The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Squib Summer  Chapter: Chapter One: The Boy Who Was Followed
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Squib Summer
Squib Summer

A Harry Potter fan-fic

Sequel to Ozma’s "Squib Caretaker"

Chapter One (of Eight): The Boy Who Was Followed

By Ozma and Jelsemium

The Music Store, 'Musically Inclined,' was created by Jill Weber (Jelsemium).

The Tattered Cover Bookstore is actually in Denver, Colorado.

All recognizable characters were created by J. K. Rowling

The less recognizable humans aren't based on anyone in particular. The less recognizable creatures are loosely based on folklore and mythology







The spell's presence was powerful and subtle. It was unlike anything I'd felt before; a deep musical note that seemed to resonate through the smoke-filled taproom of the Leaky Cauldron.

I looked up, startled, to discover that no one else seemed to have sensed it. The murmurs of conversation all around me did not cease. Even Mrs. Norris, curled up asleep on my lap, did not stir.

Feeling like a fool, I gazed into the depths of my drink. I'd ordered a gillywater. Being around all the Muggle-repelling spells in London was enough to make me feel a bit ill, without getting drunk into the bargain.

"Enjoy London," the Headmaster had said, yesterday evening when he'd put me on the Knight Bus. "I may be gone before you return, but Hagrid will still be at the Castle for the next three days. After that, it's not likely that you will have another chance to get away for a while."

"I don't need to get away," I'd grumbled.

That was a lie and Dumbledore knew it. The Professors had all left Hogwarts for the summer, headed for points unknown. I knew nothing about what tasks lay in store for them. I knew better than to ask. I was especially worried about Minerva. Very recently the lovely Professor had become more than a dear friend to me.

Unable to do anything to help her or anyone else, I had gone grimly about my summer chores as best as I could. How could I be anything but grim at the prospect of cleaning up after a beast the size of Fluffy? And there was my redecorating project in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. But I didn't want to think about that.

"A change of scene will do you good," Dumbledore had said, firmly. Then he'd given me a few days off to take care of some long-neglected business in Diagon Alley.

The Headmaster is usually right about most things. But at the moment, the scenery in the Leaky Cauldron was a bit too "changed" for my comfort. There was most definitely a Sphinx curled regally lion-like in front of the bar. She was surveying the room through long almond shaped eyes while she sipped at a drink.

And my nose told me of the Harpy, even before I spied the gleam of brassy wings in a shadowy corner. At least she wasn't flying about, putting people off their breakfasts. Quite the opposite, she'd put some effort into making herself tidy, enough so that the harpy-stench wasn't too offensive to the other beings in the taproom. Nevertheless, everyone was giving that corner a wide berth.

And surely that fey creature who'd just drifted into the taproom surrounded by a haze of faint light, was a Banshee! What in Merlin's name was the Leaky Cauldron coming to?

But when the unknown spell began to ring inside the very hollows of my bones, I forgot about the Sphinx, the Harpy and the Banshee. Moving slowly, almost against my will, I stood. I picked up Mrs. Norris. My cat made a small indignant sound when I interrupted her nap. With her cradled in my arms, I moved towards the door leading into Muggle-London.

Odd, that this potent spell was coming from the Muggle-side, not from Diagon Alley...

If I'd had any sense, I wouldn't have gone to investigate. Perhaps I've been spending too much time around Gryffindors lately, it's my only excuse. Of course Minerva would have gone to investigate. She's brave. She wouldn't sit and stare into her gillywater, waiting for the feeling to go away.

I stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron. The spell's power made me stagger. A woman seemed to be one of its focal points. A thin, blonde woman. The spell swirled around her without truly touching her. Near the woman was a very fat blond boy. He provided another focal point for the spell. The corona of ancient magic around the pair of them was so strong that I couldn't tell if they were wizarding folk or Muggles.

Their party had a third member. He trailed behind the other two, dressed in clothing that I could tell was shabby despite my unfamiliarity with Muggle fashion.

It took me a moment to recognize him.

*******

This was worse than Harry imagined. Not only were they in London, they'd halted just outside the Leaky Cauldron. Harry could almost smell the butterbeer from where he stood outside the music shop. Truthfully, it wasn't even a cool drink he was longing for, although he was feeling parched. It was the congenial atmosphere. He knew that, at the very least, Tom the bartender would be at hand.

Harry was almost to the point where he'd take the Potions dungeons, Snape and all, to listening to his cousin whine any more. Dudley had stopped in front of the record shop and had started badgering Petunia for a new CD, and a new CD player to go with it. Dudley had broken his third or fourth CD player just two days ago when he'd had a tantrum about going to this wedding of Vernon's boss.

