Fanfic Friday: Devotion

She wakes him up every morning by placing her paws on his chest. He rises, groaning, pours his tea and eats kippers and toast. He puts half his breakfast in a saucer for her. She worries he’s getting too old for this, but it has been their routine for so many years. She watches, he mops. She prowls, he scrubs. There is not a soul in this castle who fully understands their connection. It began so many years ago; her abilities were so strong and he had none.

She worries that maybe he’s forgotten who she used to be, before the change, before the punishment. Once, she was human, a witch so powerful it almost made up for the fact that he was powerless. But she left him when they were still children, she fell in with the wrong sort.

She worries he doesn’t remember the time she showed up on his doorstep. It was the last time he saw her as a human. She begged him, pleaded that he take care of her. He was the only one left alive that loved her. Her punishment would become bearable if she came with him. He agreed, and that was the last she’d heard him speak of it.

The next time they met she was confined to a cat’s body, punished to live the rest of her days in feline form. Her task was now protecting the school she’d once attended. He took a job as caretaker and now so many years had passed them by.

She worries that he’s bitter, that he truly does hate all the children and the teachers and the entire castle. She worried that one day he’ll leave her.

But still he stays, eternally devoted to a cat with lamp-like eyes.

Fanfic Friday: Hermione, After – Part 2

Part 1

By the time the Knight Bus pulled into Hogsmeade, Hermione had somewhat pulled herself together, pushed aside the feelings of regret she had for being too hasty, and had the beginnings of a plan. She could use the Three Broomsticks as a base, and apparate to all places she wanted to go on her own gap year trip.

Madam Rosmerta saw her immediately as she walked in the door. “Hermione!” she called from across the pub, and started to bustle towards her. Hermione was surprised that Rosmerta even knew her name. “Hermione, I am so glad you are here! Did she call you? I was just trying to figure out if I should call her husband.”

Hermione had learned that if you kept quiet when you didn’t know what someone was talking about you could often figure it out eventually.

“Hermione?” A small voice from a table in the corner caught Hermione’s ear. She turned to see Fleur Weasley looking terrible. Well, terrible for Fleur, that is. Her skin was all blotchy and her eyes were so puffy it looked like she had been crying for days.

“Fleur? What are you doing here? Are you okay?”

“I…I needed to get away somewhere, I…” she stopped, obviously trying to hold back tears. “Hermione, I am pregnant” she blurted out.

“Oh! Well that’s…um, I was going to say that’s wonderful, but you obviously don’t think it is, and that’s okay. Do you want to talk about it?”

“It is just. It is wonderful, of course it is, and I am happy. I know I do not look it, but I am. But Hermione, I am also so scared. I do not think I will be a good mother.”

“Nonsense! You are good at everything” Hermione stopped short after Fleur shot her an angry look.

“That is not true. Just because I’m pretty doesn’t mean I am good at everything. My mother was not a wonderful mother. Veelas are not known for being warm and caring. That is why I feel such maternal feelings for my sister, since I was practically her mother.”

“Well, there you go then! You’ve had experience.”

“But I did not care for her when she was a newborn baby. I have no idea what I would do. And, well, that is not even the thing I am scared of most, actually.”

Hermione sat quietly and let her go on in her own time.

“Hermione, do not judge me, but I am afraid, because of what happened to Bill, you know, I am afraid this baby will be…will be…wolfish.” She looked ashamed as she said it.

“Oh Fleur, you’re pregnant, and you weren’t expecting it, of course you are worried about all kinds of things.” The two women sat quietly then, not saying anything for a minute. Hermione got an idea. It wasn’t her favourite idea ever.

“Fleur,” she said, not believing what she was doing even as the words were coming out of her mouth, “I was planning on going on a trip. I have some thinking to do myself and, well, would you want to come with me?

Fleur looked at Hermione and her face slowly brightened. “I think that is just what I need. I can leave immediately, I just have to go back to the cottage to collect my things and tell Bill. Can you apparate there too?” The two women went out behind the pub and Hermione braced herself before apparating.

They arrived at the cottage and Fleur opened the front door. “Bill? Bill, are you here?”

Hermione found a note on the kitchen table and showed it to Fleur.

Fleur,

I have to go. Emergency. I’ll be gone for a few days. Be well.

Love,

Bill

Fleur looked at Hermione in shock. “This is not Bill’s handwriting, and he would never be so short with me!” Her gaze hardened. “Hermione, we have to find him!”

 

Fanfic Friday: A Thank-You Note to the Man I Saw

There was this man. He was captivating; I think because he was so wholly himself, with no apologies, and that is a rare quality. He was young, but an old soul, if you know what I mean. He wore a bow tie.

