Welcome back to VH! We've just upgraded our software and themes and still have some fine-tuning to do. Please be patient while we get everything working right!  For information about the changes and to report any bugs or theme issues, please visit the Board Upgrade forum. Thank you!

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Hedwig Lane-Foley

The houses gone under the sea

12 posts in this topic

June 21st, 2036

 

 

Summer was hot, but the night didn’t know it: the moon above London opened like a monstrous eye, and the air was thick in her exhale. Her breath was like the moon, too, as Hedwig walked the lanes of Knockturn Alley, breathing, each foot clacking, beating, taking her closer to home. She breathed, and the stars gleamed thickets in the upward brine. Her route was a tactile thread, felt with her fingers as she walked them along the brick walls (cold), through her boot heels (colder), the shoe soles wet with mud.

 

Her mobile buzzed exactly twenty minute past midnight.

 

almost home?

 

It was difficult to type with the nibs of numbed hands, but Hedwig managed an estimate.

 

10mins topsx

 

It had been two months since she and Dictys had moved to Knockturn Alley. They’d rented a terraced house next to a used broom shop—theirs the bright red door at the end of a lane that bent like an old man’s knee. It was a stone’s throw away from the main, busy hub, but it granted some illusion of privacy. When they wanted more action, they went to their rooftop (they’d always loved rooftops) to watch the city by night, with all of its riotous, splendorous filth.

 

Hedwig didn’t have to walk home, but she loved Knockturn best where she could hear it. Glass shards flattened; her skull rung with the brass of faraway sirens; her eardrums soft with the slapped-speech of passerby mouths, drunkenly professing. Each sound from the street wavering, each sound groaned, eating the air thick with hot promise. It was the distinction of a calm made beautiful only because of disorder, as she loved it, as she loved this place to be.

 

Half-dreaming then with a rusted heart, Hedwig almost missed it:

 

There was a boy, tugging at the buttons of her coat.

 

“Sorry. Sorry, Miss. I didn’t mean to disturb.”

 

Lamplight greased long and yellow on his oval-shaped face.

 

"That's all right..."

 

He couldn’t have been any older than fourteen: more like twelve if Hedwig had the guess of it. His eyes were hard (black), older—but his hands betrayed his age. He wore pale blue gloves frayed at the thumbs, worn through with biting and saliva. A nervous habit, she supposed. Something of childhood.

 

“You shouldn’t have muggle things out around these parts.” He nodded towards her mobile. “It isn’t safe for strangers.”

 

“Speak for yourself. It's late." Hedwig was out even later than usual, filing reports a co-worker at Mudgrove & Mudgrove had neglected for a flu. It wasn’t the hour for someone so young, even in Knockturn. The roar of lawless brooms; lovers touching windows; the breath of human speech.

 

“Do your parents know you're out?”

 

"It's fine."

 

"Are you sure?" she pressed. "I wouldn't want my kid on the streets this time of night. Do you know what time it is? Doesn't anyone—"

 

“I’m fine.”

 

The bursting of beer cans; the slinging of metal where it did not belong.

 

"Not that it's really my business," Hedwig finished lamely.

 

“It’s fine. They're at home. I was putting the bins out. But, cheers for looking out.”

 

"Like I said, isn't my business."

 

The boy grinned. (Now where had she seen a smile like that?)

 

“Well, have a good—”

 

“Theft, however, is my business—most days—at least when it’s mine.” Hedwig brandished an open palm. “Gimme it.”

 

If the thief was slow at the grab, he was quick at dropping pretences.

 

“No.”

 

She laughed.

 

“You can’t prove anything, lady,” he countered, moving in from the last of their shadows. Hedwig could see his face properly for the first time: more than just those dark eyes or shivering hands. Hedwig's assailant had hair like he'd been caught in a firestorm, uprooted and twisted in neglectful, wave-shorn disarray. No longer worried, he looked to her like a mistreated mop, or maybe a particularly oblong coconut. Hedwig had yet to decide.

 

“Who knows, hm? Maybe you’re just trying to bully a child, touch a child when you caught him alone. I could tell the mob. They’d believe me.”

“Maybe.” She shrugged. “But who’s here now to hear you scream?”

 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t her phone she found but a box of pilfered Pixie Stix plucked from behind the other's head, suspended (he’d cast a spell then, somehow) in moonlight. Regardless, Hedwig pulled a strand and bit it cheerily between her front teeth. She winked. The boy scowled, and Hedwig laughed louder, and (so) the boy scowled more. His peaked face crumpled like a pile of wet leaves.

 

“You’re the worst," he told her.

 

It wasn't like Hedwig could disagree with him.

 

“So, what’s your name?” she asked.

 

“What’s it to you? Going to harass me again? Tell the police to kidnap me from my bed, then enslave me for your sick, twisted pleasure?

 

If petty crime didn’t work out for the kid, he really did have a flair for the theatre.

 

“I’m all good on sick and twisted, but thanks.”

 

“Whatever."

 

“Whatever’s a nice name.”

 

“Ugh.”

 

“Even better!”

 

“I’m leaving.”

 

A wild cat sung to its food; a street witch hissed through her thick, webbed gums; a broken record droned with the muted, recorded wailings of a jobberknoll; ahead, a fierce, petulant stranger took the steps to disappear.

 

Hedwig tossed him the remainder of her candy. It hit to the back of his neck, but he startled as though she’d cast stone.

 

“I’m on your side, yeah?” Hedwig called out. “Just ask next time. And if you ever want a proper meal, ask around for Hedwig. I make the best lemon pancakes.” She grinned. The boy did not. He craned past his shoulder to watch her, unblinking. Even from her distance, each threaded lash seemed as thick as a clock arm. He grabbed the box from the road, but he did not thank her.

 

"The worst," he repeated.

 

Hedwig didn't mind. After all, Hedwig had a soft spot for criminals. Why else would she be here?

 

As he faded from her sightline, she texted Dictys:

 

sry! got caught up

 

i was making new friends ;)


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

June 28th, 2036

 

 

It would take another week until Hedwig saw him again, lost in the rinse and repeat of new routine. Wake up, work, return. Wake up, work.... By Saturday, it was blissful to shake it off in favour of the streets. She’d kidnapped Elodie as her willingly wilful companion for the morning shop—Elodie, who spent the majority of their time alternating between cursing and silence. As it always was.

 

“Lighten up,” Hedwig cooed. “It isn’t that hot.”

 

Elbows knocked into carts; carts knocked into their patrons in reprisal. They kept to the sides of the roads, avoiding the worst of it, but Hedwig’s best friend was, as ever, the unavoidable hit.

 

“Of course you’d say that,” Elodie muttered. “You looove the heat. You probably planned this. You probably—”

 

But Hedwig had already stopped listening, perfected after years of (loving) practice. Elodie was wrong. As much as her vanity might blossom in irregular weather, Hedwig didn’t care for the summer. It was too bright. There were too many people. In the summer, Hedwig belonged too much to the rest of world. It was better November to spring, she thought, when she had her birthday and Elodie’s, Galen’s, then Christmas, anniversaries, and her boyfriend’s birthday, too. After May, there was nothing left to celebrate, and she missed it, somehow, that generous stillness, in the slips of the every day life. Hedwig had no reason for it but she longed for 4 o’clock evenings, the hang of warm coats on cold floors, a bedroom empty of sunlight. (Hedwig never really felt like herself in the summer. Not that it mattered. Not that it would.)

 

“What about this one?” she asked. Elodie, however, had stopped her complaining in favour of a sulk; Hedwig poked her.

 

“Elodie.” She held the hybrid fruit closer to the other’s nose, rhubarb spliced with something sickly and black—but most importantly cheap, and magical, and Elodie’s nose had never betrayed her when it came to poison. You could never be too sure in Knockturn Alley.

 

“Elodie, Lodie, Low-Fat Milk," classic, "could you be helpful for like—”

 

“Shut up. Somebody’s watching.”

 

Hedwig went quiet as Elodie peered beyond the bumps of Hedwig’s substantial hair buns, but otherwise continued disturbingly sorting through ‘Old Nan’s Used Fruit’ stand, trying to appear as though nothing was amiss.

 

“Watching like: ‘wow those girls are hot but I respect them’ watching us; or ‘wow it’s that werewolf!’; or ‘mug and murder maybe soon’ watching us?”

 

“It’s a kid.”

 

So, none of the above?

 

Hedwig matched the line of Elodie’s gaze, and she spotted him, sitting on the steps next to a vendor selling deep fried Acromantula. The last fruit: her coconut.

 

“You think a kid can hurt us?” Hedwig snorted, returning to palm a square watermelon. Would Dictys eat this? Better question: should he eat this?

 

"You don't?" Fair, she thought, given pair's history... the fear wasn’t very far off. But this seemed extreme, even for Elodie. After all, Elodie was supposed to be the smart one.

 

“Anyways,” Hedwig said. “I know him. I caught him trying to steal from me last week. I’m sure he’s just put off and staring.” Hedwig waved at him and the small boy startled. Hedwig thought she might buy him a spider leg if he stuck around for long enough—or if Elodie could keep herself sane.

 

“He isn’t any kid,” Elodie said (so it was a 'no' on the sanity). “He’s one of the Banks Brothers.”

 

“Oookay,” she drawled. “Like this is some gangster film from the 1940s?”

 

“No muggle references, and no: he’s been on a notice board up in Helvellyn, along with his two brothers. That one’s Knut, the others are Sickle and Galleon. I heard that—”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Shut up. They’ve been caught stealing Wolfsbane Potion. He stole from me last I was here.”

 

“Sucks to be you.”

 

Elodie ignored her; Hedwig considered it karma.

 

“We can’t figure out how, but he and his brothers have been on the scene every time one of the werewolves go to Knockturn to pick up new bottles. I’ve started having to make batches for everybody instead, so of course they’ve started taking the ingredients, too. Not that we’ve ever caught them in the act.”

 

“How’d you know it’s him?”

 

“You aren’t listening.”

 

“Never do.”

 

Elodie frowned. Another push, and Hedwig would wind up getting herself shoved, but honestly, Hedwig's skin had built up an immunity to bruising after twelve (cherished, violent) years of their friendship.

 

“They’ve been here every time it’s happened,” Elodie continued, “but never anywhere close enough to catch. It makes no sense, but that’s the evidence. If you want to make yourself useful, I’d let your snog-mate know to tell his mob friends. It can’t be good for Knockturn’s… reputation.”

 

Of course.

 

“I texted you about this last week,” she finished, finally sniffing the fruit, approving, and dropping it unceremoniously in Hedwig’s tote bag.

 

“I remember,” Hedwig said, “but it was a lot, and you know how I feel about reading.”

 

There was a long, drawn out sigh.

