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#1 Dictys Ator

Dictys Ator

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Posted 15 November 2016 - 03:33 AM

August 1st, 2033

 

The Ministry of Magic did not spare a single purple curtain across Great Britain; they covered the height of the expansive hall and remained immobile against gust and movement, as if pillars rather than velveteen. Standing in a side corridor with fellow to-be Aurors, Dictys felt less nervous but still eleven like on Sorting Night. “Perurere coloratus,” he whispered, setting the pinching hex on Top of the Graduating Class’s arse as the bagpipes came to a mournful death.

 

“I’ll murder you,” Rina muttered as her left butt cheek surely turned a shade of orange.

 

Dictys grinned. “What? Anxious for your speech?”

 

 “It’s titled—” The door opened, and the clapping drowned out Rina’s clipped tongue. The light filled her narrow brown eyes, their dark flecks like pits, but she led them in a line to the cheering. Likely shepherded by Hedwig (his heart squeezed as he saw her: she loves me!!) to the spot he insisted on, his family and Briony stood. Half-tempted to slip off the wizard hat for little Deval, whose brown face was wet with tears (just too much), Dictys resisted as their instructor’s sight bore into his head as if she could read his thoughts perfectly. He behaved, but it was unreal.

 

They ascended the polished wooden steps and sat on practical folding chairs. As the first speaker spoke, and the next, his feet slid against the polish, soles new but scuffed. This close to the podium, and the curtains, he saw the fray, the chipping. Ahead he saw his dad Cadmus but not a father. Has it been three years, really?

 

“Now we will hear from Rina Baek, top of her class.”

 

The witch rose without hesitation, though her brows connected in a tight scowl, and she stood more aside the podium than behind. Dictys watched her closely. “This is not a speech because Aurors are not authorized to give speeches. Only politicians give speeches. Pre-requisite one. I learned useful things in Auror Academy.” Whether she meant it or not, the audience laughed. Her mouth formed a harsh frown.

 

Three years ago, after coming back from Poland, he’d been unwell. “You gonna give up because your dad died.” the same mouth had stated more than asked, black nails digging into a cigarette. “Saddest story I ever heard.”

 

Those things will kill you, he’d said.

 

“Most things will. So choose the what, or go home.”

 

And where’s that? He did not ask but instead smoked. They spoke the same tongue after that, and here they were, in pressed robes soon to be pinned with silver badges. Rina had not saved his life but sustained it long enough. He puckered his mouth at Hedwig in the crowd. Where anticipation weighed his classmates with lead, his flooded like adrenaline and made his bones hollow.

 

Rina sighed. “That’s it.” Beside her, the auror badges gleamed in a velvet box, and Dictys joined others on his feet, cheering.

 

Three years, really?



#2 Dictys Ator

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Posted 20 November 2016 - 05:11 AM

January 16th, 2034

 

They’d broken into a Muggle car for detail, and Dictys sat in the cover of darkness beside Rina, crushing a sherbet lemon against the dashboard. As the golden powder fell like snow on worn carpet, he wondered what street-raised idiot did not know dealing was low-level crime for exorbitant consequences. An ounce of pixie rocks will get you the same sentence as eighteen of pixie dust, but dust cost a buyer thrice as much.

 

The target slipped from the pub—a bright burst of purple candlelight from the window signaled that they were good to go—and the pair emerged like vultures, wand carefully drawn in the sleeve, and only after a monotonous run about the block did they unveil the seller against a brick wall. Fresh-faced, not in their file, and sweating profusely; Rina read him his rights as Dictys identified their green-eyed miscreant. “Sixteen, huh,” he arched a brow. “Aren’t you lucky your birthday’s a whole week away, Nelson?” He knew a little bit about breaking the law at sixteen. “You should be at Hogwarts.”

 

“You ain’t my dad.”

 

Dictys smiled. “How can you be so sure?”

 

Young Nelson’s nostrils flared, and he spat across the Auror’s face.

 

“Dictys,” Rina warned, though it was unnecessary.

 

“It’s all right,” the dark-haired man replied, eyes browning, and wiped his cheek. “Not everyone likes talking about their mums like I do.” He let the thick saliva drip from his hand to the boy’s sneakers before turning out the boy’s pockets. Nothing but Dictys was not new at this. He paused at the thick collar of Nelson’s sweatshirt and ripped the seam. He pulled a dark bag from between the fabric and shook it, the contents stirring heavily. Under the dim streetlight, he frowned. “Extension charm.”

 

February 3rd, 2034

 

Dictys had an apron on and was swirling on the final touches on the chocolate and cherry cake. His handwriting did not improve in icing but it will do. It must do; it was just before dawn in February, and he was cold. He padded over to the bedroom, where balloons bounced against the ceiling, and peered at the dark mane of hair from a bundle of lime green covers. Grinning, he slipped under and crawled the battlefield of forsaken socks, hair ties and cat fur (scowl-scowl) until he reached the dip of her belly button. Dictys blew a raspberry against her skin, and she stirred, “Five more minutes.” She pushed with her fingers through his hair.

