The Sugar Quill
Author: Adison  Story: The Healing Properties of Roots  Chapter: Chapter 1: One
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The Healing Properties of Roots

The Healing Properties of Roots

 

Ah, my story. Yet another addition to the seething mass. Two more strangely-proportioned chapters on the way.

Unabashed enthusiastic thanks tor my beta, Lady Narcissa, who is polite yet helpful, to-the-point yet kind.

If I owned Harry Potter, I'd be far too busy taking a nap in a bathrub filled with money to be dillydallying around with fanfiction.

 

 

 

+

 

 

 

Harry stared at the crooked number 12 at Grimmauld Place. Tonks had shown up at number 4, Privet Drive only hours ago to escort him to London to spend his last week of holiday catching up with Order news and visiting the residents. He paused with his hand outstretched, reaching for the door, and reminded himself silently that Sirius wasn't on the other side. A small nudge from Tonks prompted him forward and he turned the doorknob carefully. He stepped inside and heard a heavy silence, as if there had been speaking only a moment before.

 

"It's me!" Tonks said loudly, shutting the door behind her. "I've got him!"

 

An ear-shattering shriek answered her. "FILTH! DISGUSTING CREATURES! YOU VILE, HATED BEINGS-"

 

Tonks jumped in surprise and groped for her wand. "Gads! I thought they had shut her up!" She attempted to stun the portrait, only to have Mrs. Black duck behind the side of the frame. "You beastly woman!" Tonks shouted over the painting's renewed wails. "Hold still!" She waved her wand again and Mrs. Black was suddenly motionless, her expression tortured. Harry stepped back as Tonks grabbed an umbrella from the troll-leg stand and whacked the picture with it. Mrs. Black, frozen in mid-shriek, stayed still. Tonks hit the painting again with a satisfying thunk, and the canvas tore down the middle, ripping Mrs. Black in half. Tonks dropped the umbrella and turned back to Harry, grinning. "You have no idea how good that felt."

 

Harry stared at her with unconcealed astonishment.

 

She turned, beckoning him down the stairs into the kitchen, and he followed silently. A fire burned in the stone fireplace and a few people sat around the scrubbed kitchen table.

 

"Harry!" Molly Weasley leaped out of her chair and embraced him tightly. In spite of himself, Harry gave a small smile. He looked around the kitchen over Mrs. Weasley's shoulder and saw that several Order members he knew were there. Mundungus Fletcher rolled his pipe to the side of his mouth and grinned his welcome, Kingsley Shacklebolt waved, Mrs. Figg clasped her hands together and looked utterly delighted. Mrs. Weasley released her hold on him, but gripped his shoulders and began to fuss about his appearance. "Handsome as ever, dear, but you're terribly thin; they're feeding you, aren't they?" Harry gave a noncommittal nod and craned his neck to see who else was there. Professor McGonagall sat next to Mr. Weasley, who was with Bill. Ron was on the floor by the hearth next to Ginny (who was covered with what looked like dirt and grease), and Tonks had just sat down on the kitchen bench by a tired-but-smiling Lupin. "Hello, Harry," he said hoarsely. Harry smiled weakly.

 

"Well, we should be off," Kingsley stood up, stretching. His usually bald head was stubbly and there were bags under his eyes.

 

"But… I… don't you-" Harry watched helplessly as four Order members started towards the door.

 

"The Weasleys will fill you in, dear. And Remus and Tonks." Mrs. Figg patted his arm and tiptoed up the stairs.

 

"Potter," Professor McGonagall acknowledged him before heading up the stairs herself. Kingsley pulled a groggy-eyed Mundungus to the stairway and nodded to the rest of the room.

"Evenin'," Mundungus mumbled as he was yanked up the stairs.

 

A short silence followed their departure.

 

"What has Tonks told you, then, Harry?" Mr. Weasley asked suddenly, sitting up straighter on the bench.

 

"Erm-" Harry started.

 

"Nothing, Arthur," Tonks said. "Not much chance to chat when you're freezing your bum off on a broom."

 

"Oh," Mr. Weasley said, looking slightly amused. "Right. Well, then, Harry, I suppose you're curious. Don't have the Prophet delivered to your Aunt and Uncle’s house, by any chance, eh?"

