The Sugar Quill
Author: Three Sickles Short (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: James Potter: Preparing for Hogwarts  Chapter: Chapter One: Shopping
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me. It all belongs to J. K. Rowling.

Thanks to Yolanda, my nifty new beta-reader.

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Chapter One: Shopping

 

A poof sound came from the fireplace in the corner of The Leaky Cauldron, and a boy arrived in it, landing in a heap. He stood up, dusted himself off, paused, looked around, and crossed the room to stand in front of the bar. The older bartender regarded him expectantly. "Are you Jarvis?" the boy asked. The bartender nodded. "Iím Jamie Potter. My father said to show you this letter and that youíd let me into Diagon Alley."

The bartender glanced at the letter with the familiar crest and the opening that he knew so well: "Dear Mr. Potter, We are pleased to inform you. . . ." He smiled at the boy. "Youíre Will Potterís son, yes? He owled to tell me youíd be here. Heís still out of the country, then?"

"Yes, sir. Heís working on. . . ." The boy paused for a moment, checked himself, and finished his sentence with, ". . . something for Grandfather."

"I see. Have you seen J.P. lately?"

"No, sir, but Iím to have tea with him today once my shopping is finished."

"Thatís nice. And howís your mum? Is she coming?" He eyed the fireplace, waiting for another person to arrive.

"Sheís fine, thanks. Sheís not coming today. She would have come, but Nickyómy little brotheróhas been sick, and she wanted to give him another day to get better before she brought him out. Theyíll be up tomorrow to see me off, though."

"Youíre all by yourself, then?"

"Yes, sir. I know my way, though; Iíve been here lots of times."

"Alright, then. Youíll be careful, right?"

"Yes, sir. And Iíll come back through here after my tea with Grandfather."

"Tom!" Jarvis called to the younger man, who was leaning across the counter talking animatedly to a customer. When he snapped to attention, the older man instructed, "Take this lad outside and let him into Diagon Alley. This is Jamie Potter. Jamie, this is my son, Tom."

"Hi, Tom. Nice to meet you." He offered his hand.

"Good to meet you, Jamie. Come along, then." Jamie followed Tom outside and watched as the young man drew his wand and used it to touch a brick in the wall that stood behind the pub. The brick wriggled, and a doorway appeared. "In you go."

"Thanks. See you later," Jamie said, stepping through the entrance. He looked down the Alley, which was teeming with people. On top of the usual swarm, there were lots of families with children there today; Hogwarts opened tomorrow, and the last-minute shoppers were out in force. Jamie joined the throng, heading for Gringotts.

The quiet inside the bank contrasted with the noise and crowd outside. Jamie went to the desk, showed his key to one goblin, and followed another (who had been summoned by the first) to the passageway that led to his familyís vault. Another cart was just coming out of the passageway. It contained the goblin driver, a black-haired boy, and a rather green-looking woman who Jamie guessed was the boyís mother. The cart screeched to stop, and the woman climbed out gratefully. The boy stayed in the cart. "Mum? What about stuff from Grandmaís vault?"

"Oh, Sirius!" His mother sounded exasperated. "Why didnít you mention that when we were already down there?"

"Because I wanted to ride the cart again," the boy replied, grinning unapologetically. His mother sighed, and he added, "You donít have to go; I can get it myself."

His mother looked wary, but she apparently couldnít face another cart ride. "Fine. Just donít drop it; you have no idea what kind of curses sheís got on. Paranoid, thatís what she is. If I start getting like that, hex me, will you?"

"Happily," her son joked. "Donít worry; Iíll be careful with it." She shrugged helplessly at the goblin, who started the cart again, carrying away a grinning Sirius.

She looked at Jamie, noticing him for the first time. "Hogwarts, too?"

"Yes, maíam. First year."

"So is Sirius. Do you like those awful carts?"

Jamie laughed. "Yes, maíam," he replied. "But I wish they went faster."

"You and my son should get along fine." A second cart, this one empty, arrived, and Jamie and his goblin climbed in. As the cart sped off, Jamie heard the woman mutter, "Have fun," in a rather-you-than-me voice.

