A/N Thanks to my beta readers Dr Corneilius for great help in fine tuning,
and to Podger Snowden for all her wonderful help in banishing my Americanisms,
and helping me find my way around an English kitchen.
A/N Disclaimer: The wizarding world and it's populace belong to JKRowling,
I don't own any of it.
rat n. 1 Any of various long tailed rodents resembling, but larger
than, mice; especially, one of the genus rattus.....3. Slang. A
despicable, sneaky person, especially one who betrays or informs upon
--from the American Heritage Dictionary, New College Edition, Houghton
It was late, well after midnight. The house was dark and still. Even
the Ghoul in the attic was quiet. Squeezing his way out under the door
of Percy and Ron's room, under the attic with the unusually quiet ghoul,
at the top of five flights of stairs, a very fat grey rat emerged. With
a darting look around, a twitch of his whiskers, and twist of his tail,
he set off. He slipped down the uneven stairs, past the twins' room on
the fourth floor landing, past Ginny's door at the third, past Bill and
Charlie's room on the second, past Arthur and Molly's room on the first,
and on to the ground floor.
The rat made his way to the kitchen. There was light coming from under
the door. He scratched and pushed at the corner of the door, nibbling
on the groove he was shaping under it. After four years of persistent
gnawing by the rat, the Weasleys had finally given up with trying to repair
the doors. The rat's keen ears heard Charlie's voice as he bid goodnight
to someone and the faint pop of a head leaving the fireplace. He saw shadows
moving. He heard feet walk closer. The door swung open; there stood Charlie
Weasley eating a morsel of chicken and ham pie.
"Oy, Scabbers", he said around a mouthful of food. The rat lumbered
slowly into the kitchen and looked up at Charlie. Charlie swallowed his
bite. He divided the last piece, bent down and gave the rat a large chunk
of crust. "You don't want to miss this -- Mum's best." The rat took the
crust and sat up on his haunches, nibbling on the soft edge with clinging
filling. The rat watched Charlie as he ate the last bite of meaty filling
and rich pastry, then stacked the dishes from his late-hour snack in the
Charlie stretched and yawned, "Want a lift upstairs?" Charlie held his
hand on the floor in front of Scabbers, giving the rat a choice. Scabbers
sniffed his fingertips and licked off a crumb of sticking crust then began
nosing his way under the table. Charlie stood up, stretching again. "
I think Ginny left you some bits on the floor. "Good night Scabbers."
Charlie yawned again, extinguished the candles, and left the kitchen.
Scabbers found a piece of chicken under Ginny's chair. He picked it
up, stuck it in his mouth, and crept over to the kitchen door where he
could see into the living room. He peered between the door and frame;
the Weasleys' tall grandfather clock was in perfect view, illuminated
by the moonlight shining through the window. Scabbers watched that clock
as he nibbled the piece of chicken. He watched as Charlie's hand moved
from "Home" to "Sleeping." He finished his bit of chicken, then began
to sniff the air at the prospect of more food.
His nose caught the sharp dry smell of wood charring in a buried fire.
His eyes darted about the kitchen. He turned just in time to see a ghostly
form with glowing red eyes gliding slowly out of the hearth. He watched
mesmerized, as the ashy serpent curved around the legs of the table and
chairs, then along the skirting board and past the sink, leaving a fine
grey ash trail in its wake. It turned and curved over toward the kitchen
door, where it came face to face with the rat.
Scabbers sat up on his haunches; the ashwinder raised up gently swaying,
like a cobra to the charmer's pipe. Scabbers stretched up and the serpent
raised up higher, until they were eye to eye. The ashwinder shot out a
tiny quick tongue of flame. The rat popped up in a sudden jump, shot across
the floor, and turned to watch the ashwinder again.
The pale grey serpent resumed its search for a nesting-spot. Undulating
its way over to the bookshelf -- crammed full of potion books, cookbooks,
clippings from magazines, and home apothecary guides -- the ashwinder
came to rest under this wealth of tinder.
The smell of the ashwinder died away, and in its absence heat began
to radiate from under the bookshelf. Scabbers looked around quickly, scurried
to the door, and peeked at the clock. All nine hands were pointing to
"Sleeping." The rat turned, and out of the moving rat grew a man -- short,
plump, and balding, with a pointy ratlike nose that almost seemed to twitch,
small watery eyes, and a grubby grey complexion to match his grubby grey
Pulling a wand out of his pocket, he scrambled over to the bookcase,
dropped down on his knees and bent over, cheek on the floor, to see underneath.
The eggs glowed with incandescent brilliance, radiating intense heat.
The portly man hit the ashwinder eggs with a freezing charm. The heat
cooled a little; the brilliance dimmed, but then returned.
Muttering, "Oh, bloody Hell, wrong wand", he shoved the wand back in
his pocket and dashed across the room. Grabbing the hearth shovel, the
man dropped heavily onto his stomach, scraped the four glowing eggs out
from under the bookshelf, and scooped them up. He hurried over to the
fireplace and tipped the eggs from the shovel onto the stone hearth. He
fished about in his pocket and pulled out a different wand. He performed
the freezing charm again.
This time the charm worked as cast. He bent down, picked up the now-cool
eggs, and carried them into the pantry. He found the empty jar labeled
"Ashwinder Eggs" in the apothecary cupboard. He dropped the four eggs
in the jar and looked at the neat rows of jars, carefully labeled and
Muttering to himself, "these need to be found before they're old...
where should they go... under P?... under W?... no? then S... Molly will
find them if they're out of place..." with a slight chortle he rearranged
the jars in the apothecary cabinet.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, he looked about the pantry and made
his way over to the marble pantry shelves. He muttered constantly to himself
as he rooted through the shelves.
"That was close.... what a good little helper old Scabbers is.... Charlie
was right, don't want to miss Molly's ham and chicken pie.... just take
a peek around." He began to root through the containers and jars.
Lifting lids and sniffing contents, he muttered, "What have we here?
Oh! Just have a bite of that," as he pulled three prunes out of their
syrupy jar, popped them in his mouth, and licked his fingers. He continued
to nibble and taste as he searched, dredging his fingers through the jug
of custard and licking them clean. Small grunts of delight rose from his
throat. His head and shoulders deep in between the shelves with his rotund
back side protruding into the dimly lit pantry, he breathed a heartfelt
"Oh, Molly Weasley, your cooking is magic of the best kind."
Picking up a large pie plate, half full of chicken and ham pie, and
cradling it lovingly in one arm, he reached back deeper in the shelves
and set in the empty part of the pie pan, a jar of picalilli, a jar of
pickled beetroots, another of pickled onions and three hard-boiled eggs.
Nestling into the crook of his arm a dish of cheese, the jar of prunes,
and the jug of custard, he grunted "Yes, tonight we're having a little
feast." He hooked a thumb and middle finger -- for he had no index finger
-- around the neck of a bottle of scrumpy.
"Who are you? " piped a small voice from across the pantry.
The man head and shoulders in the shelves stood up so quickly that he
bumped his head on the shelf above -- causing the food containers to bounce
and rattle -- the man struggled to keep his hold on his armloads of food.
He backed up and wheeled around and saw standing in the door a small figure
with flame-red hair in overlarge boy's blue pajamas and striped dressing
gown -- both emblazoned with large letters "G". Bright brown eyes looked
at the small grey portly pear-shaped man standing with his arms loaded
with food. She looked puzzled.
The man smiled nervously and stammered, "Ah... Hello Ginny, I'm... er...
Wormtail. I'm a friend of your brothers."
(to be continued)