The Sugar Quill
Author: Kellie (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Carnelian Key  Chapter: Chapter One
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Harry Potter and the Carnelian Key (1/

The Death Eater closed the door quietly behind him as he entered the stone chamber. The flickering glow of the fire filled the chamber with a dim light, and the back of the throne was crowned eerily by the hissing flames. The Death Eater approached.

"My Lord?"

The chair’s intricately carved wooden legs lifted off the floor and the throne rotated slowly until Voldemort faced his disciple.

"Do you have information for me?" Voldemort’s red eyes narrowed as he lowered the chair to the floor with a flick of his wand.

"I do, Master." The Death Eater fell to his knees and bent to kiss the hem of his master’s robes before he continued. "I have come to tell you that he is ready to enter into your service."

A muscle above Voldemort’s eye twitched as he raised what should have been an eyebrow. "And how exactly do you suppose he can be of use to me?"

"I know he is inexperienced, My Lord, but he has assured me of his allegiance to you and he is eager to prove himself worthy of your trust." The Death Eater paused and then added, "Not to mention that he is very strategically placed -"

"I am fully aware of where he is placed," Voldemort snapped, "I asked you how he can be of use to me?"

The Death Eater hesitated. He had been sure that his master would be pleased by the news, and eager to put his new follower to work immediately. "Perhaps just a small task, to begin, Master."

Voldemort did not respond immediately. He pressed his palms together and rested his chin on his fingertips, considering the possibilities that this news presented. After thinking for a long moment, he replied.

"Perhaps."

********************

He was running as fast as he could, turning right, then left, then left again. The hedges around him were twenty feet high, forming the passageways through which he was barreling.

He turned right again. "Cedric?" He shouted, "Where are you?" He was running so fast that he rushed past a pathway to his left and had to double back to make the turn. "CEDRIC?" He came to a fork in the path and looked frantically to his left and right. "CEDRIC?" ‘I have to find him...I have to find him now, before it’s too late,’ he thought, taking off down the path to his right.

"CEDR - umph."

He scrambled to his feet and whipped around to see what he had tripped over.

It was the Triwizard Cup, gleaming cruelly at him, oblivious to the horrors that it held.

He ran faster. "CEDRIC?" He sped further along the path and came to a dead end. Frustrated and terrified, he turned around to double back and instantly froze. Cedric Diggory stood before him, or rather he floated before him, holding out a hand and pointing a long finger at the frenzied boy.

"You killed me."

Harry Potter sat bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat and panting heavily. It took him a few moments to realize where he was and that he had been dreaming.

"Noooo," he moaned, falling back down on the bed and pressing his hands to his closed eyes as if to erase the images still lingering on the back of his eyelids. He lay for a few moments listening to his pulse pounding steadily in his ears. When he had caught his breath, Harry rolled miserably out of bed and rummaged around on the bedside table for his glasses, which he found and slipped on.

‘Every night,’ he thought to himself as he stumbled across the room to the window and drew the curtain back. ‘Can’t I just have one night when I don’t have to see his face?’ As soon as he had thought it, though, he shook his head, disgusted with himself. “But it’s true,” he reminded himself in a whisper.  “It was your fault and this is the price you have to pay. At least you’re alive.”

Harry squinted as he looked out onto Privet Drive. The sun was bright this morning and several children were already playing football in the street. As he watched them, still trying to snap fully back into reality, a far away patch of white in the blue sky caught his eye. As it got closer he knew that it was Hedwig, his owl, and he pushed the window open to allow her to come inside.

She circled the room several times, hooting proudly, before landing on the desk and holding out her leg.

"Shhh, Hedwig, you’ll set Vernon on me." He untied the letter from Hedwig’s leg and allowed her to nip his finger before he held her water dish out to her. "I’ll get you something to eat in a minute."

As Hedwig drank heartily, Harry sank back onto the bed to read his letter.

Dear Harry,

I was just about to send Pig out when Hedwig arrived with your letter. I’m glad you liked the birthday presents we sent. Ginny made the cake herself and was awfully giggly after she read that you liked it.  

Harry smiled weakly.

Anyway, on to the important news. Dad spoke to Dumbledore yesterday and he said things seem calm, so you can come to the Burrow now! After what happened with the floo powder last summer, Dad thinks it would be better if you come on the Knight Bus. Stan Shunpike knows where we live, so they can bring you right to the edge of the garden. I’m sure you won’t be wasting any time getting away from the Dursleys, so we’ll expect you tonight. Owl back if the Muggles get their knickers in a twist.

