Author's notes: This story was written for the 2007/2008 Winter Round of the SS/HG Exchange and was a gift for the lovely Hayseed. Many thanks to my beta, DeeMichelle, and to Shiv5468 for Brit-picking. :)
Disclaimer: I am not J.K.Rowling, nor have I ever claimed to be.
24 years later …
9 September 2022
Dear Mr Smith,
As you can see, I am respecting your request for anonymity, even if I refuse to respect your request for privacy.
I agonised over what I should say to you in this letter. Though I feel that it's safe to say that I likely won't be able to stick to my original plan. I never did in school after all. It was why my required fourteen inch essays became three scrolls of parchment at three feet each. Believe me when I say that you were not the only person to complain about that.
First off, I must tell you that you have nothing to fear—at least not from me. I have not spoken with either my husband or my friends about seeing you and I have no intention of doing so.
I had intended for that statement to be the end of my correspondence. Really, all that I needed to do was reassure you that no one would be dropping in for an unexpected visit. Though, you should know that even if I were to divulge your whereabouts to law enforcement, the Minister, or even my friends, you would not be in any danger.
You were—and still are—a hero. Even if you were to return to our world, you would be greeted with praise and accolades. Especially now.
The Biography of a Professor, Headmaster, Spy & Hero is a current bestseller. Harry found the best biographical writer he could and commissioned the story.
Perhaps you already know this. Bestsellers make the news in one form or another and even if you're living a Muggle existence, I would be very surprised if you didn't keep your finger on the goings on in our world. But just in case, I wanted to make sure that you knew that you would no longer be ostracized … that you would be welcomed if you were to return.
I don't know if it was serendipity or happenstance that caused me to run into you that day. I had been thinking of you. You couldn't have known that, of course. After your death, we were informed that you had no surviving family members and Harry took it upon himself to clean out your home. I was totally in awe of your book collection. Magnificent.
I'm sorry, but I did keep many of the rarer tomes. The others went to the school's library. Ever since then, I've had a passion for rare books. Yes, I'd always loved books, but it was after seeing your collection and appropriating a few of the choice books for myself that I felt a passionate pull towards the old and rare books. That's what it was that pulled me into that antique bookstore. You see, it is now my custom to visit every rare bookstore in every town that we visit.
Of course, neither my husband nor my children understand this obsession. They just accept it as part of me and when we're on holiday, they ensure that I have a day to myself to visit and scour the used bookstores. For whatever reason, this has made me feel this odd connection with you.
Strange isn't it? That I would somehow feel connected to you after all these years. So, as I often do, when I had entered that bookstore, I had been thinking about you. It had to be for that reason alone that I recognised you so quickly. It wasn't your appearance so much as the fact that I simply … knew. You barely even look like yourself, though I'm not sure if it's an elaborate glamour or perhaps just how you should've looked all along had you not been living your entire life indebted to the likes of Albus Dumbledore.
Oh yes, I don't hold the same amount of love for that old man that my friends seem to hold. I viewed those memories, too; I saw how that man manipulated you, twisted you to do his bidding. And I can only imagine what the other encounters that you had with him were like.
I do have one question for you.
Why run? It truly wasn't necessary.
Why go to such, obviously, elaborate methods to cover up the fact that you actually survived such a gruesome and meaningless death? Because I know that it took time. You had to have planned it in advance. You had to know that someone would come back for your body. Because we did. Well, Harry did. He carried your body out of the Shrieking Shack himself. He laid it in a room where we had the other victims of the battle and it was buried in the Hogwarts' Cemetery.
Maybe the next question I should be asking is "how"… but I promised myself that I wouldn't bombard you with questions, so I'll leave it with that.
Obviously, I've sent this letter to you through regular post. If you … I don't know … wish to respond, then you can reply to the return address on the envelope. I keep a post office box for corresponding with my extended family.
(Of course, this is all providing that you even read this.)
The final thing that I wished to say, Mr Smith, is: Thank you.
Thank you for protecting us. We may have been clueless as to the things that you'd done for us at the time, but we do know the many sacrifices that you made for all of us. Not just for Harry, Ron and myself, but for our world as a whole. I hate to think what would've happened had you not been the man that you are.
