The Sugar Quill
Author: Night Zephyr (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Points of No Return  Chapter: Fate of the Crystal Ball
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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.

Disclaimer: All of Harry’s wonderful, magical world belongs to J.K. Rowling, with her truly incredible imagination, and the writing skills to present it perfectly.

A/N: The story takes place during fifth year, when the wizarding world is far more unsettled than it was when Ron, Harry, and Hermione first arrived at Hogwarts. Rated PG-13 for bits of language, violence, and, well, the characters’ celebration of the fact that there are two genders. (R/H)(It’s just destiny)

Also, I would like to thank my beta-reader Christina Teresa. There seems to be no end to her great ideas, journalistic expertise, and most importantly for my writing, patience and dedication. You are the best!!




Dedication:

This story is dedicated to all those “Ron Weasley’s” who have passed through my classroom over the years. While poor in financial terms, they are rich in spirit and personality, always caring and loyal, and more than willing to share whatever little they have. Each one brings his own special gift--just that some get their gift ‘open’ later rather than sooner. May all their gifts one day take them past the ‘Point of No Return’ where they never have to fall back and face the anguish of being uncertain about their place in the world again
.

~ Chapter 1 ~
Fate of the Crystal Ball


Ron snapped his head up so quickly that a neck muscle twinged sharply. He rubbed it as he glanced around the Divination classroom. Apparently no one had noticed he had drifted off. In fact, except for Lavender and Parvati, who seemed entranced in Professor Trelawney’s lecture about how to interpret colors of mist in crystal balls, many of the other students looked a bit bleary-eyed as well.

Ron looked over at Harry sitting next to him. Harry had ingeniously propped his arm against his stack of books so that his head couldn’t fall over; his gaze was even aimed toward the milky bluish crystal ball at the center of their shared circular table. But Ron silently sniggered as he actually looked into Harry’s face. Leaning on his hand to hold up his head, Harry’s eyes were closed and his cheek was pushed up on one side, his round black-rimmed glasses seriously askew. Ron could hear the slow, even breaths escaping from his best friend’s half-open mouth.

“Harry!” he whispered tensely. “Harry, wake up!” No response. Professor Trelawney was wandering closer to their table as she lectured.

Ron, pretending to stretch, reached his long arms straight up so as not to bump anyone at the tables or chairs crowded next to them in the warm, stuffy classroom. He reached his long leg to the left and kicked Harry sharply on the shin.

“Ow! Wha... mmphfff!” Harry was awake now, announcing it a little too loudly.

Ron noticed Dean and Seamus stirring and looking their way, along with Professor Trelawney. He began to cough very vigorously, hoping it would give Harry a moment to rejoin them on Earth and provide enough of a distraction. It seemed to work.

Lavender and Parvati glared back at Ron for interrupting the lecture.

“Sorry,” he apologized sarcastically, grinning sweetly at them, even though apologizing was not in his nature. Probably not a good time to attract more attention to myself, he thought.

At almost precisely the same moment, the two girls, seated at the table closest to Ron and Harry, swung their noses around through the air to face forward again.

“Thanks,” Harry muttered under his breath, shifting around in his seat. “It’s really bad in here today.”

“Yeah--can’t even keep my first two eyes open, much less another,” whispered Ron.

Professor Trelawney always kept the room like this --darkened and very warm, smelling of heavy perfume. She felt this type of room environment greatly enhanced the power of a person’s “Inner Eye” (even though it more often invited closed eyes, instead).

Sybill Trelawney was aware that many of the other faculty members at Hogwarts felt that her specialty, Divination, was a very imprecise form of magic, at best. But the science was enjoying a rebirth, of sorts, due to the return of Voldemort, and the importance of trying to determine what evil scheme the Dark Lord might try to put into play next. The Ministry of Magic was even said to be bringing in those who were especially talented in giving knowledge of the future, so the Professor felt it her duty to either make the Ministry aware of her own talents, or to contribute an exceptional student to the cause (who would give due credit to her training, of course).

