Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Pairings: Okay, in order: Draco/Asteria, Peter Pettigrew, Remus/Tonks, Sirius, Remus and Sirius (you can interpret it as Remus/Sirius if you like ;D), Tom Riddle Sr./Merope Gaunt, Luna, Percy, Remus/Sirius, Winky, Tom Riddle
Rating: Up to PG-13
Warnings: Occasional cussing, adult themes, canon character death, canon dub-con
Disclaimer: JKR owns things. I don't.
Summary: A series of ficlets written for Last Drabble Writer Standing.
Word count: 499 or under apiece.
Author's notes: So these were my entries for ldws. These were written over a period of several weeks and are in no way interconnected. I think the quality is a bit uneven-- I'm really proud of some of these, and others just make me cringe-- but, you know, there's a scene of fairly graphic slash, so it's not all bad!
X-posted to: hp_fanfiction
1. The Done Thing
(Prompt: All Was Well)
As they step out into the street, the sun emerges from behind a bank of clouds, and after the steam and gloom of King's Cross it is almost blinding. Draco scowls and shields his eyes, feeling too hot in his high black coat and claustrophobic in the city crowds: Muggles, mostly, dotted every now and then with obvious Hogwarts parents, talking too loudly about owls and brooms; sniffling, some of them, over the children they've just sent off on the train. Draco glances at his wife: he's glad Asteria doesn't go in for all that sort of thing. She is serene, dry-eyed, she is a great believer in the done thing: everybody sends their children to Hogwarts, and so she does, too, as emotionlessly as she might pack her cloaks away in mothballs at the beginning of summer. It is possibly what he likes best about her.
Draco lacks her calm, her indifferent competence, and so he says, almost scornfully, "Scorpius will be fine. It isn't as though we'll never see him again, he'll be back making a mess of the house and abusing the elves at Christmas, after all."
"Well, exactly," Asteria says distractedly: she is scanning the horizon, now, for someplace discreet enough to Apparate from. "I envy him, a bit, you know, those were the best times of my life, at school."
The night before, Scorpius had wanted to try out his new racing broom, and so it had been left to Draco to pack his trunks. It turned out that Hogwarts robes were the same now as they'd been nineteen years earlier, the same crest on the left side, the same too-big hood that Draco knew would get tangled up in the collar at least five times a day. They smelled of new linen and the old dust that seemed to gather in every corner of Madam Malkin's, and Draco as he folded them could taste pumpkin juice and sugar quills and nervous stomach. He could feel the stone walls of Hogwarts beneath his fingers, and the chill of the castle in autumn. He thought of the disappointment he had felt, those first few days, when he realized that, outside of Malfoy Manor, he was nobody special. He thought of how indignant he’d been, and lost, how everyone had seemed like an adversary. He remembers his school days now as a tangle of sensation: the acid feeling of anger rising in his throat, a coldness unfurling lazy in his chest.
“Yes,” he says, and presses his arm around Asteria’s shoulders, as if she is fretful, in need of comfort. “For me, as well.” He says, “Those were the best times of my life.”
2. Inevitable (Like the Moon)
And even now there is a moment of hesitation: he opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. He thinks of old kindnesses, of the childhood he was so eager to leave behind, and tells himself he could still go either way.
"I am not," Lord Voldemort says, "offering you a choice." But they both know that isn't true. Peter has begun to understand that death is always an option, even if nobody says so flat-out.
In the low light of the long room-- whose? Peter could not say. He knows only that he was summoned and that he came, willingly, more or less-- his eyes struggle to discern shapes. Faintly, he makes out a great chandelier, so overrun with cobwebs that they seem a part of its form, and a hearth black with soot. The drapes are drawn, but beyond them, he knows, there is only night. Somewhere in the depths of the house, something is moving, slithery and slow, but here they've nothing but stillness and time. You-Know-Who (the Dark Lord, he thinks experimentally, testing the feel, the heft of the words) gazes at Peter impassively, his face as bright and inevitable as the moon.