I saw him at the end of the weirdest day of my life. I went to work at the cubicle farm. That’s what I called my job as a mindless drone inputting data. It was so tedious and awful, but I was grateful to have something after months of unemployment. There was some sort of bomb scare, or something like that. I’m pretty sure the truth was mangled in its passage through the gossip mill as we all stood around in the street, sipping from our travel mugs and waiting until we could go back to our boring jobs. But the all clear never came. We all felt the huge rush of air that filled the space where our building used to be when it vanished. It blinked out of existence, leaving a bare cement pad. No one ever found it.

In the ensuing panic, I backed away from the mob. I’d been part of a mob before; it’s best to stick to the periphery if you have to be there at all. I heard someone behind me say, “Well, that was disappointing,” and I turned to see three people leaning against a blue police box wedged into a dirty alley. One was the man I mentioned before. The other two were a young man and woman. He was sort of homely, but nice, and she had flaming red hair. They seemed to be a couple, because he put his arm around her and they turned and went into the box. That was weird, because it didn’t look like they’d be very comfortable in such a small space.

The man in the bow tie saw me staring at them. His eyes widened for a minute, and he hurried over.

“Did you know someone in there?” he asked.

I told him I had worked there. He apologized profusely, and I said it wasn’t much of a job and I wouldn’t miss it, except that I wasn’t looking forward to being unemployed again. He nodded and thought for a moment.

“These things usually work themselves out. You humans have all sorts of elaborate insurance things to handle situations like this.” Like a building vanishing into thin air? I thought, but I didn’t say it aloud. Also, you humans? But he was still talking. “But I notice people who notice things. And you noticed us, so clearly you notice things. And I like that, and I don’t think the universe always rewards people who notice things appropriately. Do you have one of those money cards?”

I was pretty confused, but I trusted him. Something about his strangeness was comforting. I handed him my debit card. He pulled out a laser pointer thing and pointed it at my card, and it made a weird noise and lit up.

“That should do it,” he said. “You’ll be fine now. I should go; they’ll be waiting…” He trailed off, looking back at his blue box. Clearly it was magical in some way.

“Is that your space ship?” I asked, only half-joking.

He laughed a very strained laugh. “Yes, ha ha, something like that. You really are very clever, you know. I wish… But I really do have to run. I shouldn’t be found here. I hope you have a most excellent life, and that things come around for you.”

He leaned in and air-kissed me on both cheeks, which was a total surprise, then dashed back to the blue box and opened the door. Behind him I could just make out something that definitely looked like a space ship.

“Good luck,” he said, and jumped inside. The box started making a weird wheezing sound, like sick machinery, and then it pulsed into nothingness. It was gone, my job was gone, and I was rudderless again.

But when I stopped at a bank machine on my way home and checked my account balance, it was seven digits. I’m sure it’s totally thrown off the economy, but I’m awfully grateful. I’ve written this and posted it here in case he ever reads it, or someone who knows him comes across it and can convey my thanks. I have no idea if the whole thing was his fault or if he was trying to stop it, but he turned my life around, and I’ll never forget it.

 

Fanfic Friday: Hermione, After

“What now?” The question was keeping Hermione awake. School was over. “Ceremonial Graduation” they called it, although it seemed very unceremonial to Hermione. Unceremonial and Anticlimactic.

Everyone in their year was thrilled, but Hermione was disappointed. She had been looking forward to her last year at Hogwarts. She assumed that by the start of next year she would either be dead, or that she would be making up her last year. All her professors reassured her that “killing Voldemort” would look better on a resume than one more year of school. But Hermione liked school. She was good at school.

Harry and Ron were already planning a gap year trip. And of course she would go with them. She wanted to. She did. But their idea of a fun trip was not really the same as hers. Bits of it would be, but she wanted to see historical sites, and art, and they would just make fun of her for that. Ever since her first year she had been keeping that part of her bottled up a bit. Harry was her best friend, and Ron was…he was Ron, but their insults from first year still stung from time to time. She knew that they respected her cleverness now, and Ron had told her it was part of why he loved her, but still. She knew that sometimes it bothered him that she was smart. Its like he couldn’t see that it was such a big part of her, and it never occurred to him that the fact that she was smart didn’t have to mean that she was just a stereotypical nerd. She was constantly reminded of how much Ron and Harry didn’t understand her.

And then there were her parents. This was only her second night at home with them. She had lifted the memory curse and had to explain to them why it felt like no time had passed since the last time they saw her. They were crushed. Both her parents were soft spoken people, and the harshness with which they had been speaking to her since they found out hurt deeply. Her heart was already raw and she needed her parents so badly to comfort her. She had been holding it together for so long. She understood why they were mad, but she needed them! But she didn’t know how to tell them all of this, and so she had just been avoiding them. Her fists were squeezing the blankets and her jaw was clenched. She had to relax and try to sleep. She looked at the clock. Three a.m. But her body wouldn’t relax, and neither would her mind. She didn’t fall asleep until the sun was starting to come up.

