The Sugar Quill
Author: Tapestry (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Eshu's Daughter  Chapter: Ch. 1 - An Owl At The Window
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Eshu's Daughter

Ch. 1 - An Owl at the Window

***

Disclaimer: Hogwarts and the Harry Potter universe belong entirely to JKR and Warner Brothers. I am merely playing in their world and no copyright infringement is intended. Kit, of course, belongs to me.

Acknowledgements: Yeah, Eshu's Daughter is finally archived on the Quill! It seems like another lifetime when I wrote this chapter way back in March 2003. It's gone through many edits and several versions, and too many initial beta-readers to recall. So I'll thank the ones that were involved in this latest effort. Aquilla, thanks for beta-reading all this time, despite the fact I constantly pelt you with chapters. Thanks to the SQ Workshop, without your encouragement and help this story would not have come nearly so far.

***

She's going to kill me. This time, she's going to just flat out kill me. Kristin Ellsington waited on the front steps of the RAF Alconbury Youth Center, trying desperately not to think about what her mom would say when she arrived. It wasn't going very well.

The white Volvo pulled up in front of her with a small whine of complaint long before Kit was ready. With a sigh she stood up, taking an extra moment to rearrange her backpack, straighten her t-shirt.

When she finally got in the car she adjusted her seatbelt with the single-minded focus other kids reserved for their video games. They'd been on the road a full minute before her mom finally spoke.

"You want to tell me what happened this time?"

"She wouldn't stop calling me names," Kit burst out. "She called me a witchy-eyed freak. She said none of the other kids would play with me because I'm weird. I should be spending the summer at the special ed center with the other retards."

"So you threw a guinea pig at her."

Kit's face flushed and she stared hard at the buildings flying past. "I didn't throw Patches at her. I was holding him and he just sort of ... leapt out of my hands at her. It was an accident."

"Why were you holding the center's guinea pig in the first place?" her mom asked flatly.

Kit tried to find an acceptable reason. There wasn't one. "He was locked up in a tiny little cage. I was only going to hold him for a few minutes." Kit looked at her mom willing her to understand. "I didn't throw him at her though! I promise."

"This is the third time this month you've been sent home. Last time it was letting wild foxes into the game room. They also just happened to show up and just happened to chase the other children out of the room when they wouldn't let you play board games with them." Her mother's voice rose slightly as she spoke. "You are doing this deliberately Kit. I don't know how, but you are doing these things."

Kit didn't say a word. She had wanted to make Brittany shut up.

But the foxes hadn't been her fault at all. She honestly didn't know how they'd gotten into the game room or why they'd gone berserk like that.

"I'm sorry mom," she muttered. "You probably think I'm a freak now too."

"Oh Kristin," her mom's voice whispered out on a sigh. "I don't think you're a freak. You just have a special gift, that's all. Ever since you were a baby we haven't been able to keep you away from anything that walked, crawled or flew within a mile of you. You were having tea parties with mice and playing tag with squirrels by the time you were in preschool."

Her mom took a hand off the wheel to pat Kit's knee. "Your father and I both love you honey, no matter what. But you can't keep using your gift with animals to punish other people."

"But-"

"I'm sure Brittany probably deserved it," her mother cut in, "but that doesn't give you the right to set some poor creature on her. If it happens again, just turn and walk away. Can you please try to do that for me?"

"I promise I'll be better," Kit said, her voice hoarse as she fought tears. The disappointment in her mom's voice was worse than any lecture. She'd much rather listen to her mom yell and scream, or know that she would be spanked, grounded even. Those sorts of punishments ended quickly. Her parents' disappointment would linger in the air for days, subtly accusing. They didn't mean to make her feel guilty she knew, which of course was why she felt so awful.

I won't let Brittany Carson make me lose my temper again, she vowed silently. And I won't make any more wishes. Kit had discovered that if she wished really hard for an animal to do something, it usually would. Today she'd been picturing the expression on Brittany's face if Patches suddenly bit her. It hadn't come as a great shock when Patches launched himself out of her hands.

Kit had felt a moment of real satisfaction looking down on Brittany where she'd fallen, scrambling to get away from the rampaging guinea pig. It had been the sweetest feeling to watch her sneer melt into shock. She'd been ashamed a moment later however, when Brittany burst into frightened tears. Snatching Patches away before he could bite Brittany had kept the guinea pig out of trouble, but not Kit.

