More Light and Light It Grows (A Harry Potter Fiction)

As I am not J.K. Rowling, nothing that you recognize here is mine. No copyright infringement is intended, and I, of course, make no profit from this

The quote below is, of course, Shakespeare’s. This is the second time in two months that I’ve drawn on his work for a title—but there are far, far worse people that I could borrow from…

It is the lark that sings so out of tune\straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps… More light and light it grows.”

(Romeo and Juliet, Act 3 Scene 5).

The wind snapped, and Lily caught the sweet, fresh smell of water. A thick mist hovered over the lake in the white-grey glow of pre-sunrise. James glanced over his shoulder at her and smiled, offering her his hand and helping her settle on the wet grass.

“I can’t believe you’ve never seen a sunrise out here.” There was both softness and anticipation in his whisper, and she was a little surprised that it felt natural, under the circumstances. “It’s high time.” They watched the fog on the water for a while, listening to the wind disturb the trees.

Eventually, James glanced at her and she saw what little light there was reflected in his glasses. She felt her stomach squirm. “So, are you sorry you came?” he asked.

“I was sorry that you woke me up.” The smile forcing its way up her face destroyed her attempt at sounding stern. “But not so much anymore.”

“Already?” he smiled and shifted his weight to his right arm, making it easier to face her. “You haven’t even seen what we came for yet.”

They sat in silence and enjoyed the occasional gust of wind, watching the sky above the water slowly grow red-orange. Lily watched the water until the fog began to thin. Eventually she was admiring darkening orange and red and yellow light reflected off of the lake, feeling a strange anticipation growing in her stomach. Perhaps James’ enthusiasm was catching.

The world was getting brighter, and Lily was now forced to look straight at the water. James looked over and quietly admired her admiring the light. It flooded over both of them and gave her the illusion of a slight glow. He moved a little closer, and she turned to face him.

“You brought me all the way out here, and you’re looking at me?” She appeared to be stifling a chuckle as she turned her torso in his direction, supporting her weight on one hand.

“If I had planned to give the sun all of my attention, I wouldn’t have brought competition,” he answered, amazing himself by maintaining a calm expression. “When you’re around, I’d much rather look at you.”

She looked him in the eye for a moment, and then turned back toward the water. She hoped he hadn’t noticed the new tension in her muscles.

Even shortly after, Lily couldn’t clearly remember how it happened. Suddenly the sunrise was forgotten and James’ mouth was resting against hers, waiting for her permission. She relaxed her mouth and felt his fingers on the side of her face. He tilted her chin up gently and leaned in, and after that her own mind took over.

He’s going to know I’ve never done this before—this is so embarrassing—I’ll never see him again after this—how could he spring this on me?—I’ve probably completely messed it up already—maybe I can salvage the moment, if I make sure I don’t accidentally bite his lip or something…

Then he leaned in closer, and she noticed a little tension in his mouth. She touched the arm supporting him and felt him trembling. She smiled a little; his mouth twitched in response. Lily ran her finger tips along the side of his glasses. Reached up to touch his hair. And felt him suddenly pull away.

She chuckled along with him as she watched him straighten his glasses. With anyone else the moment might have been embarrassing. With James laughing, breathless, across from her, it was somehow perfect in a way that she had never thought to wish for.

“Lily?”

She looked up to see him studying her. When she said nothing, he rushed to fill the silence, glancing down as he spoke. “I—I’m very sorry. That was inappropriate—totally out of order—”

“Oh, please, don’t apologize.” Lily acknowledged how eager she sounded and was relieved to find that she didn’t care in the least.

He looked back up at her and smiled. “In that case, I think I have a confession to make. I—I’m very sorry if…” He took a breath and smiled. Lily watched him relax as she returned the gesture. “Let me start over: Lily, I have a confession to make.” He glanced down, and she saw his cheeks begin to color. He forced his eyes back up before finishing. “That was my first kiss.”

Lily felt her heart turn over. She swallowed, took a breath, and bit her lip in time to avoid laughing as her own monologue from the moment before tickled the back of her mind. Eventually, she allowed herself a small smile.

“Really?” She asked. Her eyebrow rose and he chuckled, nodding. “Well, that does make me feel better.”

James’ eyes lit up as he grinned.

“Yours, too?”

She nodded. James shook his head, laughing quietly. Lily took a breath and enjoyed the contentment in his voice. James was still smiling when he looked back at her.

.

