Hi everybody! QLFC, Round 6 this week. You're all the best ever! And guess what? We're a few days away from Great Deeds Vol. II. :) FOR REAL SERIOUSLY! I'm so excited, I can't wait for you to read it! The little plot bunny for this came to me as a semi-supernatural idea at first, and then I got excited when 'little-used genres' was the prompt for this round. I hope you like it. I also highly recommend reading the whole poem, if you have a second. It really sets the mood!
Anywho, these were my prompts:
1. genre – supernatural
2. word – fantastical
3. a very pretty black and white photograph that I can't link to of a wrought-iron bench, covered in snow in the sort of dusky early grayish evening, in a snowy, deserted sort of park beside a tree.
4. a poem – 'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare
'Is there anybody there?' he said.
But only a host of phantom listeners…
stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
to that voice from the world of men…
- Walter de la Mare
24 December 1997
Perhaps it was the fault of the strange, inked-in, eye-like triangle in Beedle the Bard that constantly occupied her thoughts,or perhaps it was because there was a part of her that truly expected Ron to come back, but Hermione had lately come to feel that she was being watched. Of course, the sensation of eyes on her, peering from all directions, and the voices in her head were far worse when it was her time to wear the Horcrux. Now that only she and Harry remained, the shifts of wearing the Horcrux had gotten longer.
So Harry's suggestion that they visit Godric's Hollow had come at exactly the right moment, as far as Hermione was concerned. If she was honest with herself, during the times when she had to wear the Horcrux, her own thoughts had been taking a rather drastic turn. She was restless, and particularly at the end of a full day with the locket around her neck, she found that she wasn't sure how much longer she could stand the inactivity. Going to Godric's Hollow meant doing something, planning something, instead of sitting in the tent and waiting for inspiration—or luck—to strike.
Once they'd organized their disguises, studied every map and every scrap of information she had on Godric's Hollow, practiced Apparating with the Invisibility Cloak, and Hermione could find nothing else to prepare, they made the trip.
They arrived in the middle of the main street of the little village in the late evening, under a deep blue sky that was studded with diamond-like stars…and the first thing that struck Hermione was the absolute noiselessness.
It was a sleepy town, to be sure, but there was something surreal—something almost fantastical about the way this silence rang in her ears. She gave a bit of a shudder, and wondered if Harry too had the feeling that they were being observed, even under the Cloak.
"All this snow!" she whispered, just to break through the quiet; her voice fell strangely flat and muffled. "Why didn't we think of snow? After all our precautions, we'll leave prints! We'll just have to get rid of them—you go in front, I'll do it—"
"Let's take off the Cloak," Harry whispered back. A shudder chased down Hermione's spine, and she opened her mouth to argue, but Harry interrupted. "Oh, come on, we don't look like us and there's no one around."
Hermione looked about once more; it was true, the lane full of cottages with twinkling, fairy-lit windows was quite deserted. The quiet was threatening to overtake them, so finally, she nodded. "Fine. We'll take it off."
The air was bitterly cold outside of the Cloak as they walked side by side down the lane. And then, quite suddenly, the silence was split by chatter and a few snatches of pulsing music. Hermione frowned and looked around for the source of the noise as they approached what looked like a large war memorial in the middle of the town square; a few people were dashing into cottages and a nearby pub to find warmth.
Hermione's breath rose from her mouth in great clouds, and the cold seemed to creep beneath the thick coat she wore, just like the feeling of watchful eyes on the back of her neck. A different, fainter tune came winding through the chilly air, and she looked to her right. There was a small, rather lopsided stone church with a snow-covered cemetery just visible behind it. The church's windows were glowing smoky-gold, and suddenly, Hermione placed the tune.
"Harry…I think it's Christmas Eve."
"Is it?" he asked, looking rather dazed; he seemed to be trying to take in every inch of the village he could see.
"I'm sure it is." She put a hand on his arm and nodded in the direction of the church. "They'll be in there, won't they?" she asked. "Your mum and dad? I can see the graveyard behind it."
Harry went very still, and she took his hand, leading him across the square. As she walked, a little tickle of cold air blew across her face, and the war memorial caught the periphery of her gaze. She frowned, stopped walking, and faced it— and to her shock, it transformed from an engraved obelisk into a carved marble statue of a young, smiling man, and a beautiful woman with long hair, holding a baby. Something caught in Hermione's chest, and she squeezed Harry's hand, which she still held. "Harry, look."
The strangest look came over his face as he took in the sight. He stared at the monument—at his infant self, and his mother and father, who stared back at him—taking in every inch of the pale marble faces. Another breeze blew past them, and Hermione gave his hand a tug. Harry seemed to shake himself back to reality.
"C'mon," he said slowly.
He allowed Hermione to lead the way to the churchyard. They went through the rusted kissing gate, past a snow-covered, wrought iron bench sitting alone by the bare tree outside the church doors, and towards the cemetery. The freezing cold that overtook her as she walked, however, had very little to do with the deep snow they waded through, and much more to do with the increasingly invasive feeling that someone truly was watching them—and worse, that whoever it was could see through their disguises.
