The Sugar Quill
Author: St. Margarets (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Frog Prince of Slytherin  Chapter: Part II
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Part II

Theodore woke up in his empty dormitory the next morning feeling both reluctant and eager for the day to begin. When he thought about everything he had told Luna last night - things about his mother and his family that he had never told anyone - he felt an uncomfortable squirming inside of his stomach. What had he done? He was as exposed as a Mooncalf dancing at the full moon, except he had no fellow Mooncalves surrounding him to offer coverage from prey.

Or was that true anymore? For two more days he was to have a companion. That thought alone raised his spirits.

Funny how when Luna asked what it was he wanted from her, he hadn't thought to say money or knowledge of charms or information about Potter. He had asked for her time and then he had asked for a kiss.

He rolled on his stomach and buried his face in his pillow, trying to stem the flood of images that inevitably followed thoughts of kissing a girl with a lush mouth like that. She wasn't that sort of girl, he told himself sternly.

No, Luna was a caring girl, a sensitive girl. And she had touched his wrist - once, and she had put her hand on his back - once, and she had called him Theodore - once.

Then he remembered the plan that he had put into play last night. It was a plan to put Luna's roommates in their place, and he had done it without prompting or without thinking about how it would benefit him. But now, in the privacy of his own bed, he was dangerously close to realizing what it was that compelled him to seek revenge on her part.

He wouldn't articulate that hope. Wishes never won anything. But a well-thought out plan often did.

*

Unfortunately, winning was the furthest thought from his mind when he saw Luna sitting alone at the end of Ravenclaw table listlessly stirring her - their - bowl of porridge. He had the fleeting thought that he hoped she hadn't put cream in it before he noticed a few more things about her appearance. She wasn't wearing her feather necklace or the one made out of butterbeer corks or any necklace at all. Her hair was tied severely back in a ponytail; her white blouse was buttoned primly to her throat. In short, she looked like any other Hogwarts witch and that was . . . disconcerting.

Also disconcerting was the droop to her shoulders. Did the elves get it wrong? He certainly hoped his plan had been implemented, although, he noted as he sat on the bench next to Luna, her roommates were not at breakfast.

The porridge looked like a potion gone wrong. "You put cream in it!"

She stared at the bowl in front of her. "So I did."

"I hate thin porridge."

"So do I." She sighed.

He reached for a mug from one of the empty place settings and it immediately filled with hot, fragrant tea. Perhaps he could nick another bowl so he could have porridge the way he liked it . . .

"My roommates woke up to find that all of their things were gone," Luna said in the same tone of voice one would use to describe a goblin rebellion from five hundred years before.

"I felt so sorry for them," she continued. "Henriette didn't have her glasses, so she stubbed her toe on her way to my bed to ask me if I knew where their things were."

He snorted. He sincerely doubted that Henriette was on her way to wake a sleeping Luna to make a polite inquiry about the whereabouts of her things. "Are you going to eat that?" he asked, indicating the porridge. He had given up the idea of nicking another bowl - they did have an agreement to eat off of the same plate. She pushed it to him without speaking.

The lukewarm porridge was as horrible as he expected, but he was hungry, so he slurped it down anyway. "Tell me more about your roommates," he demanded abruptly.

She gave him a quick, side-long glance. "Professor Flitwick was sorting them out when I came down."

"So all of their possessions vanished?" He tried to hide his grin.

"Robes, underwear, shoes, books, quills, completed homework." Her voice was bleak. "They didn't even have dressing gowns."

House-elves were so thorough, he thought with satisfaction as he tapped the edge of the empty bowl with his wand. It immediately filled again - this time with porridge of the right consistency. "Have some fresh porridge?" he offered. "I ate up the thin batch."

She looked at it. "I'm not hungry."

"Why?" He couldn't imagine what she would be upset about. Her roommates had been greatly inconvenienced, he had eaten the watery porridge, today was Friday, so no classes tomorrow . . .

"I don't like to see people hurt or embarrassed," she said in a low voice.

"Well I do," he declared, dipping his spoon into the porridge. "Especially when the people in question deserve it."

"You were behind it!" She pivoted toward him, her mouth hanging open in dismay.

"Who else?" he said coldly. This wasn't the reaction he had envisioned. His ideas ran more along the lines of gushing thanks and a glint of admiration in those blue eyes.

"Raine said it was you," Luna continued. "But I stood up for you. I said you would never . . ."

