The Sugar Quill
Author: Mincot (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Sixth-Year Cliche  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Harry sighed and leaned back against the headboard

Disclaimer: I do not own JK Rowling’s characters or world. They are all hers. Dang it.   I am making no money from this, nor will I ever; no copyright infringement is intended.  All hers.

 Author’s Note: This parody grew out of a week of flu, when all I could do was lie flat on my back, cough and hack, and sporadically read fanfic.  I think I went through the bulk of decent fanfics out there.  And, face it, when you read ten or twelve of the things at once, they all start sounding alike.  To amuse myself I began keeping a checklist.  Harry and the Dursleys, check.  Ron as Quidditch captain, check.  Of course, many sixth-year fics have similar elements precisely because the authors are drawing very carefully from canon, presenting believable situations based on what we know, thinking carefully about character, and writing some damn fine stories.  This parody is meant to amuse, not to say, “Do it differently.”  (Well, except for the pokes at punctuation issues, that is.)  And, as always, many thanks to Alkari for reading and letting me talk it out, and to Julie Rose for her snort of laughter and great comments, and to the Evil Twins for general inspiration. And to one Evil Twin, Pelirroja, for “Let’s Do the AK Again,” (based on, of course, Rocky Horror) which you can see here on p. 2.


Harry sighed and leaned back against the headboard. The Dursleys had said nothing directly to him during the journey back to Privet Drive.  Instead they had kept up a constant but inconsequential conversation among themselves that only served to underscore their refusal to include Harry.  Petunia planned a shopping trip to get new clothes for Dudley (“He’s had such a hard year, Vernon, unlike other people I could name.”), and Uncle Vernon talked about business (“Booming, Pet, there are lots of people who need drills because they do things the proper way.”) Once at Number Four, they had simply gone in to the house, leaving Harry to wrestle his trunk and Hedwig’s cage up the stairs by himself.  He had started downstairs when he heard Aunt Petunia call Dudley to come for dinner, but with his hand on the doorknob he realized that he could not bear more of his relatives’ inanities.  He flopped on the bed, sighed, and leaned against the headboard.  A long, dreary summer lay before him ...


            “Oh, please.  You’re going to make me suffer again, aren’t you?” someone said in a disgusted voice.


            Mincot jumped and spun her office chair around.  To her utter surprise, a teenager was leaning against the doorframe.  She stared at his black unruly hair.


            “Don’t tell me.  You want to see the scar,” the boy said with heavy sarcasm. 


            “Forget the scar,” Mincot croaked. She was working hard to suppress her inner fangurl.   Harry Potter!!  Not Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter!!!  In my house!!!  “I was just surprised to see  … well … uh … Hi, Harry.”


            Harry Potter (for so it was) gave a theatrical sigh.  He walked into the room and scooped a cat out of Mincot’s blue reading chair, pushed aside the pillows that Allemande had been using during her recent visit, and sat down.  “You thought I was fictional, like all of the rest of them,” he said.  “Well, I look a little like Danny boy, but there are appreciable differences between us.”


            Mincot goggled for a minute more, but then she took a surreptitious swig of her Shiner Bock and pulled herself together.  Harry’s shoulders were tense, and his lips tight, and she did not want to be on the receiving end of a full blown Harry Potter Angry Spell.  Besides, she couldn’t afford to replace anything in the house right now.  “Well,” she said, striving for lightness, “now I know better.  Ummm … do you want anything?”  What did one offer stray Rowling characters … sorry, real people … who dropped in unannounced sans benefit of door?  Even in Britain, he was too young to be offered a beer, but she had water and sodas and lemonade.  Although this was Georgia, after all, where kids started with Bud from the cradle (and some of them through the umbilical).


            “No, thank you,” Harry said politely, but Mincot got the feeling that he was gritting his teeth.  “What I want is for you not to write what you were about to write.”




            “You were going to make me suffer, right?  Make me brood about Sirius?  Feeling guilty, angsty, and so depressed I couldn’t do more than lie on my bed and twiddle my toes and whimper?  Make me fret endlessly about not using Sirius’ mirror?”


