The Sugar Quill
Author: Katinka (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Knock at the Door  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.

“A Knock at the Door”

by Katinka

**

A/N: Silliness. Not much plot. Just so you know.

**

Wrestling with an uncooperative zipper, her arms contorted behind her back, Abigail Loomis scurried into her kitchen. A faint trace of smoke was beginning to rise from her oven, accompanied by a noise that rivaled a gastrointestinally-troubled Diricawl. Abby rolled her eyes and groaned at the sound of the new timer, a recent mail-order purchase from the back of Witch Weekly magazine. The deafening device was marketed as a solution for absentminded husbands (“Don’t let the git forget!”), but after Abby had charred more than one dinner to cinders while preoccupied with her various projects, it had seemed a necessary recourse.

After shutting off the timer with an irritated smack, Abby attempted one last yank on the zipper before seizing a pair of oven mitts and hurriedly removing the bubbling chicken and mushroom pie. Her shaking hands nearly deposited the dinner on her shoes as she rushed to the table, but with one last burst of speed, she managed to place the dish down safely. Sighing in relief, she removed the oven mitts and surveyed the sight. Her finest linen tablecloth. Rosmerta’s crystal candlesticks. Gleaming silver flatware. Abby’s eyes darted to the clock above the mantle. Three minutes to seven. A smile began to grow upon her lips, blossoming quickly into a full-fledged giddy grin. Any minute now, and he would be at the door. Any minute now, and…

Abby’s heart began to race for an entirely different reason now as she recalled their last meeting. She allowed her eyes to float shut for a moment, savouring the memories, but her gaze soon darted back to the clock. Two minutes to seven.

Her hands seemed incapable of staying still, but Abby dared not occupy them with anything on the table. Rosmerta would never speak to her again if she knew that the candlesticks had almost met their doom in a tumble onto the floor. Not to mention that she had nearly set the house ablaze while trying to light them from her bedroom. So instead, Abby pulled and tugged at the seams of her robes, trying to arrange the satin folds so that they might appear to their best advantage. Tapping her foot, she let out another anxious exhale. One minute to seven.

Of course, there was a very good chance that he might be late. Such had often been the case during the time that they had known one another, but it was usually with good reason. He had better not be completely absent. Despite that possibility, there was still a delectable thrill in anticipating his arrival, in envisioning his face at the door, in imagining how the evening might play out…

Abby’s eyes fluttered shut once more, but a sharp knock at the back door caused them to fly open before her thoughts went much further. Heart pounding, she grasped the edge of the table with one hand and gave a small laugh. Such punctuality! But then, perhaps she could understand his reasons tonight. Her free hand flew over her hair one last time to smooth back any stray wisps, but as the grin returned to her face, Abby abandoned any further attempts at composure and sped to the door. Biting her lower lip, she unfastened the lock with eager haste. As the door swung open, however, her expression of joyous welcome lasted for but a short second. In fact, it swiftly turned to extreme puzzlement and even horror as she viewed the man before her.

“Dad???”

**

“Hello, Abigail!” Hollister Loomis stepped in from the September dusk and embraced his daughter warmly, planting a kiss on her cheek. “How are you, my dear?”

“I – I’m well – ” Abby stammered as he strode past her, casting his eyes about the cottage. She pressed the heel of one hand to her furrowed forehead, feeling as though she’d just fallen from a broomstick at 500 feet. “But – but what are you doing here? And why did you come to the back door?”

“Didn’t you receive my note?” Hollister asked in mild surprise as he removed his cloak. “I’m in England for a week. Arrived this afternoon. Several terribly important and most likely dull meetings to attend to. Oh, I thought I’d see how your roses were faring – they were cuttings from the old garden, if you recall.”

“I did receive something a few days ago…” Abby said slowly, taking the cloak from her father. Her brain was regaining some lucidity, although it still seemed to be trudging through treacle. “But Hubert is rather fond of French owls, and by the time it reached me it was, well, rather unreadable. I sent an owl in return, but – ”

“ – but it would have missed me, as I had already departed. That would account for the look on your face,” Hollister said with a gentle chuckle as he turned around, noticing for the first time her befuddled countenance. “But no matter, here I am.” He raked a hand through his silver hair and gave a contented breath. “Come, child! Sit with me! Tell me all that is happening in your life! You’ve made some changes to the place, haven’t you?”

Despite her increasing panic at the thought of what might ensue when her expected visitor arrived, a small smile sprung to Abby’s lips. Her only significant addition of late to the cottage had been a copious amount of dog hair.