 

“No,” he protested. “We have a busy day.” Sitting up, Dictys pulled the pine from a frilly pocket and magically threw the covers against the wall. The cake flew from the counter to his arms. He nudged her with a foot. “C’mon, boo. Check it out. It’s a cake for a special occasion.

 

Hedwig half-opened her eyes, blinking at the colorful balloons, and he tilted the cake down. “I am dating a child,” she groaned.

 

“A grown child. An adult child, with a job to get to in like two hours,” Dictys chimed in with a pout. “Now check me out.” She was beautiful even when she hadn’t brushed her teeth or her hair. Especially beautiful? He rather liked the privilege of waking up next to her when he could; he flexed his arms under the cake’s weight.

 

“At least you’re not wearing my yellow dress.”

 

Dictys smirked. “I am a grown child with great sentimentality.” He nudged her with his foot. “So: pillow fight until you’re fully awake or go right for cake? It’s in your honor, after all, you know, of the best day ever, when you ha-“

 

A pillow landed squarely in his face.

 

June 7th, 2034

 

It was like he drew heat from the candles, their flames bright but drained of the chemical reaction that now bubbled under his skin. Behind his eyes.

 

“Why is Nelson Kendrick being tried as an adult? He was flacking sixteen when we picked him up!” Dictys snapped at the clerk assistant. The Wizengamot was cool and dark with memories old and new, scorned and not. He could see his Auror badge in the assistant’s wire glasses.

 

The assistant cleared his throat. “Mr. Kendrick carried a significant supply of prohibited substances. He is not the supplier. This is an exemplary case. If he would just speak, the organization could be brought to justice. It would be a huge win for the Ministry.”

 

Rina spoke first, “No one wins when a kid goes to Azkaban for ten to twenty.” She nodded at her partner, and after lingering for several moments, he followed.

 

In another corridor, Rina turned on Dictys. “You want to say it—it’s not fair. But it is the law, Dict. We’re not the ones to change it. We enforce.” Her hand was tightened around the dumb stress ball he'd gotten her for Christmas. “We need to talk to his mum.”



#3 Dictys Ator

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Posted 20 November 2016 - 08:36 PM

June 10th, 2034

 

Two elephant figurines crossed in still-motion on the kitchen window sill, their destination a dead potted cilantro plant. The mother-and-son pair wore bejeweled blankets, crusted with age from years of toil. Dictys sat in a stiff chair, lukewarm tea tickling his throat, and Rina remained on her feet, nose wrinkled at the rotting trash. Ms. Kendrick’s back straightened against the wheelchair cushion, mouth browned with lipstick, and stared, bloodied vessels coloring the whites of her eyes.

 

“If Nelson doesn’t talk, he will go to prison for at least ten years,” Dictys explained. “That wasn’t his supply. We just need to know whose was it.”

 

The woman laughed. “Torturing me won’t get you an answer.” She had not flinched when they arrived unannounced on her doorstep. She had not apologized when their feet landed in half-finished takeaway or offer to clean with the wand tucked in her dress pocket. She was a mother; proud.

 

“No, but you could talk some sense into him,” Rina interjected. “Or as his legal guardian, you can authorize Truth Serum use. He doesn’t have to do ten years.” He’d suspected that it was Rina’s plan all along to ask but the question made the tea surge in his stomach.

 

“You are treating him like an adult but saying I am his guardian?” Ms. Kendrick sneered. “You think I believe you? I believe in my son.” She glared harshly from Rina to Dictys. “He’d never leave me. He’s made his decision, and I support him.”

 

The woman moved from her side of the table. “I will not let a bunch of you play around with his head. You’d dirty it.” Her voice grew louder. “My son’d never leave me for a bad decision. A bunch of soulless brats like you don’t get it.” As Rina tried to convince Ms. Kendrick, looking imploringly at Dictys, he glanced at the dates on the newspaper crushed under the wheelchair.

 

June… April..May, March.. January.. February..

 

“I’ll take the trash bins out for you,” Dictys said when they finally gave up. His palms were sweaty.

 

Ms. Kendrick did not flinch. “Just take yourself out.”

 

June 14th, 2034

 

Dictys sprawled across the sofa of the best friends’ flat, head on Hedwig’s lap. A pizza box was opened on the coffee table—two slices set aside for Elodie—and the rest, fair game. He curled his finger around a lock of dark hair, and hers dug into a slice of pizza, a triangle shadow over his face. Her class notes littered the breadth of his chest which felt dented still by the weight of the Auror badge, though he’d left it at the Ministry. Hedwig dropped a pepperoni into his open mouth. He chewed idly while trailing his wand on the floor.

 

Nelson Kendrick will be sentenced in five weeks. If his mum had the daily subscription for the Prophet, that meant thirty-five more abandoned newspapers. Was that, too, the count of his letters that crossed to Poland in the last three years? Higher still were the pleasantries within and those given every day in halls that were not like Hogwarts. All the years not knowing—was it better to know and fall apart or to have never known at all? Were there dead cilantro plants in his name?

 

“What’s up?” Hedwig peered down at him, eyes flickering just once at the salt and pepper shakers that had been transfigured to black and white elephant figurines.

