The Sugar Quill
Author: Kwinelf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Swords of Death  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.

Author’s Note: This fic is set at Christmas time in Harry’s 5th year. Please note that this story contains spoilers for The Greatest Love, The Highest Sacrifice (up to Chapter 7).

***

Elsie Norr and Ginny Weasley entered the Great Hall of Hogwarts rather late for Christmas dinner. They took one look around the room and squealed with delight.

"It’s just like last year’s Yule Ball!" Ginny exclaimed excitedly, and indeed, just like the previous year’s Yule Ball, the Great Hall was filled with fairy lights that cast a gentle glow over the enormous room. Norri grinned at her friend, and the two of them headed towards the Gryffindor table together.

Elsie, more commonly known as Norri, had transferred from an undisclosed wizarding school at the beginning of her fifth year. Although she got along well with her fellow classmates, it was her dorm companion Ginny with whom she had clicked the best. The fact that Ginny was a year below her had made no difference to their soon-established friendship and they quickly became inseparable.

Ginny’s new friendship meant that she spent much less time following her brother Ron and his best friends, Harry and Hermione, although the trio often teamed with Norri and Ginny for meals and their visits to Hogsmeade. The friendship was a source of relief for Harry and Ron – who were both happy that Ginny was no longer so focused on Harry – and of secret jealousy for Hermione, who sometimes wished she was part of a bunch of girls instead of two boys, who were great but, well, a little too boyish sometimes.

Norri’s eyes darted quickly around the room as she walked between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables towards the Gryffindor table. She continued her conversation with Ginny, answering her friend’s eager questions about the parcel she had received from her grandfather for Christmas, but a portion of her attention was focused through her searching eyes, which subtly checked to make sure everything was safe. It had been more than six months now since Voldemort had returned, and although Hogwarts seemed the safest place one could be, she was not about to take any chances.

Especially where Harry was concerned.

Her gaze extended to the High Table, where it was met by Remus Lupin, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He smiled briefly at her before answering a question posed to him by Professor Sprout. Norri sighed. She wished she could be more open in acknowledging her old friend, but this was the safer option.

After a quick but thorough search of the room, she was eventually satisfied that there were no lurking figures or deathly spells about to descend on Harry and the other Hogwarts students.

Norri turned her full attention back to the still-talking Ginny as she steered her best friend through the other tables to their own, where their fellow Gryffindors were already tucking into the magnificent feast prepared by the house-elves. Ginny winked at her best friend as they moved past where Hermione sat, arguing as usual with Ron. Harry was next to Ron, grinning, but not deigning to be involved in what had become an ongoing debate.

"Honestly Ron, doesn’t anyone think about how the house-elves celebrate Christmas?" Hermione gave a perturbed sniff. "I mean, it’s just insupportable."

Ron sighed in exasperation. "Hermione, we’ve been through this a hundred times. You’re not going to change wizarding opinions about house-elves overnight. And besides, they’re happy were they are. Dobby’s the exception to the rule, not the norm! Anyway, there are more important things to be fighting for right now, and – would you take a look at Malfoy!"

The other four’s gazes followed Ron’s glance towards the Slytherin table just in time to see a midnight-black owl swoop silently into the Great Hall and drop a package on Draco Malfoy’s lap. Draco’s eyes lit up as he hefted the package, and the faces of Crabbe and Goyle—both in close attendance, as usual—were also gleaming with excitement.

"I wonder what he’s up to?" asked Hermione, distracted from her argument with Ron.

Ron snorted in disgust. "Probably yet another present for rich-boy Malfoy," he snarled, and stabbed savagely at his fillet of beef. He looked down at yet another maroon jumper he had received – "To add to my collection," he had told Harry wryly that morning – and then over at Draco. His eyes widened as he saw Draco tip the contents of the package onto the Slytherin table. A cascade of sugar quills fell in front of Draco, and a small piece of parchment fluttered down to sit on top of the pile. Draco read the note carefully, then smiled in smug satisfaction as he rolled it up and placed it in a pocket of his robes.

