Macbeth: Act One, Scene One.
Disclaimer: So that JK's lawyers don't sue me, I am obliged to say that I don't own Harry Potter or any related people, places etc. I doubt Shakespeare's lawyers would sue me if I didn't say that I don't own Macbeth, but just in case I have an accident with a malfunctioning Time Turner: I don't own that either.
AN: As I promised my readers of Fallen; here is Macbeth, shiny, new and waiting to be read. Anyone who's been reading Fallen will have heard a bit about this fic already, but for those who either haven't read that fic or have very bad memories...
My main inspiration for this was studying, falling in love with and subsequently going to see Macbeth with school. As I skipped back to our hotel merrily in the amber streetlights and damp drizzle in what I imagine must be similar to a 'post-coital haze', I was rather suddenly bitten by a rabid plotbunny for this very fic that you see before you now.
I'm sure that many of you who've been reading DHr for some time will have come across the clichéd plot of, 'Hogwarts puts on Romeo and Juliet, Draco and Hermione are cast in the lead roles, and subsequently end up snogging by Act Two.' This was my secondary inspiration; attempting to write something which could be seen as a cliché in a new, fresh, and hopefully non-clichéd way, part of which involved using Macbeth rather than R&J. Whether I've succeeded, you must judge for yourselves.
A working knowledge of the play would be useful, and you can find a free online copy of Macbeth and many other Shakespeare plays by searching on Google, should you wish to read them. I've tried to work all the really vital information into the story, so that people unfamiliar with the text can understand it, but there will be occasional quotes and references that only people who've read it will spot!
With that said, onto the first chapter. Macbeth should update weekly on Mondays, though this is subject to change depending on whether I can balance it with the evils of homework.
'Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight, and why on earth is he raving on about daggers anyway?' Ron asked, looking up from his rather battered library copy of Macbeth. 'If I was hallucinating daggers, I wouldn't stand there and rave about it, I'd go to St. Mungo's and get my eyes checked out by a Healer.'
Hermione gave him a reproachful look. 'Macbeth was a Muggle, and St Mungo's wasn't even around then,' she pointed out. 'And this is drama, Ron. It's the beginning of Macbeth's descent into insanity...'
'Even more reason why he should go see a Healer,' Ron said stubbornly, ignoring Hermione's groaned complaint that they were called doctors. 'He might have stayed sane if he had...'
'Lady Macbeth has a doctor,' Hermione pointed out, 'and she still goes mad.'
'Does she hallucinate daggers too?' Ron asked with interest.
She glared at him. 'No, she hallucinates blood. Are you going to read that soliloquy, or can I use the book now?'
'So lily what?'
Hermione was saved from explaining what a soliloquy was by the timely arrival of Harry, his black hair made slightly grey by a thin coating of dust. 'I found another copy,' he said with a grin, 'buried right at the back of the Muggle Studies section. It's in really good condition, though, look.'
'Two copies between three of us,' Hermione remarked, taking the book from Harry's hand and flicking through it, 'That should be alright for now. I'll have to send an owl to my parents and ask if we have a copy at home. I know Dad got a set of some of his favourite Shakespearian plays from his friends when he turned forty; I think he has a Macbeth...'
'His friends gave him Shakespeare for his birthday?' Ron asked. 'I'd rather have socks...'
This elicited a choked laugh from Harry and a dark glare from Hermione. 'Just because you don't appreciate literature doesn't mean that other people don't,' she said firmly.
'Appreciate it? I can't even understand it,' Ron grumbled. 'It's a play about some bloke going mad and hallucinating daggers...'
Harry, sensing Hermione's irritation, quietly picked up the copy of the play he'd found and started reading Macbeth's speech.
'There is a lot more to the play than daggers,' Hermione said pointedly. 'It's about how the evil and occult can seduce a good person into committing greater and greater acts of wickedness.' She took a breath, eyes fixed firmly on Ron, who looked rather confused.
'The witches are representatives of evil. They prophesise to Macbeth that he shall become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland, and shortly after he learns that the king has in fact appointed him Thane of Cawdor. He tells his wife this, and she persuades him that the best way to make the second prophecy come true is to murder the present king, which they do. They then become King and Queen of Scotland, but the guilt of their murders drives them mad, especially when Macbeth murders more and more people. Eventually, they both die.'
'Sounds like a depressing story,' Ron remarked, after a pause to absorb the information.
