The Sugar Quill
Author: Suburban House Elf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Boy in the Flowerbed  Chapter: Default
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THE BOY IN THE FLOWERBED

HARRY POTTER AND THE BOY IN THE FLOWERBED

 

[Author’s Note: Thank you to J.K. Rowling, for writing the first two sentences of this story and for creating the world of Harry Potter, where this tale is set.

 

In case you’re interested in a few of the culturally specific references:

 

Harrods is real.  It is an enormous department store in Knightsbridge, London.  You can buy anything there, up to and including kangaroo meat.

 

Ealing Broadway is real. It is a pleasant suburb to the west of London.  The church of Christ the Saviour is real and I mean no disrespect to its good parishioners.

 

Silly Mid-off and Deep Fine Leg are also real.  These terms describe two fielding positions used in the game of cricket.  Silly Mid-off can be likened to a short stop in baseball, but Deep Fine Leg is more of an outfield position.

 

“Neighbours” is, alas, also real.  It is a nightly soap opera, made in Australia, which depicts the mundane lives of the residents of suburban Melbourne.  For reasons that defy all understanding, the show is popular in the United Kingdom and screens there several times a week, with reruns showing on some TV stations in the afternoons.

 

George Weasley isn’t real, but I wish he were. Elanor Gamgee aka Cap’n Kathy is as real as a piratical hobbit ought to be. I thank her for beta reading this story.]

 

The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive……The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in the flowerbed outside number four. He had appeared in the flowerbed only a few seconds beforehand. Or rather, he had appeared in mid air three metres above the flowerbed, to the sound of a loud crack, and had subsequently fallen out of the sky into the flowers.

 

The boy sat up and shook the dahlia petals from his flaming red hair. He picked two or three battered blooms from his clothes.  Unusually for Surrey in the summer, the boy was wearing a long, blue cloak and a brimless, cone-shaped, felt hat.   The boy then folded his arms and grinned good-naturedly, as though he was expecting some amiable person to arrive.

 

The air next to the boy emitted a soft “ppffft” noise, like the sound one would make when opening a jar of pickled onions. While the boy uncrossed his arms and waited, a short, red-faced, balding man with a large, bristling moustache inexplicably appeared. Like the boy, he was wearing a cloak, however his was grey flannel with a blue pinstripe.  He carried a clipboard in one hand and, in the other, a quill.

 

“So, how did I go then?” the boy asked cheerfully.

 

“How did you go?” The man was trembling with rage and a vein on his forehead throbbed unpleasantly.  He took one deep breath, then another, and then, narrowing his eyes, frowned intently at the boy. In slow and measured speech he said, “My, my, my. Let me see.”  There was no mistaking the threat in his voice.

 

The man’s lips pursed as he read the pages on his clipboard.  The first page was headed “Application for Apparating Licence”.  Somebody with a blunt quill and muddled handwriting had scribbled “George Algernon Weasley” on the section of the form requiring the applicant’s name.  The lower half of the form was headed “Examiner’s Comments”.  There followed several closely written paragraphs, which continued onto the next page.  These paragraphs featured much underlining, many exclamation marks and the overuse of capital letters.

 

After a long and menacing silence, the man began.  “You failed to signal intention to Disapparate at the Diagon Alley registry office.”

 

“Whoops,” said George Algernon Weasley happily.  “Still, no harm done, eh?”

 

“Your unorthodox departure method caused five Galleons worth of damage to a registry office filing cabinet,” the man fumed.  As an afterthought, he added, “And bodily harm to the office-elf trapped beneath it.”

 

“The licence fee covers that sort of thing, doesn’t it?” George asked hopefully.

 

“Be that as it may,” the irate examiner continued, “your first Apparating exercise was supposed to be a short distance travail with a close confines reappearance.  Do you recollect at all where you were supposed to appear?”

 

“Harrods!” George said confidently.  This at least was one answer he was sure of getting correct.

 

“You were supposed to appear,” the little man said very quietly, his moustache quivering with indignation, “in the middle cubicle of the gentlemen’s lavatories on the fourth floor.”

 

“Oh. Yes,” said George guiltily.

 

“So what on earth possessed you to Apparate under the glass of the fishmonger’s counter?” the examiner yelled.  He stood for a few moments, flexing the muscles in his right hand and wishing he could stab his quill into George Weasley’s idiotic, jovial face.

 

Composing himself, the man continued. “I am also under an obligation to advise you that theft of Muggle property is punishable under Article 367 of the Muggle Protection Act.” With this, he slipped his quill under the clip of his clipboard and held out his right hand.

 

George Weasley put his hand into the neck of his shirt, fumbled around for a while and then pulled out a kipper.  With a shrug of his shoulders, he silently handed the fish to the examiner, who pocketed it.

 

Consulting his clipboard again, the man continued. “Your second Apparating exercise was a medium distance travail with a medium confines reappearance.  You were expected to go from Knightsbridge to the mayor’s robing room in Ealing Broadway town hall.” He stared at George Weasley with open malevolence. “But that wasn’t where you went, was it?” he hissed.

 

“Er, no,” George admitted quietly.  He was beginning to suspect that things weren’t going awfully well.

 

“No, it wasn’t, because instead I found you, in an inverted position, in the pulpit of Christ the Saviour’s Church, two blocks away!”