 

“Whatever. Just, I’m surprised you didn’t know about them. You’re the one who lives here. Don’t you know your own home?”

 

Hedwig couldn’t say it didn’t cut. She returned to looking at ‘Knut’, the youngest in a line of three, watching him through the slits of her eyelashes.

 

“He’s just a kid,” she answered instead. Elodie snorted.

 

“We were kids once. Remember?” Were they? Did she? Sometimes, Hedwig really couldn’t say. Little Hedwig Lane-Foley with her oversized hair and neon-blind clothes—all beauty, all teeth, Quidditch shins and snivelling attempts at higher approval. Her body before Elodie seemed unconsidered. Her body before Galen too light. Her body before Dictys was entirely hollow.

 

Sometimes Hedwig wondered what it would have been like if she’d stayed in Wales, rooted in the summers of her past. By all accounts, that’s the story that made the most sense; the one she was meant to have lived—a life without magic, without werewolves, or other, more beautiful creatures. Hedwig was born for the summer. Before Hogwarts, she’d lived for warm months, for lethargy and bathing suit tops, punch bowls mixed with counterfeit sugars, the stick of teenagers’ too-red mouthsexpected to grow up kissing to boys’ necks in swimming pools, unashamed (their skins hot, good, but distant, she reasoned, when they never touched anything back). It would have been easier, she knew, to be muggle and absent from the favours of supernatural love. The caring of the magical, however blessed, assumed sacrifice. (But these were other things that did not matter.)

 

Knut hadn’t stopped watching her in all this time, intrigued or disturbed, so she blew him a kiss (now he was 100% the latter). He looked hot and uncomfortable as he turned from her, a toy dragon trailing behind him as he vanished in the side of a street. He was sad, even, if Hedwig allowed a third descriptor. But the first, Hedwig could do nothing about. Not even a witch could change the weather.

 

It was a bright, beautiful day in the slums of Knockturn Alley.

 

It was two weeks before the kidnappings would really begin.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

July 3rd, 2036

 

 

“I’ll give you one thing, Knut Banks, you're a hard one to find.”

 

“You've got to be kidding me.”

 

Hedwig stood at the gates of the cemetery, decidedly dramatic, staring the little boy down. It was one of Knockturn’s many, more ‘special’ sorts of attractions: a cemetery in that it wasn’t a cemetery as much as a coiling lot stippled with tombstones, but without any dead. Anyone else might have called it a park, but ‘Verity’s Graveyard’ was a pun of sorts, something Knockturn residents could claim with their grim sense of humour. Stones razored like shark teeth, its fog hammocked in a violet haze. It was just the sort of place a boy like Knut would choose for his lesser haunts. Never mind that the majority of London's ghosts took residence in the park in the nighttime. It was no place for a boy so young, although Hedwig was beginning to think that nowhere in Knockturn could be past the hour: in a sky whose light was fading, an ocean's bleached wash into the night.

 

“Total crup at stealing,” she pushed on, “but you know how to hide. I had to flirt with two different vendors to find you, and one of them didn't need hands to get handsy."

 

“What is this.”

 

“The first,” Hedwig was undeterred; she cast a hovering charm, and she lifted from the rift between the road and the grounds “—he mentioned I might find you next to ‘Beard Trimmings’, which was useless—but a nice witch there, hairy woman, said you liked to hang around Verity’s, and here you are.”

 

“Are you, like, obsessed with me or something? Is that what’s happening here?”

 

“But the second was helpful right away.” She landed. Hedwig wielded her purse in-between them as though she were presenting the Boy King with a bounty—and perhaps she was. Wickedly, the young woman grinned, her mouth like the waning of the spectral moon. “She knew your favourite food.”

 

From her leopard print bag, Hedwig pulled two plates, two knives, a fork, a spoon she’d yet to transfigure, and an arched silver tray.

 

“Well, three of your favourites," she clarified. "Goblin didn’t seem to know if it was eggs, sweet syrup, or Cauldron Cakes. So I brought all three.” Knut swore. “You can have a plate if you let me join you.”

 

He looked at her as though he'd been confuded. Black eyes dazed, incredulous.

 

“Good Merlin,” he said finally, “you’re actually the worst.” There was a reason Hedwig hadn’t corrected him the first time.

 

“Fine, fine, but the werewolf isn’t getting her things back.”

“I didn’t expect her to.” Elodie’s potions would be soliders to the cause.

 

“And we’re eating at the gates, where someone can see you, in case you try anything funny.”

“Cross my heart.” Hope to, well....

 

Knut grabbed the plates and began to dig in before Hedwig had even lain out the blanket. His teeth tore in like three-headed a dog, every mouth, all slobber, speed, and enthusiasm, but Hedwig kept herself still. She had five siblings, so Hedwig knew the trick to endearment was patience, silence, and mountains of food. She wouldn't spoil the war for the merits of a battle.

 

Don’t you know your own home? She would: even if it took sitting at the sides of a not-really-graveyard with an underage stranger, eating in the dirt of a fallow crypt. Hedwig was resolved (and pity anything, anyone, at the brunt of her ambitions).

 

“My brothers told me about you, too, you know,” Knut said after he'd already devoured three cauldron cakes, four hard-boiled eggs, and half a jar of syrup. It was almost impressive. “Saw us in the alley that night, said you were that Dictys Ator's woman.”

 

Cool, so, good to know feminism is dead.

 

“They said that made you linked to Belladonna, that I should keep away.”

 

Hedwig chewed calmly at her patch of scrambled eggs. Belladonna and his 'Beautification Club' were meant to keep their Alley clean of sordid, unnecessary crimes. She could see why petty thieves would want to keep to themselves, i.e. away from Dictys, and thus, away from her.

 

“And what did you say?”

 

“Nothing. S’how I got this.” It was hard enough to see where they were seated, relying on moonlight for sight, like the eyeless, settled away from the main alley, the stacks of impossible, terrible people, friends, loved ones and peers, but Hedwig should have noticed the bruise before she sat down: at the crest of his wrist, its black, laced web as dense as a sponge.

 

“I’ve had better,” Knut added. “You should have seen last week’s—stick around,” he laughed; the sound bit at the crux of his throat, “I’ll have others.”

 

There were some things no one could make beautiful.

 

“Your brothers don’t sound like very nice people," she said plainly.

“Most people aren’t.” Knut looked to his plate. “And they aren’t my brothers, not really.” He swirled his eggs into syrup, back and forth—and back. “Not by blood.”

 

She couldn’t blame him for his distinction. Hedwig, however, had chosen water over blood since her Seventh Year at school.

 

“Were they the two boys I saw you with in the market?” she asked.

 

“Yeah.”

“Well then… I didn’t want to say anything, but if you’re not related, their faces are pretty messed up.”

 

Hedwig reached over to pinch his cheek, and Knut nearly knocked himself off into an open grave in his protest.

 

“I shoulda known you weren’t a part of the gene pool. You’re too much of a cutie.”

 

“I knew it! I knew you’d harass me!”

 

“Awww.”

 

“Assault,” he shouted, “assault!”

 

Satisfied, the witch leaned back to an unmarked tombstone (‘John Smith, Never Dead’) and forked another mouthful of dough.

 

“Definitely a cutie,” she repeated. Knut scowled, but the child’s lines drew more lightly than they had before.

 

Hedwig had become an adult through a violent act. She did not know what it was to age with tenderness, but she had cause to preserve what was soft. It was only through loss that she’d learned how to love the vulnerable: those people better and purer than she was (than she had been).

 

“So,” Knut started again after some time. He swallowed, slowly. Slowly, “You don’t want anything from me?”

 

“Just eat,” she said. “You’re as skinny as a wand.”

“Shut up.” He stuck her with a spoonful of syrup, and a fondness struck, too, with reason this time: Elodie, Hedwig realised, he reminded her of Elodie. The smile wasn’t Elodie (that feature Hedwig had yet to wholly consider), but the attitude? Hedwig licked off the glob of amber syrup with a thumb to her nose.

 

“I don’t want anything from you.”

 

There was the chewing of two taut mouths; torchlight, flickering, smooth; ghosts of the unloved; the sounds of the almost-sleeping, wrenched over bintops outside of the gate, tipping their exhausted bottles, drawing circles in salt with their hands for protection in the nighttime. It was a muggle-type magic: an old wives’ tale, like hair of the dog, a rabbit’s foot. Like chicken in a bowl of warm soup.

 

“Okay,” he answered her. Softly. Okay.

 

They agreed to make it a triweekly occurrence (only, only for her food, Knut stressed), coming together every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for a late-night meal. Hedwig made these other times more nutritious (she didn’t serve him in a graveyard, either, however unused). Hedwig brought Knut to a diner, a restaurant, a dragon-themed café, where the waiters breathed fire when they brought you your food (tacky, exceptional). He said that he hated it; she said he was lying. Knut wasn't a friend, and it wasn’t enough, but it felt like something of a start: something that could be hers, and useful. (Hedwig liked to be useful.) She didn’t tend gardens, but she’d planted a seed. She could water the corners without plucking the weeds, as her boyfriend might: tending to this dense, metaphorical jungle that was his childhood home. But Hedwig favoured water to blood, she knew, that blessed first week before Knockturn showed up in the paper.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The kidnappings didn’t happen the first week. The first week, she and Dictys had rescued another, stray dog (both words), and they’d busied themselves in four straight days of slobber and fur. It was an easy tide, rolling between the wet of jellied noses, the sore of loved mouths, those rarer days that Dictys had free.

 

July was kinder than the month before it, but its sympathies petered and filled: at the start, doting; by its end…. Hedwig wore through the dates in a whiplash memory, her images skimming, the dialogue spurned, as all the while the headlines built up in the news.

 

July 7th

 

 

She and Knut ate floating pancakes and played a game of ‘Time-Turner’: debating where they’d go, what they’d do, who they’d kill, who to save....

 

On the phone, Dictys decided to play too.

 

“Voldemort.”

 

“You’d kill—”

 

“His Dark Hole-y-ness,” he said, “and not as a baby. I’d take him as a teenager so I could punch him in his face before he died; I’d make him look like an idiot.”

 

But Dictys was the idiot (or maybe it was her: that kernel inside of her chest which glowed with the constancy of happiness).

 

“Well,” Hedwig said, “I’d go back to tell you you have cats.”

 

July 8th

 

 

“You’re eleven?”

 

“Don’t get your—” “Careful” “—in a twist. I start school in September.”

 

“September?" Hedwig pulled him beneath their umbrella by the nape of a speckled neck, snatching him back when he forced her away, his palms splintered, nails burned.

 

"Do you have a wand? Your textbooks, your—”

 

“No.”

 

“Shopping. We are definitely going shopping.”

 

“You're such a woman."

"Yes."

"Or maybe just a Hufflepuff."

