The Sugar Quill
Author: ProfessorWannaBe  Story: Wonders Never Cease  Chapter: The Amazing Guest
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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.

We all know that I have no claim to any of these characters.  Ms. Rowling has left the development of Mr. and Mrs. Granger wide open to amateur interpretation which is what we have right here.  The good parts are all inspired by Ms. Rowling, the plot kept on course by ZHeRoTaN and the writing mechanics kept in check by Suburban House Elf.  Any errors, contradictions or plain lousy writing are entirely my fault.  I certainly hope you find a lot of good parts and will tell me about the not-so-good to help me improve.


Chapter 1

The Amazing Guest


            “Hermione, I’m home!”


            At the sound of her mother’s voice, eleven-year-old Hermione Granger nearly jumped out of her own skin.  She hastily closed the book she had been reading – English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit – and stashed it under the sofa cushion.  She grabbed a paperback off the end table and randomly opened it just before her mother stepped into the lounge.


            Hoping that her guilt did not show too plainly on her face, Hermione greeted her mother without taking her eyes from the page she was pretending to read, “How was your day?”


            Mrs. Granger draped her bag over the corner of the armchair then dropped onto the sofa beside her daughter.  Closing her eyes and tilting her head against the back of the sofa, Mrs. Granger entirely missed the alarm on her daughter’s face.


            “It was dreadful.  Your father is still at the surgery with an emergency root canal.  Why people wait so long to come in is beyond me.  They’re only prolonging their agony and then we have to bust our bums to take care of them.  Sometimes, I just feel like telling them that they have to wait for the next available appointment.”


            Hermione wasn’t paying a bit of attention to her mother’s harangue.  She was completely consumed by her fear that her mother would discover the book beneath the sofa cushion.  There had been a frightful row just a week ago about Hermione’s propensity for reading books that were “much too serious for an eleven-year-old girl.”  Her parents had taken her that very evening back to the library for a large stack of “appropriate” reading material for the summer holiday.  The paperback in her hands belonged to that group while the book her mother was sitting on did not.


            With an exaggerated sigh, Mrs. Granger pushed herself up from the sofa causing her daughter further alarm.  She continued her rant as she left the room.


            “Of course, they’d just go to another dentist and we’d eventually have no more patients so I guess we’ll keep accommodating the dental phobes.  Maybe when we’re ready to retire, we’ll start turning them down.”


            Hermione dropped her hands into her lap, no longer pretending to read as her mother’s voice faded down the hall.  She sat very still listening for her mother’s movements in the kitchen, checking the status of the beef roast she had started when she’d been home for lunch.  The moment her mother’s footsteps began up the stairs, Hermione sprang into action.


            The paperback dropped unheeded to the floor as Hermione grabbed the taboo book from under the cushion and hastened to the long line of bookshelves opposite the front window.  Scanning the shelf furthest from the doorway and sofa, she found a spot to squeeze it between murder mysteries.  She would have to pay better attention to the time tomorrow so it could be put safely away in her room before her parents came home.


            Returning to the sofa, she retrieved the paperback and tried to slow her breathing before her mother came back downstairs after changing clothes.


            “What vegetable would you like to have with our beef?Mrs. Granger asked as she re-entered the room.


            Hermione had given up trying to remember how far into the paperback she had appeared to be earlier and snapped the book shut at her mother’s reappearance.  Tossing the book on the sofa, she replied, “Let’s see what there is,” and made her way to the kitchen knowing that her mother would follow.


            Tinned peas were duly chosen and Hermione stayed in the kitchen to peel potatoes then set the table.  She joined her mother for a cup of tea on the small patio while they waited for the third Granger to join them for dinner.  They had just about decided to eat without him when his deep voice rang through the house and floated out of the kitchen window.


            “I’m home!  Where are my lovely ladies?”


            The dinner conversation was dominated by Mr. Granger’s recitation of the complexity of the unexpected root canal and the continuation of Mrs. Granger’s aspersions against those avoiding routine dental care.  Hermione was used to occasional dinners when her parents could talk about nothing but work; it did nothing to curb her appetite.  She was particularly hungry because she had been so engrossed in The Industrial Spirit all afternoon that she’d had no snack at all.  As her parent’s conversation waned, Hermione finished off the peas.  She was about to excuse herself when her father introduced a new subject.


            “And what did my girl do with herself today?”  


            “Oh, just a bit of reading,” she replied with as much casualness as she could infuse into her voice.


