The Sugar Quill
Author: Katherina Black (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: What Witches Want  Chapter: Part Two
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Part 02

With the aid of Harry, Ron managed to survive the day. By the end of it, though, his brain seemed have developed a habit of naturally blocking all incoming thoughts. And of course, there had been that undeniably sticky moment in Divination when Ron had accidently read Professor Trelawney's thoughts and started laughing in the middle of the lesson (Ron obviously couldn't explain that it had been because he found his teacher's thoughts - "Focus, focus. You do not need alcohol, you do not need that bottle. Note to self: re-read self help book."- a hoot, so it had landed him a detention).

"Mmm, chocolate...no, I really shouldn't...remember the diet, remember the diet..." Ron looked up from his lunch, suprised, to match this train of thoughts to Parvati Patil. Self assured Parvati on a diet? Ron thought about this for a moment.

"Here, Parvati, have some chocolate," Ron said, shoving a fistful into her hand (slightly tentatively, for he had more than an inkling that he might get the "arsehole" treatment again). Parvati looked from Ron to the chocolate.

"Thanks, Ron, but -"

"Parvati, if you're worrying about a diet, or whatever, don't. You don't need to lose weight, and you know the stick insect look isn't really that attractive."

"Is Ron Weasley reading my mind or something, or am I that obvious? Never thought he'd be the one to give me dieting advice. Actually, I always thought he was a bit of an -"

"Oh, Okay, then," Parvati said. "Thanks, Ron." And Ron noted with satisfaction that she looked a lot happier. He settled down to finish his lunch, unconsciously continuing to pick up the thoughts of practically the entire female side of Gryffindor.

Sighing, Ron stood up, making his way passed a stressed out looking seventh year, a blond second year writing her Transfiguration essay, and as he passed the Hufflepuff table, Eloise Midgen, who was hunched up by herself.

"Oh shit, shit...I'm two days late...shit. I'm never late!"

"In order for a cross species transfiguration to occur, you must first..."

"Ihatehimihatehimihatehimihatehim...aw, who am I kidding?!"

Wondering vaguely, slightly amused, who might be the unfortunate person, Ron exited the dinner hall. He turned to ask Hermione about some homework, only to remember she wasn't there.

 

Ron sat down at the little table by the fire to make a start on his homework. He hardly even registered the fact that Lavender Brown was sitting there too, until he heard her screaming, frustrated thoughts that is. And then he half wished he hadn't.

" 'Dearest: I just don't know how to tell you this. Betsey's condition has worstened, and they think it might be serious. God, I'm so sorry we've had to tell you this in a letter. I'll send more news as soon as I can; until then we'll just have to leave it up to the higher powers. I don't know what to do. Dad and I miss you. Love from mum.' "

Ron looked up quickly. Lavender Brown was tossing aside a letter, and she was, not crying, but near to it. Ron didn't know what to do or say. Ron watched and waited. He saw Lavender glance at the letter once more then look even more tearful, before standing up and rushing up to the Girl's dormitories.

*

"Is that Ron? Oh, I'm so glad he came to see me...as a friend, a friend. Hermione. Stay cool."

"Hey, Herms, how're you feeling?" Ron, not understanding but feeling slightly flattered, plonked Hermione's Charms work onto her bedside table and plonked himself onto the chair beside her bed. Hermione, it transpired, was feeling grouchy.

"I'm fine! But they want to keep me in here for longer. Can you imagine? It's Arithmancy next, I bet the class are doing something really important!"

"And then I'll probably get questions on my test wrong and then who knows what everyone'll think!" Hermione thought, grouchily. Ron laughed.

"Hermione, I swear if you worry much more you'll go gray," he chuckled, earning himself a glare from the patient. "Okay, Hermione; I will go to Professor Vector myself and ask him what you missed and I'll get your homework and bring it here - just for you. Happy?"

"Mmm, it's not like Ron to offer to do stuff like this. What's up?" Ron almost yelled "Hey!" when he heard this, then remembered and quickly shut his mouth.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked. "It's not like you to -"

" - to be nice to you?" Ron said, feeling an itsy bit annoyed.

"No, I was going to say, to offer with homework and stuff," Hermione finished. Ron was about to retort, but then realised she was right. He usually couldn't be naffed with extra homework, and he usually told Hermione so, too.

"Well," was all he could think of to say.

