A Chance Meeting
AN: Thanks again for all of the response! Here's the third and last chapter.
Susan had known about the magical world since she had became Head of MI6, but it hadn't been interesting to her. Due to Tom and his arrogance and cruelty, magic would always remind her of Jadis and the cold cruel sneer and the knife in Edmund's side. So, it was indeed a surprise when Meghan Bronach Carmichael, her grand-daughter was one day sent a letter inviting her to Hogwarts school.
It was even more surprising that her older brother Nathaniel Bartimaeus had not been invited to this special school. She was thankful for his close support of his younger sister (possibly influenced by his best friend and co-conspirator Alex Rider), yet slightly annoyed by the distance that Leonard and Alicia gave Meghan at the holidays that Meghan came back home again. Susan swore, that no matter what, she'd remain at Meghan's side, be the doting grandmother and a shoulder to lean on when her burden became too much.
So, it was unsurprising to Susan that Meghan arrived at her house in the Easter Holidays of 2008 instead of her own parents' house.
"Meghan?" Susan asked as Meghan came into Susan's large house large house in the country, her eyes red-rimmed, dragging a suitcase.
"Mum finally kicked me out." Meghan whispered as she rubbed at her face. Susan quickly drew her in and closed the door. "I think the flock of owls that came at me for my birthday this year finally did it for her. She says she still loves me but can't deal with me being so abnormal. There was another shouting match."
Susan groaned, her family had to gain Lucy's and Peter's tempers over hers, didn't they? "Not again. Between who?"
"Nate and Mum. Nate said that Mum was being irrational and that it was all perfectly fine and Mum started screeching that owls weren't normal. While they were distracted, Alex got me upstairs and said that he'd better evacuate me now before Mum started throwing crockery again. I packed and came here. First place I could think of." recited Meghan as she perched on Susan's sofa.
Susan put her arm around Meghan and pulled her into a hug. Meghan started crying again. "Why doesn't she love me like a normal mother should?" whispered Meghan to Susan.
"She does love you. She just doesn't love the baggage you come with." consoled Susan, saying the only thing she felt could accuse her daughter-in-law's actions.
Meghan sniffed. "I didn't mean to set her off. I only asked her whether she and Dad, when he came back from Florence, would want to come to the party at Hogwarts."
"What party?" asked Susan, as she leant back in her chair, as Meghan continued to sniffle.
"There was a war in the wizarding world ten years ago. Hogwarts was destroyed on May the First exactly ten years ago. People wanted to go celebrate how far they've come since then. Also, they'll be unveiling a new school structure and subjecting ideas for next years electives." said Meghan, "Everyone in the school is invited to come and bring guests. I thought Mum and Dad might want to see Hogwarts in person."
Susan looked at Meghan's distraught face and decided that her old bones could survive one more trip up and around some old castle that was the centre of Meghan's life. "Of course I'll be coming. I wouldn't count on your father returning by then. From what he said, he's on a terrorist scour of Italy. What luck he'll have in succeeding, I don't know, but he likes to try a lot."
Meghan nodded dolefully. "You think you'll like it?" asked Meghan.
Susan smiled. "I know I'll love it."
It was May the First and the long-winded speeches of many government officials about war and Hogwarts and progress and lessons had drifted over Susan in favour of giving the crowd surrounding them a once over. Once a spy, always a spy. Just like a Monarch of Narnia. She hadn't noticed too much amiss, apart from the conspicuous population of redheads near the front and the large baby boom amongst the younger adults there.
Hogwarts was just as wonderful as Meghan described, and despite looking nothing like it, it had the aura of Cair Paravel. Susan had felt at home amongst the friendly ghosts, whom she had barely batted an eye at, the talking portraits and occasional house elf. She had let herself be towed by an excitable Meghan through the Ravenclaw common room, despite it being in the tallest tower of the school; something about the castle, gave Susan a new vigour. It was almost like having Sebastian alive again. And maybe, if she concentrated, the dark brown hair of Meghan faded away to be replaced by Lucy dragging her away from the Duke of Radhaven and potential embarrassment.
