11th December 13
There are publishing laws, though imbecilic persons like Xenophilius Lovegood disregard them, and are henceforth fined accordingly.
Laws that say what children may read, and what adults may impart. Laws that rail against obscenity, and protect young minds from monstrosity. Laws that accord with Mr. Malfoy’s view of the world – best to present Muggles as something foreign and odd – and likewise with Mrs. Weasley’s view of the world – best to give the impression that all magical persons are sexless as monks. Indeed, there are laws to please everyone, laws of all varieties, laws that have cut the volume of wizarding-published books in half over the last few centuries, and what a relief that is; for a book may attack one, a book may fly about one’s head, but Merlin forbid a book expose some precious tot to what mummy or dad do not see fit to teach.
The Ministry does not believe in freedom of the pen. Ink and pen are mightier than the wand, said Albus Dumbledore. And, fearing what that man’s supporters might publish, Mr. Fudge reeled out seventy-two laws the next day, realizing for the first time that such terrible weapons must be handled with the utmost caution. Bravo, Mr. Fudge! cried magical adults everywhere. Bravo! Best to be careful, around a book.
But the children – they do not agree. Young Dean Thomas, on the run for a year, with only his wand and his paints to protect him, found safety in the wand, yes. But the paints gave him comfort. He began to sketch out, on every available surface, the tale of bold Lady Courage (alias of a mild-mannered halfblood), who fought and bested seventy times the vile Unforgivabelle, a golden-haired fiend determined to lock innocent persons in dungeons.
Seamus Finnigan, himself not averse to penning a tall tale, later added in Dayanara Dietz, a ward and faithful sidekick.
Miss Mandy Brocklehurst dreamed up the White Wand Gang, to pass the time waiting for the Carrows. The White Wand Gang, creeping in and out of castle passageways, always under threat from amoral ruffians like Gunnvor the Strange, the Black Potion King — yet never truly defeated by them!
Ernie MacMillan, who fell in love with Miss Lavender Brown, sketched out a story of El Gentilhombre, the son of self-sacrificing werewolves, bitten by a cursed unicorn at the age of seven, counteracting his parent’s disease and giving him power over all magical creatures.
And Daphne Greengrass, at her father’s trial, created amoral Conlan Blood, A ruffian born, whose parents supported the rise of Grindelwald and taught him to do the same, a chance battle side by side with a handsome Muggle-born taught him the error of his ways — and saved him from prison.
Society rails against these stories. Dreadful! Not educational! Not at all what mum and dad intended! And so racy.
But they sell, you know. And by now most attempts to censor them have been struck from the books.
11th December 13
Unicorns and Thestrals were never really intended to meet, one herbivorous and noble, one carnivorous and seen only by those who’d witnessed death. Of course that made the first hybrid no less beautiful.
(another by the lovely essayofthoughts; this is short and sweet and yet full of weird promise, just the way I like it.)
10th December 13
The Slytherin mind — the mind of a true Slytherin, one who wants to be in the house, and chooses to be in the house, and one who belongs there, besides — is not a mind you can cheat. Not really.
Suppose you were to tell it fantastic fairy stories of certain blessed beings who are pure and good and deserve all they have by virtue of their birth, and certain wicked muddy brown things that come in like intruders in the night. Well, one who simply wants to be a Slytherin might believe you, inflamed as they are by a need to be superior, and perhaps also possessed of an adorable childish credulity. Such a being would gladly reduce the world to Mr. Nott’s fables.
But the truly cunning Slytherin would know better. She would become, after some time, too disillusioned for your bedtime stories.
Suppose you were to demand that the Slytherins line themselves all up in rows, heed the call to arms, show the world their stunning power, lie and cheat and steal and kill in the name of some grand cause, toss away even their freedom to demonstrate that their way — the Slytherin way — is better than all the rest. Those who idolize the house and all it stands for would surely be first in line. But those are not the most Slytherin of Slytherins. Not really. Oh, they want to be. But already they prize house and creed above their own survival, and what sort of snake is that?
Suppose you were to present a Slytherin with one path forward — only one. “Here is the road you must take,” you will say. And it leads to a dank and destructive future, a cold cell in Azkaban, certain death for friend and foe alike. It is as unappealing and as likely to sicken one, as horrible, as those midnight swims in the lake the wild-eyed snake-girl prefects dare to take, protected only by Dark and forbidden magic, desperate to bait and kill a merman in the name of house and home and purest blood.
Oh, but the snake-girl prefects are too wild to be true Slytherins. No true Slytherin would take such a plunge. No true Slytherin would destroy themselves in that manner. Someone who rather likes the idea of Slytherin would. But not someone who embodies the house. Given only one terrible path, the true Slytherin would not jump headlong into it. She would carve out a second path. This is the way of the cunning survivalist.
And so it is that Andromeda wakes in the night, and remembers being tugged into the lake on a dare, and remembers almost drowning, and remembers the strong-armed Hufflepuff who pulled her out and wrapped her in his coat, and promised not to tell.
And then her sister, her hair sodden and dark, the merman’s skull in one hand, the shiny P on her chest glinting, coming upon her and saying, “Oh, darling, of course I’m sorry. But don’t you see? If we’d drowned, at least we would have drowned together.”
"Not me," Andromeda had said. "You drown. Not me."
9th December 13
The Hogwarts Express is revered by all as an institution of British wizardry, a symbol of one’s coming of age and of the sacred passage from beloved childhood to full-fledged magical adulthood. But rites of passage are by no means unique to Hogwarts.
Half a world away, hopping on and off of lines that otherwise service the Shinkansen, occasionally dropping underwater between Hokkaido and Kyushu, is the train to Mahoutokoro. It makes multiple stops rapid-fire, it employs time turner technomancy to arrive always five minutes early, it has no central platform or candy trolley, and it is charmed to be volcano-proof. And the students adore it.