"Harry is at Quidditch practice, I presume," said Hermione, starting a fresh subject.

"Wild centaurs couldn't keep him away," Ron agreed. "Especially as he's up against a certain pretty Ravenclaw girl next match."

"Oh dear," Ron heard Hermione think.

Hermione shook her head. "Harry's going to get hurt, Ron," she said.

"I know, but isn't love supposed to be painful a lot of the time?" Ron said, wondering why he suddenly felt - what was it? - bothered.

"I suppose so," Hermione said. "God, do I know a lot about that," she added in her head.

Ron, startled, looked up, immediately wanting to probe a little into this. Had something happened with Viktor Krum? Had he hurt Hermione's feelings? Because if he had...Ron suddenly felt fierce. So it was fortunate for all parties concerned, perhaps, that Madame Pomfrey interuptted at that moment ("You've had nearly ten minutes! Get out!") before he could say anything.

It was only once he'd left that Ron realised something. Out of all the girls whose thoughts he'd read, Hermione was the only one who'd said pretty much what she thought anyway. It was probably down to familiarity, Ron thought, afterall Hermione knew him best. Or maybe she was just a more straightforward person. Ron was sure that Hermione was unique, anyway.

*

All in all, it was not looking like a promising end to the day. Ron had to find Professor Vector, collect Hermione's work, then spend the best part of the evening in Trelawney's stuffy classroom.

"Ah, there you are, dear. Come in. The stars did in fact inform me that you would be late," Professor Trelawney said, when Ron's head surfaced through the trapdoor of the almost empty classroom. She gestured him to sit down, saying, "I suspect that your impunctuality was due to falling in the lake?" Professor Trelawney said. "I consulted my crystal ball."

Ron, not wanting to get into more trouble, gave a sort of neutral grunt and sat opposite Lavender at a round table. He noticed that Lavender was not her usual confident self; she seemed tired and smaller somehow. Ron thought he could guess why.

"Now, dears - the fates call me away, so I trust you to get on with your work and you may go in an hour," said Professor Trelawny, floating away (Ron hadn't thought it was possible for anybody to float down a stepladder; obviously Professor Trelawney had been practicing). Ron could have sworn hat he heard "Now, where's that damn book?" as she left.

Ron opened his books, but could not concentrate. The girl, however, made absolutely no move to talk to Ron - well, she wouldn't would she? It wasn't like they were even good friends. Ron Weasley, are you going soft? Ron asked himself irritated. Honestly. It wasn't even as if it was any of his business. He and Lavender had hardly ever exchanged more than four meaningful sentences with each other.

"Is that your little sister, Lavender?" Ron said, spying a photo of a little girl stuck in the pages of Lavender's book. "She looks sweet." For the first time, Lavender smiled.

"Yeah, that's Betsey. She is the sweetest little thing in the world. Of course she -" Lavender choked back the last part of the sentence hurridly. "She's going to die."

"What?" Ron said, gently. But Lavender shook her head, muttering "Nothing."

"I just wish I had someone to talk to. I feel like I'm going to explode and no one will even notice."

"Lavender, I know we're not, like, the best of friends, but they say it always helps to talk. You know, before you explode. And if it's family stuff; well, I know a lot about families." Ron, who had six siblings, said.

Lavender threw aside her book. "They think it's serious," she said, quietly.

*

"Hermione was right about you," Lavender was saying as the two packed up three quarters of an hour later.

"Right?" Ron said blankly.

"Yeah, well she's always sticking up for you; saying how you're more courageous and kind than people give you credit for. She's right. Thanks."

"And to think that I always thought you were a complete arsehole"

Ron went red. "Well, I er -" he gabbled. "I mean, anytime."

He bade Lavender goodnight and went to deliver Hermione's arithmancy work. Lavender's parting thought was:

"And I bet that he's off to visit Hermione. It is just so obvious with those two..."

Huh? Ron thought.

Hermione was already asleep as Ron quietly placed the work on the table beside her. Her face was half covered with her bushy brown hair, features highlighted in the low light, breathing steady and rhythmical; she looked very peaceful. Ron watched her for half a minute, feeling more peaceful himself than he had all day. Then, he didn't know what came over him, but suddenly Ron found himself bending over Hermione and kissing her gently on the cheek.

Ron stood up abruptly. What had he just done?! He left quickly, deciding that hearing girls' thoughts had been getting to him more than he knew.

//
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