The Sugar Quill
Author: ArtooC (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Timeslide  Chapter: Prologue
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PROLOGUE

Things were too quiet in the old mansion.  This unnatural silence, Wormtail knew, meant that his old master was thinking, and such occurrences were always followed by...unpleasantness.  Usually, they required Wormtail to lose a limb or two, he mused a little bitterly, and then clamped down on those treacherous thoughts rapidly, lest You-Know-Who (even now he could not bring himself to pronounce the name) had learned the magic that his followers had long feared, and read his mind.  Who could not have a treacherous thought now and again?  It was impossible, ever the more so since loyalty to their Lord required such profound sacrifices.  He shuddered as he thought of the tithe required of the Malfoys...and then sharply came down on his thoughts again.  Better not to think, better just to follow orders, because not only did thinking bring those treasonous ideas, they brought memories, memories of friends long ago and one dark night when he had decided to betray them...in fact, it was a night not unlike tonight...

Fortunately for his sanity (always in question), he was cut off before he went down that alley once again.  Unfortunately, this meant that Lord Voldemort had done thinking and was ready to act.

"Wormtail..." he mused, "Do you remember your history lessons?"

The servant shuddered inwardly.  It always began like this, with a seemingly innocuous question, and then...

"N-not very much, my Lord.  I'm sorry to say.  B-but I could always find some old books, and study again, if that was your will, sir, I could--"

"Impertinent fool!"  He was angry now.  "Do you presume that Lord Voldemort has forgotten, even if you have?  I was merely inquiring to make a point...yes..."

His voice trailed off quietly, as he thought out loud, "If wizards do not know their own history, then what can they know of Muggle history?"  His eye fixed Wormtail with a glance.

"You see, Wormtail...even you will be able to riddle this one out...who has been there, all along, worrying at my flanks, stealing small victories against me?"

Uncertain whether this was a trick question, Wormtail stammered a bit with his answer.  "H-Harry Potter, sir?"

Voldemort smiled beatifically.  "Yes...I told you that you could do it, Wormtail.  And who, every time, has aided him?"

At this, Wormtail had to think.  The first time, Harry Potter had been protected by his mother, who had sacrificed herself for him.  The second, Potter had been alone--but his friends had gotten him through to the final confrontation at great personal risk, and Dumbledore had saved him at the final moment, who had also saved him (albeit indirectly), as he had the third time Harry had run into danger.) The fourth time, Potter had been saved (by the skin of his neck) by several ghosts of his loved ones.  The fifth, Sirius Black had been there to save his skin, and the sixth, his friends and that Elemental witch had killed the Lestrange woman in his defense...but all of those were different people, every time, so what could his Master mean?

Voldemort saw him trying to work it out, and laughed softly.  "I'm afraid to say that you are deeply stupid, Wormtail...more so than I thought."  Wormtail flinched, and his Master continued.  Those who love him, you idiot...those who would die for him.  Every time, and it seems that even when he is isolated and surrounded by ill-wishes, well-wishers turn up.  So, what is the solution?  How do we swat this deeply irritating fly?"

"Take--take away his friends?"

Again that laugh.  "No, my tedious slave.  Harry Potter--and Dumbledore--would never stand for our picking off his friends.  No, we separate them all. Completely.  And we put them all in positions where they would never be able to contact each other in,"--here, his voice grew ironic--"in a million years."

"How do we do that, Master?" said Wormtail, praying fervently that it did not involve any limb-threatening activities.

Smiling yet more evilly, Voldemort said something softly, so that Wormtail wasn't sure that he'd caught it.  Or maybe he just wished he hadn't heard it, for if he had-

"But Master!"  A protest rose unbidden to his lips.  "No one knows how to summon the Temporals!"

The diabolical smile twisted.  "No one, Wormtail?" the Dark Lord asked, almost gently.  "No one?"

* * *

It was a beautiful sunny day, and all of them were happy to get out of the stuffy classroom (even Hermione) and into the large open field, whose grassy green contrasted brilliantly with the shocking deep blue of the sky.  The weather could not have been more perfect, and even the fact that this was a lesson did not dim their excitement.  How could it--for the first time in five lessons of furious note-taking, the three of them would be able to attempt Apparition for the first time.  Ginny, perched on the fence, watched her two best friends and her brother wistfully, knowing that she would have to wait another year before she got to try it.

Harry tried--somewhat unsuccessfully--to contain his growing excitement.  Mrs. Weasley had invited him and Hermione to the Burrow for their Apparition lessons, and they were staying for the whole summer before their seventh year at Hogwarts.  At first, the notion of taking lessons during the summer had revolted both him and Ron, but today would make up for it.  Always assuming--here he winced--that he didn't get splinched.

Their teacher, Professor Protosileus, launched into a short lecture, concluding with, "Right, to begin, I'll Apparate all of you from one end of this field to the other so that you can get the feel of it, and then you'll be doing it yourself."  He had explained at the beginning of the course that while group Apparition was very difficult and generally illegal, fully trained Apparition instructors were allowed to use it as there was really no other way to teach practical Apparition.  Hermione swallowed hard at the danger of it, but when Ron looked at her askance, she gave a brave little smile.

"Right then--everybody ready?"  the Professor looked around at all of them. "Hold onto your nerves, then, and pay close attention so that you'll be able to do it yourself."  Ginny came a little closer to see better, and Hermione pointed her wand at her forehead and said "*Memorium*".  Harry and Ron grinned; in a typically Hermione gesture, she had cast a Memory Charm on herself so that she would be able to remember exactly what the experience felt like and how to recreate it.

There was no magic word in Apparition, but the four could feel him gathering Himself

--and the rest of them

--in with his magic

--to her alarm, Ginny felt herself getting pulled in with the rest of them

--they were getting pulled, very hard, very quickly

--and then there was a *click*

--the sound of something breaking

--it feels like the Spinning Teacups, Hermione thought dizzily

--it was impossible to keep track of anything now

--there was a high pitched cackling, and something ripped, and Ron could feel the others falling away from them

--he wanted to shout after them but he couldn't find his mouth to open it, it was as if all his body parts were drifting apart

--Protosileus shrieked silently as his students were wrested away from him

--and suddenly he fell out of the air, and he knew instantly, with the certainty of one who has Apparated thousands of times, that he was not in the right place.

* * *

He had landed on a grassy field, much like the field they had left, but somehow, subtly--*different*.  He got up warily, wincing as he put pressure on his left ankle.  As he stared off in all directions, trying to figure out where he'd been so unceremoniously dumped, he thanked his lucky stars that he'd fallen in an unpopulated area.  That would be all he needed--now he had to find out where he was and where his students were, and what on earth had happened back there.  A sound distracted him from his musings, but he blocked it out impatiently.

Very few things could wrest away members of a Group Apparition.  A spirit could do it, and so could an Elemental, but these were usually friendly beings--or at least, human-indifferent beings.  Somehow, however, one or several of them had taken a dislike to wizards.  He frowned; Dumbledore would have to be told.  That noise was building up, growing to a dull roar, but he continued to ignore it. What really bothered him was the feeling he'd had before his students had been ripped away from him.  Apparition was not supposed to feel that out of control, that complete uncertainty.  It was troubling.

The noise was too loud to ignore now, and he turned to inspect it, when he realized with the sudden dread of a rabbit caught in headlights what had been wrong with that Apparition, and what had taken his students.  These revelations, however, were lost, as one of the screaming armies that were rushing towards each other caught him in its wake, and as a sword penetrated his belly, his last thought was that no one would know where he or his students had gone, save the cows that had been in the next field.

 

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