Merlin, that was disappointment in her eyes. His flimsy hopes ripped into a thousand pieces. "You were wrong then," he said savagely. "Of course I would. They were insulting to me yesterday and they embarrassed you - not to mention all the other pranks they've probably pulled on you over the years. It was high time someone put them in their place."

"But - Daddy always said that if I just showed them the real me they would come to like me over time."

She was pathetic - and so was he for mooning about her this morning. "Daddy's wrong," he spit out.

She jerked back as if he had slapped her. "My roommates were starting to like me. They haven't played one trick on me all year. And now you've gone and undone it all."

"If they like you so much, you can just explain how it was the big bad Slytherin who did it," he mocked. "Surely they'll believe you since they know the real you."

Her eyes filled with tears. Guilt twisted in his gut. He had to be the lowest form of life to be quarreling with someone so earnestly good.

"You never fought back - ever?"

Her eyes widened. "No. That's not the way to repay evil - you don't stop evil with something equally evil."

"No, you stop it with something more evil." He ran his hand over his cropped hair in frustration.

"I don't believe that," she said calmly. Then she stared off into space. ""There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." What was she talking about now? "My name's not Horatio," he snapped.

The conversation came to a skidding halt. She was so indifferent - like a princess who couldn't be bothered to argue with him.

All he wanted was for her to talk to him like he mattered - like she had talked to him last night. But he had done something she didn't approve of, and he had wounded her -he knew it by the tears in her eyes. How could he make her see that he was acting in her best interest? How could he convince her that his approach was right and hers was wrong?

His shoulders sagged. He couldn't.

He glanced sideways at her again. She was humming under her breath, staring at the Enchanted Ceiling, which reflected an uninteresting tapestry of gray clouds.

With his wand, he tapped her - their - plate, and eggs and toast appeared. "Eat," he commanded, his mind working furiously. Couldn't he just pretend that he was won over to her point of view? What did he care about being right or wrong as long as she talked to him like he was . . . a person with a first name?

Docilely, she picked up her fork, which made him angry all over again. So much for pretending. "I don't get why you're angry with me for getting back at your roommates," he said.

She swallowed and put the fork down gently on the table. "I'm not angry with you." She clasped her hands in her lap. "I'm just regretful . . . and sad for my roommates."

He could see the whites of her knuckles as she gripped her hands together. That gave him a certain pleasure - she wasn't such an indifferent princess after all.

"Liar," he whispered.

"I'm not angry." She turned to face him, her eyes large and tragic. "And stop trying to goad me." She stood up, placed her serviette on the table and then fled. He watched her pony tail sway as she hurried across the Great Hall. There was no point in reminding her that she was breaking a promise by running away. She would remember since she had a mind like a bloody steel trap.

Her sense of fair play would bring her back to his side, but he couldn't make her care enough to argue with him. He sighed and wondered why he hadn't left that bloody golden ball at the bottom of the lake.

*

Still feeling raw and angry, the last thing he wanted was a confrontation with Ginny Weasley. She stepped in front of him as he left the Great Hall and pointed her wand at his chest. "What did you do to Luna?" she hissed.

His gaze traveled from the wand touching his heart to her angry face. "You're Ginny Weasley."

"Well, Ginny Weasley, Luna's friend - although it's none of your business - I did nothing . . . to Luna." He brushed her wand away impatiently.

She stepped closer and this time tapped the wand on his collar bone. It felt hot. "What did you do?"

Her eyes were practically spitting sparks of anger. Why couldn't Luna have a little bit more of that righteous anger and this Weasley witch less? "I divested Luna's roommates of all of their worldly goods."

She didn't remove her wand, but her mouth dropped open. "The crows?"

He gave her a grim smile. "Right, crows. As we speak, all of their things are being shipped to three different imaginary addresses."

"They weren't at breakfast," she said slowly as if she was testing the truth of his words.

"Probably because you're not allowed in the Great Hall in your night things," he explained helpfully.

"How did you do it?" she demanded.

"Three letters explaining that the girls were to return home and a request to please forward all of their possessions immediately, a Forgery Charm and some helpful house- elves." He shrugged, glad he could finally boast about his plan to someone.

"House-elves," she breathed. "I've always wanted to get back at them for Luna's sake, but it's really hard to get into Ravenclaw Tower. I even asked Fred and George to help, but they couldn't think of anything either." There was a glint of humor in her eyes. While she was not his type - too short - too freckly - too sporty and loud, he could see what the attraction for Potter was - that fierceness - and that sense of mischief.