Dad is going to be really upset, Kit thought as they pulled into the driveway. He was waiting for them in the living room, his arms crossed over his green flight suit, foot tapping in irritation. Her mom shook her head slightly at him before he could say anything.

Kit took off upstairs without needing any further urging. She shut the door to her room quietly, thankful for the brief reprieve. Throwing her backpack onto the bed Kit turned to stare into the tiny mirror over her dresser. Large blue eyes looked back at her. This morning they had been green.

Why am I so different? Kit's chest hurt as she pressed her forehead against the cool glass. When she was younger she'd believed everyone's eyes switched color at random. Right up until the first day of Kindergarten.

She could still hear Tommy Martin's voice as he said loudly, "Your eyes just changed! Why aren't your eyes blue anymore?" When Kit hadn't answered him right away he'd hurried over to the teacher. "There's something wrong with Kristin's eyes, Mrs. Keller."

If Tommy had been born a century before he could have had successful career as a town crier. His voice had carried into every corner of the room until all of the students were staring at Kit. There hadn't been anything wrong with her eyes, of course, except that they were suddenly brown. That's when the whispers started, the sideways looks, the we-don't-want-to-play-with-you's. They hadn't stopped since.

No matter how many schools Kit had been in, and there'd been plenty, the reactions were always the same. She'd been called everything from a witch to a demon. Brittany Carson's comments weren't even very original. It doesn't matter how many times I hear them though, it still makes me want to scream and cry and knock someone over.

Kit turned away from the mirror so sharply her ponytail whipped around sending dark blonde hair snapping across her cheek. Tears had turned the room into a watercolor blur by the time she reached the bed.

***

The scratch of Kit's fork was the only sound at dinner. She shoved her mashed potatoes around the plate, creating tiny hills and then demolishing them. Between laps she glanced at her father, waiting for him to say something.

"How was work dear?" her mom asked in an unnaturally loud voice.

"Fine. I didn't get any flight time today, just some training on a new jet we'll be testing," he said.

"Kit stop playing with your food," he snapped a minute later. She dropped her fork guiltily, wincing when it clanged on the edge of the plate. Kit surreptitiously tried to wipe a glob of potato off her placemat. She was only grinding it in more however and soon the mat resembled a surreal painting, white potato cloud floating in a green sky.

"Aren't you going to say anything about today?" she finally forced out.

"Your mother has already told me all about it. She says you've promised to behave yourself from now on." He shot Kit a stern look. "I trust that you'll keep your word."

Kit nodded and went back to chasing mashed potatoes with her fork. Her dad's eyes softened. "We're not angry with you Kit. Your mother and I just get frustrated. We want you to be happy, but you'll never make any friends if you don't try to get along with the other kids."

"I have tried," Kit said. "Alconbury isn't any different than the last five bases we've been stationed at. The other kids make fun of my eyes and they really freak out when animals start following me around." Her eyes pleaded with her dad. "I've tried to be friendly, Dad, I really have. They just don't like me."

Her dad reached out to squeeze Kit's arm. The warm weight of his hand made the question easier to ask. "Why am I so different?"

Even Kit realized that most children didn't befriend their backyard squirrels.

"You're just special honey," her mom said. Kit resisted the urge to roll her eyes - she'd heard her mom use that phrase too often. Special should be a four-letter word. Special ed, special needs, special circumstances. It was all just a pretty way of saying weird.

"There are other people with eyes that change color," her mom continued. "My Grandpa Joe's eyes were a different shade depending on what he wore each day. And lots of people are good with animals. Look at veterinarians and zookeepers."

Bet they don't have to chase bats out of their closets and mice out of their beds, though, Kit couldn't help thinking.

"Maybe if we could have a pet you wouldn't need to find animals outside the house," her mom added with a look at Kit's dad.

He was already shaking his head before she'd even finished. "You know we can't have a pet. We've already moved once this year and I could be reassigned again. We'd just have to leave a pet behind when we move. England alone has a six month quarantine requirement, so even if we did bring a pet along the poor animal would spend half its life locked in a cage."

"I know Dad," Kit said hoping to head off the familiar lecture. "I wouldn't want that either, but isn't there a chance we could stay here for awhile? I really like this house and England's pretty cool." She hoped her voice didn't sound too pathetically eager. Although they'd only been in the country a few months England was already her favorite of all the countries they'd been stationed.

