The Sugar Quill
Author: Ninamazing  Story: For the Sake of a Sugar Quill  Chapter: default
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    "I told you you shouldn't have bought one," Hermione pointed out, shaking her head at him.  "You accepted the consequences of your disobedience when you used it in class.  I'd stop whining if I were you."
    "Well, you're not me," Ron informed her, grinning and flicking a comma of orange hair off his forehead.  "Fortunately," he added in a mutter.  Hermione gave him a glare of death and opened her mouth to retort, but he escaped up to the boys' dormitory before she could spoil his comeback.  Harry was content to shake his head at the two of them, and not express his disbelief that two such intelligent people could act so bloody stupid.
    "Honestly!" Hermione announced with a huff.  "As if Snape can't detect a sugar quill on sight.  Sometimes I worry about that boy," she remarked, gesturing up at the stairs.
    Harry shrugged.  "I would have done the same thing, but that was the last quill in our stockpile."  At the word 'stockpile,' Hermione gave an almighty sigh and displayed the amazing rotation capabilities of her eyeballs.  Harry just smiled and followed in Ron's footsteps, telling her he'd see her at dinner and not to get too bent out of shape over the episode.
    As it happened, Harry might not have bothered.  He found the same danger scene in the dormitories as he had downstairs; Ron was chucking his personal effects about the room and looking surprisingly like Hermione after getting a seven out of ten on a Charms quiz.  The redhead was growling and swearing under his breath, showing an unusual desire to tidy up his bedside table.  Harry raised an eyebrow.  Hadn't he gotten the last word in that particular tiff?
    "Hey Ron," Harry greeted him, testing the waters.  Ron spun around.
    "Y'know, she's known me for years now," he spat.  "You'd think she'd stop treating me like her son.  I'm not stupid just because I copy her homework from time to time.  I'm just trying not to waste my life writing stupid essays on Ubric the Ugly Prat."
    "Of course she knows that, Ron.  She was just mad because you told her off."
    "Yeah, but she still thinks I don't have the brains she does just because I'm not a perfect overachiever who does everything every teacher has ever wanted in an entire school career."  Ron snapped a Chocolate Frog in half, threw the pieces on his pillow, and regarded the card with disgust.  "Morgana again!" he fired off in a rage, and soon the famous witch was in the air.
    Harry caught it before it reached the ground.  "I still don't have her," he reminded his friend.  "Mind if I take this?"
    Ron shrugged, trying to look nonchalant and failing miserably.  "Go ahead.  I should probably stop doing that too, since card-collecting is 'childish and stupid.'"
    It was a little difficult for Harry not to show off his own eyeball movement skills on that one.  "Ron, she's never said that.  She collects quills!"  Ron flinched at the word quill, and Harry changed direction.  "And I'm sure she thinks you're just as smart as she is.  Why would she hang around us so much if she didn't like us?"
    "She hasn't got any other friends."
    "That's not true!  Ron, I think you're taking this too seriously.  She's just doing it because she's worried about you and she doesn't want you to have to serve a detention.  She cares ."
    "Yeah, well, she's got a funny way of showing it," Ron replied.  Harry noticed that Ron's ears were red, and wondered if that was just a result of his anger.

    Dinner was a terse affair.  As experienced a diplomat as Harry was, he couldn't help the fact that Hermione seemed to want to speak only with Percy, and that Ron kept giving Ginny useless and insistent orders about the way she was eating.  Harry finally got sick of it and struck up a conversation about the Chudley Cannons' chances in their next match, which got him a grateful look from Ron's little sister for the distraction.  She finished eating quickly and left, Hermione at her side.  Harry and Ron talked Quidditch until late into the night, and Gryffindor's youngest player hoped that this separation would not last long.  He didn't want to spend evenings like this all the time -- the novelty of being a go-between wore off far too rapidly.

