gwen. 

 

 

 

HQoW

 

Well.

 

Well? 

 

I've just had a chat with Ginny. 

 

Oh? 

 

She has a boyfriend. 

 

She said Michael Corner asked her out.  Just like that.  No fuss, or anything.  He likes her, so he asked her out.

 

I hate him sometimes, I really do.  

 

Michael Corner?

 

No, not Michael stupid Corner.  Ugh, I feel like such a child right now, but I can’t help it, Gwen.  I suppose I’m just jealous, when what I should be is happy for Ginny.  What a wonderful person I am.

 

It’s quite human.

 

That’s no excuse, though, is it?

 

It was always my favorite one, actually.  But do go on, please. 

 

There’s nothing to say.  Ginny asked me if I still like Ron.  I felt stupid saying yes, when it’s not as if anything’s ever going to come of it. 

 

So what did you say? 

 

I just shrugged and said “Ron and I are very good friends and I’m sure we always will be.”  She said, "Hermione, you know what I mean," but I waved her off and pretended not to care and said, “Let's talk about you and Michael."  And we did.

 

And?

 

And nothing.  Apparently, between the two of us, she’s the only one worth asking out.  I’m just invisible.  Barely a girl, even.

 

Hermione.

 

Well I’m sorry, but that’s how it feels.

 

It’s just that the boy who is interested in Ginny felt comfortable putting his feelings out there.

 

Well he should give lessons then.

 

Not everyone gets to that place at the same time.

 

You don’t say.  Well I suppose I always knew that some of us were completely immature.  I guess this is proof. 

 

Hermione, you know that I’m on your side, but you’re being very hard on Ron.  And there’s no need at all for you to be jealous of Ginny – yes, she’s been asked out, but is it any different than your relationship was with Viktor? Put it into perspective.  It isn’t as if she’s been asked out by Harry.

 

That’s not the point.

 

Isn’t it?  Are you certain? Has she spoken of Harry lately?

 

No, she’s probably over him.  Just like I should be over – no, that’s enough.  That is the end.  That is it and I’m serious this time – I am over it.

 

Hm.

 

You could always ask Ron out, you know.  Equality and all that.  If it’s what the elves need so badly, then perhaps –

 

Oh, would you look at the time.  I'd better go.  Ginny wants me to read her letter to Michael and check her spelling. 

 

Hermione…

 

I’m perfectly happy, Gwen.  Really, I’m over it.  Bye. 

 

 

 

HQoW

 

12 July

 

I want to get out of this house.  I want to go home.  I can't imagine really living here.  Growing up here, in all this darkness.

 

I think I'm in shock.   I don't even feel angry.  Or sad.  I only feel so sorry for Sirius that I don't think I can stand it.

 

Hermione, what's happened?  Are you all right?  Is Sirius?

 

Well Sirius… I mean, no.  Obviously… he spent twelve years locked up for something he didn't do, wishing he could undo everything that happened.  And just before that, he lost two of his best friends - three, really, if you count Pettigrew.  Four, if you count the fact that Professor Lupin believed he was the traitor.  And now he’s not allowed out of the house, he’s just cooped up and miserable.  It's such a horrible story that I didn't think it could get any worse.

 

But?

 

But it can.  I don't know too much about his childhood, but now I… can guess pretty well.  Oh, Gwen, his mother.

 

You've met her?

 

Just now.  And she…

 

I want to go home.

 

Tell me.

 

She can't do anything.  I know that.  She can't really hurt me, she’s only a painting.  Sticks and stones.

 

What did she say to you?

 

I didn't realize enchanted paintings could be so… I mean, I only really know the Fat Lady.  Sir Cadogan's the weirdest one I've met personally, but he's harmless, you know.  Just a bit annoying, really.   He'd never say anything to hurt anyone.  Not on purpose. 

 

Do you… not want to tell me?

 

Not really. 

 

That bad then?  

 

Worse.

 

About you personally, or…

 

She knew what I was.  The second she saw me, she knew I was a Mudb – a Muggle-born.

 

Oh, Hermione.

 

I didn't mean to start writing it.  But it's still ringing in my ears.  She had the most horrible… she was drooling.  Her eyes rolled.   And she didn't speak - she screamed at me. 

 

She called me a freak.  I don't know why that bothers me, I guess it reminds me of the way school was for me before Hogwarts or - I don't know.  I know it's just a word.  Just a word, it can't hurt me.  It's just a word.  Like ugly.  And foul.  And disgusting.  Perversion.  Hideous abomination.  Worthless scum.  Contaminated halfbreed.  Abhorrent beast.   Mutant.

 

She… said all that?