"I wonder why Crabbe and Goyle haven’t grabbed any yet?" mused Ginny absently, looking at the sugar quills longingly.

Ron was also eyeing them with envy. "He must have at least two hundred of them!" he muttered. "Now, if I were to use a Summoning Charm, I could get a good dozen of those quills without him even noticing they were gone."

He pulled out his wand and aimed it towards Draco, only to have it knocked out of his hands by an ashen-faced Norri.

"What?" he snapped at her bitterly. "You’re not going to let me get at his stuff because it’s stealing?"

"Bit of a different reason," Norri answered tersely. "Just watch for a bit and you’ll understand."

There was silence among the five of them as their collective attention focused on Draco’s sugar quills. They all watched with bated breath as he glanced furtively at the Head Table, then slowly drew his wand out of his robes. Sneaking another look at his professors, Draco pointed his wand at the assembled sugar quills and uttered a spell they couldn’t hear from the Gryffindor table. Ron and Ginny both gasped in amazement as the sugar quills suddenly transformed into thin, dark slivers. Even from the distance of two tables, it was obvious that whatever these shards were, they were dangerous.

"What are they?" breathed Ron.

"Knarl quills," answered Norri, her voice shaking.

Harry looked at her strangely. "What the hell are Knarl quills?"

Hermione sighed. "Honestly, Harry, when are you going to get through your Care of Magical Creatures readings? Knarls are like Muggle porcupines, only they don’t like milk. They’re in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

"And they have mean spikes," added Ron. "Really sharp – dangerous enough for them to be on the list of substances banned from school. If Draco gets caught with them he’s in big trouble. But I don’t understand where he got them from, or why."

"Target practice, bro," came Fred’s voice from behind them, and he plonked himself down next to Ginny. George sat on the other side of his little sister, between her and the ashen-faced Norri.

"Target practice for what?" asked Ginny in bewilderment.

"Look," Norri choked, pointing a quivering finger towards the Slytherin table.

Still shooting careful glances towards the Head Table to make sure none of the teachers were watching, Draco picked up one of the Knarl quills. He balanced it on the tips of his fingers a moment before taking rapid aim and letting it fly at the Christmas garlands above the House Tables. One of the fairy lights flickered briefly and extinguished. A dead fairy dropped onto the Slytherin table, her body impaled by the quill.

Ginny and Hermione let out muffled squeals, blanching at the sight of the dead fairy. All the boys looked ill, and their expressions were even more sickened by the loud guffaws of Crabbe and Goyle. Norri, if it was possible, went even whiter than she had been previously, and began to tremble uncontrollably.

"That’s disgusting," said Harry weakly.

"No wonder Crabbe and Goyle didn’t eat any of them," added Ron, looking rather green.

The twins nodded. "It’s something of a Malfoy tradition, apparently," said George, still watching Draco. "We heard from Charlie once that Draco’s cousin Justin – he was in Charlie’s year at Hogwarts – actually let another Slytherin swallow one before he transformed the lot from sugar quills into their real form. Apparently Lucentius Lockhart had to spend a whole week in the hospital wing while Madam Pomfrey made him a new voice box. We think Justin’s the one who actually sent these quills to Draco - it’s the sort of thing he would do."

A moan came from behind George, and the boys dragged their attention from Draco to see Norri swaying in her seat. With a pained, desperate whimper, the girl tried to stand.

"Norri, no!" Hermione and Ginny cried together, grabbing her arms.

"Don’t try to stop me," Norri mumbled, her eyes wide and slightly glazed. "Must—can’t let him—have to stop—he can’t—"

She tottered on her feet, oblivious to the sudden whispers of the other Gryffindors. As she attracted more and more attention, one of the teachers at the Head Table looked up to see what was happening.

"What’s wrong with Miss Norr?" Snape asked, sudden concern tightening his voice.

