The Sugar Quill
Author: Kim Iris  Story: Strange Brew  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Snape snarled snidely, shooting superfluous sounds sharply against the slimy walls of his bedchamber. For years he had waited for this chance, this perfect opportunity to put miserable little Harry Potter in his place.

                Not that Snape meant to harm Harry, of course; it was merely a lesson that desperately needed to be taught. And who better able, who more deserving of this grand opportunity that Serverus?

                The potions master cackled, hands outstretched over the churning cauldron. His piercing eyes gazed up into the black abyss that was the ceiling as his eager heart beat wildly in his slender chest.     "Tomorrow!" he cried madly as the cauldron exploded into shooting flames. "Tomorrow."

                *~*~*~

                Something peculiar was going on at Hogwarts, though no one seemed to notice in the slightest. The odd twinkle in Harry's glass crept by his watchful eye as he lifted it to drink one chilly winter's night at dinner.

                "Hey, Harry," Ron muffed out through a mouthful of pie. "You going to finish that pumpkin juice?"

                Harry sighed and handed Ron the glass disdainfully.

                "Thanks, mate," Ron grinned as he swigged it down in one gulp.

                "Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "Don't be such a pig. Harry might have wanted.....oh my! Ron! You're....you're turning orange!"

                "Don't be silly, Hermione," Ron said, stuffing another forkful into his overflowing mouth.

                "Euch!" gasped Harry, turning to look. "She's not joking. You'd better....do something."

                "Am I really?" asked Ron, growing worried. He touched his face, wrinkled his nose, and rolled up his sleeves to get at look at his arms. "BLOODY HELL!" he shouted, catching the attention of the entire hall, who’s inhabitants all stared at the spectacle in freakish wonder.

                "Oh my God, he's orange!" someone whispered.

                "Is it a hex?" muttered another.

                "I TOLD you not to eat so much!" Hermione sighed in frustration. "Now come on!"

                She rose from her chair, grabbed Ron's arm, and pulled him off toward the hospital wing.

                "Shall I come along?" called Harry, rising from the table.

                "No," answered Hermione. "Just finish you food. We'll see you later tonight."

                Not far away from this odd scene, at the teacher's table, Snape was peering intently over the lid of his mug toward the scene at the Gryffindor table. He scowled. His plan had failed. Weasley, and not Potter as he had intended, had drunk the charmed pumpkin juice.

                But Snape was not angry. In fact, quite the opposite. Weasley was just as much a nuisance as his friend. And what harm would it be if that pesky red head found himself covered in warts for a week. None.

                Serverus smiled. None at all.......

                *~*~*~

                It had taken Madam Pomphrey no more than 10 minutes to cure Ron of whatever malady it was that had come against him that night at dinner. When he and Hermione returned to the Gryffindor common room, they discovered that most of their fellow classmates had already gone to bed and decided to do the same.

                Ron woke unusually early the next morning with a peculiarly sick feeling at the bottom of his stomach. Dismissing it an after effect from the previous night, he dressed and went downstairs, where a few people were already beginning to congregate.

                It was Christmas Eve, and Ron could feel the excited buzz in the air. Strings of garland and fairy lights were hung in various arrays throughout the common room while an enchanted radio hummed out various Christmas tunes at random intervals.

                Ron had just decided to head down to the great hall for breakfast when he spotted Harry coming down the stairs.

                "Harry!" he called, motioning for his friend to hurry up. "You coming to breakfast?"

                "D'you want to wait for Hermione?" Harry asked, scurrying up to him with a sugar quill in his hand. He offered a piece of it to Ron, who accepted it grudgingly.

                "What for?" Ron said impatiently, popping the piece of quill into his mouth. "She'll meet us there when she's -"

                "No wait," Harry burst in. "She's coming now. I see her."

                Ron turned to look up toward the girls dormitory and was greeted with the image of Hermione making her way down the stairs. He had just begun to tap his foot impatiently on the floor when something hit him. It was like a sudden constricting rush of blood to his brain or like swallowing ice too quickly.

                He grabbed his forehead and looked back up at Hermione, only, she wasn't Hermione anymore.

                She was beautiful.

                Ron's hand dropped to his side. His breathing quickened. He was watching Hermione walk toward him, but all he could see was the way her hair bounced on her shoulders and the way her robes clung to her legs when she walked and the way they stretched tightly over her....

