The Sugar Quill
Author: Astronut  Story: Mars is Bright Tonight...  Chapter: 1. Dissonance
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Mars is Bright Tonight…


A flying washtub involves one ministry worker in a war that did not concern her. 


Disclaimer:  I’m only an uninvited guest playing in this magical world.  Everything related to Harry Potter belongs to the talented J. K. Rowling.  The only thing I get out of this is a giddy, happy feeling.


A very grateful thanks to sveltskye. 


Chapter 1.  Dissonance


dissonance n 1 :  a mingling of discordant sounds  2 :  lack of agreement  3 :  an unresolved musical note or chord


   - Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary


          Noise reverberated through out the atrium of the Ministry of Magic as employees reported for work.  Today, the usual monotonous chatter and half-hearted greetings yielded to a chaotic symphony of gossip and discontented murmurs.  Despite this new clamor, strands of the usual rhythm pressed onward. 

          “Good morning Eric,” a hurried voice exclaimed to the guard as a bundle of pink umbrellas fought their way through the crowd. 

          “Kay, is that you under there?” The guard eyed the teetering, florid pink stack.  Dismissing the bundle as another daily peculiarity at the ministry, he started in on the latest gossip circulating the ministry.  “Hey, did you hear what happened here last night? You-Know-Who was here, right here in the atrium!  They say Dumbledore himself…”  He broke off as a pair of icy blue eyes finally peered around the bundle as it threatened to plunge to the ground after brushing against a crass man with terrible sunburn. 

          “I’m sorry Eric, I can’t talk.  I’ve got to get this stuff to the office before I drop it and see if my delivery has arrived.  I don’t have time for useless news.”  With a quick, forced smile, Kay and the bundle of umbrellas made their way to the lifts.  The clicking of her shoes against atrium floor was overpowered by the sound of various witches and wizards stopping to talk about the events of the night before, only to be soundly rapped on the shoulder by the bundle of umbrellas parting the crowd.  After a treacherous encounter with a fallen gold centaur arm that nearly sent the thirty pink umbrellas flying, Kay entered a waiting lift.  Closing her eyes as the lift descended, Kay calmed herself, imagining the creaking of the lift was an old oak, swaying in the whispering wind. 

          “Level six, Department of Transport, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office, and Apparation Test Center.”*  The cool voice jerked Kay out her trance.  Begging pardon for nearly blinding several people, she exited the elevator and sped past a small queue of nervous teens and even more nervous parents.  Finally she reached a plain door at the end of the hall with a small hand written sign that proudly spelled out “Space Division.” 

          Inside the magically expanded office was a cluttered mess of bits of parchment, broken quills, and books surrounding a large, wooden washtub.  Propping the umbrellas in the corner near the sole desk, Kay was disappointed to see that her shipment had not yet arrived.  With a clatter, the framed Muggle photos of Mars, the Moon, and various other planets found themselves gently thrown in a box on a stool, deprived of their usual place of prominence on the desk.   A bright pink umbrella now stood at attention on the cleared desk, resembling a satellite dish. 

          “You know, it’s considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.”  With a jolt, Kay spun to find Orion O’Reilly from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Beast Division leaning casually against the door frame.  A blush spread slowly on her pale cheeks, but her shyness was quickly overcome by excitement. 

“Did my shipment come?”  In reply, a soft package flew towards her head.  Reaching out to field the package, Kay managed to slip on one of the umbrellas scattered on the floor.  She suddenly found herself seated on the floor, with the package sitting neatly on her stomach.  She tried to hide her burning face as she murmured a word of thanks and tore open the package.  The blush receded as her face became awash with joy.

   “Wow.  This must have been hard to get,” she exclaimed as she ran her fingers over the fur cloth that felt like moonlight itself trapped in a frozen, liquid confine.  “Thank you so much for getting it.  I’ve got the department reimbursement papers around her somewhere…” Stiffly, she got to her feet and started rummaging through papers piled on a cabinet near her.  Quickly becoming frustrated, she pulled out her wand and tried a summoning charm with no success. 

“That’s okay.  Orders came in from above asking the department to find you high quality demiguise pelts,” Orion explained, picking invisible hairs off his pressed and tailored robes. “They’re covering the bill.”  Kay continued to finger the slippery cloth, apparently oblivious to this newfound interest in her work.  Orion cleared his throat, clearly annoyed by the attention afforded to the animal pelt instead of him.  Kay looked up at him, feeling heat rise once more in her cheeks.  The tailored robes that draped him showed off a well proportioned body aided by deep, cold blue eyes that hid under a lock of artfully untidy brown hair. 

“Um, th-thanks for the pelts.  I…I mean…it…it must have been a lot of work…for you, I mean.” The butterflies in her stomach gave her voice a slight tremor as she stuttered her way through her thanks.  She tucked a lock of dishwater blonde hair that was escaping her pony tail behind her ear.  “I…want to thank you…maybe I could…buyyoulunchtoday.” The end came out in a rush as she fought to make the offer before her courage failed. 

The lopsided grin on Orion’s grew, showing pearly white teeth.  “Sorry, I can’t,” he replied, not sounding the least bit sorry.  “I have a meeting with those idiots from the Werewolf Support Services.  It seems that they are trying to get those soulless beasts classified as beings again.  To improve their relations with the ministry and their moral.’” He snorted.  “Who wants high werewolf moral?   Maybe if those stupid beasts stay depressed, they’ll all off themselves and we’ll all be better off.  Anyway, must run.”  His hatred fell on deaf ears, as Kay was first distracted by Orion’s heart melting smile, then by the pelt in her hands as he turned and arrogantly strode down the corridor.  Kay turned back to the desk, carefully avoiding the fallen umbrella, and began to work. 