'It's a tragedy,' Hermione pointed out. 'They aren't meant to live happily ever after. And we should really be practicing, we only have a week till auditions.' Hermione paused, tilting her head on one side as she tried to work out how to read Shakespeare with only two books between three people. 'Do you and Harry want to practice out of that new one, and I'll use the old one? It'd be easier if we all had the same reading, but since we don't, we'll have to make do.'
Ron frowned. 'I don't think I want to practice,' he said reflectively. 'I'm not very good at acting. And I haven't a clue what the words mean...'
'You might as well give it a go, Ron.' Harry said. 'Go on, it's only a play. And I bet Hermione can tell you what the difficult bits mean...'
'And I get stage fright,' Ron added firmly. 'I was in a kid's play when I was seven – some daft idea of Mum's – and I was awful, seriously, I threw up twice.'
Hermione, who'd been looking through the tattered copy of Macbeth, looked up at that comment. 'Many of the greatest actors were the same way,' she remarked, 'so it doesn't mean anything...'
'Except I'm not a great actor.' Ron pointed out with a half-grin. 'And I don't want to be either. It's all just prancing around in a costume pretending to be some mad dagger-hallucinating guy...'
Hermione had to bite down quite hard on her tongue to keep herself from saying something insulting. Glancing to one side, she noticed that Harry was reading the second copy of Macbeth with his eyebrows furrowed, as though he were trying to work something out.
'Do you want to have a go, Harry?' Hermione asked, and he glanced up.
'The first go? Er...' he said, somewhat nervously. 'I'm not going to be a very good actor either. I haven't even been near a stage since I was five...'
'Well, you have at least had some experience,' Hermione pointed out. 'I bet loads of people here haven't had any.'
Harry's lips had an odd way of pulling pack into the left corner when he was worried or nervous; they did so now. 'I don't think, 'I'm sorry, we don't have any room at our inn,' is really much in the way of experience...'
'You've been on a stage before, at the very least,' Hermione pointed out. 'And we're all going to practice this eventually – yes, even you, Ron. You might as well go first...'
'Okay, okay,' grumbled Harry, getting to his feet and moving into the open space near their table. He paused for a moment, then began. 'Is this a dagger...'
They took it in turns to practice, despite having two texts; it was more relaxing to sit back and watch your friends' performances. Harry started off nervously, tripping over words and mixing up phrases, but as soon as he got over his initial jitters and started to get into the spirit of things he was much better. Hermione and Ron made careful suggestions, and within half an hour he was, at the very least, confident and earnest and making a definite attempt to act well.
Ron tended to either overact or drift into a dull monotone, and most of Hermione and Harry's efforts went towards getting him to a comfortable midpoint. Hermione, privately, thought that if they could get him to audition (he was still protesting vigorously at the idea) he could well make an excellent Porter.
The two boys assured Hermione that she was doing well. The girls had been asked to practice Lady Macbeth's very first scene – Act One, Scene Five – in which she received the letter from Macbeth and gave a short speech on how Macbeth was too 'full o' the milk of human kindness' to murder King Duncan. Hermione found she quite liked the scene, although she wished she could also do the 'Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts...' part. But the letter was enough of a challenge; she forced herself to pay attention to every action, every word, every tone of voice and every expression, until Ron declared that her transformation into Lady Macbeth was 'bloody freaky.'
'How so?' she'd asked with a frown, and Ron had explained,
'It's like you're someone else under Polyjuice Potion. It's weird.' Flattered, she had blushed and thanked him.
Then Harry had risen to take his turn, and they'd carried on in much the same manner until Malfoy turned up, sneering. In one hand he carried a small book, bound in perfect black leather that looked as though it'd never been touched, carefully positioned so the sunlight reflected off its silver gilt title: Macbeth.
He glanced over them as though they were so pathetic as to be amusing, and in a sarcastic, mocking voice, he said, 'How now, you secret, black and midnight...' He looked directly at Hermione. '...hags. What is it you do?'
Ron and Harry, not having read the play before, were clueless, but Hermione jumped in quickly.
'A deed without a name,' she snapped, then glared directly at him. 'Ferret extermination.'
Ron didn't even attempt to hide his laughter. Malfoy merely raised an eyebrow.
'Poor Weasel,' he said, with an expression full of false sympathy. 'The meagre wages of a pest killer would probably be more money than he's seen in his whole life. No wonder he's gone into hysterics.'
This shut Ron up rather quickly. The tips of his ears went red; he got to his feet slowly, one hand on his wand.
'Malfoy...' he began, his voice a growl, but Harry cut him off.
'Get out, Malfoy,' he said, his tone spotted with loathing. 'I'm not going to try to stop him if he goes for you.'