… mahoutokoro? “magic place?” that’s the best you could come up with? *facepalm*
I do hope you’re communicating telepathically with JKR, since JKR is the one who came up with it.
8th December 13
Note that his early days were filled with pleasures so exquisite that the natural consequence must have been to desensitize him to the world.
His father, that esteemed Count, so famed for his military service, would have been deemed a Gryffindor in this country, though in truth he had about him the airs of the aesthete Slytherin. He hung portrait after portrait in the parlor, and each miniature was stunning and learned, erudite in the extreme: Waltraut of Wurzburg, the greatest potioneer that ever lived; and the wizard-knight Florian, who preserved in his painted cranium all the poetry and romance of his era; and even that old Russian hag in her fowl-foot house, with her terrible and awe-inspiring secrets trapped inside the frame. Domesticated. Made normal.
How common, how boring, how everyday these things must have become! Many young wizards and witches, lingering jobless and rough in the alleys of Vienna, staring up at the windows of the family apartments with that terrible hunger so many are soaked in from birth, would have cut off their wand hand to consult with such creatures; to wake to the sound of wealthy, louche Father reciting medieval poems to his lovers; to find Mother concocting immensely powerful brews with one hand, while with the other she adjusted her diamond earrings and powdered her nose.
But he never once thought it was special. When he learned that it was, he decided that it was only his birthright. Perhaps some reward he had earned for being particularly wonderful in another life. Certainly his due in this one. He was, after all, handsomer and cleverer and more powerful than his fellows. This did not awe him; it was simply a fact.
His Mother dealt in facts; underneath the jewels and the cascade of golden hair, she was a mediwitch, a rational being. Her methods are still in use at St. Mungo’s today, and her theories remain the foundation of all proper wizarding households. She examined the mind — not simply her son’s, which fascinated her for it’s etherized qualities, dispassionate and clever as it was — but also the minds of all the greatest wizards and witches of the era. Arraying Malfoys and Mulcibers and Notts on her couch, she would measure the distance between an earlobe and a forefinger to determine the cause of an ineptitude with charms. She would draw out memories in her Pensieve and help her victims examine them, would point out where they had sought to forget a traumatic Quidditch accident: this was doubtlessly the reason they had birthed a Squib later on in life. She would ask after their sexual practices or lack thereof, would mark the moment in the session when they would inevitably fall in love with her. This formed the basis of a great tract that suggested ancestry and frigidity were closely linked, that the damnable fertility of the Muggles was a natural consequence of weak brains and a subconscious envy of magical folk, two qualities which she believed lingered in all their descendants and could never be purged.
Her son inherited all these clever theories alongside vaults of galleons, amazing apartments and townhouses, those helpful portraits, a veritable parade of lovers and slavish admirers, and the golden family good looks. He was, to put it mildly, steeped in fortune from his very first breath. He knew no real suffering for many years, only boredom and occasionally some small annoyances; and his followers, hungry types, all, would marvel at how clinical he was when it came to causing pain, assuming it was the result of some deliberate inner wickedness.
It was not deliberate wickedness. It was a relaxed and sedate and selfish numbness to human pain. It had been born of extreme privilege and constant good luck. This can be worse than hungry and deliberate evil. Can’t it?
It is also unsurprising, given what else we know of Gellert Grindelwald.
7th December 13
'Round the bend of Diagon there is a place called Harrowyck Alley, which opens out onto a rare patch of green, a small and embattled forest that has somehow survived in London after all these years. Harrowyck is where now stands the statue of Albus Dumbledore, and where they say Potter and his friends have begun flat-hunting. Harrowyck is suited to tired heroes. It is not like cozy Habbitew Alley, where the Hufflepuff gentry keep their townhouses. It is not like strange, oft-disappearing Unarckic Alley, which swallows up the Ravenclaws and spits them back out, years later, cleverer and stranger than before. It is a mass of proud and lonely-seeming buildings of uncertain origin, which permit one to live side by side with one's fellows, hearing from the open windows streams of music, of chatter, of passionate fighting, while still, somehow, keeping hidden the source of all this life and noise. This is the nature of a truly effective city dwelling: by some magic, one is ever surrounded by people, and yet one never has to see them. The buildings are criss-crossed with private elevators, winding back stairs, and hidden entries, and so perfect, perfect privacy is achieved.
Harrowyck is also very near to the MLE’s portal to the Ministry, and very far from the offices of the Prophet. It is highly desirable real estate for Aurors, criminal masterminds, and persons on Ministry probation. Many a moneyed pureblood keeps a flat there; Harrowyck is the ideal place to hole up and await trial, or to conceal a secret. The Aurors would not disrupt their hallowed home privacy simply to break a case. To maintain their cityfied isolation, to keep up the solitary magic of Harrowyck Alley, they permit a kind of armistice, though if one should pass them in the halls of a building one should be very careful to hide any contraband, as Aurors, being Aurors, might note it and file it away to be pursued in another time and place.
Now, in 27 Harrowyck 19J there lived Auror Tonks and Auror Shacklebolt, splitting between them the costs of the rent. In 27 19Y there lived Auror Dawlish, their most sworn workplace enemy. This presented a dilemma, a test of the Alley’s endless calm, for 19J and 19Y faced each other across the courtyard, and Mr. Dawlish could see, behind the hastily-thrown up curtains of 19J, the shadows of his rivals accomplishing very mundane un-Auror-like tasks: preparing breakfast, answering Owls, laughing with friends, dissecting Prophet articles, and the like.
And indeed they could see him as he sat at the kitchen table and tried to solve a case. He became very paranoid that they might steal his breakthroughs, but this never happened. The armistice held. They kept to their cases and he to his. Mind, Auror Tonks was a kind person by nature, but her kindness was so tested by Auror Dawlish that if she saw him in the halls she would only say a very stiff hello, for at work he was a true burden to the Department. He was forever siding with Mr. Fudge, insisting that she and Shacklebolt receive black marks for their maverick methods; and he always eyed them suspiciously over his viscous and disgusting mug of coffee, as though they harbored pro-Dumbledore, anti-Ministry sentiments (which, indeed, they did).
