The Sugar Quill
Author: Queenie  Story: The Ka  Chapter: Chapter 1: Nightmares and Birthday Presents
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Note: Philip Pullman owns the concept of dæmons

Note: Philip Pullman owns the concept of dæmons. J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and all else.  Save the plot, which is mine.  And other miscellaneous stuff which will be referenced to as it comes.

Dedicated to Jyrileru and to MysteriousMuggle, as well as Ossar and Angie, wherever you are.

 

*

 

            It was a warm, still summer night.  On Privet Drive, only three people were still awake: a young writer in Number Twelve sitting at her typewriter with a cup of coffee, an old man grumbling about his rheumatism in Number Seven, and a teenage boy sprawled on his bed in Number Four.  Harry Potter, the teenage boy, groaned and turned over again. He'd been having another nightmare.  He screwed up his eyes, trying very hard to recall what happened. 

            He'd been standing on the edge of a field.  Everything had a slightly wavering look, like a reflection in water.  A large, black dog had bounded up to him, barking happily.  Harry had smiled.  "All right," he'd said, "I'll come."

            He had followed the dog through the field.  Now that Harry thought about it, he remembered that the dog had the only solid thing in the whole dream.  The dog barked again, louder, imploring Harry to hurry up.  The creature started to run.

            "Wait," Harry had called.  "I can't keep up.  I'll get dirty."

            The dog had barked again, almost commandingly this time.  "Wait, wait, please, something's…"

            There had been a dark cloud that was lurking behind Harry, chasing him, waiting for the moment to strike.  Suddenly the dog had turned around and growled at Harry.  The boy had backed away.  Then the dog had looked at Harry as if to say, "I'm sorry," when it turned around and ran ahead, into shadow.

            "No!" Harry had called.  "Don't leave me!"

            He'd sunk to his knees.  The shadow had spread all over the sky now, and it was raining on him. Harry had looked at the red liquid coming from the sky.  It was raining blood, pouring on his hands and face, blood that would never come off…

            Harry was trying to call the dog's name, but it wouldn't come out right… instead, a voice on the wind was crying, "Aulaia, Aulaia…"

            That's about when Harry woke up.  That had been roughly five minutes ago. This dream, or variants thereof, had been coming for almost a month now.  Every time he woke up from it he felt dirty, like his heart had been thrown into mud.  Harry clutched his head in his hands.  "Damn nightmare… I'm sick of nightmares.  Why can't they stop?"

            Other than the recurring nightmares, life had been fairly good to the Boy Who Lived, whose destiny was to be either the Boy Who Didn't Live or the Boy Who Murdered.  The Dursleys had been treating him with fair civility, allowing him contact with the magical world, but still keeping a close eye on him all the same.  Yesterday had been July 31st, his sixteenth birthday.  He had received sweets and cheerful cards, but one letter from Tonks had read, "You may be getting a real birthday present soon… but I'm not going to tell you now!"

            Harry wondered what the present would be.  At the moment, he still couldn't sleep, and he still felt filthy inside.  He got up, left his room, and went to the bathroom.  As he washed his hands and face, a nagging voice in his head said, 'This is a bad idea.  You'll be awake even longer.'

            "Shut up…" Harry muttered to no one.  As he slumped back into his room, putting on his glasses, he looked at the empty cage that usually held Hedwig.  She had just gone out hunting, and would probably be back soon.  Harry turned on the lamp and sat on the floor.  He pulled out a book from the shelf and started idly flipping the pages, but closed it a moment later.  He felt incredibly alone as the sounds of his cousin's snoring broke the silence.  Feeling depressed again, Harry took out his cards from his friends.  Remus Lupin had sent him a large box of Chocolate Frogs.  Harry popped one into his mouth and felt a bit better.  He read the cards that they'd sent him and pictured their faces and voices speaking.  As Harry scanned the letters a second time, he realized he was looking for a handwriting that wasn't there.

            A soft hoot brought Harry back to the real world.  Hedwig had arrived again, bearing a dead mouse in her beak and a letter in her claws.

            "Ah, you've come back," Harry said, relieved, and reached out to take the letter.  Hedwig promptly hopped out of his reach.  Harry rolled his eyes.

            "Alright… wow, Hedwig, what an amazing mouse you've caught!  Really!  It's so big and… mousy."

            Fluffing her feathers with pride, Hedwig hopped back, let Harry take the letter, and hopped inside her cage, where she proceeded to devour her prey.  Harry opened the letter.  In a broad, rounded script, it ran,

            Wotcher, Harry!

                        I got a weekend off -- that is, one I can spend at my flat in Oxford.  I've already invited Ron and Hermione to come along, and now, all we need is for you to arrive!  So, ask your relatives if it's okay, owl me back, and I'll pick you up on Friday afternoon, say, around four.  The three of you will spend Friday evening through Sunday morning at my place, and we'll have a grand old time, won't we?

            Hang in there!

