The Sugar Quill
Author: Winters  Story: The Auror  Chapter: Chapter 2
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THE AUROR

 

Chapter 2

 

            The Auror prowled the corridors as ordered whilst all day toying with the idea of confronting at least one of those personified memories that walked the castle. She headed for the dungeons, the thought of setting her mind at rest about Snape first pricking at her conscience. But when she saw fifth year Neville Longbottom race down the corridor, covered in a horrible smelling pink substance, she changed her mind and returned to the higher floors. As she passed the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, she could hear that calm voice explaining the habits of mountain trolls to an enraptured class. She may have been irritated by his calmness had she not spent the night remembering happier times. As it was, she couldn’t bring herself to interrupt the class’ obvious interest in what Lupin was saying...or maybe just how he was saying it.

            Finally, the Auror reached a large and extremely ugly stone gargoyle. She regarded it apprehensively. Fiddling with the piece of paper from her pocket again, she took note of something it showed her, and brought her wand out.

            With one tap on the nose of the gargoyle, and a simple but little known revealing spell, letters began carving and uncarving themselves onto the stone creature’s forehead. SUGAR QUILL they read.

            “Ah-ha.” The Auror smiled and stepped back as the letters disappeared. “Sugar quill.” The gargoyle jumped aside and the wall opened, revealing a staircase that glided slowly upwards, revolving noiselessly, despite being made of heavy chunks of green granite.

            As she reached the top, the Auror hesitated before knocking. She didn’t know if she really wanted this conversation...or if she just thought she did. But before she could turn around and go back down the stairs, Albus Dumbledore’s voice hailed her from behind the heavy oak door. “Come in, Sephine. I’ve been wondering when you’d turn up...”

            Cursing her own foolishness, the Auror opened the door with a wry smile. Dumbledore smiled warmly back, his eyes twinkling brightly at her from behind his spectacles. “Fawkes certainly knows you’re here, and keeps making it plain to me that he misses the occasional chat with another phoenix.” 

            The Auror laughed lightly, and held out an arm as the beautiful bird swept across the circular room, a blaze of living flame. It wasn’t known to many that she was an Animagus, but she had been for a very long time. In Ireland - where she had grown up with the traveling entertainers - she remembered her parents giving her hints and tips about the Animagus spell all the time, finally, at the age of 10 encouraging her to attempt it for herself.

            It was practically unheard of that a witch or wizard should transform into a magical creature, and especially not that a ten-year-old Irish gypsy should. Dumbledore, as a relatively new headmaster, had leapt at the chance to have a child with so much potential at Hogwarts. The Auror had been allowed a lot of time to just spend her time as a phoenix and converse with Fawkes, who had been very interesting, if not easy to understand.

            “Now, Sephine, what is it that you need to ask?” Dumbledore’s question brought her back to the present with an unpleasant slide of guilt.

            “Oh. I--” She had been about to say that it was nothing and did not matter when he interrupted.

            “I know what you want to know. I also know that you crave answers. Ask me questions, Sephine, and you shall get as many answers as you request.” He regarded her with a level gaze, the youthful-looking blue eyes pinning her to the spot.

            Finally she sighed. “I...I just want to know why me. Why you picked me to come here. Especially after all...my past here. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to choose someone who wouldn’t be so...distracted by their surroundings?”

            Dumbledore’s smile came back. “Ah yes... you feel this must be some sort of a joke on my part, bringing you to Hogwarts at the same time as having Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Severus Snape here?” Before she could comment on this display of unnerving perception he held up one hand for silence. “No Sephine. I’m not having a little joke. It is a method of killing five birds with one stone.”

            Unable to help it, she shook her head. “Huh? Five?”

            “Yes, five. You don’t think you are the only one with unpleasant memories of that night do you? I have brought you four adults together again, to talk it through like  adults. And as you have probably guessed by now, neither Severus, Sirius, nor Remus has any idea that it is you yet. I leave it up to you to choose the correct time to reveal yourself to them and discuss what needs discussing.”

            The Auror sat speechless for a few moments, gathering her thoughts together once more. “Who’s the fifth bird?”

