Don't even bother telling me I should be writing my other stories. Heh :) As for ADI – ick, I still have a bit of writer's block… As for HFHE.. too depressing at the moment… As for Confessions of an Attention Seeking Hufflepuff – I'm halfway through the next chapter! It should be a fun story :) But here's a story that's been rolling around in my head for ages. Well, the first chapter thereof. This should be fun too. (Thanks to everyone who's reviewed ADI lately btw :)) Please review, even if it's to tell me I should be updating the others…
Like a Fairy Tale
"Your mama's a whore!"
It was too easy for Bobby Green to do this. In these alleyways, boys would fight like cats and dogs, and Bobby was usually the ringleader. It would start by calling names – in this case, suggesting to his victim anything to do with workhouses or the virtue of his mother was usually quite enough – and eventually the boy who was the victim would usually attempt to fight. Except he couldn't fight, and would end up staggering off bruised. That would teach that stupid boy a lesson.
The boy who was the victim grit his teeth. Not this time, he vowed, he would just walk home and ignore all the pushing and punches, and even the awful things they said about his mother. He didn't care about the remarks about how he was more raggedy than most, he didn't mind every remark about how slow he was learning his lessons and he didn't even mind being pushed around that much, but what he really couldn't take was the insults against the best person he knew. His mama had been quite well off, once, when his father had still been around. But his father had left, and the rumours were that he wasn't actually the boy's father at all…
The boy tried to concentrate on something else. Even the uncomfortable chafe of his ill-fitting shoes against his bare feet was preferable to the sound of those awful lies.
"Din't you hear me? Din't you hear me? Your mama's a whore!"
Bobby pushed him around, so they were facing each other. His face was filled with scorn; the boy thought the face was the most hideous thing he'd ever seen. It was full of ignorant hatred.
"Go on, then, Allie, hit me. I need summing to laugh at."
The boy wanted to destroy him. Break every bone in his body.
"Go on," he taunted.
He'd hit him, and this time, this time…
Had something changed? He felt a bizarre sense of serenity for a moment, as he made his decision, and he balled his hand into a fist, and punched.
Bobby registered horror even before the fist reached his face. Something about the boy's wide and normally dull looking blue eyes had burned into fury, and when the fist made contact, it was more like a hurricane than the hand of a small boy. Some kind of fire shot up through the boy, like a spark going to a flame, and some kind of power had come out, throwing Bobby back several feet, and onto the ground with a painful thump.
For a moment there was silence. Bobby looked more shocked than hurt, but the shock was enough. The other boys who tagged along with him stared at the boy who was usually the victim in horror – and fear?
The boy swallowed, even though his mouth was drying up. He stared at Bobby dumbly, somehow satisfied, somehow scared beyond belief. He did the only thing that occurred to him, and ran away as fast as he could.
At home, his mother was lying asleep. She would work most of the night and most of the morning, and she was always so tired. He liked to watch her sleep, it was one of the few times she looked peaceful. They hardly seemed to see each other awake these days – he had his school and his work, she had her work – even with just the two of them, it seemed terribly hard just to get by. Sometimes it got so terribly lonely when she was asleep and him awake, he often preferred to spend endless hours wandering the streets than to wait for her to waken.
He put more coal on the fire, and rubbed his hands to get them warm. Even when he had sufficiently banished the cold, he was still shaking. He couldn't comprehend what had happened, there was no reason behind it. He scribbled on his slate at a pretense of practicing his lesson, but it was proving more a welcome distraction. What on earth would he tell his mother?
About an hour later, his mother arose and stumbled out of bed. "Evening Allie," she murmured, and spooned some tea into a teapot. As she carefully put the kettle in its place over the fire, she asked him how his day had been.
Whilst the boy had no particular desire to hide things from his mother, he was suddenly unwilling to bring up the strange events of the afternoon straight away. He murmured evasively, "Not bad."
She looked around at him, with mild concern. "Is there anything troubling you?" she asked, noting the tone in his voice. She knew him too well. He paused.
"Is it school?"
The boy gave a half-nod. He didn't want to worry her, but school was an old and well-used worry, not shocking or frightening or extraordinary. He knew his problems learning to read troubled her – he supposed he would never learn beyond the basic words. She would endeavour to teach him, but in her tiredness she could barely advance him beyond the little he picked up in school.
She embraced him – her warmth was comforting. She had used to tell him stories about rich magicians coming and taking them away from their troubles, and though it would have embarrassed him to say it, he still held on to those fantasies, still dreamed about a place where they would be safe from hardship. He relished the embrace for a moment, and watched her pour the tea. They were silent for a while.
"Is that Bobby Green still causing trouble?"
He looked up, about to give a quick answer, and then froze when he couldn't think of one. His mother's face tripled in concern. "Has he hit you again? I'll – I'll find that boy and give him such a thrashing, he'll…"
"I already did," the boy murmured, before he could stop himself.
Her face transformed into bewildered but pleased expression. "That's good, Allie, well done…" She stopped. "Allie, you don't look very pleased with yourself."
"I – it was strange, I was just so angry – and…" With his words, the recollection came back, and with the recollection came the fear of the unknown power that had somehow taken over. He shivered. "He – he flew back when I hit him, like there was a strong wind that knocked him down, not just me…"
His words sounded feeble. He couldn't express the feeling of power that had suddenly flown through him, or the sheer force that must have been behind that blow. He expected his mother to tell him not to be so silly.