 

“Now that," she said, "might be the worst thing you've ever said to me."

 

“Maybe to your face.”

 

Pushing, laughing….

 

“Don’t take it personal," Knut said later, "it’s just because you’re crazy and you know good food, and you’re… because you’re okay, I guess. So far.”

 

These were the good days, the difference between the clatter of a sunrise and shadows it cast in emptying beds, sleeping in left-behind clothes.

 

“But mostly it’s the crazy bit," he asserted.

 

July 10th

 

 

Hedwig taught Knut his first lesson about flying on a broom (yowling as he tumbled to cobblestone, and then asked, "Can we do that again?")and it broke in the muscles of her heart, those chambers unspooling with blood and with midnight, with spell words and memorable filth. What it was to dwell in those evenings, in the centralness of her favourite things. Someday, Hedwig felt she just might include him in the list. Her people, her home, and all that she loved. More importantly than love, however, was that she had chosen them. Somehow, Hedwig felt she always would.

 

July 11th

 

 

Augustina Greenroot, Head of Wizengamot Administration Services, has been reported as missing since Tuesday, July 8th. Ms. Greenroot was last seen around 11:30am in London’s notorious Knockturn Alley. She was purchasing a Hangman’s Rope. If you have any information as to the whereabouts of—

 

“Have you seen this?” Hedwig fanned out ‘The Daily Prophet’ out on messed kitchen table, still stained with the ink-mark of tea bags she and Dictys had neglected in the rub of their newer routine.

 

“No,” he said. “But I know of it.”

 

“Oh." Of course. "Right."

 

Who they’d kill, who they’d save… But these were the things they could not discuss.

 

July 12th

 

 

A second snatching.

 

July 13th

 

 

A third.

 

July 14th

 

 

It wasn’t them, Dictys assured her.

 

“That, at least, I can tell you. You know we’d never—my boss, the others—I wouldn’t—”

 

So long as he was on his probationary period, Dictys wasn't allowed to disclose Belladonna's investigations with any outsiders, and he stumbled now in that secrecy, tongue between love and his loyalty. Dictys's trust, however, was never the issue in question, and Hedwig rarely allowed herself the extravagance of worry, the pinchings of a gratuitous heart. She saw no need to be niggled by the things they could not control.

 

She kissed him, forgiving. (There was nothing to forgive.)

 

“I know, my love. I know.”

 

July 15th

 

 

Knut didn’t like to talk about anything personal, most days, but he assured her he wasn’t worried about being taken, although he wouldn’t say why.

 

“It’s about power,” he explained, their sixth visit. "What would I have? That's why you keep your secrets close, so no one can use them to hurt you.”

 

“Or help," Hedwig said.

 

The boy laughed simply.

 

“My biggest secret’s my favourite thing. It changes every week. Uncover that, and you’ll have everything you need.”

 

"For?" He didn't answer her.

 

Hedwig tried Knut's favourite colour, favourite word (all failed)…

 

His favourite food, however, Hedwig knew in abundance, and so she could provide. The witch's greatest charm was often her dedication, second only to her beauty, to her brilliance, her modesty.... She told him this in sequence, struggling his flea-bitten head into a hold he was 'powerless' to escape (that kernel inside of her chest popping in midst of the oncoming cold).

 

July 16th

 

 

Two of the missing people were the children of workers in the Department of Intoxicating Substances, last seen waiting for their parents outside the ‘Leaky Cauldron’. Their parents had been off on a bend.

 

Hedwig stopped reading the paper after that.

 

July 17th

 

 

“Aren't your brothers worried we’re out so late? They aren’t going to think I’m trying to snatch you now, are they?”

“Nah.”

 

“Guess it wouldn’t be smart. I’m the obvious suspect, since you and I are together all the time.” Hedwig smudged his cheek with her thumb. “It's hardly a secret.”

 

“Yeah, and you’re... not really a part of the community, so. I mean, why would you target Knockturn?”

 

(Hedwig was never really herself in the summer.)

 

“I mean—to most people, not to. Not to me.”

 

“So long as you know you'll be safe."

 

July 19th

 

 

Why worry about the things they could not change? she repeated it; repeated it.

 

July 20th

 

 

Elodie had the lab, and Dictys had the streets, but in the office, it was Hedwig who excelled. She dedicated herself to extra hours in the time she had free of them. Her bosses were impressed by her resolve (as they should be, five years into a job that paid scraps more morsels than bird food). Still, Seymour Mudgrove gave Hedwig the monthly cupcake for their best employee, because of the grunt work she’d done identifying mislabelled blood vials for vampires in need–all important, all secure. It was the same cupcake she received almost every month, flavourless and vanilla: YOUR #1! misspelled and iced pink–but Hedwig was pleased, unquestionably (unquestioned), knowing she could make a small, but significant difference in the lives of her clientele. She was a professional; she was polished; she was mature.

 

On her way out the door, Hedwig tossed the cupcake into a bin.

 

July 22nd

 

 

Knut’s toy dragon circled over-head, by the ceiling of the diner, spinning, spinning, spinning on loop. It stopped only once to pinch an explosion from Hedwig's plate of popping-berry pie.

 

“It’s not a toy,” he explained, and Knut asked her not to touch, as the model kept spinning, spinning up and spinning around—bobbing between the grape-vine hang of weightless chandeliers.

 

Was this a memory, too? Did she remember it right? Sometimes, her recollections could loop in a haze: work to leisure, to pleasure to sleep.

 

“You don’t have toys?”

“Toys are for children.”

 

We were children once, remember? (But this was a memory that Hedwig could never forget.)

 

July 23rd

 

 

Why did summer always make her feel like she were paper, or linen? Too soft, and unwoven. The peeling of long-ago paint.

 

July 25th

 

 

Hedwig slept. (Didn’t she?)

 

July 26th

 

 

Two more people went missing; they were eleven-years-old.

 

July 27th

 

 

Hedwig didn’t sleep at all.

 

July 29th

 

 

She could still smell the feathered grease of that week's news (unopened) when the memo showed up on her workdesk.

 

 

Quote

Rejected for Representation

 

Patience Prasad

Bartholomew Wolchek

Fletcher McKay

Augustina Greenroot

 

 


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The report was a simple one: four missing people, last seen and then discovered in London’s Knockturn Alley, had been seeking the services of Mudgrove & Mudgrove, hoping the firm would take on their case. Against who exactly? The first Mr Mudgrove had been concerned—Knockturn? Such a case was inadmissible. A suit could not be conducted, after all, without a particular person to sue—and if they didn't know ‘who’ they wished to sue? That was the trick with memory charms, you see, the second Mr Mudgrove had interposed—if a client didn’t know who or what it was that took them, how they took them, and even how long they’d been gone, it wasn’t as though their attorneys could make up the facts to get justice. But we’re lawyers, Hedwig had said drily. No Hedwig. We’re the law.

 

Mudgrove & Mudgrove, while dedicated to the rights of the dismissed, the plights of the muggleborn, the magical, and other subjected minorities, even they weren’t charitable enough to argue the impossible. After all, every witch and wizard knew that going to Knockturn meant asking for trouble. Just what did you expect them to do?

“Everything,” she’d answered, and if they wouldn't be the ones to bite the bullet, then Hedwig would bleed (gladly, gratuitously fleeced, stripped like a gun shearing bone).

 

August 6th, 2036

 

 

“I appreciate your patience with this… Patience.”

 

"Not a worry, not a worry. You're amazing, and I'm—” The other woman struggled with her overlarge purse, stuffing the remnants of their meal into extendable pockets. Even then, the fillings overflowed: cauliflower pakoras, pan-cooked cauliflowers, and flowers that were confusingly shaped like pakoras. Hedwig reminded her client to distinguish the three before packing any further. It wouldn’t do for either of them should more harm come to her. After all, Patience Prasad had been through so much.

 

“You’ve been through so much, Patience,” Hedwig repeated. "Don't fret yourself." She swayed a heeled shoe from the toes of her foot, and leaned closer in a mime of consolation. A kidnapping, and the forfeiture of two weeks of her life—and through it all, an overdue parking ticket which had resulted in the loss of her grandmother’s heirloom broom, although Hedwig had since overruled that fine and was far more interested in those two weeks in question, and what it was the other witch could remember when pressed.

 

“And you’ve been so kind, Miss Lane-Foley, coming to me when no one else would—charging no fee, and not even—you've done everything for me, but I'm still..."

 

She'd say concerned.

"Concerned," she said. "I don't want to get my hopes up.”

 

The Knockturn lanes were buzzing, inordinate with heat, but lacking in brightness. The evening had dulled to the colour of jade, the sky a stone faintly muddied, that crystallised air melting dimly to gloom, deeper, and deeper. Hedwig paid for the food, and she listened (with a mind already made up).

 

“Come now, Patience. You know I'd never do that to you.”

 

“I know, I know, but—" But, "but Mr Seymour said without any witnesses and without a known assailant, it’d be like I was charging a ghost, and I don’t want to—”

 

“Funny thing about that is,” Hedwig soothed, “is that I’ve actually charged a ghost before, and I won.” Her smile cut in its sweetness. “You can’t indict someone for scaring you to death when you’re dead already, now can you?”

 

Patience laughed, fish-eyed, and startlingly plain, although Hedwig didn't mean to be cruel (she genuinely wanted to help her, and was glad to, however ensnared by the speed of her own enthusiasm). The other nodded, again, again, kneading into a cauliflower-rose.

 

“I’ll find out who did this to you, and I’ll fix it. I promise.”

 

Hedwig righted the rest of her papers, slipping her notes into the prearranged line of the file she’d made for Miss Prasad in particular, the only victim of the four who'd reappeared who had any sort of memory of their kidnapping. In the past week, and without use of Ministry resources, Hedwig had only been able to goad out a few of the details, but she was eager to get home and share the latest with Dictys. While she knew that he couldn’t respond, it didn’t make the work any less valuable to his Club's search. It was a welcomed, summer blessing, blown in by late winds: a cause that Hedwig could believe in; with people to help; a cause that just so happened to help herself, too.

 

These were the facts: Patience Prasad had left her home in North Berwick on July 23rd, 2036, at exactly 9:32 in the morning (she was a pedantic woman, wholly fastidious, and kept records of these things near obsessively, a quirk which made her evidence more valuable to the court). Patience rarely travelled outside of her home, but she’d been forced to make the trip when a potion for hair growth required an extra human fingernail, and Patience had been too embarrassed to ask to borrow a friend’s. At 10:53am then, organ in hand, she remembered a bite at the back of her neck, a flashing of green (wings, she thought, or a leaflet), and the glittering expanse of a necklace made completely of wide, barrelled teeth.

 

The teeth were the new memory, and one that Hedwig was eager to disclose.