Ron listened to the droning voice talking about the degree of clarity of the vision in the crystal ball. He had tried to keep his long limbs rolled up under the table and his mind and body at attention until the end of class, but a cramp in his leg made it impossible to sit still. Even though it was difficult to do, he found just enough room between Lavender’s and Parvati’s poufy stools to stretch his legs out in front without hitting their table. In spite of himself, Ron began to feel very heavy, very relaxed. He sank further into the cushy armchair. He was, indeed, losing the battle with his eyelids again.

I’m staying awake!
he thought. I’m staying awake! Hey, maybe this is working! Look, even the room seems lighter! It’s not so hot!

*But where did this parchment come from? A test? Oh, no! But I didn’t study! Bugger, I never did study!*


But there’s no test today in Divination! his mind argued with itself.The fear of failure began to wash over him in spite of the conflict in his mind.

*I knew I shouldn’t have played Exploding Snap with Neville so long last night!!*

Exploding Snap with Neville?

*And I’m already getting such poor marks in this class. What will Mum and Dad say? No one in our family has ever outright failed this class!!! Maybe I can just reach my notes under the desk--pull them out just a little--just to get me started. Potions always did confuse me!!*


Potions? This is Divination!

*Okay, good, if I look just like this, I don’t think he’ll notice. And if I pull my hair forward...*

How did my hair get SO LONG?

*Oh no! He’s coming over here!*


He? He who?

*Snape will expel me if he catches me!*


SNAPE? What’s HE doing here?!

* ”Miss Weasley.” *

Okay, Snape, that’s going too far-- nobody calls me “Miss”!!


* “Kindly pass those notes to me NOW! Miss Weasley!!...Miss Weasley!!” *

“ ...
Mr. Weasley!! MR. WEASLEY!!” snapped Professor Trelawney.

Ron’s eyes popped open and every limb on his body flew in a different direction.

Harry, startled out of his own stupor, only just managed to catch their crystal ball as it toppled from its holder and rolled loudly across the table, landing squarely in his lap. He breathed a loud sigh of relief, instantly considering the alternative.

But the crystal ball from Lavender and Parvati’s table was to meet its own fate that day. As Ron’s legs shot out to their table’s center post, the table turned over and the holder went with it, but the crystal ball itself flew like a Bludger into the air, pausing for a moment, then hurtling toward the floor. It smashed on impact into what seemed like a million pieces, with only a puff of pale purple smoke in the air where it had been.

After the sounds of crashing, tinkling, rolling, dripping, and gasping subsided (some time later), the room was left in silence. Most silent of all was Ron, who wished it was he who had been smashed to the floor and could be just whisked away to the rubbish bin.

“Er...sorry?” he said sheepishly. Ron was still trying to clarify in his mind what had just happened. A moment ago, he was in Potions (?), very afraid to take a test he didn’t study for (??), hiding behind his long hair (???), and Snape was about to catch him...Okay, okay, okay, he thought, that dream was just too weird. But it FELT so bloody real!!

“Mr. Weasley!” began Professor Trelawney, bringing Ron back to reality and to the enormous mess he’d made of the classroom. He glanced sideways to see Harry watching him sympathetically. “I will thank you to return all of the furniture to its upright position. Mr. Potter, you will share your crystal ball with Miss Brown and Miss Patil at their table. Mr. Weasley, you will not be needing one for the remainder of class, as I am sure it will take you that time and more to finish cleaning up everything that does not belong on the floor!!”

Ron looked miserably at the smashed crystal, a number of bottles of spilled ink, and a teacup or two that had fallen from the shelf as students jumped up in reaction to the noise. He slowly stood to his full six-foot height, and reached back to the chair for his wand.

“This disaster was created without magic--it will be made right without magic !!”
Professor Trelawney seemed insulted that Ron had been dozing during her lecture.

Ron groaned.

Professor Trelawney waited impatiently as Ron set any overturned tables aright. She then continued with her lecture while he dragged himself over to get the brush, the dustpan, and the sponge.