Shacklebolt, for his part, never said anything at all. He was always strictly professional with Dawlish at work; they had a kind of politeness stalemate going, which infuriated Dawlish to no end. Shacklebolt really was a good Auror, he felt, not a bleeding heart like Tonks. And there was in Dawlish a secret voyeur, solitary and sad and blessed by the magic of Harrowyck Alley, which was comforted only by the sight of Shacklebolt buttering toast across the way, or humming along to the Wireless, and, as much as they fought over Mr. Fudge’s methods, when they caught each other in the elevator Shacklebolt always nodded very handsomely, and it was like there was no conflict between them at all. The armistice held. Even as Shacklebolt was demoted time and time again for his suspect alliances; and Dawlish leapt ahead, was promoted ever-upwards, was taken into the confidences of slick Mr. Yaxley, and very wisely never put a toe out of line with Fudge lest it should cost him his workplace advances — the armistice held.
Perfect calm, no cruel words, no suspicious glances, always passing each other, silently and calmly, as though they belonged to completely different worlds. Though in truth they saw each other every day, and lived perhaps twenty feet apart. For years.
Until the night the Ministry should fall. Dawlish stumbled home in a daze, saw the light go on in thw window of 19J, heard a pop of Apparition, and saw a sworn enemy of the new regime, the half-giant manservant of Albus Dumbledore, conspiring with Shacklebolt in the kitchen across the way. And so here was incontrovertible proof. Shacklebolt was no Auror, no friend to the government. He was a rebel, an agitator, an Undesirable. And yet, as John Dawlish gazed across at this criminal, the criminal caught sight of him.
Now, it would have been very easy for Shacklebolt to confund him. Dawlish was not a good Auror, and quite susceptible in that regard. But Shacklebolt did not confund him. Would not, perhaps. He respected the armistice. He put a finger to his lips. Shhh. Don’t tell. And Dawlish never did. Oh, to be sure, Dawlish was a coward and a bit of a beast when outside Harrowyck Alley. He was ambitious to the core; he longed to get ahead in any regime. He bullied children, he sought to torment even old Augusta Longbottom. A touch of Imperius, courtesy of Mr. Yaxley, was at play; but that really excused nothing.
And yet he had a strange kind of bond with his neighbor, a city bond, born out of brief sightings and quiet moments, that would not let him tear down the Armistice, declare, “Here are the rebels! Let us raid their den!” And every night he would glance out of the window to see if Shacklebolt and Tonks were home (they never were), not because he wished to betray them, but simply because he wished to see them. He was connected to them. This is how lonely city magic works.
After the war, Shacklebolt knocked on the door of 19Y for the first time in his life. He said, “They’re going to arrest you, John.”
John Dawlish said, “I know.”
He asked after Auror Tonks.
"Dead," said Shacklebolt, and managed to convey in that one word the opinion that she had been worth four hundred of John Dawlish.
Shacklebolt gave his Owl address, for some reason. A very deliberate action, for naturally Dawlish already knew it (27 Harrowyck 19J) and meant to convey some kind of permission. For what? They did not know each other; they were only neighbors.
Dawlish wrote him, while in prison. Shacklebolt wrote back. Nothing important. Only mundane things, the Owl post equivalent of catching sight of someone across the way through a window, someone captivating, with a bright smile, who butters their toast and laughs with a friend, and has a secret world you long to reach, but never can, really.
After Dawlish’s imprisonment, after Shacklebolt had served two successful terms, they moved to Habbitew Alley. Shacklebolt’s father had left him a townhouse; Shacklebolt had always known he would end up there, somewhere warm and cozy. Dawlish did not go back to work; his husband would not re-hire him. Instead he puttered around the house, somewhat surprised at his good fortune.
Auror Tonks’s son took 19J. He shared the costs of the rent with one of the Potter boys. Across the way lived a cousin he had never met, a Mr. Malfoy. They passed each other in the halls sometimes. They were very polite. They could each see the light in the window opposite. They marveled at it. It was mundane and joyous, very human.
7th December 13
There was at one point a sort of theory put forward, hidden away in one of the corners of an issue of the Quibbler, written about at length in one of the letters to the editor. Well, theory is a bit generous - it was the assorted ramblings and ravings of a wizard who (falsely) claimed to have taken part in the Battle of Hogwarts, and was utterly convinced he had irrefutable proof the Ministry of Magic had been aiding Voldemort ever since the first War. Not even the Quibbler’s usual readership paid the letter much heed. Well… not at first.
Roughly a decade later, somebody must have found the issue in some dusty old attic. Unlike the readership of the time, they didn’t have the Second Wizarding War fresh in their memory, and as a result, weren’t as resilient to the absurdities espoused within. Many of the postulates of the letter were dispelled not long after re-entering circulation; one, however, has proved surprisingly resilient.
Proof Twelve, as the papers would continue to call it, concerned the issue of Azkaban’s Dementor guards. It postulated, if not as elegantly and with a great many more exclamation marks, that the non-beings’ presence and later swift defection was clearly proof of them being controlled by the use of modified Imperius spells, cast by Death Eater loyalists to secure an army for the Dark Lord’s inevitable return. While ludicrous on its own, the theory was surprisingly strong when confronted with the official position - that nobody actually knew how the Dementors’ loyalty was acquired, or for that matter, who thought it was a good idea in the first place.
The truth would eventually come to light of course, and bring along its own host of problems, but for a few months, the magical community (parts of it, at least) was obsessed with the possibility of a terrible conspiracy. After all, if the old coot was right about that one thing (it wasn’t proven, but it wasn’t disproven either), what about all the other things? Could they all have fallen victim to one great coverup, unthinkable in scale? For a while, it seemed the question, ‘What about the Dementors?’, was on everybody’s lips, and the Ministry’s silence didn’t help matters.
