The Sugar Quill
Author: Poppy P (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Searching for Percy  Chapter: Chapter Two: Howlers, Letters and Sandcastles
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Chapter 2: Howlers, Letters and Sandcastles

A/N: To everybody that reviewed ch 1, a big thanks and an SQ cheer! (What is an SQ cheer? Do we have one? If not, then why not?) Now if only I could get people to read/review me over at FF.N (what is it w/ that place that people never review? Or maybe [horrors!] people aren’t reading me there?) Oh okay, I’m done whining. Much appreciation to my beta, Z, (who remembered that Veelas shriek), and my British beta, Soupytwist (who provided much needed British geography assistance).

Petra made her way through the Great Hall, heading towards the Gryffindor table for breakfast. Her book bag was heavy and kept tugging on her auburn plait. She reached the table and plunked herself down next to Mauve who was sitting across from Billy. Mauve was snickering as she watched Billy in amusement.

“What’s up?” asked Petra, staring across the table at Billy. He was looking up at the enchanted ceiling anxiously. Petra followed his gaze but saw nothing unusual about the ceiling, which today was reflecting a semi-gloomy sky. She looked back at Billy and noted that he was extremely pale under his coppery freckles. She glanced at Mauve questioningly. Petra had noticed that although Mauve teased Billy unceasingly, she always seemed to be extra giggly when he was around. Petra wondered if it was Billy’s heritage working on her or if it was just the fact that Mauve was silly. She shrugged and calmly reached for her napkin.

“He’s waiting for the post,” explained Mauve finally after she saw that Petra was not going to ask again.

“Yeah, thanks a lot cousin,” said Billy, glancing briefly at Petra. “Longbottom gave me a detention and wrote to Mum and Dad about me putting Petrificus Totalus on myself.” Professor Longbottom was their Head of House and the Herbology professor. Although he was very kind, he was also very strict. Billy had spent much time in his office since the start of term. It was common Weasley knowledge that Billy already rivaled his uncles Fred and George for most mischief caused in the first month of school.

“That’s my third detention this month! Mum’s going to send me a Howler for sure,” said Billy with a shudder.

“And how exactly is this my fault?” asked Petra disinterestedly, reaching for the orange juice.

“If you had just stayed still so I could curse you…” muttered Billy. He attempted to shove a forkful of food in his mouth without taking his eyes off the ceiling. He ended up with scrambled egg on his left cheek.

Mauve snorted. “Idiot boy!”

Petra sighed heavily. “Have you ever had to put up with one of these?” she asked Mauve in an afflicted voice.

“Four of them,” said Mauve matter-of-factly. “I call them brothers.” She looked over Billy’s shoulder towards the Ravenclaw table. “Oh look, there’s one of them now. Look who’s sitting next to him.”

Petra spotted Michael Finnigan and saw that Damien Thomas was sitting next to him. Almost as if he sensed Petra’s gaze, he looked up from his plate and gave her a cheery wave. Petra smiled at him, but looked away quickly, irritated with herself as she felt her cheeks grow hot. It was just Damien. They’d known each other all of their lives. She didn’t know why Mauve had to act so silly about them being friends, after all, Mauve had known Damien for a long time as well, their fathers, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, were best friends. It was only recently that Petra got a funny, fluttering feeling in her stomach every time she thought of Damien and it annoyed her to no end. She nudged Mauve roughly. “Don’t do that!” Petra hissed. Mauve merely smirked.

Billy broke his ceiling vigil to glance over his shoulder. He turned back to Petra with a Cheshire cat grin. “What? Damien Thomas?” he asked innocently. “Oh we’ve always known they’d get together. Ever since they were ickle babies and their mums made them share a crib.”

Mauve choked on her orange juice. “You shared a crib?” she sputtered.

“We have pictures,” said Billy helpfully.

“Shut. Your. Mouth. You. Warty. Little. Toad!” Petra punctuated each word with a kick to Billy’s shin.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” yelped Billy through his laughter. “That hurts! And here I thought I was your favorite cousin.”

“What ever gave you that impression?” asked Petra acidly. She cast a furtive look across the room at Damien. Luckily he was talking to some of his housemates. She felt relieved, yet slightly disappointed.

“You shared a crib?” repeated Mauve incredulously. Petra gave her an icy glare that made her turn back to her toast hastily.

“Well, I should be your favorite cousin,” said Billy, returning to his ceiling vigil.

“And why is that?” asked Pedtra with an arched eyebrow.

“Because,” said Billy, glancing briefly at Petra. His tone turned soft and serious. “I owled Dad last night about you needing information on Uncle Percy. I figured he’d be able to give you some good stuff for your essay.”

You did what?” asked Petra, going the color of Billy’s glass of milk.

Billy didn’t answer however as the post owls swooped in at that moment in a rush of wings and feathers. His light-blue eyes widened in panic as he spotted a pristine, snowy owl makings its way towards him with a scarlet envelope in it’s beak.

