The Sugar Quill
Author: Mintha  Story: The League of Tea and Cookies  Chapter: Default
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The League of Tea And Cookies

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine.

 

 

The League of Tea And Cookies

 

 

“Miss Granger. Mr. Longbottom. Could you both remain after class? I’d like to see you in my office for a moment.”

 

Neville stopped gathering up his still-damp assignment sheet to look up in surprise. While this statement coming from Professor Lupin was far less alarming than when it came from, say, Snape or McGonagall, it still wasn’t anything he wanted to hear just as he was getting ready to leave.

 

He looked over at Hermione to gauge her reaction, but she seemed equally puzzled,

and exchanged a slightly worried glance with him. He hastily packed up the rest of his books, as Hermione hefted her own enormous bag with effort. As everyone else jostled their way out of the class, Neville and Hermione followed Professor Lupin in the other direction to his office. Once inside, they both set their bags down against the wall (Hermione’s landed with a thud) and together they took the two chairs in front of the desk. There was a tea tray upon it, holding three mismatched and minutely chipped cups, a green teapot, and a small paper box.

 

“I said I wanted to see you for a moment, but actually, it might be for a bit longer than that,” Lupin admitted, smoothing out his wrinkled robes and easing into his own chair.  “You’re not in trouble or anything,” he added quickly.  “I just thought we needed to have a chat.” He looked over at Hermione, who was already casting anxious glances at the clock. “It’s all right, Hermione, I’ve already arranged things with your.... ah.... Professors for the next hour. Take advantage of the time off.”

 

Neville was just wondering what that was all about, when Lupin turned in his direction, and smiled slightly.  “You, I’m sure, won’t mind skipping Potions today?” Neville shook his head emphatically.

 

The three of them reflected back at each other in the pitted mirrored doors of the cabinets on either side of the office. The dark circles under their eyes and their pale faces were deeply accentuated by their black robes.

 

“Well, look at the three of us, eh?” Lupin remarked. “We could form a club. The Club of the Totally Exhausted.”

 

Hermione smiled a little. “We could sleep through all of the meetings,” she offered, and the three of them laughed.

 

“Yes. I could stand a nap about now. But then we’d miss out on the excellent tea I just purchased.” Turning his attention to the tray, Lupin tapped the teapot with his wand, and proceeded to pour steaming tea into each of the three cups. A pleasant herbal aroma filled the room.  “Bergamot,” he informed them cheerfully.

 

Then he took a tin from his desk drawer, one that had apparently come from a Muggle shop, as he had to pull a bit of plastic from around the rim before opening it. He set a crisp orange cookie next to each cup before handing the saucers over to them. “Here you are, then. Perhaps we should call ourselves the League of Tea and Cookies instead.”

 

They both sat on the edge of their chairs with identical looks of nervousness.

 

“I’ll just get to the point, shall I? I know,” Lupin began carefully, “that both of you have a lot on your plates right now, things which your friends and classmates probably know little or nothing about.” Neville’s gaze immediately went to the floor, he absolutely was not discussing his personal problems with anyone, staggering though they currently were. He thought of his grandmother, still in the hospital, and his frequent trips through the Floo to visit not just two members of his family, but three. There was also the current miserable state of affairs in the tower; he was still getting the cold shoulder from most of the House for the whole password debacle. Not, ironically, from his dorm mates, whom he had actually put in the most danger, or from a few of the more understanding girls, but a lot of people were still refusing to speak to, sit with, or even look at, him these days.

 

When he risked a glance over at Hermione he saw that she also had a shuttered expression on her face. He noticed her hand fluttering unconsciously at the fine chain against her throat. She’d been wearing some sort of necklace all year beneath her robes; he’d occasionally caught glimpses of the gold glinting through her hair, or along her collar. She never took the thing off, and he had wondered before, as he did now, if it represented something stressful to her.

 

“Well, I’m not going to ask you about any of that, then,” Lupin went on reassuringly, seeming to make some sort of decision based on their reactions, and moving on. “But I do have a small request.”

 

“What is it, Professor Lupin?” Hermione asked apprehensively.

 

“I would simply like for the two of you to look after each other for a little while. Make sure the other, oh, gets out of the library on occasion,” he glanced at Hermione, “and actually eats something at meals once in a while.” He glanced over at Neville. “That sort of thing.”