 

Dictys changed them back. “Sorry.” Was it fair, all of this? To feel dented but full and warm with pepperoni and kisses at the same time? He’d forgotten the feeling of being abandoned. He sat up and pulled the notes into a single pile. “I think,” he began, almost short-circuiting before finding her hand in his. “I’d like to visit Edyta.”



#4 Dictys Ator

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Posted 22 November 2016 - 05:12 AM

June 16th, 5:42PM

Poland

 

In Warsaw, he saw different lights and buildings but the air tasted the same—floured, dusty yet chipped with fresh paint; he hated it.

 

8:08PM

 

He sped on a rented Firebolt to Bychawa, the ride in blurred grays. He didn’t notice something was wrong until the broom sputtered at the outskirt, and he descended too quickly, chest swelled as if hit by a bludger. Hair whipped with sweat, the man withdrew the pine wand from his leather jacket and wordlessly cast a cushioning charm against the first layer of branches he would collide with. The second left more scratches but the touch was gentle for Poland. He welcomed the novelty.

 

The ground steadied a back aching with travel and burden but he rose, unbroken, sighing. He slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and placed the useless Firebolt between the straps before walking toward the one cluster of buildings on the one road. Time passed, surely.

 

“Oi.”

 

He did not stop walking.

 

“Oi!”

 

“Look, no Polish-speaking Englishman here okay.” He grinded his teeth together, head finally turned to his spectator. Eyes widened. “Policja Kijek.”

 

A spiry man had paused, foot firm on the ground, and leaned toward him in wonderment. “Dictys. You’re back?” Officer Kijek wore navy uniform shorts that ended right above the knee, tucked with a pressed shirt, and he sported a more elaborate badge than three years ago. He was sweating.

 

“For a bit,” Dictys answered. “You got a promotion but they put you on a bike.” He laughed.

 

Kijek’s English had been poor at best three years before, and he did not expect the flush to the man’s cheeks in return. He shuffled off the bicycle. “You want to go Edyta’s. I take you.”

 

Dictys had begun to protest but a gloved hand tugged the bag strap, and Kijek stared in confusion at the broom. “I’m here to clean,” he relented. With great fuss, Kijek made the one-person bicycle as comfortable as possible for two (note: still not comfortable). Dictys balanced himself on the backseat, secretly charming his belongings to be weightless, and placed his hands on the Samaritan’s shoulderblades. Novelty, surely.

 

Below cropped brown hair, specks of dust spread like freckles on Kijek’s neck. Dictys reached and brushed them away; Kijek gripped the handlebars.

 

Oh, right. They’d done something like this before.

 

He resisted another laugh. “Taking English lessons, Officer?”

 

8:59PM

 

Dictys had learned much about small talk from Hedwig in the last year and a half, having witnessed this charming skill in person before strangers, that he easily asked about things that mattered little: Kijek’s well-being, the nicest crime (pierogi-stealing-and-giving Robin Hood) and worst crime (serial cat murderer; literally a cat that curled up on people’s faces in a nursing home) he solved, and whether he decided to carpe diem and sign up for that Grindr account (there was a blank laugh).

 

They stopped on a lonely stretch of road. Only the candlelight beyond a white curtain gave the little house away. “Thanks,” said Dictys, weight returned to his things. Kijek looked at Dictys who looked at the house. He saw nothing but felt the enormity of it—no doors for secrets, no warmth even in the summer heat. Kijek said something in Polish (unintelligible, uncared for).

 

Dictys approached slowly. The door opened. Her shadow took him for the night. “Gran,” he tried, as he had written in their letters.

 

“Edyta’s still fine,” the flesh said. His blood, whatever that meant. Her thumbs released the soft spots on either side of the door frame. “Come in.”



#5 Dictys Ator

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 04:12 AM

10:33PM

 

The sharp scent of vinegar lingered in his nose, long after Edyta first opened the jars lined on the kitchen shelf. The fireplace was ashen, home to daddy-long-legs and rumpled Polish newspapers. Dictys minced a pickled beet on his plate, reddened as if the pickled herring had bled, and sighed. He levitated the plate outside the window where a tawny owl, Feint, swooped and snapped up all of dinner.

 

Edyta sat in a tall chair that blocked his sight but the urn would be right beside her. Knitting needles worked methodically to make a hat but her fingers pressed into the armrest. “You gave a bare warning,” she said, note crinkled against the chair. A few brown feathers fell from her grasp.

 

Dictys washed the plate and fork, Feint’s angry hooting lost in the clinking, and replied: “Would it have changed anything?”

 

Quiet, then: “No.”

 

Was this what having a gran felt like?

 

“You didn’t bring the boy this time.”

 

Was this the feeling of regret, of pity? For whom? How much could Edyta read from his skin? Was it the same as Florian’s?

 

Dictys was tired. “He was never here in the first place.”

 

June 17th, 8:08AM

 

Morning brought dew and light, and Dictys finally saw the accumulated red smears on the house.

 

HAG GO AWAY

 

UGLY WITCH

 

where’s florian?

 

Most of the graffiti disappeared with a flick of his wand but the rare magical mark remained stubborn—a scar cut in stucco.

 

12:13PM

 

Pickled eggs and sausage waited for him on the kitchen table. The urn sat on the side, a ring of dust around its bottom and its neck free from any burden. It was not a stand (no hats); it was not a flower pot (no blooms). Ashes had no use.

