The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Of Masters, Mentors, and Matrimony  Chapter: Chapter Two
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~Chapter 2~

Later, on the same night that Hermione and Ron were supposed to meet Harry and Ginny to taste-test caterers for the wedding, Hermione decided it was time to take Ginny's advice, to talk with Ron about what she'd been avoiding and trying to forget for months. She got her chance when he arrived home to the flat they'd been sharing for the past six months or so, off of Diagon Alley. It was Ron's, and though Hermione still had her old flat in muggle London, she rarely used it for anything other than storage anymore. Ron looked a bit troubled when he came in, but that wasn't unusual. Hermione knew that being an enforcer came with certain emotional strains most other jobs didn't have- they had to see things most other people didn't. Harry had this at his job as an auror, as well, but while Harry usually couldn't talk about things from his work for confidentiality purposes, Ron usually simply didn't want to, so Hermione knew better than to ask what was troubling him, and he didn't volunteer the information.

Instead she kissed him in greeting and said, "Ron, we need to talk."

He raised his eyebrows, but nodded and plopped down onto the couch, patting the seat next to him, "Okay. What's up?"

"Well, you know I met Ginny to look for bridesmaid dresses this afternoon, right?"

"Yeah…" he said slowly, clearly not seeing where she was going.

"Well, to make a long story short, the owner of the dress shop was a perfect idiot, and a big fan of Ginny's." Ron smiled, " So, before we left, she was babbling about how busy an important person like Ginny must be, and how many appointments she must have to get to, blah blah blah." His smile widened at Hermione's use of the muggle idiom, " Ginny said, with a perfectly straight face, something like, 'Oh yes, I have to go take my owl to have her talons trimmed, they're getting horrendously long.' And pulled me out of the shop before the poor woman could work out what she'd said." Ron laughed, "Once we were outside I scolded Ginny for toying with someone who obviously couldn't afford to lose many brain cells, and what must she think of us. She replied that I had never used to care what other people thought of me if I didn't respect them." She stopped for breath and Ron got the feeling that they'd finally reached the point of this 'talk'. "It got me thinking, when had I started caring so much? And then the answer hit me. It was when we broke up for the last time (ever, I hope). Specifically when you said,

'I don't know what I ever saw in you- can't imagine why I ever liked you!'" Ron started to say something, but Hermione rushed on, like a train in danger of being derailed if it paused, "I guess what I'm saying is that I need to know that you don't feel that way anymore. Can you honestly tell me that?"

Ron looked down at her downcast eyes; sad, in a way, that she had to ask. Her took hold of her chin and tilted her head up to face him.

"Hermione, I can do one better than that- I never felt that way. I was angry with you and words just came out of my mouth. Words to hurt you, not the truth. I didn't feel that way then, and I certainly don't feel that way now." He said firmly. She looked up at him, first doubtful, but then she started to smile.

"So I can make fun of all the idiot shop owners I want?"

"Absolutely. To your heart's content." He said with a grin, "Now what time do we have to meet Harry and Gin?"

"Oh my gosh! I almost forgot! We're supposed to meet them at Le Magician at 7:00, and it's already 6:20!"

Thirty-five hectic minutes later, Ron and Hermione walked into Le Magician looking very breathless but none the worse for wear. He, after much prodding by Hermione, wearing slate gray dress robes, and she in robes of her favorite shade of periwinkle, designed by Ginny to replace the ones she'd worn to their first Yule Ball, long since outgrown. As the maitre-d was asking Ron if they had a reservation, Hermione spotted Harry and Ginny at a table in the candle-lit corner, waving to them.

She pointed them out to the maitre-d, saying, "We're dining with friends tonight. They've already arrived."

He nodded, picked up two menus, and led them to where Harry and Ginny were seated. Harry stood and kissed Hermione on the cheek, saying, "Hi, 'Mione. It's been almost two weeks. How are you?" and adding before she could reply, "I'd kiss you too, Ron, but it hasn't been nearly as long."

