The Sugar Quill
Author: Mr Flying Fingers (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The List  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.

The List

~

 

Summer and relative silence graced the Scottish highlands and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—the staff of which were comfortably settled into holiday routine and preparation for the following year.

 

Within the cool stone confines of the Great Hall, the enchanted ceiling reflected the waning colours of a glowing summer sunset as the first evening stars glinted through the darkening blue of the sky. The fireplaces stood dark and empty; the only light came from the lit torches along the walls. A circle of witches and wizards sat around a rough wooden table set in the middle of the hall. They picked at the remainder of their meal: Duck, long noodles, snow peas, and small bits of pastry-wrapped meat.

 

“I enjoyed the duck this evening, it was quite good. What do you think, Minerva?” said Albus Dumbledore to the witch robed in emerald green, seated to his left.

 

“I’m not one normally for Chinese food,” said Deputy Headmistress McGonagall with a wry smile as she folded her napkin in a neat square, tucked it underneath the left edge of her plate, and started on arranging her unused silverware.

 

“Ah, yes. But what did you think of it?” said a roundly contented Filius Flitwick, who floated cross-legged on a charmed cushion in order to be even with the table.

 

“It was rather…gamey,” replied the witch with a thin smile.

 

“I suppose that you would rather a generous helping of Haggis?” the Charms professor responded with a wave of his chopsticks.

 

“No, I’d rather a good shepherd’s pie for the winters and for the summer, perhaps a simple salad.”

 

“Is that all? When there’s so much to explore in the culinary world and house-elves willing to introduce us to all of it?” he replied with wide eyes and another wave of his chopsticks. “A woman of your refinement, I would have presumed a well-developed palate, if you will.”

 

She patted her bun, ensuring the pins were still tightly holding her hair in its place. Filius was very kind for his compliment, although she wouldn’t have used the same term he did. Really, he should not presume women of refinement automatically were women who indulged themselves. “Yes, well, a well-developed palate leads to well-developed hips. It is much more practical to have a good meal, a simple meal. Something warm for the winters and something cool for the summers.”

 

Albus said, “Indeed. I think, Minerva, you need not worry about the development of your hips.”

 

“Oh, yes, he is quite right,” added the Charms professor.

 

“Albus!” She felt herself blush slightly.

 

Albus winked in return. “Well I, for one, do enjoy eating simply, but I welcome the pleasure of a finely prepared dinner just as much. Sherbet lemon?”

 

The offered tin of sweets was passed around the table; most took a small drop, but when it reached Minerva, she simply passed the tin along with a small shake—she much preferred the contents of her tartan tin, waiting in her office.

 

With a nod and a sherbet lemon, Filius added, “I would be most agreeable to the kitchen staff preparing meals like this every evening. Pity, that.”

 

“Pity, indeed! Could you imagine, ducks, foie gras, truffles, and roasts every night? Why, the parents would be furious at the cost!” she said as she sat back in her chair. “I’d rather not be on the receiving end of those Owls.”

 

The dark and stringy-haired Potions Master didn’t look up from the last of his meal as he snorted from across the table. “Pity us,” he said with a sneer. “We’re forced to put up with substandard, cheap sustenance simply because of the little beasts.” He muttered, “The life of an educator—sacrifice!”

 

Minerva fought against the temptation to roll her eyes—a very un-Deputy Headmistress display—instead allowing herself a small comment, “Come now, Severus, those little beasts aren’t so terrible. Some of them are quite endearing.”

 

“They’re students. Not teddy bears.”

 

Filius sighed, “Well, much as I do enjoy teaching, I have to admit the summer holiday is a welcome time.” He patted his stomach, “Nicer meals, quiet hallways, and no Fred and George Weasley.” Again, the table shared a laugh while Severus simply sneered at his dessert—a bowl full of white cubes of sweet, almond-flavoured gelatine.

 

“Those two!” Professor Sprout exclaimed. “Could any more chaos and harm come from a pair of second years?”

 

“It is truly astounding the pranks they have managed to pull off,” the small professor added, nodding.

 

“It’s all very easy for you to say, they’re not in your house.” Minerva’s frustration drew her mouth into a very precise frown. The Charms professor could speak any way he wanted about the incorrigible Weasley twins; he hadn’t had the pleasure of disciplining the pair almost daily for the entire year.

 

“And rather glad of it, my dear Minerva. Better to observe from afar…and in safety.”

 

“If I’m not mistaken, Filius, you actually seem to be amused by the lot.”

 

“I am.”

 

“Ah, Minerva, are you not even the least bit amused by their frivolities?”

 

“Headmaster, really. What do you think?”

 

Albus answered with another disarming wink.

 

“You know, those scoundrels remind me of a particular housemate of my own,” said the Charms instructor. “The terror of Ravenclaw, she was. Once, she slipped a potion into the boys’ pumpkin juice that required the drinker to, erm, relieve himself excessively every few minutes.”