 

Harry shook his head.

 

"Ah, well, probably not missing much. Well, lad, it looks like… well, that is to say so far there hasn't… erm…"

 

"Nothing's happened." Mrs. Weasley said, looking sour.

 

"What?"

 

"Absolutely nothing," Mr. Weasley responded. "That's what I meant to say."

 

"What do you mean nothing's happened? How could nothing have happened?"

 

"Lucius Malfoy's still in Azkaban, refusing to talk, Fudge is still dazed, and You-Know-Who is still cooped up God knows where. We haven't been able to track him."

 

"Damn," Harry swore.

 

Lupin glanced at Tonks briefly and then looked at Harry.

 

"No relief?" he asked quietly. "He's still in hiding; he must be scared."

 

Harry gave Lupin a side-long look. "He should be."

 

"That's the spirit," said Ginny with a grin.

 

"How're you, Harry?" Ron asked carefully, studying Harry's face for a reaction.

 

"Fine," Harry responded automatically.

 

Bill snorted. "Right you are, Harry." He stood and stretched. "I'm off to bed - early call tomorrow." He groaned. "These desk jobs are a nightmare."

 

"Yes," Ron said, grinning, "but 'eeevery cloud hez a seelver lining, no?'"

 

Bill glared as he made his way to the stairwell.

 

"Can you fix Mrs. Black, Bill?" Tonks asked. She looked very tired all of a sudden, and laid her head in her arms on the table. Lupin raised a tentative hand and placed it gingerly on her back. "I ripped her."

"Again?" Bill said, exasperated.

 

"Yes, again," Tonks snapped.

 

Bill harrumphed and disappeared up the dark staircase.

 

"Where is he staying?" Harry asked, his gaze lingering on the doorway.

 

"Here," Lupin said, now absently massaging Tonk's shoulders. "It's safer than the Burrow."

 

"We’re all staying here a spell," Mrs. Weasley said briskly. “Unplottable.”

 

"The Burrow is no great secret," Mr. Weasley said. "Some Death Eater is bound to know where I live."

 

"Where's Hermione?" Harry asked, quickly glancing around the room in case he'd missed her.

 

"Her house, I suppose," Mrs. Weasley said, looking weary. "Don't know how Dumbledore's protecting her, but he says he's doing something…"

 

"Oh," Harry said, uncertain how to react to this news. Ron was staring into the fire intently, eyebrows furrowed and ears turning very slightly pink. "Well, at least she's safe for now."

 

Lupin's smile told him he had said the right thing.

 

Tonks lifted her head up from her arms and yawned. "Well," she said sleepily, "I should start on those dishes Bill left sitting here on the-" She was interrupted by a long, loud clanking and banging noise from upstairs, followed by Mrs. Black's screeching.

 

"Damn it!" Mr. Weasley yelled, slapping his hands over his ears. Mrs. Black's shrill screams had reached a new pitch, and they made Harry's head throb.

 

"That will be Snape," Lupin grumbled loudly. "He's always extra careful to ring the doorbell, just in case that portraits getting too much sleep."

 

Mrs. Weasley raced up the stairs and the shrieking ceased once again. She reappeared, looking slightly miffed, followed by a tall man with shoulder-length, greasy black hair and a self-satisfied smirk. Dislike instantly swelled up in Harry's chest. Professor Snape surveyed them all silently for a moment, his lip curling more with every passing second.

 

"For the sixteenth time, Severus," Lupin said steadily, his elbows on the table, rubbing his temples with his index fingers, "you really don't need to ring the doorbell. It's unnecessary and causes a great inconvenience. Not to mention," he added, grimly pinching the bridge of his nose, "more than one headache."

 

Snape remained impassive. "I see. Common courtesy truly is dead, then. Very well. I will walk in unannounced from hereon."

 

"Please do."

 

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. "Everything all right, Severus? Any developments?"

 

"Indeed," Snape said quietly. "However, I would prefer, if I may, to relate it to you without," he sneered at Harry, who had plopped next to Ginny and Ron by the hearth, "an audience."

 

"Certainly," Mr. Weasley said curtly. "Ron, Ginny, Harry, please go upstairs to your rooms. Ginny," he added, seeing his daughter's expression, "if you don't like being alone in that room, you can sleep on the spare cot in the boy's room. And please wash your face. We stopped cleaning the den hours ago."