                "Ron! Harry!" she called, interrupting his thoughts. She smiled and tucked a strand of loose hair back behind her ears. "Are we going to breakfast?"

                "Yeah," said Harry. "We were just waiting for you."

                "Is Ron all right?" Hermione asked, noticing the blank expression on her friend's face.

                "I think so," said Harry, turning to look. "Ron? Ron are you all right."

                "I'm - I'm fine," Ron stammered, feeling the little piece of sugar quill slide down his throat. He looked up at Hermione. Instead of the same flushed feeling he'd had before, there was nothing. It had gone as quickly as it had come.

                "Right," said Hermione, smiling. "Then let's go get something to eat."

                *~*~*~

               

                The daily barrage of owls went unnoticed by Ron as he sat silently at breakfast. Instead of ravenously devouring his food as usual, he was slowly moving his eggs from one side of his plate to the other with his fork. He was so preoccupied by this and his thoughts on Hermione that he didn't even noticed the hawk-like stare he was receiving from Professor Snape, who was hunched over in a sort of angry puzzlement.

                "Why isn't he covered with warts!" Snape thought harshly, glaring at Ron. It had been a miserable waste of a perfectly good potion.

                Snape jumped as a splash of orange juice hit his face. He looked up to see a large brown owl flying away and a small envelope floating in his glass.

                "Damn bird," Serverus muttered, fishing his letter out. "This is all Weasley's fault."

                Down at the Gryffindor table, a similar looking owl had just dropped a small parcel on Hermione's lap.

                "What is it?" asked Harry curiously. "Something from your parents?"

                "I don't know," said Hermione, looking for the return address. "It's a day early for Christmas gi - oh." She trailed off, stuffing the package down under the table.

                "What is it," Ron asked, looking over at her. Hopefully, this would be more interesting than his eggs.

                "Nothing," Hermione said quickly, going back to her food. "Just something I needed from home, that's all."

                "So what is it then?" asked Ron. "Or is it too personal?"

                "No," Hermione blushed. "It's nothing personal. It's just - it's nothing."

                "Then why won't you let us see?" Ron asked stubbornly.

                "Because it's none of your business," Hermione said as she rose from the table, package in hand. "I'm going up to my room to get some books for studying."

                "I'm coming with you," said Ron, following her out.

                "No, Ron," Hermione objected, walking ahead of him. "You stay with Harry."

                "It's that package, isn't it," Ron stated accusingly. "You just don't want me to know what's in it. Makes a fellow think you're up to something."

                "I'm not up to something, Ron. Just leave me alone."

                "Then tell me what you're hiding."

                Hermione stopped abruptly and whirled to face him. "Did you ever think that maybe it's none of your business!?" she shouted, and stormed off down the hallway.

                She'd gotten no more than 15 feet away when her shoe got snagged on a loose floorboard and she was pulled to the ground.

                "Agh!" she screamed, throwing her hands out to break the fall.

                "Are you okay?" Ron asked, rushing to help her up.

                "I'm fine," she said, brushing herself off. She hastily reached down to grab her package, but not before Ron had a chance to peer at the return address.

                "That package is from Bulgaria!" he said accusingly, taking a step away from her.

                "So what if it is?" Hermione returned, her face flushed.

                "Well!" said Ron. "What is it? A wedding ring!?"

                "Don't even start!" Hermione shouted, glaring at him. "I'm not going to talk about this." She took off down the hallway.

                "I don't know why you even pretend nothing's going on with you and Krum," Ron hissed in her ear, following closely behind her.

                "Ron," Hermione sighed. She looked around hopelessly, then grabbed him suddenly and pulled him into an empty classroom, slamming the door behind shut behind them.

                Ron stared at her wide-eyed and in shock as she tore the paper from her gift to reveal a box of sugar quills.

                "This, Ron," Hermione said, "is my gift. This is my gift from Victor."

                She pulled one out of the box and stuffed it in his open mouth.

                "You see," she snarled. "It's not poisoned. It's not an engagement ring. I don't even like sugar quills! Sometimes...." she sighed stepped back away from him. “I just get tired of you."

                Ron gulped, sending juices from the quill sliding down his throat. He was instantly feverish, and could feel his headache from that morning rushing back.