Ron

Harry smiled as he refolded the letter, the first genuine smile he could remember cracking in months. This was exactly the news he had spent the past six weeks waiting for. All he wanted was to be around people like himself, and who cared about him - who knew what he had been through just a few weeks ago. He dressed quickly and hurried downstairs to the kitchen.

Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley were already in the room. Vernon was at the table reading the newspaper and drinking tea, grumbling about the rising price of petrol. Apparently it was all the fault of "the bloody, meddling Americans". Huge Dudley was next to Vernon, stuffing sausages into his mouth, and Petunia stood primly at the stove scrambling eggs.

"Hello, family," Harry said derisively as he entered the kitchen.

The only response he got was a small grunt from Vernon. Harry was unfazed, as this was the same greeting that he got every morning. Harry sauntered over to where Dudley sat and casually took three sausages from his plate, two for himself and one for Hedwig.

"Hey!" Dudley exclaimed through his mouthful of food, reaching back to hit Harry on the shoulder with the back of his hand. Undaunted, Harry reached up and smacked Dudley on the back of the head. Dudley screwed his face up into what he must have thought was a dangerous sneer, and Harry resisted the urge to burst out laughing.

Harry had gotten a lot braver with the Dursleys this summer. After what he had been through with Voldemort six weeks ago, the Dursleys were like a walk in the park. He wasn’t afraid of them anymore, and he laughed at himself when he remembered the effect they used to have on him. They were such nobodies, really.

"Boy-," Vernon growled warningly, rising from his chair.

"I have good news," Harry interrupted, munching on a sausage.

Vernon shifted gears as he sized Harry up.

"What good news could you possibly have?" Petunia snapped, scraping eggs onto Dudley and Vernon’s plates.

"I’m leaving here tonight, for the rest of the summer," Harry said.

With the tiniest whoop of joy, Petunia dropped her metal spatula, which fell to the floor with a clang. Vernon, however, burst into a tirade. "IF YOU THINK I AM LETTING THOSE RAGGEDY WEASLEY PEOPLE BACK INTO THIS HOUSE AFTER WHAT THEY PULLED THE LAST TIME, YOU HAVE GOT ANOTHER THINK COMING, BOY!"

"Keep your pants on, Vernon," Harry interjected calmly, "they aren’t coming here. My transportation has been arranged."

Vernon reddened. He looked as though he didn’t know whether to launch into a thunderous rant at Harry for his lack of respect or break into a bouncing jig at the thought of this being Harry’s last day at 4 Privet Drive for a long time.

"What time are you going?" he finally asked, sneering.

"Just after dark, I suppose."

"Well, then, go upstairs and pack your things," Vernon said impatiently, as though this was the most obvious thing in the world and Harry was an idiot for just standing there.

"Gladly," Harry murmured, pushing between Dudley and Petunia on his way out of the room.

As he ascended the stairs, Harry scowled, thinking about his only relatives. He had stopped referring to Vernon and Petunia as "Aunt" and "Uncle". These titles only reminded Harry that he shared some part of his genetic makeup with these miserable people, and the thought made him nauseous. Besides, he told himself, blood isn’t what makes a family. Sirius, the Weasleys, and Hermione - those people were his family now.

Harry pushed his bedroom door open and headed straight for Hedwig’s cage. He held out the sausage, which she gratefully accepted in her beak. Harry then turned his attention to packing his belongings in his school trunk. As he packed his robes, wand, and books, he couldn’t help but think about the events that had happened at Hogwarts when he had been there last, when he had last used these items. Memories of what had happened after he and Cedric had touched the Triwizard Cup haunted his waking hours as well as his sleeping. The only visions that haunted him more frequently were of the horrific things he imagined Voldemort might do to people, especially the people Harry cared about, now that he, Harry, had unwittingly helped Voldemort regain all of his old powers.

His packing didn’t take long, and Harry spent the rest of the day just trying to pass the time and stay out of the Dursleys’ way. With each passing hour, he grew more and more anxious to get to the Burrow. After a long day spent doing pointless things, like alphabetizing his Chocolate Frog Cards, it was finally starting to get dark. He had let Hedwig nap all day, and now he sent her off to Sirius with a letter telling him where he would be for the rest of the summer.

"When you’re done, fly to the Weasleys’. I’ll be there.”  After a final stroke of her silky feathers, Harry watched Hedwig fly off into the dusk. When it was good and dark, he took one last look around his room to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Satisfied that he hadn’t, he left his bedroom, dragging his trunk and Hedwig’s cage down the stairs.