 

“Rather, mundane, don’t you think?” mumbled the Potions Master. “A simple Incontinence Draught any first year could brew. You say she was a Ravenclaw?”

 

“It wasn’t just any Incontinence Draught; she coupled it with some sort of coloration effusion.”

 

“Some variation of a Beautification Potion, perhaps,” mused Severus, “But I’d wager it was a trivial food pigmentator.”

 

“I doubt it was simple at all,” said Filius. “The potion was designed to cause the drinker to urinate in three different colours, or possibly five. I believe a random effect was bubbles floating about instead of colours—quite messy. Sonny Sorenson claimed he was able to produce not just the primary colours of the rainbow, but all the shades in between at will. I never really wanted to verify that for myself.”

 

“I’m sure you didn’t,” said Severus.

 

“Well,” the Headmaster said, “It was quite a remarkable potion.”

 

Rubbing his chin with one hand and holding a spoon full of almond jell-o in the other, Severus spoke, “I’m interested in knowing how she accounted for the various interactions of the two potions—not a small task.” His brown knitted together. “If she was using a Beautification Potion, she would have been required to modify it as the base potion. Perhaps a bit of thyme root in a salt water solution to counteract the potion’s penchant to curdle more than usual when mixed with salt peter. Obviously, some sort of binder would be required.” His nose wrinkled slightly, “It also would have necessitated combining the two potions without allowing the more volatile Incontinence Draught to boil off; not to mention one would have to find a time during the year where a full moon intersected with Mercury at apogee.” He stared at his spoon. “Interesting,” was all he said—as close to a compliment as the Potions Master would come. “So the potion was broadly effective?”

 

“Oh it was quite broadly effective, trust me. One poor first year sipped only a bit of the tainted juice and urinated shades of red for three days; kept crying about bleeding to death. He wouldn’t drink anything, causing Madame Pomfrey to prescribe several potions to calm his jangled nerves.”

 

“The poor devil!” cried Sprout, “But if he refused to drink, did Poppy force the potions down his throat?”

 

“Well, no,” said Filius, “I believed she reduced the potions to their precipitates, mixed those with petroleum jelly, and formed them into small sticks as big as my thumb. Eight of them to be precise.”

 

“And do tell, Filius, how the, ahem, medication was administered?” Albus smiled like a cat cornering a mouse.

 

Filius shifted uncomfortably in his cushion. “Yes, well, Madame Pomfrey informed me before, ahem, administering the, erm, medication that Muggles call them suppositories.”

Severus dropped his spoon into his gelatine with a clatter and plop. “Was that absolutely necessary?” His beady stare was turned on the Charms professor.

 

Professor Sprout laughed deeply.

 

Minerva had to cover a chuckle with her napkin. After all, it wasn’t the proper sort of table conversation, much less something to laugh about during supper.

 

“Erm, yes. Well, thank you, Severus,” said Filius, “It was quite a trying time. I had hoped you could have some compassion for a fellow professor.”

 

The Potions Professor snorted, “Perhaps now you will learn to check your pumpkin juice prior to drinking. Especially with your precious Weasley twins running amok.”

 

“Well, I’m not in the mood to sit anymore.” Filius looked around. “Anybody fancy a stroll about the lake?”

 

“I’ll join you.” Sprout turned to the others. “Minerva? Albus?”

 

“Ah, my apologies,” said Minerva. “Albus and I were planning to look over the List tonight. Perhaps a stroll tomorrow would be nice.”

 

“Ah! Time for the first year letters, eh?” said Sprout, “Well, see you all over breakfast. Ta.”

 

The short Charms professor gingerly lowered himself from the cushion. “Always seems to come faster and faster every year. Will there be another Weasley coming?”

 

“I would not be surprised,” said the Headmaster. “Molly and Arthur have an abundant supply of sons. I am of the understanding they do have one daughter as well.”

 

Really? That must have come as quite a surprise to the Weasley’s. Severus?” asked Filius.

 

“My regrets, I have something in the cauldron at the moment.” He excused himself with a scrape of his chair and a flourish of his dark billowing cloak.

 

After the professors had exited, Minerva’s voice echoed in the Great Hall as she observed, “A tad dramatic, that one.”

 

Albus chuckled. “You have to grant that he is quite a fine Potions Master. I have not seen such skill in quite a long time; he compares very favourably with an old associate of mine. Very favourably.”

 

“True enough. But his theatrics are a bit…overdone. Have you heard the speech he gives to the first years?”

 

He smiled, his eyes merry.

 

Minerva’s voice dropped into a deep tone, impersonating the Potions professor, “I will teach you to brew glory. Stopper death. Bottle fame.” Her voice rose back to normal, “It’s just Potions for Morgan’s sake; a bit of a stir here, a little dash of bat wing there.” She checked her hairpins. “He frightens the first years half to death.”

