The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Of Masters, Mentors, and Matrimony  Chapter: Chapter One
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~Chapter 1~

"Well, I think I'll go with the 'antique parchment' ones. They're very nice." Hermione said, flipping closed a sample book at Habadesheere's- a wizard's stationary shop in Mugwarp Alley. Despite its rather off-putting name, the small cobbled street was just the place to look for anything to do with anniversaries and weddings, and celebrations of all kinds.

"That's a wonderful choice, madam." The clerk behind the desk told her, putting the book back under the counter, "They'll make lovely invitations. May I ask how many you'll be needing?"

"Goodness!" Hermione thought for a moment, "We'll need at least two hundred. All of Ron's family, all of my family, Harry, all our friends and old teachers… it'll be packed."

The clerk smiled and with a wave of his wand said "Accio invitations 20784, one case." A box came zooming out of the back room and Hermione jumped back as it landed on the counter in front of her.

"You take these," He said pushing them at her, "And fill them out and address them. Then, bring them back and we'll send them out for you- no charge." He gestured to a wall covered with owls of all shapes and sizes on perches. It reminded Hermione of the Hogsmeade post office.

"Thanks, we'll do that. How much do I owe you?"

"Nineteen galleons and three sickles." He said and she pulled out her purse.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for lunch with my maid of honor. Good bye!" She called as she backed up against the door and pushed it open while holding the case of invitations. She hurried two doors down from Habadasheere's to the Rainbow Owl, the sidewalk café where she was meeting Ginny for lunch. Hermione found her already seated at an outdoor table, perusing a menu and sipping a goblet of iced pumpkin juice, which was turning her lips, the same color as her hair.

"Hey Gin. Sorry I'm late." Hermione said, plopping down in the chair across from her.

"No problem. I was a little late myself- What?" Hermione had stifled a giggle at the sight of Ginny's lips- they were really orange!

"Um, Ginny? What have you been drinking?"

"Huh?"

"Well, your lips…" she trailed off with another giggle.

Ginny whipped out a compact mirror from her purse, "Oh damn! It's this stupid muggle lipstick. It makes my lips really susceptible to color changes, but it's cute, don't you think?"

"Well, if I could see it under the orange hue, I'm sure I would, but as it is… you might want to stick to wizard cosmetics."

Ginny sighed, "You're probably right. I just saw it in a store in Paris the other day and thought, Why not?" She picked up her napkin and wiped off the lipstick, taking the orange along with it just in time, the waiter came to take their orders at that moment.

"There. Now, how are the wedding plans going?"

"Oh, there's a story." Hermione groaned, "It's two months away and today the first thing went right: the invitations."

"That's good." Said Ginny optimistically.

"Not when everything else has gone wrong, it isn't."

"Oh."

"Yes, 'oh'. We have to find somewhere big enough to hold all the guests- and there will be a lot of guests, believe me. The ideal location would be Penny and Percy's yard, but that's such an imposition on them, what with the new baby and all."

"You know, Hermione, I really don't think it would be. I was a little late because I was visiting Penny. You know Percy went back to work two weeks ago, and I think she misses adult company. She's going a little stir-crazy. It would be great for her to have something to organize- to occupy her time."

"You really think so?" Ginny nodded, "Okay, I'll mention it to her. How was little Noah?"

"Adorable as ever. He's such a good baby; barely cries at all. Of course Mum's still miffed about the name. Molly was named after her you know, and Claire after Penelope's mum. Devon was just a name they liked, but fortunately for them, mum liked it, too. This time they were less lucky. I don't see what's wrong with it. It's pretty cute- I think."

Hermione nodded, "Well, she'll get used to it. The premises aren't my only problem, either. I have you designing my dress- God bless you- but we've got to get you and the bridesmaids dresses. I'm not going to make you design all of them."

"You know I wouldn't mind-" Ginny began, as the waiter returned and set their food before them, but Hermione cut her off.

"I know you wouldn't mind because you're a sweet person, but you're also an internationally famous designer, who is very busy, whether you'll admit it or not."

"Okay, okay!" Ginny laughed, "Well that's what we're here for, right?"

