The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Nobody Loves You When You're 23  Chapter: Chapter One
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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: If you haven't figured out yet that J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and all associated ideas, places, and people then my saying it probably won't help you much, but I will anyway: J.K. Rowling owns Harry, Ron, Hermione, and anyone else you recognize. I own the plot and all those characters who you say "Who the heck is that???" when they enter the storyline. For the record- Delia Smith is apparently a British cooking show host, but I didn't know that when I came up with the name, so don’t sue me, please!

~ Chapter 1 ~

Rinnng! Rinnng! "Hello?" Hermione Granger snatched up the telephone in her London flat, having just done the jump out of the shower- grab a towel- and sprint across apartment dash.

"Hey, Hermione? This is Lynn." Oh, Lynn. Hermione thought, a little disappointed. She knew the telephone was a muggle device, but she was hoping the call would be from one of her wizarding friends. After all, didn’t Mr. Weasley use them sometimes? Lynn had been a friend from school before Hermoine had gone to Hogwarts, and they had bumped into each other a couple months ago and promised to stay in touch. Hermione had forgotten; a couple of months ago her mind had been occupied with more important things… but obviously Lynn hadn’t.

"Lynn! Hi! It’s good to hear from you." She said warmly.

" Thanks. Hermione, I’ll get straight to the point- I need a favor, and if you do this I’ll be eternally grateful."

"Eternally, huh? What can I do?" She smiled a little at Lynn’s enthusiasm.

"Well, my fiancé, you know, Kevin…" She waited for Hermione to acknowledge that she did indeed know Kevin.

" Well, he has this coworker, a guy named David Sloane, and I got the job of setting him up with someone,"

"Uh-oh. I can see where this is going." Hermione interrupted, but Lynn plowed ahead.

" But the thing is, see, you and he would really be perfect for each other. That was my thought when I first met him."

"When was that, pray tell?"

"Two weeks ago. Please, Hermione, you’ve got to help me out. Just go out to dinner with the guy and then go home early, but please…"

Hermione cut her off, "Why do you have the job of setting him up?"

"Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that. Basically the wedding’s in four months, right?"

"Right…" Hermione said slowly, unable to see what train of thought her friend had picked up.

" Well, he isn’t seeing anyone and he doesn’t have a date- so we have to find one for him."

"You’re kidding." Hermione said, incredulously, "Why doesn’t he just go alone? Or bring a cousin or something?"

"Kevin feels sorry for him, and I’ve never heard him mention any family members. Please Hermione?"

"Oh, okay. Just call me sometime this week and let me know when he’ll pick me up." Hermione answered thinking, ‘It can’t be that bad. At least it’ll help me get back into the swing of dating.’

"Oh, God Bless You, Hermione Granger! Thanks so much!"

Hermione laughed at her friend’s enthusiasm and looked at the clock on her wall. "Oh my! Lynn, I’ve got to go- I’m going to be late for a lunch appointment."

"A date?" Lynn asked mischievously.

"No. I’m just meeting one of my best friends from school at the pub. Not exactly five star dining." Hermione smiled, thinking of the Leaky Cauldron. She doubted that old Tom, its proprietor, would know what five star dining meant.

"Okay. Well, I don’t want to make you late. Thanks again! Bye!"

"Bye, Lynn." Hermione replied and hung up. She then proceeded to race back into her bedroom and yank clothes out of the closet, haphazardly. Lunch with Harry at the Leaky cauldron- not fancy, but look nice- she decided and pulled on a pair of jeans and a pale blue, cashmere sweater. She slid into a pair of brown, toeless, backless, shoes that matched her hair, which she dried with a flick of her wand, grabbed her purse and headed out the door. When she got to the busy street below she walked two blocks over to Charing Cross Road, down the street, and into the pub. She checked her watch- only ten minutes late. Then she spotted Harry, sitting on a barstool, sipping butterbeer, and conversing easily with Tom, who was behind the bar.

She walked over to them and said, "Butterbeer before one o’clock in the afternoon. I’m surprised at you Harry Potter." He turned and grinned at her, giving her a peck on the cheek.

"It’s good to see you ‘Mione."

"You, too." She said giving him a hug.

"What can I get you, Ms. Granger?" Tom asked.

"Oh, what the hell. How about one of those." She said pointing to

Harry’s glass. Tom drew the pint and handed it to her.

"Bad day?" Harry asked as they walked over to a table and sat down.

"Oh, I don’t know. I got set up on a blind date."

Harry raised his eyebrows. " When are you going?"

"I don’t know."

"With who?"

"I forgot his name." He laughed.

"And you’re doing this why?"

"To help out a friend. And I figured this would be a good way to get back into dating, after, you know." He nodded. "Anyway, the guy’s a muggle, so I won’t have to answer questions about you, or explain what happened with Ron and I." They placed their orders and sat quietly for a minute.

"What’s he do?" Harry asked, finally.

"He works with the fiancé of one of my old muggle friends- from before Hogwarts. I think he’s an accountant or something."

"Now there’s an exciting job!" Harry grinned at me.

"Be quiet. I have to suffer through an entire meal with this guy, and from all accounts he’s a real loser. Lynn said we’d be perfect for each other." Harry burst out laughing at this.

"Hermione, I’ve known you for quite awhile now, and trust me- you are not the boring, muggle accountant type. Whoever thinks you are, doesn’t know you very well."

She smiled at him, "Well, Lynn and I really haven’t been close for thirteen years. Since we were ten. Maybe I was the boring, muggle accountant type then."

Harry smiled back, "Somehow I doubt it." Tom brought their food over and they began to eat.

"Well, whatever. How’s Ron?" She asked, deftly changing the subject.

"Definitely not a boring, muggle accountant."