When he got to the first floor landing, Harry poked his head into the living room, where Vernon and Petunia were watching television. Harry assumed Dudley was upstairs in his bedroom, and Harry didn’t care in the least that he wasn’t there to say goodbye to.

"Well, good-bye, then," Harry said.

He waited a moment for a response other than the "mm-hmm"s he received. Getting none, he shrugged and hauled his things out to the curb. He then raised his right hand, his wand hand, into the air and waited. A moment later he heard the rumbling of bus wheels and the purple triple-decker Knight Bus rolled to a stop in front of him.

The bus door burst open and Stan Shunpike, the bus conductor, jumped out. He glanced casually at Harry and then did a double take.

"ERN!" he shouted, "Guess who it is?"

Harry rolled his eyes and waited patiently for the inevitable raucous to come and go.

"Who is it?" came the reply.

"It’s ‘Arry Potter!" he exclaimed, and then more quietly to Harry, "Or should I call you Neville Longbottom, eh?" he elbowed Harry in the ribs knowingly, like someone who knows a very private secret about something important.

"Well bring him up then, what are ya waitin’ for?" Ernie shot.

"No, I’m just going by Harry now," Harry said politely to Stan, anxious to get onto the bus. Even though he knew Muggles couldn’t see the Knight Bus, he wasn’t sure that they couldn’t see him and Stan, or worse yet, just Harry, standing there talking to what appeared to be thin air.

"’Course ya are, ‘Arry... Where ya off to?" Stan asked as he heaved Harry’s trunk ahead of him onto the bus.

"The Weasleys’ house - the Burrow," he replied, flopping down on the bed behind the driver, next to which Stan had placed his trunk. It was the same bed he had been assigned the one other time he was on the Knight Bus, almost two years ago. Harry set Hedwig’s cage on top of his trunk and pulled his fare out of his pocket, handing it to Stan.

"Right then, ‘Arry," said Stan cheerfully, "should be a quick one, you’re our first passenger tonight."

"Right," said Harry, settling back on the bed.

"We ‘eard you won that tournament at ‘Ogwarts!" said Stan, taking his seat next to Ernie. "Musta been somethin, eh?"

Harry felt all his muscles tense up involuntarily. He didn’t quite know how to respond to this. Having been relatively cut off from the wizarding world for the past six weeks, Harry wasn’t sure how much everyone knew about what had happened. Did they know that Voldemort was back?

"Yeah, it was something, all right," he finally replied, his stomach churning as Ernie hit the gas pedal.

"Well, we were all mighty proud, eh , Ern?"

"Ar," agreed Ernie.

Wondering who Stan meant by "we all", Harry just smiled politely, hoping they wouldn’t ask too many questions. They didn’t, and only minutes later, the bus gave a powerful lurch and rolled to a stop.

"There ya are, then, Potter," said Ernie.

Harry could just make out the shadow of the Burrow in the dark distance as he gathered his things. Once Harry stepped off the bus, Stan and Ernie bid him farewell and the Knight Bus rolled noisily away and disappeared. Harry walked part of the way to the house and then stopped and set his trunk on its end. Leaning on it with an elbow, he just gazed for a few moments at the awkward house which had come into view. He wanted to savor the moment of being back among friends - to let it sink in - before he faced the Weasleys.

The events of the previous June 24th had in some ways made Harry even more vulnerable to his emotions than he had been previously. Oddly, though, at the same time, he felt somewhat numb. Some days he felt as if he were bubbling up like lava, as if a volcano were going to erupt in him at any second and he had no idea what would come out. Other days he felt dead inside, empty. He didn’t know how to reconcile these conflicting feelings in his own mind, and it was taking its toll on him. If the Dursleys had paid any attention to him at all, they would have noticed that his previously sparkling green eyes were now rather dull.

A male voice boomed out across the yard. "He’s here, everybody! He’s here!" Fred or George Weasley (Harry couldn’t tell which) clumsily emerged from the front door and jogged across the yard towards Harry.

"Hey, Harry!" he exclaimed as he approached, "Heard the bus -" then, with a puzzled expression, he said, "Why are you just standing there? You all right?"

Weasleys were pouring across the yard now, Ron leading the way, calling "Harry! You made it!"

"Yeah, I’m all right...George?" George nodded. "It’s good to see you, George." Harry held out his hand and George shook it, and slapped him on the back. The rest of the Weasleys had reached them and were expressing their collective welcomes.

"Hi, Harry," said Ron apprehensively, as if wanting to gauge Harry’s emotional state before deciding exactly how to act.