 

Dictys lit a cigarette, fingertips tinged with red, and inhaled.

 

“No good,” Edyta said as she came from her bedroom. “They come back like pox on teenagers.”

 

 

Dictys turned and left. He continued on foot to the denser area in Bychawa, drawing several honks from passing cars and mixed up greetings from his gran’s neighbors. He continued until he reached a dingy, yellowing building with a POLICJA sign. Good enough.

 

“Excuse me.” Dictys wordlessly cast a translation spell as he smiled widely to the officer at the front desk. She was bright-eyed and already blushing. “I want to talk to someone about vandalism at my grandmother’s home.”

 

“Of course, I –“

 

“The Lis son,” weighed in someone unwelcomed, blue-suited, and wearing an even larger badge than Kijek. That’s where your budget is. “Of son.” This officer, round and silver-haired, stood too close in his personal space but closer to the front desk. “We know. Edyta never said to you?” He smelled like mothballs. “Your babcia don’t like us,” Inspektor Gajos said in a tone that conveyed mutual dislike. Dictys let it run. “You don’t look like your dad.”

 

Dark eyes sunk darker (misplaced); hair bristled with a current that was not there (no use).

 

“I’ll write the report,” interrupted another voice, Kijek’s. “I’m familiar with the vandalism.”

 

“Then why haven’t you stopped it?” Dictys asked.

 

Kijek blinked pale hazel eyes at him as Gajos started again. “Too many people to stop.”

 

June 18th, 3:34AM

 

Dictys wore night like a second skin, eyes blinking with memory, happy and good ones like a trick of light.



#6 Dictys Ator

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 04:22 AM

2:08PM

 

There was a knock on the door, the first noise of the day. Edyta had moved first. Spoke in tones as terse as the red paint scrawled across the neighboring houses.

 

W A T C H I N G U

 

“He was home the entire night,” his grandmother lied. “How could I not know? There are no doors, no secrets, in this house.”

 

Awakened, Dictys joined Edyta at the steps; tired, bored, a million things but most of all, not whole. “Sounds like you’ve got a problem: no evidence.”

 

Kijek looked at him again. “Mr. Kowal saw you come into his yard.”

 

“Not me.” Dictys recalled dried coffee stains at the second button. “You wouldn’t miss me coming.” Under a blue-gray sky not unlike London’s, there was a smile and a shut door.

 

8:25PM

 

The treehouse lit up with strings of colorful bulbs as he entered, as if he’d fallen into the inside of a fruitcake. It had been Florian’s hiding place when Edyta grew angry, so it seemed fitting that his son would be there now, rehoming the dust into lung lining. The photographs and newspaper clippings differed from the man’s flat—from a time when he had not cared for Dictys, or did not know he wanted to be a father. They were instead the preoccupation of youth: parents (Edyta, curiously unburned but the effect was similar, beside a broad-faced veela with dark blond to his shoulders), places around the world (Bora Bora, Caicos Islands), women (needy, clutched sleeves).

 

Magically unlocking a tatty suitcase, Dictys pulled an assortment of model vehicles and sovenirs. A thin black cloak fell at the wayside. He thought that this was a person he did not know. He thought that the ashes his gran could not let go was not Florian at all.

 

Dictys rested against the luggage, back straight on splintered planks, and blinked; dry. He reached. The bulb lights burned against his thumbs and he remembered that this was not the first time. He touched another light with his pointer. He’d done this with Marla, describing lightening within a fragile glass, learning heat not from fingers but the heart. Why am I thinking of a thing like that? Did I have a thing like that?

 

It was June or something, but coldness seeped like fog, a whiteness that made night a dream behind a curtain. Dictys slept.

 

9:14PM

 

He woke with heaviness as the black cloak enveloped his arm. He blinked, tried to shake it off, but it clung on, crept closer to his neck, and he thought. Thought:

 

Lethifold.

 

Dead for three years, and yet Florian was still screwing him over.

 

He wanted to laugh but he was being eaten by a starving lethifold, technically.

 

Dictys pointed his wand. A sprinkler on a hot summer day and a taste of cherries. “Expecto patronum!” Nothing emerged, and his elbow itched. He thought: a loud laugh, with teeth, thawing. “Expecto patronum!” He struggled against the thin non-fabric, heated, yelled for Edyta.

 

He thought again, this time to the final Auror exam, as Rina watched from behind the instructor, impassive but knowing: Dictys had only been able to call a corporeal patronus once in the past year. He might fail, he’d thought, he likely would, but what about his nephew then? What would Dev be proud of? And Dictys had thought about the baby in his arms for the first time, tiny and swathed in a cloth. “Expecto patronus.”

 

The barest silver teased the air.

 

How am I here? Is this real?

 

Dictys struggled to breathe against the living shroud’s fluttering, slurping.

 

Is it—

 

Emoji, emoji, emoji—a rush in his chest—

 

“You couldn't trick me into liking you: you live too much in the moment, which is why I know you’re an idiot.” 