"Yes," Peter says, as he had known he would.
You-Know-Who (the Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort, my Lord) steps closer, light leaping crimson in his eyes. Peter feels a wave of revulsion, and swallows it. He thinks how, after all, he's not giving up much. Only the long rote of his own failures. Only friends who will never quite love him best, who has seen nothing of him but the worst bits, and, he is sure, underestimate him accordingly.
"Not entirely foolish, then," is all the Dark Lord says, but Peter thinks that underneath the words, he can hear approval, gladness. Pride. The eyes flash again, and Peter sees himself in them: no longer meek, no longer fumbling, but terrible, formidable; ruling at his Master's right hand over a world laid low.
3. The Battle of Hogwarts (A Bridal Portrait)
(Prompt: The Final Battle)
He always forgets, in the tenuous stretches of quiet, what battles really are. In his memory they become nothing more than the sum of their parts: the clash of two opposing forces, the ugliness and hunger that come with killing. Remus forgets that battles are living things, with voices, great roaring voices, with heaving and noisome breath. With veins that can be opened to spill blood.
But now he is tangled within the beast's grasping fingers, and he can hear its heart beating in time with his own. Now he remembers, now he understands. The flesh twisting on every side of him does not belong to many creatures, but to one, and the duel he now fights-- it could be his fifth of the night, his tenth, his hundredth-- hardly matters. Whether his opponent dies, or Remus himself, it will do nothing to quiet the monster raging all round them.
The Death Eater-- Dolohov, Remus thinks he's called-- fires off a curse, easily blocked. Remus, he raises his own wand, he hears a hex echo within his throat. He tells himself how he is fighting for what is right, but that line only works in moments of peace. Fighting, while you're doing it, just feels like what it is.
It has not been so long, really, since her first battle, barely two years. And maybe that is why it is so vivid in her mind, preserved like a flower pressed in a book, the colors only a little dulled. If peace comes-- when it comes, Tonks corrects herself angrily-- she will not let herself forget what battle is: this spinning madness with no center, no unifying thread, only a thousand people scrabbling for their own lives, and scrabbling alone. The night is balmy but there's a coldness in her bones, sharp as the green light that floods her vision as she rounds the corner. And then the coldness spikes through her blood, spills from her mouth: she calls her husband's name, but he has already fallen.
His killer does not pause to gloat: he is a flash of liquid black trailing into the thicker darkness of the hall. As Tonks sets after him, rage unfurls in her throat till she thinks she will choke on it, and a name repeats over and again in her head. It is not Remus, but Teddy. She sprints through desolation toward whatever awaits her, and when she breathes in she can taste death. Her loss blinds her eyes, it sears her lungs: her loss propels her like the pounding of her heart, and it is the only living thing left in the world.
(Prompt: Hogwarts letter)
He had known that it was coming; still, when Sirius goes down to breakfast that morning and sees the envelope waiting next to his plate, he feels an odd jolt in his stomach. It is maybe excitement. Maybe it's dread. It seems at first that nobody is going to say anything about it-- cause it's hardly worth comment, is it, Blacks all go off to Hogwarts; it is as natural, as expected, as breathing, and no more spectacular-- but then his father raises his eyebrows. "You will do us credit at school, I've no doubt," he says. His tone makes it clear that he has plenty of doubts, maybe as many as Sirius himself.
He nods his head. He makes his mouth say yes. Sirius, he doesn't bother to open the letter before tucking into his eggs and toast.
He is in the back garden poring idly over his list of supplies when his mum finds him. It's the part of the day when the light is melting down like wax, mellowing above their heads to the same orange as fire, and his mum with her black hair and black robes appears to have grown out of the darkness gathering at her feet. "Sirius," she says, and he makes as though to stand, but before he can she is kneeling at his side. She grips his hand in hers: she's never been that sort of mum, the touchy soppy sort, and the shock of contact makes him look her in the eye.