Tonks

 

            'So this is what she meant by a birthday present,' Harry thought, his mood suddenly much lighter.  'A weekend visit!  This will be excellent!'

            Harry clambered back onto his bed.  A visit with Tonks, Ron, and Hermione would be an excellent way to spend a weekend.  'I'm pretty sure Aunt Petunia will let me go,' Harry thought, 'but she'll probably want me to make up for it in gardening.'

            For the first time, he appreciated just how late it was and how drowsy he was starting to feel. As he slowly folded his glasses, he found himself thinking, 'That name… what I was hearing in my dream… what was it?  Au-something… can't remember it.  Maybe I can ask about it --' he yawned widely -- 'later.'

 

            "So, can I go, Aunt Petunia?"

            Harry's aunt furrowed her eyebrows.  "Tonks… have I met this woman?"

            "Yes, I think you have," Harry said.  "She was that lady at the station -- the one with the pink hair, remember?"

            Aunt Petunia's eyebrows shot up.  "Her?" she spat, and Harry knew she was picturing what the neighbors would say if a spiky-haired punk rocker suddenly walked down the street.

            "Yes, her." Harry smirked a bit.  It was amusing to see Aunt Petunia in such a fix.

            Aunt Petunia very carefully spread marmalade over her toast, evenly coating every surface.  "I… suppose she may come," she said very slowly, "If -- and only if -- she agrees to take on a more -- civilized appearance."

            Harry nodded.  "Alright," he said.  Dudley came into the kitchen, his small blue eyes hunting out the refrigerator. 

            "Good morning, sweetie," said Aunt Petunia happily.  "What would you like for breakfast?"

            "Something quick," Dudley said, glaring briefly in Harry's direction, "and don't call me 'sweetie'."

            "Oh, I'm sorry, Dudley," Aunt Petunia said, seeming a little disappointed.

            Dudley grabbed a snack bar and scarfed it down, then took a swig of orange juice out of the container.

            "Gotta run," he said.  "The guys and me are heading to my wrestling practice."  A car horn honked outside.  "That's them," Dudley grunted.  "See you."

            "Don't stay out too late again!" Aunt Petunia called.

            Harry got up quickly and left the kitchen to write back to Tonks.

            Dear Tonks --

                        My aunt says it's okay, but you have to dress more 'civilized', which by her standards would mean very, very conservative.  See you soon!

            --Harry

 

            Friday afternoon came.  Petunia was dusting her favorite china plates carefully.  The doorbell rang.  Petunia looked up, put down the saucer, and answered the door.

            A short woman stood there in a black habit.  She had a wrinkled, apple-like face that was smiling serenely.

            "Hello," she said cheerfully.  "I am Sister Nymphadora.  Is Harry Potter here?"

            "Yes, er," Petunia said, holding up her hand.  "Pardon me, but -- what did you say your name was?"

            "Sister Nymphadora," the nun replied, blinking calmly.  "Is Harry Potter here?"

            "Yes… are you here to pick him up?" Petunia asked cautiously. 

            "Indeed I am."

            "I thought there was supposed to be a young woman here, instead."

            "She was delayed," the nun said shortly.

            "Ah… alright, then. Harry!" Aunt Petunia called.

            "Yes?" a voice replied from up the stairs.

            "Your friend's here.  Sister… Nymphadora."  Petunia glanced suspiciously at the nun.  Harry's face appeared at the head of the stairs.  His eyes widened at the sight of Sister Nymphadora, but then he ducked back into his room and came out again with a backpack on his shoulder.  He bounded down the stairs and, saying, "See you on Sunday, Aunt Petunia," disappeared out the door.

            Petunia waited a full five minutes before saying, in a voice that echoed through the hallway, "Nymphadora?"

 

            Harry and the woman in the habit waited until they were safely out of range before bursting out laughing.

            "That… was… hysterical!" Harry said, doubling up.

            "Oh… my… god…" Tonks said, sitting down on a stone fence, still laughing.  "You should have seen her face when I told her my name!" She chortled.  "So," she said, "conservative enough?"

            Harry chuckled.  "Definitely."

            "Good," Tonks said, grinning, then looked up and down the street and held out her right hand.  The violet Knight Bus appeared in front of them with a bang like a firework, and the door opened squeakily.  Stan Shunpike's professional-sounding voice floated out to the sidewalk.

            "Good afternoon and welcome to the Knight Bus, the…"

            "Hello, my dear boy," Tonks interrupted, putting on her serene nun face again.  "I would like to go to East Oxford, please."

            "Yes, sister," Stan said respectfully, "That'd be… oh, 'Arry! 'Ow's it goin'?"

            "Hullo, Stan," Harry said, grinning.  Tonks put the appropriate amount of money into Stan's outstretched hand, and then the two took a seat on the second level of the bus.

