The Sugar Quill
Author: Raven Snape (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Ancient Prophecy  Chapter: Chapter Two
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Ancient Prophesy - Chapter 2

Chapter Two

The birth and rebirth of all Nature, the passing of Winter and Spring,
We share with the life Universal, rejoice in the Magical Ring.

The apartment behind the shop was the only home Raven had ever known.  It was dark and cold when she arrived back home well after midnight. She started a fire in the hearth of the workroom and put a kettle of water on for some tea of Sweet Bay and Rose petals. She could hear mother’s instructive voice rattling off the properties of each.

“Sweet Bay, gently pressed from the leaves of the Italian evergreen tree, is well known for the ability to promote relaxation and clear the mind. Its ideal companion is rose essence, for its relaxing and calming nature.”

Raven doubted she would ever be calm again. The task of running the business on her own was daunting. Roy, who had heard her come in, joined her in the workroom with her cup of tea. He assured her he would help with the business. He had been doing so for a year now, his pay a large reduction in the cost of his rent.

“It’s not the main business I’m worried about, Roy; but the special blends, that’s another matter. I have no doubt about my ability to mix any order. Hell, I grew up steeped in the stuff. Pun intended,” she laughed weakly.  “ Mum just had an intuitive understanding with the mixes I don’t think I’ll ever have.” She hung her head, warming her cold, long fingers on the hot cup of tea before her.

“You’re selling yourself short,” he responded quickly.  “You know full well your knowledge of every ingredient in here equaled your mother’s. You’ve been mixing, powdering and slicing next to her since before you could walk, according to the stories she told me. Almost blew the place up once I heard.” He smiled fondly at her. “You could mix half this stuff in your sleep, I’m sure of it.” Draping his arm around her he pulled her close for support.

“You’re not supposed to want to see me in my sleep,” she sighed back at him. “Remember?”

“You’re so lovely, my dear, I could almost change my ways for you.”

Raven laid her head on his shoulder “Oh Roy, what am I going to do without her? I’ve no one but you now, my friend.” She leaned into him and he held her close, but still she would not cry.

Raven left him a few minutes later. He would return up the back stairs from where he’d come. She needed a hot calming shower before she could even think about entering her mother’s room.

Lavandula angustiflia and Pogostemon cablin made the best shampoo in the world. Most stores marketed this as Lavender and Patchouli, but Raven knew her ingredients to be superior to any commercially available. After all, she had made this bottle herself.

Smiling at her classical Latin education of botanical names, she slowly bathed and then slipped into her mother’s favorite loose white cotton skirt and a baggy white cable knit sweater belonging to Roy. Her now silken, fragrant black hair cascaded down around her shoulders, shining like onyx against the soft white texture of the sweater. She never had a father or older brother to steal clothing from, and lately Roy had found himself a target of raids on his closet. She wanted comfort to sleep in, and both these items offered it.

Knowing sleep would elude her, she braced herself for the task at hand and entered her mother’s room. Emerald’s possessions were few but cherished. Some would even call her bedroom austere.

Raven fingered the chain holding the ornate silver key, which now hung around her graceful neck. She knew what this key unlocked: the travel trunk at the foot of her mother’s bed. Made from Black Forest Oak with silver inlay, the ornate nature of the trunk clashed with the simplicity of the room. The chest had an ageless quality that Raven could not put into words.

Though the trunk remained locked, Raven knew most of the contents within it. Her mother had never forbidden her to view what was in it. She knew better than to question her mother’s reasons for locking it; as Mr. Cohen had said, her mother had a reason for everything. Mostly it held blankets and old books. Even Raven’s knowledge of Latin failed to translate some of them. So what could old books and worn blankets have to do with my future? Raven thought.

Damn it, mother, how could you leave me like this? I’ve got no one now; and some blasted ornate trunk can’t. . .” She stopped her rambling, swallowing back the tears that again threatened to burst loose from her walled-off emotions. The only emotion Raven now felt as she knelt to turn the silver key in the lock of the trunk was anger.

Opening the trunk, she saw what she expected: blankets, books, and some letters from Elizabeth, who was Ezmarelda’s source in the UK for her European and Asian botanicals.

Fingering a packet of letters, Raven noted with curiosity the postmark on the envelopes. It was strange that she had never noticed they were from a city called Ravenglass. “Well, so much for being named after the bird of Poe’s terror,” she mumbled out loud, the sound of bitterness in her voice echoing through the quite room.

Her mum often received books and supplies from Elizabeth, but Raven never heard mention of where she had lived other than Britain. She knew her mother had been born there; she even suspected her father might live there still, but when questioned about him the response from Ezmarelda was always the same: “He would be better off dead, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?”

As Raven sifted through the letters, she noticed the most recent was postmarked the week of her mother’s death. Raven puzzled at the fine parchment paper and ink with which it was written. No one uses a fountain pen anymore. And parchment? Oh, well, she thought, a wealthy European could conduct business with whatever supplies she chose. Including US snail-mail.

“E-mail is so much more efficient Mum, try it some time!”