“Mum’s owl,” he croaked weakly.

“Don’t just stand there, you prat,” said Mauve as the owl delivered the Howler to Billy. “Take that thing outside!”

Billy took the envelope and sprinted out of the Great Hall amidst snickers and catcalls. In a few seconds Petra heard a tremendous explosion followed by the sound of her Aunt Fleur’s shrill voice. “William Albus Weasley! What is ze meaning of zis? Third owl in a month!”

Aunt Fleur’s high shrieks went on and on with threats of removing Billy from Hogwarts and transferring him to Beauxbatons where, “Zey don’t put up with zis nonsense!”

When her Aunt Fleur’s tirade was over, Petra was surprised to hear her Uncle Bill’s voice. “Er…yeah! Everything your mother said Billy!” His tone turned conversational, although his voice still reverberated throughout the hall. “Oh yes. Son, please let Petra know that she’s chosen a great hero. I’ll send her some information soon. Take care.”

Petra sank down in her chair, humiliated. People were looking her way with bemused smiles. “I’m going to die,” she whispered to Mauve. “I am seriously going to die.”

“You might want to save your owl first,” said Mauve helpfully, pointing at the table where their ancient owl, Hermes, lay passed out on a platter of sausages.

“Hermes!” cried Petra, giving the owl a tiny shake as she pulled the letter from his talons. The owl opened one bleary eye and gave a tired sort of ‘hoot’. “Honestly! Dunno why Mum keeps using Dad’s owl for post. We have Thor, he’s much more reliable.” Petra’s own owl Chudley, was currently in the owlery with the school owls.

Hermes drew himself off the platter with stiff dignity and regarded Petra in a sour, reproachful sort of way.

Petra rolled her eyes. “Sorry Hermes,” she said, offering him a strip of bacon, which he took in his beak before flying off with one last sulky look at Petra. She didn’t notice as she was already opening her mum’s letter.

Dear Petra,

How are you? I miss you very much. I got an interesting fire call from your Uncle Bill last night. I’m happy to hear that you’re writing an essay about your father. I’ll let all of the Weasleys know. I’m sure they can give you some wonderful information as well. Do you need anything from me? Just send me an owl. I’m really looking forward to the A.D. Ball this year…

The ball her mum was referring to was the Albus Dumbledore Halloween Charity Ball, an event held at Hogwarts for the past twelve years. Students, staff and alumni gathered on that night to raise money for war widows and orphans. Petra and Penny themselves had been recipients of one of the first awards. Petra’s mum and stepfather, Dave, came to the ball every year, as did most of the Weasley family.

I finally developed those pictures from summer holiday, so I’ve enclosed one for you. Don’t Jake and Rachelle look sweet? Owl me when you get a chance. I’ll see you on Halloween.

Love, Mum

Petra looked in the envelope and pulled out a photograph. It showed her mum, her stepfather, her three-year-old brother Jake and her one-year-old sister Rachelle. Her mum and Dave always spent a month in Cornwall with Dave’s parents on summer holiday. Petra spent the month at the Burrow with her grandparents, usually accompanied with various Weasley cousins. She could’ve gone with her Mum and Dave. Dave’s parents had always been fond of her. But the Weasleys always looked forward to having Petra and she had a feeling that it would break her grandmother’s heart if she didn’t spend summer with her.

In the picture, her mother had to reach out every few seconds to stop Rachelle from putting a chubby fist full of sand in her mouth. Dave was building a sandcastle with Jake despite the fact that he kept trying to kick it down.

Petra liked Jake and Rachelle very much although she felt more like an aunt than a sister due to the age difference. They didn’t look much alike either. While Petra had curly, auburn-colored hair, her brother and sister had straight, blond hair like their father’s. Petra had light brown, honey-colored eyes. Jake had their mother’s gray, Rachelle her father’s blue. Petra was also lanky and tall for her age, a trait everyone attributed to her father. Although Jake and Rachelle were still little, Petra doubted they’d be tall as both her mother and Dave were of average height.

As Petra looked at the happy little scene in the photo a familiar, wistful longing stirred within her. She wondered what if would be like to be a part of such a scene. Petra tried to picture herself there with her father in Dave’s place. She wondered if he would help her build a sandcastle like Dave was helping Jake. Unbeknownst to her, Petra gave a little sigh.

“What’s wrong?” asked Mauve, shattering Petra’s daydream.

“Nothing,” said Petra quickly, shoving the photo and the letter into her book bag. “Let’s get to Potions.” Petra shouldered the bag, which felt somehow heavier than when she had first walked into the Great Hall.

“Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” asked Mauve, uncharacteristically intuitive.

“I’m too old for sandcastles,” whispered Petra sadly and marched on, leaving a confused Mauve behind.

//
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