The Sugar Quill
Author: Zeft  Story: Life is Like a Game of Quidditch  Chapter: Part Two
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Part 2

Disclaimer: All recognizable Harry Potter characters belong to JK Rowling,

***

A blast of cold air rushes by. Looking around, can't see a thing. It's all dark, but what was that? Just around the corner, a speck of gold, perhaps bigger. The speck gets closer, closer, and then…

Nothing. Nothing at all. Where'd the speck go? It was so shiny, so nice. The broomstick turns by itself. Wonder where it's leading me. A wall in front. A dark brown wall. Getting dangerously close. I think I'm going to crash. Ah, no…!

Open my eyes. Wow, I'm not dead. The broomstick turns right around again. The wall is gone. In its place, a red book. The book flies into my hands. Opening the cover. 'Helpful in every respect,' the front page says. Good. Helpful things are good. Flick through to the middle, and then…

Hey! The book's ripped from my hands. A howl. Now I see. Some wolf has got it. My hand reaches out. The wolf bounds away, the red book in its mouth. Stupid thing won't give it back. Grr.

My broomstick gives chase, after the wolf, through a whole bunch of corridors. It's all dark, which means the wolf has the advantage. Until…

Argh! Bright light. Bright, bright light. Rubbing my eyes. Must it be daylight already? Feels like I had just gotten into bed. Sitting up, and the room comes slowly into focus. Deserted, I see. Is it really that late?

Rolling myself over to the edge of the bed. A quick look at my watch. It's 8 o'clock. No wonder everyone's gone down already. I better hurry.

Pajamas off. Robes on. One foot in, other foot in. Lacing up boots. I think I'm done. Walking over to the door. Merlin, I'm hungry. But what's this? There's a note lying on Seth's bed. Walking over to pick it up. A piece of parchment, neatly folded in thirds. A letter he forgot to owl? Turning it over.

Can't be a letter, seeing as it's addressed to me. 'Hey Wood,' it says. Guess I can open it then.

Wood,

It wasn't my idea to leave a note, but I was overruled by Percy. Anyway, we all woke up early but didn't want to wake you right away, cos you looked like you needed the sleep. We also didn't want you to miss class, so we decided to open your curtains. As soon as the sunlight hit you in the face, you'd be awake. If your sight's gone fuzzy, I'd just like to say it wasn't my idea.

Cheers, Seth.

So they pulled my curtains open? How come I didn't notice? Sneaky people. I let the note fall back onto Seth's bed. He can get rid of it himself. Smug git.

Out through the door and down the stairs. Funny I never noticed yesterday, but the stairs definitely creak. Into the common room. The fire's all burnt down, leaving only a few dying embers. Gives the room a nice feeling.

Into the corridors. All walls made of stone. The torchlights have all gone out, letting the sun warm the castle. Down the main stairs. I hope the Great Hall is this way. It was dark last night and I couldn't tell which way I was going, so retracing my steps is out of the question.

Big, big room. Huge oak doors on one side, big windows all around, looks familiar. The entrance hall, maybe? Off to one side, wooden doors lead to another room. Yes, I think it might be the Great Hall.

Quietly now. Push the door open a bit, sneak a peek, and yes! Definitely the great hall. Everyone must be here. Looks like there's a lot more people that yesterday. Slipping through. A gentle push, and the door closes without a sound. Now, where are the Gryffindors? Looking through the sea of people. Can't see anything useful. It's all a blanket of heads. Black, blonde, red, and greyish-brown? Since when do people have grey hair? On closer inspection, I see, blue eyes? It's impossible to tell. Could be…Seth?

Walking closer, I see Seth, (or whoever he is) talking to a red-head. Percy, no doubt.

'Ah…Oliver,' Percy smiles, catching sight of me, 'good morning.'

'Morning to you too'

'We er…saved you a seat.' Seth gestures to the one at the end of the row. A smile on his face that doesn't seem to reach his eyes.

'Thanks.' I sit down. Grab the toast and start munching.

'Here's your timetable,' Seth says, pushing a slip of paper my way, 'I don't see the point though, seeing as we all have the same one.'

'Hm…' Reading the slip. 'We have potions first.'

Seth nods. 'Bummer, huh?'

'I really wanted to have Flying lessons.'

Seth looks surprised. 'I didn't think you'd need lessons. From what Percy's told me, (Percy told you?!) you're pretty good.' Just great. First day of Hogwarts and everybody knows everything about me. Seth looks at me, puzzled.

'Something wrong?'

'No, everything's fine. I just don't like Potions, that's all.'

'Who does?' A fake laugh. 'Hours in a dungeon, waiting for soup to turn the right colour? Not for me. I prefer Transfiguration. A little spell, a little wand-waving, and I could turn this dratted cereal into a chocolate bar.' Seth pokes his breakfast with a fork. Pushes it away with a glare.

'But in Potions, you could make the cereal taste like chocolate.' Percy adds helpfully.

'But it'll still look like cereal, won't it? If the eyes aren't satisfied then the tongue won't be. Besides, I like my food to taste like what it looks like. Otherwise the natural order of thing's get messed up and it all goes downhill from there.'

