Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.
Summary: AU: What if everything we ever read in JK Rowling's books was real – including the people characterised? What would you do if you found yourself caught up in that reality knowing what was to come? SS, RL, OC
This story is rated R/M.
Chapter 001: The Great Escape
Jessica Newkirk rushed into her favourite bookshop to get out of the pouring rain. It had been another stressful day at work but thank god it was Friday. No more politics or bad managers with nasty attitudes – nothing could spoil her good mood. And at least she could finally get her hands on the book everyone had been screaming about for weeks.
"Hey Noel!" she called out to the sales clerk who had become a good friend. Noel Abernathy could always be counted on to recommend a good read. It was no thanks to him that she'd become hooked on the Harry Potter books and this latest one was apparently a scorcher. "I am here for my book bruh man!"
"I don't know why you even bother," he joked knowing she'd had a long wait to her latest payday before she could afford 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'. He didn't know how she could cope being paid once a month. He couldn't even manage being paid once a week. "I don't think I know anyone else who has read all the spoiler forums like you have!"
A spotty teenager not unlike the character of Stan Shunpike in the books looked her over.
"Do wot? Readin' the goings-on before the book were out? You must be a strong laydee"
Jessica tried not to laugh. He even sounded like the fictional Londoner who was the conductor of the Knight Bus in the books.
"Knowing some of the overall points doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the books," she said firmly, fully aware that the corners of her mouth were forming into a distinct smirk not unlike one of the more interesting characters in the book.
"Snape's a bastard!" a woman yelled slamming her copy of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' on the front counter after bursting through the doors. "I want my money back!"
Noel nearly choked on his café latte. "I am terribly sorry Madame, but we cannot give you your money back simply because you don't like what Ms. Rowling has written…" he said in his oiliest voice. "If you have your receipt, we may be able to give you a credit voucher for the full amount, provided the book is within 14 days of purchase and in re-saleable condition."
Jessica wandered over to the Fiction section and laughed under her breath as she checked out the latest in the Cross-Stitch series by Diana Gabaldon. Noel and Angela had come over for a small dinner party she'd thrown for some friends and had everyone crying with laughter about the number of irate Harry Potter fans wanting their money back because Snape killed Dumbledore, Hermione was hooking up with Ron when she was supposed to be with Harry and why the hell wasn't she the girl-power superhero that fan fiction and the films had made her out to be.
The woman was beginning to cause a scene. "I want to see the Manager!" she screamed.
"Very well Madame," Noel said with a submissive shrug of his shoulders. Far be it from him as only a Senior Manager himself (clearly indicated on his name tag) to try and resolve the problem himself. He appreciated that he looked young, but a manager was a manager.
He strode over to one of the front windows where a whippet-thin woman dressed in a mish-mash of stripes and polka-dots with Doc Marten boots was fussing over a display. Ironically enough it comprised the whole of the Harry Potter series to date along with DVDs of the films and recorded book tapes. Anything Harry Potter was a hot commodity – especially if it had Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry) or Alan Rickman (who played Professor Snape) on it. Even Jessica had been eyeballing the life-size cardboard image of the cinematic Severus Snape resplendent in his Edwardian uniform of frock coat, over-long sleeves and buttoned pants that taunted the Snape fangirlies from the window. There were more than a few of her girlfriends and a couple of guys as well that would give their eye-teeth for it.
The manageress quirked an eyebrow and gave a low "Harrumph" as she shifted her gaze towards the rather rotund woman making a fuss who had just knocked over a sales display. Jessica had known Angela Simmons, Senior Manager of the Buy The Book Emporium, for almost as long as she'd known Noel. The customer was in the deepest of shit and had not a clue. Angela tended to spend a lot of time on her displays – her pride and joys.
Angela walked calmly over to the counter and enquired politely how she might be of assistance. The demented middle-aged Alan Rickman fan screeched the place down about 'Snape the murdering bastard' and how she wanted her money back. "We have been betrayed!" she shrieked.
