The Sugar Quill
Author: lilahp (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Unfortunate Circumstances  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter One

Chapter One




“There is many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip.”


 - Hazlett: English Proverbs




Must be the full moon, the doctor decided. That might be one of the reasons explaining it.


Quite a few more strange patients than usual for a warm summer night had filed in this evening, he thought, and according to past superstition, the full moon could and would be blamed. This phenomenon, called the lunar effect, was sometimes held to be true, especially among medical types. Like the former widespread belief in magic, it was supposed to have begun in the Middle Ages.


However, this particular belief – in increased crime, accidents, illness, odd behavior, even aggression during a full moon – had persisted until today, even among people who should know better. This certainly included his staff at the hospital. 



As examples, first up tonight had been a couple of sisters who had somehow mistaken spray epoxy for hair spray. In a manner defying rational explanation, they had managed to glue themselves together. After that as corroborating evidence had come a complicated mishap involving a construction crew, a ladder, and a crane - plus lots of broken stained glass.


Finally, the ER staff had faced an extremely harrowing domestic disturbance, involving mistaken identities with two sets of married identical twins. It seemed that one couple was a bit more, well, married than the other.



Notwithstanding the moon and its possible controls, by this point those cases, plus most of the evening’s other maladies and injuries, had finally been seen to. The head physician at last had a chance to look up. Now he and the rest of his department could better focus their attention upon those who were still present.  


Let’s see… He flipped pages, looking over records. Here’s one… A minor, no parents… While checking the patient over, a nurse had gotten preliminary details. Hmmm… He scratched his head absently. There was something about this one… Something familiar… Had he been here before?


And if so, why?





In the ER waiting room, best friend Ronald Weasley tentatively crumpled the Styrofoam cup. He’d just tried this Muggle drink called coffee, since his father had mentioned it once. To him, the mud near Hagrid’s hut would surely have tasted better, and his scalded tongue, complaining, agreed. Still, it was about all they had, and he did need to stay awake.


How long have I been doing this? he thought, wondering how many hours he’d spent waiting for Harry to get fixed up. All part of the job. That – and praying.  


The cut on Harry’s head had come with a lot of blood, he remembered, shuddering.


Ron wished the two of them had known how to Apparate, so that they wouldn’t have had to drive. He didn’t have any Floo powder, had no idea where any Portkeys were, and certainly hadn’t stuck around to use that house’s fireplace. His family had gotten the old car back earlier in the summer, but it couldn’t fly any more, so this had been the closest place to go. He had to admit, however, that at certain times during the drive he felt as if the car had, indeed, taken flight. 


On the way to the hospital, with Ron adamant that Harry keep talking so as not to pass out, Harry had told him what had happened. The whole time, he’d insisted that it had all been just an accident. If Ron hadn’t come up on him when he did, he might even have believed it. However, when Ron asked Harry about the bruises on his face, the past champion of the Triwizard Tournament hadn’t answered.


Before the hospital staff had come into the treatment room, Ron heard still more excuses. Even though he was sick and woozy, Harry had stuck to his story. When Ron asked questions, though, Harry no longer wanted to talk. By then, worn to a frazzle, Ron had had enough.



“Why can’t you fight back?”  Ron had asked him, point-blank, flinging up both arms in concern and frustration.


As he had watched, Ron noticed that his friend, the one who many thought was the literal embodiment of hope for the wizarding world, still was quite short and slight. For his age, a lot of weight seemed always to rest upon those slim and weary shoulders. After a long minute, just as Ron was about to repeat himself, Harry had answered. In a voice so low and soft Ron had had to strain to hear it, Harry finally replied. 


Of course you know why.” 


            And, as Ron recalled now, come to think about it, he did. If Harry had gotten upset and used magic – like before – he might have been kicked out of school. Harry would put up with quite a lot to continue to attend Hogwarts.


Then, as if deciding to explain further at last, the orphan son of James and Lily had told him a bit more. Harry had said that, earlier, Vernon had been drunk. That it didn’t happen very often. And that his uncle would never do anything serious.


“I just have to stay out of his way one more day.”



Glancing down at his fingers, Ron’s train of thought was interrupted, as he noticed the coffee had had one welcome effect. His hands weren’t shaking any longer. Between stopping the bleeding, trying to keep Harry awake, and driving, it had been quite a wild ride. 



Ron recalled the latter part of their conversation. Harry had hesitated for a moment.


“Don’t tell,” he had said. “You won’t tell anyone, right?” he asked.


The living legacy for the ancient Gryffindors then paused. “Ron, you can’t,” he said, looking Ron straight in the eye, serious as Percy.


Give me your word. Give me your word right now.”  





Over in the main station of the emergency room, the head physician, curious, asked for assistance as he turned on his computer. As the lights and sounds came to life, he said, “Nurse? I’d like you to help me look up a name. I need to see if – ”


Hand over the phone, she interrupted him.


“Doctor, an accident’s coming in – a fire from the west end. Quite a few people. Shall we call in other staff?” 


Adjusting the stethoscope around his neck, the doctor immediately shifted gears. He sprang into action, ordering supplies and equipment. Moving to the nurses’ station, he checked for additional resources and personnel. Well, let’s get going then.


For the moment, the cool blue light of his own computer screen blinked, ignored.





Back in the fluorescent low lights of the waiting room, Ron rubbed the back of his neck, then slowly ran a hand through his wiry red hair. Before talking with Harry, while his best friend had been in X-ray (whatever the heck that was), he recalled slipping out of the hospital for a few short minutes.



Now suddenly quite uncomfortable, he unfolded his long legs from the orange vinyl chair, tossing the cup into the trash. He started to pace.  


Thinking back again to their latest conversation, Ron remembered that he had, indeed, made a pledge. He could and did assure Harry – the expected heir of Dumbledore – the one who’d defeated a dragon, a sphinx, and a basilisk – that he would not tell anyone. Oddly enough, it had been an easy vow to make, because at the time, the pledge had been technically true.



Even though Harry would be too stubborn to admit it, Ron mused as he moved up and down the floor, some things are for his own good.  He considered, somewhat uneasily, what Harry had not asked him. If he had, he might have gotten a different answer. Harry had not thought to ask Ron if he had already told. 


 After all, Ron thought, a promise isn’t necessarily retroactive. 





The moon continued to shine, its own secrets, too, still unrevealed.

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