 

“Still, one must admire the passion he holds for his work.” The Headmaster stood up, “Well, we have tarried enough.” He glanced at the ceiling, “It appears to be time we retired to my office. I would like to examine the scroll this evening to prepare the list before the weekend is upon us. Puddlemere is challenging Hollyhock and I do want to attend at least one match this holiday. I am tempted to make it a weeklong one.”

 

She rose from her seat with a disgruntled noise. “You lucky devil. I haven’t been to a match in ages.”

 

“Were you not at the Nationals last summer?”

 

“Yes, I was. A year is far too long,” she sniffed, “Wireless is sufficient, but can’t match the excitement of being there in person. Perhaps I can join you after the responses have been returned for the first years.”

 

“Ah, yes, possibly. What do you make of your House team this year?”

 

With a small grimace she noted, “Wood is decent enough in the posts; he’ll be made Captain next term. We’re returning most of the rest of the team, but we’ve no Seeker. That is our most glaring weakness.”

 

“Somebody will turn up. They always do.”

 

“I don’t see many in my House who could fill Kathleen’s spot. Our Beaters are decent, I will say this about the Weasley twins, all of their…creative energies have been put to good use on the pitch.”

 

“They do fine work with the bats.”

 

She thought for a few steps, “To be very honest, I don’t believe there will be much change in the standings.” She sighed deeply, “Unless Sprout can grow hidden talent, or Filius finds a gem, I fear Severus will be polishing the Quidditch Cup again; that would be most intolerable.” After a few more steps she said, “The world for a Seeker, Albus. The world for a Seeker.”

 

They walked through the castle. The only others they shared the cool hallways with were the suits of armour and the enchanted paintings. As they passed, Albus greeted a few of the portraits with a nod, a smile or a wink.

 

As the walked to the Headmaster’s office, Minerva asked, “Why are you so interested in the letters this year? You usually leave this to me.” She hoped he hadn’t picked up on her irritation, but was quite certain he had. She took solace in Albus’ usual graciousness.

 

“Have you forgotten already, Minerva?” he said gently, as he bowed his head to the Grey Lady as they passed.

 

She furrowed her brow, concerned something was undone, some detail, overlooked. “Forgotten what?”

 

“It has been almost eleven years. This summer, Harry Potter comes of age to attend Hogwarts.”

 

***

 

Comfortably seated in Albus’ office, Minerva looked around at the silvery instruments ensconced within the cabinets and perched upon tables. She took particular interest in watching one of these little contraptions, which was a small steam pipe shaped like a dragon twisting around a large rock. Little wheels spun as the dragon breathed out little puffs of steam from it nostrils. This contrivance was much like many of the other devices throughout the Headmaster’s study—fascinating, and yet baffling. She was sure Albus owned each one for a very specific use—perhaps even an important one.

The Headmaster had opened the lid of a small wooden case and was rummaging through the contents as she turned to admiring Fawkes’ plumage. “What if his name isn’t on the scroll, Albus? What will it mean?”

 

“I am not entirely sure.” He pulled out a small tin and placed it on the desk. “Let us deal with that only if something warrants such enquiries.” Next, he produced a small stack of parchment tied with a ribbon. This he also placed on the desk. A small silver whistle was produced and placed aside with a clatter from the attached chain. The rummaging continued for a few more moments. “Ah, yes, here it is. This year’s Scroll of Enrolment. Let us see if it will speak good or ill to us this evening, shall we?”

 

He untied the thick scarlet ribbon that held a leather wrapped scroll. Unrolling the yellowed, ancient parchment carefully, he started to scan through the names, his eyes slowly working its way down the list. As he mumbled surnames, Minerva took note of those she could make out, “Abbott… Bones… Brown… Brocklehurst… Bulstrode… Cornfoot… Entwhistle… Goldstein… Finch-Fletchley… Granger… Li… Longbottom… Malfoy… McDougal… Parkinson… Patil… Patil…” His mumbling grew silent as his eyes darted up and down the scroll, “Ah yes, here is the matter, here is the matter…here it is indeed. It seems Filius’ fears have come to pass.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Albus indicated the bottom of the scroll, “It appears we will indeed be graced with another Mr Weasley this fall.” He smiled, “Arthur and Molly must be quite busy indeed.”

 

“Albus. We’re not here to discuss neither Mr Weasley, nor Molly and Arthur’s proclivities for procreation. What of Mr Potter? What of Harry Potter?”

 

“Yes, well, our young friend, Mr Potter, has found his way as well. So it is written, Minerva, so must it be. Mr Potter will be attending Hogwarts next year and two old and wise professors should be able to sleep a little more soundly tonight.”