 

Dictys remembered the sea, the snow, the movies, remembered too much really, but not enough: Dictys needed more. He was an idiot after all, and he hadn’t yet surprised Hedwig with the new coveralls he purchased.

 

I love you, she’d said, then argued Impossible when he said he loved her more, and he decided to stop thinking. I love you.

 

Silver erupted from the pine, as his patronus took form: sturdy, perpetually moody and horned. The rhinoceros stormed the treehouse and threw the lethifold against a wooden panel. Dictys quickly disposed of it.

 

He half-climbed, half-fell from the treehouse, stepping behind the trotting rhino. The door slammed open, Dictys laughing then, sore, and they paraded through each room, casting a bright sheen on peeling paint, and he pulled Edyta from her seat, banished the pickling jars, and laughed, brown eyes crinkled at the corner.



#7 Dictys Ator

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 03:35 AM

July 10th, 2034

11:46AM

 

“Explain.” Their unit lead threw an evidence bag on his desk, littered with quills sized to how much of a wanker you were.

 

“That is evidence for Case G98H01, rendered impermissible in Wizengamot today because a routine check showed the pixie rocks were contaminated with” Rina scowled.

 

“Candy,” Dictys finished.

 

“And how the flack did candy particles get into the evidence? How did this escape your notice?”

 

And thus Dictys answered: “I believe I may have been eating sherbet lemons at the scene of the alleged crime.”

 

The rest the Auror tuned out, pressing into memory only how vindicated Ms. Kendrick had looked and the skip in his heart. After many minutes, when both were sufficiently covered in spit, the unit lead stopped.

 

“You’re suspended, Ator.”

 

“Okay. That it?”

 

“Three weeks. No pay.”

 

“Right.” After the partners excused themselves, leaving for the outer hall, Dictys stopped Rina, looking fiercely, knowing where he was. “Everything that happened was right. I’ll be fine.”

 

July 21st, 2034

 

The stones on Wicker Street in Knockturn were cracked but painted by neighborhood children, a mix of color and size and writing. Dictys balanced a bag of groceries under an arm, kneeling to inspect more recent additions—unfaded TT <3 DD 4ever!!, owl me @ Crosby, and the occasional poetry, Dictys rulz. He chuckled, adding some poignant lines about his love. I <3 Hedwig’s butt.

 

A shadow slipped over the writing, and he furrowed his brows, mouth unimpressed by the stranger’s lacking command. “Belladonna wants to meet you.”

 

“I’m busy,” Dictys lazily replied, standing slowly, but his wand bristled. “Who’s Belladonna?”

 

Nelson Kendrick looked about impressed as Dictys. “Ain’t my problem if you don’t find out.”

 

-----

 

They traversed smaller streets as an odd pair, Suspended Auror and Almost Convict, until they reached a small flower shop. The bricks wore a deep forest hue, punctuated by black windowpane. White tins sat atop a polished round table, overflowing with herbs. By his first cautious step into the shop, Dictys was left alone amidst a wild collection of plants, their scents tantalizing sweet, perhaps delicious, and certainly dangerous.

 

“Everything in here can kill you,” a man confirmed, obscured by a towering canopy of green leaves, etched with lime more fitting for the tropics.  

 

Dictys stood his ground. “I’m looking for Belladonna.”

 

“And here she is,” the man laughed. The canopy shrunk, and Dictys raised a brow. The man—Belladonna—too stood out of a place; tie thrown over his shoulder, pressed white shirt tucked into suit trousers, and a five o’clock shadow cast around a smirk. He placed the shears aside and pulled off paisley-print gloves. “They didn’t say you were devilishly hot and domestic.”

 

Dictys tried to look more dignified with the celery jabbing his upper arm. “And bored. Please continue.”

 

His smirk sunk into a cheek. “I’m Wilbur, Nelson’s friend. He told me about the trial. I’m stunned that someone could be so stupid. And hot. How could Capable Miss Baek have not noticed the candy before?” He gasped. “Unless-“

 

He rolled his eyes. “You’re a mob boss then.”

 

“That’s so old school,” Wilbur replied. “We take the trash out. We plant flowers. We check on our neighbors and fund new businesses. We’re Knockturn Alley’s very own Beautification Club.” He lit a cigarette.

 

“What if you’re the trash?”

 

“Who knows—anything a respectable organization would do to show you don’t belong. Banishment. Suspension.” As Wilbur blew smoke from puckered lips, a nearby flower inhaled, its petals deepening from violet to black. “In your position, once reinstated, wouldn’t you know where seeds ought to not be planted, where weeds grow thickest. That sort of thing. There’s room, Dictys, for that sort of intelligence.”

 

In mandatory conflicts of interests or ethics trainings, Dictys had witnessed innumerable horribly acted or animated bribery attempts, in dim alleyways for ludicrous riches. It was nothing compared to a man whose hazel eyes were softly flecked with magnetism.  

 

“No,” Dictys answered, his pulse strong, breathing the Knockturn Alley underneath the thick fragrance.

 

Wilbur inclined his head, and he counted two scars on the scalp. “Well then, Hottie. When you’re ready to make the world beautiful, the first one that ever mattered like your home, you’ll know.”