“Not really.”

“No, I’m certain you have,” Hollister persisted, gesturing about the room. “Why, the sofa used to be to the side of the hearth, not in front of it, and your kitchen table was nearer the door. This rug also used to be blue, I believe.”

“It’s been almost four years since you were last here, Dad.”

Abby’s quiet statement caused her father’s arm to stop in mid-air. “Yes, it has been,” he murmured after a pause, turning to face her. “I’ve been rather a rather selfish being of late, haven’t I? It – it has been difficult since – ” His eyes met hers for moment, full of unvoiced apology and a trace of shame. He didn't maintain the contact long, though, for which Abby was almost grateful. She could easily guess the remainder of his sentance. Shifting on his feet, Hollister began scanning the cottage again, and a trace of his joviality returned upon seeing her old workbench in its customary corner. “That hasn’t been altered a whit, though.”

Abby followed his gaze and let out a giggle, somewhat baffled that she could still laugh, given the most inconvenient nature of this visit. The workbench was such an established part of the cottage’s décor by now that she no longer noticed how the pile of fabric, designs, wool, and other notions stood a disorderly three feet high and spilled onto the floor in all directions.

“And perhaps this wasn’t the best time to stop by…” Hollister went on, now that his eyes had found her finely spread table. “Were you expecting someone?”

A flush crept into Abby’s cheeks at the question. “Yes, um, a…colleague,” she mumbled, averting her eyes as she finally moved to hang up the cloak.

“Angling for a raise, are you?” Hollister asked with a glance at her elegant, tailored robes, struggling to keep his mouth in a dignified line.

“Dad!”

Abby had managed an indignant huff, but she soon fell quiet again. He could hardly be expected to believe that she and the aforementioned colleague would be reviewing quarterly sales figures or some other such nonsense. Her mouth was desperate for words as she felt her father’s curious gaze on her, but inspiration was slow in coming. Fortunately (or perhaps not so), another knock at the back door saved her from further explanation.

“Oh, yes, was that the door?” She raised her voice a frantic notch, desperately hoping her words would carry outside. Her heart began an erratic pounding in her chest. “I’ll, um, just answer that then, shall I? Would you like to have a seat, Dad?

Stumbling over her feet as she retreated, Abby traced an agonizing path to the door. Once there, she turned the knob slowly, intent on whispering a hurried warning through the crack. The night’s plans had taken a drastic detour, and she only hoped that the knocker would run, flee, and hide before encountering her father. But before she could open her mouth, the door was pushed open and a large, shaggy black dog reared up before her, placing his dirty paws on her shoulders and giving her face a wet, hearty lick. Immobilized, Abby stared aghast at the animal. With a bark of great self-satisfaction and an familiar twinkle in his eye, the dog returned his paws to the ground and padded past her into the room, where he sat docilely at her father’s feet.

“And who might this be?” Hollister laughed as he patted the creature on the head. “He’s certainly a friendly fellow, isn’t he?” The dog wagged his tail as if to undoubtedly concur.

“Just a stray who likes to loll around the neighborhood,” Abby grumbled, noting with dismay the drool that had dripped off her chin and now dotted the front of her robes. Her stomach took a lurch of dread. “I’ll just see him out…”

“My dear, take pity on the poor beast! Let him stay! He looks quite hungry.” The dog gave a mournful whine at those words, sitting up on his haunches in a begging position.

“He’s always hungry.” The words barely made it through Abby’s clenched lips.

“And yet there was no one at the door? I was certain I heard a knock, not an animal’s scratching…”

“Perhaps it was the sound of his thick head bashing against it,” Abby said with a pointed look at the dog, who was now performing a series of acrobatic jumps and spins for his new acquaintance.

“What’s the beast’s name?” Hollister asked, after pausing to clap appreciatively. “Surely he has a name?”

“Snuffles,” Abby called from the kitchen sink, where she’d gone to wet a washcloth. She ran it across her face, unsure as to which of her guests she’d most like to hex. Let him stay, indeed. She’d known that these two would have to meet someday, but hardly in this manner…

“You don’t say? Like that Puffskein you had as a girl? He’s not quite as…unhygienic, is he?”

“Worse.” Abby left her washcloth in the sink and, with a sigh of resignation, walked to the sofa to sit next to her father. “I took pity on him a while ago, but I’m afraid he’s grossly overstepped his bounds since that time.”