 

No, she screamed it.  All those words came flying at me in about the first five seconds.  And then she kept going.   Even Ron didn't know what to say back.  He just stood there next to me with his mouth hanging open.  We neither of us knew how to handle it.  I've never encountered that kind of hate, directed towards me.  Not on that level.  It made Malfoy and Pansy and everyone who's ever said a bad word about me seem… like nothing. 

 

Sirius came hurtling down the stairs within a minute.  He got between his mother and me, and when she saw him, I thought she was going to leap right through the painting and throttle him.  She called him a blood-traitor, a fiend and a stain on the noble house of her ancient fathers - she said he was dead to her.  And then he said some words… some words you're just never supposed to say to your mother.  And then he grabbed both curtains and yanked them shut on her portrait, and after a minute she screamed herself back to sleep.  

 

When he turned on us, he looked furious.  He asked who had woken her, and Ron and I glanced at each other.  We both said, "Us."

 

How did you wake her?

 

We were just laughing. 

 

Loudly enough to wake a painting behind a curtain?

 

Well, we were talking about our parents.  We realized we both got in trouble right when we got home - Ron got shouted at for keeping his word to Dumbledore and not telling his parents about Sirius, and I got in trouble for my teeth.  So we were sort of… doing impressions of the way our parents act when they're angry with us - and really, it's pretty much the same.   His parents won't accept that he couldn't tell them the secret, and my parents won't accept that magic can be as good as science, and both of us would have been grounded if we didn't have to come here - his parents threatened to ground him, too.  I think it was practically the same day, and we just thought that was funny.  So we got to laughing about it, especially when Ron did the impression of his dad, because he has it spot on, I can tell you.   We were having a really good time, until the curtains flew open and Mrs. Black saw us.

 

Well, I thought Sirius was going to kill us.  Instead, he put a finger to his lips and beckoned us into the drawing room, where he closed the door.  We both said, "I'm sorry," at the same time, but he interrupted us and said, "Don’t."  And he looked right at me.  "Like I said, it's a miracle she slept this long.  I never had four days' peace in all the years I lived here, and now that she's awake, she'll take every opportunity to drive us mad.  Just don't make any noise in that corridor - go straight from the kitchen to your rooms.  Do your talking upstairs.”  And then he looked at Ron.  “Warn the rest of your brothers, and Ginny.  I'll warn everyone else."

 

So Ron and I tiptoed up here, to my room.

 

Where is he now?

 

Sirius?  In the kitchen, warning Mrs. Weasley and -

 

No, where's Ron?

 

Oh.  He's right here.

 

In your room?

 

Would you stop?  Yes, he's in my room.  He's on Ginny's bed, reading a Quidditch magazine.  He's just keeping me company, that's all.  I told him he didn't have to stay unless he didn't mind, and he said he didn't mind as long as there was something good to read, and I thought he was joking, but he dug around in the pile by Ginny's bed and found Which Broomstick? and now he's lying there, just reading away.  For a second I thought he meant he wanted to read an actual book, but I suppose I'm delirious from all the noise and the shock.  

 

And where's Ginny? 

 

She went to warn Fred and George about Mrs. Black, and she never came back.  I heard something explode overhead a few minutes ago, so they're probably doing something ridiculous.   Ginny loves hanging out with them.  She's got a prank streak, she’s been telling me stories about tricks she used to play on the twins even when she was really small.  I just hope all that banging doesn't wake up the painting again.

 

Mrs. Black cut off some of those elves' heads.  She was evil.  And she was Sirius's mum. But he isn't evil.  He was falsely accused - perhaps this is partly why.  Perhaps they were quick to believe that someone who came from this place could do those things.  But he didn't.  He was good, he didn't turn out like Malfoy.  He was friends with Harry's mum and dad, and with Professor Lupin. 

 

Yes.  That’s really quite unusual. 

 

Unusual?

 

Well, you and Ron are fortunate that you have families you can love and admire.  You can be with them without having to compromise your senses of right and wrong.  Some people… like Harry, for example… grow up among people they know they can't agree with - and yet they're forced to depend on those people for love and attention and food and shelter.  And sometimes, standing up to those people and saying "I disagree" means giving up all those other things.  Those are hard things to give up, even if you feel passionately that you must stand up for something else.  It takes an unusually strong person to do it.

 

I wonder what Sirius had to give up.  I wish I could ask him.  But I… just don't feel comfortable around him in that way.  And I feel like he's barely restraining himself, as it is.   Like he's about to fly apart at any second, and there's no telling what might set him off.   I really did think he was going to shout our heads off, down there.  I really can't read him.  He's not… I mean, he's obviously great and everything, and Harry would kill me for saying it, but I just wonder if… I don't know.  After Azkaban and eating the rats and all of that, can he really be quite…

 

Right in the head? 