 

Outside, Dictys paused and breathed again; learning, checking that Knockturn Alley smelled the same like acid, dust, a touch of rosemary and fire, and old books. That the only thing that changed here, as he recalled standing at the counter as Cadmus bought leadworts for Gloria’s grave fifteen years ago, was the sign on the flower shop: belladonna.



#8 Dictys Ator

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 05:31 AM

December 28th, 2034

 

As Hedwig helped set the table at his sister's, Dictys changed into the coveralls and reemerged a new man, infinitely smugger and with a toddler at his feet.

 

“Fancy something you see, love?” Dictys chirped before dipping to kiss his horrorstruck girlfriend. “Look, Dev has one, too!”

 

His brother-in-law pressed a knuckle to his temple. “First you install a handsy flower whose legality I remain unsure of,” the honeysuckle swayed protectively over the cottage windows, “and now my son..” His nephew shimmied in dark blue coveralls, ran toy cars over the toes, and laughed hysterically.

 

February 13th, 2035

 

Six months into Rina and Dictys’s reassignment to Cold Case Special Section, the uppers thought their resourcefulness would be better applied to fresh blood: splattered on damp basement walls, seemingly banished within veins, tragic accidents in broad daylight.

 

April 1st, 2035

 

There was the jar of marmite masquerading as jam in the fridge. At an early hour still like a held breath, he’d tiptoed and tucked anti-gravity spells where Elodie might step. Hedwig had not recruited him to the cause; such bitter war of eleven days over eleven years was entirely personal. Dictys, in endless wisdom, thought himself a willing soldier for the Night Queen but—

 

He paused, too quiet in a familiar flat but not theirs, and knowing Elodie as more than a werewolf but as, well, one intimidatingly scary woman, perhaps (he thought) it would be better to be a traitor. The odds were stacked against Hedwig, anyway, and since he was a Slytherin, Hedwig would understand, wouldn’t she?

 

Maybe it would help conversations with Elodie, too.. Dictys snickered and mixed a color-changing charm into the body wash.

 

August 22nd, 2035

 

“Our thief booked it from the counter and made it as far as a step from Knockturn,” Cook said, nudging the dead woman’s dragonhide boot. The other Auror whistled. “Uglier than the goblin she maimed though.”

 

The gold glinted in lackluster sun, blinding as Dictys followed the trail from the grand steps to the small wrought iron gate, on which a small plaque hung.

 

Maintained by the Beautification Club

 

Wisteria twisted down the iron, angered like rust, and tangled and agitated in the woman’s hair. “She was strangled,” Dictys remarked, though the ligature mark would need to be confirmed.

 

“Who cares, whoever did their little experimentation on the gardening did us a favor,” Cook yapped. “Recovered the gold. Knockturn on Knockturn crime. Easy points.”

 

“Shut up.” His wand called, tingled, as if sensing the strange magic from the flowers. “This woman’s not from Knockturn. We’ve been looking for her.” His eyes were dark; the shapes of his nightmares; photographs and case files, of spurned lovers and strangers in the crosshair.

 

“Sweet. Oh man Rina’s gonna be so pissed she was sick for thi-“ Cook tripped on an invisible rock, or perhaps on his stupidity, yelping, and Dictys grabbed a handful of his robes, wand now tucked in a sleeve.

 

Dictys smiled. “Careful now.” The wisteria plumped up with each sniff of Cook’s carbon dioxide. The other man dripped sweat on forsaken pavement. “Don’t want the herbologist to dodge two bodies to examine the damn plant. That would be an inconvenience for everyone.”

 

November 30th, 2035

The brown owl scratched the window relentlessly just before tea.

 

Come to Hyde Park. 3:30PM. Bring no one. Third bench.

 

                                                   -R

 

Alarmed by Rina’s message, Dictys hurriedly slipped into a pair of shoes, yelling over his shoulder at Hedwig about work, and apparated into a throng of tourists. Wind swept dead leaves, and he could have been lost, if it not for the odd sight of his partner, snug in a bright red raincoat, and holding the leash to a black puppy.

 

“You’re kidding me,” Dictys complained with a grin as he stepped closer. “Here.” He handed her ginger green tea before kneeling to scratch pup’s ears which were smaller than the late Socrates.

 

She shrugged. “I’m not.” Rina narrowed her eyes at the mug. “Did you do something to this or your mouth-“

 

“Merlin, it’s clean. Hi sweetie, aww aren’t you cute, hiiiiii.” Rainwater splashed into his boat shoes from the dog’s jumps. “You made it seem important, of course you are buddy, sit boy. Good.”

 

“You’re more punctual when it comes to urgency.”

 

“Fine. Then what’s up? Not every day I get to be away from blood and guts and you.”

 

Rina continued after abandoning the mug. “I adopted this dog yesterday and today I can’t deal with it. You take him.” Dictys blinked. “I adopted him because I thought I wanted a dog ringbearer but –“

 

“WHAT.”

 

“Oh, I got engaged.” She lazily shook a hand that was still ringless. “Besides the point. Dumbest thing I ever did other than becoming your permanent partner.” Her nose wrinkled with affection. “I can’t care for this. He has too many needs that compete with my own.”