 

“I’ll meet you tomorrow the same time with a name of the sellers who list the item in question, or, if not, find records of anyone who’s filed a complaint of missing teeth. By their size, I imagine they’re some dragon’s—I can confirm with a friend I have in Helvellyn. I doubt even a crazy person would be proud of wearing teeth they got off the street, so it narrows our sources.”

 

Patience laughed again, although sadly.

 

"Right," she said, "not even someone crazy."

 

There was a loneliness, Patience had told her before, to the weeks she could not account for; as though she were separate from the weight of her own life, unearned, unremembered, like the sensitive switching of shadows into sparse, improbable light.

 

Have you ever felt like that, Miss Lane-Foley?

 

But Hedwig’s distinction between what was loved and what was unclean was reserved to the crime of acquired devotion.

 

No, she'd answered her. I really can't say that I have.

 

The nibbling of a rat's mouth on the ends of an old broom; vendours throat-raw shouting for a deal; boots still clacking on that worn walk home.

 

When Hedwig finally got in the red door, she found her boyfriend asleep on the couch. He was too fully dressed for sleep, so he must have waited up for her. It wasn't a Knut night, so gently, Hedwig entered the room and went about her tasks. She got a wok, boiled a pot of water, and opened the back door for the dogs to pee. What else? She could go for a shower, but Hedwig felt too tired to soak; instead, she chopped carrots, wilted spinach, then padded to the living room, intending on sharing her news. She took to her knees by the sofa’s edge. She looked at him.

 

Each feature held years, and Hedwig fell through each memory like the levels of a house. She descended: his hair (she had touched), nose (touched closer), his mouth (kissed), chin (rough), the neck (noble). Hedwig leaned closer, moving to touch him at the forehead, but she paused. She could still feel the heat from his brow in air, her fingers mere inches from that known, warm skin, but she could not break the rift. Why not? What was—

 

“See something you like?” Dictys asked suddenly (his eyes still shut). Almost four years, and always, still her stomach dropped, like stones tossed girlishly to water.

 

“Maybe.” Hedwig kissed the tip of his nose, but she returned to the kitchen before Dictys could impede her. There was work to be done (the mushrooms needed to brown).

Hedwig didn’t look up from the frying pan when she called back to him, “Don’t pout—I’m making you lunch.” Pasta, vegetables. Everything would keep. “I’ll leave it in the fridge for you to heat up at work.” Dictys was a good cook, but he liked to invest. Cooking wasn’t a practice for Dictys, it was a labour of love, and required his total attention. Hedwig was much better at necessary tasks, checked and marked from a list—Dictys with sentimentality: candlelight, flowers, or special occasions.

 

“Took the bins out earlier,” she continued. “Let out Doodle and Oopsy, too. No walk, but they should be good ‘til the morning.” From beyond the counter, Hedwig could hear Dictys laugh sleepily, still half-hazed with static dreaming, but he lifted into vision like the rising of steam, hair mussed (it was always an artful mess), eyes dark—cloudless, black, shimmering. Looking at her.

 

“You’re perfect,” he said. “My perfect girlfriend.”

 

Hedwig smiled tightly. “My ridiculous boyfriend,” she answered, but her heart felt boiled (am I?), her tongue mummified. From where? How? Am I? I’m not. I’m—

 

She loved him; that wasn’t the problem. He loved her. She had chosen him (but would he—given another choice? If he—?)

 

Hedwig dissuaded her fears (daft) and asked about his day. He told her what he could as she finished her cooking and went to scrub the pans. She wanted to tell him about Patience, and the progress she’d been eager to share, but… Dictys was in the other room, and she wanted to scrub the pans. It was necessary to keep your station clean, and if she didn’t scrub the pans—Am I?—the grease could settle for days. It was always Hedwig’s job to clean up a mess, an actual mess. She would not bother Dictys about needless worries—Am I?—when they were so rooted in their happiness. But:

 

What if you realise I’m not? The emotion was preventable, excessive. Hedwig had no reason to make him fret. Yet, all the same, her hands peeled through the water, wishing she were touching him instead. Hedwig needed to know whether or not Dictys was real—really here, really with her—and it was ridiculous enough (enough of this), and so abrupt, that although she felt as though she were shaking, Hedwig stayed put. She tidied the space until there was nothing left to prove she’d been there at all. Like a ghost, like a ghost.

 

Dictys appeared behind her, but Hedwig barely felt the arms as they snaked to her waist.

 

“See?” he whispered it against an earlobe. “Perfect.”

 

“I do what I can.”

 

She needed to get back to her work.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

August 17th, 2036

 

 

August was much like the month before it, only worse. The heat was unremitting, a lover either jaded or scorned—out to prove itself, impressing upon the skins of those most unprepared: streetwalkers, dogs, babies unattended (then saved) without the blessing of a cracked window. Hedwig didn’t sunburn, but she imagined her flesh all the same, blistered and snapped like wood pried from the floorboards of a run-down house. They kept the curtains shut, but the winds bit brightest in the morning, any cooling spells they’d cast worn off in their sleep, as the air descended with a dry tide over the city, leaving its occupants at the mercy of sun versus sweat. A choice: brave it and cook to the sidewalk, or else liquefy indoors, bodies like an ocean, with thighs more water than skin, undeserving of the name.

 

Hedwig figured since she’d been to Hell already, however, she could weather at least one trip to Diagon Alley. It was a deserved break, with Knut in a clammy, uncomfortable tow. He was dressed in all black, because apparently being ‘punk’ was worth a heat death.

 

“It’s not fashion, because fashion's lame," he said. "It’s a statement about my existential dread.”

 

“Whatever you say.”

 

Diagon didn’t sound the same as Knockturn, but its calls were familiar. The gaggle of children with old and new friends; the eager sounds of index fingers in a chorus, tapping at windows screens, pointing out the pets that they wanted (but could not afford); one little girl bought a toad, though, and it bellowed to their left, the burp like the popping of a mud pool.

 

“What’s first on our list, then?” Hedwig asked. Hedwig had worn white, like a functioning adult, and adjusted the brim of her large straw hat, before searching her bag for a second, matching, and placing it on top of Knut’s head.

 

The protest was immediate, and physical.

 

“No.” He tugged (nothing).

 

Hedwig had come prepared with permanent sticking charms.

 

“Loser.”

 

“No—no!” A panic. “No no no—I refuse, nope. I hate this, stop. Enough!”

 

“It’d be so much easier to stop me if you had a wand. I wonder where we can get one of those!”

 

“You are the worst. This woman is touching me without my consent! This hat is meant to subdue me, help, help!”

 

“You’re such a baby,” she intoned fondly.

 

Knut quieted down after a minute, his ego weakened (although never fully defeated). It was a good thing that he did, as he’d been put in charge of their shopping trip. Hedwig had already given him the bulk of her old books, or else the ones her sister Lulu hadn’t ruined in her own First Year, and she'd also promised to loan him her broom should he make the Quidditch team, but there was still the matter of the wand, brass scales, and dress robes. The pet, Knut had been strictly against. Apparently he had enough trouble keeping himself alive, let alone another creature.

 

Will you be bringing your toy dragon, then?

 

No.

 

Hedwig didn’t argue with him, although she did when he resisted her paying for supplies.

 

I didn’t grow up with money, so it’s a treat when I get to buy things for my friends.

 

Knut only relented once Hedwig had thrown in a free cauldron cake. He ate it in two swift mouthfuls, fingers (thankfully) gloveless but knitted with sweet cream and sweat.

 

“Why are we stopping at Slug & Jiggers for?" he pinched the list with a shake of sweetened hands. "You already gave me your old Potions books.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You know?”

“It’s work," Hedwig explained. "I’m checking on their supplies for a friend.”

 

She felt his stare like the invisible, prickling burn of an abandoned kiss.

 

“You shouldn’t… be involved in all that."

“It’s not ‘all that’. It’s my job.”

 

“Is that why you’ve been meeting with Patience Prasad?”

 

How would you know?

 

If Knut had been watching, it meant that her investigations were of greater significance than she first could have expected. It was speculation, but the interest wasn’t idle. Nothing in Knockturn could exist in a vacuum, Hedwig knew, autonomous or onto itself—there was no research that would not stir notice. The mob would watch her, of course—she’d already run into Belladonna (unknowingly) and taken transfigured goods from his shopping bag, mistaking them for peaches Hedwig had wanted for her pie (Dictys had been sent on a subsequent mission to ‘retrieve’ them from his kitchen later that day, embarrassingly, but delighted by her theft)—but Hedwig knew she had their protection, if not their gaze. She thought this unfeelingly: Dictys would be upset if his girlfriend went missing, and they had to take care of the moods of their own. Regardless, The Beautification Club had no reason to pry, given Hedwig’s more obvious allegiance. If she went digging, Hedwig was donating her dirt. Any other parties with information into her comings and goings, however… Why would he know? Why would he be

 

“Knut…”

 

But Knut didn’t like to talk about anything personal.

 

“No.”

 

“If you know something and you’re in danger, I won’t stand by—”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“You say that.”

 

“I know that.”

 

Everything felt brown, like the rotting of fruit, pulp a dead eye (clouded), left for too long in that hideous sun.

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“If could tell you, I would. I thought you were smarter than that, woman.”

 

“It’s been over a month," she abated. "You can call me Hedwig.”

“I know,” Knut answered. He stood beside her, so small (so guarded)—and she waited, barely breathing, as though anticipating the stirrings of a sleeping beast, wondering if it had made up its mind to kill her or to spare. Knut returned a gold galleon from his pocket and pressed it into her damp palm. “But I won’t.”

 

August 20th

 

 

“You can’t make something work out of nothing.”

“But we don’t have nothing, Patience,” Hedwig repeated the witch’s name as though it were a spell aimed to invoke the other's quality. Hedwig, however, had never been a big believer in waiting around. Success, action, accountability. You couldn’t get anywhere without fighting with what you had first (for whatever it was that you wanted).

 

Patience—fish-eyed, cowardly Patience—could only shake her head, that limp chin rendering in the seam of her fleshy, blunt neck.

 

“I’m sorry, Miss Lane-Foley.”

“Don’t be sorry; be brave.”

“I’m not.”

 

“You are. You really are, and we’ve come so far already to drop the case now. Please?”

 

Why was it so hot? If it wasn't so hot, then Hedwig could set her client straight, and convince her that her justice was worth having, that she could be safe here.

 

“You’ve already remembered so much," Hedwig pressed. "It’s all pro-bono, remember? I have a lead on the necklace,” she didn’t, “the green flash,” another lie. “Everything.” When had Hedwig gotten so good at lying to people she cared about?

 

“Okay,” Miss Prasad answered. Softly. I don’t want anything from you.

 

“Thank you. I wouldn’t hold you to it if I didn’t think it were the right thing. We’re in this together. I won’t let you down.”