"I don't know Kit, we'll just have to see," her dad said. "This tour is supposed to be for two years, but so was our last one, and we only spent six months there."

The longest Kit could remember living in one place was South Carolina. They'd spent a year and a half there. Of course, her dad had been away fighting in the Gulf War for part of that time so maybe that was why they hadn't moved as quickly. Maybe this time will be different. Kit crossed all her fingers and even tried to cross her toes under the table.

***

Tap, tap, tap. Kit looked up from her breakfast cereal to see a large gray owl sitting on the window ledge. Great, just what I need after yesterday. She turned her back on the window, determined to avoid any more trouble.

The owl, however, refused to be ignored and tapped more forcefully on the windowpane. It kept right on tapping until Kit finally turned back with a glare. The owl eyed her beadily, thrusting its head forward and drawing her attention to a letter clutched in its beak.

Kit's jaw dropped open dislodging a mouthful of half-chewed Cheerios. She was used to having animals show up unexpectedly, but this was the first time one had brought her something. Had the owl been snitching someone's mail? Was one of the next-door neighbors going to burst into the house demanding her correspondence back? Kit winced as she wiped milk off her chin, picturing her parents' reaction to that, so soon after the guinea pig incident.

I'll just have to return that letter before anyone finds out, she vowed silently. Careful not to startle the owl, she eased out of her chair and edged toward the window. Holding her breath she flipped the window latch and slowly pushed the pane up. The owl thrust itself over the sill while the opening was still an impossibly small crack. Without pausing it flew straight to the kitchen table and landed with a clack as talons met polished wood.

Kit spun around to face the owl, her heart pounding uncomfortably with the sudden shock of its entry. The owl gave a low hoot and pushed the letter forward. It seemed to want to give her the letter as much as she wanted to take it. Still careful to keep her movements slow and unthreatening, Kit approached the table.

"Let's see whose mail you've nicked," she said extending her hand. The owl didn't so much as twitch. "That letter had better not have Brittany Carson's name on it or we're both in trouble."

The edge of the envelope was cool against her skin as the owl dropped it into her palm. She glanced down and felt her jaw drop open again. It was addressed to her!

"Did you take this from our mail box?" She asked. The owl didn't answer, of course, although she hadn't really expected him to. He seemed to have lost interest in Kit altogether. Having spotted her breakfast, he was busy picking Cheerios out of her bowl.

Who'd write me? Kit examined the envelope closely hoping to find some clue.

Ms. K. Ellsington, 1st Bedroom at the Top of the Stairs, 2301 Harcourt Rd, RAF Alconbury, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire was written on the front of the envelope in emerald ink. It was a very nice envelope as well; heavy yellow parchment rather than the boring white ones her parents used. Flipping the envelope over Kit saw that it was sealed with a blob of purple wax. Weird.

There was a crest stamped into the wax with a large letter 'H', and four tiny animals surrounding it. I wonder what the "H" stands for? Kit squinted, trying to make out the animals. There was a bird, a snake and a lion, that much she could tell, but what was that other one? It looked like a wombat, or a badger, or something. She tore open the envelope and pulled out three crisp pieces of parchment, each adorned at the top with the same ornate crest as the envelope. It is a badger. The satisfaction was short-lived. Her hand started to tremble as she read the first few lines slanting across the page.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
˜
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Ms. Ellsington,
     We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
     Term begins on 1 September. There will be an orientation seminar for students and their non-magic parents on 22 August. Further details are attached. Please send your reply with the owl that delivered this letter by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

It has to be a joke, Kit thought. I bet Brittany Carson is laughing herself silly right now thinking I'll take this letter seriously. She tried to suppress the tiny ache the thought caused. Why did Brittany hate her so much? It wasn't just Patches' attack yesterday. Brittany never missed an opportunity to whisper insults to Kit whenever one of the counselors was close by and Kit couldn't do anything to her. Kit could just picture her asking snide questions about the letter later today.

Forcing Brittany out of her mind, Kit flipped to the second page. "An Introduction To The Magical World," it began. Her eyes scanned the parchment picking out phrases like "many people are unaware that there are currently witches and wizards living in the world today." The flowing script assured her there were in fact many witches and wizards scattered across the various continents, and there had been for a great many years. In addition to this astonishing piece of information, the letter went on to describe Hogwarts School saying it was "one of the finest academies of magical study in Europe today."

