The Sugar Quill
Author: Lightning Dancer  Story: Playing Footsie  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

This was written for the SugarQuill's First Anniversary Fanfic Challenge. It's been a great year, filled with both good humor and times, and it always worked when fanfiction.net (die, evil spawn!) was down. May the Quill live long and prosper. Special thanks to Manu, who Spenk and I adore, and TheRealMaraJade, who made excellent beta suggestions.

A/N; I'm going on the assumption that since sugar quills look so much like the real things, they must be pretty soft and feathery. I imagine them to be a lot like cotton candy, except finer, and I also think them to be capable of writing. Because if some kid had a quill that he kept sucking on, and then switching it for another? That's suspicious. Oh, and none of the characters, places, etc. belong to me. I'm just a pawn in the game of fanfic. And my dad came up with the title. He doesn't know what this is about, what it's for or anything, but I needed help so I asked him for sayings that involve feet. Much hilarity ensued, and the result was "Playing Footsie."

~**~**~**~**~

Ron threw down his quill in frustration. "Is this even possible? What did you get?"

"I've got a blank piece of parchment," said Harry, a look of supreme annoyance on his face. "What does this stuff even mean?" He passed his copy of When Transfiguration Goes Wrong: the Headless Horseman and Other Such Accidents over the table.

The page was filled with pictures of wizards with four arms and multiple heads, and one witch had a squirrel's tail. Ron slammed the book shut and tossed it back to Harry. "I don't think it's in English." Harry caught it one-handed, not looking up from what he was writing. "What are you saying?"

"Harry Potter, Year Five, Transfiguration." Harry looked up and grinned. "I don't think you should copy that bit."

"Very funny." Ron wrote his own name on his parchment and stared at the blank expanse beneath it. It was depressing to see. He idly sucked on a sugar quill while racking his brain for something to babble about, but nothing came to him. Well, he supposed he *could*...

"I'm going to ask Hermione for help." He said it decisively, his tone leaving no room for arguments. Harry's face broke into a look of mock terror.

"I know the homework's bad, but we'll get through this!"

Ron rolled his eyes at Harry's only slightly melodramatic behavior. "I think I will be ok." When Harry saw that Ron was resolute in his decision, he added, "Ok, if you want to risk it... But don't do anything stupid!" Ron grabbed his parchment and his trusty sugar quill and set off to the corner of the Common Room where Hermione was sitting.

As he walked towards her, his courage faltered a bit. Saying he was going to ask Hermione for help and actually doing it were two extremely different things. Back in the day it would have been no problem to waltz across the room and bug Hermione into giving him answers (or at least try to), but lately she'd been... unpredictable. Anything was liable to set her off, and Ron had the feeling that asking for help on homework that he'd left until the very last minute to do would be a perfect excuse for her to explode.

She sat propped against the arm of her favorite loveseat, sitting sideways with her feet dangling over the edge. Her socks were a very interesting shade of yellow. She had a book in her lap, but he couldn't see the title. All in all, she looked extremely intimidating.

He realized that he was clutching his parchment a little too tightly, and he felt annoyed. This was *Hermione*, for crying out loud. He could deal with her. 'I'll just have to win her over with my charming wit...'

"Hello, Hermione. Good book?" She looked up, clearly suspicious.

"Hi. Yeah, it's not bad." She looked back down at the pages of her novel. "If this is about the Transfiguration homework I heard you and Harry moaning about at dinner..."

Ron held back a scowl, wondering how she did that. "Actually, it is. We're having a bit of a problem with it."

She didn't remove her eyes from what she was reading. "And the problem is...?"

"The Transfiguration homework." She groaned and rolled her eyes, finally looking at him. He could tell she was about to start in on him, so he spoke first. "I was thinking. Since you already did the assignment..."

"Ron-"

"...you could help me and Harry out a little, right? Since we're your best friends in the world?"

~**~**~**~**~

Darn it. He was giving her the Look. Or *one* of the Looks, at least. Ron had a very large arsenal of Looks, ranging from the seldom used "I'm Sorry But Don't Want to Say It Aloud So Forgive Me," to the ever popular "Will You Smack Malfoy Again, Please?". When he gave her a Look, it was all she could do not to give in. And right now he was giving his "I'll Die Without Your Help So Just Give Me the Answer!" Look, and it was very hard to resist.

It made Hermione angry. He *had* to know what it did to her.

"You're so manipulative!" she muttered under her breath.

"What?" he said eagerly, posing his quill to write.

"Nothing."

His shoulders sagged. "That wasn't very nice," he said indignantly, "teasing me like that." This would have provoked her into yelling, but she was so grateful that he had stopping Looking at her that she didn't really mind. He looked impatient. "So are you gonna make this easy, or are we going to have to do it the hard way?"

"What's the easy way? Letting you copy off the essay that I spent *hours* of hard work on so that you can benefit from my job well done?"

He grinned at her, which was almost as bad as a Look. She took it to mean yes. "Then I guess it will have to be the hard way."