As Ron crawled around on hands and knees on the floor, picking up the large pieces of shattered crystal (and hoping he wasn’t picking up too many small splinters of it in his knees), class continued.

Harry, now sitting with the two girls, wasn’t afraid of falling asleep again since he had to work so hard to ignore their giggles.

Originally aghast that Ron had destroyed their crystal, Lavender and Parvati now seemed to be enjoying the fact that he had to clean their area without magic, waiting on them hand and foot as it were, even if it hadn’t been their doing. When Ron was nearly under their table, Lavender chose that moment to curtly cross her legs and adjust her robes, ‘accidentally on purpose’ brushing her ankle momentarily along Ron’s arm.

Ron pointedly avoided looking over. Now what was that about? I KNOW she did that on purpose! he thought, first puzzled, then irritated. Girls! I’ll never understand them!!

~~~***~~~


”Didn’t Arithmancy end like twenty minutes ago?” groused Ron, still upset about his bad luck, tired from scrubbing the floor, and fighting a growling stomach.

Harry and Ron were waiting just outside the Great Hall for Hermione, so they could all go in to dinner together, as they almost always did.

“Yeah, but you know Hermione,” answered Harry. “It’s probably one of those days she had a list of questions to clear up with the professor after class.”

Ron slumped against the wall. Patience was not his strong suit. “I’ll give her three more minutes-- and that’s it! “ His mind wandered back to the dream he had had in class and he decided it was even too strange to tell Harry about--and Harry was famous for strange dreams. Or was it a dream? What he remembered most about the dream was the strength of the feelings he had--the fear of failure, of being caught, of letting his parents down. These were all feelings he was very familiar with, so he recognized them in himself. But in his so-called dream, he felt different, he wasn’t himself, or didn’t seem to be. Your mind can play such weird tricks on you, he thought, dismissing it for now.

Harry looked down the corridor behind Ron to see Lavender, Parvati, and several other Gryffindor girls walking towards the Great Hall for dinner, talking loudly and giggling. As they approached, Lavender recognized the height and hair color of the boy leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Ron! You did a great job cleaning up in Divination today. Our dorm room’s kind of messy, maybe you could have a go at that later.” Lavender spoke loudly enough so that anyone within fifty feet could hear, but since dinner was just beginning, that meant a mere seventy or eighty people were present. All the girls in Lavender’s group stared at Ron and then looked back at each other, giggling. A number of other people in the crowd sniggered as well to one another.

Ron’s ears went almost purple. “Yeah, yeah,” he drawled. Ron was too tired, hungry, and involved in his own thoughts to make his usual snappy comeback.

Harry, surprised that there was no shouting or smoke wafting from his best friend’s ears (or at the least swearing under his breath), saw Hermione emerge from the crowd. She was staring after the Gryffindor girls, and then back at Ron and Harry.

“What was that all about?” she asked curiously. She had been close enough to hear the girls’ comments and was also aware that those girls rarely got past Ron with anything said at his expense, so she could sense something unusual had happened.

“We’ll let Ron tell you all about it later. But I think we’d better feed him first,”
Harry said, still eyeing his friend as if he might explode at any moment. The three
walked into the Great Hall and headed toward the Gryffindor table for dinner.

~~~***~~~


“Entertaining people in the halls again, little brother?” George asked, already seated at the table and grinning. “We could hear something fun going on, and we missed it! What happened?”

“Shut up!” muttered Ron sullenly.

“Oh, man, see? We did miss something,” said Fred to his twin. “And it must have been pretty good if he sounds like that.”

“Shut up !” Ron growled louder.

“Well, next time, Ronniekins, do send invitations so we can see the act,” George persisted.

Ron glared at the twins, pushing his way irritably down the table to let Harry and Hermione sit next to, and deal with, Fred and George. It was just too much after his day today. He settled next to his little sister.

“So how was your day, oh my favorite family member?” Ron asked her loudly, pointedly turning his back to Fred and George.

“Yuck,” Ginny replied quietly.