 

I just wonder, that's all.  Just a bit. 

 

Fair enough, I think. 

 

Well, Ron must've read the whole magazine, or else he got bored.  He just threw it on the floor. 

 

Why don't you go and talk to him for a bit?

 

Wait, hold on, he's mumbling at me.

 

 

***

 

 

Oh my GOODNESS - I will go and talk to him - I'll be back later though, because he just said - you won't believe - well - I'll just be back!

 

 

HQoW

 

 

Ron and Sirius are related!

 

Is that what I've been waiting an hour to hear?

 

Well, don't you think it's shocking?

 

I'm not sure.  The Weasleys are purebloods, aren't they? 

 

Yes.

 

And based on the disgusting manner in which Kreacher and Mrs. Black have spoken to you, I'll assume that the Blacks are a pureblood family as well.

 

Yes. 

 

Then it's actually quite unsurprising. 

 

Why, because of the marrying-in? 

 

It's a thing elite groups like to do.  I've never understood it myself, but then, I didn't have any attractive cousins.

 

Gwen!

 

What?  I could have married a cousin.  Is that what Sirius and Ron are? 

 

I don’t know.  I’m not clever about genealogy.   I never know if someone's a second cousin or a first cousin once removed.  Our family isn't big that way.  I know who my first cousins are, and beyond that, I just don't have a clue.  And Ron's not sure himself.  He says it's all convoluted.

 

I imagine Mrs. Weasley could tell you exactly what all of them are, if it interests you. 

 

It does!  I'll ask her.

 

And I'd also imagine that the relationships don’t end with the Blacks and the Weasleys.

 

What do you mean?

 

Well, what I mean is, it's so convoluted that it generally involves all the families who are at a certain level - or at least that's how it works with royalty.  What other pureblood families can you list off the top of your head?

 

I've never really thought about it.  The Longbottoms, I suppose.  The Patils.   The MacMillans.  Ugh, and the Malfoys.

 

But Gwen.  You're not really saying - that all the pureblood families…

 

Why don't you ask Ron?  Is he still there? 

 

Well… all right. 

 

 

HQoW

 

What did he say?

 

He left.  He said he had to go and be sick.

 

No answer, then?

 

Oh he answered.  He pulled a horrible face and said, "Thanks so much for bringing that up.  I’d almost managed to block that out.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to be sick."  And then he walked out.  

 

So he… he really is related to Malfoy.   Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy are related.

 

I'm sorry, I'm laughing just looking at that.  It can't be true.  It's too bizarre. 

 

It can be true.  Blood has very little to do with anything.  You know that. 

 

Well I know, but it's just funny to look at it this way.  Purists look at me like I'm the freak because I come from non-magic parents, but you know, I think it's rather freakish to discover that they are ALL RELATED.  It's weird.  It's not right.  It leaves a funny taste in my mouth.  Ron and Malfoy?  They're not family, they can't be - they're not even in the same species.

 

I feel so sorry for Ron!  I wish I'd never asked.  I wonder if Ginny and the twins know - but they must.   Oh, Gwen.  That would mean that when Lucius Malfoy gave Ginny that diary, he was giving it to someone in his own family.

 

Well.  Family in the very loosest sense.

 

But STILL.  Ugh.  I think I'm going to be thinking about this for a long time.

 

Don't, if you can help it.

 

No, I have to.  But I'll feel better if I have details.  I'm going to go and ask Mrs. Weasley to tell me how it's all connected, if she doesn't mind.   Or maybe I'll get Ginny to do it.  I still don't feel quite right about Mrs. Weasley - she's lovely to me, of course, but it was just a few weeks ago that she believed the Witch Weekly article about me, and I'm still not convinced she really likes me. 

 

Anyway, I'll talk to you later, Gwen.  Bye.

 

Bye.

 

 

HQoW

 

13 July

 

Tonight was a full moon.   I had almost forgotten about Professor Lupin being a werewolf.   

 

So had I.  Where did he go for his transformation? 

 

He stayed right here.  Mr. Weasley gathered us all up after dinner and told us not to go into the attic.   

 

Can that be… safe? 

 

Yes, he used to stay in his office at school without any problems as long as he had the Wolfsbane Potion - which he does.  I don’t know who made it.  Probably someone in the Order we haven’t met yet.  Do you know, the Ministry has passed laws this summer which make it nearly impossible for him to get work, just because he’s a werewolf?  It’s so stupid.  They’re all so stupid.  He’s so wonderful and calm and clever – anyone would be lucky to have him on their side, for any reason.  I wish they’d hire him back as our Defense teacher.  I can’t imagine we’ll get anyone good.  Ron and I have been up all night talking about that.  And other things.  