That isn’t to say the Ministry didn’t do anything. In fact, a rather in-depth internal investigation was launched, but its results were never made public, and for good reason. In short, the investigation revealed four facts.
The first was that the “modified Imperius Curse” the original letter repeatedly mentioned, bluntly put, never existed. It was not possible to modify it enough to have the described effect on the immense scale required, let alone remain undetectable while doing so.
Second, under no circumstances was it possible to place a Dementor under an Imperius Curse. Pages and pages of test results and theoretical experiments had been summarized into a convenient sentence - ‘They just don’t work like living things do.’ Some months later, it was anonymously leaked to the public, and slowly the ‘What about the Dementors?’ craze died down.
Of course, that left out the other two findings. Number three was a observation that, in certain fairly specific but reproducible circumstances, it was theoretically possible, with very careful use of a Dementors’ magic-draining ability, to place somebody under an Imperius Curse, issue instructions, then remove it without the subject regaining their free will. It was only a possibility, but it was enough to have the report confined to the shelves of the Department of Mysteries.
There was also a fourth finding, but the investigators thought the better of sharing it: If they were right, and if such an undetectable, Dementor-assisted Imperius was possible, then they had reason to believe that one was cast, repeatedly, somewhere inside the Ministry.
Nobody really drew to connection when, not long afterwards, one by one the investigators put in their resignations and departed for parts unknown in search of answers. What about the Dementors, indeed.
(written and submitted by deckofhalftruths, who has crafted more than one magical nightmare for this blog, and left me stunned and delighted in the process.)
5th December 13
There was a certain book with an attractive bright green cover. It received accolades from the Prophet, garnered its author thousands of galleons, and brought entertainment to generations of young persons. But it was the bane of Madam Pince’s existence.
It was an American book; American witches and wizards loved self-help nonsense. And yet Brewing a Better You: Twenty Tonics of Kindness to Win You The Wizard of Your Dreams, by Philetus Reese Washington, seemed to captivate even British witches aged eleven through eighteen. Never had a book been returned late so many times! Never before had a tome been held hostage by the entire Hufflepuff dormitory, all consulting it in turns before the Yule Ball. Never before had Madam Pince opened to the table of contents and found entire headings circled in purple ink — defiled; not to mention the ripped pages when one got to Washington’s personality tests in the third chapter; not to mention the love notes on pages 134 through 176, penned by a pair of sixth year Ravenclaw girls who had read the thing from cover to cover and concluded that no wizards existed in their dreams.
The entire affair horrified Madam Pince. She took a tonic (a real one) to steady her nerves, and declared the thing confined to the library. None could check it out. It would remain on the shelf, to be consulted as a reference tool, never again floating from student to student and subjected to the most horrible abuses. Madam Pince ruled over her dominion like the tyrants of old, with absolute power, and so she planted the book firmly in a corridor leading the Restricted Section (fully visible from her desk), and Charmed it to that one location, and there it stayed. This did not dissuade those young witches and wizards who longed, as Celestina Warbeck did in most of her songs, for a dream wizard. They simply came to the corridor to read it, sharing furtive glances and even more furtive giggles, flouting their fancies before Madam Pince.
All but Hermione. Hermione despised wooly self-help nonsense more than Madam Pince did. And if perhaps she had gazed longingly at the thing in her fourth year before a strapping Bulgarian chanced to take her to the Yule Ball, she would never admit it. The truth was: much as she loved books, she couldn’t bear to be seen as the kind of person who would seriously and frequently consult a book like that. She’d read it once with Parvati and Lavender. But aside from that, she never touched it, except in her prefect years. Then, she would find it sitting abandoned after hours when she came to return her Restricted Section pass, and then she would pick it up and calmly put it back in its place, with perhaps a touch less aggression than beleaguered Madam Pince was wont to use. Once, while very tired, half-thinking, really not her most rational self at that hour, she told it: "It’s not your fault you’re such a silly book.”
But that was it. She had no further contact with the thing. And the years passed, and she muddled her way through romance using far more cleverness and self-righteous fury than feminine kindness, and before long she was a woman with the job of her dreams, visiting Tintagel’s magical library (four hundred floors of books in every language, magically defying the laws of space and time by overlapping with every other library in the world; basically the library of her dreams), and then she met him.
He was surely not the wizard of her dreams. American, with breezy good looks and a fondness for wooly American pseudo-science, he would pass by her very loudly and rudely while she was trying to read — he was shelving things, always shelving things — and somehow he would manage to keep her attention. He paid her endless compliments, and not the usual ones, which were all about a witch’s hair and eyes, but ones calculated to make bookworms wriggle: “Everyone just uses the books, really; but you, you love them, because you’re better than that,” and “You don’t pick up just any dumb series, do you? You really know what you’re looking for, and you go for it,” and “I’ve seen you traveling down library corridors, you know; I’ve noticed you, every time,” and “Oh, to be the page that your slim hand turns!”
It was silly, intellectually speaking. But it had an effect. Hermione — who had a wizard at home, though not really the sort of wizard that could be called a wizard of dreams — found her mind turning in all sorts of odd directions.
"He’s very sweet, but a nuisance," she confided in Ginny.
"Hex him," Ginny said decisively. Hermione tested the method and found that the hex had no effect, save to muss the fellow’s green jacket a bit, making him seem even more rakishly attractive.
"I can’t help but think he’s a bit familiar, that’s all," she told Harry.
"Dark magic?" Harry suggested. Harry was in the middle of Auror training and had Dark magic on the mind, though to be completely honest when Harry wasn’t thinking of Dark magic he was thinking of Quidditch, and this was preferable to that. And, to Harry’s credit, such an ardent romantic attraction as this fellow had formed couldn’t really be regular magic.
"He’s almost not a person at all," Hermione told Luna. "That’s how focused on me he is. It’s unnatural. Almost inhuman, like something out of a book."
Luna thought that was her answer, right there. Hermione agreed.