"Shut-up. You know what I meant."

"Yeah, I know what you meant. He’s okay. Still hurt, but okay."

"How’s work?"

"Mine or Ron’s?"

"Both."

"Well, as for me, the wonderful world of being an auror still offers 24/7 risk of fatal injuries and little to no dental benefits, but I still love it."

"That’s good." He nodded.

"And as for Ron, well he’s doing quite well as an enforcer with the Magical Law Enforcement Squad. Fighting crime- he gets to haul in people like Draco Malfoy for a living. He loves it."

"So do you."

"So do I what?"

"Get to haul in people like Draco Malfoy for a living- don’t you?"

"Not exactly- I deal more with people like old Lucius. Draco’s only really quasi-evil, trained by his father in the Dark Arts but to lazy to do anything about it. Sure he breaks laws to pieces, but only really for the fun of it. Lucius and all the other loose death-eaters floating around though, they’re different. With Ron and I it’s like the difference between the police and the FBI- they take the single or double murder cases and everything down from that- we take the big operators, the ones out for world domination and other crap like that."

"So Ron works on murders and stuff?" Hermione asked, a trace of worry in her voice.

"Yeah- Ron’s at the top of his field as an enforcer. He’s climbed the ladder quickly, ‘cause he’s good- very good."

Hermione did not seem pleased to hear this. "That puts him in a lot more danger doesn’t it?" She asked, concern evident in her voice.

"Yes, but Ron’s a professional, ‘Mione. He knows what he’s doing." Harry answered, polishing off his meal. Hermione had already finished her salad, so they paid and got up.

"Do you want to go for some ice-cream?" Harry asked.

"Sure. I haven’t been to Florean Fortescue’s in way too long." She answered. They went out the back door and before Harry could tap the appropriate brick, Hermione said, "Wait!" And changed her jeans and sweater into long pale blue robes, exactly the color the sweater had been.

"Oh yeah." Harry grinned at her, "I forgot you were wearing muggle clothing."

"It’s better than having people stare at me while I walk the three blocks from home to the Leaky Cauldron." She explained, "I always change when I get to work."

"How’s it going at the Prophet?" Harry asked, tapping the brick and waiting for the archway to open.

"Great! I did an interview with Minister Weasley about a week ago for yesterday’s paper."

"I read it." Harry cut in as they walked down the cobbled, winding street. "Was Percy really that boring, or did you do that on purpose?"

"Hey!" She whacked him, playfully. " I can’t help it if my subject matter is as dull as stale bread, but I tried to make it as interesting as possible. The sad thing is that Percy really isn’t a bad Minister of Magic, he’s just a really bad people person. Sometimes I wonder how Penny stands him."

"I guess she loves him." Harry answered. "Have you seen any of the other Weasley’s lately?"

"Just Ginny. She popped by the Prophet a couple days ago with an add about her latest fashion show and came to my office to say hi."

"I didn’t even know she was back from Paris. I’ll have to go see her. She’s probably staying with Ron." Hermione nodded.

"That’s what she told me. And she also said that she was heading down to The Burrow for two days and then up to Hogsmeade to see the twins before she goes to Milan." They had reached the ice-cream parlor by now and were sitting outside slurping two large cones.

"Wow. Who would have thought that designer ‘Robes by Virginia’ would be such a hit?"

"Well, she’s unique. No one else has ever done this, and she does it well. She gives wizards and witches the option to be fashionable without wearing muggle clothing, and she’s fantastic at it." Hermione pointed out.

"Point taken. But," Harry said, "it’s hard to believe she lives in London, because she’s always somewhere else. I miss her."

Hermione smiled at him. "Hmmm. Is there something I should know about here?"

"Not yet." Harry said glumly, "But if she’ll sit still long enough to let something develop, you’ll be the first to know." She grinned. Just then a voice called across the square to them from Flourish and Blotts.

"Harry! Hermione!" They looked up to see a figure running towards them, carrying arm loads of shopping bags. Harry and Hermione stood up as Ginny Weasley reached their table, breathless. She was wearing robes of the deepest indigo blue with a hood that she left down for decoration.

"Gin!" said Harry, scooping her up into a hug. " We were just talking about you. I didn’t even know you were back in town till Hermione told me."

"Yeah, but not for long."

"That’s what I said." Hermione answered, hugging Ginny as well. "We were just discussing your travel plans.

"Yeah. You must really be racking up frequent apparition miles." Harry said, grinning.

"Oh, you have no idea." Ginny moaned, dropping the bags and sitting down, "I think I could probably apparate in my sleep now. You guys will never believe this, but I was just on my way to see you both. I was going to drop this off at the Prophet offices for you Hermione," she gestured to one of the bags, "and then go visit you at work, Harry."

"I took a personal day." Hermione explained.

"And I’m on my lunch break." Harry put in. "What’s in the bag?"

"Oh yeah! I brought these with me from Paris, Hermione, because I knew they’d be perfect for you. I had you in mind when I designed them." She handed over the bag.

Hermione opened it and pulled out chestnut brown robes made of a breezy linen fabric that seemed to float, rather than fall. They had a V-neck in the front to accentuate her collarbone and the color perfectly matched her hair.

"Oh Ginny! They’re gorgeous! I love them! You have a calling!" Hermione said giving Ginny another hug.

"They are pretty lovely." Harry said.

"Wow! That’s high praise!" Ginny joked, punching him lightly on the shoulder. "Harry Potter said my robes were lovely! A guy, no less!"

The three laughed. "So what’s up with you two?" She asked.

"Well, Hermione is going on a blind date with a boring, muggle accountant whose name she can’t remember." Harry said, grinning.

"Really? When?" Ginny asked.

"Here we go again!" Hermione groaned.

//
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