The Sugar Quill
Author: Winky and Dobby (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: As Strong As We Are United  Chapter: Chapter 1 - Owl Post
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Disclaimer: If I owned any of this I would be married to Bill, living at the Burrow and raising my own little redheaded boys. Characters, chapter titles, and other brilliance belong to JKR. Special thanks to Arabella for her thoughtful comments, and of course to both mistresses of SugarQuill for maintaining such an inspired and inspiring site.


Harry set down his quill with a sigh. The dull throbbing in his forehead was making it impossible to concentrate. He closed Defense Against the Dark Arts, Vol. IV and put aside his notes. Chapter Twelve would have to wait.

Harry was quite used to headaches now. His scar had been bothering him almost constantly since the end of term at Hogwarts, sometimes only a vague prick, sometimes a blinding stab of heat. It had worried him a great deal at first-after all, his scar's hurting usually meant Voldemort was either nearby or feeling particularly murderous. But as the summer dragged on without event, Harry began to accept his headaches as yet another unpleasant result of the Dark Lord's return.

For Harry the worst part of Voldemort's being back was having to spend the summer at the Dursleys' again. He didn't mind that his aunt and uncle despised and resented him and only put up with him out of fear. It didn't bother him that the whole family did their best to pretend he didn't exist.

He could even tolerate Uncle Vernon's face turning purple with suppressed rage at the slightest reminder of his nephew's "abnormality." But if there was one thing Harry couldn't stand, it was doing nothing while Voldemort grew stronger each day. More than anything in the world, he wanted to be back at Hogwarts helping Dumbledore gather the forces of light, not trapped in his room memorizing spells he couldn't even practice.

With another sigh Harry crossed the room and threw open his window to scan the night sky, hoping for an owl from one of his friends. Ron and Hermione had been writing him almost daily all summer to keep him informed of events in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, neither one could tell him much more than he knew already. According to Hermione, The Daily Prophet was "still carrying on as if nothing had happened." Ron wrote that both his father and brother were gone more often than not on official Ministry business, but for once even boastful Percy refused to talk about it. Hagrid and Sirius were equally secretive in the few letters Harry had received from them, and he was left feeling more isolated and confused than ever.

It was a clear night, thousands of stars glittering above the darkened houses of Privet Drive. Not for the first time Harry's gaze wandered in the direction of old Mrs. Figg's house, and Dumbledore's instructions to Sirius came back to him again. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher-the old crowd, he had said. Was it possible that the eccentric old lady who had bored Harry with cat pictures and stale cakes was actually a witch, perhaps sent by Dumbledore himself to watch over the orphaned son of Lily and James Potter? Maybe he was imagining things, but it seemed to Harry that Mrs. Figg's house had been uncustomarily quiet that summer, as if its occupants were away. With sudden purpose Harry decided to write to Hermione, who would doubtless jump at the chance to do research. Harry grinned. There were definite advantages to being best friends with the cleverest witch in his year.

When Harry finished his letter he folded up the parchment and set it aside to send when Hedwig returned from delivering his latest note to Hagrid. It was quite late, he realized with a jolt as his eyes fell on the clock beside the bed. In fact, it was two o'clock in the morning, and today was his fifteenth birthday. Something akin to triumph flickered in Harry's stomach.

Well, he thought with a small smile, I made it for another year.

Just then Harry heard a familiar fluttering sound and turned to see Hedwig swooping through the window. She dropped a small parcel onto the bed, gave Harry's ear an affectionate nip, and alighted on top of her cage to preen.

"Thanks, Hedwig," Harry smiled, moving to close the window, and-SQUEAK!

Harry jumped back in time to see a tiny ball of feathers hovering frantically just below the sill. "Pigwidgeon!" The large package he was carrying was apparently too heavy for the little owl to lift any higher.

Harry quickly reached down to pull Pig into the room and untie his burden, and the miniscule bird flopped onto the bed with a grateful chirp. Behind him, Hedwig hooted disdainfully while ruffling her feathers.

Harry sat down and picked up the first package. Inside were a folded piece of parchment and what looked like some sort of pastry. Harry unfolded the note and read:

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday! Olympe thought you might want to try this éclair instead of treacle fudge. Hope you like it. We've been very busy-I think Dumbledore's plan might just work. Can't say no more here, though. See you soon!

All the best,



Harry munched thoughtfully on the chocolatey pastry. He, Ron, and Hermione were convinced that Dumbledore had sent Hagrid and Madame Maxine to the mountains as envoys to the giants, but once again the friendly groundskeeper wasn't giving anything away. Harry crammed the rest of the éclair into his mouth and began unwrapping Pig's package. To his surprise, three smaller parcels fell out along with several parchment notes. Harry reached for the letter closest to him and recognized Hermione's neat handwriting.