    Strangely enough, the effects of the incident wore off in a few days, and Harry was hopeful.  Ron and Hermione had said a few cautious words to each other at mealtimes, and it looked as though their friendship would be patched up in time for the next Quidditch match.  As Gryffindor faced Hufflepuff at the end of the week, this was a very optimistic outlook.
    Far too optimistic for reality, Harry discovered with dismay.  He had aimed too high.  When Ron found out his detention, he was furious, and any intention he might have had of forgiving and forgetting was tossed out the window.  Hermione's predictions had come true, which made her all the more irksome to him.
    "Snape's making me work something from Moste Potente Potions and drink it when I'm finished!  In his office !" he yelled, bursting through the door of the dormitories.  Harry's head snapped up from a container of broom polish, and stared at the glowering Ron.
    "Isn't that against some school code?" he asked in disbelief, more out of the fact that he was actually concerned about rules than Snape's harsh detention.  The cruelty of the Potions master annoyed him, but it was no surprise that the man was being this vindictive over a sugar quill.
    "Well, I didn't exactly have the time to argue it out with him, I'm sorry to say," Ron shot back.  His red hair looked like it hadn't been trimmed in months -- Ron hated haircuts -- and it flopped carelessly over his eyes as they blazed in fury.
    Harry put up his hands.  "I didn't decide your detention," he reminded his friend.  "What're you yelling at me for?"
    "Sorry," Ron mumbled.  "But it's not fair!"
    "Of course it isn't.  It's Snape," Harry told him, and then quickly added, "Did he give a reason?  If it's a dangerous potion we could go to Dumbledore and --"
    "Oh, Harry, Dumbledore's not going to care about a stupid detention.  Hermione wouldn't let us, anyway."  He made a face and started to imitate her stern voice.  "You accepted the consequences of your disobedience when you used it in class, I'd stop whining if I were you --"
    "Well, did Snape tell you why he wanted you to make the potion?" Harry asked, determined not to let this turn into a heated discussion about Hermione.
    Ron shook his head, aggravated.  "He did, but I didn't buy it.  He said he wanted to experiment something and it would expose me to something more advanced -- since I 'obviously am not learning from the work I've been given already.'"
    "How's harder stuff supposed to help you, then?"
    "You think I know?" Ron answered, voice rising.  "I don't make an effort to figure out how that monster's mind works."

    "What on earth is wrong with you two?"  Hermione asked in exasperation later that night, as the three of them did their homework in the common room.  Ron and Harry exchanged a glance, and she drew in a breath, suddenly realizing the problem.  "Ah.  You're serving your detention tonight, aren't you, Ron?"
    "Look, Hermione, will you just drop it?" both Harry and Ron responded -- except that Harry's voice was urgent and pleading, and Ron's tone was one of fierce irritation.
    Hermione shrugged.  "Ron, I wish you --"
    Ron stood up, eyes blazing with anger.  "I never asked for a detention!  I never asked for you to hang around and act like a teacher all the time!  I never asked you to control my life!  Hermione, when I need advice from you I'll let you know, okay?  Until then, just SHUT UP."
    At that moment, Hermione did something surprisingly uncharacteristic.  She burst into tears.  Ron looked shocked for a second, and then snorted expressively and bolted without even gathering up his box of Chocolate Frogs.  With a swish of red, the angry boy disappeared up the boys' staircase, leaving Harry in a very bewildering position.  As the entire common room watched, Harry reached over to Hermione, but in a moment she was gone too.
    Sighing, he picked up their things and headed up to his common room, wondering what to do.  Fortunately, Ron solved the problem for him by stalking out as he headed up, muttering something about how Snape hated lateness.  Harry couldn't go to the girls' dormitory, of course; he'd just have to wait until morning to talk to Hermione.  He finished the fifth chapter of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Three and crawled into bed.
    Harry lay awake that night, thinking of his troubled friends.  Ron would be in the Potions room by now, sulking silently as Snape scrutinized his cauldron-stirring abilities.  Hopefully the potion wouldn't be that strong -- Dumbledore would step in if anything happened to his friend.  The thought of the detention still made Harry seethe with rage, but Ron had been sucking a sugar quill in class, and Snape made sure to exact his punishments without interference.  What worried Harry more was the state of the friendship between two of his favorite people in the world.
    Worried, Harry rolled over in bed and scrunched up his pillow.  It wasn't at all like Hermione to react so strongly to Ron's comments; he said things like that to her every time he was aggravated, though not quite so forcefully.  Harry had thought it was just their relationship, just their way of dealing with each other.  He was sure that their quibbles were minor on the grand scheme of things, and that they did truly like each other.
    Still, maybe he'd been wrong all this time, and they'd just been putting up with each other for him.  That an incident as small as a detention over a sugar quill could ruin so many happy weeks was a bad sign, and Harry knew it.  Ron was under a lot of pressure, too -- well, both of them were.  Maybe they just didn't have the energy to deal with each other.
    But if they were really friends, they'd take comfort from being together, a nasty little voice in Harry's head whispered.  This horrible revelation, however, was no match for Harry's exhaustion, and the boy fell asleep before he could ponder the fates of his friends any further.