"Yes. This afternoon I also have to ask Celestina Warbeck if she'll sing with a back-up group for the reception. She's a contributor to the Prophet, you know. I'm sure she'll agree- she's such a nice person. Then, tonight I have to go to about five different restaurants with you and Harry and Ron, when they get off work to decide who will cater it. Then I might actually get to go home and get some sleep. Of course, then I'll wake up and…"

"Stop! Stop!" Ginny cried, throwing up her hands and laughing, "I get the point: if I ever decide to get married, I'll elope."

Hermione grinned, "Exactly. Speaking of your love life, how's Harry?"

"Honestly? Confusing. We seem to click really well and get on perfectly. Most of the time he's wonderful, but then, every once in awhile, he shuts down, emotionally I mean." Hermione nodded.

"Yeah, I think Harry has almost two different personalities. I've seen him with girlfriends, and then I've seen him with Ron and I. With them, he's 'The Harry Potter'- the boy who lived- famous Auror and Quidditch player for England- hero extrodinaire; with us, he's just Harry. He keeps his emotions involved in the just Harry persona- it's easier for him not to get too emotionally involved with who he dates. He's been through a lot, and then there's less at stake when something goes wrong. You're different, though, because you were Ron's sister and Harry's friend before you were his girlfriend, so you've seen the real Harry, but now you're dating 'The Harry Potter'."

"Exactly. That pretty much sums it up, but what do I do?"

"Give him time. Be patient. Harry already knows you're different from the others; he just hasn't figured out how to deal with that yet. He will, though, eventually." Ginny nodded, scraping up her last bit of salad.

"Ready?"

"Yeah." Hermione answered, scooping up one last spoonful of soup and leaving the waiter money for the bill and the tip. "I'll treat, since you're about to buy a dress for my wedding."

"Deal." Ginny said, smiling and picking up her purse. "Let's go." And they headed over to Regina's Regal Robes for Special Occasions.

Once she had stepped inside, Hermione had trouble breathing. The air was heavily perfumed with potpourri that reminded her of Professor Trelawney's classroom at Hogwarts. Everywhere she looked was pink, with flowers.

"I definitely prefer Madam Malkin's." Ginny nodded.

"Yes, but you don't get this lovely aroma there." She replied, wrinkling her nose, "What is that 'eau de Divination'?" Hermione laughed as a tall, thin woman, with purpleish-red hair swanned over to them.

"Hello, dahlings!" she said in an over exaggerated accent. "I am Regina Ratcliffe. Welcome to my emporium."

Emporium? Hermione thought. What planet does this woman live on? "Er, Hello. I called and made an appointment. I'm Hermione Granger, it's under Granger/Weasley wedding I believe."

"Yes, of course! Weasley? The groom isn't related to Ms. Virginia Weasley of 'Robes by Virginia' is he? I simply adore her work!"

"Actually, he's my brother." Ginny said, sticking out her hand, "Virginia Weasley. Pleased to meet you Ms. Ratcliffe."

The woman looked like she was about to faint from excitement, "Oh my! Could you sign my guestbook, please? And we've got to take a picture." She shoved a Polaroid camera into Hermione's hands and rushed around the counter, wrapping her arm around a horrified looking Ginny's shoulders. After Hermione had dutifully taken the picture and was examining her handiwork- the tiny Ginny seemed to be putting up a great deal of resistance to being hugged by Regina Ratcliffe- Ginny found herself with a gaudy peacock feather quill in her hand, signing the woman's guestbook. After that ordeal, they finally got to go back and look at dresses. Hermione's bridesmaids were going to be Ginny as maid of honor, her muggle cousin Lila, and Delia Smith, a member of Ron's M.L.E.S. squad who Hermione had gotten close to in the months following their capture of the would-be-deatheater Ariel Nott. Unfortunately they all had very different coloring. Ginny, with her long red hair, brown eyes, and creamy skin dusted with freckles would be the hardest to match with the other two. Lila had short blond hair, cut into a pixy style, sky blue eyes, and clear, milky skin; and Delia, the most exotic of the three, came from the West Indies, with shoulder length, thick black hair, dark eyes, and honey colored skin. Hermione knew that finding a color dress that would suit them all might be impossible, but that's what she'd brought Ginny along for. What good were fashion designer/maid of honors if they weren't consultants as well? However, Ginny seemed to be in more of a joking than consulting mood. She popped up from behind a rack holding quite possibly the ugliest dress Hermione had ever seen. It was knee length, and orange with a fitted bodice and skirt, the waist accented by a double ruffle around the midriff. The sleeves were short and puffy, made of a synthetic gauzy material and the back was topped off by a huge, gaudy bow.