Percy's clearly taken aback. I can tell because he opens and closes his mouth a few times in rapid succession.

'The natural order,' he says, hesitates and then continues, 'what do you mean by that?'

A pause. Seth's turn to look uncomfortable. His light blue eyes rake over everyone in the hall. Looking for inspiration? He opens his mouth to say something, but then thinks better of it and shrugs instead.

'The balance of good and evil,' he starts, now with more confidence, 'things should be what they are. When they are what they're not meant to be, it messes the system up. Such as cereal tasting like chocolate. If the cereal wanted to taste like chocolate, it should have the decency to look like it as well.'

Is there anyone out there as confused as I am? Because I have no idea what Seth was talking about. Nobody else does either. Percy looks stuck for words so he stares down at his porridge and twirls his spoon about. The eavesdroppers hastily look away. To think that this brain-buster came from an argument about Potions.

Ouch! A punch on the shoulder. Look behind me and I see Matthew.

'Oliver, I noticed you weren't at the start of breakfast today.' He says. Really? How observant of you.

'Yeah. So?' A chuckle. Merlin, why do annoying people have to turn up when I least expect them? Why do they have to turn up at all? Puts me off my food.

'There was an announcement you would've liked to have heard.'

Silence. Well? What are you waiting for? Suspense? Come on, can't be that bad. Go ahead and tell me already.

'Quidditch trials are on next week,' He finally says. Really? Cool. I'm definitely coming to watch. Seeing as I can't get on a broom myself, least I can do is watch other people. Want to see what the team's like. See how good a captain Matthew is.

'Next week when?' Matthew does a big exaggerated shrug.

'Don't know really. It's not up to us to decide. Madam Hooch does. If it rains, then we have it at night.' A pause, he takes a big breath and continues, 'speaking of Madam Hooch, when do you Gryffindors have your first flying lesson?'

'This afternoon. Do you really have Quidditch trials in the middle of the night?'

Matthew nods. 'It's good for the atmosphere. Makes Quidditch seem almost romantic. Flying by moonlight, nothing better. Girls come to watch. Then afterwards…' he lets the sentence trail off and winks. Grins maniacally. I don't get it.

'But isn't it hard to see the players with no lights?' Immediately his face becomes somber.

'You'll learn later on…' Slap on the shoulder, 'the beauty of having trials by moonlight.'

Suddenly he leans over my shoulder. Sneaks a peek at my timetable.

'You have Potions first?' A serious look on his face as he shakes his head, 'poor, poor shmucks…'

And then he walks away, laughing silently. I don't see how having potion's first is so funny.

Not like he can avoid it all together. He is better off than us in one area, though. He's already done 5 years of it, and has only got 2 years left. Lucky bugger.

A tapping on my shoulder. What now? Can't a guy eat in peace?

'Lessons start. We better pack.' Percy's voice. Look up, and people are starting to get up and leave. Seth's disappeared already. Oh, right. Grab my toast and take a swig of pumpkin juice. That'll do for now.

***

'Has anyone seen my quill case?' A shrill voice.

'Don't think so. What colour is it?'

'Grey. It should be somewhere here.'

'This might be it…' a hand extends towards a grey lump on a bed, but then it jerks back quickly. 'Percy! What is your rat doing on my bed? Get it off!'

An annoyed voice. 'Really! It's just a rat!' Stamping. Then squeaking as said rat is whisked away.

Welcome to the first morning in Gryffindor tower.

'I think this is it.' Seth's crisp, no-nonsense voice filters through the air. His hand reaches down, and neatly plucks a grey quill case from the floor. Dusts it off and hands it back to Ben.

'Oh! Thanks a bunch!' Ben's delighted. I can tell because his dimples are showing.

Heaving my Potions textbook into my bag. Oof! It weighs a tonne. I'll never be able to carry it down to the dungeons. Looking around. Have I forgotten anything? Quills? Check. Ink-pot? Check. Parchment? Check. Didn't know how much I'd need, so I packed the whole box. Better safe than sorry. That's about it, I think.

'Aren't you taking your herbology books as well? We'll need them after lunch.' Percy asks.

'Nah, I'll just fetch it later. Don't think it'll fit, anyway.' Percy takes a look at my bag.

'Oh, I see. You've still got the hard-cover edition.' Glances at his own copy, 'yours is also a lot bigger.'

Yeah. Bully for me. My parents were too stingy to get me my own copy, so they gave me my older brother's. Never mind the fact that it's twice as big as everyone else's.

Ring-ring-ring. The Hogwart's bell? I didn't know they had one.

'We better go,' Percy says, 'I know my way to the dungeons, so you can all follow me.'

That's good. Cos I sure don't.

***

'You open it.'

'No, you open it.'

'Why?'

'Why not?'

Merlin's beard! Anyone would think we were a bunch of Hufflepuffs, for crying out loud!

'Come on guys, it's only Snape.' They don't look convinced. A silence, then Ben whispers,

'Why don't you open it?'

'Me?!' A pause. 'Fine then. I will!' Pushing through to the front. Slowly turning the doorknob, thank Merlin it doesn't make a noise. Carefully now, give the door a little push, and it opens.