            "Now," Tonks said, "McGonagall has been around the headquarters, you know, and she told me you'll be able to play on the House team again this year -- your Firebolt's all waiting for you at headquarters.  Happy, eh?"  She smiled at the look on Harry's face.  "So, how about Quidditch?  I was on the House team, myself… I wasn't all that good, though…"

They discussed Quidditch as the Knight Bus pushed its way through Britain and got up when Stan's voice announced at last, "East Oxford," and then the pair left the bus and stepped onto the footpath. 

Tonks looked around and breathed a sigh of relief.  "Ah," she said, "it sure feels good to be in the old neighborhood again."  She peered into a nearby restaurant window and motioned for Harry to look through.  "That's my old friend Kelly," she said, pointing to a young waitress who was waiting on a table.  "I haven't seen her in ages…" I'll have to visit her later today… she's Muggle, so I can't go visiting her as Sister Nymphadora…" Her voice trailed off, but she soon straightened up again.  "Well, let's go!  My flat's only a couple blocks away, we'll be there in a minute…"

            Harry and Tonks hurried down the footpath, with Tonks pointing out various landmarks -- "That's the mall where I get all my outfits, over there's the place where I bought my furniture, oh, look, there's the entrance to Verdick Alley, a little street just off of Diagon Alley" -- and they finally reached a small brick building with an outdoor stairway.  Harry followed Tonks up to the second floor of the building, where there was a door with a sign saying, "N. X. Tonks".

            "'X'?" Harry asked.

            Tonks shrugged.  "It's short for Xandy."  At the look on Harry's face, she said, "No, my mother never gave me a chance.  Alohomora!" The door swung open to reveal a bedroom with a tie-dyed bed and fashion magazines galore.

            Tonks smiled, and then called out, "I'm ho-ome!"

            "Tonks!" Hermione's face appeared in the doorway opposite them, closely followed by Ron's.  "We've been waiting for you over an hour, and -- Harry!"

            For a minute, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were a small tangle of hugging arms and heads, and then Tonks broke the trio with, "What, so the nun doesn't get any affection?"

            Ron looked at Tonks in her habit.  "A nun?"

            "Wotcher," Tonks said.  "Sister Nymphadora, at your service."

            "Sister Nymphadora," Ron put his hand on his chin, studying Tonks.  "A very… unexpected sort of nun."

            Tonks smirked, and took off her wimple, revealing very short, gray and black hair.  "You better believe it.  Now, scoot, all three of you.  I'm going to change into a more comfortable outfit.  I'm roasting…"

            Hermione and Ron ushered Harry out to the small, somewhat messy kitchen, which looked like Hermione had been working hard to clean it up.

            "So," Harry said, looking around, taking in his surroundings, "what's been going on with the Order?"

            "Well," Ron said, "they won't tell us much, as usual…"

            "But," Hermione put in, "they are telling us that a lot of Order members are making traveling plans."

            "Why?" Harry leaned on the counter.

            "It's somewhat obvious," Hermione said, before Ron could say anything, "They're going to try and recruit members across the globe."

            "Yeah," Ron said, a little deflated.  "Bill's thinking of returning to Egypt, too."

            "Oh," Harry patted his friend on the shoulder.  "That's really too bad."

            Ron shrugged.  Tonks entered the kitchen, wearing clean, preppy clothes and blue bobby pin curls.  "Alright, Ron, Hermione," she said, eyeing the two of them in turn.  "You traveled here by Portkey, correct?"  Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement.  "And you haven't had anything to eat yet, am I right?"

            Again, the two nodded.  "Well, I happen to know a little spot right down the street," Tonks winked at Harry, who grinned in response, "and I think we can get a bite to eat there and maybe I can lead you around town later, hmm?"

            Tonks led them down to the restaurant and pointed out the same landmarks that she had to Harry, and they finally got to the little restaurant.

            After waiting a moment at the head desk, a familiar-looking waitress walked up to lead them to their seats, and then stopped in her tracks.

            "Tonks?" she said, disbelievingly.

            "Kelly!" Tonks engulfed her old chum in a bear hug and after releasing her the two women chatted excitedly for what seemed like five minutes.

            "Tonks, I haven't heard from you in ages!"

            "Sorry 'bout that… I was in the hospital for a while."

            "No!  Why didn't you ever tell me?"

            "I couldn't exactly write, could I?  My wrist had been injured."

            "Blimey… is it all right now?"

            "Yes, it's good as new, and…"

            "Oh, my goodness, I completely forgot!  Let me show you and your friends to your table… can I be introduced…?"

            "Certainly.  Kelly, this is Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, meet Kelly."

            "Pleasure to meet you, now, right this way… Tonks, we have got to get together sometime.  How long are you staying?"

            "Just the weekend."

            "Aww… maybe tomorrow night?"

            "I'll see what I can do."

            After being seated and given menus, Tonks breathed a sigh of perfect contentment and reminded Harry strongly of a cat lying in the sun.

            "Well," she said happily, "this is a good day so far.  Now, I want you to be on your toes while in Oxford, we've got a big weekend ahead of us…"

//
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