Kit quickly moved on to the last piece of parchment. It seemed to be an ordinary school supply list, except that none of the supplies listed could ever be described as normal. What school had ever listed a pewter cauldron as one of its requirements? Kit had to admit that Brittany seemed to have gone to a lot of trouble preparing this letter. How had she gotten the owl to deliver it, or was it just a coincidence that the owl had stolen this particular envelope from Kit's mailbox?

What if Brittany didn't send the letter? What if it's real?

"This is stupid!" Kit burst out. The owl choked on the Cheerio he'd been eating. "This letter is not real and I'm not going to give Brittany the satisfaction of thinking for even a minute that it might be. I'll set frogs in her hair for this, I'll-" Kit's tirade ended abruptly as she saw words appear at the bottom of the parchment. They were written in the same slanting scrawl and emerald ink as the rest of the letter. "Brittany Carson didn't send this letter."

Kit gave a strangled scream and dropped the pages. The owl jumped, accidentally kicking her bowl and soaking himself in a small explosion of milk. He screeched and leapt back, glaring at Kit.

"Sorry," she mumbled trying hard not to giggle. Milk still dripped from the owl's chest and face. She grabbed a towel and gently tried to blot the worst of it from his feathers. He nipped her on the wrist. Rather than risk that sharp beak again, Kit bent to retrieve her letter. The owl began straightening its feathers, running its beak over each and trying to repair the damage.

Kit read the letter again. She watched as the words from earlier faded back into the page and a new sentence took their place. "If you will be attending the orientation seminar please send a reply with the owl that delivered this message."

There was no way Brittany could have made a page do that. It's real. It's really, truly, actually real. Kit wanted to dance around the kitchen laughing like a maniac. There was magic in the world and she was a part of it. Well at least she would be if she could convince her parents to let her attend Hogwarts. Kit's happiness dimmed as she realized how hard that might be.

She looked over at the owl still trying to get the milk out of its feathers. After being doused with her breakfast Kit wasn't sure how long he'd want to hang around.

Setting the letter on the table, Kit carefully avoided the puddle of milk. She ran out of the room and up the stairs, not even pausing at the top to catch her breath. She dashed inside her parents' room and slid to halt just inside the door. Her dad was just pulling on his uniform jacket and her mom was perched on the bed sliding her feet into a pair of black pumps. They stopped to stare at her in surprise.

"I have to show you something downstairs," she gasped out. "It's really important."

"What's happened?" her mom said in a high voice.

"Nothing," Kit reassured her. "I just need you to come down to the kitchen. Please?" she added when they didn't start moving right away.

"You're sure nothing's the matter," her mom asked, one shoe still clutched in her hand, as the three of them moved into the hall. "You haven't broken something have you?"

"Nothing's wrong with the kitchen Mom." When had they decided she was a mad delinquent?

"Is it-" Whatever her mom might have asked was lost as they entered the kitchen and she caught sight of the large owl mauling one of her favorite napkins. Kit supposed he'd run out of cheerios or maybe just been put off by wearing them.

"Oh not again, Kit!" her dad cried. Her mom sighed and bent to put her other shoe on.

Kit flushed bright red as she thought how this must look to them. The kitchen table was covered in spilled milk and the occasional owl feather.

"This isn't about the owl Dad," she said, "ummm well he does have something to do with it, but only because he brought the letter."

Her mom straightened abruptly. Kit had their full attention now.

"What letter," her dad demanded.

"This one," Kit said snatching up the pages and thrusting them into his hands. Kit started chewing a fingernail as she watched him read the first page. He let out a small snort of disbelief and flipped to the second page. By the time he reached the third page his lips were twitching with laughter. Her mom stared at the letter curiously.

"This is a good joke," he said still grinning slightly as he passed the pages to her mom. "You had me going for a minute Kit. But was it really necessary to scare your mother like that? Rushing around the house and letting an owl rampage over our table?"

"It's not a joke," Kit said in a pained voice. "That owl just showed up at the window carrying a letter. And Dad, the letter wrote back to me. I was standing here reading it and words just appeared on it out of nowhere."

"Kit," her dad wasn't laughing anymore, "I know you have a lot of imagination, but this is not the time or the place for it. Your mother and I are going to be late for work by the time we finish cleaning this up. Now, please get that owl back outside."

"I'm not imagining things. That letter did write back to me. I swear it did." Kit was trying hard not to panic. They have to believe me, they just have to.