Dead silence. No one's in the room.

'Let us see!' Someone from the back. One of the girls, I think. The line surges forward as we enter.

'No one's here,' Seth remarks, 'sure this is the right room?' A nod from Percy. Nothing to do but sit and wait, I suppose.

Taking our seats, as the Slytherins file in. They throw us a couple of dark looks, but no one actually has the nerve to speak. It must be the vibes from the room. The smoothness of the cold dungeon walls, the quiet flicker of the torches, all command silence. No one dares to disturb it.

As far as I can see, everyone's already here. 20 heads I see, 10 Gryffindors and 10 Slytherins. Not mixing of course. That would be too much.

A loud bang. Everyone looks up, as Snape walks into the dungeon. Slams his books onto the table. Everyone winces and inches back a bit.

He stomps behind his desk. Mutters a few words under his breath, as a chair comes whizzing into the room. It settles behind Snape, and he sits down.

A collective whoosh, as everyone dares to breathe again.

'I see,' he says, ' we have the Slytherin/Gryffindor first-year class. Correct?'

A pause as Snape surveys the room with a look of loathing. Each student seems to shrink a bit under his gaze.

'Albert.' A pause. Then a 'present' issues from someone in the back row. A Slytherin, no doubt. Satisfied, Snape continues.

'Blanchus?'

'Here.'

'Dalton?'

'Yes.'

All the way down to, 'Wood?'

'Here.'

'Weasley?'

'Present.'

Another long stare at us. Then, Snape reaches into a drawer, and lifts out a stack of parchment. Turns to sneer at us.

'These,' one pale, bony hand on the stack, 'are your test papers.' What!? Ignoring the gasps from around the room, he continues, 'as I do not wish to have a repeat of last year, where one stupid student misinterpreted the instructions and added a porcupine quill before taking the cauldron off the fire, and thus rendered the classroom useless for a week, I wish to gain an accurate idea of your…talents before letting you work with potent ingredients.' A glare around the room. Almost a whisper, 'I do not want a repeat of last year. Are we clear?'

Nobody answers. Then a voice from in front, 'We're perfectly clear, Sir'

Snape looks shocked that someone dares to answer back.

'A point from Gryffindor for answering back to a teacher,' he says silkily. Seth looks outraged. He opens his mouth again, but the only thing that comes out is 'Ouch!'

I think Ben must have kicked him. Good thing too, otherwise who knows how many points we would have lost?

A piece of parchment is shoved under my nose. Can't even see what it says, the writing's so tiny. 'First-years-Potions Test 1-Page 1.' Page 1? You mean there's more?

Another piece flutters onto the desk. Same size print. Just as unreadable as the first. Wonder if I can borrow Percy's glasses?

'Quiet!' Snape barks. Apparently the murmurs of outrage have gotten too loud. He's sitting down at his desk, an evil leer on his face. A watch in one hand and another stack of parchment in the other.

'You have 30 minutes to complete this exam, textbooks may be used,' a sigh of relief goes round the room, '-but I sincerely doubt they will help much.'

Thump. Glares from around the room. What? I can't help the fact that my textbook makes a noise every time I open it. Now, what's the first question?

List, in point form, all the uses of Monkshood. Monkshood? What's that? Something that monks wear on their heads? Somehow I don't think that's the answer.

Another thump as I turn to the index. More glares. Oh go boil your brains. Monkshood, monkshood…ah, here it is! Page 218.

Scratching down the answer. There. One question done, 39 more to go.

***

'That test wasn't very challenging.' Percy declares, as soon as we're out the door, 'It was mainly more of a 'see who can copy from the textbook fastest.'

'Suits me.' Ben shrugs; adds, 'maybe he likes people who can work fast.'

'90% of potion making is just waiting.'

'Really? I always knew it was a waste of time.'

And so the argument continues. Funny thing is, the only person who hasn't said anything so far is Seth. He's walking in front, head bent low and staring at the ground. Walking faster to catch up to him.

'A dull lesson eh?' He blinks, then smiles.

'Dull doesn't cut it. Needs a stronger word. But I don't think we should complain. Herbology's next, and from what I've heard, it's not exactly "thrills 'n' spills" either.'

'You hear a lot about the classes, don't you?'

'Yes. Mainly since all my relatives come through here. They tell me lots of stories. Some of them are quite crude.'

'Must be fun. My relatives come here as well but they don't tell me anything.'

'Yeah well, some stuff is better unheard.'

'Like what?'

'Didn't I just say it was better unheard?' And that seems to be the end of the conversation. Seth walks faster, leaving me behind. Somebody has secrets…and I want to know what they are. If only my stupid brother would tell me. But no, all he ever said was how good the Gryffindor team was when he was here. Won every year, he said. Couldn't tell me anything juicy. Sod.

***

-La fin-

A/N: A shame to leave it there, but I encountered a major attack of writer's block in the middle of potions, so I quickly finished it off. If I left it until the writer's block wore off, I doubt you'll see this chapter till September.

Anyway, as usual, comment's, question's are appreciated.

 

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