    Ron staggered in, harried but unharmed, just as the sun was beginning to creep over the back of the grounds.   Harry woke up to the moans of his best friend, and jumped.
    "Ron!  How'd it go with Snape?"
    "Hellish," the redhead mumbled, rubbing his face.  "Juslemmesleep, 'll tellyou allabou' it in the morning."
    Harry decided not to mention that it was the morning, and quietly got dressed after Ron's eyes had closed.  They didn't have class until later anyway; Harry would grab some toast at breakfast and let his friend sleep in a bit.
    On the way to breakfast, Harry ran into Hermione, who seemed completely normal.  She was so composed that Harry began to doubt whether he'd been in his right mind the night before, and decided not to mention Ron.
    She brought him up, though.  "How's Ron?   Where's Ron?"
    "Asleep," Harry informed her.  "He stumbled in around six-thirty and said he'd tell me everything later.  He looked awful."
    Hermione bit her lip.  "I was going to tell him I was sorry about last night," she said softly.
    "You still can," Harry reminded her.  "Hopefully he wants to say the same thing to you."
    "I was the one who was nagging him.  Harry, I feel really bad.  Does he really think I'm -- I'm just a mother type?"
    "'Course not," he reassured her.  "That's just how he is.  He gets annoyed."
    She sighed.  "I know."

    After breakfast, Hermione disappeared, claiming to want to get to class early.  Harry shrugged and ventured back up to the common room to give Ron his toast and help him tune in to the world of the living once more.  Apparently Snape had given him some kind of drowsiness potion which would be a constant bane to his existence for at least 24 hours, and Ron didn't think he'd be truly conscious until after dinner.  Harry vowed to do something despicable in Potions class as soon as time allowed.
    Ron made it through the day, albeit shakily; he still avoided Hermione and she ignored him, too, in spite of her brave words.  This was another out-of-character move for the girl; usually when she said she was going to do something, she did it, and she did it thoroughly.  Something kept her back this time, though, and Harry was disappointed.  It looked as though he was going to be the official go-between all year if one of them didn't get the courage to do something.
    What Harry didn't know, however, was that they were both waiting for him to be gone.  Ron stalled on his homework that night, and Hermione became engrossed in a book for which she had already written a full summary.  As Harry gathered up his things, both of them looked at their hands, and swallowed hard.  The last footsteps of the night trudged up their respective staircase, and Ron and Hermione were alone.
    "I'm sorry," they both told the floor, and then jumped as they realized the other person had said the same thing.
    "That's okay," Hermione replied, beginning to regain her usual air of confidence.  "Ron, I . . . I got you something.  Just to make up for things."
    Ron looked up as she held out her hand.  In it was a powdery, delicious sugar quill.

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