“Oh? That good? Bet mine was worse,” Ron countered.

“No, mine was.”

“No, mine was.”

“No, mine was.”

“No, mine was.”

“No, mine was.”

“No, mine was.”

Ginny sighed. “Okay, yours was. Have it your way.”

Ron looked at her closely. Her head was down and she did look pretty sad. “Okay, then. You gave in first, yours must have really been the worst. What happened?”

“I got a detention,” Ginny mused.

“You?! You got a detention?!” Ron blurted out.

Ginny glared at him and knew the others heard, but Harry and Hermione were polite enough to pretend they didn’t, and Fred and George were just being quiet to find out what the detention was for (harassment material for later, of course).

Ron looked around at everyone, noticing why Ginny was glaring, and then said much more quietly, “You got a detention? For what?” But then he kept on. “From who? Isn’t that your first one ever? When do you have to do it? Do you know?”

“Which answer do you want first?!” Ginny snapped. Then she took a deep breath and began. “Well, we had a test in Potions. I mean, I knew we had a test, but I forgot. I mean, I didn’t exactly forget at first, but I was putting off studying and then I decided to walk down to the common room to clear my mind, and I... well, I guess that worked, because then Neville was down there, and had just finished his homework, and he wanted to play a game of Exploding Snap. So I agreed to play, and we played quite a while, and then it got late and I got tired, and I just went up and went to bed. Oh, yeah, I cleared my mind, all right...”

Even though Ginny was speaking so fast that the words ran together, Ron’s memory sprang to life as she spoke. But he was still unwilling to think what he thought he was thinking.

“So I got into Potions,” Ginny continued, “and I’m already doing poorly in there, and Snape passed out the test, and I--I panicked, because what would Mum and Dad say if I failed? So I thought, if I could just slip my notes on the floor out from under the desk, and pull my hair forward...”

At that, Ron’s brain went into overdrive. No, it couldn’t be. Could it? I was there. But I wasn’t there! I was in Divination-- the whole time --even while I was...But I pulled my long hair?..No, it couldn’t be. It was just some ruddy coincidence .

But Ginny continued to explain how Snape had found her looking at her notes on the floor, and all of the horrible emotions that had coursed through her. In order, exactly the way, Ron thought, they happened in my “dream”!

“...and so, he took my notes, and failed me on the test, and gave me a detention,” Ginny finished, looking miserable. “What will I tell Mum and Dad?”

Ron wanted to drill her with more questions about what happened, to try and find some difference between her experience and his that would make him feel better, so he could explain to himself what was going on. But he had felt just how miserable she was then, and all of the fear, guilt, and humiliation she had endured that day. So he chose to ignore the chaos in his own brain and tried to cheer her up.

“Well, poor marks in Potions are practically a Weasley tradition, you know, “ Ron began. “And Mum and Dad know you never do anything like that. I mean, well, it’s like a first offense, really. Just compare it to how many detentions we’ve all had- Fred and George and me. Well, not Percy, naturally, but we all know none of Percy’s behavior is normal, so he doesn’t really count at all. And besides, you’re so smart. Look, Gin, just do the detention-- maybe even Snape won’t give you anything too bad the first time-- and then get on with it. Study a bit and your marks will come up--I know it.” The big brother talk seemed to be improving Ginny’s mood, and Ron’s mood right along with it. Then he added, “Oh, and one more thing: just avoid Neville whenever you’re having a test, or, actually, avoiding Neville all the time isn’t so bad, either.”

Ginny looked up and slapped Ron lightly on the arm. “Don’t be so mean to Neville!” she scolded. But she was smiling a little.

Ron grabbed his shoulder in mock pain, but he noticed the smile. “Oh, Gin, don’t worry so much about Neville. He’d feel bad if I wasn’t mean--he expects it from me!”

Somewhat relieved now, Ginny returned to her meal. Ron felt a bit better, too, but he wouldn’t feel exactly relieved until he could better explain what had happened in Trelawney’s, (or was it Snape’s?) class earlier that day.

//
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