"Or he’s rude and horrible, like Ginny said," offered stout Neville, going on to second Ginny’s call to hexing.
But Hermione was not one repeat failed methods. She was very scientific about romance, when she wasn’t being furious about it, and so she retired to bed to think about the thing. She wrote Madam Pince a brief Owl. Madam Pince replied speedily and confirmed that certain shelves in the Hogwarts library were shared with Tintagel, yes. And that yes, this did happen sometimes with books. Books could be odd like that. Distracting them was the only answer, and this was largely a matter of proper shelving.
So then the only remaining step was to consult Ron.
"Wha…?" said Ron, turning over, half asleep.
“Twelve Fail-Safe Ways To Charm Witches,” Hermione repeated, “Do you still have it?”
Ron squinted at her. “No…?” he said. “Hang on, am I in trouble?”
"Just give it to me," Hermione said.
"You’re the only witch for me," Ron assured her. "Unless you like witches. I mean. Not that I would be upset! That’s fine. We can experiment, even! You know, I’ve always had my suspicions about Bill and Percy—”
"Give. Me. The. Book."
Ron surrendered it. It had a leggy blonde witch on the cover, the spitting image of Madam Rosmerta. She was lovingly caressing a broomstick. This made Hermione roll her eyes. Hermione took this book to Madam Pince the very next day. Madam Pince said, “Yes, that will do the trick.”
And when Hermione put it on the shelf, she tapped its fellow absentmindedly and said, “You two will be perfect together.”
When she next went to Tintagel, she experienced no trouble at all. She saw her American friend, of course. He was with another witch. She’d somehow conspired to smuggle a broomstick into the library. No one was making her leave; she was far too leggy and blonde to be thrown out of anywhere.
They waved at Hermione.
"You have bested the love experts," said the American in green, clasping his hands to his bosom. Then he departed with his newfound paramour.
"Hmm," Hermione said. She’d spent her life loving books. Ordinary Muggle books, even. Textbooks and everyday novels and long tracts on mathematics or burial customs or podiatry or the origins of mankind…
But only magical books decided they loved you back.
5th December 13
Of course those stars would move, of course they would shift, though no one could predict when or why. Most often the dome would mirror the vast night sky above the castle, a reference for the astronomer and the dreamer. At other times there were stars from distant skies, and some of the students, students who had left their homes far behind them, would smile as if greeting an old friend and sleep a little easier.
But then there were more rare variations, stars from farther shores, stars none of the students could recognize. Some of them would stretch out under those unfamiliar stars and try to make sense of their shapes, to find pictures in that ceiling. These were students tormented by an unbearable wanderlust, some who had been plagued their whole lives, others infected by the enthusiasm of their peers, or else the soft light radiating from those strange stars.
But there were other stories, stories of more grand heavens, more perfect skies. There were rumors that if you were especially lucky or especially wise those stars would dance for you, dance to the music of the spheres, which was said to be of heartbreaking beauty. Yet these stories were always set in some vague past, it was always a student from an earlier class-perhaps just graduated, perhaps decades dead-but all agreed that the stars had moved more in days long gone, and the residents of Ravenclaw tower saw those fleet footed stars only in their dreams.
At least that was the accepted story. There were some others, considered odd even by their notoriously eccentric peers, some who kept watchful eyes above them. Like the girl who crept into the common room late at night, who made her way through the darkness like a swimmer moving through a still pool. The girl who entered the common room painted all silver and blue by the moonlight coming in through the windows, by the dancing lights above her head. These faint lights that painted her face with rare nocturnal colors, that were caught in her hair, that sunk into her skin, that alighted in her eyes.
And she would wander into the middle of that great tower, her footsteps light, drunk on that music; the sweetest, most pure sound she had ever heard. And she would rest in the center of the room, looking up at that dome, a riot of stars turning and twisting in the most intricate of patterns, the soft, clear chimes of the heavens falling about her. And gazing up at the dome she found knowledge and clarity and brilliant, burning dreams. She would lie out in the empty common room and let those stars spin about her head like a halo or a diadem.
(written and submitted by the marvelous waveringbriar, who will have not one but two submissions up this month. They submitted twice, and wowed me both times.)
3rd December 13
You will never learn of Tiassale, the island kingdom; the place that was founded when the first spark of magic jumped beyond strange centaur and common elf and silly fairy and wicked jarvey, and lodged itself in men. It was a network of palaces rising out of the sea, a home for man and merman alike, not large, but perfect and ordinary. The onyx-eyed young witches sang charms for true love, and batted their lashes at the mergirls near the docks. Wizard and Muggle worked together, intermarried, carried in the day’s catch, and shared it equally with all.
Tiassale, you might suppose, was a paradise. But of course we will never know.
There arose a great commotion in Europe, around the time wizards and Muggles alike first dreamed up the idea to capture an image in a frame. Monarchs were beheaded, small and grim men took to the stage, in Italy and Germany there were sowed the seeds of rebellion and national pride. But this was only for the Muggles. For the wizards, the wars were a network of terrible alliances with creatures most foul, of new forms of Dark Magic endorsed by scientific advancement and the power of the Statute of Secrecy at its height.
This was the end of Tiassale, though Tiassale was nowhere near Europe. For the war lasted much, much longer for the wizards than for the Muggles. And, desperate to end it, the Ministry instructed its finest minds to test — scientifically, of course — all the weapons at its disposal. The band of adventurers and explorers we know and love today: Marduk Black, Gwyn Nott, Maleagant Malfoy, Aeron Slughorn, and Dysmas Weasley, those who ended the wars, searched high and low for a suitable testing ground. They alighted on Tiassale after a long and terrible journey (as terrible as the weapons they kept in the cargo hold).
And how odd, how perverse Tiassale seemed to them. Beautiful, the way the rays of the sun caught the shell-encrusted doorpanes. But base, and ugly, and foully mixed were the people. Slughorn admired the golden arms of the strong fisher-wizards. But their blood, he said, was an affront to society. Their religions and customs were bizarre. Their adoration for the Muggle, and disregard for the Statute, was something truly despicable.
