Chapter 41: I Think I Know You From Somewhere
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the story which directly takes ideas from JK Rowling. This story is not being used for commercial purposes; it is simply for pleasure and fun.
Author's Note: This is a special anniversary chapter that you do not need to take as part of the storyline but might help you understand how I see the characters and my alternate Maurauders' Era universe. My last anniversary chapter focused on three one-shot type stories of couples that were meant to reflect on how I view their relationships and personalities. This one follows a similar structure but these stories are centered around seemingly strange, serendipitous or chance encounters between different characters.
The past 3 years of writing this story have been wonderful for me and have gotten me through some challenging and happy times. As long as it's been, I'd say the story is only about half finished. I can't imagine not writing it anymore but perhaps it'll still be a long time until that is a concern =P. Enjoy!
The sun was just rising in the sky. It glared down on a forest, willing its rays to penetrate the canopy but to no avail.
Far below, lying on the dirt of the forest floor was a little boy. He was lying naked at the base of a tree, curled up in a ball and shivering with cold causing dew drops to roll off his skin.
The boy awoke very suddenly, wide-eyed and alert. Something had startled him but he could neither hear nor see what it might have been. Cautiously he stood and gathered his bearings. How had he ended up in the Forbidden Forest and just how far deep had he gone, he didn't know. He looked up to the sky for some direction, looking over to the weak light of the rising sun that he knew must be east. He started walking towards what he hoped was the Shrieking Shack where his clothes and wand would be waiting for him.
He started walking but stopped almost immediately sensing something strange. He forced himself to shrug to off, otherwise he might be late for breakfast, but just as soon as he started walking again he stopped. He turned and looked around him. There was nothing out there yet he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched and not by friendly eyes. The forest was full of strange things so he wouldn't have been surprised if a tree sprang to life and tried to eat him. What was particularly concerning was the fact that he did not remember ever being in this section of the forest before.
He looked around a few more times then turned to keep walking but as he turned he came face to face with a horse. No, not a horse, a centaur. The boy fell over in fright as the centaur stared down at him from beyond the point of an arrow. The centaur seemed young but tall and strong, he had bright blue eyes and blond hair that bordered on white.
"I come with a warning."
The boy got up off the ground and clapped his hands together to shake the soil off.
"I have come to warn you that should you trespass onto centaur territory again, in this form or your other, you will be killed by me or a member of my herd."
"What do you mean?"
"I am sure you are aware of your affliction. I do not know why you are permitted at this school but you are not permitted here."
"You don't own the forest."
Replied the boy with all the expected arrogance of youth.
"No, not me personally, but my herd do. I am not here to negotiate but to warn."
"Whatever, I can't help where I go."
"It will not do to lie to me. You are supposed to be contained during the full moon but you knowingly wander off across the grounds and forest. We do not take kindly to murderers in our midst."
"I've never killed anyone!"
"Only by the grace of chance but your recklessness suggests you don't mind becoming one or at the very least subjecting another human to your transformation."
"I'm not alone."
"Humans are so very good at convincing themselves with excuses. Just remember what I said."
The centaur turned and started walking away. Behind him the little boy had lost all his proud confidence and seemed to shrink.
"It's the first time I've had friends."
It sounded like the whimper of a wounded animals but it came from the trembling lips of the boy.
The centaur turned around and looked into the boy's eyes. After a few minutes he walked back, putting away his bow and arrow as he went.
"The moon is tricky. She is near and yet her nearness is deceptive, too close, always somewhat out of focus. It is easy to think that the Earth is in control because she spins around us but I believe it is much more of a symbiotic relationship."
"I... I don't understand."
"I have spent many years looking at the moon which you so fear and shy away from. This affliction called disease, we were once the called the same; uncontrolled, half-breeds. A spell or breeding project gone awry."
"I doubt it's the same, you don't change from human to horse without control and try to kill everything around you."
"Not everything, just that which denies what you really are."
The boy stared up at the centaur, confused.
"You and your company have discovered that you react differently to humans than other animals, correct."
The boy nodded in agreement.
"How do you think you might react around me?"
A crease formed on the boy's forehead as he contemplated the question.
"Well, I'm not sure. Are you more human or animal? I suppose since your mind is like a human's or maybe it would be somewhere in between?"
"You are close, but not quite. Among some of us you would behave as you do around humans, among others as you do around animals."
"Why is there a difference if you are all centaurs?"
"We do not all think alike, we do not all fear, we do not all see the same way."
"Well I suppose there is less to fear if you can't be infected."