Professor Lupin took one glance at Norri’s face and jumped out of his seat, sprinting over towards the Gryffindor table.

"The quills!" Norri moaned, swaying even more violently. "The—quills!"

Lupin reached Norri’s side just as the girl gave a little shudder and collapsed into his arms.

Professor Lupin was a tall man, but his frame was thin, and it was evident to Harry and his friends that he was only just recovering from his latest spell as a werewolf. He struggled with the unexpected weight of the girl, and for a moment, it looked as if he was about to drop Norri.

There was a sudden swirl of black robes beside the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. "I’ve got her, Lupin," said Professor Severus Snape calmly, unceremoniously hoisting the girl into his arms.

"Hospital wing," the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher said hoarsely.

Snape nodded curtly before turning and disappearing from the Hall with the unconscious fifth year.

By this time, the whole school had realised something had happened, and their clamour required the efforts of Professor Dumbledore to return the Great Hall to relative quiet. Although the Headmaster’s voice was calming, the habitual twinkle in his eyes was missing, and his own gaze kept flickering to the door through which Snape had left with Norri.

Professor Lupin immediately began questioning Norri’s friends about what had happened. In their eagerness to explain, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny all began talking at once.

"It was Draco - "

"He had sugar quills – only they were -"

" – Knarl quills - "

"And he killed a fairy - "

"And Norri just lost it - "

Although the explanations were rushed and convoluted, Professor Lupin appeared to understand the significance of the quills, for he too paled, and his gaze riveted on Draco. The Slytherin was seated calmly at his table, with the Knarl quills now transformed back into Honeydukes most popular sweet. The dead fairy was nowhere in sight.

But Lupin wasn’t fooled.

Pulling a bag out from thin air, he strode over to the Slytherin table. "I’m confiscating these, Malfoy," he said, gesturing at the sugar quills with his wand. They leapt up from the table and soared through the air into the bag he held.

"But—" Draco protested, springing up from his seat.

"I wouldn’t complain if I were you," Lupin snapped warningly. "After all, it’s easy to get more sugar quills in Hogsmeade this weekend, isn’t it?"

Draco glared at Professor Lupin, but said nothing as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher closed the bag and walked away. Lupin headed straight for the exit. But before he could head to the hospital wing, Fred and George Weasley suddenly appeared in his path.

"Professor, we don’t understand," Fred said to Lupin without preamble. "Knarl quills are banned at school and all, but Norri knew what they were before Draco transfigured them. And we know she’d never approve of the fairy-killing, but that wasn’t why she was so affected."

Lupin looked from one Weasley to the other. For a moment, it looked as though he was about to speak, but then he shook his head. "Fred, George. I’m afraid that’s something you’ll have to find out from Norri for yourselves." He smiled at them tiredly, and headed towards the stairs that led to the hospital wing. As he reached them, he turned and looked back at the two boys, who were still standing at the entrance to the Great Hall.

"And do me a favour? Don’t even approach her about it for at least a week."

*

When Lupin reached the hospital wing, he was surprised to see that Snape was still with Norri. The Potions Master stood over the inert form of the slim fifth year like some kind of forbidding guardian angel. Lupin coughed to alert the Head of Slytherin to his presence, and Snape’s head shot up to glare at him.

"Why did she faint over Knarl quills, Lupin?" he snapped.

Remus’ eyebrows soared as he realised Snape had seen more than he thought. "Now, how would I know the answer to that question?" he answered evasively. He knew that Snape did not believe him, but the other man said nothing.

A small snarl twitched Snape’s lip.

"Madam Pomfrey," he muttered after a few moments. "Would you be so kind as to let me know when Miss Norr recovers?" Then, without so much as a backward glance at Lupin, Snape stalked from the room.

"Will she be coming round soon?" Lupin asked Madam Pomfrey with concern. He knew the Charm of Illusion could not last much longer without her concentration.

"Any minute now," she replied soothingly.