 

Neville blinked at Lupin, completely stunned that anyone had even noticed that he’d only been pushing food around on his plate lately, or pocketing an apple and skipping the Great Hall altogether to eat alone in the dorm.  His second thought was to wonder how exactly he was supposed to get Hermione out of the library in the evenings (short of picking her up and carrying her out, which could prove dangerous to say the least) but he guessed he could promise to try. Sometimes they were able to talk sense into each other when others failed. Sometimes.

 

“Can you do that?” Lupin prompted.

 

They both nodded.

 

“Excellent! Well, drink up then,” Lupin invited, raising his own cup. When they had all had a few sips, he regarded them speculatively once more. “As long as we’re here, is there anything else either of you would like to talk about?”

 

Hermione shook her head, but after a moment of silence, she leaned forward a little.  “It would help,” she ventured very quietly, her fingers white around the saucer, “If Ron and Harry weren’t being complete dolts.”

 

The other two stared at her, though Neville was more taken aback by the anger in her voice than he was by her actual words.

 

“Ron’s not speaking to me because Scabbers is missing,” she explained to Lupin. “And he thinks Crookshanks killed him. Which is rubbish, but....” her voice rose in distress, “honestly, I didn’t mean for Scabbers to be upset, or to run away!”              

 

“Course you didn’t,” Neville said at once. “Besides, I can’t believe Crookshanks would really hurt anybody’s pet. He’s never laid a paw on Trevor or Hedwig.”

 

“Exactly! Although.... he has been chasing him. I’m sure Crookshanks only wanted to play, but.... oh! I’m worried about Scabbers, too!” She gripped the saucer even tighter, making the cup rattle around on its base. “You can’t.... you can’t really control cats, you know,” she confessed, biting her lip.

 

“No,” Lupin chuckled.

 

“Toads, either,” Neville said sympathetically.

 

Silence descended again, except for the small sounds of Hermione nibbling her cookie, and then Neville spoke. “I’m sorry I haven’t been more help to you with that, Hermione. I haven’t really wanted to get into an argument with Ron or Harry right now. They’re about the only people in the House who aren’t mad at me for losing the passwords.” His voice trailed off, he stared at his teacup.

 

I’m not,” Hermione said quickly. “I’m sorry I haven’t been more help to you. I’ve just been so very busy,” her voice wavered a note. “I know everyone’s been behaving dreadfully.”

 

“Well, not everyone. But most of them are still pretty annoyed.”

 

“You know,” Hermione said gently, “I have heard Harry telling people a couple of times to stop giving you such a hard time.”

 

That surprised him, but it did sound like something Harry would do. Harry had been in hot water so often himself that he was usually pretty compassionate when it happened to other people. Hermione’s comment reminded him suddenly of a bit of conversation he’d overheard the other night before bed.

 

“I heard him telling Ron to ease up on you about the cat thing, too,” he told her.

 

“Really? Well, OK, then. I guess he’s not such a dolt.” She smiled apologetically, clearly sorry for her earlier outburst.  He noticed she fell silent before granting Ron the same extension, though.

 

“Well, McGonagall still hates me,” he said, snapping his cookie in half.

 

“She does not!” Hermione and Lupin protested at the same moment.

 

“She was just very shaken by the incident,” Lupin went on smoothly. “People can react rather harshly when they’ve had a scare.”

 

Neville picked up one of the broken cookie pieces and bit into it absently. Sugar crystals crunched pleasantly, the taste of orange filled his mouth and blended with the taste of the bergamot.  “Good cookie,” he said, adding in a murmur, “Glad it’s not Scottish shortbread.” Hermione and Lupin both laughed. Lupin opened the tin and set it on the edge of his desk.

 

They talked for a while about lighter things, drank a second cup of tea, and made their way through a large number of cookies.

 

A few minutes before the end of the hour, Lupin leaned back in his chair. “Well, I believe our meeting is about to be concluded.  Remember your assignments, and if you ever need to assemble the League of Tea and Cookies again, don’t hesitate, all right?”

 

They thanked him earnestly as they stood up and prepared to leave. Hermione wrestled her gigantic book bag off the floor and tottered towards the door.

 

Once outside in the still-quiet corridor, Neville and Hermione stood for a moment in the afternoon breeze, listening to the occasional trill of wild birds.

 

“Everything will be all right, Neville,” she said fervently, sounding as if she were trying to convince herself as much as him.

 

“Yeah,” he said simply. His gaze turned from the tree outside the archway to the book bag she was clutching before her.  “Can I carry some of those for you?”

 

She hesitated a long moment, then worked one of the enormous textbooks out of the bag and handed it to him.

 

“Thanks,” she said quietly.

 

“No problem.”

 

They set off together for Charms.

 

//
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