 

Minerva was surprised that she breathed easier; she wasn’t aware of the tension until it had been released. “Indeed, Albus, when did I begin to be referred to as old?” She waved her wand and produced a quill suspended in the air. With another flick of her wrist, the quill started to copy the names on the scroll into her small leather diary. “I’ll have the letters out by the morning Owl tomorrow.”

 

“Ah, there is something else.” He searched a drawer and produced a small sheet of parchment. “Sandra Snodgrass is no longer the Deputy Under-Minister of Education; she left the Department of Muggle Affairs. You will have to work with a new representative for parents to contact in the event of the usual questions. I believe his title is Deputy Under-Minister of Education, Timothy Blaine Hans Gärtner-Cartwright.” He handed her the sheet.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You are most welcome.”

 

She shook her head. “Really, would it be so difficult for Ministry… officials to stay with one job for more than two years?”

 

“As much as the Ministry is full of officials, Mr Gärtner-Cartwright did Owl to say the Floo Network has been established for each of the Muggle born addressees, should the parents have questions. Of course, even bureaucrats do have their uses.”

 

Even after years of working with the Headmaster, she was still mildly surprised he had known her opinion of the Ministry and its…officials, even without her having to voice it. The paper listed the background of the new Under-Minister. “A bobby?”

 

“Indeed. I believe he was transferred from the Investigative Branch of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad.”

 

“Interesting. Well, I will leave now and wish you a good evening.” She stood to leave, “And do enjoy your holiday, Albus—you deserve a nice rest.” She firmly patted Albus on his arm.

 

“Why thank you, Minerva. Do not hesitate to contact me should you find it necessary.”

 

“I highly doubt that will be required, letters are hardly something to be concerned about.” The job would be completed much as it had been done as in the previous years. “Good evening.”

 

“Good evening.”

 

***

 

She spent the evening quietly in the candle-lit office adjoining her classroom, preparing the letters. A quill, an eagle with a fine point, was magically writing out letters on the dark oak desk. When a letter was completed, it folded itself as it floated into a matching parchment envelope and the quill scratched out an address. As the envelopes softly landed in front of Minerva, she checked the address before taking a candle in hand and tilting it over the envelope. With the other hand, she took a heavy metal stamp and impressed the molten wax with the Hogwarts seal.

 

As she directed the process, her thoughts strayed. It felt oddly uncomfortable to realize ten years had passed since He Who Must Not Be Named was defeated. Time had dulled the memories, but not the emotions—joy mixed with anguish. She would never forget those. Time had passed quickly and now she sat, preparing the letter that would provide a baby—exiled from his world—amnesty to return. She wanted to see him fit in at Hogwarts; she thought he would excel in his classes, like Lily; she wondered if he would play Quidditch, like James. It was difficult enough for Muggle born children to transition; she had a good idea it would be more difficult for the most famous pre-teen in all the wizarding world.

 

Surely, Albus could and would make it work.

 

Sadly, she remembered two Gryffindors, the baby’s parents: The red-haired Head Girl and the cocky Chaser who would not see their first-born receive his Hogwarts letter—Lily and James’ price for bravery.

 

***

 

Minerva enjoyed her mornings early—she had left behind having a lie-in, much like she had left behind her Paddington bear and bobby socks. The tartan lined travelling cloak was just enough to ward the predawn chill as she watched through the south Owlery window. The window framed the sight of over two score owls scattering, winging their way to their addressees through the grey morning mist.

 

The sun rose with the early Owl post and soon all across the Kingdom, with the simple arrival of those owls, lives would change forever. Most of the young men and women expected the letter with various emotions—some joyful, some fearful, some with ambivalence. Some of the recipients did not expect an owl with an acceptance to a school of witchcraft and wizardry—those would require counselling. Thankfully, Albus’ point was right, Ministry bureaucrats actually were useful for something.

 

Many, if not all, of the addressees of those letters she would meet and instruct personally next fall. It was a heavy responsibility—a duty she fulfilled with sternness. As much as she adored the students, her primary duty as Head of Gryffindor House was to instruct, and instruction required discipline.

 

She certainly hoped one letter would find its way to the baby of last night’s thoughts—a letter addressed to Mr. H. Potter, The Cupboard under the Stairs…

 

***

 

The next morning, a scattered parliament of owls sat in the grey light within Minerva’s office—greys, browns and an occasional white. Each owl carried the response to the admission letter of an eleven-year-old witch or wizard. As the sun rose and the fog burned off, she busied herself removing the letters and stacking them tidily on her desk. As the last owl departed with a small treat, she took a small biscuit from a tartan patterned tin and nibbled at it while she checked each letter. Every response earned it a precise mark on a small scroll with her preferred quill—a longish pheasant with the point shaven just so.

 

It was as decent a turnout as in years past—most had replied favourably towards Hogwarts. Of course, there were a number of replies from the Muggle families with questions, or a request for counselling from the Ministry. It seemed that these requests grew in number with every passing year, coinciding with the numbers of children from increased Wizard-Muggle marriages. These letters from the Muggle-born were stacked separately—to be forwarded to Deputy Under-Minister Timothy Blaine Hans Gärtner-Cartwright. That man must have either loved his name or hated it for all the signatures that were required for official correspondence.