Sure enough, Norri began to stir almost immediately. As she did so, however, the edges of her visage flickered, and then shifted until the real Norri emerged. Remus looked up in alarm to see if Madam Pomfrey had seen the transformation, but she had disappeared into her office, apparently looking for a remedy of some kind. He quickly sealed her office door behind her, then turned back to Norri. It took her some time to come round, and even then she stared blankly at Professor Lupin’s hovering face.

"Hey, sunshine," he whispered softly, not wanting Madam Pomfrey to hear him, even though she was now trapped in her own office.

"Remus!" Norri whispered.

He grinned down at her. "Happy Christmas, old thing. Then his smile faded, and he took her hand gently. "Norri, do you remember what happened?"

Norri’s face screwed up for a moment as she obviously tried to collect her thoughts. Then her hand clenched in his and the tears started to fall.

"Oh, Remus, it was Draco. He had Knarl quills – I’m sure that Justin must have sent them to him – and then he threw them at one of the fairies, and it was dead, and – oh, Remus, it was so like the last time!"

She dissolved into silent sobs that wrenched her whole frame.

Remus sighed, and gathered Norri into a brotherly embrace. Rocking her back and forth, he whispered softly to her until her crying faded. Then he lifted her chin up until her reddened eyes looked into his. "Norri…you know you’ve never told anyone exactly what happened that night with Justin."

A gentle expression touched his features, and he bent down until his forehead rested against hers. "It would probably make it easier on yourself if you could share it with at least one person."

Norri was silent for a moment. Then her expression set, and she looked up at him with fire in her eyes. "You’re right," she said firmly. "It’s time I let someone else hear the truth." Patting the bed next to her, she waited until he had sat down beside her, and then she commenced her story.

*

"Back when Charlie and I were at Hogwarts together, Justin Malfoy was the bane of the school. Harry, Ron and Hermione think that Draco’s bad - well, Justin was a junior Voldemort-in-training, and he took his role seriously. What Fred and George said about him letting Lucentius Lockhart eat the sugar quill before he turned it back into a Knarl dagger - that’s what we used to call them – was true. It’s one of the most terrible things I ever saw…." She shuddered for a moment, and then continued.

"Justin made my life hell – you know all about that. And about how Charlie was the one who protected me from him, kept me just out of his reach. Justin hated Charlie for that, especially after fifth year, when he seemed to have developed a different kind of penchant for my company. Thankfully, with the help of Charlie and Bastian Baltimanny, I survived to the end of Hogwarts without actually having a confrontation with him. Then I went to be an Auror, and Justin –" she swallowed, "- Justin became a Death Eater.

"I think he’d actually joined while we were still in school – he must have, because Voldemort was already semi-dead, and Justin was one of the ones who helped Barty Crouch, although Barty never mentioned it when he told Harry his story before he received the Dementor’s Kiss. He was also the one who got hold of Tom Riddle’s diary, and gave it to his elder brother Lucius so Draco could give it to someone at school. It was actually that year, right when Ginny was being led down to the Chamber of Secrets, that I had my own confrontation with him."

She paused, and drew a deep, shaky breath. Remus squeezed her hand encouragingly and she continued.

"I had worked with several other Aurors – we always changed around, never partnered with the same person permanently. It was part of Alastor Moody’s ‘constant vigilance’ obsessions. That month, I was working with Bastian. We’d seen a lot of each other since we graduated since we were working in the same department, and used to go and visit Charlie in Romania together."

Here, Remus longed to digress, and fill in some of the many blanks he had drawn regarding Norri’s relationship with Charlie Weasley. It would explain so many other things… but looking at her drawn expression, he knew his questions would have to wait for another time.

"Bastian and I were following a lead on an active Death Eater, one who was following various Dark Arts dealers we knew traded in items which used to belong of Voldemort. We had no idea it was Justin. We heard that there was going to be a deal struck in Surrey, in an abandoned cottage one evening – Dark Arts dealers often use Muggle locations to escape notice more easily. We decided to bring in whoever it was, and I was the first person to enter the scene."