"Lucky for me." Ron shot back with a grin. They all laughed. The maitre-d frowned slightly, as though he didn't approve of such larking about in his restaurant, but didn't comment as he handed Hermione and Ron their menus. Harry and Ginny already had closed menus in front of their places, indicating that they'd already selected a dish and were ready to order.

"You two are unusually late." Harry observed as they perused the entrees, "What's up?"

"What else is new?" Hermione answered, brushing off the question, "I was late for lunch with Ginny today as well, and I decided to start a new trend: being fashionably late for dining with fashion designers." She gave Ginny a look however that clearly said, 'I'll tell you later'. "Seriously, though." She continued, "With all these wedding plans and preparations I don't know if I'm coming or going, half the time!" Their waiter, a plump, balding, Italian man, arrived then to take their orders.

"Make I take-a your order?" Ginny smiled at his heavy accent. He obviously wasn't as comfortable with English as he was with his native tongue.

"May I have the rosetti pasta with pesto sauce, please?" she replied, in fluent Italian. (I don't speak Italian, just French and English, so pretend that was in Italian.) The look of joy that flushed his round face was almost comical, and she stifled a laugh, saying, "Don't get your hopes up. They don't spend a third of their time in Milan." The man's face fell slightly, but he hid his disappointment well as the other three delivered their orders in perfect, fluent, boring English. After the waiter walked away, they began to chat about the wedding plans, the guest list, the bridesmaid dresses that Hermione and Ginny had bought that afternoon and life in general. After about twenty minutes, the waiter returned, carrying a large tray, laden with four plates. He set one before each of them, Ginny first, them Hermione, and then both of the guys. After he'd gone for the second time that evening, Ron looked over at his sister with a glint in his eye.

"Well, we know who he likes best, now, don't we?" He teased, grinning, and making Ginny blush. Harry and Hermione laughed as well.

"Oh be quiet. It's just because I can speak Italian, and you know it."

"Oh I don't know, Gin." Harry jumped in, "I think he might have a crush on you…"

"You know, if we weren't in a fancy restaurant, I'd throw this roll at you!" she said, picking one up out of the breadbasket. "In fact, I think I will, as soon as we get out of here." She stuck it in her purse for safekeeping.

At this moment, the maitre-d walked over to them, and Ginny hastily stuck her now pudgy handbag under her chair.

"Mr. H. Potter?" He asked.

"Yes?" Harry answered.

"We just received a letter for you, by owl. It seemed rather urgent from the owl's behavior." He held out a folded piece of parchment and walked off. Harry unfolded the message and read it once quickly, reread it, and folded it back up, sticking it in an inside pocket of his robes.

"Bad news?" Hermione asked, looking at his now impassive face.

"It's for work." He replied, "Unfortunately, I've got to go."

"I think you're just trying to escape the roll. How long?" Ginny asked, knowing the routine by now.

"Few days at the most. Don't worry, I won't miss the wedding or anything." He said with a smile. Hermione laughed.

"You'd better not! Well, good luck."

"Yes, Harry, have fun." Ron put in.

"No doubt." Harry replied.

"Be careful and have a safe trip." Ginny finished, kissing him good-bye.

"I will, and I'll see you all in a few days." He clapped Ron on the back, hugged Hermione, and kissed Ginny again, before striding out of the restaurant. Once he got out into the cool night's air he took out the message and read it again:

For: Auror H. Potter

From: the Academy

Message: We've received two more threats to D. You must go visit him and investigate, immediately. Report to the Academy for further instructions.

Still clutching the paper, Harry aparated to the Auror's Academy, showed his I.D to the guards and entered, heading to his boss's office.

He knocked lightly on the door, and upon hearing the words "Come in, Potter." He shoved it open, and saw Aurelia Quackenbush seated at her desk, looking at two pieces of parchment.

"I was summoned?" He said.

"Yes, here they are, she held out one of the sheets to him. It looked something like this:

Dumbledore hurt my master. Now he must pay.

Harry looked up at Aurelia. "And the other?" She handed it to him and it was pieced together in much the same way, the message saying: "Hogwarts can't keep me out. It's only a matter of time. Tick-tock, tick-tock."