 

Like what? 

 

Oh you know.  Life and things.  But mostly Defense.  And Harry.  It’s very, very late.   Everyone will be waking up in a couple of hours.

 

Perhaps you should go to sleep. 

 

I know I should.  But I wanted to talk to you. 

 

Ron was nice to be with, tonight.  There's something easy and comfortable between us since we've been here, and I can't quite put my finger on why.   Why do you think it is? 

 

I'm… not sure. 

 

Oh.  I thought you’d know.

 

Perhaps if you told me what happened tonight, I’d have a better picture.  That is, if you want to. 

 

I do. 

 

It was funny.  Ginny's a heavy sleeper, you know.  And she was tired, so she fell asleep reading the Quidditch magazine Ron threw on the floor the other day.  But I was wide-awake.   So I opened up "The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Four" and started revising for my O.W.L.s, but I couldn't quite concentrate.  It was raining and cool, and for once, the house didn't seem spooky, but I was distracted.  So I sat back against my headboard and wondered what Ron was doing.  I wondered if he was asleep.  I thought about going upstairs to see, and then I felt… I don't know. 

 

Self-conscious.

 

Yes, and I couldn't go up there.  Which really is silly, when you think about how long Ron and I have been friends.  It's not as if something's going to suddenly change, that much is clear.  But just as I was deciding not to go upstairs and knock on his door, there was a knock on ours.  I got up and put on my dressing gown and unbolted it, and Ron was standing there scratching his head.  He said he couldn't sleep.  I said I couldn't either, but that I didn't want to wake up Ginny.

 

It was a funny moment.  Funny odd, not funny ha ha.  Ron looked at his feet and said, "Well, there's no one else in my room." 

 

I wonder why I felt so flustered.  It's just a room.  Soon, I hope, Harry will be living in it too - Ron shouldn't be in there by himself.  Everyone else has someone in with them - Fred and George have each other, and so do Ginny and I, but Ron's alone, and it's not fair.   Sometimes he looks like he's not getting any sleep at all.  His eyes have dark rings underneath.  He might easily share with the twins.  But I don't think he'd want to ask.  I don't think he'd want to admit he's scared.

 

Boys often have a hard time with that.

 

But he should just do it, and get some sleep!  It's not as if there's anyone here that he has to impress.

 

Isn't there.

 

 

 

 

It's so hard to want to lean on him and not be able to.   I don't… it feels like it would be the natural thing to do, but it would also be different.  And I don't want to be the first to…

 

I want him to do what Michael did with Ginny.  I want him to ask.  And perhaps he never will, and perhaps this is as much as there really is between us.  Perhaps I'm just wishing.  Perhaps we're just friends.  Though friendship is enough, I mean, friendship is amazing.  It's its own perfect thing.   I'd never say "I'm just friends" with Harry - well, unless I was trying to stop people believing Skeeter – because the "just" would devalue it somehow - friends is what we are and it's everything.  It's all it needs to be, there's nothing that needs adding. 

 

But with Ron I'm just not… satisfied by that.  I want to be.  I try to be.  But I'm really not, and it hurts a bit to have to hold it back every time I feel it.  But I can do it.  I’ve already done it.  And if he doesn't ask this year, I'll know.  And once I know, perhaps it will be easier to hold it back. 

 

Give him time.

 

You've said that before.  There's been time since then. 

 

I know.  It's so frustrating you think you might just…

 

Cry.  Throw something.  Tell him. 

 

Yes.

 

But instead I sat on Harry's empty bed, and Ron sat on his, and we talked for hours and hours and hours.   And I'm not saying it wasn’t nice.  It was.  We didn't fight, we didn't try to get under each other's skin - it was just like a few weeks ago, at school, right after the third task.  We hardly had any time to deal with that together, because most of the time, Harry was there, and he didn't want to think about it, so we both just stayed quiet and tried to do what Harry needed.  But that meant that neither of us got to have it out, either, and there's no one else I can really talk to about it.   The same goes for him.

 

We both miss Harry.  We wrote him letters.  It's hard to write letters when you can't say anything at all, but we tried.   They were miserably short, and I had to start mine over, because I referenced something Ron had just done, and there was no way I would have known that unless I was with Ron.  And Harry's not allowed to know that we're together, in the same place.  Or, I should say, the people who might want to interpret our letters aren't allowed to know that.  Harry could know, if it weren't so dangerous. 