On the first night, the travelers photographed themselves with a beautiful crowd of Tiassale’s children. This was one of the great new scientific advancements: the photograph.
And on the second night, Weasley, their leader, gave the order to begin testing.
So they did. They noted the results of blood-congealing curses and hexes to peel back the flesh. They marked the effects of fear on the fighting skills of the average wizard. All in all, the findings were mixed, excepting the great promise showed by the cargo.
They had always suspected they would need to use the cargo passengers. Curse testing carried a horrible price: the memory of what one had done, the rush of power one felt, the certain and wonderful knowledge that one was a monster. And as long as they enjoyed themselves while doing it, they knew the Dementors in the cargo would gladly take the memories away.
As surely as they removed from the earth all memories and all knowledge of Tiassale.
When the band returned and set their new methods on their enemies, then on prisoners in Azkaban, brokering for the first time a union and ceasefire between Dementors and the rest of magical Britain, they were hailed as heroes. Orders of Merlin all around. Slughorn was named to the Wizengamot. Nott took a respectable teaching position. Black begat a headmaster. Malfoy began a family.
But Weasley, who had not fully enjoyed what he had done, was unable to move on. He never forgot. He remembered the shell palaces. He recalled with great clarity the golden and onyx witch-children. He retreated into drink, and lost his fortune. His face became very aged, he worried his sons, and he began to suspect that the world would punish him and all his line.
"We must not judge people by the actions of their fathers, nor measure them in blood," he would spit out at his grandson, little Septimus. "We must disregard blood. Disregard it!"
At the age of one hundred and fifty, he attempted to deliver himself to the Dementors, and, when his family intervened, he descended into their empty Gringotts vault (far from the rays of the sun, which always seemed to remind him of that long-forgotten island) and put his wand to his forehead.
His children’s children are poor and mad traitors. They disregard the tenets of blood. Just as well: we must not judge them by the actions of one ancestor. They are very different.
Young Arthur, sifting through a trunk in the family attic, found the photograph of Tiassale — the only evidence the place ever existed.
"Look at this!" he said to his father. "Look! Beautiful."
2nd December 13
The house became a livery stable, then a pub, then a demolished and empty lot with nothing but bunches of weeds in it, then a square office building, then a heap of rubble; and then, finally, an art museum.
And still Lealy did not leave.
Lealy was the truest soul that ever lived, you see; and he watched the old old men of the old old family venture forth into the world to be crowned and manipulated and murdered, and saw the old old women retire, for an instant, to bed, and never come back up again. And when they were gone he befriended the horses, and made sure there were always sugar lumps for them (but not too many), and had the ruder stablehands sacked and the kinder ones rewarded. And at the pub Lealy saw the happy drunks home safely, and the cruel ones to the gutter. And, when he was surrounded by nothing but great bunches of weeds, Lealy helped them grow as tall as weeds could, and saw to it that they blossomed into sturdy, fuzzy flowers to captivate passing schoolchildren.
Even the office building prospered because Lealy was there. The young men and women with padded shoulders to give them courage became genuinely brave over time, for Lealy would make sure that their charts and graphs were always in the right place, that there was always a cuppa for them at their desks, and that in the angular boardroom the men with cruel eyes and bristling mustaches were seated in the lowest, most unreliable, most uncomfortable office chairs — Lealy liked to reserve the lowest places for the lowest people.
Lealy even stacked the rubble, when the office building came down; and kept a solid fellow in a sturdy hat from plummeting to his death; and contained the great billowing of smoke so that no worker, busy demolishing and building back up again, might find their lungs clouded up and their futures likewise clouded with sickness.
But in the museum Lealy found something new, something different. Here people came not to shore up old names, or discuss charts and graphs, or even to drink away their sorrows. Here people hung rebellion on the walls, and preserved brilliant moments between loved ones, so like those precious moments long ago with the old family that Lealy had by now nearly forgotten. And so Lealy became the protector not of horses or harassed secretaries, but of ideas, of progress, of bursts of expression.
It was the oddest task Lealy had ever had. The pictures did not need a cuppa. But he soon learned to protect them from camera flashes. The young artists who came all full of dreams did not want his service. But perhaps they could use some inspiration — which was a harder thing to provide by far.
But Lealy took to it. Lealy never shirked his duties. And so he began to swell up as he never had before, learning about love in the curve of a brushstroke, and beauty as it was reflected in the glaze of a common pot. They did not use the pots to make tea here; they displayed them. Ordinary, loyal little things — they were now repurposed as beautiful, ornate, precious, worthy of admiration.
Lealy loved the museum best of all. And the museum-goers, they loved him. They came looking for something extraordinary (one does not look for wonderment in a pub or in stables or in an office building, or even at home — but in a museum! That is a different story), and the ones with the clearest eyes, the youngest hearts, the most open minds — they found Lealy.
Lealy would whisper to them the secrets of how to stay loyal and true, and, above all else, how to put kindness into the world. Lealy was not supposed to talk to these clear-eyed persons, not really. While Lealy had stayed in this one spot, watched it mutate around him, the world had undergone even greater mutations, and now there was a Statute that said Lealy was not supposed to be in a Muggle museum at all.
But what did Lealy care for such ever-changing, unreliable things as Statutes? Statutes are forged to tell men their proper places. But Lealy was no man. He was a house elf; he did not need to be told where he belonged.
2nd December 13
Opals were loved by the purebloods. Pure and pale and yet full of colour and magic, and able to hold curses better than any other stone. Later necklaces were layered with many smaller, weaker stones, full of small curses aimed specific people. But the first was different. The first was just palest death. Every neck it was placed around ended up throttled and bruised. Every soul ended up inside the stone. Over the years, it gained its own luminescence from the hundreds of souls it held and the Montagues and Rosiers and Rowles passed it back and forth as a wedding present without ever using it. After the war it was taken away, locked in the contraband vaults of the Ministry. And even without anyone to see, anyone to help, the stone still glows in the deep dark, hoping someone will set the souls free.