 

A green flash in the stone hearth announced a Floo call. She stood to get a better view of the caller.

 

“Hullo, Minerva, dear.”

 

“Figg. Arabella Figg. It’s been ages.” An imperceptible chill ran up her back, “What’s wrong? Has something happened to Mr Potter?” She moved toward the fireplace.

 

“Well, in a manner of speaking, something hasn’t happened to Mr Potter. It appears he hasn’t received his letter.”

 

Minerva knew that next to ‘Potter, Harry’ in the small scroll there was a blank in place of the small, upper case ‘X’ like its neighbours’—a conspicuously missing soldier in the rank and file. She frowned. “I don’t have a reply from him yet. Perhaps his Owl is late.”

 

“Well, Mr Potter has no owl. No, dear, if I know Vernon Dursley, he’s taken the letter from young Harry.”

 

“How can you be sure?”

 

“Dear, I’ve been doing this for years, I know Vernon Dursley. He hates witches and wizards.”

 

“Perhaps Mr Dursley has mistaken the letters for extraneous mail or advertisements.”

 

“Junk mail? It is an irritating blighter. Isn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’d suggest resending the letter. Oh, by the way, I just checked on the Dursley house and it appears Mr Potter has been moved upstairs to the smallest bedroom as well. You might want to note that change of address.”

 

“The smallest bedroom? Odd. Well, it is a definite improvement over a small cupboard, although he will not be using the bedroom very long.”

 

“Yes, we should hope so.”

 

“Very well, perhaps this is a simple mix-up; I will resend the letter. Thank you, Arabella. How are the cats?”

 

The older witch looked right at her, “Fine, as far as I can tell, how about coming down? I think they’d enjoy as visit with you, I’ll even provide the catnip.” A chuckle could be heard over the crackling of the Floo fire and the Deputy Headmistress spied what could have been a wink.

 

At this, she drew her mouth into a straight line, “Yes. Well. So sorry, very busy.” Catnip was simply not done, it simply wasn’t proper—even if she were a tabby.

 

“Pity. Is your letter going out with the morning Owl?”

 

“Yes. The morning Owl.”

 

“Good, I’ll mind the house in the morning.”

 

“Excellent idea, Arabella.”

 

“Well, ta!”

 

“Good day.”

 

She set about adjusting the address on the next letter and wrote the letter out. When it was completed, she strode out of her office, through her assigned classroom, into the stone corridors, and up to the Owlery.

 

Once there, she selected a speedy grey owl, known for her determination and punctuality. The grey dropped a half-eaten mouse as it fluttered over to the Deputy Headmistress. A short length of twine attached Harry’s letter to the owl’s outstretched leg.  

 

Mr. H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom, 4 Privet Drive...

 

The owl gave an officious hoot, puffed out her chest, and exited the Owlery through the southern window in a flurry of wings and straw.

 

Minerva traced the owl’s flight with her eyes looking out over her spectacles and above her frown.

 

***

 

Pop.

 

“Minerva!”

 

“Arabella, how good of you to check in.”

 

“Yes, I have some news.”

 

“Well, out with it! Still no Owl from Mr Potter and he’s the only one from a Wizarding family who has not responded. Even some of the responses from the Muggle born are arriving.” She gestured at a small stack of parchment.

 

“He’s not exactly from a Wizarding family.”

 

“Yes. Yes, of course. So, what is your news?”

 

“It appears Dursley got his grubby paws on your recent attempt as well.”

 

“Oh? I see.” The Dursley family was beginning to present itself as an obstacle. Surely a Muggle without Magic wouldn’t, couldn’t, resist the Wizarding world! Well, she would see how long Vernon Dursley could defy Hogwarts as she contemplated several approaches to the problem.

 

“Dear? Is everything all right?”

 

“Yes, I believe so.”

 

“Well, you will have to present yourself to Mr Dursley and make your point known.”

 

“Do you really think that is necessary, Arabella?”

 

“Yes, yes I do.”

 

“I don’t think that we are at the juncture to simply wander about and confront Muggles.” It simply would not do. Those sorts of things could have dire consequences. “Perhaps he does think the letters are junk mail.” She shook her head slowly.

 

“Well, what are you going to do, dear?”

 

“Three.”

 

“Three?”

 

“Three,” she stated with finality. “Three letters ought to do it. Multiple letters should help him understand that they aren’t merely advertisements.”

 

“But…”

 

“But, what?”

 

“Junk mail by definition—”

 

“Yes?” said Minerva, “What is your point?”

 

“Well…if you think that’s the best.”

 

“I’m sure it will be effective. Good day.”

 

“Ta.”

