The Sugar Quill
Author: Sweeney Agonistes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Partisan Warfare  Chapter: Chapter One
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A/N: To new readers, welcome

A/N: To new readers, welcome. To Constant Readers, as Mr. King himself refers to you lot…if you think you’ve seen this before, you have. It’s a rewrite, preciousssss, and I hope you’ll find it better than it was before.

 

I’m warning you now – when you combine the forces of Knockturn Alley and the Dark Tower, strange things happen to your head. Especially when you’re not familiar with the Stephen King canon. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Thanks go to Zsenya for her original beta of this – without her, I’d have a lot more work to do in the rewrite.

 

 

 

 

He wears the dull shockface of refugees at border checkpoints and the gates of deathcamps. His is the emptied visage of someone who has spent too long in the slippery opopanax landscape of slippage.

 

-Stephen King and Peter Straub, Black House

 

 

Sherrinford Shiftlet admittedly saw many strange things as a result of his shop in Knockturn Alley – with a name like the Lethifold’s Lair, how could one avoid interesting occurrences?

 

Shiftlet suspected that many of the strange things he saw were due to the fact that many of his customers treated him like he was invisible – a secondary character, always on the edge of things. Shiftlet didn’t mind. He found that he was freer to observe that way. And the things that one could observe in Knockturn Alley were most interesting.

 

For instance, a few years ago, Lucius Malfoy had come in the Lethifold’s Lair, wanting to dispose of a few of the former Tom Riddle’s school things. Shiftlet had heard from Albus Dumbledore about the adventures of young Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets – as well as what had happened to the Weasley girl because of Lucius Malfoy and his antiques. He was only too happy to oblige Malfoy – he had given Malfoy as close to a simpering smile as he could give and taken the dingy old notebooks in hand as one who was receiving some priceless treasure.

           

And as soon as Malfoy had left the Lair, Shiftlet owled Albus Dumbledore to make arrangements for the Headmaster to pick up the items. Shiftlet did not choose to get involved publicly with such activities as Dumbledore organized; that would be damned foolish in his line of work. Shiftlet did not really prefer one side or the other – Dark Arts or Otherwise – but between non-extremist order and a despotic sort of anarchy, Dumbledore’s side won every time.

 

Besides that, Shiftlet had his own debts to pay.

 

He straightened as Walden Macnair entered the shop. Shiftlet watched Macnair through hooded eyes – seeing the menacing bulk of the executioner made him feel more gaunt than usual. Macnair said gruffly, “Shiftlet,” and nodded.

 

“Mr. Macnair,” Shiftlet returned. “Is there anything I may do for you?” Best to be solicitous to an executioner, he thought with a private, dark quirk of a smile that he quickly turned into something decidedly more deferential.

 

“Heard tell that Lucius Malfoy sold a certain grindstone to you a few weeks back,” Macnair said.

 

Shiftlet paused, then nodded. The pause was just for show, of course. He was one up on that old twit OllivanderOllivander remembered everything he’d sold; Sherrinford T. Shiftlet remembered everything he’d ever sold and bought.

 

Seeing that he would get no more response out of Shiftlet, Macnair said, “I’d be interested in buying it.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot as a student would in front of a particularly frightening professor.

 

Shiftlet was privately amused at how squeamish customers became around him – being laconic tended to make most people nervous. He nodded at Macnair and disappeared into the back room without a word. Let him stew a bit, Shiftlet thought. He quickly found the grindstone and levitated it over to his desk. Before lowering his wand, he brushed some clutter to the side. With great anticipation, he sat down and, pulling out a telescoping pipe from one of the many cubbyholes in front of him, looked with interest through the modified periscope.

 

In the main part of the shop, Macnair was pacing around nervously, looking at the shadows of the room as though a lethifold was about to jump on him. Appropriate, thought Shiftlet with a small smile.

 

Macnair backed up – backed up some more – turned around and saw the collection of death masks lining the wall behind him –

 

Quick as a flash, Shiftlet levitated the grindstone before him and followed it into the shop. Right as the first beginnings of horror began to register on Macnair’s face, Shiftlet dropped the stone. It fell to the floor, striking the boards with a loud clunk. Macnair jumped.

 

Shiftlet smiled.

 

“Thirty Galleons,” he said, leaning on one of the display cases.

 

Macnair seemed to steel himself enough to be contemptuous of Shiftlet’s asking price. “For that thing?”

 

Shiftlet merely raised an eyebrow. “We both know where it came from…and what that means.” The unasked question hung in the air: A Dark grindstone for your Dark tendencies, Macnair…and now that Voldemort’s back on the horizon, he’ll have other uses for your axe besides the disposal of dangerous creatures. Do you pay thirty Galleons, or do I tell Lucius Malfoy about your…reluctance…to serve your Lord?

 

Macnair, big as he was, wasn’t stupid. He reached in the pocket of his robes and began to count coins.

 

Shiftlet made out a receipt and handed it to Macnair with a smile. “A pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Macnair.”

 

Macnair looked at him darkly, about to say something.

 

Shiftlet continued smiling, but raised his eyebrow one more time.

 

Macnair turned and left the shop quickly, the grindstone hovering behind him like a malevolent, stony cloud.

 

Shiftlet quietly locked the door behind him, set several nasty hexes on it, and disappeared into the back room, running a hand through his white hair with a deep sigh. The day was over; he could go home. He didn’t like to admit it, but things were getting nastier. Not as nasty yet as they’d been during Voldemort’s first garden-party, but still…some things were going on that he felt too old to deal with.

 

He let out a short, sharp bark of self-mocking laughter. If Albus Dumbledore could deal with almost single-handedly running defense against Voldemort, then he, Sherrinford Shiftlet, could certainly handle running a shop in Knockturn Alley. He would not allow himself to fall into a trap of self-pity.

 

Shiftlet exited out the back door, mumbling several curses at the door as he did so. He settled his old, slightly moth-eaten cloak around his shoulders, and set off, re-entering Knockturn Alley a good distance away from the Lethifold’s Lair.

 

He kept close to the shadows – that was how he’d survived for so many years, after all. He passed Borgin and Burkes, took a right, went up three flights of stairs, and muttered the various countercurses that allowed him to enter his small flat.

 

As he removed his cloak and tossed it over a three-legged chair that looked like it had been gnawed on by something vicious, the ragged curtains fluttered, heralding the arrival of an owl.

 

Shiftlet untied his cravat, pulled his shirt collar loose, and removed the parchment from the owl’s leg. Unfolding it, he read its contents and cursed quietly under his breath. The owl looked offended. Shiftlet snarled, “Oh, shut up and wait a minute.”

 

He fumbled around in the dusty desk by the window and eventually ended up with a flea-bitten, droopy quill. Dipping the tip in the inkwell on the desk, he scrawled a quick reply on the reverse side of the parchment and tied it roughly back on the owl’s leg. “Go back to Dumbledore and give him that, and mind you don’t tarry.” The last thing he needed was someone catching wind of this – it would kill his business.

 

And if the wrong someone got wind of whom he was going to go see on the morrow, it might kill him.

 

Highly affronted at the suggestion that it might not finish its job in an expedient fashion, the owl flew out the window, giving him a last dirty look in farewell.

 

Shiftlet watched it go, preoccupied.

 

Strange times, he thought. Strange times, indeed.

//
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