The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Squib Summer  Chapter: Prologue: The Predators' Party
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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.

Squib Summer a Harry Potter fan-fic, by Ozma and Jelsemium
a sequel to Ozma’s Squib Caretaker

Harry Potter and all recognizable characters are owned by J. K. Rowling and are used without permission or intent to make a profit. The less recognizable characters: The Grey Stalker, the Harpy, The Caoimhe Bean-Sidhe (Cavvy Banshee), Gormghlaith Mac Gabhann (Gor-em-lee Mac Gavin) and the Bookwyrm were created by Jill Weber (Jelsemium) and are used as shameless self promotions ala Gilderoy Lockhart.

Prologue One: The Predators’ Party
The Sphinx sipped daintily on her Crème de Menthe as she surveyed the occupants of the human pub known as the Leaky Cauldron. Long ago, gatherings like this had provided her with amusement and sustenance. Then humans had started getting fussy about being eaten if they lost a riddle contest. So now all she got here were drinks and the occasional floor show when some Muggle-born's parents realized what she was. She smiled to herself and stroked the breast of her kestrel. Tom the Bartender wasn't happy about letting her come in, even with assurances that she wasn't here for food. However, even Tom wasn't likely to argue with her patron.

*******

The Harpy settled herself into a corner and tried to be inconspicuous. She knew that the Sphinx wasn't hungry; knew that because she knew the Sphinx's patron did not permit such things. However, the Sphinx was still part feline and the Harpy was part avian and the two species would never mingle comfortably. Maybe it was time to go. She would have left except that she was hungry and the Leaky Cauldron had the best shepherd's pie in England… even if they weren't made with real shepherds.

*******

Nagini was hungry. Her master would not let her feed properly. "The time has not yet come, my pet," he hissed. "We'll show those fools not to take us lightly. Until then, I need you to lay low. Even eating Muggles might draw too much attention to us, and I am not ready for a direct confrontation. Nor can I afford to let you have any of my Death Eaters." He'd smiled after that. "Although, if certain of them don't get in line… well, some have more than one child. Losing one or two of the extras might teach them the error of their ways."

She had to be satisfied with that for the moment, so she was forced to make do with something else. Her errand for her master permitted her to go to Nocturne Alley, which was close enough for her to slip over to the Leaky Cauldron. She couldn't eat any of the patrons, but she could sneak into the cellar to capture a few rats and steal a bottle or two of wine.

*******

Caoimhe was on the prowl. Gliding invisibly down Diagon Alley in search of Gormghlaith Mac Gabhann, last of the Colla Mac Gabhann clan. The woman didn't know that she was all alone in the world.

However, she would as soon as the Bean-Sidhe fulfilled her duties. The mortal cow was being difficult, however. The Bean-Sidhe had no idea what the woman did for a living, but it apparently involved Apparating hither and yon like a bloody will-o-the-wisp. The Bean-Sidhe gnashed her teeth as she sensed her target apparating out of Diagon Alley and apparently out of England all together.

Mortals! They had no appreciation for a hard working fairy woman's tight schedule. The Bean-Sidhe sighed and gave up for now. She'd tell the cow about her family soon enough. Right now, she needed a drink. She decided to head over to the Leaky Cauldron for a good stiff shot of whiskey. Bartenders were the only mortals she could bear to deal with, anyway.

********

Tom the Bartender sighed as he polished the spotless bar top with an equally spotless towel. The bar was going to lose money today; the longer certain patrons stayed on, the more they would lose. Very few wizards cared to spend time drinking and rendering themselves helpless in the presence of predators; particularly predators of the anthropophagus variety.

"Tom! Another Crème de Menthe, if you please." 'Or even if you don't please,' ran the subtext. The speaker, a leonine female sitting boldly in the middle of the bar like Sphinxes commonly mingled with mortals, smiled. "Don't look so grim, Tom. The times, they change whether we wish them to or not."

"Yes, ma’am," Tom replied in Basic Bartender Neutral Tones.

"Maybe I could cheer you up a bit. Would you care to hear a riddle? I've got a new one off the Bookwyrm not a fortnight ago."

