The Sugar Quill
Author: Suburban House Elf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Sticking Broom  Chapter: Chapter 1: An Idle Few Weeks in June
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[Author’s Note: By legal definition, a “certifiable act of lunacy” occurs whenever an author of any work of Harry Potter fifth year fanfiction fails to post said work until mid-May 2003. And, yes, M’Lud, I wish to plead guilty by reason of insanity.


Despite my delusional state, I remain aware that JK Rowling created most of the characters and all of the settings in this tale.  I thank her profusely. I also suspect that Mrs. Rowling is about to reveal wonderful events in Harry Potter’s fifth year, which will bear very little relationship to this story.  I am sure she will find her own way of celebrating the twins’ last few weeks at Hogwarts. Despite Severus Snape’s dangerous and mysterious mission to thwart the Dark Lord (if indeed there is any such mission), I trust that JK Rowling will still take time to mock his greasy hair and yellowish, uneven teeth. And I am ever hopeful that she will eventually find a way to steer the affections of two clueless, teenage boys in the right direction.


However, I persisted in writing this story because my own pet theories, speculations and conjectures concerning Harry’s fifth year simply would not go away - no matter how diligently I marked off the days on my calendar until June 21.  I also persisted because Mary, who is nine, demanded a story about Quidditch.


I thank Elanor Gamgee aka Cap’n Kathy for beta-reading this story, even though at this late stage she must see very little point in it.  At least I do not feel guilty that I might be preventing her from re-reading all her Harry Potter books before June 21.  Her knowledge of all things Harry Potter is so extensive that I strongly suspect she already knows the entire works of JK Rowling by heart!]


Chapter 1: An Idle Few Weeks in June


Professor McGonagall, acting headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, adjusted her spectacles to stop them slipping down her perspiring nose.  The staff room was unusually hot, not only because it was the kind of late May day that augured an early return to summer, but because an enormous fire had been lit to allow Rubeus Hagrid to attend the first part of a weekly staff meeting. He had subsequently returned to Beauxbatons Academy of Magic via a recently installed Floo network connection.


“Mr. Filch,” said Minerva McGonagall, “I think we’ll have that fire out now.”  The school caretaker doused the blaze, sending steam whooshing out of the hearth so that the staff room soon resembled a sauna. The acting principal’s spectacles fogged over as they began to make their way down the bridge of her nose once more.


Occulus Demister,” McGonagall stated, tapping her glasses with her wand.  Referring to the gilt edged sheet of parchment in her hand, she continued. “The next item for discussion is the International Potions Essay Competition.”


“Surely you are referring to the Brews-U-Like International Potions Essay Competition?” sneered Hogwarts’ Potions Master, Professor Severus Snape.


“Quite so, Severus,” McGonagall replied tersely. “And I think your opinions on corporate sponsorship in education have been noted in earlier meetings. I don’t see that it makes a jot of difference whether the prizes are donated by the good people of Brews-U-Like or by Butterbeer, the fact remains that this is a prestigious contest. Hagrid has just told us that Beauxbatons will be entering - you can bet Durmstrang will too.  I firmly believe that Hogwarts should be putting its best foot forward on this one.”


“I have provided contest application forms to four of my best seventh year students,” Snape began.


“Severus, the seventh years are all dunderheads,” Professor McGonagall retorted.  “Half of my N.E.W.Ts class couldn’t transfigure a block of ice into a puddle.  And I’ve heard you complain about your seventh year Potions students, at length, often enough.  No, I think we are going to have to look further for our best candidate.”


“Nevertheless, Professor, the essay topic requires a detailed analysis of pharmacology and a thorough understanding of the history of Potions preparation.  It would be beyond the sixth year students,” Snape continued in his typical, irritated drawl.


“I wasn’t going to suggest a sixth year student,” Minerva McGonagall responded curtly. “Hermione Granger will be taking her last O.W.L. examination at the end of this week.  The witch who marked her Potions paper at the Magical Educational Standards Board has already sent an owl to congratulate the school.  That awful Prawn woman said they’ve never seen the like of it. They’ve had to change the whole marking scale to allow results of greater than four hundred percent.”


“How wonderful,” effused Madam Pince, the school librarian.  Hermione had always been a favorite of hers, since hardly a day had gone by in the last five years without Miss Granger visiting the library.    


“Miss Granger may have some aptitude for Potions,” Professor Snape conceded begrudgingly, secretly pleased that once again he had taught the nation’s top student, “but I doubt whether she would have any inclination to honor the school by competing.  She’s fallen in with a bad crowd - rule breakers and riff-raff.  There’s not an ounce of school spirit in that lot.” He wanted to continue, to name Potter and his sidekick, Weasley, and list for the whole room the abominations those two swaggering boys had engaged in while at the school.  But he knew it would do no good.  Harry Potter, the “Boy Who Lived,” the Triwizard Champion, was now such a legend in the wizarding world that it would be futile to even suggest the lad had any shortcomings.  He just hoped that Potter’s exam results were dismal.  He contemplated framing the edition of the Daily Prophet which would publish Potter’s failures and hanging it on his dungeon wall.


“But the contest prizes are quite generous,” Professor Sprout suggested.  “Maybe that could persuade her?  I think first prize is a trip to the Apothecaries and Alchemists Guild convention at Uluru, wherever that is.”


“Isn’t that where you’re presenting your werewolf paper?” Professor Flitwick congenially asked Severus Snape.