 

Passersby began to take pictures, bewitched by the illusion of a proposal or break-up scene in the rain. Dictys glanced at the French bulldog for half a second before unzipping his hoodie to place the orphan inside. “Congratulations on your stages of self-discovery.” A smirk grew on his face, plastered with wet hair. He nuzzled the pup’s face. “What’s your name, boo?”

 

“Oopsy,” Rina said and repeated twice with a straight face. “Because he heard me say it when I realized he was dependent.”

 

Dictys wondered why everyone in their department thought he was the dumb one. “You’re ridiculous, but congratulations.”

 

Again, Rina’s nose wrinkled, and he felt his core warm. “You’re the Maid of Honor.”


Edited by Dictys Ator, 13 January 2017 - 05:46 AM.


#9 Dictys Ator

Dictys Ator

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 04:34 AM

March 14th, 2036

 

Dictys wondered when crime scenes started to unfold like pop-up books—clues that stood stiff as cardboard in primary colors for the eye, their peculiar scents (decay, deceit) as dull as scratch-and-sniff. In the Being Division’s reception area, he counted at least three exits and fifteen chairs that sized appropriately for the guest. Dictys stood in one of two lines and submitted a crushed purple memo to a Ms. Rajagopalan, blessed with an important brass nameplate. “I was told this was necessary,” Dictys said, closed.

 

“Ah, yes, Mr. Ator,” the woman replied, a soft hoot escaping her turban. “I don’t know how hiring managed to not check for your veela heritage registration but that makes it our problem now. You’re not in our register.”

 

“I thought werewolves had the whole oppression thing to themselves,” said Dictys, smiling, waiting. “So what’ll it be? A tattoo with a serial number on my lower back?”

 

Raj bristled. “You were rightly reported. In your position of Auror, any additional abilities must be properly documented in case of a la-”

 

“And how about my right to privacy?”

 

“Your Ministry position forfeits certain rights, Mr. Ator.” Her eyes glinted. “For the greater good.” Crisps had oiled her fingers, which left spots on a stack of paperwork. “Let’s get started.”

 

Working a crime scene worked a little like this: an endless stream of ‘was it the sad mum in the bedroom with her false dreams’, ‘was it the half-veela in his own head with his emptied desire’, or ‘was it the father in the workplace with his disregard’? He bloody tired of it.

 

“So your dad was the veela.”

 

Dictys tapped the nameplate. “My dad is Cadmus Ator. My father was Florian Lis.” More airplane memos had arrived in the half hour, their bent bodies fluttering at his head. Heat pondered his skin.

 

“That’s irrelevant for this section,” she tutted, “unless you’d like to include it in supplementary material.” The woman shuffled the papers. “So we have your height, weight, hair and eye color. Any other distinguishing features you want to add?”

 

“No.” But he thought of depositions: unconvicted crimes in Knockturn, long lost murders solved when the murderer had raised families, or young adults put away for confessions under the influence of their hubris.

 

Was he the villain or the hero?

 

“Then we’re about done here. Just sign.” Ms. Rajagopalan turned the clipboard to him before straightening her brass nameplate. “You were recommended for disciplinary investigation so you’ll need to head to-“

 

Oh right, Dictys had forgotten that he didn’t give a flack about things like that.

 

“What – what is this?” The woman tightly gripped the clipboard until brown skin faded to beige.

 

I QUIT

 

“It’s my resignation letter,” he answered easily before flicking his wand. The memos nosedived, and Dictys grinned, a strange sensation at this hour, in the absence of Hedwig, Oopsy or the damned cat. A light had come on, a clearing of a Remembrall. He winked at the house elf in the next line with thick magnifying glasses for eyewear. “Dictys is free!” He laughed and abandoned his post.

 

Raj, eyes narrowed to slits, interjected: “Are you part-troll? This is unacceptable. This is EXACTLY why your kind is unfit to have real jobs. Temperamental, irresponsible, coasting on appeal.”

 

For three years, he’d heard worse: soulless brat, snitch, pumpkin patrol, corrupt. Untrue, they still meant something. It was not a sin to be born; it was a sin to choose wrong.

 

“I’d call us humans but it’s an apparent insult,” he replied, head tilted toward the shoulder. His hand, wearing lesser scars, waved across the beings in the room. “We’re people.”

 

Dictys paused at the exit, a wicked smile spread on a youthful face. “File this under distinguishing feature.”

 

Birthmark of the Grim. Location?

 

His arse.



#10 Dictys Ator

Dictys Ator

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 05:25 AM

April 2nd, 2036

 

Dictys woke to the scent of happiness; a trace of his girlfriend’s shampoo across the pillow, spotted with drool (she insisted before, not mine), and the bubbling of lemon pancakes. He joined her in the kitchen, brushing her shoulder with fondness. “Good morning, my love.”

 

A plate appeared, stacked full, and Hedwig wore a smile. “Morning.” He could forget that he was currently between jobs. That there were things he did not know how to say or rather, did not know how to ask. It was not a selflessness.

 

Growing up, Dictys didn’t have birthdays the way other children did. He and Perpetua fashioned presents from old toys or their imagination. From ages 6 to 8, he received exactly: one doll missing an eye, a yoyo that was originally his, and sugared lemon zest, a treat from citrus filched from the bar below. Now twenty-four, Dictys raised his hand, the lazy sun casting memory, the sweetness of tiny sugar crystals against unmarred skin.