            “Well, you did just lose him.”  Mincot tried to make her voice more sympathetic.  “I mean, I know what losing someone is like, and … well, if I were you, I’d be a basket case.”


            Harry twisted his hands in the pillow.  “Well, yeah, I miss Sirius; yeah, I’m mad; yeah, I feel guilty, but give me a break! I’m tired of being angsty.  And he didn’t say anything much to me either, remember--communication is a two-way street.  And as for his stuff … doesn’t anyone do anything with it other than making me and Remus inherit it all?”  He leaned over and fiddled with the lever that raised the chair’s footrest.  “”At least somebody usually puts Kreacher out of our misery.  --But back to the Dursleys. And that fic you’re writing.  Don’t you dare have Aunt Petunia suddenly start trying to be nice, even just a little.  That’s weird, too.”  He ran his fingers through his untidy black hair.  “I suppose she cut a deal with the writers because she was tired of being cardboard, just like I’m tired of being sad. Speaking of Aunt Petunia, what were you going to do with the Dursleys?  Let me guess: they were either going to ignore me, or give me twice as many chores, or be overtly polite but really rude under their breaths.” 


            Mincot felt herself going red.  “Well …”


            “For a writer, you’re not very articulate, are you?  At least you didn’t mispunctuate their name, as well.  I get so tired of living with the Dursley’s.  Haven’t any of these fanfic writers read Strunk and White or Eats, Shoots, and Leaves?  And it’s almost as bad having Sirius always be my Godfather, not my godfather--it sounds as if he had been in the American Mafia.  What happened to the distinction between proper and general nouns?”


The tabby cat that Harry had displaced, Bella, had been sitting on the floor and staring fixedly at Harry, clearly angry that he had disturbed her nap.  The fact that there was a stranger in the chair was clearly no reason for her not to sit there, too, but he seemed oblivious to her hints.  Finally she gave up and just leaped onto the arm of the chair.  Giving Harry a low-lidded stare, Bella began scolding him imperiously.  Harry did the only sensible thing: he started stroking her.  Then he looked over at Mincot.  “What else?  Oh, yes, I bet I was going to blame myself that my friends got into danger, right?”


            “What, you were not going to worry about them at all?  What kind of a varmint are you?” Mincot asked, her Texas roots appearing momentarily.  “What did you have in mind, buster?”


            Harry ran his free hand through his messy hair.  “That’s the problem, isn’t it?” he asked, his voice less angry.  “All these things are logical, but I have to do them over and over and over!  I mean, there’s wallowing and then there’s wallowing!  Once is quite sufficient.  But in every bloody fanfic!  I had to have my tear-ducts cleared after the last one, they’ve gotten so clogged, and I’ve gone over every nasty memory so often that I don’t feel anything.  I could face a Dementor and not even blink.  So.  Were you going to have me just worry, or try to distance myself from them?”


            “Neither,” Mincot said.  “You were going to write long letters and try to work it out with them via owl post.”


            Bella edged on to Harry’s lap.  “Well, that’s different.  And you’re letting me have some communication … “


            “I would think that the members of the Order would have learnt about keeping you in the dark,” Mincot started, but was surprised that Harry began saying exactly the same thing.  “Oh, dear, that’s a trope now, is it?”


            Harry recited, “I either get no communication with my friends, or we work out a system not involving Owl Post, but at least people tell me what’s going on.”


            “You want that they should leave you in the dark?”  Another cat had come out …the one that Mincot took her screen name from, in fact.  So, confusingly, Mincot sat on Mincot’s lap and started to purr.


            It was Harry’s turn to turn red.  “Just tell me you weren’t going to have me work out my differences with Ginny.  I’m doomed to take notice of her this year, I think.  She’s either hauling me up short for self-pity, or being the only one who knows how to let me heal. And either way I start noticing that she’s  …”  His hand made a vague gesture at his chest.  He bit his lip and said hastily, changing the subject, “And then there’s Occlumency lessons.”