                He looked at Hermione. She was just standing there, blinking back tears. But she was radiating everywhere. Ron could feel her warmth.

                He didn't know why he'd done it or what was wrong in his head, but seconds later Ron was holding her in his arms.

                "I'm sorry," he whispered, looking down at her.

                "Really?" she asked, not anticipating an answer.

                "Yes," he said as he titled his head to kiss her. He watched her shut her eyes and felt his own close his just before their lips met.

                He felt the sugar quill finish dissolving on their tongues, and suddenly the fever passed. He opened his eyes slowly, then jumped back as they flew wide.

                "Bloody Hell!" he yelped, grabbing his lips. He looked over at Hermione, who was staring at him with a confused expression on her face.

                "I have to go," Ron muttered, pushing past her and out of the room.

                Hermione closed her eyes and waited for the door to fall shut behind her. When it did, she quickly began picking up her box of sugar quill and scraps of paper from the floor, not bothering to wipe away the tears that had already begun streaming down her face.

               

                *~*~*~

                Ron had spent the day in his dorm room, as had Hermione, both refusing to talk to the other, or anyone else for that matter. Hermione had spent most of her time loosing herself in piles of homework, while Ron had spent his time thumbing through various magazines.

                "TeenWitch," he muttered, pulling one out of his trunk. "Must be Ginny's."

                He was just about to throw it in his garbage bin when something on the cover caught his eye.

                Love potions 101, it read, Catch any man, any time with these 3 spectacular love spells.

                Ron flipped the magazine open curiously to the indicated page and read:

                Love Potion #1: The Self-Activated Version

Although not authorized to publish directions for home-brew, TeenWitch presents for you the low down on this age-old potion, which has been banned by Wizarding Conventions in 39 different countries. Symptoms of a successful potion are a slight fever and temporary orange coloration in the victim. This love brew is activated by feeding the victim a mixture of sucrose and acetate. The victim will immediately fall head over heels for whoever he sees first after tasting this sweet mixture and will return to his normal platonic state once the mixture has been fully swallowed. TeenWitch recommends this particular potion for periods of light fun, and not for holding a long, steady relationship. We give this love brew a 6 out of 10 possible points.

                "Oh," Ron murmured as he read the article a second time, then quickly tucked the magazine into his pocket.

                Minutes later he was at the library, where Parvati and Lavender had told him Hermione would be. He found her immersed in a musty old book on the floor near the restricted section.

                "Hermione?" he said timidly as he approached her.

                She looked up at him. "What do you want, Ron?" she asked offishly.

                "I need to talk to you."

                "About -"

                "Not about that," he said quickly, feeling his ears go red. He handed her the magazine and pointed to the article. "Read this."

                She skimmed it quickly, then looked back up at him. "What're you trying to say?" she asked.

                "I think someone's done this to me, Hermione. Like this morning -"

                "That's ridiculous!" Hermione said, pulling herself up from the floor. "Sucrose and acetate?"

                "Sugar quills," he said.

                "But acetate?" Hermione said, her voice a little louder than usual. "Isn't that -"

                "Poisonous?" Ron said. "Of course. But that's what's in sugar quills. And you gave me one this morning before I.....And the orange thing, remember? Yesterday I turned orange. Hermione?

                Hermione was staring steadily at the floor. "Ron," she said, raising her head, eyes on fire. "What do you want from me?"

                "I want you to help me find a remedy. I want -"

                "No, Ron," she interrupted. "What do you want from me. You make me crazy, Ron. First you hate me, then you kiss me, and now you're telling me it was all a love potion!"

                "Hermione, I'm sorry about what happened, but -"

                "You kissed me, Ron!"

                "Hermione, I -"

                "And it was just a love potion!"

                "It's not like you wanted it to happen, either, Hermione! I mean, you don't feel that way about me either, do you?"

                Hermione looked away. "No," she whispered.

                "Then will you help me?" Ron asked.

                "Fine," said Hermione. "But not tonight. It's Christmas Eve, and I'm really tired."

                "Do you want me to walk you back to the Common Room?" Ron asked.

                "No," said Hermione, gathering her books. "I'll be fine on my own."