"Yes, the stigma is paralyzing for your kind."
"You are still human."
"That isn't how I'm classified."
"Human classification systems are arbitrary, they only have the meaning someone creates for them. We are classified as beasts, which we are not but nor are we beings. It is not so difficult physically to create another category but psychologically and socially, it would mean a revolution. The moon and Earth will see many revolutions before humans, even wizards, are capable of such. Among my kind too, there are still many who have not experienced such a revolution, hence the different reactions."
"I don't think I understand."
"I suppose there is no reason why you should. There is nothing to suggest the misunderstood understand better themselves."
"If you are having trouble with something of the sort, well, I got through that period in my youth by writing about my experiences and emotions. Perhaps you should try it. Journal writing seems to be popular. Or perhaps a book addressed to others who are going through similar experiences?"
"And announce to the world that I'm a werewolf? I don't think so."
"Writing can be so conveniently anonymous."
"Yeah and what would I called it, Hairy Snout, Human Heart?"
Asked the boy with a laugh.
"I'd read that."
Replied the centaur with a smile as he trotted off into the forest and was gone before the boy could ask if he was serious or not.
The door of the Hog's Head pub creaked as it opened to allow in a fresh wave of customers. Groups and pairs wandered about the room looking for a place to sit and shuffling between them for cover was a tall, bulky, broad shouldered young man. He moved behind one group then another until he made his way to the very darkest corner of the pub. Considering how generally dark the place was, one could be fairly certain of privacy sitting at that forgotten table. Somewhat clumsily, the man sat in his chair and waved his wand discreetly, ordering something from the bartender who took the coins that floated over to the bar top and started pouring out a smoking liquid into a glass.
The pub was nearly full but at the same time still seemed rather empty that cold winter evening. Everyone was so sheltered in shadow that an unsuspecting person would walk in and think it was deserted. That was one of the best and worst things about the pub, well, no the lack of any sanitation was the worst.
As though to emphasize this, the man ran his finger over the table as his drink floated over to his table and made a disgusted noise at the layer of dust that came off onto his finger. A squeak was heard behind him as a chair shifted and then he heard an equally squeaky woman's voice,
"Ain't much to look at but this is the place to be if you want something stronger than mead and butterbeer. Firewiskey at the Three Broomstick just tastes watered down and I can't be going all the way to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink."
"Arg, always too many darn tourists there anyways."
Replied the man in agreement. His voice was deep and rough. The woman laughed and the man could feel her leaning back in her chair which was pressed up the back of his. She seemed to take a drink and then continued,
"Well, tourists are better than students. Nothing worse than Hogsmeade during a Hogwarts weekend, place is overrun and infested with immature, loud, undisciplined, sugar-fueled maniacs."
"You sound like someone I know."
Replied the man who was smiling despite himself, he never did understand why they took to eating everything in Honeydukes, why not just mail order some candy?
"Did you go to Hogwarts?"
Asked the woman.
"Course, course, I mean who hasn't?"
"I know a few who were homeschooled, in my time."
"It must have been some time ago, don't know many who were myself, unless they got sick something bad."
"Ah well, I suppose the times changed, the houses aren't what they used to be."
Said the woman, slurring a words a bit.
"What do you mean?"
"Ah well, Ravenclaw had the best of the best, smartest, but nowadays they let anyone who knows how to read in it seems."
"Well the smartest in magic need not be smart in other subjects, it's all about those NEWTS. But I'll agree that things are different, I mean Gryffindor used to have some mates who would do anything, never back down from a challenge. Nowadays everything's too politically correct over there, think they're becoming bloody Hufflepuffs."
"Oh Gryffindor still has a backbone, just toned down all the arrogance, it's been much improved you ask me. As for the Hufflepuffs, well, bless their souls."
"Here, here, I'll drink to that."
Both the man and woman, still back to back, raised their glasses and drank. The man smacked his lips and said,
"Still, still I mean Hufflepuffs are one problem but the Slytherins. Giving me the heebie jeebies these days you know."
"Yeah, I see them around from time to time, like they all got some big secret among each other, cursing the other students, looking like dead plants. Spending too much time in that dungeon talking to snakes I say."
"They can't really talk to snakes though can they?"
"Duno, suppose some of them could."
"That just ain't right you ask me."
Said the man with a shiver.
"Ain't speaking to snakes that's the problem, it's if you listen to what they say back I think."