 

I bet he's losing his mind.  I'm so worried about him that I don't even want to think about it.  I know how he gets when he's anxious - he ties himself in knots, it's sickening.  And now, after what he's been through, it must be a hundred times worse than ever.  Oh, Harry.  Honestly, thinking of him alone with no information  - it makes me want to take a train to Surrey.   I said so to Ron, and he said that if I wanted to do it, he'd go with me.  I laughed and said that somehow I thought it would just make things worse than they are.  The Weasleys would be worried, they'd come looking for us, we might get the Order exposed… and then I said, "How long do you think we'll have to live wondering whether the next owl we write is intercepted?"

 

And Ron just looked at me for a minute, without answering.  I know he doesn't know the answers.  But it's a comfort to know that he's right here in this with me.  Right in the thick of it, sorting it out just like I am.   Maybe we'll have to live like this for twelve years, just like it was before.  But we could do it.  We're already doing it.  We'll get through it, I know it. 

 

Won't we?

 

Yes you will. 

 

He had a good idea tonight.  He didn't even realize he was having one.  We were both ranting about Defense, saying that we can't imagine we're going to get a decent teacher.  I mean, look at our odds.  We got a psychopath, an idiot, one good teacher, and then another psychopath.  Ron said, "We're due an idiot," and I laughed, but you know, he's probably right.  I'm really worried, too, because it's our O.W.L. year, and the class needs to prepare us for exams.  It has to prepare us, or we won't even be eligible for the N.E.W.T. level courses, and without that N.E.W.T. there are thousands of careers we just won't be able to try for.   I was saying all that, and Ron said, "Well, if we get a dud, we'll just ask Harry to show us everything he knows.  We’re not just preparing for O.W.L.s anymore."

 

And I don't think that's a bad plan, actually. 

 

No.  It isn't. 

 

I wonder if Harry would mind showing us.  I have no idea what he’d say if we asked.  I mean, I’ve helped him with a million spells and charms, but I’m only good in theory.  They’re not real until you really use them, and only Harry has. 

 

And then I told Ron a secret that’s been bothering me for a long time.

 

What?

 

It’s silly, I’m sure.  But it’s bothered me since first year, and now that things are so… real… I think about it more and more.  You remember when Harry and Ron and I fell in the Devil’s Snare?

 

Of course.

 

You remember how I forgot I was a witch?

 

You were panicked.

 

I know I was.  That’s exactly my fear.  That something will happen, and I’ll panic and I’ll forget what I am.  And everything I ever learned will go right out of my head and be useless.

 

And you said this to Ron?

 

Yes.  I reminded him of what he said.  “Are you a witch or not?”  Remember?

 

I do.

 

Ron didn’t.  He looked properly shocked.  He said I remember too much, and that he never meant anything by that, and that he can’t believe I’ve been thinking about it for four years.  Which I haven’t.  Not constantly.  It just comes into my head every so often.  Am I a witch or not?

 

Of course you’re a witch, don’t be ridiculous.

 

Some people don’t think so.

 

I hope you’re not talking about Sirius’s mother.

 

Not just her.  Lots of people say it.

 

Lots of blind and foolish people.

 

I remember telling you once that I sometimes fear that I’ll always be a Muggle, when it counts.  I still fear that.  And that’s what I said to Ron.

 

What did he say?

 

Well, he was quiet for a minute.  And then he said he wished he could put a hole through that bloody painting.  I told him it wasn’t the painting making me feel this way, that it’s something I’ve had in me a long time and that it’s why I’ve always worked so hard to be the best witch possible.  To try to make up for not having a head start.  To try to make up for the lack.

 

Ron gave me a serious look – a really serious one, it was kind of odd – and said “Nothing’s lacking, Hermione.”  He sort of sounded like his dad, when he said it, and for a second I felt… I don’t know.  Like we were two adults sorting out our lives together.  I felt mature. 

 

And then he cracked a grin and said that anyway, if I’m lacking, then he’s in serious trouble because he’ll have to find someone else’s notes to copy.

 

He’s such a big idiot.

 

The biggest.

 

And then we talked about how these exams will be important – or, well, I talked about it and Ron listened – but it's only three years until we're out of school, and You-Know-Who might still be gaining power when we're finished.   If he is, we'll both fight in the Order.  All three of us will.  We talked about that tonight, too.  Ron said he wants to do it now, that he can't wait to go after the people who ruined Harry's life and killed Cedric and tortured the Robertses and… everything.  Ron would join tonight, if they asked him. 

 

And you? 

