The Sugar Quill
Author: Poppy P (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Padma's Quest  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter 1

"What time is it now?" asked Mandy Brocklehurst chewing furiously on one fingernail.

"Five minutes after the last time you asked!" snapped Lisa Turpin irritably. Her voice softened after a bit. "I do hope Cho's alright."

"I hope they're all okay," said Padma Patil quietly. The three Ravenclaw girls sat quietly among the tense crowd watching the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. The champions had been given an hour to retrieve their respective hostage from the bottom of the lake. With two minutes left to go, there was no sign of any of them. Low, edgy snippets of conversation surrounded them as students wondered aloud what could possibly be happening beneath the stationary surface of the lake.

Mandy looked down at Padma's wrist watch then turned to the girls, pale faced and wide-eyed. "That's it. The hour's up."

Lisa blanched as well, but forced her voice into a sensible tone. "There now, remember what Dumbledore said? Nobody's in danger, not the champions and not the…"

A ripple of noise ran through the crowd cutting off Lisa's statement. It started out as a murmur burst into a full-blown roar. Padma leapt to her feet and pointed to the far side of the lake, across from the spectator stands. "Look! It's Cho and Cedric!" she cried breathlessly. They watched as Cedric led Cho over to Madam Pomfrey where he insisted that she be attended to first.

"Don't they make the cutest couple?" asked Mandy dreamily.

"They certainly do," said Lisa with a wistful sigh.

Padma patted her arm in a gesture of comfort. Lisa had recently broken up with her boyfriend. The noise level of the crowd had finally settled down when two forms broke the surface of the water. Viktor Krum and Hermione Granger struggled towards the shore,

hampered by their sopping robes.

"Fancy being rescued by Viktor Krum," said Mandy in an awe filled voice tinged with a bit of envy. "Who would've thought Hermione Granger could snag a world champion Quidditch player?"

"You must admit, she did look quite pretty at the Yule Ball," said Padma in all fairness. "She's really nice, clever too. I don't know why the Sorting Hat didn't peg her for Ravenclaw."

"Well I don't what he sees in her," said Lisa sourly.

The appearance of the hysterical Fleur Delacour without her hostage caused another thunder of noise to cascade through the crowd. They watched with interest as Madame Maxime attempted to prevent her from flinging herself back into the water. Roger Davies rushed down to the edge of the lake, attempting to calm the distressed Fleur, but she took no heed of him.

"Look at that great lummox fawning all over that French tart," snorted Lisa spitefully.

"It's not as if she picked him for the thing she would miss the most."

"S'pose Roger can't help it. Cho told me that girl is part Veela," said Mandy with an air of vindictive triumph.

"Really?" asked Lisa with raised eyebrows.

"I wonder what's keeping Harry?" asked Padma nervously. She nudged Mandy and indicated Penelope Clearwater who was seated a couple of benches down from them. Penny's gaze was riveted on the judges' table where her boyfriend Percy Weasley sat watching the lake with increasing agitation. Of course, thought Padma, he must be worried about his brother Ron. From the midst of students Padma distinctly heard Pansy Parkinson's shrill voice say, "Good! That's two less Gryffindors to put up with!" Padma's face flushed with anger but instead of looking for Pansy she turned behind her where her twin sister Parvati sat with her Gryffindor roommate, Lavender Brown. Parvati met her twin's gaze with a brave sort of grimace that belied the uneasiness in her eyes. Padma turned around and fixed her sight on the lake again.

Suddenly the crowd jumped to its feet, exploding with sound. Harry Potter was dragging Ron Weasley and a little girl out of the frigid water. Percy Weasley ran out and grabbed Ron about the middle of the chest, dragging him backwards out of the water. Padma watched the unfolding events with a keen interest. Ever since Penny had told them about how Percy had conjured up a bed of roses for her in the broom shed on the night of the Yule Ball, Padma had been thinking about Ron. If Percy had such a passionate streak, surely Ron must have one as well. Of course he had made her terribly angry the night of the Yule Ball, but perhaps it was just the awkwardness of the first date thing. Padma wondered if Ron was seeing anyone. The only girl she ever saw him with was Hermione Granger. Padma noted the way Hermione and Viktor had huddled together in intense conversation earlier. If Ron and Hermione were an item, surely she wouldn't carry on like that with Krum, right?

Padma was surprised with the twinge of indignation that coursed through her when Fleur Delacour kissed Ron on the cheeks. She looked about sheepishly, but was pleased to see that everyone's attention was on Ludo Bagman who was calling out the scores. Padma took this opportunity to study Ron Weasley intensely. He had the same tall, lanky frame as Percy, though Ron had a gangling look while Percy held himself with stiff dignity. His bright red hair looked dark with the dampness of the lake. It spiked in the front but clung to the nape of his neck in wet curls. The red-brown freckles that dotted his long nose offset his winter pallor. He had a childish mouth, pink and pouty. Padma had a sudden recollection of the two older redheads she had seen with the Weasleys at Kings Cross station on September first. Surely these had to be Ron's oldest brothers. How handsome they were! The one with the earring was especially good looking…

Padma started as someone poked her in the back. She looked around her and saw that everyone was making their way back to the castle. Lisa poked her again.

"Earth to Padma! You coming or what?"

Padma felt burning color rise on her face. "Oh! Er…yes, I just have to…um…talk to my sister."

Mandy gave her an inquisitive look, but went after Lisa anyway. Padma climbed down to the bottom of the stands where she found Parvati waiting for her.

"What's up? I sent Lavender on ahead because I sensed that you wanted to see me."

Padma said nothing, but slowed her pace so that the crowd pulled ahead of them. She had no patience for her sister's preoccupation with Divination. Apparently Professor Trelawney had recently convinced her that as twins they shared some kind of psychic link. Load of tosh as far as Padma was concerned.

"What is it?" asked Parvati.

Padma hesitated. She knew that her sister and Lavender Brown were the biggest gossips in their year. She had no desire to hear her interest in Ron Weasley going about the whole school.

"This is about a boy, isn't it?" asked Parvati with a breathless giggle. "Is it Mathieu from Beauxbatons?"

Padma attempted to keep the irritation out of her voice. "It is not about Mathieu. Actually it's someone from…"

"Don't tell me! Don't tell me!" interrupted Parvati putting the back of her hand over her eyes. "My inner eye will pick it up from your aura." She waited a few seconds. "It's a Gryffindor," she said with a misty, yet definite tone.

Padma stared at her in disbelief. Perhaps there was something to the psychic twin link after all. "You saw that in my aura?"

Parvati smiled knowingly and said, "Yes, that and the fact that Lav and I were consulting the orb last night and we saw that you would soon be taken with a Gryffindor." Parvati frowned. "It also indicated that you wanted him to be good at Herbology for some reason. But really Padma, are you sure you want to pursue

Neville Longbottom?"

An irritated look quickly replaced Padma's surprised one. "No, you great, silly twit! I'm not interested in Neville! It's Ron Weasley."

Now it was Parvati's turn to look surprised. "Ron Weasley?" she asked in disbelief. "But I thought you said he was the most immature boy you've ever met, and the worst dresser too."

"Yes, well," said Padma, annoyed with herself for blushing. "Perhaps I was too quick to judge him. So I need a copy of your class schedule so I can decide when to approach him."

Parvati gave her a skeptical look, but pulled a notepad and quill out of her pocket and began copying down her schedule. "Here you go, but I have to tell you, I'll be consulting the tea leaves tonight to see if you're even compatible with Ron."

"You do that Parvati," said Padma with an air of resignation.

//
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