 

Hedwig was meant to meet Galen to go over his probationary hearing, but she figured one more delay wouldn’t kill him, if nothing else had. Instead, Hedwig stalked to the location where Miss Prasad (as well as six other victims, yet to be accounted for) had vanished, hoping—however belated, however improbably—she could wrangle further clues.

 

The majority were last seen at the site of Knockturn’s Spring Streets, an annual festival sponsored by Bertie Bott’s and Ogden’s Old Firewhisky. It was a celebration for the Alley. Dictys had taken Hedwig every year since they’d first started dating. Three years they’d ridden the invisible drop tower; stolen poorly baked goods from the stands; and eaten cotton candy and fairy-sugared sweets, barely there confectionaries which melted like dust on the tongue (faded), as snow might fall in the soak of a too-bright sun.

 

She closed her eyes, and pictured it—attempted—how it might be: the body stonewashed, exhaled like vapour from the mouth, blinking, diminished—drifting, then gone.

 

How? How had it happened?

 

Was it quick? Did they feel it?

 

The first time Dictys had kissed her it had been in the snow. Would it ever snow again? Could it? Maybe the missing people might appear again, too, like miracle droplets, too white, unfathomable. Silver-bleached petals in a barbecued sky.

 

Was this what it felt like, Hedwig wondered

 

—to disappear?

 

August 24th

 

 

With only one week left in the month, Knut Banks showed up on Hedwig’s doorstep, with one green dragon and a suitcase gripped tightly behind him.

 

“Can I come in?”


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a sentence that needed correcting. Knut Banks was not standing at her doorstep (no), Hedwig was standing at her doorstep, staring inside at Knut Banks, who was inside of her house, inexplicably—suitcase still in hand, dragon still circling his head like some misguided halobut he was definitely inside of her house, and Hedwig was out: her keys just turned from the walk back from work, and the rest of her was spinning, too, with a clicked, mechanical accuracy. Hedwig blinked. She processed.

 

“Knut, what are you doing inside of my house?”

 

A better question:

 

“How did you get inside of my house?”

 

The boy shrugged.

 

“Your 'security guard’ should really look into the windows.”

 

Outside, the streets were still distended with incredible sound, but Hedwig couldn’t hear it. It was a sound that wasn't a sound as her body prompted itself to the doorframe, where she stayed for a good ten seconds, trying (failing) not to laugh. She muffled the almost-bleating through the crook of a bare arm, as the boy watched on patiently, patient, and then:

 

“Well there’s no need to be so rude about it," Knut remarked blandly.

 

“No, no, sorry; I’ll stop.”

 

It was ridiculous, absurd, and so incredibly just-the-sort-of-thing that would happen to her, that Hedwig zipped her lips and tossed the illusory key to the pavement. She shut the door, and followed her criminal up the stairs to the living room. She did not have to wait long for an explanation.

 

“I need a place to lay low for a while, until school starts—and if it’s going to be here, you will not ask me why.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

Why not? Hedwig, I’m a werewolf, can I stay here with you? Why not? Hedwig, I also got bitten by a werewolf, because I’m an idiot. Can we still be friends? Why not? There’s also the matter of my sister… prison… What? Hedwig, I’ve left my prestigious job as an Auror to join a gang that masquerades as a flower shop. Come with me? Why not? Why not? Somehow, Hedwig found herself starry-eyed at the elaborateness of her rituals, the relentless farce of her life’s parade.

 

Knut sat on the couch, and Hedwig sat opposite. He took in the room with a critical eye: the pots she’d levitated from the floor where their cat could not reach them (Carl Sr. Mngr. had taken to peeing in the pots, and Hedwig had thought herself cursed with a brown thumb the month before they’d uncovered their feline’s widdled treachery); the tea mugs on the mantelpiece, desperate for a clean; a Mooncalf lamp which only lit for full moons; potion bottles Hedwig used as provisional candles. Finally, his eyes took to the couch on which he sat. Since Dictys had ‘diplomatically’ bequeathed their last sofa to a poltergeist, they were stuck with a thrift store’s colour-changer, twenty-years-old and dizzyingly neon. At present, it was cerulean blue (Hedwig preferred it black; her boyfriend a persistent lime green).

 

“You have terrible taste,” he decided.

 

“That’s all Dictys.”

 

“Like I said, you have terrible taste.”

 

Knut was shoeless and missing his gloves, but he still had his stockings. There were holes in them, fat white toes which punctured through the knit. The nubs looked like seashells or child’s teeth, mislaid. Who loves you? Hedwig wondered. Do they love you as much as I could? She folded a blanket over his shoulders, tucking the wool beneath his small, dark head. With his eyelids just touching, and his hair mussed just so, it was hard to imagine him anywhere other than here. She thought all this as she moved her mouth to his forehead; witnessing, she waited. When he did not impede her, Hedwig kissed the boy chastely at the hairline and went to the other room. She decided to make them both pancakes.

 

“These better be as good as you say they are.”

 

“Better.”

 

“Bold.”

“I am a Gryffindor.”

“Yes,” he said, “you are.”

 

Seemingly unnoticed, Knut whirred contentedly (his tiny ribs releasing a hrm), and bandaged himself deeper into the seat. (Anything uncared for, Hedwig thought, undusted and petty, forgotten or overlooked—these were the things which mattered the most.) They were home.

“Probably good that I am here,” Knut commented. He was tugging on Oopsy’s bubbled ears. The miniature bulldog had come over to play, although most of his play involved licking and then running away. Tonight was no exception. Knut laughed as he fled, sufficiently slobbered. “You’d be working otherwise.”

 

“Nah,” Hedwig called out—too much lemon in the batter, so she started another as she spoke again, summoning more eggs from the fridge—“I do have a life, sometimes, other interests.”

“Like pancakes.”

 

“Yes, like pancakes.”

 

"Harbouring fugitives."

 

And that. Plus, Quidditch, gossip, being better than most people, general meddling, impractical shoes…. Also, there’s you.”

 

“Okay?” Knut sounded unconvinced, but he snorted, and her heart squeezed rosy as Hedwig ladled the first of her circles onto the pan.

 

“So I figured, interests all included, might as well use my connections as a lawyer, you know, put the job to good use. So I checked Wizengamot child fostering laws the other day, and I—”

 

“You what?”

 

The eggs broke and slimed a third bowl with yellow. Sometimes, Hedwig liked to break them with her own hands, but magic was more efficient in this case. She’d taken pride as a girl that she’d been able to snap them with one hand, while her sister Edith had always required the two. She'd teach Knut the trick someday.

 

“I just figured it was worth looking into,” she continued. “You say that you’re safe, but if you could stay with me then I wouldn't have to worry, because you really would be. It'd be nice to have you where I can keep an eye on you, wouldn't it? I'm sure your brothers wouldn't mind. You could—”

 

When he finally laughed, the sound was decidedly colourless.

 

“Me? You honestly want to pretend this is about me? Sure, okay.”

 

When she finally looked at him, the boy was burning.

 

“You really think you can use me like this?” Knut asked incomprehensibly, incomprehensible.

“Use you?”

 

For the most part, Hedwig dealt with aggression with cool. She was a lawyer, and more so, a muggle made witch, so it was easy for her to process contradictions, to ease through them with the grace of a shrug, or perhaps a well-marked grin. But Knut’s anger did not blister with reason, it seemed personal, somehow, and the paradox of the two left Hedwig with a feeling like sinking or weightlessness (both, all the same, the same time): a harboured anchor, a sideways gravity, a bird’s wings picked rotted and clean. Knut was sitting in her house, but he hated her. He didn't hate her, but suddenly, he hated her.

 

“You said you didn’t want anything from me. You promised.”

“And I don’t,” Hedwig tried slowly—more confused than irritated at his insistence—“want anything from you. I was trying to help. Why are you—”

 

“Liar.”

 

Around them, the utensils froze in mid-air. Hedwig suspended the spatulas, the colanders, the spoons. The pancakes kept cooking; they’d burn soon, she knew, but she did not reach for the burner. Knut was staring at Hedwig like she just might be someone who could hurt him, like she just might be someone who would.

 

“Honestly, I don’t get where this is all coming from.”

 

“You’re a liar,” he repeated, a queerly airy sound (she thought) for all of its vehemence. “You don’t want to foster me to keep me safe. You want to use me, like they did."

 

What are you talking about? Had she said it out loud?

 

"It's not like I haven’t noticed there’s no one else here. Why do you spend so much time with a kid, anyways? Because I am a kid, you know. I’m a kid—and I’m not your kid, and you can’t make me his, too

 

“This has nothing to do with

 

“Sorry, did that hurt? Should I call a Healer? I know just the one.”

 

(Was she drowning? Hedwig had almost drowned before. She remembered it: head bobbled, neck shorn, limbs puffed and bulging; a body lost under the sea. She'd been so young then. Hadn't she? Was it really so long ago?)

 

“You're always trying to save people who don't want it. What?” Knut was seething. His toy dragon had taken to scuffling disquietly beneath a footrest, digging through its fetid, orange foam. Knut rose from the couch to gather his things. “You think you can get some Knockturn rat off the street and suddenly you’ll belong here? That’s not how it works. You don’t get to use me and make me into some,” gross, perverted, wrong, pseudo, not-real, not-really, “family, when no one wants you here.

 

Knut was wrong on that part, at least. There was one person who wanted her here, currently befuddled, dumbfounded, tossing her batter into the bin. Hedwig did; she wanted to be here, rooted and belonging and promised as much as dirt between the cobblestone was promised, like the muck, unnoticed. A creature looking out from inside. She wanted to be as much a necessity to Knockturn as the garbled, sharp pulse of its nighttime, the patience of the rest of its crimes. Hedwig had found herself lucky enough to be among them, she thought: to marvel at the messy and disordered, those wayward and desperately beloved. It was a selfish love, but she had thought her needs precluded his own. Hedwig had never considered that she’d enlisted a child in her masochism, the purposeless art of self-destruction.

 

“My mistake, then," she said. "I shouldn’t have pried.”

“No, you shouldn’t have.”

 

She didn't understand it, but Hedwig had never been adept with her own emotions. It must have been a miscalculation, the error of collected months; the misappraisal of a child she’d finally thought she could save.

 

“You’re just the same as he was,” he whispered, breaking on the last word. “I thought I could trust…”

 

(This is what it felt like, she knew, to disappear.)

 

“I’ll do it myself. You’re,” eyes creaking, lungs splitting. It was a brave experiment, she realised: the final attempts of a body trying not to cry.

 

“The worst," she answered it for him.

 

It must have been difficult for him, too, running to the stairs (he'd forgotten his bag, his shoes), but the dragon went with him and out of the door. Hedwig followed dutifully, only three seconds later to the street, but the boy was already gone. How? Another mystery perhaps, but Hedwig was finding herself tired of mysteries, or perhaps it was their revelations. It was better in the dark, when night fell to the lips like a familiar mouth: temporal, and otherworldly, barely even there.