 

Yes.  I would.  I'd be frightened, though.  I don't know enough to fight alongside Aurors and people like Sirius and Professor Lupin.   I don't think I even know enough to fight alongside Harry.  It’s never really been tested – well, it has.  There have been moments.  But nothing like that graveyard.  If something like that happens again, and I’m there, then of course I’ll fight with him – I just don’t know how much help that will be.  But I’d do anything for Harry, and so would Ron.  We hope he knows that.

 

He knows.

 

Ron told me about the conversation he and Ginny had with his dad, about coming here and being a part of the secret.  

 

After Percy left. 

 

Yes.  Mr. Weasley called them out of bed and down to the kitchen table, and told them that, after they relocated, they would have to be adults about the things they knew.  He told them there would be no room for slipping up, no room for forgetting.  He told them that if they thought they couldn't manage it, then they had to tell him right then so that he could try to find a way for them to live outside it - though honestly, I don't know how he could have.  It's not as though Mrs. Weasley would ever have let them go.   Anyway, after he'd given them as much of the picture as he could, Mr. Weasley sent Ron out and talked to Ginny alone, and got her answer.  Ron said she came out of the kitchen looking like she wanted to pick up her wand and knock some Death Eaters unconscious right then and there.  She said, "Go in, you're last."

 

Ron went into the kitchen and sat at the table.  He said his dad just looked at him for a long time, and then said, "Son, I don't even have to ask you for your answer.  I know you can keep the kinds of secrets you're going to have to keep, and I know what you've done for Harry.  I got the whole story from Dumbledore.  I know what went on in the Shrieking Shack." 

 

Ron got rather red while he was telling me all this.  He said, "Never mind, you don't want to hear the rest," but I said, "Yes, I do!  Please tell me - I'm so glad your dad knows.  I’m glad your parents understand, I wish mine did."  

 

So Ron shrugged and looked away and said, "Okay, well, then Dad said… What you did for your sister when she was in danger has always been proof to me that you're…" And then he mumbled something, and I had to ask him to speak up, but he barely did.  I had to really listen to hear him say,  "That you're man enough for this." 

 

I did not know what to say.  So I just didn't say anything.  And Ron finished up rather quickly by saying, "Then Dad said he wanted my answer anyway, just to hear me say it.  So I said yes, yes of course I'm coming, of course I'll do whatever I have to do."  He says he thinks his dad was a lot harder on Fred and George, when he questioned them, because they're closer to Percy's age, and they might have had their own agendas.  But for all the messes the twins like to make, in the end they care about the right things.  Or, at least, I think they do.  I'm not sure.  They keep offering me sweets, but I haven't eaten any.  I'm sure they're not really sweets at all.  They offered me money to swallow one, for research purposes, and then they offered the money to Ron when I wouldn't do it - but I wouldn't let Ron take it.  I think they're both insane.

 

Anyway, I asked Ron why no one had interrogated me, and he looked surprised.  But then he grinned and said,  "I will, if you want.  But it's the same thing, isn't it?"

 

And what did he mean by that?

 

Oh.  Just… that I'm probably as good as Dumbledore at keeping secrets, and that I've never had a problem going through trapdoors or following murderers into shacks, so I'm probably a safe bet for the Order.

 

Did he say that?  Even the bit about Dumbledore? 

 

Well I'm not going to be conceited enough to make it up myself!

 

Just checking. 

 

It was a good conversation.  Really good.  We both ended up stretching out and falling asleep while we were talking, and when I woke up I shook Ron and told him to bolt his door if he wanted, and then I came back down here.   I almost stayed with him, but it might have been strange tomorrow.  And I thought Ginny deserved a bolted door, too.  And I wanted to tell you about it.

 

Thank you.

 

You're welcome.

 

It's… so good to talk to you like this, Hermione.

 

It's good to talk to you, too.  I was reading over some of the things I've written about Ron before, and I’ve always cut myself off right before telling you the truth about anything. 

 

Is that so?

 

Yes.  I hope I wasn't too frustrating.

 

Oh, no.  No, not at all.

 

I'm glad.  All right.  I'm going to bed.  Goodnight, Guinevere. 

 

Goodnight, Hermione.

 

 

 

HQoW

 

14 July

 

 

SNAPE.

 

Sorry?

 

SO AM I.  HE'S DOWNSTAIRS.  IN THIS HOUSE.  HE IS IN THE ORDER.

 

Good heavens.  Will the revelations never cease?

 

And I'm not saying – I’m not saying he shouldn’t be in it.  I’m sure he’s the reason Professor Lupin had his Wolfsbane the other night, and I know Dumbledore trusts him - that was obvious at the end of last year, and I suppose it's been obvious all along since he's a professor at Hogwarts, although that's not necessarily any indication of merit, I mean, look at Lockhart, and Quirrell, and Trelawney, and Barty Cr -

 

But about Snape.

