It was raining again. Of course it was. Yesterday afternoon he'd decided that today would be a laundry day. That was always a guaranteed way of making it rain. Planning a picnic was almost as reliable, but it depended on how close a viable shelter was to the intended picnic site, and the size of said viable shelter. After all, if it could only fit two or three people standing upright and with no room for food, and was also more than fifty metres from planned picnic spot – and you'd not brought an umbrella or mud-proof picnic blanket – then it was ninety-nine percent likely you'd get rained on.
In Tasmania anyway.
Laundry days, however, it always rained. It didn't necessarily last long, but the weather was such that, after that first shower, it always looked like more impending rain and there'd be enough drops falling at the same time to make a person sigh and hang the clothes inside, on the airers, in front of the heaters which weren't otherwise needed because rugging up in blankets was always preferable because of comfort and that they were cheaper.
Oh, there was a dryer in the laundry, but it wasn't like it got used often. Mixing a dryer with polar-fleece jackets and flannel pyjamas was just asking for a mess of static and clinging bits that needed a clothes brush to get them off – but really, who could be bothered to use a clothes brush on their comfort clothes? Seriously?
Not until the comfy, loose, black polar-fleece jacket was grey with the stuff would the clothes brush come out, so that it would be black again. If all those long hairs that had somehow gotten caught in the armpits of the clothes came away with the job too... well, whatever. Long hair got everywhere, known fact. It was as bad as cat hair that way. But a girl who liked to have options on how to pull it back needed long bits at least. They allowed for style. Same held true for boys too of course, which was nice, as boys with long hair, provided it was well kept, really did have more of an appeal than the ones who kept it short-back-and-sides.
Oh, alright, so that last was a matter of opinion, but good grooming was always a plus in a person. Hence, laundry day.
The whites and the lights in one load, then the darker coloured things in the next, and finally the woollen clothing – a jumper and a vest – and put the sheets that needed to be put back onto the bed the same day into the dryer. Everything else could take its time on the airers.
Harry Potter smiled to himself as he stretched out on the couch in the shared rumpus room. He'd finally escaped the fame of being the – no. He wasn't even going to think about those ruddy titles they'd loaded onto him. Each and every one of them stupid and hyphenated. He was enjoying his house, even if he did have to hang the washing in instead of out. The house he'd leased a room in (upon moving to almost exactly the other end of the world to where he'd grown up) had three floors. The bottom floor was the private living space. His bedroom, the landlady's bedroom, the bathroom, the rumpus room, a few other, still unoccupied bedrooms, and a glass door that led to the expansive back garden. The the landlady was very much into the home-grown fruit and vegetables bit. There was even a chicken shed that Granny K – the landlady herself – called Cluckingham Palace.
The middle level was the floor that welcomed guests. The front door and the garage were attached to this level. Harry was amused that the house had two different ground floors, but that's what you get, living in a house on a hill. The central floor had the kitchen, the entertainment and dining areas, a second bathroom, a workshop, the laundry, and another guest room. The upstairs though, the top floor of the house... The landlady had apparently grown up here, and had many fond stories to tell of the upper level of the house.
"When I was little, it was Santa's workshop at Christmas time, and I wasn't allowed up for anything," she'd said during the tour. "It was the play room. The sewing machines, the giant cutting table. It did service as an extra guest room when we needed it too, and of course there was the storage space out the sides. Enough storage space to have more bedrooms if you really needed it, but only if you didn't have anything to store!"
One of those storage spaces had been a remarkable find for Harry. Granny K had given him leave to everything available in the house within reason, and when he was actually looking into those storage spaces, Harry had found a train set. It was easily five metres long, and, while the scenery stopped a little over half-way up its length, all the tracks were laid and there were trains and a switchboard and it was done on such a small scale! Harry had picked up one of the boxes that one of the engines had obviously come in. N-Scale. There were catalogues as well, and more scenery supplies. Everything needed to finish it, except that whoever had started – Granny K? A family member? She never actually said much about the train set – had lost the will to do so. Harry had corrected that gladly over the course of his first month in the house after he'd gotten settled.