            Mincot sighed and wished she was magical so she could accio another beer or four.  At this rate she would need them, and soon.  “Don’t tell me.  Remus, Albus, or a chastened Severus teaches you.”


            Harry nodded glumly.  “What the fanfic writers don’t know is that I made a deal with Rowling.  She’s invented a heretofore unmentioned but highly known potion that completely blocks my thoughts, which I can take and forget about things.  Of course, it leaves me a little wonky and I tend to pull a Lockhart from time to time, but it is better than dealing with Remus’ angst, Dumbledore’s apologizing, and Snape in general.  It helps with the depression, too.  Of course,” he added, thoughtfully, “most people think that Remus is getting … ah … comfort … from Tonks, so I suppose he’s okay on his own.”


            Quietly, Mincot deleted the file she had been working on.  It looked as if it was all going to be rubbish, anyway.  She reached for her legal pad, on which she had written a list of ideas.  Mincot the cat opened her eyes and glared at Mincot the person, annoyed to have her soft lap move, even slightly.   “So what about the prophecy, Harry?  Are you brooding over becoming a murderer?”


            Harry rolled his eyes. “Hell, no.  Hermione gave me a lot of books over the summer—lots of Greek tragedies and stuff.  Worrying about prophecies never seems to help anyone, so why should I bother?  It’ll come true with or without my help—and anything I do will likely be wrong, because I have misunderstood it or something.”  He had stopped stroking Bella, and she blatted at him and butted him with her chin.  “Besides, I like to think of it as justifiable homicide, not murder.”  He began humming “Let’s Do the A-K Again” under his breath. 


            Mincot nodded, a little nervously.  She thought it would be a good idea to interrupt before he got to “Just an Imperio to the left, and a Crucio to the right…” and decided to act out the song.  “Okay, Harry, so long as you’re happy …”


            “That’s the point.  That doesn’t seem to be anyone’s goal, my happiness.  They all want me to be immured in sorrow.  I am having a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad life, and I think I’ll move to Australia.”


            “Alkari will be happy about that,” Mincot said.  “Just don’t scare her horse.  I’m told he spooks at mosquitoes.  So: I guess that means you won’t be going either to the Burrow, to Grimmauld Place to brood, or staying with the Dursleys, right?”


            “Luna’s father offered me a reporter slot at the Quibbler, and it’s tempting.  The twins offered me a job, but I’d have to be a guinea pig—sometimes quite literally—so I said no to them, too.”


            “So what are you going to do?”


            Harry smiled, but then hastily rearranged his face in a dour, sad expression.  “I have all this angst; it would be a shame to waste it.  I think I’ll go to America and be a professional mourner.”


            Ummm, Harry, that’s more of a European thing.  And I don’t think there’s that much call for it any more anyway.”


            “With your election politics?  I figure I’ll be in high demand by members of both parties.  I might even have to take a year off Hogwarts.”


            A new voice cut in, “That could be fun, but don’t even think about it.”


Mincot-the-cat hissed at the newcomer, a young woman with thick hair and a firm expression, and jumped off Mincot-the-human’s lap and stalked out of the room. 


“Well, that was friendly,” the woman said.  “You don’t happen to have an extra chair?”


“There’s usually only me in the study, Hermione,” Mincot said, trying hard to keep her voice calm.  Her inner fangurl was squee-ing loudly again.  “You can get one from the living room.”


When Hermione returned, Harry said, “Not doing any magic outside of Hogwarts, are you?”


“No,” lamented Hermione, glaring at Mincot.  Uber-canon witch here says no magic by underage wizards.”


Harry nodded.  “That’s an improvement, Hermione; fanfic writers often have us given leave to practice this summer.  And don’t say you want to learn—you’re just indulging your stereotypical side again.”


 “On the other hand,” Mincot said, rather testily, “if you could just accio me another Shiner, please …”  Hermione shook her head smugly, and Mincot glared, got up and went out to the kitchen.  When she returned, she sat down on her chair again, adjusting her new lumbar support.  It didn’t fit her thirty-eight-year old chair very well, but a rubber band or four helped that.  She wished suddenly for a Permanent Sticking Charm.  “I assume you both did well on your O.W.L.’s?” she asked, prying the cap off her Shiner Bock, and was rewarded by a glacial smile from Harry.