Her mom let out a small scream and clutched the letter tightly. Her eyes were fixed on the bottom of the page she'd been reading. "M-Michael," she stammered, her face absolutely white, "look at the page. Look at the bottom of the page."

Kit's dad grabbed the pages back looking at the bottom of the first sheet. His eyes widened. He flipped the page over quickly and then held it up to the kitchen light. He twisted and turned the page, but no matter how hard he looked or how he prodded the paper he couldn't seem to figure out how the words were appearing. Kit wondered what the letter had written.

Her dad fell into one of the kitchen chairs and looked up at Kit helplessly. "It's just not possible. There is no such thing as magic. Not real magic. It's all parlor tricks." He seemed overwhelmed, muttering to himself, "But how can that paper know my name? How can words just be appearing on it?"

"It's real Dad. It's real magic. Please say I can go," Kit pleaded crouching down in front of him and holding onto one of his hands. His grasp tightened and some of the shock began to leave his face. He looked horrified at her last words.

"At least say we can go to the orientation. Don't make any decisions till then," she rushed on before he could say no. "If it's all a joke then we can have a nice visit to London, and if it's not then you can decide whether or not to let me attend after we find out more about the school. I've always been different, Daddy, we both know it. Maybe this is why. Don't you want to know for sure?" Kit squeezed his hand. "Please, Dad."

Her parents looked at one another. Neither of them said a word but they seemed to reach some sort of agreement all the same.

"Your mother and I need to discuss this Kit. Give us a minute." He stood up swiftly. Her mom looked lost. Tears trembled on the edge of her eyes. She reached for her husband's hand and held on tightly as they left the room, making sure to shut the door behind them.

Kit crept close to the door hoping to hear even a little of what they were saying. It was no use however. All she could make out was the occasional raised voice and a lot of silence in-between.

Please, please, please let them agree to go, she prayed. Hearing a movement in the hall she shot away from the door. Stopping beside the table she absently began to rub the owl just above his wing. Her eyes never moved from the door.

Her mom's eyes were red-rimmed and too bright when they reentered the kitchen a moment later. She was clenching her jaw tightly and seemed determined not to break down again. Her dad was looking just as grim. Kit couldn't guess whether that boded well for her or not.

"We've decided," he said gravely, "that we should at least attend the orientation."

Kit felt a huge grin stealing across her face. Yes!

"I don't want you to get your hopes up, baby. Despite the unusual circumstances," he frowned at the owl now snuggled against Kit's side and making the most unlikely cooing noises, "there must be some rational explanation. More than likely it's one of those candid camera TV shows or something and the rest of the country will be having a good laugh at us for taking it seriously."

Excitement rippled through her despite his cautions. Before her parents could change their minds Kit grabbed a pen and ripped a small piece of notebook paper out of the pad by the phone. The owl was left watching her from the table, his feathers still standing up slightly from where she'd snatched her hand away.

The note looked hopelessly plain and uninteresting after the emerald green ink and self-writing parchment, but it would have to do.

My parents and I will be attending the orientation on August 22.
Sincerely,
Kit (Kristin) Ellsington

Kit folded the notebook paper into a neat square. She looked at the owl, uncertain what to do next. He stared right back grumpily for a few moments before shuffling forward and pulling the note from her fingers. Kit stroked his cheek, her lips teasing back into a grin.

The owl stretched out its wings and took off for the kitchen window, his wingtips just brushing the casing. The second he was gone her mom hurried over and snapped the pane shut in one motion. She peered out of the window as though fearing a sudden invasion of owls.

Kit couldn't stop smiling; she kissed her mom on the cheek and ran out the back door to dance around the yard, laughing in delight. They were going to London.

***

End Notes: RAF Alconbury exists in real life. It's an Air Force Base leased by the U.S. Government in England since WWII. RAF stands for Royal Air Force. The text from Kit's invitation letter is an adapted version based on Harry's letter as it appeared in the original British version of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Which is probably why those dates look funny to you :D In Europe, dates are more commonly written with the day first followed by the month.

How are Muggle-born children convinced to attend Hogwarts? That's the question that spawned this story. It was always meant to be a short one-shot exploring that idea. Kit had other ideas. She presented me with a story I couldn't resist telling, and she hasn't stopped talking since. I hope you enjoy her story :) Please consider leaving a review or shooting me an email. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

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