Being in Tasmania was bliss. Really, it seemed that there was no better place to completely disappear to. It was just a small island state, part of Australia, but hanging off the bottom and ever-so-slightly independent of the mainland due to its isolation. Also due to its isolation, Harry became aware every now and then of trial programs being run on the population before being released to the rest of the country – provided they were proven effective of course. It didn't bother him any. Except to go down to the shops every now and then, he really didn't need to leave the house. The exchange rate from British Pound to Australian Dollar had been very generous to him, and he had been rich already. Granny K didn't nag him about work either, except to ask him to help out in the garden – harvesting produce mostly, collecting eggs, she had a deal with the school across the road about getting some of the kids to get extra credit in some of the projects – Agricultural Science – if they helped out in the up-keep.
Hermione had been the one to give him the idea to move to Australia, from sending her obliviated parents off here to be safe. He'd looked them up when he arrived actually, they were living in Melbourne, Victoria, on the mainland. He'd introduced himself and carefully picked apart Hermione's obliviation spell. The dentists had been grateful to Harry and a bit incensed at their daughter, even if they understood why she did it. They swapped cards at Christmas time, but otherwise he hadn't really kept in touch with them.
Still, it was more communication than he got from Hermione, Ron and everybody. Then again, he had run away from them all, as well as his fame. Even left a note that said he was going to live in New York, lose himself for a while and see if he could figure out what to do with himself once he'd separated himself from all his dumb titles. All completely true, except for the New York part. Tasmania had, in total, about as many people living all across the state as there were living in New York City. He'd carefully waited to run off until Teddy was in Hogwarts. He couldn't leave while the kid still needed him so much, and Teddy would be able to stay at his friends houses over the summer break. Teddy didn't write to him either, though Harry sent a Christmas present come December.
Actually, these days the person Harry had the most communications with – apart from the people at the checkout of the local shops – was Granny K, his lovely, live-in landlady. She'd grown up in the house, and apparently could navigate her way through it with her eyes shut provided the furniture wasn't drastically moved around. She knew all the creaks, groans, and odd sounds that the house made in the night, and a few that got made in the day as well.
She liked to sew, but didn't need more clothes, and liked making treats, but wasn't big on eating them. She'd even taught Harry about both of these specialities – he hadn't needed to help her with the stairs when they were involved, as there were railings, and even though she could have just given directions from a chair, she was a very interactive teacher – though the first time he'd used a sewing machine he'd been terrified.
"So was my first real sewing student," she'd said. "Oh, she could work a needle by hand, but the machine intimidated her. Here, I'll get you started, and then we'll just go slowly, alright? It's just a straight line, and there are guides to help make sure you don't go too crooked, see?"
Harry had been absolutely chuffed the first time he'd made himself a simple top, and she'd laughed happily. She'd given him insulated long-underwear – called thermals in this part of the world – to wear under his clothes when winter rolled around the first time, so he wasn't shivering too much when he left the house.
As well as the sewing lessons, Harry was getting to be very good at making sweets. To the point even that he understood about her protesting that she only made them and didn't eat them – you always had to taste when you were cooking, and that was really the best stage for eating sweets. Cake batter, cookie dough, hot fudge that hadn't even set yet, melted chocolate... Though the toffees and the like had to be allowed to cool. Sugar needed to be very hot, and licking the spoon of that was a very bad idea.
Actually, it had been Granny K who had explained to Harry about Tasmanian weather as well, and the need to have a "rain warding-off stick" – aka, umbrella – when going on a picnic. She'd said that if you had a brolly then you were that much less likely to get rained on, especially if you'd found yourself wishing for a third hand so that you could carry it as well as the picnic things. She'd taught him how to read the clouds over Hobart in the mornings at breakfast time so that he could guess the weather – because while the weather forecasters were good, getting your own assessment for the day was certainly not going to hurt either. She'd explained about the Bridgewater Jerry that floated down the river on particularly nippy mornings, and about wood-fires causing a haze over the city in winter, and the days when you looked out the window and decided that because you couldn't see Hobart, it must not be there, and it would therefore be a perfect day to go back to bed. She'd talked about having snow on Christmas day once or twice as well, which while for Harry was normal, he knew that Christmas happened in summer down here, so getting snow in the height of summer when usually it was only thick and white up on Mt Wellington – where it looked like icing sugar on a chocolate mud cake... Harry really liked Tasmania. It had such odd weather and magnificent scenery.