Petunia was on the verge of giving in when she noticed Harry staring longingly in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron. She glanced in that direction, then scowled because she saw nothing there. Normally, she'd assume that her freak of a nephew was just staring into space, but there was something in his expression that told her that he was seeing something dear to him. Something she couldn't see. Which meant that it was part of the freak world. "Come along, now," she snarled, hauling at both boys' arms.

Dudley shot Harry a dirty look. "You always spoil everything," he whined. "I was that close to a new CD Player!" He held up his pudgy thumb and forefinger.

Harry snorted. "Well, if you didn't go around destroying your things, you wouldn't need to replace them so often," he said.

Petunia gave him a dirty look, but refrained from hitting him in public. Dragging two recalcitrant teen-aged boys through the muggy heat of a busy London morning would be enough to try the patience of a saint, or a Hufflepuff. Petunia Dursley was neither. Things got worse as Petunia began to notice the odd looks that Potter was getting from passer-by. Typically, she blamed Potter for his shabby appearance, although she knew full well that he was wearing the best clothing that he'd been given.

When one of the onlookers actually made a comment, Petunia snapped. "I can't do a thing with this brat. You're welcome to take him, see if you can do a better job of making him behave."

*******

That caught her attention. Abandoned children fell into the Grey Stalker's purview. Though she had to admit, if only to herself, that her definition of 'abandoned' children probably wouldn't match that of their parents. She defined any argument between such a parent and such a child as 'abandonment.' It gave her a far wider choice of prey, for it was the rare child indeed who never argued with his or her parents. However, this offer, coming voluntarily from the boy's guardian, most definitely put this tasty morsel within her reach.

*******

When I saw The Boy Who Lived, all the pieces fell into place. I'd heard the Headmaster speak of an ancient magic that would protect Harry when he was in the care of his family. The woman and the boy… they must be Potter's Muggle relations. The ones that no one at Hogwarts seemed to think very highly of! Was the family so poor that they had to dress Potter like a beggar? But the aunt and the cousin had been dressed well enough in their strange Muggle way. It was a puzzle.

By the time I'd collected my wits, Potter, the woman and the boy were out of my sight, hidden among the crowd of people on the street. They were getting further away, but I could still feel the power that bound the three of them. It would be easy enough for me to follow if I chose.

Mrs. Norris jumped lightly down from my arms. Taking a few steps in the direction that Potter and his family had gone, she looked back at me and gave a loud mew.

"Is it necessary go after him, my sweet?" I asked her. "He's with his family after all. It's none of our concern, really. Between his own magic and that protective spell around all of them, nothing harmful should be able to touch him."

Mrs. Norris flicked an ear at me in an impatient way and headed down the street, a small grey panther slinking through a forest of legs.

"Very well," I sighed. Mrs. Norris' opinions on such matters are not to be dismissed lightly. I followed her, pushing my way past staring Muggles. Some were snickering. Others wore expressions of concern and pity.

I glared. It wasn't as if I was doing anything unusual. I was merely speaking to my cat, not juggling purple balls of flame! Didn't Muggles ever talk to their cats?

Potter and his relations were getting further away. Mrs. Norris moves much faster than I do. Keeping her in sight wasn't easy. London was so hot, so many people, so many noisy, wretched cars!

I'd just followed Mrs. Norris across a busy thoroughfare (both of us escaped being struck by moving vehicles, in my case by inches) when I was assaulted by a sudden wave of foul magic.

At first the stench of Darkness was indistinguishable from the reek of a large metal container full of rubbish, standing in a shadowy alley between grubby brick buildings. By the time I realized the danger, it was already too late to defend myself.

Small hands, callused and strong, had seized my right arm in a grip as unbreakable as an iron manacle. I was swung forward, striking my head against the corner of one of the brick buildings.

The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back in the alley. Choking on the combined stink of garbage and Dark magic, I became aware that someone or something was gripping my shoulders and sniffing at me.

"Easy prey, this one, no need to waste my dart here. And there's some magic in him," a sibilant, female voice hissed. The creature was breathing in my face. Her breath was even worse than Fluffy's.

"But, how to get at it?" The voice was filled with frustration. "He's a tough old nut. Too hard to crack his shell! And the meal would be a meager one, hardly worth the time and effort. The boy will be sweeter meat. A succulent feast!" Now I could hear the foul thing licking her lips.

Could there be any doubt which boy she was referring to? Potter has a highly-developed gift for attracting trouble in every possible form. Merlin's Beard… couldn't he even walk down a street? Professor Snape swears up and down that Potter does this sort of thing on purpose. I have come to believe that the boy doesn't mean to attract danger, he can't help it, any more than poor Neville can help the fact that he's clumsy.

"You can't have the boy," I gasped, struggling to open my eyes. When I succeeded, my dubious reward was the sight of what appeared to be a small swarthy, dark-haired woman. She was dressed in shabby grey robes.