Pausing from his antics, the dog tipped his head as if to question that remark. Without warning, he leapt suddenly onto Abby’s lap. The action nearly forced the breath from her, but he seemed hardly concerned with her discomfort. Instead, he flopped over onto his back and bared his belly in an unmistakable demand for attention.

“Really?” Hollister asked. “In what way? He seems quite friendly – I imagine that he’d be a pleasant companion to have about.”

“Well,” Abby said as she began to grudgingly scratch the fur, “you can’t imagine what it takes to feed him.”

“Yes, I’m sure this is quite a burden. Why, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a dog of that size.”

“Indeed, and he’s never very appreciative. Or especially tidy, for that matter.”

“Perhaps he was not well-trained as a pup, my dear,” Hollister said, giving the dog a scratch himself. “Perhaps you should take it upon yourself to rectify that matter.”

Snuffles yelped happily, and Abby gave a feeble smile. The most bizarre evenings of her life were all due to this creature, and he was simply reveling in it now. “I just might have to see to that.”

“He is quite an interesting creature though, isn’t he? Why, look at those eyes! He looks almost…”

“Fleabitten?” Abby offered as she freed her lap with an unceremonious shove.

“I was going to say ‘intelligent’,” Hollister said, chuckling sympathetically as Snuffles rolled to the floor, “but I will grant you that.”

The dog looked up with a disgruntled whimper, as though mortally wounded by Abby’s words and actions, but he quickly retaliated by seizing the hem of her robes in his teeth and lifting it up over her knees.

“Snuffles!” she cried in embarrassment, attempting to bat him away. After a brief tussle – and an unforgivable tear to the fabric – she managed to reclaim her skirts and return them to their proper location. Her father seemed fit to burst with laughter as he observed the altercation.

“Perhaps he isn’t all bad,” Abby said by way of concession, her face burning. “He is…tolerable, on occasion. In very small and infrequent doses.”

“Oh, I’m afraid you won’t be so easily rid of him, Abigail!” Hollister gasped, holding a stitch in his side. “He seems quite attached to you!”

For the first time that evening, the dog sat quietly, a pensive look in his pale eyes. Without thinking, Abby’s hand lifted to the neckline of her robes, where a thin band of gold was resting on a chain under the satin. Her father was saying something else, but Abby's mind had already gone to a time not too long ago, lingering over remembered images and sensations...

Standing with Sirius in the Forbidden Forest, surrounded by the hush of a late summer evening, an enchanted parchment held between them…his voice, brimming with emotion, speaking words of love, of promise…the ink on the parchment beginning to glow, signifying a pact sealed, lives bound together…

And then soon after, facing a small cottage in Cornwall…feeling Sirius close behind her, one hand curving possessively around her hip, the other moving aside the hair at the base of her neck…a husky whisper in her ear, inviting her to open the door…his mouth on her skin…

Abby blinked her eyes rapidly, a deep sigh escaping her. Yes, he was most certainly attached to her now.

Despite her desire to remain lost in those memories, the sound of her father’s teasingly reproachful voice brought Abby reluctantly back to the present.

“Sorry? What did you say?” she turned and asked, giving her head a small shake.

Hollister reached out to scratch the dog behind the ears. “I said, seeing as the poor fellow is so fond of you, I can’t imagine what he’s done to make you abuse him so!”

A fleeting look of shared understanding passed between Abby and Snuffles, and she ducked her head to hide both the colour in her cheeks and the coy smile that played about her lips.

“Oh, Dad…you’d really rather not know.”

**

A/N: Many thanks to soupytwist and Faith for beta-reading!

There’s a story to how Abby managed to get her hands on the enchanted marriage parchment. I may write it someday.

The cottage in Cornwall belonged to Uncle Alphard. Abby would probably rather that you NOT know this, but as I think it’s funny, I should mention that Sirius had given Remus the charge of getting the cottage in order for that momentous evening. However, as Sirius is not a man who’s lived much by a calendar, he accidently gave his friend the wrong date. So not only was the cottage littered with old newpapers and empty sweets wrappers, poor Mr. Lupin then showed up the next morning, at which point the cottage was already…occupied. :P

My sincere thanks to all who keep reading these stories. Yeah, I promise that I've read the ending to Book 5. I worry sometimes that Sirius comes off as too upbeat in my stories, but he and Abby do have fights and misunderstandings and emotional regression and such. I just prefer not to write that depressing stuff, which is why you get this silly fluff instead.


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