The Sugar Quill
Author: Lone Astronomer (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Lion and the Unicorn  Chapter: Chapter Two: A Voyage
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Chapter Two: A Voyage

Summary: We find out what's upset Charlie, learn a bit more about Shee, hang around with some very hip dragons and a confused French guy.

Pronunciation guide: Joshi- just like Yoshi. My favorite derivative of Johannes. Pretty cool, eh?

Now, those who were living just tried to survive

In a mad world of blood, death and fire

And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive

Though around me the corpses piled higher

Still staring somewhat dumbly at the article, Charlie let his thoughts wander. Who could have done this? Or what? On the somewhat wrinkled sheet of newsprint in front of him was a black and white photograph of a house, burning brightly, beside a caption which was at the same time confusing and gut-wrenching.

Two Killed in Ireland House Fire

Ministry officials are befuddled by the house fire which started July 4th for causes as yet undetermined. A source indicates that the fire was totally preventable and should not under any circumstances have caused death for the occupants. The Shee, James, and his Muggle wife Johanna Dickinson, the former of which should have been able to stop the fire, perished in the inferno. Their infant son managed to escape fate, and will be taken care of by a neighbor until his legal guardian can be reached. The sole witness of the blaze was unavailable for questioning.

An icy knot settled into Charlie's stomach and suddenly he felt very ill. Although there were no obvious Dark ties to the article, there were some classic aspects- Shee were creatures of the Light side by nature, and although highly mischievous, possessed powers which did not require a wand and were difficult for even witches and wizards to comprehend. Add that on top of the mixed marriage, and it was almost a typical Dark killing. And then there was the burning house and the surviving infant…

And James Dickinson.

It was a coincidence, and Charlie knew it, but there was something familiar about the whole thing. James was the name of Harry Potter's father, and Harry's mother had been Muggle-born. Both of them had died, but Harry had lived… Like Harry's parents, the Shee were supposed to be accident-proof. A house fire couldn't possibly kill off a full Shee.

What was it Anya had said about the ancient charms that protected Shee households?

The full impact of the name 'Dickinson' hit Charlie full on. Oh, bugger, he thought. Anya.

 

*

Charlie found her in the small study, flipping through a novel at an annoyingly quick pace. He knocked gently. "Can I come in?"

Anya looked up, a bit startled, and grinned uncertainly, probably noting his somewhat bleak mood. Under normal circumstances she would have replied with, "If you dare," but instead she just pulled her feet down from the other chair and gestured him towards it. "Sure."

Charlie sat somewhat awkwardly, fidgeting with the piece of paper in his hands. "I- um- I know you aren't really keeping up with news back in Ireland," he said quietly. "But I- I thought you should see this." He slid the clipping across the table. "I- I'm sorry, Anya."

Anya took her time reading through the clipping and then swallowed audibly, her fingers curling into helpless fists around it. "Oh God," she whispered. "Leon."

"Is that the boy's name?" Charlie asked softly.

"Oh God, Charlie, that was my brother- and Johanna was the sweetest thing ever to grace the Earth- Charlie, he's only nine months old!" Anya's head dropped and she curled up in her chair, rocking back and forth gently. "I can't- I can't-"

"It's alright," he said in a mostly successful attempt to be comforting. "I mean- it's not alright, but it will be, Anya. You'll see." He pried one of her hands away from her face, rubbing it soothingly.

"You don't understand," she said, apparently exasperated with him. "James was my brother- I already told you that my father died before James was born… and James' mother became an alcoholic after- alcoholic Shee are very depressing- so she didn't live for much longer- Charlie, what am I going to do with a nine-month-old baby?"

This had obviously never occurred to Charlie. And I thought I was having a lousy day. "Oh, Jeez," he said simply, feeling somewhat stupid. "I'd forgotten about that. Just try not to worry too much. You'll make a great surrogate mother."

"I don't want to be a surrogate mother- Leon deserves his own parents; what child doesn't? No one should have to grow up with half a family."

