The Sugar Quill
Author: Ciela Night  Story: To Defend  Chapter: Part One: Quiet Sunday Afternoon
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Late afternoon light streamed into the Thomas family’s stuffy flat causing Michael Thomas to squint as he opened another window to circulate the air. Two stories below, cars zoomed past in the busy street and yells were heard as a group of kids raced past. Michael smiled as he turned back to his cooking. A large bowl sat in front of him, full of ingredients, and he tried to remember if he had added the paprika already. He considered yelling to his wife, Abby, to ask if it would ruin the dish if he added more but the roar of the vacuum cleaner in the back bedroom told him she was busy. He looked once more at his cookbook and then shrugged. He’d add a bit more, surely it wouldn’t hurt the dish that much.

“Dad?” His oldest daughter, Talia, appeared at the kitchen entrance.

“Yes, sweetie?”

“I need some twist ties, I’m braiding Livvie’s hair and we ran out of elastics. Mum said that they’re in the drawer underneath the cutlery.”

“Sure, go ahead.” Michael stepped out if the way as Talia came into the kitchen. She rummaged around in the drawers until she found the ties.

“Thanks.” As she turned to leave, Michael called out.

“Tals?”

“Yeah?”

“Do, you know when Dean and Seamus are supposed to come back?”

Talia bit her lip as she thought. “I think that Dean told Mum that they’d be back by dinner. I don’t know the exact time.”

“Okay. Hopefully they’ll be back soon, dinner’s almost ready.”

“Really?” Talia looked skeptical as she considered the bowl of ingredients. “Doesn’t look like it.”

 Michael pretended to be offended. “Are you insulting my cooking, miss?”

“Maybe.”

“Why you little-”

Brrrrinng. The doorbell interrupted any further teasing.

“I’ll get it,” said Talia. As she went to answer the door, she passed by the living room where her two younger brothers, Mitchell and Darren were watching a football game. She paused as she saw the team that was playing. “Oy, Darren!” she called, “How’s West Ham doing?”

Her brother groaned. “They’re down 2 – nothing. Cardiff’s pounding them!”

Talia sighed. “They’re doing horribly this year!” she said emphatically as she moved on to the door. But her dad had already gotten it. It was two strangers, probably some politicians campaigning for the coming borough council elections. Talia gave a mental shrug; she started back to the bedroom she shared with Livvie but then three words made her pause.

“ – Ministry of Magic.”

Talia’s head whipped around. This had to be something to do with Dean. Talia had always known that her older brother was different from the rest of her siblings; strange incidents had often happened around him that no one could explain. But it wasn’t until Dean turned eleven that the family discovered why those things had happened. Dean was a wizard and he had been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. From then on, Dean was away for most of the year, coming home only on Christmas and summer holidays. When he first came home from Hogwarts, he had told his family and especially his wide-eyed younger siblings about his adventures at school, about learning to fly on broomsticks and learning how to do magic spells. He had told them about Harry Potter, the boy who had defeated an evil wizard when he was only a baby, who was also in Dean’s house, Gryffindor.

Talia often wished that she could go to Hogwarts as well. When she had turned eleven she had waited eagerly for the letter that would say that she had a place at Hogwarts. But the letter never came and eventually Talia got over her disappointment, only occasionally giving wistful looks to Dean’s trunk that held his school supplies.

Over the last few years however, Dean had become tighter lipped about his year at school. When he had come home from his fourth year, he had acted differently, ignoring all queries from his brothers and sisters and even his parents about his year. “It was fine, a typical school year,” he had answered shortly. His parents thought that his response was just the beginning of teenage surliness but Dean’s sibling knew different.

“He’s hiding something,” said Mitchell knowingly, one time when Dean wasn’t around. Talia, Darren and Livvie agreed. They had pestered Dean all summer but he refused to answer, growing more and more irritated with them until finally the normally even-tempered Dean had yelled at them, “JUST LEAVE ME THE BLOODY HELL ALONE!”

They stopped asking him but they didn’t stop wondering. They had scoured his letters that he sent via owl for any hidden meanings. They hadn’t found much. Dean’s letters were short and to the point with basic information that didn’t give any clues. Even their parents became curious. Eventually they decided to wait until he came home from school. When Dean came home at the end of June he told them that he told them he was under orders from school not to say anything about the wizarding world; it was to protect his Muggle family. Naturally, this didn’t please his parents; they pressed him on it but Dean refused to talk anymore.

 The secrets that Dean was hiding created a strain on his relations with his family. Daily arguments sprung up between Michael and Dean with Michael threatening to not allow Dean to go back to Hogwarts until he explained what he was keeping from them. These continued throughout the summer and now, at the end of August becoming almost unbearable. The arrival of Dean’s school friend, Seamus, made a welcome break but Seamus’s arrival seemed to make Dean even moodier. Two days after Seamus came Talia had caught some hints of conversation between Dean and Seamus outside Dean’s room and what she heard made her uneasy.

“There’s been another attack in Sussex, the whole family was wiped out,” she heard Seamus mutter to Dean after an agitated owl had crashed into one of the flat’s windows in a hurry to deliver the message. “It’s the Muggle-born ones he’s targeting is what The Prophet’s sayin’,” Seamus continued with a sideglance at Dean. “We’re not going to be staying on the sidelines much longer, mate.” 

Dean stared ahead at nothing, his thoughts seemed to elsewhere. “I don’t think we’ve been on the sidelines for a while,” he said tightly. “Not since we joined the DA.” Seamus seemed at a loss for words, then he caught sight of Talia. “Hey!”

Dean looked up quickly, “What are you doing here, Talia?” he asked sharply. He and Seamus cornered her.