            At this Dumbledore gave a little laugh. “The fifth bird is the Auror that I would have had to get this year anyway due to all this new trouble with Voldemort.”

 

*          *          *

 

            The Auror tried not to dwell on what Dumbledore had said before their long conversation on the Dark Lord. She might have had complained that there wasn’t anything that needed to be talked about, but his stressing on the word ‘adult’ had convinced her to keep her mouth shut for once.

            As she rode the updraughts high over the Quidditch pitch, Fawkes slightly above and ahead of her, she felt her head and thoughts clear, and she realised just how much she needed to talk to those people. No matter how awkward it would be, or how emotional, or how painful. It had to be done.

            As her mind warmed to the idea and she began to imagine the situations, the thought of it didn’t seem quite so bad, in fact, as she descended towards the castle - magnificent below - she became quite eager for it to happen.

            Transforming in mid-air as she approached the roof, the Auror jumped lightly to the stone surface, waving farewell to Fawkes as she went down the staircase open to her. From determination and decision at the top of the stairs, the rational mind the phoenix gave her flew away, once more leaving her a mass of indecision and confusion at the bottom of the stairs.

            She stalked along the lunch-time corridors of Hogwarts, a menacing presence amongst the crowd of happy students, only stopping once, to break up a row involving some of her least favourite people, and some of her favourites.

 

            Draco Malfoy was brandishing a rolled up copy of The Daily Prophet at a tiny owl that whizzed incessantly around his head. “Shoo! Shoo, you stupid creature! Weasley, call this thing off now!”

            Ron Weasly and Harry Potter were in fits of laughter despite Crabbe and Goyle’s menacing glares and muscle-flexings. Even Hermione Granger was smiling at Malfoy’s frustration. Between tears of laughter, Ron managed to say, “What’s wrong, Malfoy? Can’t handle that tiny thing? Pathetic, truly pathetic!”

            But eventually, the newspaper connected with the owl, and it went shooting headfirst out of an open window nearby, hooting in apparent excitement.

            Ron’s mood swung to black then, and he launched himself upon Malfoy. “Oy! There’s no need to hit him!”

            Harry, having a feeling that Ron had just been itching for an excuse to go at Malfoy, hesitated for a moment as Hermione said, “And there’s no need to hit him either.” But when Crabbe and Goyle began to pitch in, Harry jumped forwards to his friend’s aid.

            The Auror smiled as she saw Hermione roll her eyes, and reached her hands into the fray, grabbing a Slytherin tie and a Gryffindor tie, and pulling Ron and Draco out of the tussle. “What on earth are you filth-years doing?” A sixth year sniggered as he walked past.

            “I think you’ll find we’re fifth years.” Malfoy scoffed from between clenched teeth.

            “Oh, no, you are filth-years. I’ve never heard of this sort of appalling behaviour among descendants of such honourable wizarding families.” That was a lie. “Mr. Weasly, I am not impressed by your miss-use of that owl, but, Mr. Malfoy, I am also not impressed by your cruel and harsh treatment of such an innocent creature.” She regarded Crabbe and Goyle, who were rubbing bruises and scowling threateningly. “As for you two goons, I suggest you stick to your day jobs - being students - and leave those body-guard careers alone. And Harry, although sticking up for Ron in that case was okay, as he was outnumbered - “

            “What?!” Malfoy shouted.

            The Auror sighed and gave the boy’s tie a tug as she continued. “ - Just remember the next time you feel like sharing fisticuffs with your enemies that you don’t have to get involved just because a friend is...you can make up your mind for yourself in the filth year.” And with this wry comment, she released their ties and made to leave.

            “We’ll finish this one, Weasly. Duel.”

            “Not now, you idiot! That bloody Auror’s just over there!”

            “Yes, the bloody Auror is just over here, and if you need a referee for that duel, then all you have to do is ask.” Walking away again, wanting nothing more to do with this amusing, but childish clash of personalities, the Auror was stopped by Hermione.

            “Aren’t you going to punish them? Discourage them from the duel at least?!”

            “I don’t see why I should. They’re not going to kill one another at this stage, and it’s a useful learning experience.”

            “But they could be seriously hurt!”