"I know," Charlie said softly. "If anyone knows, I do."

Anya sniffed once and looked up at him. "I'll have to quit my job," she said wistfully. "It's far too dangerous for a child."

Charlie shrugged. "So do I. I've just received a somewhat urgent message from England and I haven't any home leave time left. But I have a feeling that where I'm going isn't even going to be as safe as it is here with the dragons."

Anya closed her eyes and pulled herself to her feet. "Well, Charlie, pack your stuff. We should leave before it gets any darker."

*

Dear Professor,

Don't bother with contacting my father. I'm sure he's busy enough with the state of chaos the Ministry is presumably in. We- that is, my friend and I- will be coming straight to Hogwarts. We should be there sometime today or tomorrow.

Yours,

Charlie Weasley

 

*

"So how are we getting back to England?" Charlie asked a half an hour later, finally catching up with Anya in the yard. "It's too far to Floo or Apparate, and we've got too much luggage to take a Portkey out of here."

"We are going in the height of style," Anya informed him, keeping up her brisk pace. "Jacques! Damn it, Jacques, where are you?"

"'Ere, Anya!" he called from the edge of the forest. "I am preparing ze ride- you will be careful, hien? Jacques does not want to be peeling you off any mountain somewhere. Zis is a delicate operation, yes? No, 'ow zey say, falling asleep at ze wheel."

"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Charlie asked, just as Jacques turned to the forest and yelled, "Bring 'im 'ere, eh?"

A great shadow fell across the ground as a magnificent beast lit on the ground beside them. The dragon was relatively small compared to Anita and Alonzo, roan red and fiery orange in color. Charlie supposed he was an adolescent; the harness on the beast's neck was worn in spots but had obviously been readjusted recently. There were also a few huge scales hanging loose on his flanks- he had molted recently, which explained the readjustment.

"Allo, Joshi!" Jacques called cheerfully, presumably to the dragon. "Wie geht's, wie steht's?"

'Joshi' snorted, plumes of rich-smelling smoke spewing from his nostrils.

"Tres bien," Jacques said. "Alors, Charles, Anya, adieu. Good-bye, mes amis, au revoir, bon voyage, arrividerci, and- as zey say in Allemagne- Auf Wiedersehen!"

Still a bit shocked, Charlie climbed up into the saddle. There were two seats in the harness, in front of which hung two enormous saddlebags in which they stashed their belongings. Anya called a final farewell to the other dragon keepers, then clucked loudly in Joshi's ear, and they were off.

Adolescent dragons, Charlie soon discovered, were extremely fancy fliers, and Anya was loving every minute of it. She let out ecstatic whoops of laughter after every daring turn and was soon kneeling in the saddle rather than sitting with her legs bent beneath her and to her sides, as she was meant to. She had her arms out at her sides for balance and her eyes closed, apparently reveling in the feel of the wind in her hair.

Charlie looked over the side, swallowed hard, and held on tighter. Riding a broomstick was one thing; dragons were quite another. Especially adolescent ones who seemed to delight in taking swooping dives over valleys and Muggle villages…

*

Eight hours later, Anya was calm again, watching the endless waves roll below them. She was stretched full-out, resting her head on part of Joshi's crest and her feet in the saddle.

"Er… Anya," Charlie said, finally voicing his concern, "How exactly… did Jacques tame this guy?"

"Mm? Oh, not him, Charlie. Not exactly… Well, I suppose I can tell you. It looked like Jacques was controlling the dragon, but he really just has a soft spot for him. We raised Joshi from almost a hatchling- Simon and Ralph dropped him off when he was a month or two old. It should have been impossible to keep him under control, but you know Shee magic-" she shrugged. "It pops up at the most opportune times. In other words, Joshi's a wild dragon. Just not around Jacques and I."

"Oh," Charlie said. Then, "Jack's not Shee."

