The Sugar Quill
Author: noodles (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: If At First You Don't Succeed  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.

My graduation present to myself, written in one night in a fit of procrastination during finals week.

Alice isn't really me. (I don't wear a leather jacket, I don't live in London, and I quit my department store job a couple years ago.)

But a girl can dream.

(Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter, including Bill Weasley, belongs to J.K. Rowling. The words are mine.)


Alice sat alone at a street-side café in London. It was her favorite café, and she had taken to visiting it at around the same time every day. Today, she was taking a break from shopping, her various purchases sitting on the ground beside her chair. She sipped her coffee and pretended to read her book. In reality, most of her attention was focused on the attractive young man with the red hair who was sitting across the patio. She had been studying him at intervals since he had arrived. He was tall- he had towered over the hostess who had led him to his table. His hair- fiery red- was long and pulled back in a ponytail. There was an earring in one earlobe; after a brief examination from afar, Alice decided that it was a shark's tooth. She would have suspected that he was one of those environmentalists- the ones that eat only organic food, won't go near a hamburger, and look down on her for wearing a leather jacket- if it weren't for the fact that his boots were clearly made of some sort of reptile skin. It was definitely not imitation. When her gaze returned to the man's face, she noticed that he was looking directly back at her. She looked immediately back down to the page in front of her, but she felt her face flush bright red, and she couldn't help smiling a bit, pleased to have attracted some attention of her own.

She read a few pages and drank half of her coffee before again looking toward the table across the patio. The young man was standing- Is he done already? she wondered- and walking to the exit. In order to leave, he had to pass Alice's table, and she tried not to be overly noticeable as she tracked his progress with her eyes. Therefore, when he paused directly next to her, she was not sure how to react. She looked up slowly, and saw him smiling down at her. "Sorry to disturb you," he said, "but may I look at your book for a moment?"

Alice was surprised, to say the least. (The beautiful man wants to look at my book?) But she returned the smile and handed the volume to him. Her attempts to come up with a brilliant- or at least memorable- reply resulted only in, "Certainly. If you like."

He accepted the book, placed a scrap of paper from his pocket in it to save her place, and examined the cover. "I haven't read this one yet. Is it new?"

Alice's brain still refused to come up with any response that was remotely witty or charming, so she decided to go with the truth. "Actually, I haven't the slightest idea. I found it on my coffee table this morning, but I don't remember buying it. I've never even heard of the author before."

He handed the book back to her. "Well, I have, and she's very good." He held out a hand, "My name is Bill, by the way. It was good to meet you, Alice, but I've an appointment in a few minutes, and I must be going." She shook his hand, and he walked away. It wasn't until he was out of sight that she thought to wonder how he knew her name.


Alice finished her shopping and returned to her flat, still thinking about the encounter in the café. She dropped her bags on the couch and checked her answering machine. Nothing. She kicked off her shoes, grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl, and sat in her armchair to continue reading. She opened the book to the spot marked by Bill's piece of paper, and noticed for the first time that there was writing on it:

Bill Weasley

The Tuesday Mart

7:30 pm

"Is this meant for me?" she wondered. She knew of The Tuesday Mart, it was a sandwich shop just a few blocks from the café. It was probably an accident. Bill just happened to put that scrap of paper in her book, not realizing that anything was written on it. Maybe his name wasn't Bill Weasley at all. Maybe he was Bill . . . Bill . . . Bill Bookbinder, and he was meeting this Bill Weasley at the sandwich shop that night. Or the next night, there was no date written.

And having convinced herself that the note was not intended for her, Alice glanced at the clock, saw that she could get to The Tuesday Mart just before 7:30 if she hurried, grabbed her leather jacket and her purse, and rushed out the door.


The entire way to the sandwich shop, Alice told herself that she was being stupid. She didn't know this guy. He could be a psychotic killer, or a kidnapper, or a . . . or a . . . or a religious radical who wanted to convert her! He might think it's funny to trick girls into meeting him for dinner and then stand them up. Besides, she reminded herself, the note wasn't even meant for her.

However, the other- less reasonable, but more persuasive- portion of her mind kept saying something about fate and love at first sight. Maybe he saw her and just had to meet her. Maybe this was the man with whom she was destined to spend the rest of her life. What if she passed on this opportunity, and was miserable forever?

She reached The Tuesday Mart at 7:24. She walked in and took a seat, asked the waitress for a glass of iced tea (unsweetened), and started examining the menu to keep herself from staring in anticipation at the door. At 7:30 exactly, the door opened, but she did not look up. She willed herself to read (for the third time) the description of the "Vegetarian Delight." Muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and a simply marvelous honey- mustard sauce between two slices of fresh seven-grain bread. Served with your choice of carrot sticks, cole slaw, or . . .