She says, "They'll fill your head with such rubbish. Or they'll try."
Sirius gazes down at the grass to hide his confusion. Only he doesn't know what she's on about.
"It's no secret that Hogwarts has gone to the dogs," she spits. "Of course it was crawling with filth even in my day, but now they've installed that blood-traitor as headmaster--"
This again, Sirius thinks, and scowls.
"You don't understand yet," she breathes. "You don't realize your responsibility. But you aren't like those creatures. I know how you love to be shocking, but now you're going off to school, you must begin to grow up, to see sense. You must promise me that at Hogwarts, you will keep to your own kind."
Anger knots all together in Sirius's stomach, but he cannot shape it into words. His mum's fingers tighten: they are cold, and heavy with jewels. "I know you'll be a credit to us," she says, echoing his father. "I know that your blood will lead you right." All Sirius can feel is the chill of her touch. He lets his gaze meet hers again, her eyes the same grey as his own, though obscured by shadows. There is a sourness on his tongue, and he swallows it. What he is afraid of is that she's right.
5. In Circles
(Prompt: "The Scientist" by Coldplay)
(Running in circles)
There is the madness of being confined, and a raw place in his chest where he knows he is abandoned. They’re meant to be here. He doesn’t know why they don’t come. It is nothing to do with precedent, or the things they’ve promised: it is an animal’s instinctual sense of rightness, or else wrong.
The other wrong thing is the scent, sweat and nervous stomach, unfamiliar; the hot staccato of blood beneath papery skin. It’s coming closer. The wolf lets a long sound pour from his throat. He braces his claws against the splintery floorboards, and waits. In his mouth, hunger and rage make a jagged knot.
(Chasing our tails)
”Only I’m sorry,” Sirius says. There is a desperate edge to his voice, but also a bit of impatience: as though if only Remus would understand this point, the matter would be sorted.
"I said that doesn't matter, though," Remus hisses. When he shifts in his narrow hospital-wing bed he feels a jolt of pain, and winces against his own unsettled flesh. "You told, you told Snape, of all fucking people--"
Remus closes his eyes. They've been saying the same things for hours, just finding new ways to phrase them. They are only going round and round, and failing to take hold of whatever it is they're after. There is the madness of being confined. There is the raw place where he is abandoned.
(Coming back as we are)
He will be forgiven, he tells himself. On the long walk back from the hospital wing, Sirius repeats the words like a mantra, till they are only sounds. Moony will forgive him. He's always done, before. Sirius thinks of that old Muggle story, the bloke whose liver gets eaten every day by birds. He thinks of reincarnation, and feels as though they're living the same thing again and again, a million lives in one because they never learn. They can only be who they are: Sirius mucking things up, and Remus forgiving him.
There was the night when it started: I won't tell, though, swear, he'd said. Gen up. He remembers his little-boy glee at having worked out the secret, the thickness of fright in Remus's eyes. This was at least a hundred lifetimes ago, and he'd still believed, then, he might change for the better.
He will be forgiven. It will be alright. This is no pattern that they can escape.
6. A Lucky Man
(Prompt: Twists and turns)
He has little basis for comparison, never having known the sting of misfortune firsthand; still, he believes himself extraordinarily lucky. He's lucky to have found a flat so reasonably priced, two poky rooms over a pub, all full of sunlight and the sultry smell of day-old smoke. He's lucky to have no place special to be, and lucky that the fistful of money from his father's safe has lasted so long. Mostly he is lucky to have her: a prize rare and luminescent as pearls. She is like some delicate flame, and everything around her seems to glow. In her blessed presence, nothing is as it was. Even the water he takes from the clay jug on the sideboard seems to have a strange, faint sweetness. It tastes, to him, like the salt of her skin.
He had not believed himself capable, in the time before, of loving anything so well. Her face hangs behind his eyes, like the moon. At night he tangles his fingers into her hair, which is soft, and no particular color. He rests the flat of his hand on her stomach, in the place where it is just beginning to swell. She believes the child will be a boy; she would like to name it for him. He himself isn't bothered what they call it. He can make himself think of nothing but her.