Susan was shaken out of her reverie by a large deal of clapping and everyone getting up from their golden seats. "Is that over then, Meggie?" asked Susan as she heaved herself up, feeling her bones creak a little, in spite of her newly found verve.
"The lecturing is over, in any case." said Meghan, shooting Susan a significantly bored glance.
"What now, then?' asked Susan, following the crowd out of the large doors.
"Why now? Now, we party." Said Meghan, deftly finding a house-elf and grabbing two flutes of a sparkling orange fluid that fizzed at the top. "To your health, Gran!"
"However long it lasts," said Susan darkly, taking a sip of the drink. She was surprised by the tang and the heat. A vivid image of kissing a dryad in the midst of autumn amongst the swirling red leaves of beech trees crossed her mind and Susan wrenched away from Narnia with a pang of her heart.
"What is this, Meghan?" asked Susan, staring down at the drink.
"Butterbeer. Favoured drink of most underage wizards." said Meghan, smiling, "Good, isn't it?"
"If you say so. So tell me, because I tuned out the official explanation," said Susan, as she cautiously sipped from the drink, "Why has this war occurred?"
Her grand-daughter rambled a bit about how blood purity was like Hitler's intentions with pure Aryan blood and things about civil rights for black people and Susan felt herself tune out. This castle was far too much like home. Every stone seemed to bring a memory of Narnia back. If she focused, she could almost see mermaids and mermen in the Lake.
"And then Voldemort was killed by Har—" Susan held up a hand.
"Voldemort?" Susan asked, her face paling.
"Yes, Voldemort. He used to be known as Tom Riddle, but then he called himself Lord Voldemort. People started getting afraid of him, so they stopped saying his name in case they accidentally summoned him or something foolish like that. Called him things like, 'You-Know-Who' and 'He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named'." Meghan recited as she took another drink from a house-elf.
"And he's dead now?" Susan asked, giving her empty glass to the elf with a grateful thank you; in Narnia you treated your servants well, because they served from choice.
"Yes." said Meghan.
"Does he have a grave?" Susan asked as Meghan started pulling them away from the crowd.
"I've…I've never really thought about it." said Meghan, looking shocked that she hadn't thought about it. Susan nearly laughed; Meghan's unquenchable quest for knowledge always made her laugh. Susan was content to know what she knew and trust Aslan, in her old age. "I think Harry Potter would know." She said, firmly and started dragging Susan towards the red-head contingent.
"Mr Potter!" Meghan cried as she approached the short black-haired man.
"Ah, Miss Carmichael. If I remember correctly, you were one of the more enthusiastic questioners of me last year. Ravenclaw, yes?" asked Harry Potter, with a wry smile on his face.
Meghan flushed and nodded. "In my defence, it was really interesting and no one else could answer my questions." Susan's grand-daughter said, looking awfully sheepish. "Anyway, my grandmother wanted to know whether Voldemort had a grave."
To Susan's surprise, the young man drew out a stick of wood and pointed it straight at Susan's chest. Having been confronted by several rifles in a previous time, Susan's didn't react, merely raised an eyebrow. "What do you want with his grave?" asked Harry, his voice low and menacing.
"I assure you, Mr. Potter, I have no reason to bring him back to life or any other strange magical rituals. I have no doubt that he would kill me the moment he regained his senses. After all, I knew him as Tom Riddle and he wanted to erase that part of his life, did he not?" Susan drawled, meeting Harry's eyes with a practised ease. Harry nodded cautiously but didn't drop his wand.
"Go on." said Harry, looking cautiously at Susan.
"I am a Christian, Mr. Potter. I believe that every person deserves at least one mourner at their grave, evil or no." said Susan, as primly as she could manage.
Harry frowned but then his red-headed wife smiled at Susan and started talking to Harry in his ear. After a few moments, he dropped his wand, nodded and Susan smiled. "I'm afraid though, Mrs Carmichael? That I'll have to escort you alone. Without your grand-daughter."