"Alice!" Bill was standing in front of her. "I'm glad you came!" He sat down across from her and smiled. "I was worried that you'd think I was crazy, or creepy, or something. I'm sorry I didn't ask you properly, but I didn't dare arrive late for my appointment this afternoon."

Alice didnít answer immediately. She had to let everything settle down in her mind. Eventually, however, she managed to ask, "How do you know my name?"

Bill blinked, and Alice wondered momentarily if she had come across as too harsh. She didn't want him to think that she wasn't interested. Slowly, Bill asked, "You didn't tell me at the café?" He ran one hand across his face and Alice thought she heard him mutter "Good going, Weasley."

Alice was fairly sure that she hadn't told him at the café, but she decided to let the matter drop. She was determined to seem charming and fascinating, not suspicious. "I guess I must have!" she said, "No matter. I've been forgetting so many things lately, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if you told me that we were old friends."

Bill laughed. The tension was lifted, and they started talking. Alice told him about her boring department store job, her dream of opening a bookstore, and her recent trip to Venice. Bill spoke about his six younger siblings (five of them boys), his love of a good roast beef sandwich (this was shortly after their food arrived), and Egypt. Apparently, Bill normally worked with ancient ruins in Egypt, and was only in England on a special assignment. Alice was about to ask him what sort of work an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Egypt would have to do in England, when something rather surprising happened to distract her from the question.

A man had suddenly appeared in the middle of the shop. He had not walked through the door, or dropped through the ceiling, or climbed through a hole in the floor (all explanations that Alice concocted and then discarded in the moment after he arrived). And on top of his sudden and unexplainable appearance, the man was dressed like a wizard straight out of Arthurian legend- flowing robes, pointed hat, even a stick that could have passed as a wand. Everyone in the shop was staring at this newcomer in shock, not sure how to react to something that was clearly impossible. Alice watched as the man walked over to Bill. "Weasley! You're needed back at the bank, pronto!"

Bill stood up, annoyance clear in his face. "Good grief, Scott, don't you have any idea what the word 'discretion' means? You can't just keep popping in like this!" He gestured around the room. "You've scared a whole room full of people!"

The man (Scott?) looked around, unperturbed. "No worries. We'll just Memory Charm them, as usual. They'll be fine. "

Alice had no idea what was going on, but Bill obviously was not happy with this response. "This is the third day in a row you've done this to me! Can you at least leave Alice alone this time? I'll explain everything to her and she'll be quiet about it, I'm sure!"

Scott leaned to look around Bill, and noticed Alice sitting at the table. "Oh, her again?" he said, and shook his head. "Now, Weasley, you know I can't do that. Only Muggle relatives are allowed to know about magic, not new Muggle acquaintances. I'm sorry she keeps forgetting you, but you'll find a way to introduce yourself tomorrow; you always do. I let her keep the book you gave her didn't I? And that's more than I'd do for most. You know the complications of dating a Muggle!"

Alice had a hard time following that part of the exchange. She kept forgetting him? Three times in a row? Magic? And what on earth is a Muggle? She looked at the other patrons of the shop. They all sat immobile, watching the two men argue. She found that she was unable to stand, even if she tried. Had that Scott person somehow magicked them all to their seats? After a few more minutes of protesting, Bill shook his head in acquiescence. "They need me back at Gringotts?"

"Yeah, something about a cursed jewel one of the patrons wants to deposit. Or something. I wasn't really paying attention."

Bill sighed and turned to Alice. "I'm sorry, Alice." he said, "Scott's a real idiot. Doesn't understand the first thing about being discreet. You won't remember any of this, I'm afraid. I'll see you at the café tomorrow." He turned and walked away before her confused mind could sort out anything to say.

Scott promptly began waving his wand at the people in the shop. When he reached her, he gave a little smile and said, "He's really quite taken with you, you know. And he's persistent. One of these days, you two might even be able to finish dinner." He pointed the wand at her, and muttered something Alice couldn't understand.


Alice shook herself out of her daydream. She looked around, realized where she was, and wondered why she had decided to go out for a sandwich when she had a perfectly good box of pasta at home that she had been planning to prepare for her dinner. She tried to remember what she had been thinking about that had had her so distracted, but found that she couldn't remember that either. The past several hours were very blurry in her mind, a situation that was happening far too often of late. "I really must start getting more sleep," she told herself, "or I'll start forgetting everything." She paid for her sandwich, put on her jacket, and headed home, where she found a book she'd never seen before by an author she'd never heard of sitting next to her armchair. The next day, she took the book to her favorite café, where a handsome redhead caught her eye.



and the cycle began again.

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