"Weird." Harry said. "I don't understand two things about this. First- why are they sending threats about Dumbledore to us?"

She looked up at him; "Your guess is as good as mine."

"And second, why Dumbledore? Most of Voldemort's old deatheaters come after me. It's like a hobby."

"Well, even though you did defeat Voldemort six years ago, Dumbledore had been leading quite a crusade against him since his first rise, over thirty years ago.

"You've got to go to Dumbledore and see what he thinks, whether he's been receiving threats, and make sure there's no one suspicious inside Hogwarts.

"You mean, besides Snape?" Harry asked with a smirk.

"Ha ha, very funny. Get going, and send me reports every day."

"Okay." Harry said and disaparated. He materialized outside the towering gates of Hogwarts. Just in at the castle, caused him to be hit with a wave of nostalgia. He pushed open one of the gates and headed up the drive, past the forbidden forest. As he drew level with Hagrid's hut, something large and black began to bark at him and the door was thrown open.

"Who's there?" Hagrid boomed loudly. Harry laughed, it felt as if he'd been a student, caught out of bed.

"Hi, Hagrid! Hey Fang. It's just me, so put that longbow away." He replied as the light from Hagrid's lantern fell across his face.

"'Arry!" Hagrid sounded overjoyed to see him. "What brings yeh here? How's London? How's being an Auror? How're Ron and 'Ermione; how's Ginny?" He asked the questions in rapid succession, winking at the last one, making Harry laugh again.

"They're all fine. I actually had to leave the last three at a restaurant to come here. It's for work. I've got to see Dumbledore."

"Well, what're yeh waiting for? Come on up to the castle. How're the plans for Ron and 'Ermione's wedding going?"

"Quite well, I think." Harry answered and told Hagrid all about the wedding plans as they walked up to the front doors. Hagrid pulled open one of the massive doors and ushered Harry inside.

"It's just toward the end of dinner, so Dumbledore's probably in the Great Hall." He said as Harry looked around at the familiar Entrance Hall. A few students looked at him curiously as they trudged off to their common rooms. Harry followed Hagrid into the Great Hall, and looked up at the inky blue ceiling, dotted with the night sky's stars. He spotted the brightest one there, the dog star, Sirius, and smiled at the thought that he'd be seeing his godfather soon. As he looked at the house tables, he didn't recognize many of the students. A few of the oldest seemed familiar, as they would have been first years when Harry'd graduated, but he only recognized one of the younger ones. Apparently she spotted him, too, because a small, red blur shot across the Hall at him, from the direction of the Gryffindor table. Charlie Weasley's only child, Andrea, was a first year this year and for once, the only Weasley at Hogwarts.

"Uncle Harry!" She called as she ran into him and gave him a hug that knocked the wind out of him.

"Hi, Andy!" Harry laughed. "I'm here to see Professor Dumbledore. How's your first year going?"

"Oh it's great! I love all my classes, except potions." She wrinkled her nose and Harry laughed, "But my favorite so far is Astronomy. I love the stars," She pointed at the ceiling, "and Professor Sinistra is really nice."

"That's great, Andy. I'd better go now, but I'll be in town for a couple of days, so I'll come see you again before I leave, alright?"

"Okay, Uncle Harry. We could go visit Uncle Fred and Uncle George at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (WWW)!"

"Great! It's a date." Harry grinned and waved as Andy scurried back to her food and her friends, who still looked wide-eyed at the arrival of Harry Potter. Hagrid chuckled and lead Harry up to the staff table, where Harry saw many familiar faces and a few that he didn't recognize. He immediately saw Snape, who obviously recognized him as well, judging by the look of distaste that twisted his sallow face even more than usual. Harry's eyes traveled further down the table, spotting Sprout, Flitwick, a tall, black woman who must be the latest Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, and finally resting on McGonagall and Dumbledore, who were having such an engaging conversation, they hadn't yet noticed his arrival. Hagrid walked around the table and tapped Dumbledore on the shoulder. He looked up and Hagrid pointed to Harry. Dumbledore's eyes lit up.