Susan glanced towards Meghan. "You'll be okay for a bit without me, won't you? Go find some of your friends."
Meghan nodded. "See you later, Gran!"
Harry Potter was already stalking away towards the woods and Susan followed him at distance. "Slow down, Mr Potter. My strength saps away at 79 years of age."
The black-haired man slowed down. "How far into the forest is his grave, Mr. Potter?" Susan asked as she walked at an average pace.
"A lot." said the man, shortly.
There was an uncomfortable silence when Susan spoke up. "Do you have any relation to James Potter?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, he was my father.", he confirmed, looking a little confused. "Why? Do I look like him?" he asked, clearly bored with the question.
Susan shook her head. "You act like him. He saved my life once. Tom was about to kill me when your father, a redheaded girl called—"
"- Lily Evans." Harry broke in, with a smile. At Susan's quizzical look, he clarified, "She was my mother."
Susan nodded. "Your parents and a black haired man called Sirius Black burst into the room, and saved me from Tom. I did however fail to kill him because of those three."
Harry smiled. "Sirius was my late godfather."
Susan nodded. "I am sorry. He was an amusing young man."
Harry nodded and they lapsed back into the silence. "Why would you want to see his grave if he tried to kill you?" asked Harry as the canopy thickened and the light source decreased.
"It wasn't always that way." said Susan, remembering his first visit with her. "He used to have something human about him. I might have loved him once."
Harry threw her a look of incredulity. She rolled her eyes. "It's hard to believe now, but when I first met him, I was 20 and very beautiful. He was similarly very handsome and very polite. Young womens' heads have been turned over less. If I had been a little less mature, I would have pursued him. As it was, after the death of my entire family and friends, I had affairs that needed sorting out and handsome young men were the last thing on my mind."
Harry shook his head and shuddered. "It's a little debilitating to think of the white skinned, no nosed, snake like man being a handsome young man that people were attracted to. But, I'd seen people's memories of him when he was young and he looked a lot like me. He was charming when he wanted to be."
Susan nodded. "That he was." She said and they continued walking.
They entered a large clearing with many flowers and other such plants, but the first thing that drew Susan's attention was a blackened, nearly dead tree. It was old and was starting to grow in on itself and by the scratching marks on the bark of the tree, Susan assumed that this was where Tom Riddle was buried. Harry lingered on the edge of the clearing but Susan walked in and plucked a wildflower from the grass beside her and placed it on his grave.
"Edmund could have been you. Perhaps this is the only reason why you linger in my head, but Edmund could have been you. And I wonder someday, if I had done my duty to Aslan, might you have turned out to be good? Could you have been redeemed? Did I write you off too soon?"
Susan paused and looked at the tree. "I suppose even you deserve a eulogy. Even if you fulfilled your promise and killed my husband and light of my life. Despite all of your murders, you still deserve something. I don't know if someone loved you. I don't know if you even had any family. I don't know much about you or your life at all, but I promise you Tom, you won't be forgotten. The wizarding world will remember you as the villain and I will remember you as the charming, yet cold young boy I met when I was mourning the death of my beloved siblings."
Susan took a deep breath in. "Your name will be remembered. I don't know if Fame was what you wanted, but you got it. Even if you lost your power. Goodbye Tom Riddle. I don't know if you are in heaven or hell, but I hope that you endure."
Susan stood up and calmed herself. Bringing up old memories hurt, like pulling off a scab from something she had tried to forget. "Come on Mr. Potter. They will miss you from the party soon enough."
"I'm sorry, I gave you your privacy, but I couldn't help but overhearing something about duty. Whatever did you mean?" asked Harry as they started to trek back.
Susan paused for a minute. "Mr Potter," she said after a while, "Do you believe in God?"
Harry looked taken aback. "I'm not sure," he answered after a couple of shocked minutes, "We celebrate the holidays, but I never really went to church or anything like that. I just can't really believe he exists without proof."
Susan nodded. "I think, I would have been like you if I hadn't met Aslan. Once you've met the son of God, it's hard to not believe in God."