            “One of those nice books we got at the library?” her mother inquired.


            Hermione merely nodded as she reached for her glass to wash down the lump of guilt stuck in her throat.  It wasn’t exactly a lie - The Industrial Spirit had come from the library and Hermione thought it a very nice book – but it was deceitful to let her parents think that she was reading the thoroughly mundane books she had checked out under their supervision.  The harsh clang of the doorbell rescued her from further deceit.


            “Whoever could that be?” her father exclaimed as he stood.


            While her father went to investigate at the door, Hermione and her mother hastily cleared the table.  In a couple of minutes, Mr. Granger returned to the kitchen looking a bit perplexed.


            “I need you both in the lounge.”


            Hermione and her mother exchanged puzzled glances before following Mr. Granger to the front room.  A woman sat rigidly in the armchair, looking entirely out of place in the cozy room.  Her black hair was pulled back into a tight bun that matched the stern gaze peering from behind square-framed spectacles.  She wore a long wool skirt topped by a cream-colored blouse buttoned up to her neck and loose sleeves long enough to cover her hands.  Hermione thought the woman ought to be sweating in such warm clothes but that did not seem to be the case


            “This is Minerva McGonagall from Hogwarts School and she’d like to talk to us about having Hermione attend.”


            With his face turned away from the stranger, Mr. Granger looked inquiringly at his wife and daughter.  The exchange of glances amongst the family confirmed that none of them had ever heard of the school, much less applied to it.  Plans for Hermione to attend Westfield School for Girls had been determined months ago.  They settled themselves on the sofa confident that there was nothing this woman could say to alter their plans.


            “It has come to our attention that Hermione possesses the special quality required of our students.”


            The family was not impressed.  They already knew that Hermione was a gifted student and had heard variations on this statement repeatedly during their search for a secondary school.  They were not prepared, however, for the woman’s next declaration.


            “Hogwarts is a school of wizardry and only students demonstrating magical ability are invited to attend.”


            With these words, she laid a parchment envelope addressed in flowing emerald ink on the coffee table directly in front of the intended recipient.  All three Grangers stared at it with bewildered expressions for a moment.  The stranger sat quietly waiting for their response.


            Hermione finally reached out to pick up the rather thick letter.  She confirmed that it was her name and address on the front before turning it over to discover an old-fashioned wax seal.  A bit hesitantly, she broke the seal and removed two sheets of weighty paper handwritten in the same emerald ink as the envelope.  The first sheet was a letter whose heading identified Albus Dumbledore as the Headmaster with a list of outlandish titles/awards appended to his name.


            The letter itself was written by none other than Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress, who continued to sit in silence waiting for the Grangers to review the letter.  It was a generic letter of acceptance that contained little information about the school other than the date for the start of term—September 1st.  The second sheet was a list of supplies that students were required to bring. 


            Hermione skipped over the section of the list labeled “Uniform” and began to read the titles under “Course Books.”  Her heart began to race with the sort of excitement that only came when she found a new topic for study at the library.  These books were anything but mundane.  In fact, they were so fantastical that it was difficult to believe that a sane—though oddly dressed—woman could so matter-of-factly hand over such a list:   A History of Magic, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration.  The remainder of the list was equally hard to take seriously:  a wand, a cauldron, a telescope, a set of phials and scales.  Broomsticks were forbidden for First Years.


            “Now, see here.  This isn’t funny at all.”  Mr. Granger had recovered from the startling letter and supply list.  “I don’t know what makes you think we’re interested in whatever sort of voodoo your lot practices but we’ll have no part of it!” he continued firmly and a bit more loudly than usual.


            Minerva McGonagall wasn’t listening to him but watching Hermione absorb the idea of a place where these things were knowable rather than merely fantasy.  In the silence that greeted his declaration, Mr. Granger turned to his wife for support.  The expression on her face stopped any further speech.  She was not appalled but curious.


            “While it isn’t particularly common, we have one or two students every year who have Muggle—excuse me, non-magical—parents.  You have likely observed some odd occurrences when Hermione has been especially angry or afraid.”


            Mr. Granger was honestly stunned when his wife slowly nodded her head.  Hermione, who had still been staring at the list, now looked up not at her parents but at the woman who offered a completely new world of knowledge.  Her eyes burned with the need to understand what transfiguration meant, what sort of fantastic beasts could be found and what was to be done with so many magical herbs and fungi that could not be done with the normal sort.