 

Harry and Ron stood, and Harry absently offered his hand to Ginny, pulling her up. The three of them ambled up the stairs quietly, tiptoeing past the hallway, up the next flight of stairs and into the dark, dank room Harry remembered from the previous summer. He licked his lips. There was a bitter taste lingering in the air, dust hanging in the stream of moonlight from the window.

 

"Where are the twins?"

 

"They're renting a place in Hogsmeade right now," Ron said, dropping himself onto the musty bed. "Lucky blokes."

 

"Is the business going well?"

 

"Booming," Ginny said wistfully. "They say they should have started years ago."

 

"I haven't seen a knut of my royalties," Harry grinned.

 

"Maybe they'll let you test the new Snot Suckers," Ginny yawned.

 

"Snot…"

 

"It causes nose-runs," Ron said flatly.

 

"Poor dad," Ginny said thoughtfully. "He kept saying the candy looked innocent enough. Took two days for his sinuses to clear up."

 

Harry shook his head, sat down on an empty cot and looked Ron in the eye. "Is your dad telling the truth? Nothing's happened?"

 

Ron shrugged. "That's the story we've been getting. Fudge is going crazy with worry, according to Dad."

 

"Well," Ginny said, "there is Remus-"

 

"Gin," Ron sent his sister a warning look.

 

Harry looked from Ron to Ginny. "What about Remus?"

 

Ginny gave Ron a disdainful glance.

 

 "Nothing, really," Ron said, seeing the worry on Harry's face.

 

Harry's mouth set in a grim line. "I'm really not up for any more mysteries."

 

"It's not that bad," Ginny said calmly. "Remus has just had a rather bad time of it the last couple months, that's all."

 

"Yeah," Ron sighed. "Mum keeps lecturing us about being careful around him."

 

Harry frowned. "He's not made of glass."

 

"'Course not," Ron scoffed. "But you know my mum. Mother to all, easy on none. Anyway, he's been a bit... er, on edge since his last… uh…"

 

"Transformation," Harry said tonelessly.

 

"Exactly," Ginny said. "Dad went downstairs yesterday to make some tea and found Remus crying in the kitchen. That sort of thing."

 

"Tonks reckons it's the stress," Ron added.

 

"Tonks?" Harry said quizzically. "Is she staying here as well?"

 

"Yeah," Ginny said lightly, picking at the mattress. "Dumbledore said it would be a good idea."

 

"We don't mind the company," Ron said. "Unless You-Know-Who finds out where we are. He could take out half the Order in one swoop."

 

"Ron," Ginny said, her eyes narrowed. "Stop."

 

Harry ignored the bickering. "Heard from Hermione?"

 

Ron's smile faded a little. "Yeah. I think she's more worried than she lets on. Because of her parents, you know."

 

"So they know what's going on?"

 

"I don't know. I'm sure she said something to them, but I doubt she's mentioned anything about the Department of Mysteries…" Ron trailed off, looking horrified.

An awkward silence followed.

 

"I'm going to get some water," Ron said nervously, moving from the cot toward the door.

 

Harry didn't look up from his hands.

 

"Bet you're sick of people asking if you're okay, hmm?"

 

Harry raised his eyes to meet Ginny's face. She looked sadder than usual; her skin a bit paler, her eyes duller.

 

"A bit, yeah. Don't really know how to answer, I guess."

 

Ginny folded her hands and took a breath. "You know, Harry," she said carefully, "I don't know what you're going through, but I do think about it… every day." She paused. "I feel guilty, too."

 

Harry's eyebrows raised in surprise. "Why?"

 

Ginny shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "I was there, wasn't I? I could have helped. I could have done something." She paused. "I didn't know Sirius that well, and I know my mum would fight with him, but…" her voice took on an even sadder tone, "he was a good man, he was always kind to me, and anyway, he loved you."

 

Harry lowered his gaze again. His eyes were starting to sting.

 

"I just wanted to say that," Ginny said quickly. "You don't have to talk about it or anything."