“I’d love to, dear, but most of the people I do business with don’t even own a computer.”

Odd, Raven had thought, but then most things in her life were.

The tone of this latest letter sobered Raven more than before. It was very cryptic, speaking of men and women who were missing or dead.

He’s back, and our world is crumbling around us, Ezzy.

Be careful. I’ve enclosed your last order and I think it wise to order no further until you hear from me that it is safe. Will that day ever come? The Potter boy has been attacked again, barely surviving the damage done to him this time. Dumbledore is doing all he can, but the Ministry is fighting the very notion that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned.

Please stay safe where you are. The destiny no longer lies within you but in Raven. For the good of us all, you must keep her safe.

Kneeling before the open trunk, letters spread around her, Raven felt more lost than ever before. Could this explain her mother’s death? What power? What in the name of Hell was all this nonsense…..He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Leaning forward, Raven dug deeper into her mothers past. “Awfully small trunk to hold my destiny in, mother,” she spoke sardonically. “What have you been keeping from me? Maybe I could have protected you. I would have, you know,” she said as a tear treacherously escaped from the corner of her eye.

Digging further into the trunk her hands touched something thick and soft. Leaning back, she lifted the bundle out; folded and tied with a ribbon, an embroidered crushed velvet robe reached across the ages to her. It was twilight blue; the exact moment in the evening sky between dusk and dark. Untying the ribbon around it, the robe flowed across her lap, and two objects dropped from within its folds. The silk embroidery showed in stark relief against the softness of the material. Jeweled-eyed black ravens graced the edges of the sleeves and fluttered along the base of the hem. Burying her face in the luxurious material, Raven inhaled deeply and knew in an instant the robe was her mother’s. The scent of dried roots, the smell of crushed herbs brought forth buried emotions which threatened to overwhelm her.

Rising from her knees, she slipped on the robe and hugged her elbows, screwing her eyes shut to the flood bursting forth.

“NO, I WILL NOT DO THIS!”

Again anger replaced pain, as she reached down to pick up the fallen objects at her feet. She knew at first glance that she held a wand and a jewelry box. The wand, however, did not resemble any she had seen before. This was not the cheap China-made dowel the shop carried in the oak display cases. Instead, this wand was beautiful in its simplicity. It was long, 12 or 13 inches in length, with dark polished black oak and an ivory handle.

A robe and a wand, she thought with sarcasm, now all I need is a crystal ball.

Tucking the wand in the right sleeve of the robe, Raven took a breath and opened the box. What lay within took that breath away from her. Nestled inside, a lady’s ring lay in delicate splendor. She guessed the material to be pewter; all the antique filigree work she had seen was. The band was patterned after the wings of a bird, a raven to be exact. She knew this because the bird’s head blended gracefully upward from the band. In the open beak an emerald-cut aquamarine gemstone flashed.

“Oh, Mum,” she sighed, “why did you lock so much of yourself away from me?”

She swallowed back bitter tears as she gently touched the crest of the raven. A strange feeling came over her, almost as if an electrical current had touched her skin.
Funny, she thought, how emotions can cause such physical reactions. Pulling the ring from the box, she smiled longingly and slipped it onto her right ring finger. The world spun out from beneath her at a dizzying speed, turning her stomach inside out. Then all went black.

~*~

A summer riding roller coasters could not have prepared Raven for the experience that followed. Her mind aware of rushing movement, her stomach struggling to keep up with her body, Raven felt herself being ripped through space and then slammed to a bone-jarring stop. Her knees buckled, and she careened forward into a stone hearth, cracking her already spinning head on the stone ledge. Rolling over, she sat up, causing the blood which was welling up from the deep gash on her forehead to flow freely into her right eye.

Staring at her in utter confusion, even fright, were at least 30 black-robed youths and one very startled adult. His eyes held hers, level and unblinking, as he stepped forward with his wand drawn.

The students present in the classroom knew Professor Severus Snape was not a man to hesitate. So the very fact that he did hesitate made the events that followed even more confusing for them to comprehend. Maybe it was just the shock of having someone appear into the middle of a Potions lecture, or maybe it was the actual ‘sight’ of the young woman who lay prone on the floor before him; but whatever the reason the spell on his lips went unspoken. Severus Snape, for the first time in his life, was stunned silent.

Not seeing clearly, Raven staggered to her feet and stumbled backward. Unfortunately, on the floor behind her were several heavy wooden crates filled with supplies. Tripping backward, she frantically grabbed for something to steady her already faltering steps. Her hand connected with a round stone cauldron on a workbench, steeping with a shimmering purple liquid. The cauldron tipped—shattering on the slate floor—and Raven heard herself scream as she was blasted into the wall behind her.

Both blood and purple vapors blurred her vision as she again struggled to her feet, half-crawling, half-dragging her battered body through a door to her left. Those closest to the explosion picked themselves up and fled in the opposite direction of Raven. Snape, rising to his feet, regained his composure and paused only long enough to snarl commands at his Potions students.

“Brocklehurst, get Professor Dumbledore. York, take the injured to Madam Pomfrey!” and then in a whirl of black robes, he stalked after Raven.