(written and submitted by essayofthoughts, who has put enormous care into many, many a submission for this blog. I’ve selected my favorites for the coming month and it was a very hard choice to settle on which; so many were wonderful. ♥)
1st December 13
“Tell me what you think,” said Harry Potter. He was ready to give up and beg off dinner. All would-be biographers bothered him. They never got the story right.
“Truly?” said his dinner guest. The dinner guest seemed bored. He glanced all around at the tapestries on the walls, the many souvenirs these Weasley-Delacours had brought from abroad. He could not tell if he hated them or not. Weasley was an avid collector of the foreign, which was slightly nauseating. But he was also a friend – they had met inside a pyramid, running from the same curse, and though they had competed for the same priceless treasure he had won it. But he’d surrendered it to Weasley for a story; Weasley had said, “Let me tell you of the Damia’s cavern…”
Harry Potter was beginning to look impatient.
“I met a wizard on the trip over, looking harassed, waving off Ministry Passport Regulation, terribly upset because his luggage was un-shrinking itself. A prank, he said—”
“What does this have to do with—“ Harry Potter said.
“Listen,” said the dinner guest. “He said he’d won the enmity of some persons at school. I said, ‘Tell me more.’ I love a good story. He said, ‘It happened like this. I was in my common room, and in came the girl I adored at the time. Though, perhaps not adored. She was a nag, and her nose turned up too much, but my parents liked her. But someone had gone and given her a pug’s whiskers, which was cruel. I said, “Who did this, Pansy?” She said, “There I was, returning my corrected essay to that complete imbecile, Lupin—”’”
“He wasn’t a—” Potter said, furious.
“Listen,” said the dinner guest. “’”There I was returning my essay, which you know he wanted to be all about how we should hug and cuddle trolls and make love to hags; he’s so enamored of all that filth,” said the girl I somewhat liked at the time. “He’s such a champion of the half-breed—“ “Like all of them,” I put in. My people never did like half-breeds. And also Pansy was alright. Not my favorite person. But alright. “Yes,” said she, “And I told him so, and in came those horrible Weasley twins—“ And Pansy did not need to say more,’ said the fellow with the luggage. ‘Pansy did not need to say more. I knew right away where that was going.’ And as his luggage attempted to eat him, he explained that these twins were awful pranksters fully capable of hexing everything one owned, even if one owned quite a lot, and on that day he earned their hatred very fully. I will not bore you with the details of how—“
“No, please do,” said Harry Potter. “I think I’m going to like this story.”
“Well, what interests me, really, are the twins,” said the dinner guest. “I came upon a shop with their name while I was attempting to find my hotel. I bumped into a young fellow with odd green hair outside it. He said, ‘’Scuse me. James and I have got to get these new exploding quills. It’s a matter of life and death.’ I said, ‘Djinn’s drawers. Really?’ He looked somewhat shamefaced. ‘Oh, well. I suppose not. Gran says I shouldn’t use language like that. I mean, nowadays nothing’s really a matter of life and death. Certainly not some schoolboy prank.’ But I said, ‘Now, times must have changed. Just this morning I heard of an enmity that began at your Hogwarts and continues to this day, and—‘ ‘Well,’ interjected the fellow, ‘See, Hogwarts was different, once. It was a real battleground! Why, Mr. Weasley’s brother laid down his life there, and, and—‘ ‘And?’ I prompted. ‘And my mum and dad!’ he said stoutly. But he would not go on, and I would not press, as it was rude. Still, I got the story of these heroes out of— Well. I’m going on too long, I think.”
“No!” said Harry Potter. “I want to know who was talking about them! Tell me!”
“You know the fellow,” said his dinner guest. “Tall, red-haired. Weasley’s brother. He met me at the Apparition point. He seemed upset, possibly in a rush. I said, ‘Friend, I can see you work for the MLE. It is a trying profession. Do what you must, and I will wait.’ ‘Hang on,’ he said, looking guilty. ‘It’s not that. It’s the date. Anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. Now, the person you’ve got to hear it from is Dennis Creevey, who lost his brother. So did I, but Dennis is a better storyteller. And the way he told it to me is that while I was off camping and having an awful time, the time they were having at the school was worse. “Ron,” he said, “Ron, You and I both? We don’t what it was like under Snape.” Alright, to give Snape his due, he was working undercover, but he was a real arse, so nothing Dennis said really shocked me. “Thing is, Ron,” Dennis said, “Your sister probably keeps it from you, but the truth is that when we saw them again, the rest of the DA was all ready to die by the time the Battle rolled around. Dying couldn’t have made it worse. See, people just tell the story of that one day. But what they miss is the lead up to it. ‘Dennis!’ Eloise Midgen said when she saw me, before I went on the run. ‘Dennis! There’s been so much death. Mad-Eye Moody’s gone, did you hear.’ And she repeated it when I saw her a year later. Mad-Eye had been gone for a while, but she’d fixated on it. People do, when there’s a lot of awfulness. They pick one point and keep to that. They can’t handle it all,” said Dennis. Wait. Merlin’s balls, but I’m muddling the story,’ Weasley said.”
“Not at all,” said Harry Potter.
“That’s what I said to Weasley,” said the dinner guest.
But then he didn’t say anything else after that. He cut into his meal. Chewed. Looked thoughtful. Swallowed.
“Well, go on!” said Harry Potter, “I’m sure you’ve heard of what happened at the school all that year, and the people who died for us, and the build up, how even as kids all that hatred was there, and that death, and—”
“That story should be told,” said his dinner guest.
“Yes,” said Harry Potter, “Not my story, but—“
“But the story of a whole society, of a world,” said his dinner guest.
“Yes,” said Harry Potter. “Yes.”