“She was eavesdropping,” said Seamus suspiciously.

Talia stuck up her nose. “I was not!” she answered belligerently. “I live here too, Dean. In fact I’m here more often than you so I have more of a right to be here than you!”

Dean and Seamus didn’t pay much attention to her argument. “What did you hear, Tals?” asked Dean.

Talia looked at her brother, who seemed more upset and worried than angry. “Nothing, really,” she lied. “I just came to ask you if you and Seamus wanted to watch the game between the Hammers and Leicester. It’s starting in a couple of minutes.”

Seamus and Dean looked at each other. “Sure, it’s always fun to watch Muggle sports!” said Seamus, falsely cheery. Talia gave him a bright smile as they went to the living room, Dean following behind, the worried expression staying on his face.

A few days later Dean stopped her before she went into her room. He pressed something small and round into her hand. “I don’t know how much you heard between Seamus and me but…” he hesitated. “I think you heard a lot more than you should’ve. I suppose I’m kinda glad in a way, at least someone else in the family knows, if something happens to me.”

“What are you talking about, Dean?” asked Talia, frustrated. “If something happens to you, what? What are you mixed up in?”

“I can’t tell you! I wish I coul… no, actually I don’t. They shouldn’t target you. But… look, Tals, make me a promise okay?”

“Okay,” she said softly. She was becoming a bit scared, but she wasn’t about to let Dean see that she was.

“You can’t tell Mum or Dad or Livvie, or anyone.”

“I understand.”

“This medallion I’m giving you, it’s magic. You can use it to contact me. If you ever feel that you’re in danger or if you see something strange, like people suddenly appearing out of thin air or carrying wands. You’ve seen my wand, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, people like me sometimes use wands as weapons, like a gun. If you ever see someone other than me or Seamus take out a wand, you need to run or hide behind something. Or if you hear the words Death Eater or Dark Lord or…” Dean paused and then spat out the last word with difficulty. “Voldemort, then I want you to use the medallion and then you and the rest of the family have to hide. Do you understand?”

Talia felt cold, she could hardly believe what she was hearing. “Are we in danger, Dean?”

Dean looked frustrated. “No… I don’t think so really, still it’s always good to be cautious as my old Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers always say. I just want you and the rest of the family to be safe and not caught up in all this wizarding mess. Here, let me show you how to work the charm on the medallion.”

Talia let Dean take the necklace from her and watched as he showed her how to activate the charm. The unasked questions stayed on the tip of her tongue. But watching her older brother, Talia thought that she had gotten all the answers she would get for a while, if not ever, about what was really going on in Dean’s wizarding world.

Now, as she watched the two strangers ask pointed questions she thought back to that day. Talia was sure that these strangers were wizards, but were they the good guys or the bad ones?

“So, your son will be home soon?” The older of the two wizards spoke with impatience. He was a man with graying brown hair, dressed in an old black robe. He was fingering something in his pocket and giving her dad an evil glare.

“Yes, he and his friend went to, where is it again, Diagonal Alley? I imagine you’re familiar with it. They were picking up school supplies,” said Michael politely but with reserve. “Why did you need to speak with him again?”

“We have information that he was involved with an illegal group at school, one that was plotting against the Ministry and we need to ask him some questions.”

“Illegal group, that doesn’t sound like my Dean…”

 The younger red-haired witch was looking around the flat with an attitude of contempt. She sniffed as she saw Talia eyeing her and her expression darkened as though she thought that Talia had no right to be looking at her.

Hands descended on Talia’s shoulders and she jumped violently.

“Are you all right Talia? You seem a bit spooked.” It was her mum, finished cleaning. She looked at Talia in puzzlement.

“No, I’m all right,” said Talia quickly. She didn’t like the feeling that she had about these people. Dean had told her not to take any chances. “Excuse me, Mum.” She went past her mother and into the hallway towards her room. She passed Livvie in the hall, her hair half up and down.

“Tals?”

“Not now Livvie, I’ll finish your hair in a few minutes.”

Behind her she could her father doing introductions. “Abby, this Mr. Timbrell and Ms. Avans, they’re representatives of the Ministry of Magic. They’re here to speak with Dean.”

“Pleasure to meet you. I’m sure that my husband has all ready explained that Dean isn’t back yet. Would you like a spot of tea while-” Talia shut her door and made her way over to her dresser where she kept the medallion. There was something wrong with the two wizards in her living room and she was going to let Dean know. She took the medallion in her hand and breathed on it, fogging the glassy surface, just as Dean had told her to. “Dean Thomas,” she whispered. Out in the hall there was a sound of something breaking and a half muffled scream. Talia broke out in a sweat as she looked at the medallion. Nothing was happening. “Please, please,” she whispered. Why wasn’t Dean answering? She kept glancing at the door; footsteps started coming down the hall.

She could hear a voice outside her door saying, “I know there’s another one here.”

“Hello?” A tinny sounding voice came out of the medallion, Dean’s voice. “Tals? Is something wrong?”

“Dean.” Talia, tried to keep her voice from trembling; she couldn’t have hysterics now. “There’s some wizards outside my bedroom, bad ones I think. Please come home now, I’m really scared, I don’t if anything’s happened to Mum or Dad and-”

The door to her room burst open; the red-haired witch stood in the doorway. In her hand was a stick of wood. She smiled unpleasantly as she pointed the wand at Talia and said “Mobilicorpus.”

“Help!” Talia shrieked as she felt her body start to move towards the door. The medallion caught on her dresser and dropped to the floor.

“Now, now,” said the witch who was pulling Talia towards her. “We can’t be alerting the neighbours now, can we?” She pointed the wand again and cast another spell.

Silencio!

 

 

 

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