            The Auror lowered her voice slightly, and said, “Come to my office, a moment, Hermione, and I shall explain.” Puzzled, the girl followed, leaving the boys still arguing. When she had closed the door, the Auror lowered her hood, as a sign that she was being honest. “I meant, when I mentioned refereeing, that I shall be there when they meet for the duel and call it off for them.”

            Surprised at the sight of the Auror’s face as she was, Hermione recovered herself quickly. “But how will you know when they meet?”

            “I have...my ways, means and sources. I can find out where they will meet, but not when.”

            Hermione studied her face for a moment, looking for any sign that this woman wasn’t being entirely honest, but she could find none. “Okay. I can find out when they’re having it. Will I be able to catch you in your office at all times?”

            “You will find me with Harry’s map. I shan’t be moving around too much, but if I am, just wait until I am still, then come and find me.”

            Hermione nodded, choosing to disregard the Auror’s knowledge of the Marauder’s Map. Then plucked up the courage to ask, “Er...How should I address you? Profess--”

            “No, no not Professor.” The Auror laughed. “Miss Winters would be okay, I suppose. Or just Auror. Call me Auror.”

            The girl nodded again, seeming to understand. “Okay, Auror.” Then with a fleeting smile of conspiracy, she left the Auror’s office.

 

*          *          *

 

            That night, unable to sleep much, the Auror pulled her robes tightly about her and travelled back up to the trophy room, to wrestle with her thoughts. She knew she had to speak to Remus and Severus, but she couldn’t bring herself to yet. It would probably be the last day of summer term before she’d do anything, she mused. And even then, she’d most likely need Dumbledore’s wise hand stirring events.

            Not getting anywhere with those thoughts, she let her attention wander to another important conversation she’d had with Dumbledore.

 

            Remus looked up from examining her handiwork with glee. “This map is awesome Sephy! Where’d you learn to write like this?”

            Sirius peered over his shoulder, “Gosh, all it needs is a few spells and then it’ll be done! I don’t really believe that we’ve almost finished it.” The four Marauders, Lily, Sephine, and Charlie  all regarded the piece of parchment with awe. After so long exploring Hogwarts and scrawling down notes about passageways and tunnels, they had put it all together, and with a little help, had made a beautiful map.

            Sephine swivelled it to face her, and dipped her quill. “What shall I write at the top then? ‘Masterpiece by:’?”

            James grinned. “No, we have it all worked out - but are you sure you three don’t want to sign it?”

            Lily shook her head, “If that’s caught by Filch I don’t want any way of tracing this back to me to be visible.”

            Charlie grinned. “I didn’t really do much...I’m kind of an innocent bystander here.”

            “And I’m definitely going with Lily on this one.”

            James sighed and shrugged. “Suit yourselves! Okay, here’s what we want - ‘Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, purveyors of aids to--”

            “Hey, wait! I can’t write neatly that fast!”

            “Oh. Sorry...”

            “Okay.”

            “Um...where was I?”

            “’Purveyors of aids to.’”

            “Oh, right. ‘Purveyors of aids to magical mischief makers’”

            “Uh-huh...”

            “’Are proud to present...’”

            “Mmmm?”

            “Drumroll, please, Sirius?”

            Sirius obliged by beating his and James’ wands on the table.

            “’The Marauder’s Map!’”

            “Ta-da!” And with that, Sirius jumped on to the table and spread his arms wide in triumph. Just as the Headmaster appeared in the library doorway.

            “Mr. Black? I don’t think that is very good for the table. Would you and your friends please come with me a moment - all of you.”

            The teenagers exchanged glances, then Lily charmed the map back to its hiding place and they cautiously made their way to Dumbledore’s office.

            When they were allowed in, the old wizard was looking more serious than any of them had ever seen him. He observed them for a moment over his half-moon spectacles before speaking.

            Your are all in your 7th years...that is correct? Yes. Now you are all also aware of the Ministry of Magic’s demands that this school increases its protection...?”

            The students exchanged bemused looks, which Dumbledore caught.

