The Sugar Quill
Author: cranston  Story: Armaments  Chapter: Chapter 1: Turnabout
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

She stepped over to a sofa and began to pick up the cushions

Disclaimer:  The characters in this story belong to J.K. Rowling, not to me.  At least, if I have understood her characters properly, the ones in this story are them.  Otherwise, they are just imposters pretending to be them.


A/N:  Thanks to my beta, Zsenya, for her skill at Transformations.



Of course, they were true to their word.


It was a nondescript June evening on a nondescript street in a nondescript suburb in Surrey.  “Nondescript,” however, did not apply to the three figures walking along the pavement. 


The one in front wore an oversized bowler hat, so large that it covered his left eye.  He walked with a painful-looking but curiously energetic limp, and his one visible eye kept shifting about warily.  What could be seen of his face, hair, and hands suggested a goodly number of years behind him – and many, many hard miles.


Behind him were two teenagers:  a tall, wiry redheaded boy and a slight girl with bushy brown hair.  They walked side by side, like something more than friends but something less than a couple; their hands brushed from time to time, and though they never shied away from the contact, neither did those hands ever join.


They all seemed to think that cloaks were in fashion.


The redhead was the first to speak.  “How can you find your way around here, Mad-Eye? Everything bloo-, er, everything just looks the same.”


The man in front answered, “Don’t worry about that, Weasley, I’ve been here plenty of times.  You just watch yer back.”


“All right, all right.”  They walked on a few steps more.  “For a moment there I thought you were about to tell me to watch my mouth.”


Mad-Eye Moody halted abruptly and slowly turned around.  “What, do I look like your Mum?”


Ron Weasley narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, scratching his chin and making a show of inspecting Moody carefully.  Moody endured the joke for a moment, then cuffed him lightly, swung around and led on as the teenagers laughed pleasantly.


“You will, won’t you?” asked the young woman.  “I mean, watch your language?”


“I promise, Hermione.  I really have been in polite company before, you know.”


They walked on wordlessly through the empty streets of Little Whinging, Moody vigilant, Ron and Hermione following in companionable silence.


Ron thought ahead to the friend they were about to visit.  They would stay with Harry until he was ready to leave his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia for the last time, and come to Ron’s home, the Burrow, to attend Ron’s brother Bill’s wedding.  There was no telling when he would be ready, though.  His aunt and uncle had always seemed to delight in making his life miserable, while Ron’s family always made him feel at home.  But going to the Burrow meant that Harry would have to face Ron’s sister Ginny.  They had been together as a couple for the past few months, but then Harry had told her that they could no longer be together.  It was the most bizarre break-up Ron had ever heard of.  Usually, couples split up because it isn’t working; they had split up because it was working.  By some twisted logic, Harry had decided that this would somehow keep her safe while he, Ron, and Hermione did whatever is necessary to defeat Voldemort.


Ron glanced at his other best friend.  The Weasleys had accepted Hermione, like Harry, as if she were one of the family.  Maybe someday, he thought, he could make that official.  Almost accidentally he bumped shoulders with her.  She shot him a mischievous grin and bumped him back, and that particular dream seemed a hair’s-breadth less remote.


After a few minutes’ walk they turned into Privet Drive, which was distinguishable from all the other streets in Little Whinging only by the street sign – and by the fact that a few streetlights appeared to have burnt out.  Moody, it seemed, had thought of everything.  The older man hung back in the shadows while Hermione, with Ron at her shoulder, walked up the path to number four and rang the doorbell.  Presently the door swung open, revealing a very broad man wearing a very unwelcoming expression masquerading as a smile.


“Good evening.  Mr. Dursley?  I’m Hermione Granger and this is Ron Weasley.  We’re friends of Harry’s.” 


Vernon Dursley’s eyes shifted from Hermione to Ron and narrowed a bit, as if he were trying to remember something.  Then he looked back down at Hermione and replied in a cheery-sounding voice, “Harry?  I’m sorry, miss, there’s no Harry here.”  He moved to shut the door in their faces, but froze as Moody’s low, growling voice reached him.