But it was raining on laundry day, just as Granny K had predicted. That's what they got for doing laundry in June. Of course, they had to do his laundry every week or so, or there would be a shortage of socks and undies... clean ones anyway, and unlike Ron, Harry didn't really care for wearing stale clothing. Granny K was very keen on clean clothes as well, even if she hated other aspects of cleaning up – like vacuuming.
Harry had just hung the last sock over the airer in front of the heat-pump in the attic when the doorbell sounded. Apparently the digital tone had once been "London Bridge is Falling Down" at a slightly accelerated speed. Now it was so fast that he'd had to be told to know that. Harry hurled himself over the half-wall that was supposed to prevent people from falling off the floor to half-way down the stairs, landed with a thump and leaped down the last six or so stairs, grabbing the key for the front door and opening it. Granny K would take a few moments to reach the door herself, and he was still spry.
It was not, as he had suspected, a post man with a parcel for Granny, but rather a young man about the same age as him, wearing a loose white top, blue jeans and a worn pair of tennis shoes. Nothing even vaguely rain-proof about his clothing, though he was holding an umbrella over himself.
"I understand that this is the house of Ms Victoria Kettlewell?" the young man asked. Actually, he looked older because of the deeply engraved bags under his eyes.
"That's right," Harry answered. "Please come in out of the rain." He wasn't naturally so free with invitations, but Granny K was, and this person was here enquiring after her, not him. Granny would scold him for not immediately inviting the stranger in out of the rain if he hadn't as well.
"Next time Harry," Granny said firmly as she finally stepped down the last step – she'd been hanging laundry with him, but come down the stairs the normal way. "Please use the stairs properly. You could have hurt yourself if you'd landed wrong." Granny's blue eyes – as light and deep and changing as Harry's eyes own orbs were vivid – swept passed the blushing lodger to the guest who was shaking his umbrella out the still open door as he stood on the welcome mat. "Well, this is a nice surprise," she said, a smile blossoming onto her face. "How's Quillish?"
"Wammy's dead," the stranger said. "Murdered. I caught the killer though, if that's any comfort."
Granny gasped, a hand over her mouth in shock, nodding mutely as tears gathered at the corners of her eyes. She closed her eyes, not moving her hand, and breathed deeply through her nose a few times, then dropped the hand and looked over at the stranger again.
"Granny K?" Harry asked, worriedly. That wasn't exactly the best way to deliver that kind of news, especially to someone who was getting along in years.
"I'm alright Harry," she said, waving off his concern with a very slight smile. "Will you be staying for a while dear?" she asked the stranger. "The internet speed isn't what you're used to, I'm sure, but you're very welcome for as long as you like."
The stranger nodded. "Thank you," he said. "I'll pay for my room of course, and even for a superior connection. I really do need it, and I wouldn't want to burden you with the sorts of bills my use would generate."
Granny smiled. "Then it's settled," she agreed. "Do you have your things here, or will they be delivered?"
The man held up a bag that Harry hadn't noticed before.
"That's a computer bag hun," Granny K said solemnly. "You've got your laptop and a bunch of your gadgets in it I'm sure, but what about everything else? You can't fit your whole life into one of those unless you leave out the computer, and you never go anywhere without one."
"How do you know that Granny K?" Harry asked, surprised.
"I tried it when I was younger," she answered promptly. "Fit everything I needed into one, but it bulged dangerously and I had to pack a few things into my pockets as well. Now, where is the rest of your stuff?"
The man pulled at his clothing pointedly.
Granny K sighed. "Oh alright," she said with fond exasperation – Harry had become intimately familiar with that tone. "I'll whip you up some more of the same and Harry can take you shopping for underwear."
The man smiled softly. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"Alright, introductions. Harry, this is Lawliet, my quasi-nephew. Lawliet, this is Harry, who's been renting one of my rooms."
The stranger, Lawliet, studied Harry with a sudden intensity. "Which room?" he asked at last.
"Orange," Harry answered. It was convenient that the rooms were colour coded that way. Harry's room was mostly cream walls, but with an orange feature wall which denoted it's naming. There was also the green room, the chocolate room – which was Granny K's – the blue double and the blue room. The blue double was downstairs and the blue room was on the middle level.
Lawliet nodded acceptance of this. "May I have the blue double?" he asked, looking back to Granny.