“I was hoping so.”

Lily watched him observe her for a moment, and then looked down at her lap. They sat in the growing light and looked out at the water as the wind blew a fresh chill into their faces. Lily could feel the warmth of his fingers resting inches from hers, a few tall blades of grass between them.

Another tired puff of air shot the smell of lake water back into her face. She turned her head and watched his face. It didn’t take him as long as she’d expected to look over at her.

“James?”

A smile tugged at one side of his mouth.

“Yes?”

She glanced down at the grass. She could almost see its true dark green as old shadows continued to fade. She looked back up and observed a new light in his eyes for a moment. She felt herself smile, slow and relaxed. Forming the words was a little easier than she had thought it would be.

“How would you like to try for our second?”

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Cramped Spaces (A Harry Potter Fanfiction)

Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine.

Cramped Spaces

                I had just worked the corner of my trunk free of the second-to-last step when another pair of hands lowered into my eye line, gripping the bottom and easing it down onto the platform.                “Thanks,” I raised my eyes up just enough to see him through a curtain of my own hair. We set the trunk down on the stones near the platform sign at the same moment, moving in tandem in the way that had developed almost without our notice. “But you really didn’t have t—“

“I know,” he straightened up and offered me a gentle smile, an edge of familiarity in his tone.  A comfortable silence hung between us as a sharp breeze kicked up from somewhere to the West.  I took a step back under the pretext of shaking the hair out of my face and forced the brightest smile I could manage.

“You know your agreement to watch my back doesn’t necessarily extend beyond the castle.”

He looked me over in that way that gave me the maddening feeling of being shut out of something:  blank, but somehow infused with a language that I couldn’t read. His moment of study apparently over, her shrugged his shoulders and I watched the layer of glass fall away.

“I guess it’s just not that easy to turn off.”

A chuckle escaped my throat.

“No. Guess it isn’t.”

I closed the gap I had created between us and extended my arms toward him. The smell of roses and wet earth enveloped me as he accepted the offer.  “Be careful, Neville.”

It should have felt like an odd thing to say, back in London and getting ready to go home on holiday. But repetition had elevated it to something bordering on reflex. It was part of the reservoir of automatic responses that line themselves up and file out of our mouths without help from the conscious mind. But he squeezed me a little harder before letting go, anyway. The voice of the crowd was starting to take on its own rhythm, the space around us filling with the quiet, pulsing energy that rushes into any corner of the world where too much human life occupies too little space. I could feel the insistent existence of the crowd pulling on us from every angle it could reach, but his eyes were locked on mine.

“And you relax.” He dropped his voice bellow the confused hum around us. “Please.”

I felt one corner of my mouth quirk upward as I leaned away from him, appraising the dried mud on his robes and black circle under his left eye, still healing from the Carrow’s  latest attempt to make him see reason.

“Meaning?”

He matched my stance, resting his arms over his stomach as he quirked an eyebrow at me.

“Meaning you’re off duty, General Weasley. It’s ok to go home and enjoy yourself.  Stop worrying all the time. For a little while, at least.”

The statement seemed to bring a sudden increase of oxygen into the station with it, but I managed to keep my face blank as I studied him between the first flakes of a new snowfall. He wasn’t the only one who could hide behind glass.

I took a long, slow breath of as a small group of first and second years, huddled a few yards behind Neville, caught my eye.  I shifted my eyes back to his and inclined my chin toward his waiting charges.

“You’re sure you have them covered, then?”

Neville glanced over his shoulder. When he looked back, he offered me a slightly exaggerated sigh, his smile somehow amused and resigned at the same time.

“Happy Christmas, Ginny.”

I bit my lip as he folded his arms around me again. I’m not sure if he felt the bit of extra pressure I applied just before letting go.

“Happy Christmas, Neville.”

 

()

                Two days before Christmas, something about my tendency to treat the vegetables as though there were guilty of a capital crime got me excused from the kitchen.  The smell of wood smoke and the sound of Bill and Charlie’s voices from the living room sent me veering to the right as I left the smell of cinnamon and half-cooked ham behind me.

I’m pretty sure that my brothers assume that the narrow door just off the living room leads to an extra broom closet. As I rattled the doorknob, first to the right, then up and down, I was happier than ever that I had never corrected them. The room was a little narrow, but the window and the rickety piano that someone had shoved into one corner were enough to make it cozy. I pulled out one of the old blankets I’d hidden here and draped it over the piano bench (this room gets strangely damp after a good snow fall) and closed my coat against the chill. I was pulling the quill out of my pocket before I even noticed that my hand had moved.