 

SNAPE – DURING THE SUMMER - NO.   I cannot believe this.  We’re already trapped in a house full of chandeliers that fire crystals at us like bullets -

 

What?

 

On our way downstairs today, the serpent chandelier in the front hall came to life and started spitting its crystals down at Ginny and me.  We screamed and woke up the portrait, and Mrs. Black screamed and cackled at us while we got pummeled.  I got whacked in the head and shoulders and it hurt - one of them split the skin on my upper arm.  Ginny got hit in the mouth and her lip bled, and her eyes were watering, and we both ran to the kitchen, past Professor Lupin, who ran to the portrait and shut her up, to get plasters from Mrs. Weasley. 

 

And THERE WAS SNAPE. 

 

Doing what, for heaven's sake?

 

Sitting at the wooden table, poring over a huge scroll of parchment with Bill Weasley, who wasn't really looking at the parchment.  He was looking all narrow-eyed at Snape, and he saw us the second we walked in - so did Snape, actually.  Ginny and I both gasped so loudly that we were hard to miss.

 

And what was on the parchment?

 

I don't know.  Snape made the parchment vanish and he stared at us like he'd never seen us before.  I don't think he knew that either of us was in the house.  He turned a look on Mrs. Weasley, but she didn't see it; her back was to him and she was cooking over the fire.  And he said, "You've brought… children to this house?  All of them, I presume?  And Granger - " He stopped.  He looked like he couldn't think of anything nasty enough to say.  But then he did.  "Is there no absurdity to which your family will not stoop?"

 

That was when Bill stood up and said the meeting was over for the time being and that since Snape wasn't keen on eating with us, he might as well get out before breakfast got started.   It was so satisfying to see Snape get told off.  I do like Bill.

 

Snape got up from the table and leered at Ginny and me.  He looked from her lip to my arm and said, "Brawling before breakfast.  How charming.  Good day."  And he swept out.

 

And then a big pot of porridge flew over from the stove and slammed down onto the table and frightened us all -

 

The house is throwing porridge at you now?

 

No, it was Mrs. Weasley.  She whirled around looking fit to kill, and she marched to the kitchen door and slammed it behind Snape and growled like a tiger, and said, "He is positively…"

 

We all waited.  I was rather hoping she'd finish her sentence.  But she just adjusted her apron and marched back over to the stove and sent a big platter of eggs banging onto the table and told Ginny and I to go and fetch everyone else for breakfast - and she snapped at us to be quiet so that we wouldn't wake up anything else in the house.   So we ran up the stairs and washed up our cuts, and then Ginny went to get the twins and I went to get Ron.  Only I couldn't get Ron, because he'd bolted his door shut, and I couldn't use my wand to open it, and I didn't want to make more noise, so I couldn't pound - Professor Lupin had already quieted down the portrait once.  So I had to wait for Fred and George. 

 

Ah yes.  They have their wands this summer. 

 

And they take every opportunity to use them.  It's ridiculous.  At breakfast this morning, Fred made his eggs float in the air in front of his face, and he just stuck his chin out and took bites of them when he wanted some more, rather than just picking them up with his fork.  I don't know why Ginny thought it was so clever.  It was disgusting.   Mrs. Weasley thought so too – as soon as she turned around and caught him doing it, she flicked her wand and made the eggs splat right down onto his plate, and then she gave him a lecture on table manners like none I have ever heard.  And Ginny seemed to enjoy that, too. 

 

So then, I suppose they woke Ron for you?

 

Didn't they.  Blasted his door open and shot cold water at him.  He wasn't pleased.

 

No, I imagine not.

 

He spasmed and threw off his covers and shouted out a string of swear words and flung himself out of bed, panting.  Ginny laughed and laughed, and Ron launched himself at all of us, looking like he wanted to punch someone.  But the twins and Ginny just ran down the stairs and out of reach, and he wasn't about to punch me.  He just pushed back his hair, because it was dripping down into his eyes, and thanked me very much for playing along with those two Neanderthals he's got for brothers.   I told him I hadn't realized what they were going to do until it happened, and I told him about Snape straight away, and I told him he's had another letter from Harry - we each have.  But he was still really grumpy all through breakfast. 

 

So was Mrs. Weasley… though grumpy isn't really the word for it.  She was… just so harsh.  About everything.  She didn't set anything down – she slammed things.  She didn't ask how we'd slept - instead, she told us she knows we've been staying up till all hours, and she hopes we've got sense enough to stay out of the way of the horrible things in the house, and she doesn't care if we've exhausted ourselves gossiping, because there's a lot of work to be getting on with today.  And then she gave the twins another lecture.  She told them that now they're of age, they'd be better off studying for their Apparation exams and looking into careers than throwing all their mad concoctions about.  The only person who didn't get a talking-to was Bill, because he finished breakfast as we were coming downstairs, and kissed his mum goodbye, and went off to work at the same time as his dad. 