                *~*~*~

                The next morning was Christmas day, and Ron awoke to find a small stack of gifts at the foot of his bed. Among them was a box of sugar quills from Harry, which he instantly tucked under his bed. He would have to be sure not to eat them.

                After a delightful Christmas breakfast, Ron, Harry, and Hermione returned to the common room, which was quite full. More people than usual had opted to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because their parents felt it would be safer.

                Because of all the extra people, Fred and George had decided to throw a Christmas party worthy of their seven long years at Hogwarts.

                "Go out with a bang," Fred had been saying all day long as he came down from his room carrying what seemed like an endless supply of butterbeer.

                Ron and Hermione, though not exactly on speaking terms, had managed to sneak away from Harry for the afternoon. Ron had been very much against informing Harry of the love potion and even more against explaining the effects it had had on him the day before.

                It didn't take long for Hermione to find a book describing the particular love potion they were looking for, and even less time to find the remedy.

                "True love's first kiss," she muttered, reading from the book.

                "Are you sure you're not reading from a fairy tale, Hermione?" Ron asked anxiously.

                "Of course I'm sure. It says it right here. Look," she pointed down at the page. "Seems as if you're out of luck, Ron. You might as well just stay away from sugar quills."

                "Bugger," Ron said, kicking the book shelf distractedly. "There's got to be another way."

                "If there is, I'll try and find it. But right now let's get back to the common room. I want to see what Fred and George have got in store for us."

                *~*~*~

                Undoubtedly, the common room had never looked more impressive than it did that night when Ron and Hermione returned from the library. Flashing colored lights sparkled across the dark room, lighting up miniature statues of Christmas figures and wreaths of garland, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias. Fast paced music was blaring loudly from several large, enchanted speakers, and several people were dancing under the large disco ball that had been magically transformed to look like a sprig of mistletoe. Others were milling around the buffet table, which held a stunningly elaborate spread of various foods, treats, desserts, and the largest collection of butterbeer in perhaps the entire history of the known world.

                Equally amazing to Ron and Hermione was the fact that they found Harry, not alone as they had expected, but dancing with Ginny.

                "What does he think he's doing?" Ron demanded, storming over to them.

                Hermione quickly stepped in front of him and dragged him away by the arm. "Leave them alone," she said. "At least they're having a good time."

                "I wish I could have a good time," Ron grumbled. "I'll never be able to eat sugar quills again. At least, not around you."

                "Don't act like I had anything to do with this, Ron Weasley," Hermione spat. "Did you ever stop and think that maybe I was actually upset over what happened yesterday?"

                "I said I was sorry about that," Ron said angrily. "You know, I don't think I'm in much of a party mood anymore. I'm going to go for a walk." He looked over at her. "D'you want to come?"

                "No," she said angrily, crossing her arms over her chest. She looked up at him again. "Well, all right," she consented.

                Together they trudged silently through the castle and out onto the grounds, where everything was accentuated with blanket of clean white snow. The moon shone openly in the cloudless sky amid a sea of brightly colored stars. By the time Hermione and Ron had reached the lake, they were both out of breath and extremely cold.

                “Let’s sit down,” Hermione panted, her breath billowing out in thick patterns of frozen smoke.

                They stared awhile onto the frozen lake, both feeling a bit offish with the other and neither wanting to be the first to speak.

                “Ron, this is stupid,” said Hermione bitterly. “We need to talk.”

                “We did talk,” Ron said. “We decided it was all the spell and that it meant nothing, right?”

                “Right,” said Hermione slowly.

                Ron looked over at her, watching her carefully.

                “What?” she demanded, noticing his gaze.

                “Nothing,” he said quickly. He began to draw little patterns in the snow with his finger, trying to ignore the slight feverish feeling that was climbing up his chest.

                “Hermione,” he started cautiously. “I’ve been thinking, and I think I really do love –“

                “Hmm?” she prompted.

                “Sugar quills,” he finished, turning his face away from her.

                “Oh,” she said.

                “I don’t know what I’m going to do without them,” Ron continued.

                “Do you want me to feel sorry for you, Ron,” Hermione said a little hotly. “Because I don’t, you know. I don’t know how or why this happened, but somehow, someway, it’s all your fault.”

                My fault!” exclaimed Ron, jumping to his feet. “How the hell is it my fault?” He yelled down at her.