"No," Anya answered simply, suddenly sitting up straighter. "Do you see land over there?"

Joshi did. Even as Charlie turned his head to look, the dragon swooped to port, causing Charlie's stomach to lurch. "Oh boy. Anya… you don't happen to have an incredibly strong anti-motion-sickness charm up your sleeve, do you?"

"Oh!" She sat up suddenly, still perfectly balanced. "I'm sorry, Charlie!" She passed her hand over his eyes, and the queasiness subsided somewhat.

"Thanks," Charlie said, the color returning to his face.

Joshi swooped once more, and suddenly there was land beneath them. "Hey… didn't we just skip a large piece of sky?"

"Probably the Skyspace bindings keeping the isles closer together," Charlie answered. "When they put in the Broomstick Network last year they made some… modifications… to the magic skyway. There was a lot of chaos at first because it interfered with Muggle air travel, but then Renee Forge developed that Exception Charm."

Anya looked at him strangely. "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'll take your word for it." She squinted into the setting sun, searching the skyline for familiar landmarks. "Is that Hogwarts?"

Charlie looked where she had indicated. "I think so… yes, and there's the lake. You don't mind if we go there first…?"

Anya shook her head. "We've flown long enough. Let's get down and use our legs for a bit."

Charlie remembered her 'using her legs' while they were somewhere above Scandinavia, but said nothing. Anya leaned forward to whisper to Joshi again, and immediately they began their descent. Charlie felt his stomach lurch as they dropped down through and scattered a flock of geese (Joshi's tongue flicked out and ensnared a few), thanking Anya once again for the anti-motion-sickness charm. Then Joshi landed, with a muffled thump and a crash, between the lake and a large clearing near a cabin. Wonder if Hagrid's still here or if he's gone on that mission…

Charlie's unspoken question was answered with a friendly- and very loud- greeting and a nearly bone-crushing hug. "Charlie!" Hagrid roared, "How're yeh doing? Yeh didn' tell me you were comin'! And yeh've brought… yeh've brought a visitor!"

"Hi, Hagrid," Charlie wheezed. "This is-"

Charlie was about to introduce Anya, but Hagrid was looking right past her as she unloaded the saddlebags. "Norbert!"

Who? Oh, the dragon. Hagrid had attempted to throw his huge arms around the dragon's front leg, and Joshi was looking at him quite strangely. "Erm- Hagrid, that's Joshi, and the lovely woman who's unloading the luggage for me- stop that, by the way, I'll get it later- is Anya Dickinson."

"Charlie, yeh never told me how big he'd got- he's got to be a quarter of the way through adolescence- Hullo, Anye." Hagrid paused to proffer a great hand. "I, er- I have ter go tomorrar," he apologized roughly to Charlie. "Business for Dumbledore, y'know."

"Oh," Charlie replied, a bit disappointed. "Well, to be honest, that's why we're here. Why I'm here, anyway. Anya's here because-"

Anya put a hand on his arm. "I'm here to visit my family," she said gently, reproving Charlie for his babbling. "We should go see Dumbledore."

"Right," Charlie acquiesced. "Well, maybe I'll see you later, Hagrid. Keep in touch. Oh, and watch out for Joshi- er, Norbert's clumsiness. If he steps on your foot, it'll have to be re-grown."

Hagrid bid them goodbye, already preoccupied with 'mothering' Norbert, and they grabbed their things and turned towards the castle, silent once more.

They reached the headmaster's office and found that they could go no further, as neither of them knew the password. "I remember the last time I was here," Anya said wistfully. "Snape was so mad- I'd enchanted all of the suits of armor to speak absolute nonsense. The one in the corridor across from the kitchen used to sing The Jolly Beggerman whenever Snape walked by. I still don't know how he figured out it was me that did it."

Charlie grinned. "Sounds like something typical of my brothers- they enchanted the toilet seats in the Prefects' bathroom to bite once."

