The Sugar Quill
Author: madame en  Story: Calm Before the Storm  Chapter: Chapter One: Postcards and Pies
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Harry's summer vacation after fifth year holds some surprises

Harry's summer vacation after fifth year holds some surprises. A little angst, a little fluff, a few laughs. The usual fanfic copyright disclaimers- everyone and everything in here belongs to J.K. Rowling, no money is being made and no infringement is implied. The story itself is mine. My thanks to my beta-reader, Beth, who had to slog through multiple copies of corrupt html.

 

 

Calm Before the Storm

By Madame En

 

 

 

Chapter One: Postcards and Pies

 

 

 

Any other summer Harry would have been thrilled at the behavior of the Dursleys. Since the warning from Mr.Weasley, Lupin, Moody and Tonks on the platform when they picked him up, the Dursleys had almost been civil to him. Of course they spent most of their time ignoring him, but at least he wasn't being yelled at. He had been allowed to watch the television news without comment, although he always heard a sigh of relief when he left after the day's important headlines were over.  He would have been slightly better fed than previous years, had he chosen to eat instead of just move the food morosely around on his plate.

 

If Harry caught looks of fear pass between his aunt and uncle whenever he was forced to be in their presence, such as at meals, he tried not to notice it. He had tried several times to question Aunt Petunia about what she knew regarding the wizarding world, but she had gone pale and silent. She now tried to spend as little time as possible alone with him. Dudley was openly alarmed by any sudden movement Harry made, and avoided him as much as possible. He spent most of his time out with his mates making trouble. All in all, they had pretty much left him alone, even Uncle Vernon, which was a vast improvement.

 

If it had been any other summer…but this summer all he felt the majority of the time was numbness. He spent the first weeks in a haze, and barely had to try and practice his occlumency, he felt so little emotion about anything. But sometimes he failed to close himself off, after all that had happened, and with Sirius gone….

 

No, he couldn't think about that. Harry lay on his bed listlessly. He had spent most of his time up here in his room, reading through the DADA books Sirius and Lupin had given him last Christmas. He even resorted to finishing his summer homework out of a need to keep busy- Hermione would have a heart attack if she knew. When all distractions failed, he spent the time just lying around and trying desperately not to think about how much he missed Sirius. He would just have to numb the rest of his feelings- he'd already learned to bury his guilt and anger under a veil of apathy. But the pain of his loss, that was proving even harder to release. He had to learn though- he couldn't afford too many more nights like last night.

 

He had had another nightmare, and had gotten very little sleep because of it. The nightmares were always the same; not his parents dying, not Cedric dying, or Voldemort rising- no, now he dreamed about that awful night in the Ministry of Magic. He watched, helplessly, over and over again, as Sirius fell through the veil. He woke up some nights so hoarse that he knew he must have been screaming in his sleep, but none of the Dursleys ever said a word to him in the morning. Dudley had tried only once, but the taunts had died on his lips when Harry pointed his wand at him and declared that he really didn't care if he got expelled or not.

 

Frankly he thought that they stayed silent on purpose, both hoping and fearing that Voldemort had come for him at last, and that they would have been relieved to find him gone or dead in the night. The only good thing was that it was always the same dream, and he never seemed to see with anyone's eyes but his own.

 

He rolled over and glanced at today's edition of The Daily Prophet lying on the floor. He scanned it more carefully these days, and was at least relieved that it was no longer hushing up Voldermort's return; in fact it was full of articles verging sometimes on hysteria. But even that did not hold his interest long.

 

The only moment in the day that gave him any pleasure happened when he got the morning post. He had kept his promise to write to at least one person every three days, but his own letters he knew were feeble variations on the theme of "I'm fine." But the letters he received were what kept him sane.

 

The oddest bit of post so far had been a glossy postcard ("Greetings from Sweden!) from Luna, who was spending her summer with her dad looking for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks:

 

Dear Harry,

 

We have had no luck so far. We thought we spotted one from the ferry one day, but couldn't even get a snap. Several people have complimented me on my Swedish, although I am puzzled by why they keep handing me potatoes.

 

See you at school,

Luna

 

 

He had also received a rather lengthy letter from Neville, which sounded very similar to the way Neville spoke, sort of nervous and scattered.