"How about this?" Ginny suggested, a mischievous smile on her face very reminiscent of her twin brothers. Hermione was about to make a comment about Ginny's taste in bridesmaids dresses being similar to ruffley janitor's uniforms, but Regina Ratcliffe flounced up, seeing Ginny holding the dress and said, "Oh, yes! That's one of my favorites!" The bemused look on Hermione's face was quickly replaced by one of horror, mirroring Ginny's own.

"Ummmm. I really don't think that's Lila's color." Hermione said, by way of a quick save, "Sorry Gin."

"Oh, it's no problem. I forget that I don't know all the bridesmaids, sometimes." Ginny said, hastily putting the dress back on the rack. Regina's face fell for a moment and then she perked up again, "Well, of course we have to make sure all of your bridesmaids look lovely, not just a few."

Hermione nodded vigorously, trying to lead the shop owner away from the rack with the orange dress on it. "Of course. I really like…" She flailed her hand behind her and felt it connect with a plastic hanger and soft, silky material. 'Oh God, Ginny, if this is hideous I'll never forgive you!' She thought as she slowly brought the dress out between herself and Regina Ratcliffe. To her surprise and delight, Ginny came through. The garment that hung in front of her was of the palest yellow. The high empire waistline was accompanied without a neckline. It was cut straight under the arms and across the chest, held up by thin spaghetti straps. "This one!" she finished with real enthusiasm this time. Regina was nodding with approvement, and Ginny suddenly appeared behind her with a wink at Hermione that seemed to say 'Now maybe we'll make it out of here alive!'. Hermione grinned back at her and said, "We'll take three. A size two, a six, and an eight. Right Ginny?" Ginny bobbed her head enthusiastically.

"Yes, and now we really must be going." She said in her most haughty, professional voice, which she usually reserved for snobby clients and difficult retailers. "You know, important people see, appointments to make…" She trailed off with a pointed, almost conspiratorial look at Regina, that, though Ginny and Hermione both knew meant nothing, they also both realized that Regina would interpret it as camaraderie, and she did.

"Well, of course dear. A famous designer like yourself must have numerous important appointments to see to…" She was obviously fishing for information, as Hermione shoved the appropriate amount of galleons into her outstretched hand. Ginny tried to look pained and impressive at the same time.

"Yes," she nodded solemnly, "as soon as I leave here, I have to take my owl to have her talons trimmed. They're getting horrendously long." And trying not to burst out laughing at the shocked expression on Regina's face, she grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her out the door, where they both doubled over in hysterics.

"Ginny! That was awful! What will she think of us now?"

"Well, certainly no less than we think of her- I don't think that's possible. Besides, since when do you care so much what people think of you? You never used to."

"I…I really don't know." Hermione said, truthfully, "I suppose it was after Ron and I broke up the last time. During that last fight we both said some pretty awful things, one of which being, 'I don't know what I ever saw in you- can't imagine why I ever liked you!'"

"Oh, 'Mione." Ginny said sympathetically.

So, maybe I'm just way too sensitive, but it kind of stuck with me the whole time we were apart. I figured that if everyone else liked me, it'd cancel out what Ron, said; what he felt, what I felt."

"Oh, no. My idiot brother!" Ginny said heatedly.

"Well, I guess I just got used to sucking up to people and caring what they thought. The habit stuck."

"Ooooh! I'm gonna scream at Ron the next time I see him. Have you talked to him about this?" Hermione shook her head. "That is one habit we're going to break you of before the wedding. But you really should talk to Ron- I think he needs to know this." Hermione just shrugged.

"He didn't mean it. It was in the heat of the moment, and I said some stuff to him that was just as stupid."

"Yeah, but Ron's not nearly as sensitive as you are."

"Really? Most people see him as the sensitive one."