 

Had she made a mistake?

 

The kettle was screaming, although Hedwig hadn’t put on the tea; both dogs had followed, and whined now in animal concern; outside, everywhere, people were pulling themselves through the moonlight, their tongues cutting like sharpel, making language out of war bombs, promising to love each other forever, to fetch in the bins, to pick up the milk, to get to bed before the bleeding of a sunrise.

 

No, she thought. No, she had done the right thing in extending an invitation into her home. Perhaps the fostering had been an overstep, but it was important to get Knut off the streets with the spike in crime as it was. She couldn’t be blamed for integrity. After all, Hedwig Lane-Foley didn’t make mistakes. She was perfect,

 

 

 

 

remember?


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

August 25th

 

 

It was a Monday, and Hedwig did not meet Knut for their dinner.

 

August 26th

 

 

Nor the next.

 

August 27th

 

 

“I’m sorry, Miss Lane-Foley, but I—”

 

“I understand, Patience.”

 

They hadn’t made any progress, and it wasn’t worth the fuss to put themselves through the emotional turmoil when results were not guaranteed.

“Do you?” her client asked. Do you really?

 

The sky was a hectic blue, cloudless, unfailingly stark. Hedwig nodded, absolving her.

 

“Absolutely.” Your needs come first. “Your needs come first.”

 

Bravery was a superfluous fault.

 

August 28th

 

 

Hedwig worked dependably. It was a blessing to be without distraction. She was able to file and sort the paperwork her colleagues considered untidy and beneath them. It was a productive workday. If she kept this up, Hedwig was guaranteed another cupcake.

 

August 29th

 

 

“This was on your desk last week. I figured you might want to take a look, now that you’re off of the kidnappings.”

“Hm?”

 

Her co-worker deposited an article on the illicit nature of making an Unbreakable Vow with children. Something odd and untimely—ultimately mysterious, and exhausting to note. Hedwig ignored it.

 

“I know that must have been tough,” John persisted. “You live around those parts, don’t you?”

“I do.”

 

He spoke to her about Knockturn, a series of critical yet sympathetic sounds that accumulated into meaning. John mentioned how sad it was that those who had been found or released had no family to come back to; how those remaining still had people waiting for them back home.

 

Yes, she answered. A tragedy.

 

“Hey,” John paused when he received no objection to dyeing his hair blue in a semblance of protest—a joke, she realised too late. “You doing alright?”

She paused, and looked at him (for the first time). John Stone was a consistently attractive man: broad shoulders, clear black skin, a candid if not over-large smile. He had lost his wife Delilah to a knock-off batch of potion that had proved fatal five years past, and was raising their six-year-old daughter in a communal flat in Brixton. Hedwig could save him too, perhaps, she thought aimlessly, without desire or ache.

 

“It’s been a hot summer,” she told him.

 

“Don’t I know it.”

 

Love and crime were both collisions in the dark.

 

August 30th

 

 

You’ll never believe it.

 

 

what

 

 

Or maybe you will. I mean, it’s YOU.

 

 

what is it Elodie?

 

 

I got a ransom note for those potions the Banks kids stole. 200 galleons per bottle. Like I’d even care?

 

 

weird.

 

 

You get to ask that Knut kid what’s up with that? Was it one of his brothers?

 

 

no. sorry.

 

 

Okay.

 

Later

 

 

Galen said you cancelled on his meeting again?

 

 

Yeah, sry!! busy time xxx

 

 

You haven’t given him an order in over 24 hours. He’s beginning to worry.

 

 

lol



I’m beginning to worry.

 

 

Ur cute

 

 

Shut up.

 

 

Later

 

 

But seriously, you alright?


when am I not?? xo

 

 

August 31st

 

 

It was the end of the month, and the season was beginning to cool. A furnace left on too long, burned out. A chilling of overcooked soup. A festering of a once-bright wound. (Bruises could be beautiful, too, when left to their healing.)

 

August 31st

 

 

Knut would be going to school tomorrow.

 

August 31st

 

 

Hedwig made dinner, since Dictys was usually home on Sundays. It wouldn’t do if he went hungry. Just in case, just in case.

 

August 31st

 

 

Knut would be going to school tomorrow.

 

August 31st

 

 

Would Knut be going to school tomorrow?

 

I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.

 

August 31st

 

 

What are you doing yourself?

 

 

 

September 1st

 

 

The door rang with the suddenness of a gong.

 

When Hedwig opened the door, she knew the man was from Hogwarts.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was the hat that gave him away. Fashion came and went, but the wizarding community remained dedicated to their out-dated trends. Witches hats peaked like mountaintops; bowler hats buffed to a marbled gleam; robes trailed as though they'd mistaken themselves for a wedding. The man at present was dressed for such an occasion, his robes a gem-coloured blue, with unbearable sleeves. From it, an arm branched, and he flourished a wax-sealed letter through the doorway. He entered, however, only once his hostess had given her ‘explicit’ permission (the second giveaway; no one in Knockturn was predisposed to waiting around).

 

“I take it this is the residence of Miss…” He avoided the name. “Lane-Foley?”

 

“Present, Sir.”

 

The mouth tightened, and something loosened inside of her chest as Hedwig leaned against the stair rail, and waited for an Official™ response. She hadn't known she'd been looking for a fight, but if her guest was kind enough to provide the opportunity, she wouldn't say no to the chance.

 

“Right,” he answered, their exchange deterred (a pity). “My name is Basilius Stout—” of course it was “—and I’ve come on behalf of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to speak with you about your charge, Mr Gilford Yuchengco.”

 

“My charge?” Hedwig drawled.

 

“The boy within your care.”

 

Gun fired, the woman rightened from her slouch. Being charged with ‘something’ would have been warranted, blessed even (Hedwig could have made him a list, if the other were so unprepared: breaking and entering, theft, or love), but a boy was—

 

“You’re aware you have guardianship over Mr Gilford Yuchengco? He’s listed you as his emergency contact, and this address is noted consistently among his forms.”

 

Knut.

 

“Yes.” She answered him unflinchingly. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me. It’s been a long day.” Week, month, bloody twelve years of witchcraft. Hedwig took to Mr Stout’s space and mirrored his posture. Both hands unfastened, the brow concerned. The second she did not fake.

 

“What has that boy been up to?" Mirroring: the formality, the prudence of his speech. He was an older man, a product of breeding. Hedwig's voice would offer him respect. "It’s only his first day, after all. I can’t imagine he’s gotten himself into too much trouble, has he?” If Knut was willing to lie about his residence, however (and given the more spiteful context of their last meeting), there was more at work than skipping out on the Hogwarts Express.

 

Basilius Stout was mercifully devoted to filling in the blanks.

 

“I’m sorry to inform you, Miss Lane-Foley, but young Gilford hasn’t shown up to the Sorting Ceremony."

He coughed, and excused himself in the margins. "It’s not quite as uncommon as you might think these days, but it’s a concern all the same. We would have sent an owl, but Headmistress Flamel is thorough in her safety procedures, especially given Mr Yuchengco’s… location.” Mr Stout’s frown stemmed to a curve. Hedwig hated him. “We had worried he might have gotten himself into trouble. I gather from your previous response he’s not at home?”

 

I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.

 

“He is," she said. "He came down with a terrible case of spattergroit yesterday. Terrible memory loss with spattergroit, you know. Would barely remember his own name,” Knut, Knut Banks, where are you—where are— “if I didn’t have cause to correct him. Sometimes I can hardly tell myself." It was more of a truth than she was willing to let on.

 

Hedwig laughed breezily. "It must be catching. I forgot he was here.”

 

The illustrious Basilius Stout was not impressed with her, her pretences officially dropped, but he had no right to her property nor to a search. He asked her to fill out the proper paperwork as soon as possible, and to be sure ‘Gilford’ caught up on his classes as soon as he was well. Hedwig would have to apologise to the staff he had worried. She’d have to make contact with proper authorities.

 

“Do you have a problem with authority, Miss Lane-Foley?”

 

“No, Sir.” It wasn’t a lie. Hedwig had no issue with authority, so long as she was at its head. Once she’d said her goodbyes and removed Stout from the premises, she executed her first order. Hedwig left the room and abandoned the rest of her tasks. The wok, the water, the door where the dogs were whining to pee. What else? The concerns of minutes past were haunted and unfamiliar, miniature ships thousands of miles from the shore. She'd been making dinner. She turned off the stove. She gathered her sandals, a hair tie. What else?

 

I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.

 

The mobile whirred against the countertop, as steady (as jarring) as breathing. It was a message from Dictys.

 

 

almost home?

 

 

It wouldn’t do to worry him if she got caught up at the Banks’s, she knew. It wasn’t guaranteed that Knut would even be there, or his brothers—that they’d know where he was hiding. It wouldn’t be wise to keep him waiting. It wouldn’t be wise to—

 

Hedwig stepped into the fireplace, and she floo’d.

 

She found Sickle Banks loitering outside of Old Nan’s fruit stand, one street down from The White Wyvern tavern, where Hedwig had spotted Knut and his brothers that day in the market. It was over two months ago, but Hedwig was quick with faces.

 

Sickle Banks was a speckled, ugly boy who reminded Hedwig uncomfortably of Galen should his features have migrated to the centre of his face. It was a corpulent gravity: the nose waned, hazel eyes rat-like and inverted. He was at the end of an unkind puberty, and Hedwig considered herself the final, dark push into adulthood.

 

“Hey, Sexy.”

 

She pressed her wand against his fat throat.

 

“Where the,” Knockturn’s sound was an impregnable din, “is your brother?”


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“Hot.”

 

Definitely like Galen. Although Hedwig was beginning to think it wasn’t so healthy to match every stranger with the face of someone she loved.

 

Sickle grinned as she pinned him against the stonework. From behind, the patina of a sunset struck along his red hair—flaxen, and lacquered, and bright. It glowed (before vanishing, too, behind the back lane). It was a thin light, Hedwig noted, showy and impermanent, quick to recede, steady to wane.

 

“I liked watching you fine, but you’re much prettier up close,” Sickle said, pushing himself against the beech wood.

 

“You always this nasty?” he asked.

 

“If I like you.”

 

“Must like me a whole lot, then.”

 

“No,” she answered. “I don’t.”

 

The wand twisted against the boy’s skin. His overweight chin rattled like a slug. “Which is why I’m being so nice.”

 

Hedwig, unfortunately, felt the need for solid proof, and so she withdrew. The rat-eyes followed her through the glint of the sun—as she pulled back a lacquered hand, and removed a gold coin from her purse—then flashed. Got you.