Malfoy leant against a bookshelf, smirking maliciously. 'I don't think you can order me out of the Library, Potter,' he pointed out. 'As I recall, it's open to everyone for doing homework, research, leisurely reading...' His eyes fell upon the battered copy of Macbeth in Ron's hand. 'And practicing for the auditions, it would seem. I hope you don't have any delusions of actually getting a part; you'll all be so upset when they laugh you out of the auditions...'
'None of us is getting laughed out of the auditions, Malfoy,' Hermione cut in, surprised by how cold her voice was. 'I expect we're all a lot better than you, as we've been practicing for the past hour while you've been terrorising people...'
'Who said I've not been practicing?' Malfoy said. 'I'd give you a demonstration of how Macbeth ought to be acted, but I wouldn't lower myself to performing for filth like you.'
'Malfoy, one more word...' Ron growled, raising his wand to point directly at the Slytherin. Malfoy merely smiled in response, but Hermione noticed how his hand was hovering expectantly over his wand handle. If Ron attacked, Malfoy would fight back, and then Madam Pince would be furious with them for duelling in the Library.
'Ron, leave it,' Hermione hissed, 'he's not worth getting in trouble for...'
'Is the Mudblood worried about what I'll do to her pet Weasel?' Malfoy asked, amused. His pale face was slightly flushed; two spots of pale pink appeared on the tops of his cheekbones. 'Granger, I hope you aren't harbouring grand ideas of being cast as Lady Macbeth. They don't let Mudbloods play nobility.'
Ron really would have attacked him at this, if Hermione hadn't grabbed hold of his wand and forced it downwards to point at the table. This didn't stop him shouting. 'Hermione's ten times better than you!' he yelled, face bright red, trying to wrestle his wand out of Hermione's grip. 'And she could play Lady Macbeth any day...'
Malfoy was grinning, his silvery eyes amused at the scene before him. With a last smirk, he turned to leave. 'Perhaps,' he called over his shoulder, 'they'll let you play one of the attendants, Granger. That's your proper place in life, after all – waiting on the Purebloods.'
Ron finally wrestled his wand away from Hermione, shouted, 'Furnunculus!' and hit the spot where Malfoy's head had been only seconds before, causing a number of ancient-looking books to burst into extremely odd looking boils.
'Finite Incantatem,' Hermione said, returning the books to normal and glaring at Ron. 'You shouldn't listen to him, Ron, he's trying to annoy you...'
'He was insulting you,' Ron protested, his voice almost like that of a child being scolded by their mother. He sank back into his seat.
'And I didn't attack him,' Hermione pointed out. 'We're in a library, Ron, you don't duel in a library. What if you'd used a different spell, some of them aren't removable from inanimate objects...'
'Like which?' Harry asked, intrigued.
Hermione glared at him. 'You should pay more attention to Flitwick,' she said. 'The Full Body-Bind, for one. That would have made it impossible to ever open those books again...'
'Okay, okay,' Ron grumbled. 'No duelling in the library.'
'Good.' Hermione said. 'Now let's get back to practicing. I want to see Malfoy eating his words when the castings are announced...'
The witches of Macbeth are not like the witches of modern fairytales. While modern witches are generally seen as evil, they are also frequently figures of fun, and their existence is not taken seriously. Shakespeare's audience would have genuinely believed in the existence and evilness of witches; they were perceived as being outside the Great Chain of Being that described the order of all natural things. Hence they were unnatural, minions of evilness and the Devil, and would have been far more frightening to people in Shakespeare's time than to the modern audience.
It is interesting to note that King James I was interested in the evils of witchcraft; in fact, in...
'Hermione?' Ron's voice was affectionately despairing. 'You cannot actually be interested in that book.'
She was, actually. Directly after lunch, she'd borrowed Hedwig and sent a letter to her parents, telling them all about the play and asking to borrow a copy, if they had one at home. Shortly after tea, Hedwig had returned, bearing a beautiful copy of the play, a couple of old textbooks discussing major characters and themes, and a rather excited letter. She'd immediately curled up on a sofa to read the textbooks, and had paid no attention at all to the room around her since then.
It had been half-full when Hedwig had returned; now it was packed, and twice as noisy as usual. Groups of fifth and sixth-years were clustered together, chattering excitedly or acting out parts. In one corner, a particularly large group was hovering around a seventh-year Hermione vaguely recognised as Megan Montgomery, who was shuffling through reams of parchment and attempting to get the other students to leave her alone.