“Loqui Secretum—Longbottom.” The quill glowed red, then gold against the scarred wood of the piano. A moment later, Neville’s voice filled the space around me, as close as if he were sitting next to me on the bench.

“Evening, Weasley. How are you holding together?”

A chill ripped down my back and I reached for my wand to try one of the warming charms we used for autumn Quidditch practices. The living room would be warm by now, but I couldn’t bring myself to go in there quite yet.

“Well enough now I’ve found an empty room.”

He chuckled and I felt myself smiling, too.

“Your family getting under your skin already?”

I opened my mouth searching for a snarky answer, but something stopped me long enough for the truth to push its way forward.

“It isn’t them…not really. I just…” a half-laugh filled my throat as an uneasiness I couldn’t name rose in my stomach. “I think I just miss you lot. Mad as that sounds.”

“Doesn’t sound so mad to me.”

“Not under normal circumstances,” I added. “But…you have to admit it’s a bit odd. Here I am with a whole house to roam round in, and I’m missing being crammed into one room with eighteen other people.”

A soft, low chuckle filled the empty air next to me.

“Yeah,” he answered finally, “I guess that does sound a bit mad.”

I offered a brisk nod even though he couldn’t see me.

“Precisely. This whole mess is starting to turn my basic understanding of reality upside down.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing.”

I blinked at the quill.

“Pardon?”

When he broke the silence, that simple, matter of fact tone that I’d learned to find some odd comfort in had settled back into his voice.

“An inverted sense of reality should be pretty helpful when you get back to the madhouse.”

I let out a strangled chuckle.

“True enough.”

A peaceful silence stretched between us as the cold rolled over the edges of the charm and I felt something approaching joy for the first time in months.

“While I am flattered to be missed, please try not to think about us so much for a while. Don’t worry—we can both go back to having heart palpitations over everyone else soon enough.”

I sat there with Neville’s voice hovering around me until I could convince him that I would take his advice and go “enjoy my family.” When the voice faded, I sat in the greying glow of my charm, staring at my hands on the piano without seeing them as the room grew cold around me. I had walked in here sensing that I was being tugged away from my family without knowing why.  I hadn’t really fixed the tugging part, but at least now I had better knowledge of the problem.

It was true: I did miss the others in the DA, and I came here because I needed someone other than those I was with. But I hadn’t contacted Luna; I hadn’t reached out to Seamus; I hadn’t even thought of asking for Dean. The first and only name that had come to mind had been the one I’d instructed the charm to reach for me. And, for some reason, that knowledge made me slightly sick as I stumbled back into the hall at the sound of someone calling my name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bound (A Harry Potter Fan Fiction)

Disclaimer: nothing you recognize belongs to me.

Bound

“I should stay.”

I could feel Neville’s eyes from across the table, but I couldn’t manage to look at him. I’d spotted the podium at the front of the hall before I had sat down and fixed my eyes on it. It was the only thing in the room not touched with holly or something else unnaturally green. My jaw tightened a little as the resolve settled over me.     “Stay?” Neville’s voice jolted me just enough to make me turn my head.  “Here? The whole time?”

“I’ll write Mum tomorrow. She won’t like it, but—“

I caught a glimpse of a dark red silk ribbon over Neville’s shoulder and re-directed my attention to his eyes before I could take in the whole tree.  I glanced over at the Professor’s table long enough to watch each of the Carrows scan one side of the room. My eyes shot back to Neville and my voice volume dropped far enough to nestle underneath the confused, gentle buzz of conversation that everyone made a point of keeping up.

There were days, a thousand year ago now, when that underlying hum had left me with a clinched jaw and a head ache. Since the Carrows took us all under their benevolent wings, I had learned to taste something sweet in that sound; learned to breathe it in and take some kind of strength from it. We had never discussed it directly, but I was pretty sure that everyone did it on purpose. We took these few opportunities that we had as a unified whole to create cracks in the rigid, enforced silence that hung over us. Silence was fear and control. Our relentless rhythmic voices, whenever we could gather them together, were a quiet chorus of resistance.

Neville leaned toward the plate of toast between us and rested his fingers on a burnt piece near the edge. His eyes were on the food, but his attention was on me.

“Why would you stay here?”