“They’re here to visit Harry Potter.  You’re not trying to interfere now, are you?”  He shifted a little so that Mr. Dursley could see him.  Ron suddenly realized that Moody was wearing the same cloak and bowler hat that he had worn a year ago at King’s Cross station, when he had threatened Mr. Dursley with unspecified consequences if he ever mistreated Harry.  Yes, Moody had thought of everything.


The effect of Moody’s appearance was immediate.  “Oh, right, Harry Potter,” Mr. Dursley said with forced geniality, stepping aside hurriedly.  “Why didn’t you say so?  Come on in.”  As he retreated from the door, Harry squeezed past him and greeted Ron and Hermione eagerly.


“Welcome to my place,” Harry said dryly.  “Tha-a-anks,” he called down the path to Moody, who waved wordlessly, turned on the spot, and vanished.


“So, then, where are you staying?” Mr. Dursley asked the newcomers pointedly.  Having abandoned the doorway, he was now blocking the entrance to the living room.


“My room,” Harry answered for them.  As a cry of rage worked itself up his uncle’s throat, he continued innocently, “You said I had to find a place for them, so I did.”  He looked to his friends.  “Come on up.”


As they started up the stairs, and a fuming Uncle Vernon stomped off toward the living room, Ron remarked, “Your uncle is certainly, er, colorful.”


“You should have seen him when I told him you two were coming to visit.  Remember your old dress robes?  That’s what his face looked like.”  Ron gave a low whistle.  “It’s amazing that you two are actually here.”


“Harry, we promised we’d be here,” said Hermione.


“Yeah, well, it’s still amazing.  Thanks.”  Harry opened a door and showed them through.


 “So this is where we’re all staying, then?” Ron asked as they surveyed Harry’s tiny bedroom.  “Cozy.”


“Yeah, sorry about that.  Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia wanted to keep the guest room free.  Just in case Aunt Marge should suddenly show up, you know.  Of course, she’s on holiday in Gibraltar right now, but you never know when she might drop in, I suppose.”  Ron and Hermione shook their heads in disbelief.  “Hermione, you can take the bed.”  Harry had pushed his bed to the center of his room, leaving just enough floor space for one person to sleep on either side.


“No need.  Ron and I can just conjure beds for ourselves.”


“And put them … where?  Or do you know how to enlarge the room, too?”


“Um, no.”


“You can take the bed.”


“No, Harry, that’s not fair,” she protested.  “We’re the visitors.  You shouldn’t have to sleep on the floor.”


“You can take the bed,” he repeated.


“Come now, at least we should take turns.  We may be here for a while, and at least that way we could each sleep comfortably one night out of three.”


“You can –”


“Wait,” Ron broke in.  Hermione was now looking daggers at Harry.  “I know how to solve this.”  He let the suspense build for a moment, then announced, “We should vote.”  His eyes met Harry’s.  A few seconds later, as if on cue, they both looked at Hermione.


“Oh, all right then,” she said irritably, but her voice held more than a hint of gratitude. Ron grinned in satisfaction – not because he and Harry had bested Hermione, but because he knew they had managed to make her feel like more than just another brilliant mind.  “At least I can do this,” she added, waving her wand and causing one pillow and one very comfortable-looking sleeping bag to appear on either side of the bed.


“Thanks, Hermione,” said Harry.  Then, looking at both of them, he asked, “How did you get here, then?”


“Apparated,” replied Ron.


“You mean you passed your test??”


“Well, no,” he said in a quieter voice.  “I did Side-Along-Apparition with Moody.”


“That’s not what I saw,” said Hermione, laying a proud hand on Ron’s arm.  Ron noticed Harry’s expression turning a bit wistful as Hermione continued, “It looked to me like he shook your arm off him before we went.  And didn’t I hear him saying something like, ‘Geroffme, we both know that’s just a show for the Ministry!’?”


Harry came to himself and he and Ron both laughed at her imitation of Moody’s growl.  Ron added, “He said something else before ‘Ministry,’ actually.”


She turned slightly pink but soldiered on.  “And then didn’t he say, ‘You know how to do this just as well as I do.’?”


“No, it was more like ‘You can afford to leave some of that nose behind.’”


