The Sugar Quill
Author: Sweeney Agonistes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Sprig of Lilac  Chapter: Chapter Two
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Part Two

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

-Walt Whitman

The last Hufflepuff scurried out of my classroom; I went to my own office, gathered my materials, and reported to Albus’s office. We sat down and worked silently over intelligence reports. After about three hours, he broke the silence. “Theron is having the rest of the family over for dinner tonight?”

I put down my quill and stretched. “Yes, with the exception of Medea.”

“Are you ready to break for rations yourself?”

My stomach gave my answer.

He chuckled and rang for a house-elf, who bowed deferentially and popped away to fulfill the order. A painting of a past headmistress awoke from her snooze and said, “Albus, dear, someone’s at the bottom of the stairs.”

He nodded, both at the portrait and at me. I stuffed the papers into a folder and took it with me to the alcove in the corner – it was only visible to those who knew of its existence.

A moment later, young James Potter entered. Greetings were exchanged, and Potter lost no time in getting down to business. “Sir – we’re desperate – is there anything we can do for the effort?”

Albus said firmly, “You may continue doing well in your classes. Knowledge is power, Mr. Potter – keep learning.”

“Nothing more – immediate?”

“Did you have something in mind?” Albus looked at him keenly.

I watched Potter; he seemed to be hesitating. He finally blurted out, “Sir, if we just monitored the Slytherin common room – ”

Albus held up a hand. “Mr. Potter, that is out of the question.”

“But, sir – ”

“Mr. Potter. People only become trustworthy by being trusted. I will not have any student in this school feel like they are being alienated by the faculty. Learning is our purpose here, not acts of espionage and – if you will forgive the expression – witch hunts.”

Potter said nothing.

Albus seemed to soften. “Go back to your dormitory, Mr. Potter – you have a big day tomorrow.” A Quidditch challenge – not one of the regular matches – was being held after school tomorrow in response to a challenge issued to Potter by the Ravenclaw captain. It was the cause for much speculation among the students.

Potter brightened. “Yes, sir!” I couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm – the faculty was secretly as excited about it as the students were.

Albus said, “Between ourselves, I understand that Ravenclaw is having some problems with one of their Chasers.”

Potter nodded. “I’ve heard something to that effect – we’ve been practicing accordingly.”

“The best of luck to you, then.” Albus rose and escorted Potter out. While he was gone, a house-elf popped in with a tray. I set it on the desk and waited for Albus to come back. When he did, he was smiling almost wistfully. I said, “Are you going to invite him to join the Order?”

“I think so,” he said meditatively. As he did not elaborate, I did not press the subject.

We ate and worked straight through until around midnight. I finally brought my nose out of my papers and stretched; my back let out a resounding crackle. Albus said, “Time for bed, I think.” We carefully stowed away our papers, and I left, feeling exhausted.

I made my way down the dark, deserted corridors, lost in my thought – in my mind, I was still going over those reports. I –

A sudden, violent chill ran down my spine, and I stopped an instant before I ran smack into a suit of armor. It was as though I had suddenly been thrown in to the lake in December and shaken mercilessly by the giant squid. I rested a hand on the wall, trying to catch my breath. After a few moments, I was able to continue. I said under my breath, “Kneazle running over my grave – that’s all.”

And I went to bed.

//
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