 

Dear Harry,

 

How is your summer going? I'm very sorry about what happened with your godfather. I asked my Gran about him. Once she knew the truth (which Ginny told me- she got the story from Ron- I hope you don't mind) my Gran was also very sorry and asked me to send you her condolences.

 

Gran's a wonder sometimes. Just when I don't expect it, she surprises me. I thought for sure she would be furious about what happened at the Ministry. Instead, she seemed rather impressed. She marched me right down to Ollivander's for a new wand. I'm glad that I didn't go there when I was eleven- he would have terrified me. He stared at me for the longest time, disappeared into the back, and finally came back with the dustiest box you could imagine. I picked up the wand, and it was the oddest feeling- I felt almost as if I could use it properly- like I had some real power. Weird. Gold sparks shot out like mad, and Mr. Ollivander said something about 'the wand choosing the wizard,' which Gran said is nonsense that he says to make his money. Not that I'm glad I broke my dad's wand (Gran has the pieces in a case on the mantle now) but I'm glad that I have my own wand now. Does that make sense?

 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the start of term for a change and to see what I can do with the new wand in the D.A. We aren't stopping, are we?

 

Sorry this is so long, and I hope you don't mind my writing. Ginny thought you wouldn't. Hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday- Gran is taking me away for a few weeks so don't worry about answering. I'll see you in September.

 

Sincerely,

Neville Longbottom

 

Harry had smiled at the formal closing, and was somehow pleased that Neville sounded a bit more confident about himself. A lot had happened that night in the Ministry, and if anything good came out of it that would be something.

 

This morning he had received a postcard from Hermione, who was now on holiday in New York with her parents. They had been horrified by the little information that she had told them of what had happened the previous term, and it had taken every ounce of determination Hermione had for them to allow her to return to Hogwarts in the fall. She had managed to persuade them, she wrote in a letter before she left, by explaining that without continuing her education she would be little better than defenseless, and that the danger would not lessen if she went to a different non-magic school. She was known to be a witch by those who might wish her harm, and she was safer by far at Hogwarts than anywhere else. They had finally given in, but had whisked her off as far away from London as they could for a few weeks. He picked up the card and glanced over it again:

 

Dear Harry,

 

Having a wonderful time- it's amazing how many of "us" walk the streets here without even attempting to be discreet, as no one apparently pays a bit of attention.  We have been doing all the touristy things, but I long for home and news of, well, you know. Be careful and be good!

 

Love,

Hermione

 

 

Harry smiled briefly and rolled over onto his back. He was lying on his bed half-dozing from the heat, when he spotted, through half-closed eyes, a small blur barreling through his window. Jumping up, he managed to catch Pig zooming around his room not unlike a snitch, and untied the package that was larger than the tiny bird. Pig gratefully hopped up to take a drink from Harry's water glass on the nightstand, as Hedwig was giving him a rather evil glare. Inside the wrapping paper he found several small mince pies, and a note from Ron. The pies smelled wonderful, and he popped one in his mouth without even realizing it as he read the enclosed letter.

 

Harry,

 

Mum made these fresh this morning and says you need fattening up-she thinks you're much too skinny. I told her if you were fat you wouldn't be able to play Seeker anymore and would have to be the Quaffle, but she didn't like my joke. Actually, it's not much of a joke, is it? I am bored out of my mind- No one is here but Ginny, and Hermione had the nerve to go off with her parents to New York!! I mean, honestly, what'd she have to go and do that for? F & G are out most of the day and night, apparating all over the place. They apparated right on my bed the other night- scared me half to death! I can't wait until we learn that. They told me to let their "silent partner" (Ha!) know the shop is going well. I don't have anything, you know,  *important* to pass along, not that I would be able to, but I just wanted you to know it's not like last summer so you don't have to go all ballistic on me when you come. At least I hope you'll be able to come- haven't heard any word on that either- sorry mate. Guess you're stuck with Duddikins for a bit more. Has he exploded or anything?

 

This was followed by a large ink spot, and Harry grinned as he read the next line

 

Bloody hell!! Stupid Ginny just set off an F&G special right behind me-will I get no peace in this house? Mental, all my relatives are! It's a wonder I'm sane. Ginny now says I have to say "Hi" to you-wait a minute- she can do it herself, I have to go get the ink off my hands.

 

Harry continued on with interest- he had never had a proper note from Ginny before. He was glad that she had stopped being so shy around him this year. She was rather funny when he finally heard her speak in normal conversation.