* * *

          Two hours later, a rumbling stomach caused Kay to stop working and pocket her wand.  Standing and stretching, she looked over her accomplishment.  The florid pink umbrella on the desk was now lined with the shimmering demiguise pelt.  Demiguise hair would normally make an object invisible, but the near parabolic shape of the umbrella caused the light be reflected back and create a dazzling bright light that radiated from the interior of the umbrella.  The entrancing sight encouraged her to neglect the rumbling in her stomach for a few more minutes.  With a swish and flick, a few words, and a couple of pokes, the pink umbrella now rose, correct side up, from the center of the washtub.  Overall, it looked like some strange alien plant had just sprouted in the tiny office.  A brilliant light reflecting from the umbrella followed the shaft and suffused the washtub with a warm glow.  Satisfied, she left for lunch with a rapidly growing grin. 

          The cafeteria was located on the atrium level of the Ministry of Magic.  This caused many rumbled complaints from those who worked on the lower levels who had to trek the long distance for a bite to eat, although no argument was ever heard from the Unspeakables.  The spacious cafeteria consisted of a hundred small, round tables that remained Kay of the ball at Hogwarts she had attended while in Ravenclaw.  Each table was fitted with six empty silver table settings as well as a satin white table cloth and a single red rose.  The ceiling above the tables vaulted into soaring skylight windows that were enchanted with the same charm as the rest of the Ministry windows.  Today they were a stormy grey.  A low bubbling of conversation reached Kay’s ears as she entered the cafeteria.  A third of the tables were full of people at various stages of eating.  A wisp of red hair caught her eye as she saw a tall man sitting down alone at a table.  Heading towards the man, Kay wove her way through the maze of tables. 

          “Hello, Arthur.  Mind if I eat with you?” Kay asked the red headed man. 

          Arthur Weasley, a kindly older man who worked in the Department of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, looked up from his dazed stare at the rose on the table.  “Oh, hello Kay.  Sorry I didn’t see you.  I’m a bit distracted with all that’s going on.  Have a seat.”  He and Kay each grabbed a menu and placed an order. 

          “Chicken Sand Witch,” Kay spoke to the air.  A few minutes later, a breast of chicken appeared on her plate, nestled in a beach of rice and couscous, while a charmed sea of sweet and sour sauce lapped at the shore of rice.  The house elves certainly know what they’re doing, she thought approvingly.

          “So, are you still studying Muggle Roke Its?” Arthur asked as he started in on his meatloaf. 

          “Rockets.  No, I gave up on those along time ago.  Too many computers to guide it.  It would go haywire with a witch or wizard aboard.  I did discover this Muggle idea for these ‘light sails’ or some nonsense.  I don’t think they would work with light, but I do think I can make one that uses magic.”  Kay had clearly forgotten her chicken as she dove into the topic that was the love of her life.  Muggles always worry about something they call ‘The Conservation of Mass, Energy, and Momentum,’ but they always forget that magic is a form of energy.  By their equations, having a sail on the same object producing the radiation stream would be impossible.  Kind of like in those Muggle cart tunes you showed me.  Most of the things that coyote invented would never…” Kay trailed off as a long black haired woman approached the table with a sad half smile. 

          “Hi Arthur, how are you holding up?”  The woman limped a bit as she approached.

          “Tonks, what are you doing here?  You shouldn’t be on your feet,” Arthur rose quickly to pull out a chair for Tonks.  She sat with a wince, but nodded her thanks.  Kay surprised to see the normally chipper auror looking so dull and down. 

          “Paper work for last night.  It couldn’t wait.  The sooner that man is impeached, the better…”  Tonks trailed off as she looked furtively in Kay’s direction and then glanced at Arthur.  Kay looked down and picked at her chicken as Arthur and Tonks continued to converse in hushed tones.  Their whispers combined with conversations of other tables to create a wind that whistled and gusted about the cafeteria.  Finishing her chicken, Kay looked at Arthur and abruptly cut off Tonks. 

          “…it’s only time before he strikes.”

          “We’re still not prepared, and now, with- with everything…”

          “I’m sorry to interrupt, Miss Tonks, but I need to get back to my project.  Good bye Arthur, stop by sometime to see my project.  I have some Muggle models you might like.”  With that she left the windy cafeteria and entered the atrium.  Passing through the ornate space, she noticed something that had escaped her attention earlier; something was missing. There was no longer a beautiful trickling fountain to drown the wind. 

* * *

          Kay arrived back at the office ready to work.  With the umbrella lined and fixed to the tub, the only physical work that needed to be done was building the core.  The core would provide the energy needed to propel the washtub into orbit.  “Of course, the tub will need various enchantments before it’s space worthy,” Kay thought aloud with a laugh, caressing the edge of the battered tub.  Fumbling in a filing cabinet drawer, she began the search for the core blueprints.  Twenty minutes and five summoning charms later, Kay determined that the blue prints and the reimbursement forms had disapperated together, seemingly for the sole purpose of annoying her.  Sighing, she gathered her notes from various secure locations about the office, such as under the desk, beneath a Muggle model rocket, and inside her coffee cup.  Extracting a quill from the bottom of a paper pile by the door, she began to recreate the core blueprints.  Several hours later, the unfinished blueprints were hastily placed not in the stack by the cabinet this time, but under her small office plant as she left to greet her cat, cook herself diner, and spend a quiet night reading Modern Compressible Flow with a Historical Perspective**. 



To be continued in “Beats”…


* Quoted from Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, by J.K. Rowling

* *A real Muggle book, I kid you not.

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