I tore my eyes from the podium, and a brief, undisciplined moment put me in direct eye contact with a small porcelain angel that someone had slipped into the six-foot tree a few feet behind Neville. My jaw clinched for a second as I shifted my gaze down toward his hand. There was something  perverse about a castle full of  reminders of Christmas under the Carrows’s watch.  I glanced over my shoulder at the backs of three first years at the Ravenclaw table.

“Can’t exactly leave them here, can I?” I leaned toward Neville until I was sure that he could hear me, forgetting to make an attempt at acting naturally as the fingers of my left hand gripped the edge of the table. “The…the ones that are staying behind. There aren’t many, as far as I can gather, but I know that at least five of us will be here over Christmas.” I swallowed and forced myself to stay quiet until I was sure that my voice volume was back under control. “I’m supposed to just leave them here?”

His fingers slipped off of the plate between us as a smile edged up his face.  I swallowed as a flash of heat cut through me, there and gone like the dying breath of a firework.

“Notice something funny, Longbottom? Because the last thing I heard was us considering leaving a bunch of barely trained kids here with no protection.”

His expression didn’t even flicker as he leaned back a little and studied me across the table.

“Send them to me, and I’ll make sure that they’re on the train with the rest of us tomorrow.”

I blinked as the divergence between the subject at hand and his damn smile tugged at the edge of my sense of reason.

“Good.” My voice was flat in my own ears. “Brilliant. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

His eyes hovered on mine as he reached for a plate of butter somewhere to the left and pushed it toward me.  My fingertips rested on its edge, but his didn’t move. I blinked.

“What?”

“It’s not your job, you know.” His voice hovered just under the room’s general volume, but I had a bizarre feeling that the shift had more to do with me than with any desire to avoid Carrow’s notice.

“Pardon?”

“To look after them,” his eyes flickered to the table around us before coming back to me. “To protect them. They aren’t your job.”

I opened my mouth to argue before I realized that I didn’t have anything to say.  The heat pressed into me again, all at once, ripping up and down my body and feeding on the sudden, irrational anger that the observation drew out of me. I watch him watching me and felt suddenly like I had lost a chess match.

I slid a second slice of toast off of the plate and the suspended pause between us was broken. My fingertips went to work taking my breakfast apart as I studied the man that, somewhere on this strange, surreal ride, I had come to think of as my partner. After another minute the heat slowed to a quiet smolder and I managed to find my voice.

“You have somewhere safe for them to go?”

Merlin take him, that damn smile flickered up on the edges of his mouth.

“Of course,” he answered. “They’ll be taken care of like you’d done it yourself.”

I let a full minute of silence hover between us as I watched his eyes.

“I know,” I answered finally.

“Good.” He looked down at my full plate for a second before nudging it toward me. “Now eat.”

()

                I tugged a little harder than I should have and watched a thin, knotted web of hair flutter to the floor. My muscles took over where my mind refused to act, searching out the next knot, manipulating the dead extension of my living cells until another delicate collection of strands pulled free from my scalp and hit the floor. The soft knock on the door hadn’t quite reached me when her voice pulled me out of my own mind.

“If you put it up it wouldn’t tie itself like that.”

Charlotte hovered on the edge of the doorframe in a way that made her look small, even for a third year. I took a deep breath and felt the tension in my muscles release. I bit my lip and felt the sudden need to apologize. Charlotte was good at reading those things: the little poison- tipped messages that we send each other without even noticing it. I rested the brush in my lap and did my best to smile.

“Thanks.” Actually, I kind of liked the knots. Ripping them out and watching them fall to the floor gave me a minuscule bit of mastery over chaos; a little illusion of power that, I was pretty sure, helped me stay sane when I needed it most. Of course, I had no idea how to explain that without sounding clinically mad, so maybe it was better to skip the details.

I glanced over her shoulder as a breath of torch smoke floated in from the hall. “Shouldn’t you be packing?”

She tucked a strand of hair behind one ear and shook her head.

“I think I’m staying behind tomorrow—but my brother will be here, too. We’ll be alright.”

She looked me up and down, and then caught my eyes, pressing her gaze into mine so hard it almost knocked the wind out of me.  Her desperation for me to believe her, to stop worrying, made me a little sick. I took a breath and pushed back as I claimed her eyes. The silence hovered over us for a second as I wondered, for the ten thousandth time, how much the walls of these rooms could hear now. What I should and should not say.

“You know Neville Longbottom?”