One breathless round-trip cart ride later, Jamie left the bank with a pocketful of Galleons and Sickles and headed for Ollivanderís wand shop. There were other places to buy a wand, and they were less expensive, but not so good by half. Jamieís father had emphasised in his letter to buy his wand from no one but Ollivander. "As if I didnít know that already," Jamie had muttered when he read the letter. He reached the shop and walked in; a tinkling bell deep in the shop announced his arrival. Several families with children were already in the shop, but no one was talking; it reminded Jamie of the very strict library in his village. An old man with eerie, silvery eyes appeared from the back room and began to talk to the first family, composed of a mother, a father, and two girls. The mother was slim and blonde and not very tall; her husband was much taller and had dark red hair. The first girl, the younger one, had her fatherís hair and her motherís bright green eyes; the older, tall er girl had her motherís hair but lacked her motherís beauty; she looked rather like a horse. This second girl was the only member of the family who didnít look excited; she looked resentful and like sheíd rather be anywhere but here. The old man spoke to the parents first.

"I donít recognise you two, which means that youíve never been here before; I never forget a face. . . . or a wand. And I donít recognise this young lady, either," he added, indicating the sullen older girl. He turned to the red-haired girl. "Does this mean that you, young lady, are the first magic one in the family?"

"Yes, sir." She replied. "My name is Lily. . . Lily Evans."

"Well, Miss Evans, letís get you fitted up with a wand. Which is your wand arm?"

"Iím left-handed for writing, but Iím right-handed for sport."

"Weíll try both, then. Hold out your left arm first. Thatís it." He began to measure her arm, first from shoulder to finger, then from wrist to elbow, then each finger individually. He performed the same measurements on the other arm, then left the tape measure to continue on its own while he began pulling long, thin boxes from the wall. The tape measured around her head, from her knee to her ankle, and from just about every other point that Jamie could think of. It was measuring the space between her eyebrows when Mr. Ollivander turned back around, his arms full of boxes. "That will do," he said, and the tape measure fell to the floor in a heap. "Try this one, Miss Evans. Beechwood and phoenix feather. Eight inches. Rather stiff." He handed her the wand, and she held it in her left hand, looking uncertain. "Just give it a wave," he said." She did. Nothing happened. "Try it in your other hand," he suggested. She did, and, again, nothing happened. "Not that one. Try this one. Ebony and dragon heartstring. Nine and a half inches, springy." She tried it in each hand with no results in either. "How about this one? Ten and a quarter inches, swishy, made of willow with a core of unicorn hair." She tried it in her left hand with no results. When she took it in her right hand, though, her expression changed, as though this felt promising. She raised it above her head, brought it swishing down, and shot a shower of red and gold sparks across the room, eliciting a chorus of "ooohs" from everyone in the roomóeveryone, that is, except her sister, who looked, if possible, even more sulky. "Oh, yes indeed!" Mr. Ollivander exclaimed. "That one has chosen you, Miss Evans. Nice wand for charm work, that one. It should serve you well." He put the wand back into the box, wrapped the box in brown paper, and handed it across the counter to the girl. "That will be five Galleons," he said.

"Those are the gold ones, right?" Lily asked. He nodded. "Iím still getting used to this money; itís very different from Muggle money." She handed him five gold coins, took her receipt, and, family in tow, left the shop.

Mr. Ollivander dealt with the next two families fairly quickly. He remembered the mother from the first family ("Rosewood and unicorn hair for you, yes? Eight inches, whippy."). He didnít remember the father , who said that he had gone to school in France and had purchased his wand there. The sonís wand turned out to be unicorn hair like his motherís, but it was made of ebony. Mr. Ollivander said that it would be good for Defense. The second family was just a mother and a son. Mr. Ollivander asked about the father, whom he remembered, described both parentsí wands, and then sold their son a wand made of Yew and dragon heartstring. Then he turned to Jamie.