 

Pop.

 

***

 

“Minerva, I’m telling you, I believe we should get Dumbledore and have a proper visit with Mr Potter. Dursley got the three and I think he’s boarded up the post slot now.”

 

“Blocked the slot?” Minerva took in the news quietly, thinking. “Nonsense,” she finally said, as she ensured her bun was properly in place. “Besides, Albus is still on…business. Harry can’t be visited without both the Headmaster’s approval and the appropriate Ministry consultations. No, our only recourse is Owl at the moment.”

 

“Well, then, what will we do? Dursley keeps getting at the post.”

 

The stern witch drew her mouth in a tight line, smoothing her robes. “I have some ideas. There’s more than one way into a house besides the post slot. Arabella, I’ll need you to deliver some extra letters with tomorrow’s morning Owl.”

 

“Er,” the Squib hesitated, “Dear, what did you have in mind?”

 

“Nothing difficult, just stuff a few through a couple of windows of the house. Mr Potter will be able to get to one of them. I’ll provide the letters, you simply take care of matters for me.”

 

“Well, dear, if you say so. I still think that you and Dumbledore should just pop in for a cuppa with Vernon Dursley.”

 

“Well, that is a moot point, Albus is still away on…business.” The last word was spoken through very tight lips.

 

“Right. What should I expect?”

 

“I’ll forward you, by Owl, twelve letters. I’d suggest dividing them between the slot and a window or two; perhaps a door jamb. Will you be able to handle all that?”

 

“I think so. Maybe I’ll give Dedalus a ring. If he’s isn’t around the bend at the moment.”

 

“Excellent.”

 

“Are you sure this will work this time?”

 

“I’m sure it will be effective. Good day.”

 

“Right. Well, ta.”

 

Pop.

 

***

 

“Why is this so difficult?” she asked nobody in particular.

 

Thoughtfully, Arabella provided an answer. “You should be asking Dursley. He’s the one who’s impounding Mr Potter’s letters.”

 

“All twelve of them? Did you try the window of the water closet?”

 

“It appears Dursley locked himself into the loo with the whole lot of them. I really think we ought to be paying 4 Privet Drive a visit.”

 

“Yes, well, we’ve been through that before.” She thought for a moment, “Do they take deliveries?”

 

“My dear, what did you say?”

 

“Do they take deliveries? Parcels? News?”

 

“They do get parcels every so often and they might have water delivered.”

 

“Water? Why on Godric’s green hills would they have water delivered when they have pipes?” Muggles were mad sometimes.

 

“It’s a Muggle thing.”

 

“Do you know when the next parcel delivery may arrive?”

 

“I don’t know, it’s random. Packages just show up without any rhyme or reason—mostly for Dudley.”

 

Dudley?”

 

“The son.”

 

“Well, is there anything?” Desperation crept into the Deputy Headmistress’ voice.

 

“Let me think…you know, my dear, they do have dairy deliveries twice weekly. I saw a milk float by there last Wednesday, so I believe the milk man will be by tomorrow.”

 

“Well, I simply cannot hide a letter in a bottle of milk, now, can I?”

 

“It’s not just milk, there is cheese, cream—”

 

“Those are simply not helpful.”

 

“…eggs—”

 

“Perfect,” Minerva interrupted as inspiration flashed, “I will be Owling an extremely delicate package this evening. Look for it and make sure it is inserted in their normal dairy delivery.” A tight smile crossed Minerva’s lips. She wasn’t the Transfiguration professor of Hogwarts for nothing.

 

“Very well, dear; although I ought to warn you,” Arabella said, “that Vernon Dursley is a very persistent man. He isn’t going to give up.”

 

“We will see about that, won’t we?”

 

“Are you sure this will work?”

 

“I’m positive that it will be—”

 

“Yes, I know, effective. Well, if you say so. Ta.”

 

“Good day.”

 

Pop.

 

***

 

The green flame from the fireplace died out with a pop.

 

“That ignorant Muggle!” Minerva sputtered, turning away from the stone hearth, wisps of her immaculate bun were falling out of their assigned places, “He—She—They simply are intolerable! Indeed, what about Harry Potter? Well!”

 

Furiously, her wand worked as she charmed not just twenty-four stuffed into the previous morning’s egg delivery, but forty letters. A trace of a smile graced her face as stacks and stacks of wax-sealed letters sorted themselves neatly on her desk. This one was going to be special, and as satisfying as driving a Quaffle right though the centre hoop.

 

Minerva paused, tapping her wand to her lips before she nodded decisively. She strode to the fireplace, tossed in an overly generous handful of Floo powder, and called out, “The Chimney Top, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey!” Bright, green flame shot forth in the hearth and then far up into the flue of the chimney. “Right, off you go.” With a curt wave the letters levitated before her and, in small groups, started to stream by. As each group of letters passed her, she gave her wand a delicate flourish. “A bit of English will help,” she muttered, as a staccato of green flashes announced each departure.