Here, Norri paused again, and her expression became haunted as the horror of that night returned to her in all its terrible clarity.

"Somehow, Justin knew we were coming. As soon as I entered the cottage, he froze me with a Petrificus totalis spell, and then tried to do the same to Bastian. When he missed, he turned back to see who I was. His face – when he realised…" She shuddered. "He guessed somehow that it must be Bastian who was with me, and he taunted him from inside the cottage to come in and save me. He listed all the things he would do to me, and all the while he was pulling sugar quills out of his bag. I knew they weren’t sugar quills, that they were Knarl daggers – just like the ones he used to muck around with at school – and in one horrible moment, Justin leant over and whispered to me that they were filled with manticore poison, and that even one of them would be fatal for Bastian."

Norri’s eyes filled with tears again, and Remus chafed her hands gently, willing her the courage to continue.

"Justin really did mean all the things he said he’d do to me, and Bastian knew it. He had found a knothole in the wood of the cottage, and when he saw Justin making to begin, he blasted a hole in the cottage wall and charged inside. In an instant, Justin had transfigured the sugar quills, and speared at least ten into Bastian. He was dead before he hit the ground, and the most horrible part was the look of guilt on his face as he realised he wouldn’t save me…."

She broke off into sobs, and buried her face deep in Remus’ robes. Lupin held her close to him, wondering at how he had never learnt any of this, and pondering whether she had told Sirius. He doubted it, especially considering it would have sent his best friend off on a mission to destroy Justin Malfoy – a mission that would have needlessly endangered his life.

"How did you get out, Norri?" he asked her gently, not wanting to make things harder for her, but needing to know the conclusion to her story. Then a sudden awful thought occurred to him, and he lifted her head up in alarm. "Norri, he didn’t…hurt you…did he?"

She shook her head. "No," she said. Remus breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief. "No, he didn’t have time for that. I don’t know how it happened – how he knew I was there, or what was going on – but another wizard Apparated, and fought a duel with Justin. It was close, though I don’t think either of them were hit by each other’s spells. And then…somehow, the other wizard grabbed me…and Disapparated to Hogsmeade…and we were safe."

Lupin’s face was twisted in confusion. "Was it your grandfather?" he asked.

Norri shook her head.

"Charlie?"

"No."

"Bill?"

"No," Norri said quietly.

"Sirius?"

"No," she whispered.

"Well, then," Remus asked, trying to keep his voice even, "who was it?"

She ducked her head, and he had to strain to hear her muffled reply.

"Professor Snape."

*

"Snape? Snape?" Remus was shocked, almost beyond words. "How did Snape know where you were, or how to help you?"

"I think Grandfather must have said something," Norri replied, still not looking directly at Remus. "He never asked anything about me, or what had happened. He just took me to grandfather and then disappeared. I didn’t see him again until after Harry escaped from Voldemort two years later."

No wonder you’re half in love with the man, Remus thought to himself, but he desisted from saying anything. Instead, he focused on settling Norri into the ward-bed, and helping her speed up the Charm of Illusion so he could unseal Madam Pomfrey’s office. Fortunately for both of them, the remedy the school nurse had been looking for had been hard to find. Only minutes after Norri’s face had been replaced by that of Elise Norr, Madam Pomfrey bustled out, triumphantly holding up the potion she had found.

"Here we are, my dear! Dreamless Sleep guaranteed!"

Remus looked down at Norri in concern. "A potion, Norri? Are you sure that’s what you want?"

Norri looked back at him and nodded. Remus shrugged and walked over to where Madam Pomfrey stood, taking the potion from her outstretched hands. "Don’t worry, Madam Pomfrey," he said to her. "I’ll stay with her till she’s asleep."