I didn't think that she was a Death Eater, or one of the Dark Lord's minions. The Darkness that surrounded her was different, far more ancient and terribly hungry.

She gave me an evil, predatory grin that seemed to contain far too many teeth. "Who's going to stop me then? You, Broken Wizard? Whatever small magic you have is locked away from you."

With a cackling laugh, she let my head drop to the pavement. The pain was like an explosion of Filibuster Fireworks in my skull.

*******

Clothes shopping is boring at the best of times, not that Harry was really familiar with it. His experience with buying clothes had been limited to walking into Madam Malkins', getting his robes hemmed and then going off to get ice cream. Buying dress robes (please, no Yule Ball next year!) might have been different, but Mrs. Weasley had done that chore for him.

Buying clothes for Dudley went beyond boring. Harry found himself wishing to be back in History of Magic. At least there he could put his head down and go to sleep. Here he had to stay awake and guard Aunt Petunia's purse and all the purchases. There was exactly one package in there for him, his new underwear. He'd asked for some in front of too many witnesses for Aunt Petunia to say 'no'. He'd pay for it later, he knew, but he wasn't about to pass up a chance for some decent fitting under things.

Dudley wasn't helping matters any. His constant whining was finally getting on even his doting mother's nerves. "That was the last fitting, Duddy-kins," she cooed. "Now we can have a nice tea before going home."

"I want a hamburger," whined Dudley.

Harry actually sympathized. He had never been to any of Aunt Petunia's teas, of course, but having cleaned up after them, he'd noticed that the food seemed to consist of undersized sandwiches and little-bitty cakes too small to even taste. He'd rather have a hamburger, too. Not that he was going to get either tea or burger, he sighed to himself.

He was startled out of his reverie when Aunt Petunia scooped the packages out of his arms. "We're going inside for a final fitting. There's a good restaurant in there that serves tea. Stay here and I'll bring you the leftovers."

Leftovers? From a meal of Dudley's? Harry sighed, but Petunia just glared at him. "If you're not here when we come out, you'll have to make your own way home. I'm not putting myself out over a brat like you."

Harry sighed again as Petunia and Dudley disappeared into the shop's cool interior. He considered slipping back to the Leaky Cauldron, he didn't have any money on him, or even his Gringott's key, but he bet that Tom would give him credit. He got up and looked around, then gave up. All the different errands had him so turned around that he had no idea which way the Leaky Cauldron was from here. He slumped onto a bench and tried to remember the name of the stores that flanked the wizarding tavern.

"Are you all right, dear?"

Harry looked up to see a small, swarthy dark haired woman dressed in a shapeless grey pantsuit.

"You seemed a bit lost," the woman continued. There was something strange about her mouth. It reminded him somehow of some wild Japanese movie he'd caught Dudley watching once, where the actors words didn't synchronize with the lip movements.

A lifetime of being told not to talk to strangers combined with recent events to make him feel a trifle wary, if not outright paranoid. So Harry answered cautiously. "Erm, no, ma’am, I was just trying to remember the name of a record shop that we just passed. It was right next to a bookstore, too," Harry thought that was safe enough. All the lessons in manners he'd gotten from his Aunt actually agreed with his first year DADA classes… keep a civil tongue in your head when spoken to.

"Do you mean the ones that flank the Leaky Cauldron?"

Harry's eyes went wide. Then her dark eyes flickered to his forehead and he realized she knew who he was. "Yes, ma’am," he replied, shifting his weight uneasily.

"The music store is called Musically Inclined. It's as Muggle as they come. The bookstore is called The Tattered Cover. You can find a great many Muggle works there, and a great many more Wizarding books in there. The proprietors were there long before Diagon Alley was closed to Muggles."

"Thank you, Ma’am," Harry said politely. He gave her his best 'I have no idea what McGonagall is talking about, so I hope she doesn't call on me' look."

Would you like directions, Mr. Potter?" the woman sounded happy. For some reason, Harry didn't share her emotion. What he wanted was for his aunt and cousin to come out of the store so they could head for home. Even more, he wanted Dumbledore or Hagrid to show up. Even Snape would have been welcome at this point.

"No thank you," Harry said. "I was just wondering."

"Not thinking of how good some of Tom's shepherd's pie would taste right now?"

Now that she mentioned it, Harry's thoughts drifted that way. His stomach growled. "Thank you, but I have to wait until my Aunt Petunia gets back."

"Such an obedient child," she said that like it was an advantage to her. "Where is your family?"

"Having tea," Harry said, growing more uneasy by the moment.

"And you didn't want any," the woman said firmly. "I don't blame you. Little cucumber sandwiches never did much for me." She paused and her mouth twisted up into a tight little smile. One that showed no teeth. Harry was having doubts about which species she belonged to.