Anya laughed. "No, no- that's a practical joke. It has a definite victim- those poor Prefects! I only deal in shenanigans- no victim, nobody gets hurt, and nobody gets angry or vengeful. Unless you're a sore loser, like Snape…"

That was as far as they got, because the gargoyle slid aside and Dumbledore's voice could be heard. "And Fletcher, Arabella- spread the word, would you? Or we'll have trouble no matter what we try to do. There's no way we can get anyone to join up if they think we're conspiring with…" By the sounds of things, the whole group was drawing nearer. Anya and Charlie exchanged glances, then peered into the stairway.

And the world was turned upside down. "Get back, Charlie!" Anya shouted, and a blast of pure white light illuminated the hallway.

There was the muffled sound of swearing, and four people were drawn into the corridor, one of them pinned to the wall. "Damnit, Moony, I told you we should've been more careful-"

"Shut up, you great prat, and start thinking of a way out of this," responded one of the two free men. He had startlingly blue eyes, a worn-looking face, and hair streaked prematurely with gray.

Charlie pulled himself up off of the floor. "Merlin, Anya, are you trying to kill me?"

"No," she replied through gritted teeth, hardly moving a muscle. "But he might be."

Black swore again. "Uh, Headmaster? A little help here would be great."

Charlie turned to the Headmaster, who had just appeared from his office. "Good evening, lady and gentleman," he said, the usual twinkle conspicuously absent from his eye. "I see you've met my visitors."

Anya lowered her arms and looked at him curiously. "Visitors?" The white pinpricks that had fastened Sirius to the wall disappeared. She slumped over a bit, as if exhausted. "You- but- he's…" She breathed deeply for a few moments. "He's innocent, isn't he?"

"Very good," Sirius said dryly, shaking his hands out to rid them of the nasty tingle. "What tipped you off? The fact that I was in Hogwarts visiting or the fact that I was with two noted ex-Aurors? Or was it just my breathtaking good looks?"

"Your fly is open," Anya said.

"That tipped you off?" Sirius asked, half-turning to correct the problem.

Anya shrugged. "My mental image of a raving, mass-murdering lunatic doesn't involve leather pants."

"Your mental image of a raving, mass-murdering lunatic is lacking something," Sirius muttered to himself. He looked up at Dumbledore somewhat grumpily. "Back to the drawing board," he said, sighing.

Dumbledore's other visitors- who turned out to be Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black- spent the rest of the evening explaining everything. 'Everything' ranged from Peter Pettigrew's betrayal to the newly revived Order of the Phoenix to why Sirius was wearing leather in the middle of July. "So now that you know everything," Dumbledore said, tapping his wand lightly on the desk, "I must ask you to decide."

"Decide?" Anya asked blankly.

"Yes," the Headmaster replied. "We can't have anyone knowing of our actions- they are still unsanctioned by the government and we can't risk any leaks. You'll have to decide- will you aid us in our cause?"

"What happens if we decide we don't want to?"

Dumbledore shrugged sadly. "No one can be sure. I'll have to wipe your memories of this conversation. Charlie could go back to Romania. You could get on with other things in the world."

Anya reflected on the days when she'd been younger, barely grown up in a world of utter chaos, and wondered if her children would have to live through that. She sighed. "Can we sleep on it?"

"Of course," Dumbledore replied. "I might have guessed you'd be a bit tired. Perhaps it would be best if you stayed in the castle after dark. There are other things I shall need to discuss with you in the morning. Most of the Professors are still here for the summer- they'll join us at tomorrow's meeting- so I'm afraid you'll have to stay in the dormitories. Gryffindor Tower should suffice- the password is 'oddment.' I shall see you all in the morning."

*

Thanks go to Lyta Padfoot, Dennis, LillyPhoenix, Liza, Ginny, Lady of the Lillies, Hermione_Misty, alistaer, Hermione_77_, Fallen, tl and Amanda Mancini for reviewing, and to Zsenya for beta-reading.

//
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