"Sure you have…" Angela said blithely. "But dear me, Madame. Are these…coffee and Spaghetti Bolognese stains all through this book?" She turned the book over. "And is that…is that.. is that a cigarette burn on the back?"
Angela was a lot like Jessica – even if a book was well-read and much loved it was always kept in pristine condition. For a customer to be making such a fuss about a book they soiled – well this woman clearly had another thing coming to think she would be able to get away with such nonsense.
Another minute and the woman was politely sent packing with her soiled property. "Well I never! I won't be coming here again believe you me!" the woman huffed as she forced her portly frame through the wide entrance to the shop.
"Like that's a threat!" Jessica snorted as Noel rolled his eyes. "You guys are better than me – I couldn't put up with that. Cheeky moo – deserved a slap and all!"
The Stan Shunpike clone guffawed and handed over a wad of crinkly pound notes for his Harry Potter calendars, card game, Lego set and poster book.
"Have a nice day; y'all come back now – ya hear?" Noel chortled in a way that Jessica knew meant he was seriously taking the mick out of the lad.
Two more customers and finally he could see to Jessica. "Won't be two ticks…" he called out as he raced behind a door marked 'Employees Only'. A moment later and he came back not only with her copy of 'Half-Blood Prince' but also another Snape figure like the one in the window.
"What the…?" Jessica sputtered.
"Ooer if you don't want it the garbagemen will be here in the morning," Noel said mockingly as he faked taking the display to be torn down.
"Let's not be hasty…"
Angela roared with laughter. "What are you like! You have ANY idea how many people have been in here trying to get a hold of the one in the window? Why I had to put up the gate and lock it!"
"Jesus H. Christ…well at least I'll have something to stare at while I am sitting at home although I won't be on the dole this time…"
Noel and Angela exchanged startled glances. "You were fired?" he asked failing to hide his shock and dismay.
"Nope…I quit. I've had enough of the backbiting and bullshit. I'm a graphic designer – what the hell do I care about investment banking."
Noel knew that despite the considerable front Jessica was putting up – she really had tried her best with that job. She'd been made redundant two years ago from an American investment firm and had become homeless in the aftermath. Through a lot of hard work and a heavy dose of luck she'd found the one charity in the whole of the British Isles let alone London that catered to the 'unclassified homeless; people who couldn't get the help they desperately needed because they weren't expectant mothers, asylum seekers, mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics. Jessica had simply been a woman who'd had a serious round of bad luck and all she wanted was a real chance to get back on her feet and make the most of the talent she knew she had.
Their friend had spent many a night on the streets of London, not wanting to impose on her friends with her misfortune and just over a year ago had taken on the first job to be offered to her for a long time with a Swiss asset management firm. It had been many months before anyone had known the truth and extent of her problems. Jessica still come around now and again, immaculately turned out as ever; but never said a word about how she was having to live. It was horrifying to everyone that knew her when they realised the degree to which she'd fallen on hard times. But Jessica just got on with things as she knew she must. She had no close family; despite her Queen's English accent she was actually American – and Native American at that. It had been many years since she'd been in contact with any of her blood. Like everything else about what she did and did not do, there was a reason for that.
Noel knew he needed to tread very carefully here. The last thing he needed to do was sound like he was being overly critical and unsupportive of her decision. "But – you're still getting on your feet and all no thanks to Dave…" Dave was Jessica's ex-husband, the other reason she'd been made homeless laden with a mountain of debt that he'd run up under her name. She given him the pass codes to her bank accounts feeling that as her husband he should know these things and he'd bled her dry before taking off to parts unknown. No one would be happier than her, Noel had thought, to get her life back.
"Oh – don't worry. I finally decided to do what we were talking a while back."
"No!" Angela said dropping a pile of Harry Potter calendars for 2006. "You mean…"
"Yep! I am moving to Scotland and thanks to the moonlighting I don't have to worry about income. I've got enough going to keep me busy…"
Noel threw his arms around Jessica and gave her a big hug. "Well done you – takes guts to do what you're doing." He looked downcast though, and Jessica realised just how much she was leaving behind and the impact it would have on at least a few people.