                “I don’t know!” she shouted back, climbing to her feet as well. “But I’m trying really hard to hate you right now, Ronald Weasley! You make me want to hate you so badly!”

                “Hate me then!” he screamed. “See if I care! Go off with Krum! He’s the one who started this whole thing anyway!”

                “How?” Hermione demanded. “How on earth is this his fault?”

                “If he wouldn’t have sent you those sugar quills, I never would have kissed you, and that’s what this is all about anyway, isn’t it?”

                “Exactly!” shrieked Hermione. “And that part was just a mistake, wasn’t it! It was a mistake for me to ever think that maybe you wanted to kiss me! That maybe it wasn’t a spell! And maybe –“

                “Hermione?” Ron broke in.

                “WHAT!?”

                “I want to kiss you again.”

                “God, Ron,” Hermione whispered as he grabbed her and brought her lips to his. It was as intense as it was unsure, and just as reckless as it had been the first time.

                “I hate you, Ron,” Hermione mumbled as Ron pulled her down into the snow.

                “I hate you, too,” he muttered, running his hands through her tangled hair.

                They broke apart several minutes later and lay panting in the snow.

                “Was it the spell?” Hermione breathed uncertainly.

                Ron smiled. “No. Haven’t had any sugar quills. Or acetate.”

“Then what are we now?” Hermione asked, rolling over in the snow to face Ron.

                “I don’t know,” said Ron. “For a long time, I didn’t want to think we were anything. And now….”

                “We should get back to the castle,” said Hermione.

                “Yes, we probably should,” Ron said, leaning toward her. “But first, there’s something I want to do.”

                And he kissed her.

                *~*~*~

                That night in bed, Ron thought for a long time about Hermione before falling asleep. He woke the next morning feeling refreshed and immensely hungry. As soon as he reached the common room, he was stopped by Hermione, who urged him to come to the library with her.

                Once there, she immediately dragged him to a bookshelf in the far corner of the room and extracted a vial from her cloak.

                “I couldn’t sleep last night, so I came here and did some research. I found the real antidote for the potion. Here,” she said, handing him the vial. “Drink this.”

                “You sure?” he said, looking at it uncertainly.

                “Of course I’m sure,” she said exasperatedly, gesturing at the open vial.

                Ron grinned sheepishly and put it to his mouth, swallowing its contents quickly. The mixture tasted like ice going down and then felt like fire in his stomach. After a few moments, the feeling had passed.

                “Here,” said Hermione, handing Ron a sugar quill. “Test it.”

                Wordlessly, Ron took the sugar quill from her hand and put it in his mouth. He sucked on it for a few minutes before spitting it out again.

                “Nothing,” he said.

                “Nothing?” she asked, unsure.

                “Nothing.”

                “Good,” Hermione smiled, then took a breath. “Ron, can I ask you a question?”

                “Sure,” he said.

                "What am I to you?” she asked hesitantly.

                “Hermione, what are you talking about?”

                “Just tell me, Ron,” she pleaded. “I’m emotionally unstable and I swear I’ll put a hex on you if you don’t.”

                “You’re,” Ron said, closing his eyes in concentration, searching for the perfect thing to say. “You’re everything,” he whispered finally.

He felt Hermione’s lips brush against his, then move away.

                “I love you, Ron Weasley,” Hermione said as he opened his eyes to look at her. “I’ve always loved you as friend, even as a brother, but now I love you differently. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

                “It’s all right,” Ron said, pulling her close to him. “Because I love you, too.”

                She smiled and kissed him again knowing that, even if the world fell apart that very night, she would have no reason to regret it, and no reason to pretend not to.             

               

                *~*~*~

                The lights were dim in Serverus’s bedchamber, allowing the simmering cauldron to be fully illuminated. Its glorious green color cast odd patterns of light across Professor Snape’s face as he leaned over and sniffed it carefully.

                “Yes, I think so,” he said contently. “I think this is about right.”

                Grinning maliciously, he spooned a bit of the potion into a clear crystal vial and corked it with precision.

                “You won’t thwart me again, Harry Potter,” grimaced Snape, tucking it into his cloak. “This time, I’ll get you. Oh, yes…..I will.”

                He threw back his head and laughed, body erupting with hideous cackles that floated merrily throughout the cold, dead dungeons and off into the night.

//
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