Hermione sighed.  “I, of course, get the top number of O.W.L.’s ever, even in subjects that haven’t been offered for the last three hundred years and were then only given in classes that met in Uppsala.  Harry and Ron either scrape by the middle, or are right up there behind me.”


“But I don’t get my O in Potions, no matter what …”


“Well, if you’d apply yourself and just ignore Snape …”


“…and therefore can’t take Snape’s NEWT-level class, which means I can’t be an auror.  But Someone will intercede for me, and Snape has to take me. Which means he’s twice as bitchy as he usually is.” 


Hermione asked, “Wonder if it’s hormonal?  Harry, have you noticed any cycle in how oily his hair is?”


“No,” answered Harry, “You know I never am allowed to notice stuff like that.  I’ll start keeping notes.”


Mincot surreptitiously crossed out another idea she had had for the sixth-year fic.  She found herself wondering what Rowling was going to have left to write.  A sudden thought struck her.  “Now that Voldemort’s back, what’s going on?”


Hermione said, “Well, we’re supposed to have a new Minister of Magic, but that happens either early or late in the year, depending on how much trouble Harry needs to be in.  Meanwhile, there are either lots of Death Eater attacks, usually on Harry’s friends, or the Death Eaters are conspicuously quiet and everyone worries about what they are up to.”

“I see.”


“Hey, Malfoy and his cronies often break out of Azkaban,” Harry said.  “Ever notice how, when something’s really, really hard and nobody ever does it, how suddenly everyone does it?  Sirius started a breakout trend—nobody had ever broken out from Azkaban before, and then the Lestranges did it and then Malfoy and others.  Makes you wonder why the Ministry bothers to put people there in the first place.  And despite the fact that McGonagall said that Animagi were really rare, and that there were fewer than ten registered Animagi last century, I know of at least 40% more, including Rita Skeeter.”


“40% of what?” Mincot looked confused.


Hermione tutted.  “I thought you Americans just ate up meaningless statistics.  Forty percent of all San Antonio Spurs followers, if you like.”

“Rita likes the Spurs???”


Hermione’s voice rose. “Anyway, Harry, all that proves is that not only is the transformation easier than people have said, but that only fewer than ten people were stupid enough to register themselves.”


“Speaking of the Malfoys,” Mincot said, but was interrupted by Hermione, who was happy that someone had read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. 


Mincot said, rather grumpily, “I learnt to punctuate properly, Hermione, long before that book appeared.  But I can write “Malfoy’s” if you really, really want me to.”  She stopped, and then said, “On second thought, I don’t think I can.  Carry on.  Can I at least say that you all either ignore Malfoy on the train, or get into your usual exchange of pleasantries?”


“Well, he’s either the head of a pack or has lost all his cronies,” Harry snapped, “and he’s usually lost his prefecture, and occasionally we start making some kind of truce, because after all I always have to root for the underdog; anyway, I’d rather you just write him out of the story entirely.”


“Sorry, no go.”


“That’s what JKR said, too.  Wonder how much it’ll take to bribe her?  She gets all the royalties for the books and movies, and none of us get so much as a knut.”  Harry stood up suddenly, dumping Bella on the ground.  She scolded him, but then slipped up and sat on the warm chair seat before Hermione could move to sit down herself.  “Anyway …”


Oi, Harry!”


Mincot looked up and sternly quelled her inner fangurl. Or Fangurl, if one wanted to use fanon punctuation.  All of a sudden she remembered Dickens’s three spirits from A Christmas Carol, and she wondered if she had had enough spirits to deal with this conversation.  She forced herself to look down at her notebook rather than at the brilliant redhead sitting on the floor.  “Umm, Ron? Is it okay if I make you Quidditch captain?  Because Harry can’t …”


“NO!” the three shouted as one.