 

George rubbed his aching neck.  Jolly uncomfortable business, standing on your head in a stone pulpit, he thought.  He asked, “Do you think anybody noticed?”

 

“I should imagine so.  It was during vespers,” the examiner said though gritted teeth.  “Which brings us to the Class 6 Splinching you effected when Disapparating from the church.”  Reaching into his pocket, the man retrieved a handful of pale, wriggling objects that a first glance looked like oversized maggots.  He handed them to the boy.

 

“Oh gosh,” said George gratefully. “Thanks.  I wondered where they went.”  He put the toes in his pocket.

 

“Your final Apparating exercise was a long distance travail with an open area reappearance,” the man snarled.  “Which means that we should now be standing on the cricket oval at the village green in Little Whinging, Surrey.  For examination purposes, a reappearance anywhere between Silly Mid-off and Deep Fine Leg would have been acceptable.”

 

“Oh,” said George.

 

“Are we on a cricket oval, Mr Weasley?” the examiner enquired.

 

“No,” George admitted.

 

“Where are we, Mr Weasley?” the examiner asked threateningly.

 

“Er, in a garden?” George asked, hoping this was a good enough response.

 

“Where we are, Mr Weasley, is in the front garden of a Muggle dwelling.” The man’s voice grew louder and louder as he continued.  “Where we are, is within ten metres of an occupied Muggle dwelling during daylight hours. Where we are, is in direct contravention of sub-clause 97(3) of the Apparating and Disapparating Regulatory Code!”

 

“Is it?” George asked, genuinely surprised.

 

“Mr Weasley, have you ever read the Apparating and Disapparating Regulatory Code?” the examiner asked.

 

“Er, no.  Might that help?” George asked in confusion.

 

“In your case,” the man said with a sigh, “I would hesitate to suggest that anything would help.  This is your fourth test.  You don’t seem to have done any sort of preparation, nor have you taken a single Apparating lesson from an accredited Apparating school.  How often do you think you are going to get away with bumbling through these tests before you kill somebody?”

 

“I just thought,” said George, his voice trailing away in uncertainty, “that I’d just eventually – you know, get the hang of things.”

 

“Mr Weasley, since you and your brother began to sit for your licences three weeks ago, my office has exhausted half of its annual Memory Charm budget.  Every time either of you take a test, we have to spend the next two days putting things right.  This cannot continue.”

 

“S’pose not,” George admitted dolefully.

 

“I’m making a note on this form that you are not to be retested until you can prove that you’ve made some attempt to learn the basic Apparating safety rules.  That goes for your brother too.  And I’m sending a copy of this form directly to your father’s office.  I’m sure he’ll be very unimpressed with the distress you’ve been causing to his precious Muggles.”

 

The man took a large rubber stamp with a brass handle from his pocket.  He stamped the form on the clipboard and then, leaning down, he stamped George Wesley’s forehead.  From his other pocket he pulled a pink plastic lavatory brush.

 

“Here’s your Portkey,” the examiner said gruffly.  “It will take you back to the registry office in two minutes.  Goodbye.  I hope we do not meet again anytime soon.”

 

A slight “ppffft” left George Weasley alone in the garden.

 

Harry Potter, looking out of a first floor window, saw a red-headed teenager in a blue cloak and a pointed hat.  The boy was carrying a lavatory brush and somebody had stamped the word “FAILED” in royal blue ink on the boy’s forehead. This was just the sort of thing Harry had come to expect.

 

Opening the window, Harry called out congenially, “No luck again then, George?”

 

“’Fraid not,” George admitted, looking a little sheepish. “Shame really.  I thought I had it this time.”   There was a slight pause for reflection, before George added, “Well, up until that lady curate started screaming.”

 

George stood up and picked a few final stalks and leaves from his socks and robes.  “Sorry about the mess.  I don’t suppose your auntie’s going to win any prizes for her dahlias this year.”

 

“Don’t mention it,” Harry replied.  The thought of his Aunt Petunia being slighted in any way was quite a welcome one. “Happens all the time.  Fred smashed the birdbath when he Splinched himself last Tuesday.”

 

For the first time George noticed the square metre space on the other side of the garden path, which had been staked out and cordoned off with orange plastic tape.  Inside the space stood a shattered concrete statue of a fish with bulging eyes and a clamshell balancing on its tail.

 

“Cool!” said George admiringly. “Quite a thorough job!  Didn’t the dreaded Dursleys mind?”

 

“Well,” Harry explained, “they didn’t notice when it happened.  Lucky they were all inside watching Neighbours - that’s a TV show.  But Uncle Vernon called the police the next morning. Oh, and the police took Fred’s ear as evidence.”

 

“Not to worry,” the older boy reassured his friend. “They sent some folks around to the Please Man Shop-thingy and got it back.  It’s nearly reattached now.”

 

Harry smiled.  He was very gratified that Uncle Vernon would not see the day when the one-eared hooligan was brought to justice.

 

“Anyway,” George said, checking his watch, “I’ve got to go in a tick.  I’ll probably be back this way next week, though.”

 

“Tell Ron I said Hi,” Harry said as he waved goodbye.

 

At that, the boy in the flowerbed brandished a pink plastic lavatory brush over his head and vanished.

//
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