Raven ran as fast as her injured body and bare feet would allow. She had no idea where she was going or even where she was; only pure, raw adrenaline kept her moving. Slowing, as the pain in her back burned like fire, she found herself at the top of a short flight of stairs. Not wanting to descend further down into a dungeon that was straight out of a bad B-movie, Raven stopped and turned, looking wildly about her. At the end of the long hall she had just traversed stood Snape

“Stupefy!” spoke his thunderous voice, echoing down the length of the hall. Raven turned again and felt a searing pain rip through her left shoulder, the blow cart-wheeling her down to the bottom stair. Not even conscious of getting to her feet again, she reached up to wipe the tangle of blood and hair from her face, but her hand refused to do the job, the bones of her right wrist having snapped cleanly in two during the fall.

Seeing a second staircase off to her right, Raven struggled up them and then turned again, stumbling down a sunlit corridor. She followed it, coming to a slow walk, thankful to be out of the underground nightmare from which she had just emerged.

The fear of pursuit pushed her onward around the next corner; as she climbed one last flight of steps, she found herself emerging into an entrance hall. The space stood open before her with a massive marble staircase dissecting the middle. The room was large and cavernous, with a ceiling so high it was barely visible. All around, groups of students—some in robes, some in regular clothing—were gathered or were heading through a set of large doors into what appeared, by the sights and smells of breakfast, to be a dining hall.

Slipping her soiled robe off her left arm and back, she wrapped the material around her injured arm, using the wand still inside the sleeve as a makeshift splint. Keeping her head down, hair hiding her panicked, injured face, she walked across an empty space and followed a group of girls heading towards the two massive oak entrance doors.

Please don’t let them notice my bare feet, she thought, as she walked behind them. Escape was short lived, though, as the girls in front of her stopped dead in their tracks, startled by the sight of Professor Snape storming into the hall, black robes flying out behind him.

“Sonorus!” Snape’s voice thundered out with an authority that silenced everyone on the spot.

“Perfects,” he said, his voice echoing magically around him, “take your charges to your assigned houses. NOW. Those students elsewhere in the castle return to your dormitories as well.”

It was not a request. The issued order reverberated throughout the very walls of the school. Hundreds of voices began speaking at once as the students rose from the tables at which they were eating.

“SILENTLY,” spat Snape, causing a hush to descend instantly around him.

Standing just outside the doors of the dining hall, Snape surveyed the room like a giant condor ready to fall on his prey. Students scurried past him on his right and left, almost single file, as he refused to give an inch of his space to anyone.

Raven felt panic well up inside of her. If she didn’t stop soon, she was likely to pass out. Her head was swimming with sharp lights, and her back and shoulder were on fire. Add onto that a useless right hand—she felt herself giving up.

Turning to face her attacker, Raven blinked back the flashes behind her eyes and saw for the first time a crest on the lapel of a black-robed girl—a bronze eagle on a blue background with the wording Ravenclaw.   Hanging her head low again, before her pursuer turned around, she joined a group each wearing the same crest as they were heading up the marble stairway.

Where they were going, or how they even got there, was beyond Raven’s ability to understand at the moment. It was all she could do to walk without staggering, keeping her face hidden and her bare feet under her.

When at last she discovered herself in a large rectangular room with an enormous fireplace along the far wall, she had barely enough of her wits about her to find a large, overstuffed, wing back chair and crawl mercifully into it.

What she saw next startled some sense back into her fogging brain. A man—a gnome?—was taking a head count of the students as they entered into the room.

“Oh my, no. No one is to go to their rooms just yet,” spoke the little man. “Headmaster Dumbledore wants everyone accounted for. He will personally tell us when it is safe to leave the common room. Seventy—two?. . .That’s not right. There should only be seventy-one of us…I must have lost track somewhere.”

“Professor Flitwick,” a young girl stammered, “you don’t think it’s He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, do you?”

“Certainly not,” he responded, showing more bravado than his voice revealed. “Never, not at Hogwarts, not here.”

Raven wondered just who he was trying to convince. Her eyes traveled the length of the room, looking to see if anyone had noticed her location by the fire. The massive hearth filled a third of the wall before her, and the fire that blazed there warmed the room with a smell that reminded her of home. …Cedarwood.

Coming back to haunt her were the last words she’d spoken to Roy.

“Then why don’t I know where home is, Roy? Why don’t I?”

Looking up in frustration, Raven’s eyes settled on a sight so unexpected that she gasped in surprise. There before her, hanging above the fireplace mantle, was a portrait of a beautiful auburn-haired woman in twilight-blue robes embroidered with ravens. Tall and fair, with a complexion of blushing roses, the figure smiled down on her and inclined her head in greeting. Her eyes—a sparkling blue dappled with gold—looked into Raven’s very soul and touched it.

A brass name plate at the woman’s feet read Rowena Ravenclaw, and the raven-banded ring on her right hand winked in the firelight. With a laugh which sounded like a woman gone mad, Raven realized she was home.

//
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