 

Instead of grabbing it, however, his mouth opened with a pale wheeze.

 

“I’m not ratting out Galleon. No matter what you think you got on him.” (Or not?)

 

It took Hedwig a second to catch it: the gold dragon marked on the front of the coin. Galleon Banks, named from the money itself. She’d meant to bribe the imp, but if Sickle had mistaken her meaning, Hedwig could wager with more duplicitous tact. She folded her arms, and she waited. Baiting, baiting. Silence was often the best tactic for drawing another from the same.

 

“I don’t know how the brat found a way to tell you,” he said eventually, “but I’m not confirming nothing.”

 

Latched.

 

“Your loyalty to family is so endearing,” Hedwig remarked.

 

“Ain’t loyalty, it’s the law.”

 

But Hedwig knew all about that particular burden.

 

“It’s how things work on the streets,” he reasoned.

“You know you don’t have to talk like you’re some cool mobster, right? You can be, like, normal.” Hedwig’s eyes rolled pithily to the back of her head. Baiting, target swimming. Sickle kicked towards the worm. “Just because you steal things.”

 

“Is that what you’re calling ‘people’ in your bloody reports now? Things?”

 

Hedwig's stalled in her reeling.

 

"What?"

 

“Knut told you to do it, huh?” he pressed further.

 

“And when would he have done that?” Hedwig said, but her game was quickly beginning to feel less like fishing and more like floating (limbs slowing, drifting) at sea.

“Duh, this week? Since the punk skipped out, I knew he’d be causing trouble.”

“I thought he was with you.”

 

Hedwig measured kaleidoscopes out of thought: Knut, hiding out; Knut, saying he wasn't worried he'd be lost; Knut, Knut, Knut.

 

“You can’t fool me.” Sickle was persistent. Where Hedwig had frozen, he flicked an accusatory hand. “He went to your house. We saw him go. He’s been out there for a week, and now he’s told you about the missing people, and you’re… and you’re…”

 

An idiot.

 

Appropriately fixed, Sickle blanched to the pallor of salt. His teeth started on speech, but Hedwig had never been very interested in excuses (own included). Where it had previously lingered, the wand made a solid, blistering dent between the teen's ribs. It was a small miracle in and of itself that Hedwig did not consider herself (1, 2, 3) Unforgivable.

 

“You are going to do three things for me," she said, "and you will not complain, or I’ll give you—”

 

On cue (drowning, drowning, it would always be drowning), the side of their building exploded with light. Knockturn screamed, probably. Knockturn went still, possibly. Hedwig listened, but she did not hear it (the glistening, the shining, the cracks)—shield cast out and protecting them both from the torrent of rubble and smut. She couldn’t hear a thing until Sickle’s mouth opened again, and broke through the ringing and the dim.

 

“Found him,” he told her.

 

“Knut.”

 

I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.

 

Sickle confirmed the worst of her fears. “Wrong brother, I'm afraid.”

 

In the minute since their talk, the night had descended with an illicit swiftness. Against the blaze of the house, it was still too dark here. There were too few people. Hedwig didn’t have her mobile. She didn’t have her compact. Everyone else was far away or needed to be searched for. It was too dark here. There were too few people. The Aurors would be on their way if the explosions continued (twenty minutes, thirty at most), she could cause a larger disturbance to warrant their attention, if required. What about the mob? They’d be interested, a necessary check point, but if Hedwig apparated now, would they get back to him in time? It was too dark here. There were too few people. What was Knut doing? Was Galleon nearby? Was he—

 

“He must be releasing them,” Sickle said, too white to distinguish his voice between terror and awe. “Or the portkeys.”

 

"The port—"

 

"The dragons."

 

The dragon’s not a toy. Of course—flack, stupid. It was a—

 

“Gal has us use them to steal,” Sickle said. The teeth, the coin, the name. Elodie, the potions. Little boys vanished at the scene of a crime. Like snowfall. Everything was melting like snow.

 

Hedwig's wand brandished with a literal, caustic heat.

 

“We-we were accidentally transporting people anyways, sometimes,” Sickle choked, “with the dragons off to steal for us, then getting them back to go home. Sometimes people would touch ‘em and they’d disappear, too.” What the bloody Hell had she gotten herself into? Why hadn't she realised it before? What had she— “Gal thought maybe we ought to make it permanent, see if they had family willing to pay? If they didn’t, we let them go. It’s been good money, since the families got to pay off the interest—”

 

“The interest?”

 

They were portkeys. Anything could be a portkey. If a portkey had wings, what would stop someone from training it, from calling it back and fleeing from the scene of a crime? (To be the crime in itself.) Hedwig had known the missing still had families, that the returned, like Patience, did not. What else had she missed? Hedwig’s mind scrambled upended through belateduseless, useless, uselessclues: the teeth, the dragons, the coins. Were there others? What had she deleted in her hateful attempt to feel clean?

 

“We were going to let them go.”

 

But time was seeping away from them as though it were blood from a wound.

 

“Please.” Sickle was sweating. His stomach had upturned outside his shirt, and was white and heaving against the plied wand. The bags beneath his eyes had cushioned with a violet bloom, like lop-sided flowers in skin. "If Knut’s here, if he let someone out... You have to help him. I can’t—I’m not—I love him, I swear. I’m not—”

 

Hedwig had been a fool to think her needs outweighed the needs of the people she loved, or that her fears were somehow equivalent to those who needed her protection, someone young, and exploited, and abused. How could she think her feelings could take precedence, when there’d never been anything wrong? Was she home? She was. Did she belong here? Who cared. Hedwig was privileged with Choice, the outreach of a civilisation the low could not touch. No one was entitled to happiness (she grew up knowing this), but no one could take it away without your consent (she learned this growing up). How had she let herself slip into it, that erosion, that split? The insensible ease of fading away?

 

She let it all go.

 

“Where is he?”

 

Sickle pointed to a box of spoiled fruit at the end of the lane. When the witch pushed against it, it moved as though it were emptied, revealing a pit someone had carved between the wall and an overturned bin. It was a decent plot, blinding the entrance in filth. No one would snoop through here, even in daylight, even in Knockturn.

 

“It’s the emergency hatch, in case the portkeys get funny,” Sickle explained. “Knut uses it when he’s motion sick. Happens a lot, ‘cause he’s so little.”

 

Beyond them, there was a darkness she could not distinguish. The ladder descended into a world that was empty of light; its rungs were heavy and iced to the touch; its blackness was like the warren of a pool. It appeared to Hedwig as though a giant might have eaten here, jaw unlocked, disgracefully hungered. The earth had bitten itself into a hole. Through the mouth, and swallowed. (Through the mouth, she heard nothing at all.) Hedwig lowered herself as a second blast sounded, but still (she heard nothing at all).

 

“You say you love your brother? Then go to Belladonna,” she instructed. If Sickle were lying, the Aurors would find her eventually. “Ask for Dictys Ator, tell him that Hedwig’s found the kidnapper and needs back-up at the Banks house, immediately. If he isn’t there, ask the others in his place. Do you understand?”

 

“I don’t want to.”

 

“Don’t care.”

 

“They’ll turn me away, make me—”

 

A third blast.

 

“I don’t care.”

 

“If he’s in there, he’ll kill you, too,” he whispered.

 

I don’t… (These were other things that did not matter.)

 

“Molliare.”

 

Hedwig leapt, and Sickle’s face receded in her fall: a single, white point of colour, fading, faded (before there was nothing at all). Before—


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Summer was hot, but the night didn’t know it. Hedwig walked the unknown path, breathing, each foot clacking, beating, taking her further from home. She felt with her fingers as she walked them along the brick walls (cold), through her shoe heels (colder)—cautious and careful not to light her wand, lest she bring herself to unwelcomed attention.

 

where are you

 

come out,

come out

 

The voice ahead waxed like a snake. If Galleon were trying to play up his villainy, she thought, his flamboyance was really on point.

 

“Muffliato.” In lieu of vision, Hedwig bleached her treading of sound. If the other drew nearer, he would not hear her, or else distinguish the buzzing in his ears from the after-care of other explosions. Hedwig would have the element of surprise when the time came.

 

come out,

 

come out

 

It was a theory: where she could not see them, Hedwig could listen for intrusion, then blind her enemy with light. The tunnels beneath the Banks house ran straight and narrow, winding occasionally (she felt) into side-pockets and irrelevant nooks, but it was not difficult to make the approach. Water whipped like cracked ribbons through the slits of her open-toed shoes; blood pumped careworn inside of her skull; from above, she imagined everyone running (come out, come o u t further, and further away), each sound from the street wavering, each sound groaned, eating the air thick with hot promise. It was the distinction of a calm made beautiful only because of disorder, as she loved it, as she loved this place to be.

 

Half-dreaming then with a rusted heart, Hedwig almost missed it:

 

There was a boy, tugging at the buttons of her coat.

 

“Kn—” Hasted, he pulled them both inside the burrow of an alcove that must have been used as a cage. There were still bars half-wrenched like roots unearthed from soil, and he was bleeding where he'd knocked himself against them in a struggle to hide. Hair blackened with carbon. Smile, tangled, terrified. He opened his mouth, alive, alive, alive, but could not speak.

 

When she realised his silence, Hedwig delivered the spell.

 

Alive, alive. In immaculate darkness, she could not discern his injuries. She could not tell if he'd been hurt more than bleeding, how it had happened, and knew she could not help him if he had, but now--

 

“You came," Knut said simply.

 

Where there were no words, Hedwig could hold him. It was not a selflessness.

 

“I’m sorry,” Knut said.

 

“Shh," she touched his face, alive, alive, his small (gloveless) hands, "it’s not important.”

 

“I should never have said—”

 

“Shh.”

“I’m sorry. I messed it all up. I—”

 

“I should have come for you sooner.”

 

The boy shook frail, and Hedwig soothed back strands of his thick, damp hair. Alive.

 

“Did you let everyone go?” she asked.

 

Like a stone breaking circles in the surface of a pond, Knut’s eyes widened. He nodded.

 

“I am so proud of you, you know that? I want you to know that.” Wanting or needing. The two were, as ever, indistinguishable. “You’ve been so brave,” she told him. “You’re so, so brave.

 

“You don’t have to do anything more. I’ll get us out of here, okay?” Softly, softly. Okay. “I’ll protect you.”

 

“You can’t disapparate.” Knut swiped at a wandering of snot from the corner of nose. “Gal set up the jinx.”

 

“Sickle showed me the side-entrance.”

 

Knut nodded again. “Only way out,” he mumbled.

 

“It is, isn’t it?”

 

But it wasn’t Hedwig who answered him.