"Hey, Ron," Harry grinned, clapping Ron on the shoulder with one hand and rustling his flame red hair with the other. "Hi, everybody. Thanks so much for letting me come." Ron seemed to relax a little and Mrs. Weasley came forward and wrapped Harry in a tight hug. He hugged her back just as tightly.

"Hello, Mrs. Weasley."

"Harry, dear, we’ve been worrying about you so much." She pulled back and held Harry at arm’s length to get a better look at him. "You look well though, and so grown up. I can’t believe how much you’ve all grown in the last four years. Not at all the kids you once were." She said all this wistfully and Harry assumed she was referring to himself, Ron, and Hermione.

Harry gave her a small smile.

"Let him alone, now, Molly," said Mr. Weasley, stepping forward to shake Harry’s hand, "Let him breathe. Fred, you get that trunk there, help him George. Ron, get that cage."

"Thanks, Fred," Harry said in greeting to the other twin, and then, "Hey, Gin." He smiled at his friend’s little sister as they all started towards the house.

"Hi, Harry," she said, smiling back, and she didn’t blush, at least not that Harry could see in the moonlight. He guessed they were all growing up now, and assumed that Ron had exaggerated about Ginny being giggly about the cake. Ron was often known to overreact where his sister was concerned.

As they walked, Harry greeted the last Weasley present, Percy, with a handshake as well, and tried not to laugh at Percy’s businesslike demeanor.

"Hello, Harry," he said, "We’re so pleased you could come. Unfortunately, I have to get to the Ministry first thing in the morning, but we can talk tomorrow night at dinner, perhaps."

"That sounds fine, Percy," Harry replied.

They all went into the house, the twins and Ron setting Harry’s things at the foot of the stairs, and continued into the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley had prepared sandwiches and tea for everyone.

"I wasn’t sure if you would have had dinner," she explained, setting several teacups on the table.

He hadn’t.

"This is wonderful, Mrs. Weasley, thank you," Harry said, sitting down and helping himself to a sandwich.

"Hermione sent a letter today," Ron said between mouthfuls of sandwich. "She said to tell you she’s glad you’re here and she can’t wait to see you in a few weeks. She’s going to meet us in Diagon Alley when we go to get our Hogwarts stuff, and then she’s going to stay here the last few days before we go back to school."

Harry tried to hide a smile. "You been owling Hermione a lot this summer, Ron?" he asked lightly.

"Sure," he replied, not picking up on Harry’s angle. "Haven’t you?"

"Yeah, I suppose." Then, not giving up, Harry continued, "She’s said she had a great time with her parents in France. Guess she decided not to visit Viktor Krum in Bulgaria after all." Harry took a bite of his sandwich and chewed calmly.

That did the trick.

"Yeah, good thing too. That oafish git, he’s all wrong for her. Imagine! He’s three years older than her! That’s so gross." Ron bit his sandwich aggressively, his face screwed up in disgust.

Fred, who was sitting on Ron’s other side, had overheard. "You didn’t seem to think he was an oafish git when you harassed him for his autograph," he teased.

"Sod off, Fred." snapped Ron, earning him a warning glance from his mother.

"Harry," she interjected, "We’ve got you all set up in Ron’s room. If you need anything, you’ll let us know."

"I’m sure I’ll be fine, Mrs. Weasley, thank you."

They all chatted for a while and before long, most of them were yawning. Harry and Ron made their way up to Ron’s room, lugging his trunk with them. Ginny carried Hedwig’s cage and set it on the corner of Ron’s dresser once they got to his room.

"Well, goodnight, Ron," she said, "Goodnight, Harry." She smiled, closing the door behind her.

Harry glanced at Ron, amused by Ron’s lack of perception where his sister was concerned.

"She doesn’t seem so starstruck anymore, does she?" Harry asked, opening his trunk to pull out some pajamas.

"Huh?" was Ron’s reply, muffled from behind the open door of his wardrobe.

Harry just chuckled. "Nothing."

As he pulled on his pajamas, Harry felt content for the first time in months. He was happy to be back with Ron and, even with everything that had happened at Hogwarts before he left, was looking forward to being back at the castle soon. It felt so much more like home than 4 Privet Drive, or anywhere else for that matter.

Ron turned off the lights and they both climbed into their beds. After a few minutes of silence, Harry heard Ron’s voice in the dark.

"Harry?"

"Yeah?" Harry waited.

When Ron spoke his voice was strained, as though he were struggling to say something much more important, but didn’t quite know how.

"I’m really glad you’re here, mate."

Harry got the message, and smiled into the darkness.

"Me too."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

//
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