The school nurse nodded, and looked at Norri kindly. "I’ll be checking on you throughout the night, dear," she said. "Don’t you worry about a thing, now." And she headed back into her office.

Remus brought the potion over to where Norri lay on the bed and held it up to her mouth so she could drink it more easily. "Are you positive you want this?" he asked again, obviously still not convinced of how good it was for her.

"It took me almost a year to be able to sleep on my own after I saw Justin kill Bastian," she said, too quietly for Madam Pomfrey to be able to hear. "All I could see when I lay in bed was Justin, throwing those Knarl daggers at Bastian. Swords, he called them."

Her eyes filled suddenly with brilliant tears.

"‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’ he said," she whispered.

She trembled again, and then swallowed Madam Pomfrey’s potion in one gulp. "I’m not going to try and sleep with those memories again – or have to see Draco acting so like his cousin. If there’s one thing I swear to do apart from keeping Harry safe, it’s to make sure that boy doesn’t end up like Justin!"

Norri would have continued speaking, but her eyelids fluttered suddenly and a small sigh escaped from her as she leaned forward, resting her head against Remus’ shoulder. He said nothing, but let her remain there until she was fast asleep. Then he tucked her in carefully, and sat at her bedside, watching the gentle rise and fall of her breathing.

*

From behind the cover of a bed at the end of the hospital wing, Fred and George Weasley also watched the sleeping girl. Their eyes were wide at the story they had just overheard, and as they turned from the sight in front of them to stare at one another, they knew without speaking that this was one prank they couldn’t share with anyone. Creeping away from the bed, they slipped out of the hospital wing, and sank against the walls of the hall.

"Wow!" said George, overawed.

"No wonder she hates Knarl quills," muttered Fred. Then his eyes darkened as a new thought occurred to him. "Hey, George," he said, turning to look at his brother, "you don’t think Charlie knows that she’s here at Hogwarts, do you?"

George shook his head emphatically. "No way. He’s still totally crazy about her – if he knew that she was here, he’d be at the school in a shot, begging her to change her mind about him. Even if he knew she was undercover. He can’t know."

"And we can’t tell him, either."

It was a statement, not a question, and George nodded in complete agreement.

"Nope. We can’t tell him – or anyone else either. Not Mum, Dad – definitely not Ron or Ginny…poor Ginny. She thinks she’s found the perfect friend, and it’s actually the girl she hates because she broke Charlie’s heart."

Fred sighed in frustration. "But there must be a reason why she broke up with him! And if the others knew, then maybe things would be different. But in the meantime…" His eyes hardened as his resolve formed. "In the meantime, we don’t tell anyone else anything, and we find out the truth from Norri ourselves. And then we can take it from there."

George nodded emphatically. "That’s the spirit, bro. Inspiration! What we’ve always done best with."

The two slapped hands, and then realised they should probably not hang around in case Professor Lupin emerged and saw them there. Getting up, they headed off down the corridor, talking quietly about how to best implement their plans.

Back inside the hospital wing, Remus continued to watch Norri as she slept. As he shifted in his seat next to Norri’s bed, his foot knocked against something next to his seat. Looking down, Remus was surprised to see the bag which held the Knarl daggers was still where he had dropped it. He had almost forgotten about it. Glancing back at Norri to make sure she was still asleep, Remus rose from the bed gently, and moved towards the fireplace.

Opening the bag, he took out each sugar quill one by one, and threw them into the burning flames. A snapping like breaking twigs echoed through the infirmary as Remus watched them transfigure back into Knarl quills and then incinerate in the heat of the fire.

Let it purge her hurt, he prayed silently. Let her have no more nightmares, and no more betrayals. Let her find peace.

He looked over at the sleeping Norri, wondering if there was yet another sword of death waiting for her…for Harry…for Sirius….

He could only hope that next time someone would be there to save her.

He stood for a long time at the fireplace after the last quill had disappeared in a spurt of flames, gazing into the burning embers, watching Norri sleep, and waiting for the morning to come.

//
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