"No, thank you, ma’am," Tom said in long suffering tones.

The Sphinx chortled in her drink and pulled some parchment out from the pouch around her neck. She knew her Patron WOULD enjoy this riddle. So, she might as well make use of her new kestrel to send it to him.

Tom shot a glance to the back corner. 'At least the Harpy was making an attempt to be inconspicuous,' he thought. 'Of course, the Harpy didn't have the backing of such a powerful wizard, either.' He was glad when the Harpy's order came up, though. Quiet and relatively clean as the bird woman was today, she still made him nervous.

"Here is your shepherd's pie, ma’am," he said politely. "Will you be having anything else?"

"Yes, my good man," the Harpy rasped. Her eyes glittered as if with a private joke. "I'll have some blood pudding to follow and another Guinness Stout, please."

"Yes, ma’am," Tom said with a slight nod as he moved to fill her order. He looked around to see if there was anybody else in need of service. He sighed when a green-skinned woman swept through the wall.

"Tom! A whiskey and soda to wet my whistle. Be quick, I need something to calm meself down after a rough day. Honestly, working with mortals is enough to make me scream!" said the Bean-Sidhe.

'Oh, goody,' Tom thought. 'What else could go wrong?'

It was the wrong thing to even think. However, Tom wasn't the one who was going to pay for tempting fate like that.

Prologue 2: The Boy Who Would Rather Be Anywhere Else

"I don't want him to go," whined Dudley. "He always spoils everything." Actually, the grossly overweight teen was afraid that his cousin would make fun of him when he tried on clothes. He knew he'd make fun of Harry, if his Mum would ever be stupid enough to waste money on new clothes for his abnormal cousin.

"Now, Dinky Duddy-ums," his mother cooed. "You know we have to get you a nice suit for this wedding. Daddy's new boss is getting married and you want to look nice, don't you?" She patted his shoulder anxiously.

Harry Potter, sitting just out of her peripheral vision, smirked at Dudley. Harry didn't consider himself to be much to look at, especially with the scar, but at least he didn't need to get a custom fitted circus tent.

Dudley scowled. He wished his mother would stop speaking to him as if he were three years old. He wished that Potter would drop dead or something. And he really didn't want to go to some swanky shop where the hired help, and Potter, would smirk at him while he tried on clothes.

Petunia couldn't see Harry, but she could see Dudley's expression easily enough. Without turning around, she said, "Wipe that smirk off your face, Potter. You're coming with us, but don't expect to lollygag around in the shop. I'll not have decent people exposed to you."

Harry sighed. "Yes, Aunt Petunia," he said with as much meekness as he could muster. It apparently wasn't enough, because Petunia boxed his ears as she passed.

Dudley smirked as he 'accidentally' knocked into Harry and bounced him off the wall.

"The taxi's here. Come along then, and no funny stuff! You'll get no lunch if you don't behave yourself."

Harry sighed. He hadn't had any breakfast, since Aunt Petunia wouldn't let him eat until his chores were done. Then she'd insisted that he change into his least disreputable set of clothing. Now he knew why.

Uncle Vernon had been bitterly complaining about the cost of taxis, but taking Dudley on the tube or a bus was just asking for trouble.

Harry managed to squeeze himself into the back seat with Dudley while his aunt sat up front with the driver. "Behave yourself or you'll walk home," Petunia snapped.

Harry sighed again. It was going to be a bad day. If he'd had a real idea of how bad, he probably would have thrown himself out of the taxi right then. It would have saved him some time and the end results would have been much the same.

******

Outside the Leaky Cauldron, in Muggle London, a grey-clad female stalked the streets. She was close to starvation, but she did not enter the Leaky Cauldron, nor did she approach the Muggle food sellers. They would do her no good, for she did not eat solid food. She licked her lips and ran her tongue along the special tooth that ran along her upper palate. The venom sac was almost painfully full, it had been so long since she'd had a chance to use it.