She took her wand away, but she was still watching him suspiciously. "So why did Luna run away at breakfast?" Her eyes narrowed. "And why were you eating at the Ravenclaw table?"

He wondered how well Ginny knew Luna. "We have a deal about mealtimes," he said, answering her second question first. "And she's not happy with me for interfering with her roommates."

"Did you quarrel?" she asked, watching him intently.

"Is that possible with Luna?" he countered.

She raised her eyebrows as that truth hit home. "No, it's not. Luna doesn't quarrel," she admitted. Then she frowned. "What are you going to do next?"

"Nothing." It was the truth. Luna would follow their bargain to the letter so he didn't have to do anything to see her.

Ginny stepped back and nodded. "So you're going to leave her alone. Good."

"I didn't say that."

Her wand was back under his chin in a flash. "If you hurt her feelings, I swear, I'll . . ."

He wanted to say, 'Too late,' but he didn't since this conversation was getting tiresome. "You'll what? Take away my birthday?" He batted her wand away for the second time. "Luna can take care of herself." Oddly enough, he believed it after he had seen her in action this morning. She knew exactly how to withdraw from the world - and from him.

Ginny's jaw worked as she stared at him assessingly. Then she lowered her wand. "I'll be watching you, Nott."

He gave her a mock salute as she flounced off. This encounter only confirmed what he had long thought - the Hogwarts houses were totally incompatible. Merlin help the sensible Slytherin when dealing with combative Gryffindors or inscrutable Ravenclaws. He sighed and continued on his way to Defense Against the Dark Arts. All he needed to complete his morning was a herd of Hufflepuffs ready to swoop down on him for a group hug. He rubbed the back of his neck as he felt the beginnings of a headache. No wonder Salazar had left the place.

*

Luckily, Luna wasn't so other-worldly that she skipped lunch. He was there waiting for her, having eaten all of her - their - sandwiches and most of the soup. She sniffed and tapped the empty plate with her wand. Nothing appeared. "What's happened in the kitchen?" she finally asked him after several attempts with her wand.

"Nothing - I ate the sandwiches before you got here."

"I was in Divination," she said. "It takes a long time to walk here from Trelawney's classroom."

He shrugged. "You snooze, you lose."

"I wasn't snoozing." She didn't raise her voice, but she didn't sound so calm.

"You can have the rest of the soup," he said, pushing the almost-empty bowl in front of her.

It was probably stone cold, he thought, feeling a pang of remorse, which he ruthlessly suppressed. He had to get under her skin somehow. After a morning's thought, he had decided he was going to make her angry enough to finally speak to him - through the stomach seemed the best starting place.

"Um. I have to go," she said politely. "To the greenhouse."

There was nothing she could do to stop him. It was a blustery, unseasonably warm day that threatened rain. He liked that the weather was a little wild and a little gray - it suited his mood.

About halfway to the greenhouses she stopped. "You're angry with me."

"Unlike you, I'm not too good to be angry," he acknowledged.

She didn't take the bait. "I don't think you should be angry with me," she said reasonably. "You were the one to set the conditions of this bargain. And you were the one who designed that plot against my roommates without thinking how it would affect me."

"Have they done something to you?" he asked sharply.

The wind was playing with her hair, pulling the shorter strands out of her pony tail and whipping them in her eyes. She brushed them away impatiently. "No, I haven't seen them since this morning."

Another gust of wind plastered her robes to her body for a moment. When it subsided, she looked at the sky as if judging the likelihood for rain. Of course she didn't mention the weather. "Why are you angry with me?" she asked the sky.

"Why aren't you angry with me?" he countered, knowing full well she was. "Am I too lowly for you to bother with?"

She pulled her gaze from the clouds. "You're not lowly."

"Let me get this straight. You're not angry with me or your roommates. Your friend Ginny has never quarreled with you - and that's saying something judging by how quick she is with a wand." He loomed over her. "So who, Luna? Who was the last person you were ever angry with?"

He waved that away. "That was nothing. Really angry. Before that."

"I don't know."

"Not even your roommates? After they took your things?"

"No," she insisted quietly, so quietly that he could hardly hear her over the thunder that was rumbling in the distance. "I don't care about things - they always turn up and it they don't, they can be replaced."