The stained glass of the church windows, illuminated from within, cast patches of brilliant color on the silvery-blue snow; Hermione tried to take comfort in the Christmas music that was still drifting through the air, but even the music couldn't seem to find its way to the tombstones that poked out of the snow like crooked teeth.
Harry, apparently oblivious to the strangeness that Hermione felt, stopped at the first crumbling headstone. "Look at this, it's an Abbott, could be some long-lost relation of Hannah's!"
"Keep your voice down," she whispered, as they pushed forward, deeper into the darkness of the graveyard.
At every grave she examined, Hermione stopped and looked around the trees and dead bushes that clustered just outside the walls of the cemetery; the farther they went among the tombstones, the more she felt the unseen presence that seemed to coil between them like a creeping mist. She nearly stumbled over one weather-beaten granite marker before she bent down to examine it.
"Harry, here!" she said, unable to hold back her shock.
He came bounding over. "Is it—?"
"No, but look!" Hermione pointed at the inscription:
HER DAUGHTER, ARIANA
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Hermione shivered and looked around the graveyard again; when she looked at Harry, he was frowning deeply at Kendra Dumbledore's grave. She touched his arm. "Are you sure he never mentioned—?"
"No," he replied shortly. "Let's keep looking." Without another look, he carved his way through the deep snow, going farther into the darkness.
Hermione gazed down at the Dumbledores' marker for a moment longer, and then continued down the row. Another grave caught her eye. "Here!" she called. Then she looked closer—the stone was far too old to belong to Lily or James Potter, and she was fairly certain that was an E after the P, not an O. "Oh no, sorry! I thought it said Potter."
A whisper of cold wind caught the back of her neck, and she shivered. Then, she spotted a mark on the moss-covered stone and crouched low, reaching out with a gloved hand to push a bit of the dried-out lichen aside.
"Harry, come back a moment." Even to her own ears, her voice sounded odd; it was the first time she hadn't whispered since they'd entered the graveyard.
She heard Harry's heavy footfalls crunching towards her through the snow. "What?"
"Look at this," she told him, pointing at the triangular symbol that was carved (albeit a bit worn) beneath the name. "Harry, that's the mark in the book…"
"Yeah," he said slowly. "It could be…"
Now impatient, Hermione pulled out her wand and lit it. "It says Ig—Ignotus, I think…"
"I'm going to keep looking for my parents, all right?"
Hermione was barely listening; she was absorbed completely by the eye—or Grindelwald's mark, or whatever it was. It seemed to gaze just as curiously back at her, the shadows around the marker wavering a little beneath the light of her wand.
Then, suddenly, she felt another breeze on the back of her neck and straightened, bolt-upright, extinguishing her wand immediately. She rubbed her neck and looked around, shuddering. Harry was some ten yards away, weaving between the graves and looking frustrated.
Hermione started towards him, and then stopped, without really knowing why she was doing it. Instead, she turned around and immediately spotted a gleaming, white marble headstone, almost indistinguishable from the blankets of snow heaped around them.
Her stomach twisted and untwisted as she approached it. She knew what the names would be before she even saw them. "Harry, they're here…right here."
JAMES POTTER LILY POTTER
BORN 27 MARCH 1960 BORN 30 JANUARY 1960
DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981 DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Another breeze was rippling through the graveyard as they gazed at the grave; Hermione shivered and looked at Harry, but it didn't even ruffle the thin hair of the Muggle man he was impersonating. She frowned.
"'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death'," he read, in perhaps the softest voice Hermione had ever heard him use. He looked at her, and she could see fear in his eyes. "Isn't that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?"
Then, without truly knowing where the reply came from, she said, "It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry. It means…you know…living beyond death. Living after death."
She felt like crying when he turned away from her, his eyes drawn almost magnetically back to the graves. She did feel her eyes smart when he began to shake silently, and she sank to her knees beside him, averting her gaze when his tears began to fall to the snow where they knelt.
Hermione took Harry's hand and gripped it, feeling another chilly wind at her back. And then, suddenly, she remembered one of the many things her father had read her as a child—a favorite poem of his. She thought of speaking it out loud, but she couldn't remember the words—and she wasn't sure she could unstick her throat.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness…their stillness answering his cry…
She strained her memory, but that was all she could remember, and that realization, that she was forgetting things—anything—about her parents, stirred real fear in her heart. She held Harry's hand tighter still and raised her wand, drawing it in a circle through the air. A wreath of Christmas roses appeared, and Harry caught it and placed it against the headstone.
After a few more minutes, Harry rose, and Hermione followed him, wrapping her arm protectively around his waist. He kept an arm over her shoulders, but that didn't stop the last breath of cool air from trickling across the back of her neck. She glanced back at the cemetery; the cold feeling on her spine growing more intense.
The tombstones were silent and still, dotted amongst the snowdrifts. Then, suddenly, with that same certainty she couldn't explain—but now trusted wholeheartedly—she turned her gaze directly to the bushes at the farthest corner of the graveyard. She grabbed Harry's arm. "Harry, stop," she whispered.
"There's someone there."