            “What sort of occurrences?” she asked tentatively, afraid that none of the things that had popped into her head at the Deputy Headmistress’s words were odd enough to qualify her for entrance into this school.


            “It could be almost anything,” the school representative answered.  “Quite often, it is a defensive action—you suddenly aren’t where you had been or the thing that frightens you moves away; something you need desperately appears at hand even though you know it wasn’t there a moment before.”


            “Oh, come now.  There haven’t been any odd occurrences around here,” Mr. Granger exclaimed, once again struggling to put this conversation back into the realm of observable reality in spite of the lack of support from his spouse.


            “Yes, there have, dear,” Mrs. Granger interjected softly.  “Remember me telling you about the bus that nearly hit us while we were Christmas shopping in the City?  I did not tell you that the bus took a sideways jump to avoid us.  It was so unbelievable at the time, I could not admit what I saw but Hermione was the one to see the bus first and, at her scream, I looked over to see the bus just…pop…over a lane.”


            “Could you…keep people from seeing things you don’t want them to see?”  Hermione asked in a voice that was strangled by a mixture of fear and longing.  She had forgotten about the bus but vividly recalled several narrow escapes with books that her teachers and parents had deemed “inappropriate.”  It was easy to believe that magic had been involved in the concealment of The Industrial Spirit while her mother had been sitting on it this afternoon.


            “I suppose so…if you wanted it badly enough or feared its discovery with sufficient emotion,” replied the woman Hermione no longer thought odd but fascinating.


            Mr. Granger was not to be so easily persuaded.


            “Alright, I’ve had enough of this foolishness,” he declared as he stood to his feet.  “I’ll ask that you leave and take your ridiculous letter with you,” he finished, snatching the pages out of Hermione’s hand.


            In a flash, Minerva McGonagall had whipped a wand out of her voluminous sleeve and pointed it directly at the letter, which burst into flames.  Mr. Granger dropped the flaming missive and it immediately returned to simple parchment that floated serenely into Hermione’s lap.  Silence enveloped the room as Mr. Granger sank back into the sofa, his eyes riveted on the pages Hermione now stroked lovingly.


            “Will I be able to do that?Hermione gasped.


            “Most likely,” came the reply.


            “What else can I learn to do?”


            “Quite a lot of things that you and your parents would think impossible if I told you right now.  Suffice it to say, you will learn a whole new way to think about the things around you, meet other young people with the same gift and discover a society steeped in magic that coexists with the world you’ve known up until now.”


            A deep quiet filled the lounge as each of the Grangers contemplated the incredible conversation they had been drawn into.  Hermione returned her attention to the list of course books in her hand.  The visitor waited patiently for further questions or outbursts.


            Slowly, Hermione looked from her mother’s curious face to her father’s baffled one.


            “Dad,” she began.  “I think I’d like…”


            “No way!” he once again leapt to his feet but did not try to confiscate the letter a second time.  “We know almost nothing about this place and what we do know is unbelievable.  That letter was doctored to burst into flame like that.  It’s a trick, an illusion.”


            It appeared that Mr. Granger had more to say but he was interrupted when the coffee table turned into a tabby cat that began to rub against his leg.  Another swish of the stranger’s wand turned a shelf full of books into canaries that circled the room eliciting an “Oooooh” from Hermione.  The figurines on the mantle began to dance and the armchair in which the magical guest sat rose several inches into the air.


            The demonstration had the desired effect, ending Mr. Granger’s tirade.  He stared around the lounge clearly wanting to disbelieve what his eyes were seeing.  He was entirely speechless but his wife and daughter were not.  It was another half hour of listening to a flurry of questions and answers amongst the women in the room before he rejoined the conversation.


            “Must we decide immediately?”


            “Not at all, we only need to know by the end of July.  You must vow not to discuss this outside of your home in the meantime.  I must also inform you that if you choose to decline the opportunity, we will have to erase all memory of this discussion.  The longer you take to decide, the more uncomfortable that will be.”


            After these disturbing words, however, she took a small card from her pocket and laid it on the coffee table that had been returned to its original state during the all-female discussion.


            “Send any further questions to this address.  I would be happy to arrange an escort to Diagon Alley as further proof that the wizarding world actually exists.  It happens to be the perfect place for the purchase of all the required school supplies in case the visit is convincing.”


            With these words, the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts stood and disappeared with a loud crack, leaving the Granger family gaping at the empty armchair.  It was some time before Mr. Granger broke the stunned silence.


            “I need a drink.”


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