Harry nodded and Susan started her story. "My brother Edmund was going down a path of hate. He delighted in tormenting my little sister Lucy and he just looked gleeful when my brother Peter and Mother shouted at him. He never really targeted me, but I knew that he wasn't like us. We all despaired; no one could understand why he was so different to the rest of us. Mother blamed his schooling, but it was something more than that. He was just spiteful. Lucy prayed to God a lot of the time and I think Peter started praying too. It wasn't until when he seemed to be happy about the war, that I started praying too."
At this, Susan paused as Harry looked like he was going to ask a question. "Peter, Edmund, Lucy and Susan. Was your maiden name by any chance Pevensie?" he asked, looking a little quizzical.
Susan smirked. "You've read Clive's books then?"
"It's hailed as a children's classic. I read it to my children and they love it." said Harry, with a small smile, that Susan did not reciprocate. She had so loathed those books.
"Let me continue my story anyway, because Narnia wasn't that simple childish world that Clive portrayed it as. When we arrived in Narnia, Edmund was redeemed. Edmund never knew this, but the price for his redemption was to be paid by Lucy, Peter and I. A promise that we would redeem those like our brother, that we saw on our path. And we did, until they died and I carried on. Tom was the first person I needed to redeem after their death. And, I was too scared, that I fail. So I did not try at all, and he became that monster."
Susan's voice had filled with self-loathing and she turned towards Harry. "I suppose I have you to thank."
Harry looked surprised. "Me? What did I do?"
"You killed him, did you not? You fulfilled the part of my duty I was unable to. It was our duty to redeem them or give them back to Aslan. I could fulfil neither. So I thank you for doing my duty. There are days I wonder, that if I had managed to kill him, would this world be a better place." pondered Susan, as the canopy's thickness decreased.
"When did you meet him?" Harry asked.
"When I was 21 and when I was 52. He was a monster when I was 52." said Susan, feeling bitter.
"Do not blame yourself Susan. No one would have expected a 52 years old Muggle woman to bring down one of the most powerful, if, insane wizards in this century. No, I do not believe that your 'Aslan' would not blame you and I believe that you shouldn't blame yourself." said Harry, placing a hand on Susan's wrist.
Susan looked at him gratefully. "Do you really believe so?"
Harry smiled. "I know so. Anyway, you wouldn't have been able to kill him anyway. I was destined to kill him. A prophecy. A self-fulfilling one, but a prophecy nonetheless."
Susan smiled. "I know a fair bit about prophecies and how they are self-fulfilling. If Jadis had not let us become the symbol of hope to the talking animals, she would never have been overthrown."
"See? No one blames you Susan. No one apart from yourself." said Harry as they broke out of the forest, facing the large castle in the rays of the setting sun.
"Ahhhh." Susan breathed out deeply, a cloud of steam coming from her mouth. "If I squint, I can see my Cair Paravel in the place of your Hogwarts. I have never visited any place that has felt anything like Narnia, not until I came here."
Harry nodded. "If I squint, I can see it too. You know, my friend Luna has many theories about something called the many-world-hypothesis. It states that every world that ever existed are superimposed on top of each other, in thin films. On days of magic, like today, Beltane; Luna says that the film between the worlds gets thinner. Perhaps you are actually seeing Narnia?"
Susna shook her head. "You didn't pay attention to the books. Narnia was destroyed. It was Aslan's will. His people transcended on to his paradise., and my family went with them."
"You'll get back there." Said Harry immediately and Susan grinned.
"Of that, I have no doubt. I just wonder, whether Sebastian will be able to accept me as the Gentle Queen as well as his wife." She queried.
Harry shrugged. "Having never met the man, I wouldn't know. But if he loved you, he would accept you. Just like Ginny accepted all my quirks that came with being the saviour of the wizarding world."
Susan nodded. She was now suddenly tired, her memories sapping her strength. "We should depart to the castle. They will be waiting."
"Of course Mrs Carmichael," said Harry, his formal voice back on show. Susan slipped up her mask and together they walked back to the white (or was it brown) castle of Hogwarts.