"I'd be really hacked off if you didn't come up to stay sometimes…" she chided him and Angela. "I'm going to miss you guys you know…"
"But when? Where are you going to live? What moonlighting?" Angela blurted out as she closed the doors and put up the 'Closed' sign.
"I'll tell you all about it – dinner at mine?"
"You're on – give us 20 minutes to close down…." Angela said as she went to the lower ground floor to close out the other two registers and see to the staff.
"Here – give us a hand for old time's sake…" Noel said as he handed her the key to one of the two registers on the counter.
Jessica had come in to help them on occasion in return for help when she was struggling. She wouldn't let anyone give her anything. She preferred to earn her way doing whatever task that would get her what she needed; it was better than being on the street and it was honourable.
Angela and Noel owned the whole building as well as the business. They lived in a large maisonette over the shop and Jessica had taken the small derelict one bedroom flat at the top and fixed it up while working shifts at the shop. Angela and Noel didn't need the money as such from rent, but Jessica wouldn't hear of it once she had steady work. She'd paid her way fairly and honestly – and made good friends in the process. Anyway – thanks to her the flat was worth a lot more than when it had stood empty and neglected for so many years.
Jessica and Noel chatted as they counted out the drawers and made the necessary notations in the bank ledgers. Jessica packed up the till rolls, notes and coins and put them in the bank bags for Angela to deposit at the merchant bankers in the morning.
After the manageress locked away the takings in the office vault and locked up behind the departing employees, she, Noel and Jessica went down a back corridor that led to a staircase to the flats.
"Bloody hell, we need to get a lift in here…" Noel groaned as he huffed and puffed his way up the final flight of stairs.
"Stop that smoking and it won't be a problem. Hey – watch his head – that's taking pride of place in my studio…" Jessica sniffed as she pointed to the gigantic Snape display.
Jessica unlocked her door and ushered her friends inside.
"You sound like a fangirl," Angela teased.
"Who, moi? Snape's a fictional character for god's sake!"
"Could have had me fooled the way that idiot was carrying on…"
"'Idiot' – is that something like a dunderhead?" Jessica asked sweetly only to have a sofa cushion thrown at her.
She turned on a couple of lamps in her small sitting room and poured out a glass of wine for her guests after depositing her life-sized cardboard Snape in a corner. "How about a roast dinner – I was going to do SpagBol – but I rather expect you aren't interested after that little scene downstairs…"
"Erm – yeah…. Yorkshire puddings as well?" Noel asked rubbing his stomach. "With Gravy too?"
"Oh here we go…" Angela cackled as she took a seat at the counter separating the kitchen from the sitting room after Jessica put on her 'Experiencing Jill Scott' CD. "He'll take whatever's going so long as he doesn't have to cook!"
"Nevermind that – give us the goss!" Noel said rolling his eyes.
"Well – you know how I have been tired and everything for a while?" Jessica began as she seasoned a leg of lamb.
"I've been working from home most nights. That's why I haven't done much socialising. Remember that chap I told you about – the one with the Art Gallery in Inverness? Well he was serious in his offer about me doing some work for him. I did a web site and a brochure.
It did well enough for him and he recommended me to some other connections – including a few good-sized businesses in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Sometimes I've been working flat out, but I wanted to be sure where I stood before I gave up the day job…the fact that I knew Gaelic was a serious advantage…granted, they didn't know what to make of a Scots-Gaelic-speaking Native American…"
"Good on you, Jess – really," Angela said beaming proudly. "I can't think of anyone who deserves it more…"
"Well – I worked hard for it and if it wasn't for you guys who knows where I'd be? Went in today and handed in my notice. Miss Marie decided I wouldn't be needed to serve out the six weeks so they put me on 'gardening leave'…"
"Well that's stupid," Noel said forcefully. "She's cutting off her nose to spite her face…"
"They have no idea about anything that I was doing…I am not allowed to take a new job in the six weeks – but I checked with two solicitors and that doesn't apply to self-employment according to the terms of my contract."