She was woken up by the sound of loud voices. She went downstairs to find Ron and Harry in the kitchen, talking to her parents.

“There you are!” Ron exclaimed when he saw her, and folded her in a huge hug.

She smiled, happy to see them, and hugged Harry as well.

“We thought we would surprise you,” Harry said in response to her sleepy and confused face, “and come to finalize the plans for our trip! We were just telling your parents.”

“You told them? I hadn’t had a chance yet, and I’ve only just come back, so I was thinking…”

“Right.” Ron jumped in. “We were thinking the Greek islands first. Some sun and sand? And We’ve heard on some of the busier islands, they make this magical ouzo that…”

“Just some relaxing, right?” Harry interrupted. “We’ve certainly earned it.”

Hermione smiled weakly but didn’t look anyone in the eye.

“Hermione?” Ron said.

“It’s just that, I’m not sure…”

“We thought you wouldn’t be,” Ron said, “so we invited your parents to come meet up with us so you can all go to some museums.” He beamed at her.

They had it all planned. They had already thought of a perfect solution, the four of them.

Her father spoke gently to her for the first time in two days. “It would be a good time for us to reconnect.” Her mother smiled weakly in agreement.

Hermione couldn’t tamp down her anger any more. “No.” she said.

“What?” Harry said

“I said no. THANK YOU,” Hermione continued, the rage bubbling over now that she had let it out “I don’t want to just run away and have a relaxing trip! Plus my idea of a relaxing trip is NOTHING like what you two have planned. Did you honestly think I would be interested in MAGICAL OUZO?”

“Hermione,” her mother started gently.

“No, mom, don’t try to calm me down. You and dad are just as bad. You snap at me for two days, when I haven’t seen you in months, and I’ve just been through HELL, and now you just want to plan a wee trip together like we’ll all just be like lah di dah, everything is fine.”

“We know you’ve been through a lot, but so have we, this was a lot to take in.”

Hermione didn’t know what to say. She glanced at Ron, hoping he would step in.

“Your mum has a point, Hermione, this last while has been hard on all of us. Let’s just run off and have a bit of fun.”

Hermione gaped at Ron. He grinned at her with that lopsided grin he had. The silence hung around them all for a full ten seconds before Hermione broke it with a hoarse whisper.

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you, Ronald. Not ever again.” She ran straight out the front door without thinking. It was just the closest door. But then she had a thought. In one flourished movement she summoned her beaded bag, which was still packed, and hailed the Knight Bus. There was a new witch taking tickets, who didn’t even look at Hermione when she asked “Where to?”

Hermione hesitated with her mouth half open and then said “Hogsmeade please.” It would be the perfect place to plan her own trip.

She went up to the upper level, which was almost deserted, sat down, opened her bag and peered in, closed it again, and then burst into tears.

Fanfic Friday: Letter to a Dead Sister

September 25th, 1971

My Dear Lucy, 

I find myself writing to you on your birthday, as though I could just post this letter and you would receive it. I imagine you, a young woman now, tearing open an envelope from your big sister in America. Sharing it with your husband, your children.

And yet.

I turned thirty-six just a few weeks ago, my children are all in school and I have long moments to myself. Moments to write, to think. Moments I haven’t had in many years. Through the whirlwind of grief leading to marriage and three children in quick succession. I put you out of my mind.

And yet.

There are times when I am brushing my hair when I remember. I remember longer hair, hair that fell almost to my knees. Long velvet dresses that were so much more delicate and beautiful than anything I wear today.

And yet.

That all seems like a dream, a fairytale, really. Horseback rides and archery. The stories I read to my children with talking animals stir a part of my brain. I have lived two lifetimes. I have rejected the hands of Kings and conversed with bears and boars. That girl, she was carefree and not burdened by the grief that overwhelms me. My in-laws talk in hushed whispers about my family sometimes. To inform a new acquaintance about where I come from. “Her family – they all died in the war.”

And yet.

It was not the war that took them, no bomb that fell. No brothers in uniform. It was the Lion. How can I forgive Him? He stole you all from me. Most of all you, my beloved baby sister. No precious diamond cordial could save you. No trumpet’s song could pull you back to my world.

And yet.

I live on. The age I once was and beyond. My brothers, my sister, you all cease to be. I alone grow old. I alone raise children. Too much was my grief to name them for you. Too much was my grief to stay in the country of my birth.

And yet.

An ocean does not divide me from the memories. An ocean cannot make me forget that I was a queen.

Your loving sister forever,

Susan