The man that Harry's mum always knew that you could be.
23 May 2023
Dear Mr Smith,
I would ask you if you are surprised to hear from me again, but I've promised myself that I would limit myself to one question each time I wrote—well, at least one set of questions—and I have something else that I'd rather have answered.
Yes, I did just say 'each time'. I fully intend to write again. For what purpose, exactly, I'm not sure. It's not as if you replied to my last letter.
It's nearing the anniversary, you know.
Twenty-five years. It's supposed to be a joyful celebration. Freedom and all of that, but it's still so painful. For those of us who lived it, for those of us who survived.
And, inevitably, as the date looms closer, the nightmares return. For me, they are the kind of nightmares that awaken you in the cold darkness of night and leave you frightened and sobbing.
It was one of those dreams which has awoken me tonight and taken me from my bed. My husband doesn't notice, though after so many years I truly don't expect him to. Sometimes it's just easier to cope on my own than to sob into someone else's shoulder. And whether you agree with me or not, sending off a letter to someone—who I'm not even sure will read this—is coping on my own.
Now, back to my dream. It's a recurring nightmare for me. I've been having the same one for nearly twenty-five years. They began after that day and though after a few months they did begin to subside, when the anniversary approaches, they inevitably return.
I see the bodies. And worse than simply seeing those lifeless, still forms, I am forced to sit and watch as the last signs of life leave each and every one of them. You have always been one of the dead.
I don't believe I've ever felt so helpless and so guilty for sitting back and doing nothing as I did that day. And even now, I grow nauseated and dizzy when I see a pool of blood, even though I'd never been squeamish before that incident.
But, of course, you didn't really die that day, did you.
That's the reason that my dream changed a bit tonight. For, you see, when the dream-you was lying in Harry's arms, the last glimmer of light faded and Harry stood up. It was not more than two seconds after that when your eyes popped open and you turned to me saying with that sneer of yours, 'Ten points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger, for failing to act as a normal human being and help a dying man.'
I think that the worst part of it was that it's true. I didn't try to help and even now I don't know why. I had dittany in my bag. Not that it necessarily could've saved you, but the least I could've done was try.
And then I remind myself that you didn't die. You're alive and well in … well, you were. I haven't a clue if you're still there or not.
All of this leads me to my next question, Mr Smith. Which is quite simply… how?
Seriously, how did you survive? Harry went back for your body; he helped dig the hole where your coffin was placed in the ground. So, how did you feign such a thing? I imagine that it was an elaborate plan. Or how else was it that we actually had a body to bury?
How did you stay hidden for so long?
Suddenly my mind is burgeoning with more questions, but I will refrain simply because I'd said that I would. There are just so many things I wish to know.
Before I break my promise to myself, I will close this letter. I just wish to finish this one by wishing you a happy anniversary. For, I'm hoping that you've been able to find some peace and possibly even some happiness in your life, and that day would've been the birth of your new life.
30 June 2024
Dear Mr Smith,
I would imagine that you thought that you were well rid of me by now. It has been a long time since I last wrote. This year's anniversary passed by with much less pain than before. Just as always, it was remembered, but the dreams didn't come to haunt me this year. Perhaps the ghosts decided that twenty-five years was long enough. At least I hope that is the case.
I went to King's Cross this afternoon to retrieve my children. Not that it's easy to even think of them as children much anymore. My daughter will be starting her seventh year come September, and my son will be beginning his fifth. It was the final three years of my schooling when everything began to happen for me. So, recalling those memories can be almost painful. Especially having missed out on my seventh year. As you well know, even if it hadn't have been for my devotion to Harry, my bloodlines would've kept me from attending my seventh year when you had been headmaster.
I'm not blaming you. I truly don't want you to think that I am. You were placed in a position that wouldn't be fair to ask of anyone. And after speaking at great lengths with both Neville and Ginny, I can see how much you tried to protect them.
Detention with Hagrid, indeed.
You probably don't wish to continue with reminiscence from me, though, do you? I would imagine not. As I said before, the anniversary could possibly be like a birthday for you and remembering the time before that wouldn't be helpful in continuing on with your life. And besides, just because I didn't attend my seventh year when I was supposed to, it didn't prevent me from going back and taking my N.E.W.T.s.