“Do I–” she paused, and I saw her look over her shoulder into the hall before taking a step inside. “Yeah.”

I nodded.

“Go see him tonight. Say goodbye before he leaves.”

I watched her blink at me until a glimmer of understanding broke over her face.

“Right,” she answered finally. “I’ll do that.”

A still moment passed, and I finally offered her a stiff nod that seemed to give her permission to move.  I turned my eyes back to the floor and started in on the next knot as the echo of her steps in the hallway anchored me deeper into the stones bellow us.

 

 

Words and Other Hot, Dangerous Things (A Harry Potter Fiction)

Less than an hour past sundown and a layer of ice was thickening on the other side of the window.  My fingers crept up to the warm patch of skin under my collar bone as I focused my eyes on the trembling white lights fighting their way through the dark from below us.

Warm arms circled my shoulders from the side and almost managed to cut out the cold. I leaned into them and worked one arm around Neville’s back.

“If we’re still here when the world gets its sanity back, I’m dragging you to Trelawney’s and having her check you for The Sight. “

I eased back from him and he released me, lingering at my side.

“Don’t need any special abilities to know when you might need that.”

“Yeah,” I wrapped my fingers around my elbows as the chill seeped back in.  “Guess you don’t, do you?” I blinked at the dying candles sputtering against the black velvet on the grounds. “But don’t think you’re getting out of that visit to Trelawney.”

I watched him cross his arms over his stomach as he shook his head at the space halfway between me and the floor. A set of candles lit themselves over our heads.

“What?”

“That’s why I’m glad you’re here.”

I blinked and leaned one shoulder against the wall nearest the window. The hovering cold from outside rushed into me and made the world a little sharper for a second.

“Pardon?”

He took a step closer to the window.

“The way you talk about after… all this.” He nodded toward the warmer circle toward the center of the room, where a few other DA members circled the fire.

I nodded. It was a funny thing that happened to us sometimes—not just Neville, Luna and I, either. All of us. Every now and then, the words for what we were doing here slipped away from us. The stark, unpleasant names that somehow made it real in a way that even the scarred faces of second years and  acidic residue of Cruciatus curses in the air couldn’t quite manage, would suddenly become too heavy to voice aloud.

In the beginning, after they’d left, I had gotten it into my head that we needed to embrace the labels. I’d adopted them, tasted the bitterness until it became almost sweet.  I’d started to believe that we needed the words; needed to hear and feel and taste what this thing was that we were up against. Even after the others had started following my lead, there were moments when the terms that we’d grown close to still took on their full power and became too much to hold in our mouths. I hugged my elbows a little tighter and managed a smile that probably looked as hollow as it felt.

“The way I talk about it?”

“Like everything is going to get back to business as normal before too long and all we have to do is wait it out. Like you’ve seen some schedule for this fever dream that we never got to look at. Like you know.”

I really did try to smile this time. My face just wouldn’t quite work right. Before I could think of something to say that would manage to be encouraging and true at the same time, he added, “that’s why we need you.”

I blinked and felt a tiny bit breathless for a second. The ice on the glass caught some of the light from the candles and my fingers drifted toward the spark. He let me stand there in silence a few seconds, watching me watch the light.

“It’s getting cold.”

I felt him take a step closer, but he didn’t offer his arms a second time.

“They’ll be alright. I’m sure Hermione knows a good heating charm or two.”

I nodded, and then gasped as a sudden pain sliced into the side of my face. A second later Neville was at my side, his fingers in my hair and on my shoulder blade. When I looked over, he inclined his head toward the ceiling without pausing in his work.

“Wax.” He set the already cooling debris on the window sill as the spot on my cheek where it had grazed me started to burn.

A small crash followed by laughter drew my eyes away from the window. Cho shoved Pavrati lightly on the shoulder as the remains of a shattered chess piece hit the floor. I turned back to Neville, and this time the smile actually worked.

“Neville, how’d we end up running this mess, exactly?”

He glanced back at the group around the fire and offered me a little shrug.

“Because they aren’t sure where else to look, and as far as they’re concerned, we’re the next best thing to Harry.”

I’d grown to love the way that he could do that—look at the world with such clear eyes. Simple. Direct. Most days I felt like I couldn’t see through the fog long enough to walk in a straight line. I bit my lip against a sudden bizarre urge to smile as the warm spot on my face started to smolder. Whatever he said, I was pretty sure that I needed him more than anyone here needed me.