"Most people aren't me, and most people don't know you two as well as I do. In fact, the only person I can think of that does is Harry. Ron is more outwardly sensitive to the rest of the world- people like Malfoy are able to anger him really easily, but it never lasts long. You only let the people you really care about hurt you, but when they do, you carry the pain around like baggage. The only way you can fix this is to talk to him about it."

"You're probably right, but it's so hard." Hermione sighed. "I think you missed your calling as a wizard-therapist."

Ginny laughed, "Oh, but if I'd gone into therapy you might be stuck with that horrible orange dress!" And they both dissolved into laughter again.

* * *

"So, the big day's coming up, huh?" Delia Smith strolled into her boss, Ron Weasley's, office.

"Yeah, in just about two months, and Hermione's freaking out, but that's nothing compared to my mum. She's already asking us what names we're considering for kids! Like she doesn't have enough grandchildren already; she just got a new one! But that's another story, What's up Dee?"

"Well I was just wondering if I should go buy a rattle for your wedding present…" She grinned at him.

"Ha ha. Very funny. Now, seriously, what is it?"

"I want to know what to get Hermione for her shower. It's in two weeks you know."

"Umm-hmm." Ron murmured, "You know, Dee. I'm no good at stuff like this. You might want to ask Ginny- she'd know."

"Yeah, but that's my other problem: I feel kind of left out. I mean, I'm really just a casual acquaintance of Hermione's, and I've only met Ginny once, and Lila not at all."

"You're not just a casual acquaintance of mine, or 'Mione's. You may not have known her long, but she'd never ask you to be in the wedding if she didn't want you there. As for Ginny- well, she's hardly ever in town long enough to be met, let alone to get to know her, but you'll love her; I do. Lila I've only met a few times myself: once at the train station when she came to pick up Hermione with her parents, Harry and I both met her then; once at our graduation, but only briefly because she left soon after the ceremony, and once at her older sister's wedding, where I was Hermione's date. She seems quite nice, though, and my father's absolutely thrilled that there's going to be a muggle in the wedding. Neither Percy or Bill had any muggle friends, and their wives are both purebloods, too, so Hermione will be the first muggle born in the family. Of, course, Dad would be even happier if I just married a muggle outright, but since I don't know any, he's quite pleased with Hermione. Why am I going on like this? I suggest you owl Ginny and ask her advice about the gift: she'll have some great idea, I'm sure."

"Who'll have a great idea about what?" A tall man with black hair and bright green eyes leaned casually in the door jam, observing Ron and Delia. "Hi. I don't believe we've met. Harry Potter." He said, sticking out his hand to Delia.

"I know, and no, we haven't. Delia Smith." She shook his hand and smiled slightly, because it didn't seem to have occurred to Harry Potter that he'd need no introduction. Ron, however, used to the variety of reactions Harry got, ignored this and said, "Harry might be able to help you, Dee." He turned to Harry, "Dee was just asking me what to get 'Mione for her shower. I referred her to Gin, but if you have any ideas?"

"Well, Harry stroked his chin in mock concentration, "how about a nice book? Her copy of Hogwarts, A History must be getting pretty worn out by now…" Ron began to laugh, and Delia looked confused.

"Inside joke." Harry explained between snickers.

Delia just raised her eyebrows and said, "I think I'll ask Ginny. Not that you two haven't been very helpful." She said sarcastically and headed out as the two men in the office began to laugh again.

"Don't think she liked me much." Harry observed, watching her go.

"Nah. I think you just surprised her. You know, not heroic enough."

"Well, I'll try harder next time. Maybe I could wear a cape with 'HP' on it. That'd be a nice touch."

As they both chuckled again Ron asked, "So, why are you here, Harry? Surely not just to make bad jokes." Harry's face turned serious at the question.

"No, I was actually wondering if you guys at M.L.E.S had gotten anything like this recently." He tossed a piece of parchment down on Ron's desk. "This is the second that's come to the Academy." He referred to the Auror's Academy- it housed all the offices of Aurors and all those in training. Ron's eyes widened as he unfolded the parchment and read the message that had been clipped and pasted on it:

Tell your pRecious dumbledore to watch Out. I will avenge my Master.

Ron looked up at Harry, his eyes wide with shock and confusion. Who could be threatening their old mentor and Professor?

//
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