"I have a suggestion, young Potter," The woman turned and pointed to a fish and chips shop with a walkup window. "The owner of that shop is a kindly woman with a great many grandchildren. She loathes to see children go hungry. If you offer to lend a hand tidying up the place, she would be happy to give you a bite to eat."

"Thank you, Ma’am," Harry said.

"You are quite welcome, Mr. Potter," the woman(?) inclined her head and walked away.

Harry watched after her until she disappeared into the crowd. He looked over at the fish and chips shop wistfully. He had no idea how long Aunt Petunia and Dudley would be, and he hadn't eaten since yesterday evening. And all he'd had then was diet food.

He decided that it couldn't hurt to ask.

It took a while to get to the front of the line, apparently they were a popular eating place. When he got to the front of the line, he spoke to a sweet faced woman that didn't look old enough to be anybody's grandmother. But when he told her that he was waiting for his relatives, but had forgotten his lunch money, she suggested the same solution as the grey woman had.

"We're awfully busy, sweetie. If I can get you to clear off the tables, then I don't have to send one of my cooks out there to clean up. That will help me out tremendously. When you finish, come around to the back door and I'll give you a bite."

When Harry finished the clean up, he looked around. The line at the front of the counter had thinned out considerably. The sweet faced woman smiled at him and pointed to an alley that presumably lead to the back door. Harry nodded. He looked back towards Beau Brummels. Still no sign of his aunt or Dudley. He estimated that he'd only been working for half an hour or so. He could get his food and bring it back to where Aunt Petunia had left him. The set up seemed almost too good, but he couldn't see any flaw in the plan. So he went around to the back.

*******

The fish and chips woman, who was as kindly as she looked, wondered why the boy never came for his food. Probably ran into the relatives he'd been waiting for, she decided. She never thought to search the alley. After all, there had been no unusual noises from there.

To Be Continued..

Ozma's Notes for "Squib Apprentice"

JOdel: Thanks for reviewing, and for clarifying the years and ages. You're right, I had pictured these events as taking place in the school year following Riddle's opening  of the Chamber. Poor Myrtle died so young. Every time I think of that I feel sad.

Oooh, 'Ramifications' is a GREAT story!! I loved the line about teen!Snape looking at Mrs. Beasley "as if she were an ingredient."

Violet Azure: Thank you for reviewing! Yes, exactly... Pringle wants to toughen Filch up a bit. Hagrid's a cutie at any age, but there's something irresistable about a young Hagrid.

I'd like to hope that canon-Filch's fanatical devotion to keeping the students in their dorms at night is at least partially motivated by a genuine wish to keep the brats (aka students) safe from harm.

Thank you for the kind words on the corpse-scene and the scene with Dumbledore. You had just the reactions that I was hoping for.

It would be fun to write a MWPP era story, but I haven't had any good ideas yet.
 
 

Authors' Notes for "Squib  Summer"

Karie: Thank you!  Ozma & Jelsemium

Sabre: Thanks for the review! I do have a story where Harry stays out of trouble for a few days: "A Harry Situation" at GryffindorTower.net and Fanfiction.net. --Jelsemium

Sabre: Thank you for reviewing! -- Ozma
 

Cindie: I second that! I hope to see more Ozma stories before Book Five comes out! --Jelsemium

Cindie: Thank you for reviewing! I'd like to write more, but I've still got writer's block. --Ozma
 

The Good Doctor Monaco: Yep, it does start out like a bar joke, doesn't it? Hope you like the pay-off! ** Sanity? Amtrak unloaded my sanity at Needles, California, thank you very much. So I don't worry if other people have any. --Jelsemium

The Good Doctor Monaco: Thank you for reviewing! The Prologues were all Jelsemium's, which probably accounts for the difference in writing style. Jelse sent me the Prologues and invited Argus to "come out and play." The other chapters and the epilogues are a collaborative effort. --Ozma

Lilac: Thanks! This was one of my favorite stories to work on! Working with Ozma is a lot of fun! And I think that comes across in the stories. (Although Harry won't have too much fun.) --Jelsemium

Lilac: Thanks for reviewing! Jelse writes great humor and her characterizations are spot-on. --Ozma

rabbit: I don't remember anything in canon about Petunia driving or about the Dursleys having more than one car. (Rowling did say that Vernon had a company car.) I decided they were too cheap to have two cars, but that's just my impression. ** Yes, Harry can be quite the little stinker. He's had a few laughs at Dudley's expense. Something that can happen even when siblings get along well. One thing I like about him is that he hasn't let himself become completely downtrodden by the Dursleys. I suspect that attitude will be his eventual salvation. --Jelsemium

rabbit: Thank you for reviewing! YAAAAAAAAAAY!!! You've posted a new chapter of  "Snape & Dursleys!" -Ozma
 
 
 

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