She dared not go into the Leaky Cauldron in search of prey. There was food in there, but all the magic was locked up inside wizarding folk who could defend themselves. Today there were even other Predators, and the Grey Stalker did not care to tangle with such. Like many predators, she preferred to target the young. Children's magic was especially easy for her to feed on, and they didn't have the control to fend her off. Magic children with non-magical parents were the most vulnerable, which is why she haunted the streets just outside of the entrance to Diagon Alley, waiting for the unwary and the unlucky…

To Be Continued.       Author’s Notes: My thanks to Jelsemium, my wonderful co-writer! Check out her stories, available at the Sugarquill Library and ff.net! "Squib Summer" (which has eight chapters, plus prologue & epilogue) is the last story that I have completed. Sadly, I’ve got writers block at the moment. And part of me wants to wait for OoP to come out before I write any more stories, so I can see how far I’ve strayed from canon... Notes for ‘Squib Apprentice’: Cristalfairy: Thank you for reviewing! Hagrid is one of my favorite characters too. I love writing Remus but haven’t had another good story idea for him yet. Mr. Roberts III: Thank you for reviewing! Going to the pub is a social activity that Hagrid enjoys. And he is supervised. When he’s bit older, I suspect that Dumbledore may take him traveling to broaden his horizons. Murasaki99: Thank you for reviewing! Sending the boys home early was Pringle’s idea; the old grump didn’t expect them to leave the road "and go looking for trouble" as he would put it. Now he and Ogg will not allow their apprentices to wander about on their own. (Neither groundskeeper nor caretaker are especially powerful wizards on their own, but they’ve had practice at combining their magic and both of them are fierce fighters.) I love the idea of Argus being looked after by a dynasty of Norrises! Ara Kane: Thank you for reviewing! Poor Hagrid. He still has a tendency to drink too much when things are upsetting him, and Dumbledore still looks after him. I always enjoy how Rowling writes the friendship between Dumbledore and Hagrid. The Good Doctor Monaco & Whiskers: Thank you for reviewing! The three murder victims were fighting against Grindelwald. They were killed by him and/or his followers. Dumbledore probably knows who they are, but Filch and Hagrid may never find out their names. Sheila, my cat is an indoor cat. One of my kids put her out in the snow for a few moments to see what she would do. Sheila looked offended that such a thing as snow exists. Pogonia: Thank you for reviewing! Yes, poor Filch is dense. And he’s reluctant to trust and slow to get over things that have hurt him. In most respects he’s Hagrid’s opposite, which makes writing about the two of them together so much fun. Thank you for recommending "And the Hat Said ‘Gryffindor!’" Great story!! (I came, I read, I reviewed...) Dumbledore is warm and compassionate as well as twinkly. His treatment of Filch in CoS impressed me. I believe that he’s fond of Filch and respects him. I like the idea of Filch being one of Dumbledore’s proteges. I’d love to write a Filch and Snape backstory, but I haven’t haven’t gotten any ideas to flow for me yet. Maybe OoP will reveal some more about Snape’s past? I hope so. Sabre: Thank you for reviewing! My impression of Filch is that he’s braver than he thinks he is. He searched the dungeons in PoA, apparently on his own, when Sirius Black could have been hiding down there. As far as anyone knew, Sirius was insane. What chance would a Squib have had against him? But Filch did his job, and no one seemed to doubt that he could. Here’s the story with Filch and Harry in London... Kazza: Thank you for reviewing! Young Hagrid, Ogg, Pringle and Filch were fun to write. Jestana: Thank you for reviewing! Filch wouldn’t want to be considered a typical example of Hufflepuff courage. He’d point to Cedric Diggory instead. "He was as brave and noble as any Gryffindor, with a lot more common sense. Poor lad." Sreya: Thank you for reviewing! I’m glad that you enjoyed young Filch and young Hagrid. They were fun to write! Lilac: Thank you for reviewing! Filch didn’t think about the implications of saving Hagrid, he didn’t consider himself a wizard. It’s possible that he’s even unaware of wizard’s debts at this point in time. Hagrid never realized how close he came to dying, he wasn’t thinking about the danger to himself. (Hagrid does rescue Filch from Lucius Malfoy in the Forbidden Forest many years later, which could be considered a repayment of the debt.)
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