The Sugar Quill
Author: Bittersweet  Story: A Rat's Tale  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/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.


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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 his associates.

--from the American Heritage Dictionary, New College Edition, Houghton Mifflin


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Part 1

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 sink.

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 robes.

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 alphabetized.

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 sigh.

"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)

 

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