"Harry! Welcome! What brings you here?"

"Well sir, it's about work, actually. I need to speak with you privately when you have a free moment. Hello, Professor McGonagall." He finished, smiling at his former teacher.

"Hello, Mr. Potter. How are you?"

"Just fine thanks. And you?"

"I'm doing quite well, thank you."

"If you'll excuse me Minerva- Harry, if you'd like to come up to my office?" Dumbledore invited, standing up.

"Thank you, sir." Harry answered, following him out of the Great Hall and through the twisting corridors until they were in front of the familiar gargoyle.

"Canary Cream." Dumbledore said, and it opened. Harry stifled a laugh. Once they were seated inside the office, Harry explained why he was there.

"So," He finished telling Dumbledore about the threats, "Have you been getting any threatening messages?"

"Well, Harry. As you of all people know, people in the spot light get all kinds of mail, from all kinds of people." Harry nodded, "I usually get some sort of threat about twice a week, "Do this or I'll…", but I rarely take them too seriously. However, if they are contacting the Aurors, that could mean a number of things. It sounds like, from what you've told me, that there is only one person involved. I'll strengthen the wards on Hogwarts and add a few new protection spells. Hopefully that will do the trick. Have you done a tracking spell on the notes yet?"

"They're doing it now. I should find out the results tomorrow sometime."

"Very good. Now, on to happier topics, how are the wedding plans for Mr. Ron Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger going?"

"Quite well. I think Hermione's starting to go out of her mind, what with everything she has to do, but as far as I know, everything is falling into place. She and Ginny picked out bridesmaid's dresses today; she picked up the invitations, so you should be getting one soon along with the entire staff; Celestina Warbeck has agreed to sing at the reception, and they're trying to decide on a caterer. It's chaotic, but they're both have the time of their lives."

"That's wonderful." Dumbledore said, with that familiar twinkle in his eye. "Will you be staying at Hogwarts tonight, or have you made other arrangements?"

"No, thank you, but I'll stay with Sirius, I haven't seen him in a while. I'll come back tomorrow to help with the spells. I also have a date to go to Fred and George's joke shop with Andy." He grinned. Dumbledore returned the smile.

"Ah, yes. Young Miss Weasley. It's so quiet only having one of them here." They both laughed.

* * *

Harry walked along one of the residential roads in Hogsmeade a half an hour later, enjoying the quiet and calm of the village. Once he'd gotten out of hearing distance of The Three Broomsticks all he could hear was the soft rustle of the wind through the trees. It was so peaceful, almost serene, even. He turned onto a small path that led through a picket fence and up to a nice sized cottage. There were lights shining through the windows and Harry could hear grumbling as someone inside got up and headed to open the door. As the knob turned, he could make out what was being said.

"Mathilde, I'm telling you Remus won't be back for another week! You can see him then, but in the meantime, stop bothering me!"

Sirius Black yanked the door open and his jaw dropped. "Harry!"

"Well, I'm not Mathilde, whoever she is, and I must confess, after hearing the way you must treat her, I'm rather glad of the fact. Hey Sirius." Sirius Black was still, at forty-five, a very handsome man, and it showed even more so when he laughed, which he did now.

"Come on in Harry. Mathilde's my annoying next-door divinator/

neighbor who happens to be madly in love with Remus. Poor guy. She's been by four times today looking for him. For some reason she refuses to believe he's out of town and that that's why he's not at his own house. She seems to think he's in here, hiding from her. Not that it'd be a bad idea. What brings you to Hogsmeade, o' godson of mine?"

"Work." Harry said simply, "I had to go visit Dumbledore at Hogwarts, and won't be going home till tomorrow or the next day. Do you mind if I crash here?"

"Crash away." Sirius said, "My home is your home, and all that codswallop. Besides, you can answer the door the next time Mathilde comes by. Maybe she'll believe you." They both laughed and after chatting for a little while, Harry decided to turn in. It had been a long day, and he knew tomorrow would be, too. His only thought before his head hit the pillow was: 'It's been a very weird day.'

//
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