“Oh, don’t do that, though,” she smiled at him.  Then, turning to Harry, she asked, “But Harry, don’t you think we should go downstairs and be sociable?  I mean, they are our hosts.”


“Sociable.  Do you have any idea what you’re suggesting?”  


“Well, I’ve never really met your aunt and uncle –”


“I have,” Ron warned her.  “Listen to Harry.”


“Ro-o-on.” she intoned, “I’m Muggle-born so I should stand a fair chance of finding something to talk about with them.  They can’t be that horrid.”


Yes, they could.  As soon as footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs, Uncle Vernon established fortifications behind his newspaper, Dudley hunkered down in front of the television, and Aunt Petunia lost herself in cleaning (yet again) the already-immaculate kitchen.  Every attempt that Hermione, or Ron, or Harry made to initiate a civilized conversation was immediately absorbed in the frigid silence.  Eventually they gave it up as a bad business and retreated to Harry’s room, where they could at least talk among themselves without having to endure the Dursleys’ sullen acrimony.


“I never realized it was possible to ignore someone violently,” remarked Hermione once the door was closed.  Ron opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of it as she turned to listen to him.  He gave her an ironic grin, and she flushed slightly as she grinned back at him.  He mused that “violent ignoring” was a rather good description of how she had been treating him for several months of the past year, and that she and Harry most likely realized that as well.  He was thankful that all that was behind them, and that he and Hermione had grown close enough since then that they were now able to share a smile over all of that unpleasantness.


“It’s not that bad, Hermione,” Harry ventured, “It even looks like Dudley fancies you.”  His friends laughed, so he continued.  “Really, I saw him take his eyes off the television once when you spoke.  I don’t think I’ve ever see him do that before.  Except for food, that is.”


“Oh, splendid!” Hermione chimed in, “First McLaggen, now Dudley.  Just how far down the evolutionary ladder will Hermione’s charms reach?”  The merriment continued.  In a more thoughtful voice, she added, “I wonder what they see in me?  After all, I’m no, well, no Madam Rosmerta.”


Ron replied, “No, you certainly aren’t.  You –”


“Oh?” Hermione cut him off, her eyebrows rising with her voice.  “And just what might you mean by that?” she added icily.


Harry breathed in sharply and stiffened.  Ron sympathized with him.  Under these circumstances, with the three of them cooped up together in a single small room for an unknown span of days, a row would be horribly uncomfortable.  And if Hermione mentioned Madam Rosmerta, and he replied, then a row was sure to ensue.  Or it would have been sure to ensue, back then.  Back before his birthday, the day he came of age, the day he was poisoned and almost died, the wonderful day that Hermione at long last started speaking to him again, the day he finally began to think about what he was doing with the life he had almost lost.  But there had been no rows between them since that day.  And he knew that she didn’t want to start one now, that she was giving him the opportunity to say something like …


“As I was saying, you’re not just window dressing.”


She dropped her head a little, turning her eyes up to meet his gaze.  With a small smile, she simply said, “Thanks.”


Harry started breathing again, but his brow was furrowed and his eyes flitted back and forth between his friends.  Ron didn’t immediately understand why he should look so confused, but then realized that Harry had had an awful lot on his mind this past spring.  He wouldn’t necessarily have noticed the quiet developments between his friends that had been going on under his nose.


It was time for Ron to put the end to all these musings:  there was a joke to be finished.  He turned back to Hermione and suggested, “Hmm, McLaggen and Dudley … Maybe they think you look like food.”  Harry relaxed and rejoined the conversation, which presently dissolved into pleasant banter.  Eventually, as poor jokes were being followed by even poorer ones, they all agreed that it was time for sleep.



*          *          *          *          *



Morning brought a new ordeal:  breakfast.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione came downstairs to find four places set at the breakfast table – three of them occupied by Dursleys.  Uncle Vernon shot a nasty look at Harry as they entered the kitchen, ensuring that the snub would not pass unnoticed.  Harry simply walked straight through the kitchen without slowing down, nodding toward the unused place setting and asking, “Expecting Aunt Marge, are we?”  He led his friends into the living room, snapped on the television, and sat down with them on the sofa.