Of course he fails her, being unworthy. It pains him that she does not seem to notice: he would like to be punished, to atone, but she seems incapable of anger. Or perhaps not: there is a morning he steps in water, spreading like sorrow over the floor of the dingy kitchenette. The jug has been smashed, while he slept, into a shrapnel jagged and almost white. He thinks of foxes, which he used to hunt, the splintering of bones after the hounds were through with them.
All that day he feels out-of-sorts: it is like struggling from sleep, and in the end he goes to bed early. She is beside him when he wakes, a mound of flesh in the brighter pallor of moonlight, and he understands something is terribly wrong.
"Merope," he begins to say, and then understands that he doesn't want to wake her. He doesn't want to see her face. He recalls all in a moment, like a great lungful of air, what she is. What he is, or was. He thinks of the thing slouching towards life inside her-- his child, theirs-- "Taken in!" he hisses, maybe only to himself.
Tom does not feel guilty, as he packs his valise. He thinks how he is ill-used, and clean of blame. The love he felt clings still to the inside of his skin: only as ugly, now, as love always is. He can feel it, when he moves: the terrible heft of dead weight.
7. The Unseen (the Absolute)
(Prompt: Expecto Patronum)
(There are some things solid and absolute: the ground beneath Luna's feet, the insistence of blood and bone. There are other things that are real even if you don't have proof just yet-- Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, and also the world to come. A shadow is slipping round the edges of her mind, weightless and fragile as soot, like the long ashes that curl up and drift away from burning parchment: she cannot prove now that it was ever real. She cannot believe it was not.)
"The happiest memory you can think of," Harry is saying. He is back in the part of the world that can be proved to exist, pacing the Room of Requirement. He taps his wand absently against the palm of his hand as he speaks, not seeming to notice the sparks falling from the tip. "You have to concentrate."
(Her mother's hands were warm, and usually bandaged, from some spell gone wrong, some potion that had turned out more caustic than expected. That day they were fluttering like birds; adjusting the collar of Luna's robes, braiding her hair, patting her cheek fondly. She was talking, too, but Luna can't remember anymore everything she said. She said "love," and "clever girl.")
Harry says, "It probably won't happen the first time you try," but it will for Luna. That's something else she believes.
("We'll have a lovely day, just us girls. We'll make a picnic in the back garden."
Luna had said, "And then can we hunt for nargles?"
Her mother's laugh was brighter than actual light. "Nargles? You're a mad little thing, Luna, like your father." She was smiling as she bent down.)
There is something pressing at the back of Luna's throat that is like tears, only bigger: it is the fine silver glow of old happiness. When she speaks the incantation, this glow seems plaited into her words: as she knew it would, it spills out the end of her wand, tumbling in midair, resolving into a vibrant form she cannot make out just yet.
(There was sun pouring through the windows like rain, and Luna's mum pulled her into a hug. Luna buried her face in her mum's shoulder, but she could still see the sunlight. It was shapeless, tasteless, without heft: it was only air. It was something living inside her own chest. She was so small, then, too small to understand about time, which is mostly pretend anyway. She had believed against all logic that this moment could stay with her forever: and it has, it is. It is as real now as it ever was, though she's a hundred miles away, and older, with her feet planted firmly on the ground.)
"Brilliant, Luna," Harry says, and she turns her smile to face him. But the smile is not for him. It belongs to something invisible, and solid as oak. Over her head a silver otter capers and stretches, as though basking in an unseen ray of the golden sun.
8. Unsent Letters (Percy Weasley: a Backwards Chronology)
28 April 1998
Dear Mum and Dad,
I suppose it goes without saying that I've been a bit of an idiot. I know it, which is not the same thing as being able to explain it. What I keep telling myself is, I was quite young and stupid when it began, which is not to say that I've got much older, or one bit cleverer since.