'For the final time, no, I cannot give you any tips for the auditions,' she snapped, gesturing vividly with a quill. 'I suggest you leave me alone and go practice so I can get on with the organisation. And no, David, I am not open to bribes. This is for my Muggle Studies NEWT, and I am not going to jeopardise my marks, thank you.'
Ron was tugging on the book. 'Come on, you've read enough textbooks to last you a lifetime,' he cajoled. 'It can't be that interesting...'
'It is,' she said defensively. 'I'm reading about the witches and the Great Chain of Being...'
'Oh, Merlin,' Ron groaned, 'you didn't mention chains. Is he hallucinating them too?'
She gave him a severe look. 'Not literal chains, Ron. The Great Chain of Being. It's... a concept from Shakespeare's time; the concept that everything and everyone has a natural place in a hierarchy of existence. With the King at the top – of the human Chain at least – and everyone else below him in descending order until you reach peasants and beggars at the bottom. That's why Macbeth goes mad, because he's gone against the Great Chain, killing the king and taking his place, which upsets the natural order of things. There's a bit about that at the end of Act Two ...'
She reached for the copy of Macbeth her parents had sent her, intent on looking up the relevant quotes, but Ron grabbed hold of her hand. 'I get the picture, and I still can't see how any of that's interesting.'
'It's fascinating,' she replied stubbornly, 'and it's really important to the play. You can't act it if you don't know the major themes...'
'And you can't act it if you're sitting over here reading a textbook,' Ron replied just as stubbornly. 'You haven't said a word to anyone for two hours.'
She glanced at her watch; he was right. 'Fine, I'll come and chat for a while,' she gave in, getting to her feet, 'but I want to finish that book later.'
Ron grinned, tugging her to her feet impatiently. She closed her book reverently, left it on the table, and followed her impatient friend over to the large cluster of fifth and sixth-years gathered in front of the fireplace.
Lavender and Parvati squeezed up to offer her a place next to Harry – with Ron, there were five people squashed onto a three-person sofa, but somehow that seemed to make it more fun. Seamus was just embarking on a version of the dagger soliloquy in an exaggerated American accent, which kept the others in stitches, and by the time he got to, 'Art thou not, fatal vision...' Hermione was laughing along with them, her initial disapproval vanished at the expression on Seamus' face.
After all, it wasn't as if Shakespeare had disapproved of comedy...
When Seamus had finished his performance – to a round of thunderous applause – the conversation turned to more important things: discussions about who was auditioning, which role everyone wanted, what the seventh-year students directing the play were like, what various words or phrases in the audition pieces actually meant, and even, to Hermione's delight, a brief but intelligent debate about the Hecate-scenes.
It was a lovely evening, sandwiched between her friends and glowing in the heat from the fireplace, surrounded by the constant chatter and lively smiles. The conversation was punctuated by the occasional daring soul taking the opportunity to practice their audition piece, seriously or for the public amusement. Ron spent a good half an hour trying to persuade Hermione to take a go: she promised that she would if he did it first, at which he hastily declined. Harry took her up on it, though, and pulled off a very acceptable performance before scampering back to his seat. Hermione hadn't been able to see herself, of course, but the others assured her she'd been brilliant, and she'd settled back into her place glowing with praise.
They went to bed late, and Hermione curled into her blankets with visions of floating daggers and letters from husbands and prophecies and murders whirling through her head. She dreamt strangely exciting dreams – not nightmares as one would have thought – where she was Lady Macbeth, and plotting to kill Duncan and then going mad, only her dreams included all kinds of details the play never had. Odd little scenes of her own invention where she was explaining the Great Chain of Being to Macbeth, and pointing out that he'd go mad as if it meant nothing at all, to which he smiled and shrugged and said madness would be useful, and then Ron and Harry turned up from nowhere and she was explaining to them that she and her husband were going mad, so would they please take care of Crookshanks for her while she was away?
And then she turned back to Macbeth, and he had blood all over his hands and was staring at them in shock, and looked up at her – since when was he kneeling on the floor? – and held his hands towards her and whispered,
'A little water clears us of this deed. That's what you said.' Hermione looked at her own hands and realised they were covered in water: she reached out to Macbeth's so that her touch could clean his skin too and woke up, feeling strangely unsettled by the abrupt ending. It hadn't been scary, just odd, in some way she couldn't put a name to; the mental equivalent of a wet finger circling the rim of a wine glass.
Still, it was only a dream, and she was asleep again within five minutes.
A/N: And so it begins... Anyway, make sure to check back next Monday for the second chapter, and don't forget to review – if you don't, I'll send the witches after you. And then you'll end up killing a king and going mad, which is never a good thing.