With no experience of Muggle ways, Ron was fascinated.  He leaned toward Hermione and asked quietly, “That’s the felly … telly …?


“Yes, television.  It’s broadcast, so each set shows the people you see, but they can’t see or hear you.”


“You mean all we can do is watch and listen?  We can’t even ask them questions or anything?  What’s the point of that?”


“Ron, you can’t ask a book questions either, can you?  What’s the point of a book?”


“That’s what I’ve been saying for years.  It’s about time you came around to my way of thinking!”


Hermione slapped his shoulder and moved to a chair.


Listening to his stomach cry out for sustenance, Ron asked, “Is this what you do in the morning, Harry?”


Harry looked him in the eye and replied, “Not usually.”  He motioned his head toward the Dursleys, and Ron understood that this was a contest of wills.  He smiled at the thought of a challenge to rise to.  He could outwait his hunger.


At length Dudley finished his breakfast and got up.  He poked his head into the living room and surveyed Ron and Harry sprawled back on the sofa and Hermione sitting primly in her chair, hands folded in her lap.  He glanced at the television, asked contemptuously, “That’s what you watch in the morning?” and strutted to the stairs.  Minutes later Uncle Vernon folded up his newspaper, walked through the living room with a glare and a snort, and left for work.  Aunt Petunia took a long time cleaning up, then, fixing her gaze firmly ahead, she marched past Harry and his guests and out the front door.


As the door clicked shut, Harry finally spoke.  “I don’t know what made me think they might actually feed you.  Usually they don’t even set me a place.”


“And this morning they set you one just so we’d feel left out?” Hermione asked incredulously.


“Touching, isn’t it?  Well, now they’re gone we can fix something for ourselves.”


“I’d rather not even touch their food,” said Ron, “if they’re going to make us that unwelcome.”


“Is there some place we can get something?” asked Hermione.  “I’ve brought some Muggle money – oh, don’t look so surprised, Ron, it’s a lot easier for me to come by than for you, isn’t it?  I just thought it would give us some extra flexibility.”


“That does it, then.  There’s a corner store a few blocks away.  Let’s get our wands and go.”


After breakfast they returned to the house with some groceries for later.  Harry put his key in the lock, then suddenly stopped, drew a sharp breath, and chuckled bitterly.


“What is it?” Hermione asked.


“I should have known … This is the first I’ve tried to use my key this summer.”  He jiggled the key to show that it wouldn’t turn.  “Of course they changed the locks and just happened to have forgotten to tell me.”


“Allow me?” Ron drawled, as he drew his wand surreptitiously, hiding it behind his sleeve lest the neighbors see.  He whispered, “Alohomora,” and the door swung open.


Such was the pattern of their stay in Privet Drive.  Ron and Hermione did their best to avoid antagonizing their hosts, a task which could only be accomplished by staying out of their sight completely.  The three took their meals when none of the Dursleys were downstairs – Ron turned out to be a fair cook as long as he used magic – and cleaned up meticulously after each one.  Most of each day, and all of each evening, was spent in Harry’s room, in conversation, or (especially for Hermione) reading, or whatever entertainment they could devise for themselves.  The cramped arrangements soon began to wear on Ron and Hermione, and they developed a deep appreciation for Harry’s having spent most of his first eleven years being lorded over by the Dursleys.



*          *          *          *          *



One morning, after a few days of enjoying the Dursleys’ grudging and dubious hospitality, Ron and Harry were engrossed in a particularly intricate game of wizard chess when Hermione announced, “I’m going down to the kitchen to make some tea.”


“Why not just conjure some?” Harry asked.


“Believe it or not, it tastes better when you make it the Muggle way.  Do either of you want to come?”


Ron didn’t look away from the board, though he could feel Harry looking questioningly at the top of his head.  “No, thanks, I’ve got to make sure I slaughter Harry and I’m only half way to understanding this position.  You go and enjoy your tea.”  She left, and after the door closed Ron finally looked up at Harry and explained, “She’s going crazy, stuck here with us.  She needs a chance to stretch her legs – and to be by herself for a while.”