 

***

 

A whoosh in the hearth announced a Floo call. A familiar voice rang out, “My dear.”

 

“Yes, Arabella?” Minerva turned with a thin smile and faced the Squib, whose face was a grimace.

 

“Well, you see, it appears that…they’ve disappeared.”

 

Her mouth turned upside down into a tight frown. “All forty of them? How can they? They were charmed to come out of their fireplace of all things!”

 

“What? Forty? There’s only four of—Oh, you meant the letters.”

 

“Yes, of course the letters, what else would I be referring to?”

 

“The Dursleys and Harry Potter.”

 

“The Dursleys and Harry—” A cold pit formed. No! No, they didn’t. “I thought you were watching the house, Figg.”

 

“I’m terribly sorry,” Arabella said in a rush, “You see, they left just at the exact time I’m normally in the back, minding the cats. If they don’t get their morning breakfast it really starts them off terribly—”

 

Minerva really had no time for this.

 

“Arabella, dear, is there anything else I need to know?”

 

“No.” She paused. “Perhaps I should just mind the Dursley’s house.”

 

“Yes, perhaps you should. Thank you, dear.”

 

With a pop, the Floo call was ended. Minerva sat in her desk, slowly rubbing her temples, careful not to touch her hair. Options, she needed options. It flummoxed her how she was going to find a Muggle, his family, his auto, and the most famous almost eleven year old in all of the wizarding world. How fast could the car travel? What time had they left? What was the distance between cities? Had they packed a meal? Did Vernon Dursley speed? Would Potter or that piggish cousin of his require bathroom breaks? All these factors and more led to the conclusion: They could be anywhere in southern Britain by now.

 

Could she put out an announcement on the WWN? No, who knew if the Dursleys and Potter were anywhere near a magical community. She ruled out the Ministry, those officials wouldn’t get around to this until next year. A terrible option lay open to her. It meant relying on the part of Magic she found distasteful for its indiscipline—indiscipline and unpredictability. She relied on the courage of her House to admit such Magic could be useful.

 

She stood and Flooed the Divination Tower, “Sybil!”

 

She saw the bespectacled Professor of Divination arise from a small table where she appeared to be sorting a sheaf of parchment. She drew her shawl around her and turned towards Minerva’s head in the fireplace, “Yes?”

 

“Can you come down? I’ve a task that requires your…talents. Please, bring your crystal ball.”

 

“Do you mean the Orb, Professor?”

 

“Yes, I believe I just said that. Please bring,” Minerva’s mouth grew very tight, “the Orb as soon as possible.”

 

“Your need for the Sight is urgent? Is there a death involved?” Sybil’s eyes grew rounder.

 

“No, no death,” the Divination Professor’s eyes lost some of their excitement, “But yes, it is very urgent. Could we hurry it along? This concerns Mr Potter.”

 

With disappointment, Sybil chastised in a lofty voice, “One can hurry neither fate nor the Sight, my dear.”

 

“Yes, of course.” Being pleasant was difficult through sternly gritted teeth. She hoped the Floo flame could hide her emotions. “Do make haste, if you can, the deadline for the Hogwarts acceptance is coming soon and Mr Potter cannot be located to deliver his letter to him.”

 

“Even by Owl.” Spoken as a statement, Sybil’s eyes supplied the question mark.

 

“Owls have proven to be relatively…ineffective.”

 

“Perhaps you should visit him in person.”

 

“Albus isn’t here to approve that course of action. I believe that we can deliver a letter to an eleven year old just fine, thank you.”

 

“Very well, I shall be there, if the fates allow.”

 

Pop.

 

Minerva sat at her desk, and rubbed her forehead, feeling the beginnings of a headache.

 

***

 

“Where are they now?” she demanded of Trelawney. The headache was getting worse; having Sybil in her office nattering on did not help her patience.

 

“The Orb—”

 

“Hang the bloody— Excuse me. Where are they?” She would not allow this…this…meddling Muggle to evade her best efforts. “I don’t need the future, I need to know where they are right at this moment. Surely your Third Eye can see that.”

 

“Well. The Third Eye is very sensitive to hostility! The aura has been disturbed.” She gave the Deputy Headmistress a look.

 

Minerva attended to her bun, tightening the loose hairpins. “Sybil,” Minerva held her temper and gaze on the Professor of Divination, “This is very important. Please.”

 

Sybil’s eyes suddenly steadied, her mouth lost its normal dreamy half smile, “Yes. Yes, of course. I sense that the aura is coalescing again, it is time I consult the spiritual mediums….” Her voice grew dreamy as she peered like some hovering insect, searching for prey, into the crystal ball, hands moving over its cloudy surface.

 

Minerva tapped her wand on her hand, as she watched, tight-lipped.