And this was how Mr. Shahryar, he who could find — within a single tale — the countless other tales that gave it a foundation (for they say he is son of the son of the son of the son of Scheherazade herself), was invited to pen Harry Potter’s biography.
Only not Harry’s, not really. Everyone’s. One couldn’t tell the story without the buildup, the ones who’d died, the small hatreds of children, the great deaths of the men and women they became—
Well. One could. But why on earth would one want to?
30th November 13
Notes from the Wizarding World will not be doing daily updates in 2014. In fact, I have no idea if you’ll be seeing anything from me, the mod, at all. December 31st signals the end of the project for me.
Existing posts will remain up and submissions will remain open. Anything submitted and accepted before today has been moved up in the queue for 2013. Future submissions are still welcome, but they will not go up until the project is concluded. Several people have commented that this is a good forum to post unusual HP fic and have it read. While that isn’t what I intended to create, I’m amazed that it can function that way. I don’t want to shut that down. I will still be modding in that sense; the same basic rules will apply.
I just won’t be devoting as much time to my own HP flashfic. This tumblr is time-consuming and occasionally draining. It takes away from both RL and other fannish interests. There’s a lot more I’d like to try, fandom-wise and writing-wise and life-wise. Because of this, while I may use this space to link to any new HP stuff I’ve done, or maybe even to post the odd mini-fic, I can’t see myself churning out 350 or so fics per year for this fandom in the future. It’s an unrealistic expectation. I’m sorry. I’ve loved running this blog. But this is a good time to stop.
The fandom isn’t dead. It seemed that way when I began this, but those of you reading or commenting or messaging in or tagging with deconstructions of the canon have caused me to reconsider on that point. And those who have submitted have left me stunned your creativity and talent. I’m so, so relieved and overjoyed that I’m not alone in loving the source material, in loving these characters, and in wanting to flesh out the HP universe. Thank you. It’s been amazing.
We’re getting new source material and new corners of the universe to explore. So I think (hope?) that in the future there will be more spaces to examine odd aspects of the wizarding world, new and underappreciated perspectives, alternative theories, magic from other cultures, extremely minor characters, dreams, foibles, and fuckups. This won’t be a catalogue of the obscure for a fandom most people see as out for the count. It’ll be a weird blip between Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, an esoteric trove of mostly-Jossed writings that was just waiting to be corrected by a new canon and — hopefully — lots of new fic.
I might be writing some of that fic. I hope some of you will be as well. Even if not, thanks for coming with me this far. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope to see you in Fantastic Beasts fandom.
30th November 13
The truth was: people did not like Potter, Weasley, and Granger coming to work for the Ministry. Powerless people felt it was a breach of trust to have their heroes suddenly side with the government. And those in power resented a bunch of upstarts coming in on the coattails of that rebellious replacement, Shacklebolt. They gave the trio impossible tasks in order to stay on, all the better to fire them when they inevitably failed. Potter was told that he would have to solve the decades-old murder of Tiberius Ogden’s cousin, with his only clue a photo in the Prophet. All the other evidence had mysteriously vanished along with the body. Potter winced, went to work, spent a week furious and bored out of his mind in the newspaper offices, and, miraculously, cracked the case (Wilkie Twycross did it. And, as they say in the MLE, he would have Apparated away with it, too).
They also tried to remove Granger. They sat her at a desk and kept a snowy owl’s vigilant watch on her. They told her not to leave until she had tracked down the Department of Mysteries’s missing collection of flying and teleporting seven-league boots (overkill, but that was the Department of Mysteries for you), which they claimed had been absconded with by some fashion-conscious Voldemort supporter. The truth was, every last boot had gone up in Fiendfyre during the war and they all knew it, but the paperwork documenting this was conveniently missing. Granger sifted through reports all day, and then, finally, sent off a missive through the floo. They left her working through the night, and rejoiced to find her desk empty in the morning. But at half past she floated in, well-rested, and said, “Oh, is this what you were looking for?”
The easiest to oust should have been Weasley. He was the weakest link, in their opinion; they knew all about his rigid mother and his bumbling father and his upbringing, and they suspected that they could have a bit of fun with it, they could make him squirm in the process. So they told him he would be doing a routine patrol of Knockturn, and of course he would be fired if he couldn’t clean the place up, but not to worry: it was routine, and this was positively the easiest stretch of Knockturn, just a few smuggling rings and a dragonsblood dope den, no trouble at all. Perfect for a beginner. And then they deliberately assigned to him the worst route, the fool’s route, that long stretch with all the houses of lewd foreign monster girls. When he appeared the next day, bleary-eyed and somewhat horrified-looking, they pounced on him and said, “We notice it’s just as bad as it was before, Weasley!”
Weasley blinked at them. “Not at all,” he said. “It’s a cleaner place now. Go and see. Why, even my old mum would approve.” They did go and see. It was, to his credit, a cleaner place. The placards did the trick. His old mum would have approved.
So the miraculous trio stayed on. They could not be ousted. They seemed unstoppable. No one knew how they had done it.
Except for Ms. Lovegood, whose father had snuck into the Prophet offices years ago and seized up copies of all their lost work on the Ogden case. And Winky the house-elf, who had access to the Hogwarts time turners and was fully capable of defending against fire. And Fleur Delacour, who spoke the language of the Veela and could provide helpful pointers on how not to inadvertently proposition them.
She’d also laughed herself silly when she’d received Weasley’s Owl.
Potter later reformed the Prophet and gave a boost to the Quibbler’s public image. Granger championed the cause of house-elves everywhere and made sure their Fiendfyre-repelling methods went public, with full credit to the elves themselves. And Weasley became a passionate magical creatures immigration advocate (and, thanks to some research Hermione forced onto him after the Knockturn Alley affair, a fierce protector of the rights of the working girl — or fellow).
Heroism at its finest is not an individual endeavor. Sometimes one cannot win on one’s own. A true hero recognizes this. And, if they end up taking all the glory, they still find a way to pay it back, somehow.