Professor Snape snorted.  He was currently enduring a period of unwelcome celebrity, courtesy of a discovery he had made two years before.  At Professor Dumbledore’s insistence, he had published a brief paper in The Magical Scholarship Gazette concerning the Wolfsbane Potion that he had brewed to alleviate Remus Lupin’s lycanthropic symptoms.  Some time later, St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries had commenced clinical trials of the potion, with good results.  Two months ago, Rita Skeeter of Witch Weekly had printed a heartwarming tale of the cure of Euphemia Peebles, mother of five, who had been bitten by a werewolf while on a seaside holiday to Torquay.  “It’s just such a blessing,” Mrs. Peebles had been quoted as saying, “not to be chained up in our dog kennel every full moon.”


The Mrs. Peebles story had been such a hit with Witch Weekly’s readers that Rita Skeeter had decided to follow it up with a feature on the brilliant inventor of the anti-werewolf potion.  Severus Snape vividly recalled the night her curly haired, bespectacled head had appeared, unannounced, on his bedroom furniture while he was marking essays.  He nearly spat out his Bovril as the grating voice asked him for a quote on his reaction to Euphemia Peebles “miracle cure.” His exact recollection of his entire statement to the media had been, “If some mad old witch is fool enough to get herself attacked by a werewolf, I consider her treatment to be a waste of good lycapods.  Now remove your repellent features from my armoire.” 


Rita Skeeter, since her involuntary and publicly unexplained absence from journalism, had been pursuing a policy of only writing flattering things about the folk at Hogwarts.  Therefore, she was not able to use Snape’s exact words.  However, she wrote a piece which made many references to his “dark good looks,” to his students’ “devotion to their inspiring teacher” and to his “compassion for the werewolf cause.”  For a longstanding lycaphobe such as Professor Snape, the last distortion of the truth was particularly irksome. The Witch Weekly article painted Hogwarts’ Potions Master as a cross between wizardry’s most eligible bachelor and St Francis of Assisi. Within days of the magazine being published, Severus Snape had received a flood of fan mail, including several owls bringing marriage proposals from witches whose enclosed photos revealed an abundance of facial hair.


Professor McGonagall’s mouth twitched into a small smile. “I’m certain that Professor Snape’s Wolfsbane potion speech is going to be very warmly received, but I don’t think that alone will be much of an incentive for Miss Granger to enter the competition.  Perhaps I should have a talk with her. I’ve a fair idea how to bring her around.”


She checked the agenda. The parchment was automatically crossing off the penultimate item for discussion with a ray of silver light. “It seems the last thing we need to talk about is Cruciatus Curse sufferers’ research.  Poppy, I think you wanted to bring this up.”


Madam Pomfrey nodded.  “The topic came up a little while ago when Gladys Longbottom was visiting the school.”  Several staff members shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  Mrs. Longbottom was the mother of Frank Longbottom, who together with his wife had for many years resided in a catatonic state at St Mungo’s. “She told me that there’s a mediwizard at the hospital who is trying some new techniques to revive victims.  It’s costly work, some of the ingredients he’s using in his potions are quite exotic.  She was hoping we could donate herbs, but Professor Sprout tells me we don’t grow the types he needs here.”


“The stuff he’s after only grows in the tropics, Poppy,” Professor Sprout explained.


“I feel awful telling Mrs. Longbottom there’s nothing we can do,” Madam Pomfrey said.


Minerva McGonagall reflected sadly for a moment.  Frank Longbottom had been such an affable boy and she always felt a pang of grief when she spotted his son Neville in the school corridors.  He was so much like his father.  “Maybe we should raise money instead,” she suggested.  “This time of year, most of the students have nearly finished their exams.  We seem to always have an idle few weeks in June.  Perhaps we could plan something, a fundraiser, to raise a few thousand Galleons during the last week of term.”


“A fete would be fun,” Professor Flitwick said enthusiastically.


“But would require too much organisation at such short notice,” McGonagall countered. “And we have to consider the problems we might have with the fortune teller’s tent,” she warned.  The last time Hogwarts held a school fete, more than a decade ago, Professor Trelawney set up a stall to divine the future.  Many of the parents, students and good citizens of Hogsmeade who visited Sybill Trelawney’s tent were so depressed by her predictions that they spent the rest of the day quietly sitting and sobbing by the tom bola. The Divination teacher, who had been in a trance since Monday afternoon, was not present at the staff meeting to offer any defence to her acting headmistress’ criticism.


“We could run a second hand book stall down at Hogsmeade Markets,” Madam Pince volunteered.


“Not a bad idea, but it might not raise much money,” the acting headmistress said tactfully. Minerva McGonagall thought to herself that Irma Pince couldn’t make two Knuts from a bookstall if she tried. The librarian would sooner sell her only wand that part with any of Hogwarts’ precious books, no matter how dilapidated they might appear to the untrained eye.


“What about a flower show?” asked Professor Sprout.  The reaction around the table made it clear that none of her colleagues shared the professor’s enthusiasm for Herbology.


“Got it!” exclaimed Madam Hooch, thumping the table. “What about a Quidditch tournament?  Staff versus students.  It’d be a hoot.”  There was an appreciative buzz around the staff room.


“It might be a possibility,” Hogwarts’ acting principal agreed. “Since Oliver Wood’s made such a name for himself, there’s been a lot of public interest in the Quidditch we play at Hogwarts.”


“We could ask Oliver along to sign a few autographs,” Professor Flitwick suggested.


“And I’m sure some of our ex-students would be keen to come and see the teachers’ team,” the flying instructor continued, her yellow eyes twinkling.


“Well, a Quidditch tournament it is to be then.  Madams Pomfrey and Hooch can organise things, but obviously we’ll all have a part to play,” said Minerva McGonagall, wiping her moist brow with a linen handkerchief as she looked around the staff room table. “Especially if we’re selected for the teachers’ team,” she added.


“Oh, I think I already know the team I want, Minerva,” Madam Hooch said as she winked across the table.  “I’ll bet there isn’t an ex-student alive, who wouldn’t pay good money to see the Sticking Broom again.”


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