"…and they are giving you money really…" he added…
"Please… with all the extra time I put in that I never got paid for – it's the least that they owe me. And she was fit to be tied when she was told she can't get in a temp. Joanna is calling out now most days – taking the mick because she can…"
"And women wonder why they get so much grief in the corporate world when they get preggers," Noel said ruefully. "Honestly – you'd think she was the only woman to ever conceive the way she carries on!"
"Don't get me started on that!"
"So – when are you going?" Angela asked quietly. "Not too soon I hope…"
"I closed on this cottage I found this past Monday, actually. It's perfect. Three bedrooms, a converted attic and there is an extension that I can use as a workspace rather than wasted storage space. The view won't be half bad either once I get some money together to sort out the gardens. Thanks to the money I have saved from Aunt Sadie I'll be alright… Two weeks from now I can move into my new home. I just wanted to make sure everything was sorted before I said…"
Jessica's aunt had died shortly after she'd started working again and had left her with a decent amount of money – minus the inheritance tax when all was said and done. She'd cleared off the last of her debts and paid back friends who'd loaned her money when she needed it. There was enough to get a small property and given the extortionate price of real estate all over Britain – it was a windfall that was desperately needed, although she would have wished for it to come some other way.
"Well – I propose a toast," Noel said lifting his glass. "Here is to the great escape from the insanity that is London town and a future filled with bright blessings!"
"Here here!" Angela said clinking her glass against his and Jessica's.
"Slainte," Jessica said in Scots Gaelic.
"Show off!" Noel roared through laughter.
"Listen – why don't you guys come up for Samhain? You could do it properly this year – out in the countryside instead of your flat," Jessica suggested. "I've even got a good-sized set of Standing Stones near the property – just up from the Loch…"
Noel and Angela were practicing Wiccans and Samhain, which fell on October 31st, was perhaps the most important of the Harvest Festivals – a time to acknowledge the ending of the yearly cycle with a view towards rebirth and the New Year. Native Americans had quite a bit in common with their Pagan brothers and sisters, and Jessica felt very comfortable supporting her friends in their beliefs and practices, especially being so far from home and cut off, in a sense, from her own.
"Really?" Angela gasped as Jessica showed them some pictures she had taken of the property. "God it would be so…"
"Fantastic!" Noel enthused.
"Great – that gives me just over two months to get myself situated…"
"Here's to Scotland!" Angela said raising her glass once more.
"To Scotland!" Jessica and Noel chimed in.
"God – I am really going to miss these," Angela said packing the binders that housed the Harry Potter fan fiction that Jessica wrote a week later. Before Jess posted on FanFiction . net she always let Angela and Noel read them first. It was the ultimate act of trust for her – to have finally trusted her closest friends with her minds eye and the stirrings of her spirit. For some odd reason it was always easier to share with strangers on the net rather than friends 'in the real world'. But there were several strangers that she counted as good friends through a mutual love of writing Harry Potter fan fiction though they had never met
"I can always email chapters to you as I write them…"
"Ahh it won't be the same – I'll miss coming up here to read and discuss things with you…the way you write Snape – Jesus Christ!"
Jessica nodded gravely. "Yeah – I know what you mean. I'm going to miss it too... the phone bills would be extortionate...and well – anyone who isn't JK Rowling is writing their own interpretations of the characters and her world no matter how 'canon' it seems aren't they? "
Angela thumbed through one unfinished epic, "Damn – it's a shame Cameron had to die; as much as I love Snape I think Cam was better for Audrey…"
"That wouldn't happen to be because he's Scots and a Highlander would it? Shades of Diana Gabaldon!"
The two women cackled as Noel frowned and repeated his oft-told mantra about what he perceived to be the unrealistic fantasy element of their stories. Both knew he was insecure in some ways – some of their fictional male characters behaved in ways real men never would he'd said time and time again and some of the women were either too tragic or too damn perfect. But Jessica had always pointed out that sometimes fiction served a purpose in enabling people to live out their fantasies, purge their own demons or perhaps set a standard for themselves. It was only when people confused fantasy with reality that there was a problem. And lord knows she hadn't heard of anyone leaving their marriage or relationship for someone that didn't exist.
"I could tell you some stories about some of the Snape fans…" Angela said knowingly. "Some of the stuff posted in the forums you just would not believe!"
"You guys are preaching to the choir," Jessica said earnestly. "You might as well scrap hundreds of years of literary achievement with that mindset. Scrap about Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus if you want – but many of the classics contain just that. Doesn't mean you can't take something of value from them or just enjoy the storytelling for its own sake now does it? And if someone is ignoring their relationship for the sake of a fictional character – well where do you go with that!"
"I hate it when you are so reasonable…" Noel said with a roll of his eyes.
"Stories and characters just are what they are – you either relate to them or you don't. I'll never make it to the Times bestsellers list – but at least I have something that makes my life just that bit richer… But I do have a life outside of what I read and write myself… I'm nothing like the lunatics that come into the shop raving like Severus Snape and Remus Lupin are real… I'm lonely, yeah…but I've been alone for a good while now…"
Noel and Angela glanced at each other ruefully and then returned to the task at hand. They knew that Jessica had just been burnt yet again in matters of the heart. So much of her longings and inner turmoil were a focal point of her storytelling and characterisations.
They could only wonder what the words on her pages would say were she to have real happiness.
A few days after the movers had come and began the long drive to Scotland, Jessica set off. It was a typically rainy Autumn day in London and she couldn't say that she would miss the place right away. She was sat stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to Kings Cross for the GNER Flying Scotsman service to Edinburgh where she would change over for a local service to Inverness. From Inverness would be driving to her new home on Loch Looemond, having only just gotten the very first Driver's License she'd ever had in her life being a city girl.
As she sat in traffic stuck on a bus, Jessica thought about the night before. There had been a massive blow-out of a party at a local nightspot near the old flat in Fulham and she'd been surprised at how many people turned up. A number of them didn't want to know her when times where really rough, but she was unfailingly polite and high-spirited.
"Hi there," came a soft South African lilt over Jessica's shoulder. "This is really something, hey?"
She took a deep breath and turned around to face the source of her latest heartache. She'd let Roberto know how she treasured the way he made her feel in poem and in song and had been rudely rejected for it. Because they worked for the same company (although on different floors and in different departments) she'd had to solider on as if nothing had happened. He certainly had done in spite of his claims that they were friends. But deep down each knew that he was running away from the attraction that had been there from the very start and that he had never really treated her as a friend…certainly not one of his sacred inner circle.
Roberto couldn't do anything without the considered opinions of his best friend and his brother – both of whom she'd never met no matter how many times it had been mentioned but never happened. He was extremely cautious, deeply repressed and in denial. And much like the original characters she wrote about, Jessica had mistakenly thought she could make such a difference in his life that he would take the steps to really be true to himself and the feelings buried deep inside that had been alluded to more than once.
She had been fooling herself of course. He was still too hung up on the ex-girlfriend who was one of his roommates to really appreciate that he could have what he claimed he wanted. But really – he wanted the world romantically; he just didn't want it with her.
All he ever talked about was Sylvia to anyone who would listen. There wasn't a strand of conversation that didn't somehow turn into tirades, sentimentality or daydreams about her – a girl who was more teenager than woman in her mind and character and who apparently had never even been attracted to him anyway. They'd never even slept together let alone snogged; something else that didn't make sense. Thought she'd never met the girl, Jessica couldn't help but have a sense of dislike.
What the hell had she been thinking anyway, Jessica thought to herself. He had been so rude to her, and then butter wouldn't melt in his mouth as he pretended that nothing had happened and turned everything around on her. She had long been over him, but the experience had marked her definitely as much as any other life experience had.
"Cracking party," she acknowledged politely out loud. "My mates did a great job… So what brings you here? Passing by on your way home?"
She knew damn well that he lived in Morden, suburban London in Surrey, and he hadn't been invited. The bloody cheek, she thought to herself, to show up here uninvited after the way he'd treated her.
"Oh – I thought everyone was coming…" her unwanted guest stammered
"I'm not friendly with everyone – just the people my mates invited. Anyone else is gatecrashing…"
It was clear that Roberto didn't know what to make of the Jessica standing before him with blatant disinterest written across her face. Noel and Angela had already seen a few unwanted would-be revelers out. The South African was just another to add to her shit list. Jessica walked over to the door and held it open. Her days of brooking with unacceptable behaviour was long past.
"No one gets in here unless they are on the list from now on alright?" she said to the bouncers manning the door.
"No problem Miss," said a heavy thick-set man with a South London accent. "There a problem here?"
"Yes – kindly escort this gentleman out please…" came a cool reply.
Jessica had turned on her heels and left the stunned young man to be turfed out into the night.
It had been one hell of a journey to her new home. Jessica had made the train at King's Cross with minutes to spare – ironically from the Platform used as Harry Potter's Platform 9 ¾ in the films she had to admit she quite liked. Of course being British transport there were the obligatory delays and she'd narrowly made the train to Inverness. As it was, she didn't drive up to her front door until almost 10pm.
Jessica had been lucky though – early in the day following her first night in her new house (sleeping on the floor) the movers turned up. As she'd had very little to begin with it didn't take long for them to unload their van. Most of what she had was books and they would take pride of place in her expansive sitting room.
The kitchen things were unpacked first followed by the books and her clothes. Surging on adrenaline, Jessica found the energy to get herself settled. Where most people would have probably taken at least a week to unpack, she wasn't one to waste time. Within three days of moving in she was completely unpacked; there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Even her computer equipment was set up in the studio space not far from her books on digital art and graphic design. The second and third days it rained something fierce. But having stocked her larder and fridge just after the movers left, Jessica found there was no need to go out.
She spoke briefly to Angel and Noel; to reassure them that she'd made it just fine and was happy enough. They were concerned, as it seemed that somehow her leaving had sparked something in Roberto. He'd stopped in, wanting to chat about her.
"Ah – now that I am not there to make googly eyes at him he acknowledges what he could have had… too late…"
"This is us," Noel said on the three-way call, "You don't have to put up that front you know… it's ok to admit you still like him."
"It's not a front, not any more… There was time I would have moved heaven and earth for him. But I don't feel anything anymore and that's not a bad thing, trust me…"
"Ok hun – but if you want to talk or anything…" Angela cut in.
"All I want is for people that didn't give a shit to just leave me alone to be honest… Let Roberto pine away over Sylvia and be someone else's problem… I let him bend my ear for too long about her. Now that I'm not there he's bending your ear about me – and he doesn't even know you guys! There's something and someone out there better for me. I've spent a huge part of my life alone, I'm not afraid of it even if I don't particularly like it…"
"Good on you – sounds like Scotland agrees with you…"
"It's hard to explain – but I just feel… I needed to come here for a reason. When everything is as it should be, then everything else will come… Everything working out the way it has, even the bad stuff, there was a reason for all of it… I just have to wait and see…"
"You're beginning to sound like us…"
"I'm just getting back to who I am, inside. It's been a long time, but I am glad she's back… The thing with Roberto didn't kill me; it only made me stronger, just like Dave."
They talked a bit more about the goings on in London. There was no longing, no pang of regret, no feeling like she was missing out – nothing. Jessica felt nothing that could be considered negative about the doors she had closed or the ones that had been closed for her.
After a time Jessica bid her friends goodbye so that she could finish setting up the studio. But she did have one fleeting thought about the past as her eyes flitted across the cardboard Snape guarding her like a malevolent talisman from his appointed corner.
How sad was it that the thought of someone who at one time stirred great passion in her, enough such that she'd written the best prose of her life, now only left her feeling…
Nothing at all.
Reassured by the lack of inspiration from the latest love lost, Jessica Newkirk sat down at her computer to write for the first time in her new home. Watched over by her guardian angel she began a new story finding the old unfinished ones inspired by a repressed and ultimately unrequited love no longer relevant or worth her time…