            “Ah, well...I shall have to explain to you then. The Ministry feels that Voldemort and his Death Eaters will easily be able to come storming into Hogwarts, should they so wish, with minimal resistance. Of course, you and I know that this is not possible, and will not be possible as long as I am headmaster here. Voldemort is very afraid of us still, and will not just march in here - that would be a foolish thing to do, and evil he may be, but foolish he is not. So I am asking my most talented students, if they would mind postponing great careers in magic, to stay and work for an old man, just for one year.”

            The sat in silence for a moment, then Peter got up from the seat at the back, where he had been cowering. “I don’t think you meant me to hear this conversation, Headmaster, I’m sorry for coming and I’ll leave now.” But the old wizard stopped him.

            “No, Peter, I meant for you to hear this too. You have a great many talents that have yet to reveal themselves, and will prove very useful in what I am asking you to do.”

            The boy’s face registered astonishment and incomprehension. He had never been asked this before. No one had ever needed him like this. Finally, he lowered himself back into the chair, a red flush spreading over his cheeks.

            “Thank you Peter, I appreciate your loyalty greatly. And the rest of you? I am not ordering you to stay, and you must know that you shall not be paid much, if anything at all. But I know that you are all capable of this job I am offering.”

            Lily, who was best at keeping her wits in times of crisis, answered before the rest of them. “What exactly is the job you are offering, Headmaster?”

            Dumbledore smiled, and gave a quiet laugh. “Ah, yes. Of course. You must know that before making any decisions. You will be helping Professor Flitwick, mainly, setting charms and wards around the castle. Severus Snape will be staying on as well, and you will all be expected to behave like adults.” Some looks of doubt and disgust were exchanged at this, but all vowed to live up to Dumbledore’s expectations. “You will be sent out in groups to patrol the edges of the grounds, keeping an eye or two open for suspicious activities or spells. If any other minor jobs arise, you will be given the opportunity to deal with them, but you will be kept as far from danger as we can help it.”

            “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you guys but there’s no choice here for me.” James was the first to speak up. Noises of assent were made, and heads bobbed in agreement. “I’m staying here.”

            “Me too - it beats home, believe me.” Sirius looked slightly pale but determined.

            “And me. If James is staying I’ll have to stay to keep an eye on him.” Lily squeezed James’ hand, and smiled a nervous smile.

            “I’ve already given my answer.” Peter looked exceedingly white, but just as determined as Sirius.

            Charlie was grinning. “I can’t wait, this’ll be a blast, it’ll be just like being Aurors!”

            Sephine smiled too, not wanting to show the butterflies that were attacking the inside of her stomach. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be an Auror, and this way I’ll get plenty of work experience!”

            Remus, however, didn’t look so convinced. “I don’t know. I - I won’t really do much good. I’ll just let you guys down.” Only Sephine and Charlie appeared not to understand, and Dumbledore shook his bearded head, thinking how much trouble that could cause later.

            “Nonsense, Remus.” Sephine comforted, wrapping an arm around his slumped shoulders. “You’ll be the most valuable member of the team! C’mon, you know you’re best at hands-on Defence Against the Dark Arts, no matter how much I pretend to be so good at it. You’re the real whiz-kid.”

            He tried to hide his smile, but found he couldn’t, as her smile had always been so infectious, and she was smiling right now. Just for him it seemed. “Okay.” He whispered.

 

            She’d been the one who’d convinced him. It had been her fault that he’d stayed. The Auror groaned at the irritation of knowing that the past couldn’t be changed, and sat with her head in her hands until dawn broke through the windows once more.

            “Wha--?” She leapt to her feet, scrabbling for her gold watch. “Oh blast!” She raced along corridors and up stairs, until she found the staff bathroom...engaged. Unable to stop in time, though, she careened headlong into the heavy wooden door.

            A shocked voice from within exclaimed, “Hey! Can’t you see it’s engaged? Just wait a couple of minutes, can’t you?”

            “Er, sorry.” The Auror mumbled, glancing at her watch again and fidgeting. She had been pacing outside the bathroom for nearly fifteen minutes when the previous user emerged, a towel round his waist and another draped over his shoulders. The Auror stopped pacing and stood fixed to the ground, as Lupin smiled. “All yours,” he said, and gestured to the open door as he walked past her.

 

*          *          *

//
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