I just wanted to be
I can't explain what I wanted, or why it seemed so awfully important at the time. I can't explain it well enough to justify the risk of contacting you, at any rate. One must be sensible after all.
15 March 1998
It is with no small regret that I must tender my resignation, effective immediately. The Ministry was once a beacon of order and right, and it has been with the greatest dismay that I have watched it become nothing more than a puppet government under the thumb of Vo You-Know-Who. I cannot countenance nor participate in the current campaign of terror, violence, and misinformation. I realize that in taking this stance I am inviting the most terrible retribution, but I don't care because
Only I do care actually. Oh, what's the use? I'll never send this letter. The others might, the twins or Ron would, but I won't.
22 January 1998
24 November 1997
What a surprise to hear from you, but of course I was glad. Congratulations on your engagement, I'm really very pleased for you. It seems to be going around a bit, my eldest brother was married this past summer
My job is going terribly well, thank you. I suppose I have, as you say, risen through the ranks rather quickly, but you know that is what happens when one shows exceptional talent and work ethic. Your pointed remarks were not lost on me, of course, especially given the excessive underlining, but I assure you I've nothing to do with any of that. The Commission is Dolores's lookout, and I think it's entirely the wrong line for the Ministry to be taking, truth be told. It's all a load of old rubbish, isn't it? I'm sorry you've had to go into hiding, sorrier than I can say,
but it is only another example of how the Ministry's gone downhill ever since
and you're right to blame me at least a bit, because I'm still here, aren't I?
but what am I meant to do?
3 September 1997
I suppose you'll take some ridiculous line on the recent changes in the Ministry, and since I've no hope of stopping you, can only entreat you to be quiet about it. As I'm placed a bit higher than you are, I can assure you, there's no call for concern. It's only wartime politicking, you'll see. Everything is fine. It's all quite as it should be. Everything is fine.
9. (At the Start)
(Prompt: Free choice, but, okay, this requires a bit of explanation. I'd finished the above Percy drabble and I really hated it, but I couldn't seem to come up with anything better. So I was like, "Fine, I'm for sure getting eliminated this week, but if I have to go, I'm going out in a blaze of slash!" And so I submitted this:)
When it happens the first time, it's not what Remus expected. They're in the loo at the Hog's Head, for one thing, and it reeks of sick and lager piss. They are both pretending to be drunker than they are, which is why Remus can let Sirius grip him hard round both wrists; why he can let Sirius shove him against the splintery wall all covered in obscene graffiti and whispers, "I mean, it's not as though we're a couple of fucking poofs." Remus has never kissed anyone before, and he is surprised by the slick softness of Sirius's tongue, by the teeth pricking at his lower lip. He's surprised by his own greed, the way it burns up his spine. The sound he makes is nothing to do with language: it is all greed, and the rawness of his wanting.
In the moment of breaking apart, Sirius is grinning, and Remus feels nothing but exposed: what he is, what he wants. He is cross-sectioned, so that anyone can see through him. It doesn't occur to him, yet, that the same is true for Sirius. The thing giving way somewhere beneath his ribs: it is only wild sharp happiness. It would be just as true to call it despair.
10. The Galleon
(Prompt: "It's clear that House Elves have distinctly different minds that separate the way they view life from the way a witch or wizard might. Likewise, they have a separate culture of their own, despite living in accord with (or as most of them would believe, to serve) wizards. We've seen shades of this in the book, though never in much depth.
So my challenge: A lot of what the norm is when it comes to House Elves was displayed through Winky in GOF. Write a drabble from her PoV, set anytime after she is released from the Crouch family's service.")
One by one, the doors slam shut in her face. It does not occur to Winky to be angry: not even in secret, not even silently behind the closed cage of her teeth. Each time she raises her knobbly fist to knock on a door, she is already picturing it closing. There will be nothing behind it, for her; no respectable work, no rest nor comfort.
One by one, the doors slam shut in her face. What she thinks is, It is just as Winky deserves. She believes in justice. She believes that is what has been meted out.