He didn't believe it. "What about this golden ball, then?" He held it up so she could see it - the only color in all the gray and black surrounding them.

She almost reached for it, but checked herself. "That's different," she said. "It's something I care about."

The ball was warm and smooth in his hand. He resisted the temptation to stroke it. Something she cared about. Pure, incorruptible gold.

A cold weight settled in his stomach. Nothing like this ball would ever be his - she would never be his, not even as a friend. And why should she? In one morning he had undone the six years of patience and goodness Luna had shown her roommates.

With one quick movement, he thrust the ball at her. "Here. You care more about it than me."

She wouldn't take it. It dropped to the soft ground with a heavy thud. Her eyes were wide, shocked.

He turned his back on her. This was better. She was too good for him - he could see that now - she really didn't care about possessions or pride. And he didn't want to hurt her anymore. So what if she was the only person who had called him by name all year?

"Theodore." She tugged at the sleeve of his robe.

Something roared inside of him at hearing his name. "Don't call me that," he snapped, whirling around. "My mother gave me that name. That's all she gave me. Unlike you, I didn't get any golden balls or Drying Charms or lessons in how to get along with mean roommates."

He was sputtering, incoherent - and he couldn't stop the stream of words coming out of his mouth.

"But at least I know better than to be around someone who doesn't care about me - who doesn't care that I tried to help her the best way I knew how. You shut me out this morning. You were so nice last night and this morning you looked right past me and told me stupid things about Horatio."

She watched him, motionless with her lips slightly parted.

"And I can't even get you to care enough to argue with me. Because if you argued with me, maybe I could see your point, and maybe I could say I was sorry." The cold thing grew and pressed on his chest, causing his eyes to water.

"Because I am sorry," he blurted loudly, past caring whether her foul roommates deserved revenge. "I'm sorry because I messed up, and I can't fix it." It seemed his pride had deserted him as well. "I can't fix it because you won't let me."

He turned around again and clenched his fists, willing himself to shut up.

There was a long silence punctuated by the sound of his deep breathing and the flapping of their robes in the wind.

"That was a Jobberknoll's cry," she finally said and then sniffed.

He let out a long breath. What was she talking about? A Jobberknoll only made a sound as it was dying. He wasn't dying.

The wind picked up again, this time with a roar. Low clouds were scudding across the sky.

Maybe he was dying. He felt calm, cleansed of those confused feelings he had been feeling all morning.

Had he apologized? He had, he realized. And it felt . . . good. Maybe now she would forgive him - now she would talk to him again. That's all he really wanted. Someone kind like Luna would have to forgive him, wouldn't she?

He turned slowly. She was standing in the same spot, watching him with soft concern in her eyes. The golden ball was at her feet in the dirt. When he picked it up, it was as clean and bright as before.

Incorruptible.

Just like Luna.

She gave him a tremulous smile, and he smiled back, feeling something warm and light fill his chest.

An icy thread mixed in with the warm wind. "We should get indoors," he said. Black boiling clouds now filled the sky. "It's going to storm."

Luna turned towards the castle as the roar of the wind increased alarmingly.

"I thought you had to go to the greenhouse?" he yelled in her ear.

"Not until three o'clock," she shouted.

He grabbed her hand as they hurried up the hill. "Come to the kitchens with me. I have to get more meat for the Thestrals." He would also ask the elves to give her some lunch, he thought repentantly.

As she nodded in agreement, the skies opened and they were soaked to the skin. The rest of their walk was a long one as the rain drummed on their heads and the wind slowed their progress to the castle door.

Once inside, he was aware of the cold water dripping down his nose and neck, the clammy feeling of his sodden robes next to his skin and how his toes squished uncomfortably in his wet shoes. Luna was shivering.

Still shivering, she nodded, took out her wand, and placed it flat on his back. He immediately felt that pleasant pulling sensation, followed by blissful warmth. It really was a brilliant charm.

She stiffened. "I can't - I told you that. I don't know how to do it since Mummy didn't teach me that modification before she died."

He could have pointed out that as someone in sixth-year Charms, she could surely modify the incantation with ease, but he didn't because Luna had already started toward the kitchens.

When he caught up with her, Luna acknowledged him with a glance. "Mummy didn't teach me a lot of things before she died." She shivered again in her clinging robes.

Theodore didn't know what else Luna's mother was supposed to have taught her. To him, Hogwarts had done a fine job of teaching the basics of magic - but then maybe it was different for girls.