 

The Divination professor’s voice floated around them, “You…ocean…motel…”

 

“What’s a motel?”

 

“Hush…I am still in the Trance…ocean…city…Cokeworth….rooms…many…Rail View…Motel…office…manager…Room 17!” Sybil slumped against her seat back, head lolling left and right.

 

“Right, then.” A flick of the wrist and a charmed letter was produced, “Sybil, I trust you can see yourself out safely?” Receiving no reply from the dazed Divination professor, Minerva shook her head. It was time to get serious.

 

She conjured up another stack of letters, this time she decided a hundred should do it, careful to ensure the addresses read, “H. Potter, Room 17, Railview Hotel, Cokeworth.”

 

***

 

How could it be a simple letter couldn’t be delivered to an eleven year old? Had such a simple task been underestimated? Had something been missed? Minerva stood and crossed to the fireplace, removing a pinch of Floo power from the earthen jar on the mantel when she got there. She tossed the powder in.

 

Divination Tower.”

 

On her knees, she spoke into the flames, “Sybil, they’re gone again.” Her voice was muted.

 

The Divination Professor set aside a small, ancient book and rose from a comfortable couch, “Say no more, Minerva, I will consult the Orb.”

 

“Thank you ever so much.”

 

Pop.

 

She waited, her fingers tapping the desk lightly, nervously as her cherished silver grandfather clock ticked its beat in the still office. She sat in silence as the day drew to a close and her office slipped into darkness.

 

A quiet knock sounded on the door. She drew herself up, smoothing out the wrinkles in the robes and lit a few candles with her wand. Pushing herself away from the desk, she arose and slowly walked across the office, minding her hairpins along the way.

 

“Albus?”

 

“Hello, Minerva.”

 

“Do come in.” She allowed the Headmaster to pass. “Back from holiday already?”

 

“Yes, it was most exhilarating. Puddlemere went on to win 560-480. Quite an exciting match.”

 

“I’ve been telling the staff you’ve been on…business.”

 

“Ah, thanks, but that was not entirely necessary. I had left a notice in the staff lounge as to my location.”

 

“Oh…well, I see.”

 

“How are the letters coming along?”

 

“Well, we seem to be having a little…difficulty with Mr Potter’s letter.”

 

“Ah. Sybil mentioned a few things to me over dinner. She has been working on finding Mr Potter, I believe this is the address.” He handed her a slip of paper.

 

“Yes, thank you, Headmaster.” She looked at the note,

 

The Floor

Hut-on-the-Rock

The Sea

 

“Well, I should make out that letter than.”

 

“Minerva.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I think we should try a more…straightforward invitation. It appears we are having some difficulty with the Dursleys.”

 

“They’re horrible, Albus,” cried Minerva, “I knew it ten years ago; they haven’t changed one bit.”

 

“Yes, but that is precisely the reason why Mr Potter resides at 4 Privet Drive.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“You will, Minerva, in time. Meanwhile, may I suggest we try a more direct invitation?”

 

“What sort of direct invitation do you have in mind?”

 

“Perhaps the Hut-on-the-Rock should be paid a visit.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yes, I am very sure.”

 

“But, Albus, the restrictions—”

 

“Gummi Toad?” he interrupted. The bearded wizard offered her a small bag of colourful sweets.

 

“Thanks, no. What about the—”

 

“Please, I insist.”

 

“Oh, very well.” She snatched a small tartan patterned one before it could wriggle to the bottom of the bag, and ate it quickly.

 

“I will leave you to the details.” Albus turned to leave and stopped at the door. “Minerva, I do trust you completely in this matter. It is not easy for men such as Vernon Dursley to change their minds. Or their lives for that matter.”

 

“Thank you, Albus.”

 

“See you at breakfast, Minerva. I hear the house elves will be preparing a very nice blintz. Good night.”

 

“Good night.”

 

She crossed to the mantel and reached into the earthen jar of Floo powder. She measured out a pinch—she wouldn’t need much—and tossed it into the hearth, reciting the destination.

 

A green flash, and she carefully knelt before the hearth, ensuring her robes wouldn’t wrinkle. Manoeuvring around the grate, she stuck her head into the flames and spoke, “Hello, Hagrid? Professor Dumbledore has a task for you! HAGRID!”

 

~

 

Author’s Note: Concerning the use of the term, ‘English’. According to Dictionary.com:

 

also english

  1. The spin given to a propelled ball by striking it on one side or releasing it with a sharp twist.
  2. Bodily movement in an effort to influence the movement of a propelled object; body English.”

Acknowledgements: ivy for going above and beyond what normal betas must endure, in the face of all my semi-colon strangeness, hyphenation hysteria, and dialog-tag devastation. She’s a nurse; if you’re a patient of hers, be warned: She suggested a suppository would be an appropriate means of administering medication to an unwilling patient. ‘Alas, poor Filius, I knew thee well.’

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --