AN: 6/5/15 Hello! This was a story I wrote a long time ago and I've decided to overhaul the whole thing chapter by chapter. There are some things I still like about it, but there's also a lot that annoys me. I don't plan on changing the basic story, so if you don't want to get alerts as I add the updated chapters, you'll probably want to remove it from your followed stories.
Also, I don't own anything, yada yada. You know the drill.
What is it about Tuesdays?
This thought crossed Erika's mind as she made her way down the winding path towards her cottage. She'd gotten it into her head as a child that Tuesdays were the harbinger of evil, and had stood stubbornly by this position ever since. A few random, unfortunate events may have occurred on the day in question at some point; a spilled bowl of cereal here, a favorite television show missed there, and from that moment she'd decided Tuesdays spelled doom, picking up unrelated evidence to prove her theory along the way.
The current Day of Disaster had begun as did all of her days; waking at noon from a drugged and dreamless slumber and slowly making her way to the small and dirty kitchen to pour a cup of cold coffee from the day before. That morning, however, she discovered that not only was the coffee gone, but her never-ending supply of cheap vodka to complete her beverage seemed to have been depleted as well. By the time she got to the bar at 4:00, her head was pounding so hard she was amazed that her coworkers didn't seem to hear it. She was able to sneak enough shots throughout the afternoon that the tremors in her hands mostly disappeared, but the thudding at her temple remained a constant exclamation point to every tick of the clock's second hand.
Tips were poor during dinner service, even for a Tuesday, and by 9:00 Erika's patience had all but disappeared. Luckily, the night crowd was not quite so disappointing. In a college town, weeknights at a bar differed very little from weekends, and Erika could always count on the slobbering drunks of all ages. She knew the reason for their generosity had little to do with their good will and more to do with her low-cut tops and heavy makeup. Their obvious stares might be offensive to some women and at one point would have been to Erika, but the numbness she'd nurtured for thirteen years cocooned her against outrage of any kind.
That night, however, had been different. She felt on edge, as if a storm was coming and she was the only one with forewarning but no way to defend herself. Not knowing how to handle the sense, she reacted with hostility to anyone who added to her annoyance. After forcing the large bouncer to throw out two regulars and refusing to serve several more patrons, the owner of the bar had felt the need to call her into his office and explain in great detail why the customers were always right. She left the bar at 4 AM in a mood that mirrored the stormy sky above her.
The mud that had been left in the wake of a furious storm from the previous night clung to her boots, though she didn't notice and wouldn't have much cared if she had. A single raindrop fell on her wrist, but her sedate pace remained the same, even as more came and developed into a steady shower.
Unbidden and unwanted, the memory of a face framed in sodden black hair rose before her, shouting obscenities at her above the claps of thunder and, sounding very much like her mother, warning her she'd catch her death of cold if she stayed out in this storm any longer.
Shaking her head as though the thought might actually fall out of her ears, she paused on the threshold of her unkempt little dwelling and raised closed eyes heavenward. She didn't revel in the rain as she once had. She didn't revel in anything anymore to be honest, but it did provide a temporary, if false, sense of contentment. No, no contentment, she thought. Acceptance? Solace?
It was irrelevant, because as soon as she stepped inside the feeling vanished and she was left to her own devices in a house that had never been Home. Deliberately keeping her eyes on the back wall to avoid seeing the bleakness of her dwelling, she moved toward the kitchen to retrieve a glass in which to pour several fingers of her recent purchase. She closed her eyes and tipped the tumbler back to drain it in one, sighing as the burning liquid trailed bitter fire down her throat. She immediately poured another.
The anxiety was fading as she felt the friendly familiarity of the alcohol make her movements a bit lighter. Brushing her hand gently over the kitchen counter, her fingertips came away gray with filth but she wasn't looking. She wrenched open the refrigerator door and bent at the waist to scour for anything edible. After a beat of silence she withdrew with a cough and watering eyes. The refrigerator light had burned out long ago, but it would only have shone on a box of now moldy and very pungent takeout anyway. Closing the door with a snap of irritation, Erika poured herself a third glass and turned to survey her surroundings with a distant sort of sourness.
No pictures adorned the walls; no decorative candles or lamps. The only furniture in the living room was a ratty armchair that was forever leaning to one side and a hopelessly stained coffee table. This handful of rooms that had been her dwelling for thirteen years felt no more personal to her than the day she'd set foot in them.
A pile of unopened mail was scattered on the floor by the recliner, and although there'd be nothing of interest there was little else to occupy her time before she could pass out. She threw herself unceremoniously into the off-kilter chair and scooped up a few of the envelopes, several of which were now covered in dust.
She slid a finger under the flap of the first and discovered that she was well behind on her electricity bill. She tossed it back to the floor and picked up the next letter which was pleased to tell her that she was the lucky winner of 12,000,000 pounds.
She smiled then, a real smile, and thought of James Potter excited-no, damn near hysterical-as he screeched at his wife.
"It's not a scam!" James said, looking almost wounded at Lily's assertion and shoving the letter under her nose. "Look; we're pre-selected! We've already won it, we just have to send them some more information! and the money will be in our account by next week!"
Lily looked to Erika with an expression of amusement, annoyance, and strained patience; quite an impressive feat to convey so much on one face.
"James. Darling." She sounded like she was talking to a two year old on the verge of a tantrum. Lily had always had a gift for placating hysteria and her newly gained title of Mother had perfected the skill. "This is a muggle scam. They send these letters out to millions of people. They're trying to get money, not give it."
But James had stopped listening, or more likely hadn't been in the first place. He turned to Sirius.
"Reckon this is enough to start up that joke shop we always talked about?"
She tossed the letters aside and stood up. Wobbling a little bit she realized with satisfaction that the vodka had really taken hold. She headed towards the kitchen, intent on making a sandwich before she passed out and conveniently forgetting that the only thing in the house that had ever been food now smelled like a decomposing corpse. Luckily she was distracted before she could make the mistake a second time.
She didn't know why she still took The Daily Prophet. It was her last tie to a world she'd abandoned over a decade ago. It was also the only way that, should anyone still think her alive, she could be located. Most days she didn't read it at all, but threw it straight into the corner. There were occasions when the mood would take her and she'd read voraciously from cover to cover, but it had been years since one of those days. She reluctantly unfolded the top paper and began to read. There was nothing of consequence and she was not surprised. The Daily Prophet had always been a bit of joke to her. If stories could be bought so easily, what was the point? And why, exactly, did everyone in the magical world seem to buy them hook, line, and sinker? The muggle newspapers of her other world were little better in truth, but they were usually more subtle about it.
She was nearing the bottom of the stack but she was not yet satisfied. Occasionally she'd come across a familiar name. Hestia Jones had been named Assistant Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad. Gwendolyn Morgan of the Holyhead Harpies died the previous year after being attacked by an acramantula. Each name struck her like a slap to the face, sending a shivering reminder to her core that she had been a part of this world at one time. It seemed too foreign a concept to be believed.
She opened the last paper and gazed at the date; some two years previous. It was the last in the pile, and she was reaching her limit. She cast a glance out the window and saw that, despite the unrelenting shower, a break in the clouds could be seen to the east and the sun was sending a few splendid rays toward the earth as it broke the horizon.
Looking down at the front page, she felt the air leave her lungs in one long, slow breath. A bold headline, "Black Still at Large", stared back up at her. The picture below showed a man calmly staring out from behind a curtain of tangled black hair with eyes that had haunted Erika for thirteen long years. She jumped out of the chair and dropped the newspaper as if it was on fire. Without a second's hesitation she ran out into the rain.