 Mincot rocked backward, surprised. “DAY-am.” 


“Your inner Texan is showing,” Ron said kindly.


“But I thought … “


“Of course I want it, I’m not mental.”  Ron shook himself.  “And quit writing me as always calling people mental.”  Mincot hastily erased a word on her page.  “But I’m always getting it, even though Harry can play again, and it’s putting a real strain on our status as boys, worrying so much about each other’s feelings, see?  Let Katie Bell do it.”


Mincot raised one eyebrow, a trick she had learned from her mother.  “If you want,” she said dubiously.  “Will Ginny have to try out, like everyone else?”


Ron thought for a moment.  “I suppose so.  But, look, could you please let me and Hermione not snog quite so much?”


“Ron!” said the other two.  Hermione blushed.


Ron shrugged, clearly unrepentant.  “I’d think you’d ask the same thing about Ginny, Harry.  And I’m neither very pleased about you getting on with Ginny and noticing her … uh …”  His hand made a vague gesture at his chest, “nor about to knock your block off for it.”


Harry looked over at Mincot.  “You’re repeating phrases again.”


“So what?” Mincot shot back.  “JKR does it.”


“Look, can we get back to my love life so we can tone it down?” Ron asked.  “I mean, who needs that much embarrassment?  Everyone’s always walking in on us, forcing us to Declare Our Love.  You two, too.”  He paused, and then said, in a considering voice, “And, Hermione, I love you, but we snog so much I think we’re sharing sinuses, you know?  I’d like a break from the mucus.”


“I’d have a lot more time for Ginny—okay, yes, I’m emotionally clueless, but I get a lot fewer colds that way and life is less complicated!”  Harry said, glaring meaningfully at Mincot’s legal pad.  With a small sigh, she crossed another item off her list.  “As I was saying, I’d have a lot more time for Ginny if I didn’t have to run the DA.”


“I thought that was just last year’s expedient experiment?”  Mincot said.


“It was,” Hermione said, ‘but a lot of people have jumped on the defence bandwagon.  Anyway, the new DADA teacher is either an auror … “


“Tonks is cute, but Kingsley is really cool too,” Ron put in.  “Of course, nobody seems to be able to come up with anybody new.”


Hermione rolled her eyes.


“Are you stopping arguing because you’ve figured out you’re in love?”  Harry said brightly.


“NO, Harry,” Hermione snapped.  Mincot quietly erased another line on her legal pad.  “Stop interrupting.  We don’t argue in person; it’s bad enough doing it all the time in canon.  As I was saying, the new DADA teacher is either an auror, and has another job as well as teaching, or is vaguely competent and friendly, but inconsistent.  Either way, we need Harry.”


“But will we or won’t we let the Slytherins in?” mused Ron.  “I’m all for it, seeing as how most fanfics make me dead-set against them.  I say everything short of the only good Slytherin is a dead Slytherin.”


“At least the fanfic writers have finally figured out that Blaise is male,” Hermione said.  “Although I never understood why they thought he could be female in the first place; it is not a female name.  Of course, people called me “HERmy-Own” until I paid JKR to put the proper pronunciation in one of her books, so I suppose nobody bothers to read nineteenth century literature or has watched Gigi in the last ten years.  And as for those people who insist on calling Sirius “SIGH-rus,” well, it just proves that people never learnt to sound out words  in school …”


“Or to punctuate,” Harry said darkly.  Mincot hastily checked over her rough notes for any stray punctuation error.  “Well, that’s the start of the year,” she said, trying to sound cheery.  “What about the rest of it??”


Harry reached down and picked Bella up, and began to stroke her again.  “Well, there’s developing romance … “


“Check,” Mincot said.


“And my Occlumency lessons … oh, usually I learn to block Voldemort, so he gets inventive, or I can’t block Voldemort, so I have bad dreams … “


“What about partly blocking him?” Mincot asked facetiously, but Hermione just tutted at her.


“Sometimes there’s a new magical talent that is critical but nobody has ever heard of it before,” Ron added.  “And I get to be a Seer and make genuine predictions.”