I am rather nervous about my son who, as I stated earlier, will be starting his fifth year. He is not one of the great academics of our world and the only positive thing that I can say about school is that I'm glad I don't have to deal with punishing him on a day-to-day basis because he's neglected to turn in his homework. That boy would much rather be out playing Quidditch than writing an essay. He takes after Ron, I believe. He's a clever boy, but he has to work very hard for his marks and currently his only desire is to join the family business with his father and uncle. Nothing that I've said has been able to discourage him. At this point, it's probably better not to push, as I don't want him to join them simply to spite me.
You do recall Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, don't you?
I can almost hear that derisive snort. Perhaps you really are reading my letters; either that or I have a wonderful imagination.
My daughter, Rose, is a completely different story. She reminds me so much of myself when I was her age. She has such strong opinions and she is constantly working. Too much, actually. She reads constantly, studies when she doesn't even need to, and is always trying to learn something new. I just worry that she will put so much effort into school that she'll miss out on many other experiences. It took me an awful long time to realise that there was more to life than books.
Speaking of books, we will be travelling to Venice, Italy this summer and I was hoping that you could point me in the direction of some bookstores that I might enjoy visiting. On our holidays to Belgium last year, I was lucky enough to come across a rare set of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. All second editions in good condition. He's always been one of my favourite authors and I was so pleased to have come across such a find. It's such a tragic story, and in many ways it reminds me of you. Perhaps I should start referring to you as Valjean. Though after writing that, it doesn't quite seem to fit … maybe Quasimodo is more accurate.
A man who is locked away from the rest of the world and forced to serve an evil master.
Who was your evil master, Quasimodo? Was it truly the obvious or was it the kindly, old and terribly manipulative headmaster? Or even more tragically, was your master simply love?
Look at me, I'm now romanticising you even more than I was. I apologise for that. It was simply a brief lapse in judgment. Though to maintain whatever sense of dignity I still possess, I shall close this letter.
15 August 2024
I hope that life is treating you well. We just returned from holiday and we had a fabulous time. Venice is absolutely beautiful. I adored the cathedrals, the canals, the museums… everything. It is definitely a city full of history. And on more than one occasion, I found myself wishing that the walls could speak.
Can't you just imagine the stories they would tell?
Have you ever been to Venice? I thought of you again while we were there, even though you never did write back and recommend any bookstores. I found some on my own. I always do, there's no reason why this time would be any different.
Though, I did make an incredible find. I happened to be in the hotel lobby, when I overheard two other guests discussing a rare bookshop that they'd been to earlier that week, so after making my excuses to my family—truly, all I had to do was mention the books and my son and husband were ready to be rid of me—I went in search of it.
It was a delightful little shop, hidden down a small side street on the Calle della Mandola. Honestly, I don't know how they stay in business because if I hadn't been looking for it specifically, I don't think that I ever would've found it. Apparently it is owned by an older gentleman who is helped out by his nephew.
I hadn't found anything worth mentioning until I went to the stack of books that the shop owner had just taken in as inventory. And there it was in the middle of the stack … a first edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
And the nephew was the one running the shop that morning and he hadn't even known what the book was worth. I'd tell you what I paid, but you wouldn't believe me. Yes, it was that inexpensive. And, no, I didn't do any magic wand-waving. (Well, except to verify authenticity, though at that price I would've bought it even if it was only one hundred years old instead of nearly two hundred.)
It could have been nothing less than serendipity.
Which brings me to my question.
It occurred to me the other day how elaborate that your plan must've been. You accomplished so much in a very short amount of time and it finally dawned on me that it was unlikely that you accomplished all of it yourself.
Who helped you? Who knew about what you were planning on doing?
Maybe I'm wrong on this one. But as I keep trying to put the puzzle pieces together, I inevitably come up without a full picture and that seems to be one of the missing pieces.
For whatever reason, I am still clinging to the hope that you will reply to one of my letters and that maybe one day I'll know the answers to these questions that are never-ending in my mind.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.
13 December 2024
I hope that the Christmas holiday finds you well and that you have a wonderful New Year, Quasimodo.