Dear Harry,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You're probably going to laugh at me, but I thought this might be something you'd actually want to read.

Curious, Harry put down the letter and picked up a thin rectangular package. He tore off the wrapping to see a leather-bound volume entitled Wizard-Giant Relations Since the Twelfth Century: A History. Normally Harry would rather have eaten bubotuber pus than read something with a title that boring, but just now he thought Hermione had given him the perfect gift. With a smile he picked up her letter again.

I still don't have any news for you, but I think Ron heard something that will make you happy. I'm sure he'll tell you in his letter. Harry, I've had a letter from Viktor and he wanted me to say hello from him. He says he'd like to visit Hogwarts again soon and watch you play Quidditch sometime. I think that's a very nice compliment, don't you?

Ron's sending Pig to pick up your present so I better finish here. I hope the Dursleys are treating you decently this time. I'll see you in a few weeks!

Love from,


Harry reached eagerly for Ron's letter, smiling at the familiar messy scrawl.

Dear Harry,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hermione told me what she got you, and I thought you'd deserve this afterwards.

Harry opened the smaller rectangle, another book, and turned it over, a huge grin spreading across his face. On the cover tiny figures in colorful Quidditch robes dove wildly after miniature winged balls beneath gold lettering that spelled out Seeker Secrets and Strategies, An Illustrated Guide. "Wow, Ron!" Harry breathed. He watched the zooming figures happily for a minute before resuming his best friend's letter.

I also have some news that might cheer you up. Dumbledore gave Mum permission to invite you to stay for a while! You can come the week before term starts and get all your things for school. Hermione says we can use the extra time to get ahead, and she's already promised to teach Ginny some fourth year spells. What a surprise. Did she tell you what Krum said about coming to watch you play Quidditch? She's been writing him all summer in Bulgaria. I wonder what she finds to talk about-she doesn't know a thing about Quidditch. I've been practicing a lot with the twins and they want me to try out for Keeper now that Wood's gone. What do you reckon? We'll have to play when you come and you can tell me if I'm any good.

We can come get you on Sunday like before, only Dad reckons we shouldn't use Floo powder anymore. He never did say what happened after we left last time-must have been pretty bad. Anyway, what do you think?

Don't let the Muggles get you down!

See you soon!


Harry frowned and started to fold up the letter. Obviously the best way for him to get to the Burrow was a Portkey, but Ron had clearly thought it wiser not to suggest this. Harry, though, could see no point in avoiding Portkeys, mazes, or graveyards just because they might remind him of something painful.

Harry collected his gifts and placed them on top of his trunk, then scribbled a quick thank-you note to each of his friends, along with the suggestion to Ron about the Portkey. He was just pulling back the covers when he heard something hit the floor.

He had forgotten about the third parcel. Bending down to pick up the small, neatly-wrapped square, he wondered if Mrs. Weasley had baked him some more sweets, but the present was not food. Instead Harry found himself staring at a photo of the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team, enclosed in a thin frame of polished wood. He blinked as the miniature version of himself was hoisted into the air by a sobbing Oliver Wood clutching the Quidditch Cup, while Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid beamed in the background and pointed at Professor McGonagall, who was blowing her nose on a scarlet banner. It had been one of the happiest moments of his life.

Hastily Harry cast about for the last piece of parchment until he found where it had fallen off the bed. The tidy handwriting was one he didn't recognize. Harry shoved his glasses up the bridge of his nose and read:

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday! Ron says you don't own many wizard photos, but you ought to have this one. You must really be missing Quidditch by now. Harry, do you remember how Ron agreed to bury the remains of your broom for you after it blew into the Whomping Willow? Well, he never did. He and Hermione were going to try to fix it for you as a present, but it didn't work, and then you got the Firebolt anyway. Ron still had the pieces, though, so I hope it's all right that I made them into this frame. It seemed like such a waste otherwise.

I'm glad Dumbledore is letting you come. The Dursleys sound horrid, and Ron really wants your opinion about trying out for Keeper. I hope he makes it-it would mean so much to him.

Have a nice birthday, and we'll see you in a few weeks!


Harry held the frame closer to the lamp and peered at it intently. Sure enough, the bold lettering of the Nimbus Two Thousand label shone plainly against the sleek wood along one side of the frame. Harry ran his fingers over the smooth edges and let out a low whistle of amazement. It was like having an old friend returned to him. He put the frame on his bedside table and crawled under the covers. In the morning he would write to Ginny and thank her, but for now he lay with his head turned towards the photo, listening to the soft hoots of Pig and Hedwig as he fell asleep.

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