"Are you sure?" He continued to grin, and it made her a little uneasy. "It'll save you a lot of pain if you just let me see your work." She glared at him tight-lipped. "No? Well, alright. But remember that you wanted it this way." He immediately whipped out his wand and pointed it at her, saying the spell for the Leg-Locker Curse.

Her legs sprang together and hung out stiffly over the edge of the loveseat, pointing straight ahead. It was an exceptionally uncomfortable position to be in.

He was still grinning, but this time it didn't stop her from getting angry. She grabbed for her wand, which was lying on a nearby table, but he snatched it up. "Ronald Weasley, you Unlock me this *instant*," she shrieked. "I can't believe you would *curse* me just to get homework answers!"

"Really?" He looked truly surprised. "If I were you, I'd have thought it completely possible." His grin came back. "I guess that means you trust me."

"What it *means* is that I was obviously wrong!"

He pretended to be shocked. "You were... what? Wrong? Harry," he called over his shoulder, "we've got front page news here! Call the Daily Prophet!" Several people looked over to see what was so newsworthy, and many of them began to laugh as they realized what Ron had done. Hermione's face turned scarlet and she considered trying to hop away. But with the angle she was at, she didn't think she'd make it off the couch without taking a spill to the floor.

She looked around Ron, trying to find someone who would help her out of this mess. She saw Harry sitting at a table, watching everything with interest. "Harry, help me!"

"What?" he mouthed, putting one hand behind his ear.

"I know you heard me! Come over and save me from this idiot!"

He looked confused, and shrugged his shoulders. "I can't hear you," he mouthed, and then propped his chin up with a hand and continued to watch the proceedings with a huge grin on his face.

"Don't be angry with Harry," Ron said, obviously amused. "He just really needs help too."

"I don't care!"

"That negative attitude will get you nowhere." He sat down on the table, trying to look serious. "Are you going to cooperate now?" She stuck out her chin and shook her head. "Tsk tsk tsk. You really should learn to be agreeable." She glared at him with as much potency as she could muster, but he was completely unfazed. "I guess I'll just have to make this even more unbearable for you." He shook his head as if she had disappointed him greatly.

"What are you going to do?" she asked, more than a little apprehensive. He temporarily faltered, looking around for something to torture her with. His eyes passed over his quill and parchment, continued to scan the room... and then went back to the sugar quill. She watched his face light up. He looked at her and smiled maniacally. "What?" She tried to imagine a way that he could torture her with a piece of candy and came up blank. And then he glanced down at her feet.

Comprehension dawned on her. She attempted to stand so she could hop to safety, not caring if she hit the ground first or not. Ron acted quickly, snatching up his quill and racing to grab her feet. In seconds she found herself held quite firmly in place. If she continued to attempt escape, her upper body would end up dangling from the cushions.

"I *hate* you," she said with more feeling than she would have thought possible. He ignored her as he removed her socks, exposing her bare feet.

"Phew!" He waved his hand in front of his nose. "And I always thought Charlie was bad..."

"I'm going to get you for this." She heard Harry chuckling and resolved to make him pay as well. He was an accomplice, after all.

"It's not too late to get out of this, you know," he said, tempting her with freedom. "All you need to do is let me take one little peek..."

She made a tutting noise. "Right, I'm going to give in." She rolled her eyes. "I don't think so. I will *not* let you cheat!"

"Fine." The sugar quill titled dangerously close to the bottom of her left foot. "You asked for it." He held her gaze for a last moment, before looking down at her feet and brushing the quill lightly across the sole of her foot.

She suppressed a giggle and tried to squirm away before remembering that she couldn't move. That was possibly the worst part; she wasn't able to move her bottom half in any way, not even curl her toes. Her hands clenched at a pillow as she tried not to laugh, not wanting him to know just how very ticklish she was. If he didn't think it affected her, maybe he would stop and go away...

And then the quill swept unexpectedly across her right foot. She couldn't help herself; she screamed with laughter. She could hear Harry laughing almost as hard as she was, and decided to punish him even more harshly. That was, as soon as she wasn't trapped on a loveseat by a feather-wielding idiot. Gods, this was horrible. Maybe she could tell Ron just a few answers...

Ron briefly halted in his torment. "Ready to give in?" The moments release from the tickling sensation was enough to clear her head, and she again stood strong in her resolve to tell him nothing.

"No!"

He sighed and started torturing her again, this time using the very tip of his half-eaten sugar quill to tickle the spaces underneath and between each toe. As hard as she tried she couldn't stop herself from roaring with hysterics, and she used the pillow to muffle the noise she was making. She could feel people staring. It was bad enough that she had to suffer the indignity of this situation, but Ron had to do it in a public place. She would kill him for this. Painfully. And she'd use hot pokers. She said as much out loud between giggles, but he just looked at her with his eyebrows raised. He obviously wasn't afraid. He just kept tickling with a vengeance.

"Ron? What in the world is going on?" She looked out from behind her pillow and saw Ginny standing by the other end of the couch, confusion on her face. Hermione had never been more glad in her life to see her.

"Help me!" she said, hoping that Ginny wouldn't find the situation as funny as Harry did.

"It's not what it looks like, Ginny. I was just-" Ron's concentration wavered. Hermione chucked the pillow at his head as a distraction, and when he ducked out of the way she tried once again at escaping. She almost made it, but then Ron dove over the edge of the loveseat in an attempt at grabbing her feet again, overbalancing them both. Ginny shrieked and hopped out of the way as they crashed to the ground, Ron banging his funny bone on the table in the process.

The whole of the common room burst into laughter and applause. Hermione untangled her upper body from under Ron and pushed him off, but her legs were still under his. "A little help, Ginny?"

"Of course." Ginny pulled out her wand and muttered the appropriate counter curse, and then turned to glare at her brother. "Honestly Ron, what were you thinking?"

"That I'd rather not flunk Transfiguration," he said sullenly, rubbing his elbow. He looked at Hermione, who was rubbing the feeling back into her legs as she also glared at him. He grinned in the way that she'd seen Fred and George try on their mum. It worked on Hermione just about as well as it did on Mrs. Weasley, though, and she did not smile back. "So... I don't get to borrow your homework?"

Hermione let out a frustrated groan and slapped him on the back of his head. "Ow!" He glared at her as Ginny (and Harry, from the relative safety of his table) laughed. "I'm already injured!"

"Injured? You humiliate me like that in front of all these people, then cry about how you're 'injured'?" She was so angry with him right then that she could barely see straight.

For the first time that night he started to look a little ashamed. "Well..."

"Well nothing!" she cut him off, ready to hit him again.

And then he started Looking at her. That rarely seen apologetic Look took most of the fight out of her. She sighed and let her hand drop. "Give me my socks," she ordered, tired and resigned to the fact that she was no longer angry.

He dug them out of his pockets and handed them over. "They're nice socks." Hermione rolled her eyes; it was a good try, but Ron's flattery didn't impress her.

"I'm going to bed." She was halfway standing when she turned to look at Ron. "You know that I'll be getting you back for this, right?" He looked more than a little worried, and she left without a backwards glance.

~**~**~**~**~

Ron watched her leave. He knew that she'd get her revenge, and that it would probably be pretty humiliating. But he was confident that he could take it. After all, nothing could top what he'd just done. Could it? Ok, maybe he was a little nervous...

Harry interrupted his thoughts. "That was excellent!"

Ron grinned up at him. "You think so?"

Harry nodded, but Ginny didn't. "I don't think it was excellent at all. You embarrassed her, Ron!"

"She'll get over it." Ginny looked ready to pull a Mrs. Weasley on him, so he changed the subject. "What are we gonna do about the homework?"

"Dean said we can use his." Harry threw himself onto the couch. "So how long do you think Hermione will be mad at you?"

"I don't know... She said she's going to get revenge. I think she's gonna try to kill me." "Good riddance!" Ginny declared, and was ignored by Ron as Harry smirked.

"How?"

"I don't know, but at one point she mentioned hot things." He thought about that for a moment. "I don't feel very threatened."

"You know that she'll be mad at you now, right?" Harry asked.

"Of course."

"Then why did you do it?" Ginny yelled.

And even though he could definitely see Mrs. Weasley in her face, Ron just grinned at her. "It makes things interesting." As Ginny glowered at him, he added, "You could say it... keeps me on my toes!"

Ginny groaned as Harry and Ron laughed uproariously. "Wait, I got one!" Harry said. "Remember how we used to think she was a goody-two-shoes?" They laughed again as Ginny rubbed her temples, shaking her head.

"Yeah, I remember... And then we beat the troll, and it was an amazing feat!"

"Hermione's pretty mad, I guess she doesn't have... happy feet!"

They went on in this vein for some time.

Finally, Ginny couldn't take it anymore. "Next time you want to play footsie with Hermione, make sure you do it somewhere a bit more private!" This shut up Ron quite effectively, though Harry laughed harder than ever.

"I wasn't..." he started, feeling the need to defend himself. But Harry cut him off, slapping a high five with Ginny.

"That was the best one!" Ginny smiled and blushed only the slightest bit.

"Since you're all *against* me..." Ron said, standing up to leave. "I guess I'll be going to bed now." And with ears reddened, he left.

Ginny and Harry watched him go. "I guess he'll be copying that homework tomorrow during History of Magic, then."

"I guess so." Ginny's eyes were still on Ron's back. "They are *so* obvious."

"What?"

"It won't be long now. Not long at all."

Harry was more confused at ever. "What are you talking about?"

Ginny smiled at him. "Nothing. Good night!" And she raced away up the girls' staircase, her hair flying out behind her. Harry pondered what she said for a while. Did she mean... No. It couldn't be! Ron never said... No way. But then he remembered the Yule Ball, and the ensuing argument...

He shook his head and went back to his table, content just to copy Dean's essay in peace. He'd think more about that later.



The End.

//
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