 

After several more thumbprints and ink splotches, the handwriting changed to Ginny's much neater script:

 

Hi Harry,

 

How is your holiday going so far? I'm sure it's not the best summer you have ever had, and I just wanted to let you know we are thinking of you and hoping you can come here soon. You need to come save me from Ron- he is driving me mad! All he's been doing since he got Hermione's post is pacing and mumbling to himself. And he calls us mental. Sorry about the mess on the letter, but if you could have seen the way he jumped up and spilt the ink all over you would be laughing as hard as I am right now and I'm sure it would cheer you up. Wish I had a camera to send you a snap of it. Well, take care, and we will hopefully see you soon.

 

~Ginny

 

The script returned to Ron's scrawl:

 

Don't believe a word she says, mate- she's a nutter. I'd rewrite this and get rid of her lies, but I'm too lazy to dig out more parchment. Send Hedwig round with any news- I need to hear from someone who is sane and not lording it over about being off on holiday somewhere posh and meeting bloody smooth American wizards. By the way, have you heard from Moony at all?

 

~Ron

 

 

Harry sighed. Neither gave any hint of what was happening within the Order, and he couldn’t even muster the indignation that he felt sure he should that he was being kept out of the loop. It seemed that they weren't much in the loop either this summer, especially if Ron was asking him about Lupin. Harry had thought it odd that he hadn't heard from his old professor, as Lupin had been the one to say, "Keep in touch," but at least he knew that he was out of touch with everyone. He wasn't sure now whether he should be worried about that or not. He buried that thought away just as he did with all the other thoughts that worried him.

 

He reread the letter again, smiling at Ginny's section. He had a bit of a start, though, as he re-read the part about her "thinking of him." For some reason, his stomach felt odd. Chalking it up to hunger, he took another bite of a pie and chewed thoughtfully.

 

Ginny had been a big help last year when he was so upset and feeling responsible for  Mr.Weasley's attack. Especially considering the fact that it was her father Harry thought he had attacked. She had also fought very bravely that night in the Ministry, insisting that she be allowed to help. It struck him anew that she was the only other person he knew who had had such close experience with Voldemort and survived, and that thought made him uneasy. Had he ever thanked her for making him see it wasn't his fault?

 

For the first time in days he actually felt something other than numb. 'What if I never thanked her? Did I? I can't remember,' Harry thought frantically to himself, pulling open his desk drawer for some fresh parchment and a quill. He had no idea why it was so important for him to thank her now, but he felt compelled to send her a note so she wouldn't think he didn't appreciate, er, well, whatever.

 

He sucked on the end of his quill, trying to think of what to write.

 

Dear Ginny,

 

Hi. How are you?

 

I wasn't sure if I ever apologized to you for being a prat last summer. You were right- you of all people were the only person who knew what it was like, and I'm sorry. Also I'm sorry for being a prat in the forest as well.

 

He paused for a moment, realizing he was rambling, but not knowing how to fix it, he sighed and struggled on.

 

Hope your summer is going okay. Ron sounds like he's truly getting mental Too bad you have to deal with him by yourself, but it sounds like you are handling it pretty well. If I get there before school you will have to get him again, just so I can see his reaction, heh!

 

~Harry

 

p.s.- I just re-read this, and it's a good thing Ron was there both times, or the above wouldn't sound too good, heh, heh. Hmm…not sure if that sounds any better. ~H

 

p.s.p.s.- Please thank your Mum for the pies- they are delicious and remind me of home, I mean your house. ~H

 

He re-read it again, and, deciding it was stupid, was about to crumple it up. Instead, he found that he had rolled it up and sealed it. Calling Pig over before he lost his nerve, he tied it to the little bird's leg and told him, "Bring this to Ginny- not to Ron- to Ginny. You got that?" he asked the little owl, trying to make a strong mental picture of Ginny in his head to help the silly bird.

 

Pig hooted happily and zoomed off into the darkening sky before Harry realized he was gone. He was still picturing Ginny, and his stomach gave another funny lurch as the image of her sitting on the train reading The Quibbler became more vivid in his mind. He could see the way the sunlight had gilded her red curtain of hair, and the way she bit her lip while studying the quiz questions in the magazine. He shook his head, absently chewing on the last of the pies, and wondered why he had such perfect recall of that moment.

//
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