 

I wonder if Mr. Weasley sees Percy at the office.  I wouldn't dare to ask.

 

No.

 

It must be… I don't even know the words.  It must be so terrible and tense.  Mr. Weasley must feel sick every time.

 

They both must.

 

Both?  I don't know if I believe that.  Perhaps he's really pleased with his promotion and just doesn't care.  He couldn't care too much, could he?  Not after treating his whole family the way he did.

 

Yes he could.  Just you wait. 

 

Well… we'll see, I suppose. 

 

I should go back downstairs.  I was supposed to come up, get dressed, and run back down with the rest of them straight away to start the decontamination of the day.

 

Which is?

 

Well, we're still working on the kitchen.  Since Fred and George can use their wands, they’re supposed to do the heavy lifting and test for obvious curses.  I hope they decide to be helpful today.  Sometimes they spend more time plotting things on their own than being useful.

 

More joke items? 

 

Well… not all.  Some of the things they talk about sound like they might be halfway legitimate, but I can’t be sure; they talk in a sort of code.  Well – not code, but it’s incomprehensible anyway.  Fred will say something like, “And then we can add a bit of – you know – spark to it.”  And George will say, “D’you reckon if we put a bit less of the other it’d turn out better?”  They understand each other perfectly, but the rest of us have no idea what they’re on about.  They’re very secretive.

 

It’s no secret that they’re irritated right now, though – they’ve misplaced some new invention that they really liked.  They’d just perfected it, they said, and it’s vanished.  They’ve looked all over – George swears that the prototype was in his pocket when we were all in the front room last night – you know, when Mr. Weasley called us together to tell us to stay out of the attic.  But George couldn’t find it after that.  I’m sure it just fell out of his pocket, but the twins seem to think one of us is responsible.  As if any of us wants to be within a hundred feet of their inventions!  I would prefer not to be changed into a giant canary, thank you very much.

 

In any case, the kitchen needs to be finished – today, if possible.  Mrs. Weasley is tired of wrestling with it.  She has a huge amount of cooking to do tonight and she wants to do it in relative peace, even though she said she can't imagine that will ever happen, curses or no curses.  She muttered on about how she hasn't had any peace for years.  She's in a really bad mood. 

 

Why does she have to do so much cooking tonight? 

 

Because it’s Friday, and there's a meeting.  The first full gathering of the Order of the Phoenix.  Everyone who isn’t on duty is going to be here. 

 

Who is everyone? 

 

Well, we don't really know.  We know there are lots more than we've met yet - there have to be.  So far we know: Kingsley Shacklebolt, Bill, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Professor Lupin, Sirius, Professor Snape… that's all. 

 

Dumbledore?

 

Well obviously, yes, he’s in – but I wonder if he’ll come tonight!  Goodness, I hope so.  I need to ask him if it's really necessary to keep Harry in the dark like this.  His letter this morning was desperate, and Hedwig gave me a sharp peck with her beak when I didn't go straight to the desk to reply.   I feel terrible, not telling him things.  He's Harry.  He's supposed to know.  I'm sure if I could just speak to Dumbledore…

 

Anyway, the meeting should be interesting. 

 

You'll all be sitting in? 

 

No, we "kids" aren't allowed.  We're not in the Order, not even Fred and George.  You have to be overage and finished with school.  Fred and George said they'd be happy to be finished with school right now, and that they'll go right ahead and drop out if it means they'd be allowed to join the Order.  Honestly, the cheek.

 

But if you're not going, then how will you know if it's interesting? 

 

Oh, erm – Fred and George said they've made up a way to spy on the proceedings, so we should all be able to hear everything from upstairs.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, we should NOT be spying on Dumbledore's secret group.  But on the other… Well, there is no other.  It's wrong to do it.  But Gwen, I'm so curious.

 

You?  Really? 

 

I don't know if I'll be able to turn down an opportunity to find out more about what's happening in the world.  We need to know.  And eventually we will be allowed to tell Harry what's going on - I'll want to make sure he knows everything. 

 

He has such a good friend in you, Hermione.

 

Oh.  Well.   

 

Go on.  Get started on your decontamination. 

 

All right.

 

To free up your evening for a bit of illicit spying. 

 

Gwen.

 

Yes, Hermione? 

 

Just – well – oh, all right.  It’s true.  Never mind.  Bye.

 

 

//
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