 

"There's nothing to talk about, anyway," Harry muttered. He raised his eyes to meet hers. Ginny opened her mouth as if poised to say something more, and then…

 

"That bathroom's bloody huge," Ron walked into the small room, stepping over his trunk. "I almost got lost in it."

 

Ginny grinned and rose from the spare cot. "Right. I'll go wash some of this grit off my face. Lovely," she added thoughtfully, "having more than one bathroom."

 

"Not that it makes a difference, what with the twins gone," Ron muttered. Ginny patted her brother on the shoulder and left the room, gently closing the door behind her.

 

Ron flopped down on the mattress and wrinkled his nose as a cloud of dust rose around him. "I'm going to ask Mum to do a cleansing charm up here tomorrow. It's disgusting."

 

"Shouldn't it be cleaner? What happened to…" Harry waved his hand around the room, hoping Ron would get the point.

 

Ron looked confused. "What happened to…. Oh, Kreacher?"

 

Harry nodded.

 

Ron's eyes grew wide. "Such a weird thing. He's bound to the Black family, right? So now there's no one to serve." Ron shook his head, bewildered. "The git killed himself."

 

Harry felt himself sink lower into the cot. "He… what?"

 

"Hanged himself," Ron said anxiously. "Lupin found him. All I know is he got a nasty shock when he went down to take a shower."

 

"But… but how do you know? I mean, how do you know the… details? That he's bound to the family?"

 

Ron groaned. "Dear old Mrs. Black. Apparently, she and Kreacher had quite a chat, and she gave him instructions. It's a miracle anyone was able to get it out of her. I mean, she shrieks, but all in all we've learned to sort of ignore her entirely."

 

"Had a chat? They had a chat?" Harry felt himself growing unreasonably infuriated. "The house elf responsible for Sirius's death had a chat with a portrait of his former mistress and then hanged himself?"

 

"Well, I guess so," Ron shifted in his seat. "At least he's gone, right? He's not going to be around any-"

 

"Oh!' Harry said angrily. "Oh, yes, thank God for that! Now Kreacher's head can hang on the wall with the rest of his family! Yes! Three cheers for justice! Now I can rest easy!"

 

Ron looked alarmed.

 

"Ron!" Ginny stood in the doorway, hands on her hips and mouth slightly open. "What did you do to him?"

 

"I told him about Kreacher!"

 

Ginny shut her eyes, as though attempting to contain herself.

 

"What? Lupin was going to tell him tonight, anyway."

 

"Ron, somehow I think if you had let Lupin tell him, he wouldn't be stuck in a cot, shrieking like a banshee!"

 

"I don't care who told me!"

 

Ron's perplexed look intensified. "Why are you so upset? I'd have thought you'd be glad he was dead."

 

"I wanted to try to understand, Ron! I was ready to ask him, to try to talk to him rationally, like Hermione's always raving on about. Then maybe I would have gotten it, maybe some sense, no matter how twisted, would have come of it, and maybe I could forgive him. But I can't now! I can't even think of that… that… beast without feeling like I've lost Sirius all over again! You can't understand what I mean, because… well, you can't!" Harry had started absently pacing the room, his voice rising in tone until he was practically shouting.

 

"Can we ever?" Ginny snapped. "We don't understand anything, remember? We're not orphans, and we don't have to save the world, so we couldn't possibly comprehend the inner-workings of your mind!" She crossed her arms and took a deep breath. "I know you're angry, Harry, but look around you. Why do you think he did it? He was brainwashed, and Sirius was the enemy. It's awful to think that it's that simple, but it is. 'You wouldn't have learnt anything new from Kreacher. You wouldn't have gotten any comfort. I know you." Ginny turned around and left the room; a dangerous silence filled the space she’d left.

 

Ron looked awkwardly from the door to Harry, who sat back down on the cot. "Seems a bit out of sorts, doesn't she?"

 

Harry raised his hand to his face and massaged his forehead. "I'm sorry, Ron. I'm being a git." He rose from the makeshift bed.

 

"Maybe you should get some tea or something," Ron said, tired. "Ever since they found Kreacher downstairs, they hold their meetings in the drawing room; they've probably moved there already."

 

"Yeah," Harry said vaguely. "Tea. I should apologize to Ginny."

 

Ron's eyebrows knit together.

//
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