Granny smiled. "Sure," she said. "You're paying for the retro-fitting of all the new gadgets and gizmos that you want though. Everything is still there from the last time you were here, it got shuffled, but I know things have gotten more advanced since."
Lawliet smiled. "Thank you."
Harry blinked in mild astonishment at the easy way that Granny K let an almost constant stream of electrical experts invade her house for a week, installing wires and setting up equipment in the room that Harry understood had used to be her parents room.
"You don't mind?" he asked quietly as he stood next to her, watching the men work.
"Why would I?"
"They were your parents."
Granny nodded. "And I nearly never got along with them," she answered simply. "We lived in this house together for years you know, decades even. I hardly ever spoke to them about anything even remotely meaningful if I could help it. I did my very best to avoid telling them how my day had been actually."
Harry looked at her in shock. He'd been the happy listener to many tales of Granny's family and childhood. This estrangement from her parents was something he'd never have suspected.
"I loved them," Granny said with a smile when she saw his look. "Don't ever doubt that Harry. But it is possible to love someone without actually liking them a whole lot."
Harry didn't understand that. He dedicated a few days to silently thinking it over though. He still didn't get it then either.
"Don't think about it," Lawliet advised as he sat down to eat some of the cake that Granny K had set out for afternoon tea.
"Don't think about what?" Harry asked.
"Miss K's philosophising about liking people and loving them. She came to the conclusion on her own based on her religious upbringing. I don't think that there is anybody else who thinks the way that she does," Lawliet said.
"She can hear you hun," Granny K said, sitting down beside Lawliet.
That was a difference between Harry and Lawliet again. Harry called her Granny K, Lawliet called her Miss K. She didn't mind either version, though she smiled a little more fondly at Lawliet's title. It had apparently been a nickname of hers when she was younger, and a handle that she still used on internet forums when she visited them.
Lawliet just nodded silently, piling teaspoons of sugar into his tea cup.
Granny K sighed. "You know Lawliet, if you would try some of the other teas I've got, you might find one that you wouldn't need to put as much sugar in to make it appropriately sweet for your tastes."
Lawliet smiled a little bit. "Next time then," he promised.
"Next time I'm taking you to the tea house in Elizabeth Street," Granny K said firmly. "They've got a nice big variety of teas and you can work your way through their menu."
"Do they have sweets?"
"I'm still struggling with the idea of loving someone even if you don't like them," Harry said, moving the conversation on from the digression on tea.
"Ever changed a nappy?" Granny asked.
Harry pulled a face.
"A mother loves her child, but she hates having to change nappies and gets frustrated when she's trying to figure out why the child is crying. Babies are truly thankless little monsters, but parents love them anyway. Don't have to like them all the time, but will always love them," Granny explained.
"You have no children to make this metaphor," Lawliet pointed out.
"It's a metaphor," Granny K answered sharply. "I don't have to have the experience to make the comparison."
Lawliet nodded, ceding the argument.
L disappeared from the world. He'd never really been a public figure before. Well, he had, but never in person. It had always just been his symbol rather than his face. Now, L disappeared from the world stage completely while Lawliet enjoyed the anonymity of living on an island that had little serious contact with the world beyond – unless it really, really wanted to, that is – and where Miss K knew nearly everybody in the city either through other people, casual acquaintance or simply as faces she'd seen a million times.
Lawliet liked Hobart for that. He liked that it didn't matter to the people here how he dressed either. Here, people were admired for having slightly odd-ball clothing, and though he liked his loose top and baggy jeans because they were comfortable, so was everything that Miss K made for him to wear while he was under her roof, and she gave him variety.
"I dress for comfort too," she said. "But comfortable doesn't have to mean plain. You don't care what people think of the way you dress and that's fine, neither do I, but I'm going to give you a new weapon in clothing Lawliet."
"Clothing a weapon?" Lawliet questioned. "I do not understand this concept."
"A psychological weapon," Miss K expounded as she cut fabric under his watchful eye. "Tell me, how do you assess a person when you first meet them?"
"I can identify certain things about their habits, personality, their occupation and so on based on their mannerisms and ... Oh."
"And their dress," Miss K finished with a smile. "Now, if you were to see someone walking down the street dressed as a pirate, what would you assume about them?"
"That they are going to a costume party," L answered.