She didn't. She looked horrified and pale – and suddenly he realised he wanted her to tell him not to be so silly, to give him some reasonable explanation.
Her expression not changing, she looked at him. "It was probably just a strong gust of wind." But it sounded like she was saying this more to reassure herself.
The next morning, he wasn't so sure. Everyone knew that there was no such thing as magic, he must have imagined it. He had to think rationally.
At school, he couldn't concentrate – not that this mattered because he doubted he'd ever learn his lessons anyway, and the teacher was having such trouble disciplining the disruptive pupils that he was left alone. One day he'd get an apprenticeship and take care of his mother.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the teacher left him to take care of the smaller children. He couldn't teach them much, but found he had a gift for keeping them occupied. Today, however, he found himself struggling to pay attention to their stories, and instead of them settling down and working quietly at their handwriting, they were constantly acting up. He tried to force himself to be firm, but he felt too mixed up inside. Afterwards, he walked out feeling generally unsatisfied. Something was wrong. Something inside of him.
When he eventually got home again, the scene was much the same as the day before – his mother asleep, the fire burning low. Except there was a letter on the table.
He looked at it – it was in his mother's careful print, to a long name he couldn't pronounce. It was about him – he saw his own name. He saw a few small words he knew, but couldn't string them together to make out a meaning. Then he saw an odd word, a word his mother had taught him in her little unplanned lessons, a word from fairy tales and legends but nowhere else.
He looked carefully. He could make out only one sentence, and that was his mother saying he was a wizard. Perhaps there was some other meaning to the word 'wizard'? The rest of the letter was a mystery to him. But he could only think of one explanation.
His mother had gone mad. She had started believing her own stories… and wizards were not people like him, they were old and wise, usually with huge white beards… And his mother had started believing in them. But if she were mad – she'd lose her work. They'd lock her up. He would be totally alone.
Maybe she was just sick. Maybe it was just a passing phase – maybe she would get better…
But if she didn't – if she were mad…
There was an envelope, but it hadn't been written on. There were no stamps, no Penny Black with its tiny portrait of Queen Victoria. Perhaps it was a joke. But it didn't seem funny…
On impulse, he seized the letter, screwed it up and threw it in the fire. The paper shrivelled, turned grey, then black, and vanished into ash. He didn't know how he should feel. No matter whether the letter was on the table or in the fire, it didn't make any difference to the contents. He felt sick. What was he going to do?
She woke up a little later, and went through her normal routine. It seemed so surreal, she was tired but not crazed, and as warm as ever. It was bizarre that his perception of her could change so much when in behaviour she was so stubbornly unchanging.
She sent him to bed earlier than usual, and he heard her scratching out another letter by the lamplight. Was his whole world falling down around him? His mother was mad. When in bed, he couldn't sleep, merely tossed and turned. When he slept, he couldn't rest – visions of asylum keepers coming to take his mother away were invading his dreams. Outside there were strange noises – like cooing almost, the call of some kind of bird he'd never heard before. He buried himself deep under his blanket, hoping to wake in a different world. But the morning world held ghosts of the night before…
The next week passed with an incongruous monotony. The rest of life in London was oblivious to the boy, carrying on as normal, as it had always done. His mother had shown no more symptoms of her impending madness, he hoped she had just been ill, and yet – he was bothered. Was he going mad, having imagined his improbable victory – yet Bobby Green stayed away now – and then misreading the letter she had written?
What was going on?
He wandered the streets alone, agonising over the problem. Life had always been hard, but he hadn't had any secrets from his mother, nor she from him. She was his only friend in the world – none of the other boys even remotely noticed him, thinking him too weak or too slow or too poor.
He urged himself to snap out of it. The other boys weren't worth a farthing compared to her, and in any case, if they weren't good enough to see him for the boy that he was then he shouldn't bother with them. That's what his mother had always told him.
When she wasn't mad.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sound – a woman squealing nearby. She looked well-off, and a thug had grabbed hold of her. The boy's heart beat faster. The thug pulled out a knife.
Not quite knowing what had possessed him, the boy ran towards them. He leapt upon the thug, who turned to wield the knife at him.
Except the knife had turned to dust and crumbled.
What was this? The thug gasped and fled, the woman fainted, and the boy ran too, realising he would look like the reason for the woman's faint. Although it appeared he was the reason for the woman's fate. Or was he? Was the knife crumbling anything to do with him? Somehow – somehow… It was him. He didn't know how but something had come out of him, some kind of power. He walked home in a daze.
It was the same old routine when he got back – but then a knock at the door. Half-expecting the men from the asylum, the boy tentatively opened it.
The man he saw was tall, richly-dressed and around fifty. He smiled, a smile that was totally unpatronising.
No rich man smiled unpatronisingly. Few of them smiled, and all of them who did smiled in a patronising manner. They smiled when asking for a favour, smiled when giving you charity, and even the ones supposed to be genuinely unprejudiced, like the priests gave condescending, patronising smiles.
This man, however, gave a smile that seemed genuine. The boy was suspicious.
"My mama's asleep," he said protectively. Then he added, "Sir."
"That is no problem, young man, I did not come to see your mother."
"Then who…" He halted, remembering his manners.
"Allow me to introduce myself," the man said, in a tone that was surely reserved for equals and not surely small poor boys. The boy was dumbstruck.
He extended a hand, which the boy took, his suspicion rising.
"My name is Nicolas Flamel, and I'm here to talk to you, Albus Dumbledore."