*          *          *          *          *



Once in the kitchen, Hermione rummaged around for a while before she found the teapot.  It took even longer for her to find the tea.  Evidently Aunt Petunia had anticipated that intruders might try to steal them, and so had concealed them as cleverly as she could.  Eventually, when Hermione had located the kettle as well, a low voice startled her.


“Well hello, little witch, what are you doing here?”


Ignoring the tone of Dudley’s greeting, she replied simply, “Good morning.  I’m making some tea.”


“Tired of playing with the little boys, are you?”


She couldn’t think of any civil reply to this, so she made none at all.  Dudley stepped between her and the sink.  She held her ground.


“Excuse me, please, Dudley.  I need to put some water in the kettle.”


He came straight to the point.  “You’re not welcome here, you know?  You’re not welcome to our tea, either.”  He snatched the kettle out of her hands and put it down behind him by the sink.  “You want some, you’re going to have to pay for it.” 


“Dudley, I mean it.  Pardon me, please.”


“Oh, no, I don’t think so.”  He grabbed both her wrists.  Dudley may have been contemptible, but there was no denying his strength.  “You don’t scare me.  I know you’re not allowed to do magic out of school.”  He drove her backwards to the wall.


“Dudley, don’t be foolish,” she said evenly.  It was a bluff, though, and she knew it.  Although she had her wand in her pocket, she couldn’t free her hands from Dudley’s grip to reach it.  She tried to pull one arm free, but he jerked it back violently.


“No, you can’t do that.  And your little friends can’t help.  They can’t do magic out of school either, and if they try to fight me I can break their little arms just like that.”  He wrenched her left arm again and she winced.  Now he had her pinned to the wall with his body.  He lowered his face toward hers.  She grimaced and turned her head down and away to her left to avoid his loathsome advance, but he grabbed her hair and forced her head back up.


Suddenly he was dangling upside down from the ceiling in front of her, shouting and cursing, while a jet of red light shot through the space that his body had occupied a split second before and slammed into a china cabinet on the side wall, breaking several dishes.  Ron was standing in the doorway, wand pointed. 



*          *          *          *          *



Ron strode toward them, shouting, “HERMIONE, ARE YOU OKAY?” over the din that Dudley was making.








“WHAT HAP-”  He scowled, flicked his wand at Dudley, and remarked, “Silencio.”  The noise stopped.  “There.”  Dudley, now deprived of his voice, flailed even more violently than before, but the blessed quiet finally allowed Ron to hear himself think.  He quickly realized why his Stunning spell had missed.  “Well, nice one, Hermione,” he said, raising his eyebrows.  “But one of the Prince’s spells?  You?”


“First thing that came to mind when I was finally able to get to my wand.”  She whispered, “Good thing he let go of my arm.”


“Good thing for him, you mean.  If you hadn’t moved him out of the way I’d have gotten him.  Looks like I didn’t do those dishes any good, though.”  He pointed his wand at the china cabinet and said, “Reparo.”  The broken dishes mended themselves.


“Why did you come down?  You were just in time.”


“I’d say just a moment too late, from the looks of it.  Anyway, it seemed like you’d been gone quite a while.  I asked Harry how long it takes to make a cup of Muggle tea, and he said you should have been done by now, so I decided to look in on you.  How come you didn’t yell for us?”


“I didn’t think of it.”  He rolled his eyes.  “I was busy, you know,” she protested weakly, and he shook his head and half-smiled at her.  She turned to Dudley’s struggling, inverted form, took a cleansing breath, and said, “Now, Dudley, listen to me.  You said you knew that we weren’t allowed to do magic outside school.  But you didn’t know that that only applies to underage wizards.  We’re of age, so we are allowed.  And anyway there are exceptions to the rule.  We can certainly do magic to protect ourselves, or one another.  If a witch or a wizard is attacked, Dudley, they can defend themselves, and any other witch or wizard can come to their aid – with magic or not as they see fit.”