"And if you saw them again, still dressed as a pirate?"
"The chances of it being a costume party go down," Lawliet admitted.
"And if you should be near enough to them while browsing shelves to realise that they also smell like an unwashed pirate?" Miss K prodded.
Lawliet frowned. "You speak from experience," he said.
"This person has a fascination with pirates, clearly styles himself after them."
"Sewed a patch over a faecal stain rather than wash his pants even," Miss K said, pulling a face. "But the point is your initial reaction and the judgement you make based upon it, and then the adjustment you had to make after the second sighting. It is a superficial judgement. Now, suppose you see a person who is wearing a large coat, a thick scarf that covers half their face, has their hands in their pockets and a slouch as they sit, waiting for the bus, and it's not actually quite cold enough to merit such rugging up."
Lawliet thought. "Perhaps they have issues with being exposed?" he suggested.
Miss K nodded. "A fair supposition," she answered with a pleased smile. "But again, it is superficial reasoning. Now, and this is the last one, I promise, suppose you meet somebody who is wearing clothing in the approximate style of fashions popular in the regency period, but made from patterned flannel."
Lawliet frowned. "Like you did when you were young."
Miss K grinned. "It's called superficial misdirection, or at least, that's what I call it," she explained happily. "If people are too busy trying to make sense of why you are wearing what you are wearing, trying to figure out just what it is that you are wearing, then they are more likely to make comment only on this superficial thing, and not be able to work their mind past it. You have the advantage because they are distracted by your attire."
Lawliet nodded in understanding. "I still like my own style," he said.
Miss K laughed. "I know you do, and I like it too," she added. "Though I'm more of a turtle-neck person myself. Don't like to have my neck exposed."
Lawliet smiled. "That is quite telling."
Miss K just laughed happily, all the wrinkles on her face falling into place with the action.
"Is there something that you would like to share with the rest of the class Mr Potter?" Granny K asked the young man.
"Er..." Harry turned around slowly, guilt written all over his face like a little kid who'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar just after he'd been told no because dinner would be soon. "No?" he offered.
Granny K raised an unimpressed eyebrow. "Appreciating that you would not like to, Harry, I think it's a little late for what we would like in this situation."
Lawliet nodded firmly from beside her.
Harry sighed. "Magic, alright?" he said shortly.
Granny K nodded. "Well obviously," she said, rolling her eyes just a little, even as she smiled. "I want the long and detailed explanation, not the blatantly obvious one kid," she added fondly.
"There isn't a long and detailed explanation Granny K," Harry said tiredly. "I'm a wizard. I went to a school to learn spells and potions and the like. Magic is real and is generally kept secret. I can't believe I got caught out using a dusting charm!"
Granny K chuckled softly. "Would you feel better if we promised not to tell anybody about it?" she asked.
Harry nodded, a pout on his face and his arms crossed, high and tight, against his chest, his wand poking out beneath his left elbow where his hand was still gripping the handle. The young man was sulking where he stood.
"Then we won't," Granny K promised. "Lawliet?"
Lawliet nodded as well. "The existence of magic is illogical, therefore no one would believe me if I were to speak of it without having proof at my side," he said.
Harry's pout dissolved into a wry half-smile. If there was one thing he'd learned about Lawliet, it was that he was based highly in logic, and everybody who knew the man, knew that too.
"Of course, you met a shinigami recently, so you're taking this a lot better than you normally would," Granny K said easily.
"A what?" Harry asked.
"Shinigami," Lawliet said with a scowl. "A death god. It is the reason that Wammy is dead."
Harry blinked in shock. "Damn," he said. "Double damn even."
Lawliet just nodded.
"Hang on," Harry said, confused. "How did you know about that Granny K?"
"I bribed Lawliet for details of Quillish's death," Granny K answered easily.
"Fudge," Lawliet supplied. "Whole slabs in the flavour of my choosing. She deserved to know anyway."
Harry chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. Only in Tasmania would such impossibilities be accepted as commonplace and obviously logical given some flimsy evidence. It may be a little backwater and very much nowhere with a lot of people feeling confined, with a need to leave, or like they never would, but for those like him, and like Lawliet it seemed, the city of Hobart in Tasmania was just what they needed. They could disappear here. Disappear into the strata of normal, even without having to pretend to be.