Said the man once again and drank the rest of his glass before getting up, a bit too suddenly it seems, as his head hit a hanging light as he walked, he gave a nervous high pitched laugh. It didn't seem to be a problem the rest of the way out of the pub as he almost seemed to be getting smaller. The woman silently followed him out of the pub as well and as soon as she had gotten a fair way up the street, pulled her hair into a tight bun and put on her glasses.
Millicent got onto the elevator on the first floor, whistling a tune. She patiently waited for the door to close and mouthed along with the elevator announcement before laughing. She really hated that voice, a nice female voice would work so much better.
On the next floor a younger man wearing a bowler hat stepped on.
"You know I think this should be changed to a woman's voice, don't you think?"
"Yeah, well just as soon as you become Minister for Magic you can have it changed."
"I think I will."
"Become Minister for Magic and change this voice."
"You're going to become Minister for Magic just to change the elevator voice?"
The man looked at the woman like she was insane then said,
"Well if you do become Minister for Magic and change it then I'm going to become Minister for Magic and change it back."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
"And why not?"
Asked the man in a mocking tone.
"Bad things will happen, mark my words."
"Yeah, I'll do that."
The man shook his head and left the elevator as the door opened to his floor. The woman inside cocked her head to the side and tisked.
The elevator doors shut and the woman began to whistle again. It was a few floors until the elevator stopped again. A tall boy with long blond hair walked in this time with an official, the jingling of coins could be heard. The ride was totally silent and while somewhat awkward for the boy and man, Millicent was smiling widely. This seemed to make the official nervous, he couldn't get out of there fast enough when his stop came. Alone with the blond boy the woman leaned over as whispered,
"Your money won't get you out of everything you know."
The boy turned and looked at the woman with contempt, taking in her shaggy looking clothes. Then he turned back around and said,
"How about you mind your own business."
"Oh but I am. You should have just practiced more for your apparation test and you would have passed, nothing hard about it."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Right, of course not. You just remember what I said."
"Yes, I've heard it before, money can't buy you everything; which one are you going to argue about? Love, happiness, sanity?"
"Oh, those are all good but no. Just know that there are some people for whom certain things are more important than money."
"And if they are more powerful than you and demand something from you for which they won't take money in exchange, well, all the money in the world will become useless."
"Money is power."
"Ah well, haven't you heard? Magic is might!"
The woman thrust a fist in the air as she said this which caused the boy to step as far away from the woman as he could while still remaining in the elevator. Millicent smiled and brought her hands down and started to whistle again. The boy walked out of the elevator without so much as a backward look at the woman who cocked her head to the side and tisked.
The elevator made its way to the main level and in stepped a haggard looking red-headed woman holding a fussy new born baby in one arm and a stack of documents in the other. The women smiled at each other as the elevator door closed. As soon as the elevator started moving the baby began to cry.
"Oh no, no don't cry it's okay. The elevator is good, shouldn't you like this?"
The woman looked on the verge of tears.
"Each baby is different."
"Oh yes, I suppose."
"Oh yes, obvious is it?"
"Well a little but you'll get the hang of it, almost all mothers do."
"I used to think that but I'm not so sure anymore. Honestly, I don't think I'll be having any more."
"Children, any more children."
"Oh how can you say that? It always gets better. All these families with one or two kids are going about it all wrong, it's easier when you have say 4 or 5, that way you can just buy everything in bulk, you have hand-me-downs, it's a breeze."
"Oh yeah, and looking at you I can tell… you, well, I bet you could handle 7 children with a set of twins in there even!"
"Oh, I don't know about that, 7, goodness me, just thinking about it makes me dizzy."
"You just get the hang of it and then, well, it's just a second nature you know?"
As though to prove her point Millicent bent down close to the murmuring baby and started whistling softly. The baby opened his eyes and looked up at the women as though enchanted. As the song continued the baby seemed to be falling asleep with a smile on his face. A few floors later, the baby was soundly sleeping. The baby's mother looked amazed.
"How did you do that? I can never get him to sleep."
"Each baby is different, they are already developing their personalities in a way, although it's a lot of nature right now, it's your job to do the nurture right and you will, trust me."
Millicent smiled and the woman did as well and looked down at her sleeping baby.
"You know, maybe I can do it."
They had reached her floor and she got off, looking down at her baby the whole time.
When the door closed Millicent started whistling again but this time pushed a button and the elevator started to descend. After a few minutes the annoying male voice announced,
"Department of Mysteries."
Millicent walked out of the elevator, all the while whistling and spinning a gold pocketwatch engraved with the words they'll never know around her finger. As the elevator doors closed the echoing whistles suddenly stopped and there was nothing but silence.