Bread scavenged from a wastebin mostly just tastes like waste. Tears taste like salt and terrible weight. Shame, in her mouth, tastes as rich and round as fruit.
She believes in justice. One by one, the doors slam shut.
It is four days since she's been free, since the first door closed. Her clothes feel like another, rougher skin atop her own. She cringes against the feel of them.
The sour stone in her stomach is hunger. It is nothing to do with why she wants work so badly. She wants work because she can think of nothing else worth wanting: she can think of no other use for her hands, her blood, her breath.
Her hands, her blood, her breath are heavy and useless. They are only reminders of her disgrace. Her failure is dirty grey, and clings like heat to her skin.
It is just as Winky deserves. She believes in justice.
She looks down, now, when she walks, her chin folded into her chest, so it is no surprise that she spots it straightaway: the Galleon wedged between the stones of the street, its gold dulled by a thick shroud of grime. Without thinking, she bends to pick it up, attracted only by its strangeness. When she realizes what she is holding, she cries out, and lets it clatter to her feet.
She would not like to be seen holding it. She might be mistaken for a paid elf, and she could not bear that shame on top of the shame she has earned. It is almost a consolation: she is not yet sunk as low as that.
The sour stone in her stomach is hunger. The soft ache just above it is her heart. Quickly as she can, Winky kicks the Galleon away. She barely slows her steps.
She believes in justice. It is just as Winky deserves. One by one, the doors slam shut.
11. At the Seaside
(Prompt: Free choice)
The restless back-and-forth lurch of the sea is like the pacing of some great caged beast. It is louder than Amy expected: she had been able to hear the waves even in the village, their shushings and weight, but here they are deafening. The sound seems to crash against her own thoughts, making them unsteady, and hard to hold onto. When Tom turns to speak to her, his words are lost beneath the ocean's complaint. But his smile, as bright and neat as plastic: she can make that out even through the grey-green dusk.
He speaks again, and this time she hears him. "Not much farther now."
Dennis frowns and glances over his shoulder, his eyes tracing the slim row of lights they've shed like skin. "We aren't meant to sneak off," he mutters, and his gaze skitters towards the jagged splinter of cliff before them. "We aren't meant to leave the village. Mrs. Cole said."
Amy narrows her eyes. Dennis Stupid Pratface Bishop, with his nervous hands and always-running nose: he ruins everything. He cannot know what he's doing, cannot possibly understand how important this moment is. Cause Tom Riddle has noticed her at last. The handsomest boy at the orphanage, the handsomest boy she's ever seen outside of a movie magazine; and he asked her, plain old Amy, to nick off to the beach with him. He asked her. "Nobody made you come, tag-along," Amy hisses to Dennis. It's the truth. He only smirks.
Loud enough so Tom can probably hear, he singsongs, "Amy li-ikes Rid-dle."
Amy spares him one last scowl before turning to race after Tom, who has not stopped to wait for them. The ground is becoming rocky, slick, beneath her feet. She presses her tongue to the roof of her mouth and tastes the wistful saltiness of the sea below.
"We're almost there," Tom calls back to them. "Wait till you see, it's awfully good."
He is almost to the cliff's edge; still, he turns around and walks backwards, seeming quite unafraid. He smiles once more, generous and wide, and looks as though he's holding back laughter as he shouts, "It's just this way."
Dennis peers dubiously at the cliff. "I don't think we can get to the beach from here."
"Yes, we can," Tom insists, and now he is laughing. "I know a shortcut." When Dennis hesitates, Tom rolls his eyes. "Don't tell me you're scared. I bet Benson isn't scared. You aren't, are you, Benson?"
Tom's hand is so white in the blackness all round them. Amy doesn't know when it got so dark. "C'mon," he says again, proffering his splayed fingers like a flower. Amy hardly pauses before grasping their coolness. Still, she trusts him absolutely. Still, she is so young. She cannot know, just yet, how she will never trust anyone again.