"Mr. Potter. Iíve been expecting you. You are the image of your father. Seems like yesterday that he was here, buying his first wand. Maple and dragon heartstring. Ten and a half inchesórather longóand bendy. A good one for Transfiguration. And your grandfather favors a shorter wandómahogany and phoenix feather, eight inches, very powerful. Just has he has become very powerful. And your mother. . . but perhaps we should worry about you now. Which is your wand arm?"

"The right one, I think," Jamie replied. Mr. Ollivander let his tape do the measuring, then brought over a stack of boxes. He began handing Jamie wands, describing each as he went.

Nothing worked. Four wands, seven wands, fifteen wands. The people behind Jamie were beginning to shift impatiently. Finally, the sixteenth wand ("Mahogany and dragon heartstring. Eleven inches. Pliable. Excellent for Transfiguration.") sent a bolt of warmth up Jamieís arm. He swung it down, producing a shower of red and gold sparks even brighter than Lilyís had been. "Thatís a very powerful wand, Mr. Potter. Very powerful. Take care how you use that power."

"I will, sir."

"That one is six Galleons, four Sickles. A little more expensive than some, but it was a very cranky dragon." Jamie handed over the money and left the shop. Once outside, he removed the brown paper, opened the box, took out his wand, and placed it carefully in the long, thin breast pocket of his robe, the pocket made especially for wands. Heíd never had anything to carry there before, and now he did. It made him feel very grown up.

He headed next to Madame Malkinís, where he followed a small, greasy-haired boy inside. Jamie had just gotten through the door when he noticed the black-haired boy from Gringotts heading for the exit. He was alone now, and he seemed to be in a hurry; Jamie guessed that he was meeting his mother somewhere and that he was probably late. In his rush, he dropped his package of robes; the greasy-haired boy, who hadnít been watching where he was going, tripped on the package and fell headlong onto the floor.

"Golly, mate, Iím really sorry!" Sirius exclaimed. He offered his hand to help the other boy from the floor. Greasy Hair ignored him and got to his feet on his own. Jamie gaped at Greasy Hair, shocked. In the process of getting up, Greasy Hair had pulled his wand and now had it trained on Sirius. "What do you think youíre doing?" Sirius said, irritation and anxiety mixing in his voice. "I said I was. . . ."

"Silence!" Greasy Hair commanded. "I will have to teach you to take a bit more care. Now, what curse shall I use? Jellylegs seems particularly appropriate. . . ."

"Expelliarmus!" Jamie didnít realise he had drawn his wand, didnít realise he had spoken. But he was now holding Greasy Hairís wand as well as his own. He had seen that spell dozens of times at the Dueling Competitions that his father had taken him to see, but, if he had been asked, heíd have said quite sincerely that he had no idea how to do it; he knew the words, but he also knew that it took more than words to make a spell work. Ollivander had been right; this was a powerful wand. Thinking quickly, he pocketed the other wand and leveled his own at Greasy Hair. "Donít move," he said, hoping fervently that he would be obeyed; he didnít know any other spells to back up his threatening pose, and he wasnít sure just how much his wand could figure out on its own. Turning toward Sirius, but never taking his eyes from the other boy, he asked, "Okay there, Sirius?"

"Fine."

"Then youíd better get your package and go."

"Sure thing." Sirius picked up his package and headed for the door again. Pausing in the doorway, he looked back at Jamie and said, "Thanks, mate."

"Youíre welcome." Jamie smiled at him, and the boy smiled back, an infectious, irrepressible grin. Then he disappeared out the door. Jamie turned his attention back to Greasy Hair, who was frozen in place. He lowered his wand and gestured to the back of the shop. "Go finish your shopping," he said to Greasy Hair. "Iíll wait here Ďtil youíre done, and then Iíll give you your wand back."

"You have no right. . . " Greasy Hair began coldly.

"And you had no right to try to curse that fellow; I saw the whole thing, and he didnít trip you on purpose. It was an accident. Now go one and get your robes."

Greasy Hair glared at Jamie, but he did as he was told. Several minutes later, he returned to the front of the shop, a package of robes under his arm. "My wand," he said, holding out his hand. Jamie handed it over wordlessly. Greasy Hair turned to go, then turned back. "You havenít seen the last of me," he hissed.