An idea struck Ron, and he picked up the theme.  “And since you’re Harry’s cousin, Dudley, you probably meet up with a lot more wizards than most Muggles do.  Not that you’d know that – you can’t tell who they are by just looking at them.  Of course that means that anyone you attack, anyone you bully, might be a wizard or a witch.  Just like today.  Except they probably wouldn’t be as nice to you as Hermione was.  Take me, for example.  If Hermione hadn’t hung you upside down, I’d have had you lying unconscious on the ground until I took my spell off you.  And I wouldn’t have been in any hurry to do that.”


“Speaking of which,” Hermione continued, “I’m really sorry, Dudley, but when I do the counterspell to let you down, unfortunately it … doesn’t set you back down on your feet.  It, well, just drops you.”  Dudley’s eyes widened as he looked toward the floor; his panic increased noticeably.  “Here …,” she said.  She stepped into the living room and began to remove the cushions from a sofa.


“Um, what are you doing?” asked Ron, following her.


“I’m going to put these under him so he doesn’t hurt himself when I release him.”


“You mean that after what he tried to do to you, you’re not going to just let him land on his fool head?  It might improve him, you know.”


“I hope he’s learned his lesson already.  Maybe a good will gesture might help … something.”


Admiring her magnanimity, he said, “Well, it’s not what I would do, but then it’s your choice, not mine.”  Then, lowering his voice to make sure Dudley couldn’t hear, “Of course, if you really don’t want to drop him on his head, I could levitate him down.”


She looked up at him in pleasant surprise and cried “Splendid!”  She strode back into the kitchen and to Dudley.  “Right, then.  Dudley, I’m going to release you now, but Ron is going to lower you gradually so you won’t hit your head.”  She glanced at Ron.  “Right?”  He raised his right hand in promise.  In a soothing voice she added, “You may drop a bit before he catches you.  Don’t be frightened.  All right?”  Dudley nodded tentatively, his eyes wide with fear despite Hermione’s assurance.


“Ready?” asked Ron.


“When you are.”  They stood shoulder to shoulder, wands out.  “You start.”




Hermione whispered, “Liberacorpus.”


“… Leviosa!


Dudley fell barely an inch before the levitation spell caught him.


“Well done!”


“What a team,” Ron replied dryly.  He rotated Dudley right side up, then lowered him toward the floor.  With mere inches to go, however, he stopped.  “Oh, by the way, Dudley, one more thing.”  Inclining his head toward Hermione, he spoke lowly and slowly.  “If you ever again so much as lay a finger on her, I swear I’ll turn it into something you won’t want to have attached to the end of your arm.  Understood?”


Dudley nodded again, more distinctly this time but just as fearfully as before.  Ron set him down smoothly and broke the levitation spell.  Dudley fled up the stairs to his room with remarkable speed for someone his size.


As they pocketed their wands, Ron spotted the ugly bruises rapidly developing where Dudley had been manhandling Hermione’s left forearm.


“Hermione, you’re hurt!”


“Don’t worry, Ron, it’s nothing.”


“What do you mean, ‘nothing’?  It’s terrible – look at that!”  He reached out and cradled her injured arm in his hands.


“It’s all right, really!


“No it’s not, it’s –“




“No, no, I’m not going to … but …”  He looked up at her.  “But … you’re hurt.”


Her eyes met his, and suddenly the world contracted around them.  He had known those eyes for years, loved them silently for almost as long, but he didn’t recall that they looked quite like this.  Had he never seen them properly?  Had he somehow forgotten how they really looked?  Intrigued, he leaned closer … to get a better look at them … but they turned into eyelids, and then the world vanished.


Their lips met:  friendly, warm, gentle; her welcome melting away the old fear, the terrible and now so foolish fear that had kept him from her for so long, the fear that loving her might somehow end his unique and precious friendship with this miraculous Hermione Granger.


In a few magnificent seconds it was over.  A few more and they opened radiant eyes to one another, and saw in that radiance that they would always be the truest of friends, and infinitely more, not until the end of their lives but until the end of time.


And he gathered her in his arms and they embraced for a long time, drinking in each other’s love until their hearts were full.



*          *          *          *          *



As they started up the stairs to Harry’s room, Hermione gasped, “Oh, no!” and turned to Ron, looking stricken.


“What’s wrong?” he asked anxiously.


She put her hand to her mouth.  “We forgot about Dudley’s voice!”

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