Mincot erased another line on her list.  There was almost nothing left.


“Oh, Ron!” Hermione cried out.  Bella yowled in protest as Harry’s arms tightened convulsively.  “You forgot Bellatrix and the Death Eaters.”


“Sounds like a new band,” Mincot muttered.


“Well, they don’t torture people by singing atonally, but they do play together,” Hermione said wisely. Harry had begun to hum “Let’s Do the AK Again.”   “They just torture people the good old fashioned way.  A lot.  And sometimes Remus gets to hunt Bellatrix down for Sirius—revenge, you know.  Unless he is distracted by his love for Tonks, or by a vague Secret Mission.  But he keeps in touch with Harry by using the magical mirror, you know; he fixes it.”


“Yeah, it wracks Harry with guilt every time he sees it, but he uses it.  We’re all in learning-from-our-mistakes mode in fanfic,” Ron added.  “And so we ALWAYS keep in touch with Harry.”


“Yeah, I feel like a bloody octopus,” Harry said.  “Who wants to hold my hand-hand-hand???”


Mincot ignored the bad Beatles imitation and looked at her notes.  “Umm, Trio?”


“DON’T call us that!” they snapped, in perfect three-part harmony.


Mincot nodded.  “Well, whatever collective noun you choose, you have to tell me what is left for a sixth-year fic?”  She showed them her paper, with every line crossed out.  Mincot-the-cat came in again, leaped lightly onto the desk (alliteration being all-important for satisfying the inner fangurl) and sat on the legal pad.


“Something original?” Harry suggested sarcastically.


“Something that has description and conversation mixed in—that isn’t just line after line of dialogue?  I mean, we can hardly keep it straight—how can you?”


Hermione looked puzzled.  “Umm, which one of us was just speaking?”


Mincot-the-person had been stroking Mincot-the-cat, and hadn’t noticed.  In the end, they decided that it must have been Bella (because of course Ron couldn’t say anything smart unless it was Heartfelt Wisdom …) 


“Besides, everything’s borrowed,” Mincot said sourly.  “You should know that.  All writers are in an ongoing dialogue with other stories, with their own time period … intertextuality rules and that’s the way it should be.”


“You’re sounding like Hermione,” the boys chorused.


“Well, and what of it?” Mincot said right back.


The conversation continued on, but they came to no conclusion.  At great length, Harry (who had lost his voice by then) realized that he was needed somewhere else.  “Don’t you hear those keys clicking?” he rasped at the others.  Even his voice sounded tired.  The Tri-- sorry, the primary characters couldn’t Disapparate, because, war or no war, they were underage.  Finally, they just faded away, in the way of would-be-real fictional characters or Dickensian spirits.  At least Scrooge had had to deal with only one Spirit at a time, Mincot thought. 


Mincot-the-person shook her head, bemused, and looked down at her legal pad.  One perfectly entertaining sixth-year fic, completely shot down.  She’d have to start over.  Meanwhile, Bella had come up to Mincot-the-cat, and was washing Mincot-the-cat’s ears.  Mincot-the-person sat back to watch—voluntary ear washing usually became forcible ear-washing, and that led to scuffling, and then to a fully fledged feline wrestling match. She found herself wondering if Harry could learn Muggle wrestling techniques as part of his extra training.


She heard a loud pop!, and looked up.  A scrap of parchment had appeared in mid-air over her desk and was floating down toward her.  She opened it, and saw the words “been there, done that” in handwriting that somehow (magically! She thought) conveyed utter boredom.  Okay.  Scrap the jujitsu / tae kwon do approach.  Was there anything left even for JKR to write? she wondered.


Finally she yanked the pages from her legal pad and fed them to her shredder.  They would make great packing material.  Then she opened yet another beer and happily began scribbling down the record of the last two hours’ worth of conversation, thinking that she might have to graduate to gin if the Marauders showed up.


Bella chirped at her and insisted that she sit in Mincot-the-person’s lap.  Any typos in this transcription are all her fault. It couldn’t possibly be the Shiner.

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