" ĎCourse I havenít," Jamie said with a laugh. "Weíre both off to Hogwarts, and I imagine weíll see each other plenty there. Now get out of here, and quit acting like the villain in a second-rate Dark Arts novel." Without another word, Greasy Hair stormed out.

"Youíd better watch that one," said a voice behind Jamie. He turned to see a squat, middle-aged witch dressed in mauve robes.

"How come?"

"Thatís Tobias Snapeís boy. The fatherís mixed up in all kinds of Dark Arts, and it looks like the son isnít shaping up to be much better. And with you being J.P.ís grandson. . . . Just keep an eye on him, okay? Now, letís get you fitted for some robes."

As she fitted his robes, Jamie reflected that, wherever he went, people seemed to be warning him to be carefulófirst Jarvis at the Leaky Cauldron, then Mr. Ollivander, and now Madame Malkin. He wondered if it had anything to do with what his dad was working on, with whatever he and Mum had been talking about in low, worried voices. Heíd ask Grandfather this afternoon, he decided. Grandfather didnít treat him like a child the way everyone else did.

Madame Malkin finished the fitting and prepared the robes; Jamie paid her and went on. He made a quick stop an Eeylops Owl Emporium to buy some treats for his new owl, Sophia. Dad had gotten her for Jamieís birthday a few months ago; she was a Sooty Owl, black with a dark grey face and a few white spots on her head and wings, and Jamie thought she was beautiful. Sooty Owls came from Australia, and Jamie was a little worried about how Sophia would deal with a Scotland winter; Dad said she would be fine, that she was "a tough old bird," but Jamie wasnít convinced. He was stocking up on treats to keep her happy, and, on impulse, he bought a Self-Warming Nest Pad just in case. Before he could be tempted to buy anything else, he hurried out of Eeylops to the apothecary. He asked for some basic potions ingredients, received them, and headed for Flourish and Blotts; he had saved this stop for last because the supplies that he would buy thereóhis books and hardwareówere heavy, and he hadn ít wanted to carry them around all day.

Jamie selected his books first; there were eight in all for his various classes. Then, he moved on to the hardware section. There were plenty of cauldrons at home, but they were mostly gold, silver, or copper, and Jamie needed a pewter one for school; he found it quickly. Grandfather had promised Jamie the crystal phials and brass scales that he had used as at Hogwarts; Grandfather had been an excellent Potions student in his day, and Jamie hoped that using his equipment might bring him some luck. All needed now was a telescope. He settled on a collapsible model made of brass. He lugged his purchases to the counter, paid, and left the shop, heading back to Gringotts.

Inside, he asked Griphook, a floor goblin, if he could leave his purchases in the family vault. "Just for a few hours; Iíll be back before the bank closes."

"Certainly, Mr. Potter. Iíll just take them there. Unless youíd like to come along?"

Jamie wavered. He was a little ahead of schedule, and, as he had told Siriusís mother, he did like riding the carts. But he should probably get on to tea.

"No, Iíd better go; I have an appointment. But Iíll go along to get them when I come back."

"Certainly, Mr. Potter." Griphook snapped his long fingers, and Jamieís packages jumped into the air and followed the goblin away. Jamie, glad to have his hands free again, set off and reached the Post and Portkey Office.

"Iím here for the 3:30 Portkey to the Ministry, please," he said to the woman behind the counter.

"Are you on the list?" she asked tonelessly.

"Should be. Jamie Potter."

She glanced at the list. Apparently, his name was there, for she handed him a rather raggedy-looking quill. "This is it. Leaves in two minutes. Thank you for your business. Have a nice day," she said in the same flat tone. Jamie wondered if she was under a spell or if it was just boredom that made her sound so blank. He didnít have long to wonder, though. In a few moments, he felt a jerk somewhere behind his navel, and he was suddenly speeding along as through a vortex of howling wind and swirling color. As suddenly as his trip had begun, it was over, and he landed in a heap on the marble floor of the Entrance Hall for the Ministry of Magic.

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