He tickled the pear. "What experiment?"

"That's how she died. Experimenting with magic," Luna answered. "I was nine and she was . . . careless." She stepped in the doorway of the kitchen, checked herself and then pivoted to face him. "That's one thing that makes me angry," she whispered.

The elves were greeting them. "Mr. Theodore Nott, sir! Dobby has meat for the mother of the dead Thestral." He looked askance at Luna who was dripping water on the clean floor. "Dobby has towels, too."

"Um. Yeah. Bring some for Luna - and some sandwiches, too." Theodore led Luna to a bench near the fireplace. Her wet hair looked dark plastered next to her skull - not like Luna at all.

She stared at him helplessly as he sat next to her. "I do get angry. But what kind of person is angry with her mother for dying?"

"Luna, you have to do that charm before you catch your death of cold."

"I can't." Her eyes filled with tears.

"You can." This had become some sort of hang-up hers and she should get over it.

"Only Mummy . . ."

"Try."

She shivered one more time and then stretched to place her wand flat on her back causing . . . He swallowed. Causing her breasts to jut out. Merlin, he hadn't been thinking of her like that since this morning, and now he couldn't think of anything else except that she was cold and her robes were clingy and . . .

The incantation she was muttering brought him back to reality.

"No, wait," he said, touching her wand wrist. "You should have the tip of the wand at a forty-five degree angle for self-inflicted charms, remember?"

She frowned and pursed her lips in concentration. Luckily, she had her eyes closed so she couldn't see his eyes sliding to her breasts - again.

"Fingers two and three," she said. "Is my wrist all right? It's hard to tell in this position."

"Everything looks . . . fine."

He would feel a wave of magic as soon as she murmured the incantation. Her hair fanned out in a silken cloud from the force of it.

"Wow," he said. That charm was brilliant.

Luna looked down at a lock of her hair. "I did it! My hair looks just like when Mummy would do the charm. All smooth and nice." She held out a length of hair to him. "Smell. Mummy built that into the charm."

Salazar, Merlin, Hectate, and Agrippa help him. That soft, scented hair was right under his nose and it smelled like vanilla and the outdoors and something else he couldn't quite place. He cleared his throat. "Nice," he croaked out.

"Dobby has towels." The elf stopped and stared at Luna. "Mr. Theodore Nott's wet loon is now dry."

"It's Luna, Dobby. Luna Lovegood."

Dobby's ears twitched. "Dobby is just a house-elf, Mr. Theodore Nott, sir. Dobby confuses names." He bowed in apology. "Winky is bringing sandwiches and raw meat to Mr. Theodore Nott and his good Lunalove."

Theodore didn't bother to correct him since 'Lunalove' just sounded nice. He wondered if she noticed or cared that Dobby assumed she was "his." That sounded nice, too, although he didn't think any witch alive would like that sort of possessive talk.

Fortunately, Luna didn't look offended by Dobby's comments. She was in a world of her own, dreamily stroking a lock of hair on her shoulder as she watched a group of elves rolling out pastry on the scrubbed tables. When the sandwiches arrived, she ate without breaking out of her reverie.

It was strange at first to be sitting with someone in such complete silence. But the elves were interesting to watch and the fire was warm and her hair smelled good. Theodore relaxed. There was no need to talk, nor listen, nor even think. It was enough to just . . . be.

Winky finally broke the spell when she hurried over with a heavy, dripping sack of raw meat. "For your dead Thestral's mother, sir," she squeaked and then scurried away. Theodore shook his head, as if waking from a pleasant dream, and then groggily stood up. He was obviously out of practice with being in the moment.

Luna, however, was energized. She sprang from the bench with a smile. "I have to go to Herbology." She wrinkled her nose. "I don't fancy going out in the storm, but at least I know I can dry myself off once I'm there."

"Why?"

"You don't want everyone bothering you to know the charm, do you?" he improvised.

"You're the only person who has ever asked me about a charm," Luna said as a shadow crossed her face.

He didn't like that sudden bleakness in her eyes. "But you haven't taught it to me yet."

"No, I haven't," she agreed, lifting her chin slightly. Was that a little glint of a challenge in her eyes? Imps would get that speculative look if they wanted to lure you a bit closer to the edge of a river bank so they could push you in. Of course this imp would dry you off later . . .

He held the bag with the raw meat in a tighter grip. "Well, I'll see you at dinner then."

//
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