 

“I’ve got to head to work,” said Hedwig to the human and the dog. Carl, Sr. Mgr, had taken to yowling on the streets during mornings. The bulldog leapt from the sofa, crowded her feet, and attempted to climb into her open purse, but Dictys, a quick pop—

 

He kissed her against the fireplace, fingers over the dimples on her back but lingering in a warmth that was more than heat. He could not let go.

 

“Dictys!” she laughed. “I’ll be back later.” And Hedwig kissed him in return. “Brush your teeth.” Heels licked with a green fire; she was gone.

 

By the fourteenth hour of his birthday, Dictys had considered the production of two weeks. The first had not been so boring, considering the feverish apartment cleaning, duel with Rina, mini-holiday on a cool beach, second duel with Rina, and dog shoe shopping. The second sank its teeth in books, romance and dirty; an impulse buy at the shop, a secondhand habit from younger days. He was a passerby in the world. Sprawled on the sofa, twenty pounds of Oopsy sprawled on him, Dictys paused in the midst of Charmed Ever After (Book 2)’s saucy bonus chapter for Book 3 and glanced at the yellowing cactus plant under the coffee table, its form side-eyeing him.

 

“Fine.” Oopsy’s ears perked up. “Fine.”

 

Ten minutes later, Dictys arrived at Belladonna in Knockturn Alley with a dog and a half-dead cactus in tow. Hair windswept to whipped cream stiffness, flowerprint button-up loosely rolled to his elbows, and the adrenaline hollowing his bones, Dictys moved with a lightness undeserving of such occasion. He wandered farther into the flower shop’s wilderness, stopped at a distance by a rough-looking man of about thirty.

 

“Yo Ator, Belladonna’s busy.” Hard blue eyes drilled into him.

 

Neither he nor Oopsy could keep still, but a gentle memory passed in the fickle sun. “Ace?” The man looked sheepish as he scratched his shaved head. “Seriously?” An old friend in old places. Emboldened, Dictys pressed forward. “Cacti emergency.”

 

“The cactus can wait, geez, id-iot. Belladonna’s engaged. Oh no, still walking by. We’ll see who’s the punk.” Two enormous plants, the leaves in deep raisin with green blemishes, flashed sizeable stingers hidden in thick petals. They sat firmly in front of two doors, seemingly growing larger, until Ace belted out, “I’ve got a cauldron full of hot, strong love, and it’s bubbling for you – oh this ain’t the worst of it, bro – say incendio but that’s spell’s not hot as my special witch’s brew!” The guards relaxed and pulled their pots aside. “Go on then. She’s probably expecting you. That swarmy git.”

 

Still laughing as if he’d been slipped daydream charms, Dictys ascended to the next floor where he encountered a bubblegum-chewing tomboy, a goblin with a pocketknife, and Old Nan (Old Nan?!). This lacked the conclusion of a joke. The beats came evenly, softened like the spots on the leather couch. He smelled tea and biscuits. As Oopsy jumped at Old Nan’s feet, begging for slices of apple, the other intruder proceeded to what he assumed to be Belladonna’s office, given away by the sign that read FLIRT. Dictys knocked on the pink frosted window. Someone sighed behind him, and he knocked once more.

 

Dictys opened the door and immediately understood that Wilbur appeared deep in conversation. A cackling from behind.

 

“Jusk a biff, kay?” mumbled Wilbur after the squeaking of a chair.

 

Dictys shut the door. It seemed a series of crazy events had led him here; a mooning, increments of weeks, then book numbers, and minutes upon minutes. At last, the office door opened and Wilbur threw a grin to the room. “An associate of Noon and The Poet.” He waved vaguely at the wizard leaving. “Never mind those villains for another time.” He followed the man into the office, careful not to touch anything. “What can I do for you, Hottie?”

 

“I know the first world that ever mattered like my home.” The former Auror spoke the words that had lived in his memory, taking root.

 

“If you are looking for a position whose job requirement involves frequently mooning their boss,” Wilbur grinned all bright white teeth. “I have just the one for you.”

 

Dictys looked wildly unimpressed.

 

“Well, can’t get lucky all the time.”

 

“I have just the question for you then,” Dictys interrupted, brown eyes unfaltering. “What happened to the woman? Charlotte’s Flowers, right? Owner back then.”

 

Wilbur did not change his stance; open, straight-backed, and grinning, proud, there was a flicker in this. “If you’re asking if I’ve killed her, no. But my sister died here, an accident.” He reached for the cactus and clicked his tongue. “I took a risk and now we’re here.” Wilbur pulled on thick gloves, kneeling to examine the potted plant. “My sister liked to say: to make the best with what you have, you’ve got to be willing to risk your best. Are you?”

 

There were things Dictys did not know how to say or rather, did not know how to ask. It was not a selflessness. A glittering sweetness in his chest; will it burn? “Yes.”

 

Belladonna clapped her hands together; a muffled sound.

 

“Welcome to the Beautification Club, Dictys.”

 

FIN.







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