 

That’s just how it went, though, wasn’t it? She’d heard enough stories to imagine the scene. Death Eaters, Auror work, the round of a soup-bowl moon. First step, you’re safe; and second, you’re not. Danger did not unspool itself with considerate time; it was an old friend, stopping by, suddenly, surprised; it dropped its robes in the daylight; it swallowed its meat with skeleton whole. They were safe, and then they were not. Hedwig turned and saw the man in short-lived features: brown skin, mid-twenties, gripping to the desiccated wrist of a Hand of Glory candle.

 

“Stupef—”

 

“Protego!”

 

Galleon’s body hurled backwards against the far wall, and Hedwig leapt to her feet, pushing her child behind her.

 

“Do you still have your portkey? Can you call it?” The boy gave his final nod. Hedwig exhaled sharply.

 

“Then run. Relashio!”

 

Rushing forward just behind Knut’s pace, Hedwig grabbed the thief’s candle from the flooded chamber, and she cast again she moved back into the tunnels, “Nox,” sliding into a defensive stance, back facing the way she had entered, guarding against his only escape, and Knut dissolved (which direction?), and the city arrived once again to its darkness.

 

It was the appropriate course. After all, Hedwig loved Knockturn the best in the nighttime. The unknown maws of prohibited chatter; backyard deals made in the blinding of shadows; spellwork still whirring in the dust. It was not its danger that enthralled her—how a witch or wizard might think themselves immortal and carve their illnesses into the city, dedicating themselves to evil practices, wishing harm on those they’d repress—it was the life. Hands scraping pavement, working themselves calloused to break a steady meal; despite it, laughter, bubbling, wild; and families, communities who loved so brightly they burned like electricity, in colours more blue than they could be green, like drug money, nickel scratches on lottery cards, the sharpness of streetlights in the snow. These were the bearings of Hedwig’s own heart, birthing and entered, cremated, cacophonous, reborn.

 

Water exploded to her left, and Hedwig Lane-Foley fizzled with powerful sound.

 

Stupefy,” she fired back, brash when she saw Galleon fumble and curse (literally, figurative) as he cast out a second protection. Hedwig wasn’t a proficient duellist, but she suspected Galleon was lacking his equivalent skill. If he were involved in the making of unlicensed portkeys, it was easy to accept he’d stolen those, too, or else bartered under the table with more talented wizards to do his spellwork. She would not have to kill as much time if she could disable him quickly.

 

“Careful!” Hedwig shouted. “Use that much magic around a minor, and you might just summon the Ministry. Duro!”

 

“Lumos!” The room burned scarlet.

 

“Finite!” And faded away.

 

“Lumos.”

“Finite.”

 

Hedwig was crafted of darkness, though clearing in light. She had not developed her wickedness to suit to her boyfriend’s favour, her best friends’ sins (though many, though few). She was a nebula, and onto herself. A black hole with relative theory.

 

Galleon ducked into an alcove at the second, third, fourth assault.

 

“Come out, come out,” Hedwig laughed, but the room had gone perfectly still.

 

“Tired already?” she tried. The man did not respond, and so Hedwig stepped forward. Her breathing rattled to her sternum, her fingers (rapt) holding the candle that allowed her to see. She took two steps forward just in time to hear it.

 

“Imperio.”

 

Knut.

 

In her own stupor, Hedwig thought only of snow.

 

“What should we have our turncoat do first?” Galleon called out from his side of the wall. “He’s young, so no good fighting you. There are a few rats he could clear out of here. Or eat. Or maybe—”

 

“Don’t.”

 

Galleon’s laughter was not so much laughter as the constriction of lungs.

 

“Join me in here then,” he insisted. “We need to have proper hellos! Hands up, wand where I can see it, blah, blah, blah.

 

Hedwig's nails curled themselves like flowers into her skin, wishing she had magic to undo the past ten seconds (three months), but knowing she could not. How long had they been fighting? It was two minutes at most. Including her talk with Knut, Hedwig had been in the underground city for no more than five. It isn’t enough, Hedwig thought, stomach dropping, throat chilled. No one would get here in time.

 

“Hurry now. Kid seems hungry.”

 

(What was she missing?)

 

“Three…”

 

The necklace (a vanity, irrelevant), the portkeys (would be summoned, command unknown), other spells… But Hedwig had always been more partial to muggle tactics when pressed. No matter how long she’d been a witch, there was a burden to her upbringing, that inelastic bond of a mind beloved to the dim of everything mundane.

 

“Twoooo.”

 

(Everything was happening too quickly.)

 

Hedwig didn’t even have her phone. Maybe she could have recorded something like they did in the crime films and leave it behind, then there would have been records to condemn him. Foolish, she knew, when the Ministry did not consider muggle tech could be on par with other methods: a Pensieve, the tipping of the body like steam in a bowl….

 

“Two.”

 

Regardless, it could not help her now, and mobiles never worked in magical places. They were only ever good for saying hello, checking in when someone might be home, saying goodbye.

 

“One—”

 

In the end, some choices weren’t choices at all.

 

Forgive me.

 

Hedwig stepped forward, and she was disarmed.

 

“There,” he said. “Now we can be friends.”

 

Hedwig did not answer him.

 

Galleon scoffed. Again, the villainy was on point, she thought darkly.

 

“Don’t be grim, my dear.” Without the candle, she could only imagine the expression.

 

“Let him go.”

 

“See? Grim.”

“Yes. Now let him go.”

 

“You honestly believe I’d use dark magic on a child?” Galleon flecked his fingers casually, knuckles snapping like ice against sun.

 

"Lumos," a final time, and Knut was nowhere to be found.

 

He tilted his wand forward and carried a rat to her feet. It was no more than a baby, but stunned, and scratching meaninglessly at a sky that was not there. Hedwig did not move in the after-coil. The creature’s mouth tipped to her ankles; its whiskers trickled like smoke. Like lying, Hedwig had forgotten that non-magical tactics were not hers alone to abuse. When he smiled, Galleon did not need spells to freeze her.

 

“On you, however.”


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He broke her legs so she could not run. It was the practical choice, he told her. It would be difficult if Hedwig decided to run. Galleon would have cast a body-bind hex, of course, but then she wouldn’t be able to speak, and if they wanted Knut to hear her it would be much better if it she were screaming. He started at the ankles, because that was functional, too: ankles, then shins, fibia, tibia, patella (“That means the knees!”). The femur they were saving for later, and the body beyond. Think of it like a lesson in anatomy, he’d said, although Hedwig thought him more inclined to extravagance than education. It was not a personality she felt partial to indulge—all the while breaking, breaking.

 

“Well this is tedious,” Galleon remarked. “If you’d COME OUT,” come out, come out, then shouted, “I'd be able to stop."

 

Hedwig would pin her pain to a tactical loss.

 

“Or maybe I should kill her,” he sighed. “Isn’t that what Sickle said?”

 

The trickle of an overhead pipeline; a roaring that shivered for hours in its bed, like a fever, like a loss; the erring of speech before it was whole.

 

“He was on watch, so reason states.” The man cast his eyes towards the exit, then back. His gaze returned with scrutiny, a tantrum poked through lowering lids.

 

“Come on. You should see your face. It’s a joke. I got the sense of humour in the family, as well as the looks.”

 

He pinched to the necklace looped at his throat, as if to prove it. The dragon’s teeth lowered and raised, lowered and raised. Galleon Banks was a man composed of equivalent angles: long neck, arched brows, his clothes tight-fitted and lovingly tailored, the hair razed. His cheeks emerged suddenly, the nose arranged with the ardour of a knife—hard in everything except the velvet-line of his coat, the gold chains tasseled through his sleeves. He had wreathed himself in garments in mimic of wealth. Hedwig could imagine herself in a similar ensemble, really: presented, or performed.

 

When Hedwig finally spoke, it was not without feeling.

 

“Either way, I’d appreciate a death with less commentary.”

 

“Boring.” Galleon seemed genuinely disappointed. “You really think I’d kill you? That’s disgusting. You’d leave a corpse.” Something canned, or cocooned, or else coffined. Had she been able to, Hedwig could have laughed.

 

“Do one bad thing, and people think you do them all,” he said. “Lie, so you must be able to kill. Keep your crime in the family, and suddenly you’re a monster for having people you love.”

 

“I’ll take the pain, but please, hold back on the bulls—”

 

“Knut agreed to his vows, you know?” Galleon interrupted. “What’s that word you women always use? It was ‘consensual’.

 

But there were many words that women or men could use for a man like this.

 

"He's a child."

 

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand." He ignored her. Galleon seemed to be considering his surroundings again before he pressed on. It had been seven minutes now, Hedwig knew for certain, since she’d descended into the hole. Minute one, two, searching. Minute three, Knut. The fourth, the fifth, a fight. And then... Perhaps Galleon was keeping equivalent time. If he was going to flee, it would have to be soon. If he was going to dispose of her, however.

 

“It’s all about survival in this place.”

 

This place.

 

“I don’t enjoy hurting you, but if it gets me what I want,” again, the bones snapped, “I’ll suffer through it.”

 

Regardless, she hoped that Knut was long gone, but the scene was melting away from her now, an afternoon stretched lazily, shirtless, on a sunlit-lawn, like plastic disposed to a stovetop. Hedwig’s mouth tasted of wrong metal, like iron made coal, but her body snapped with the elasticity of gloves. In this way, she was divided. In others, she kept perfectly in two.

 

“And what,” Hedwig clenched, but the eyes were unflinching—caustic and bursting, and shamelessly black—“is it that you want?” Rotted, and tattered, and crimpled like a shell. Nevertheless, she persisted.

 

“You have your exit,” Hedwig said, “so go while you can. You don’t need Knut, or his portkey. Leave, before…” The pain made it difficult to decide on her topic. 1) They find you. 2) My boyfriend kills you. 3) My best friends take turns killing you. 4) I kill you myself.

 

Galleon’s smile weaned like a snake, too. Polished, precise.

 

“I thought you didn’t like monologues?”

 

Four, she thought easily. Let’s go for four.

 

Come out, come out.

 

"You want me to tell you something, but it won't work. And Knut? Well, he—"

 

Knut took his cue, and fired aimlessly too far to the right.

 

"NO!"

 

“There he is!”

 

The room stuttered purple, only briefly, as he launched himself from the stoop of a ledge. If the boy had been planning a more gallant attempt, he didn't have the magic to back up a rescue. Knut leapt towards her, reaching, mouth wide, but Galleon tugged him back up, laughing, shouting, screaming, all sounds gushing and together like liquid in a barrel, as he tried to escape. Ineffective, improbably, Knut was slung up and into his brother's arms, where he kicked, dangling and constrained at the waist.

 

"Come now, bruv. That isn't nice." He hummed, a warning. "Remember, you don't like me when I'm being nice. So, take us to the others, hmm? Let's leave your friend in peace."

 

"Bite me."

 

“Testy.”

 

“Maybe I'm a Gryffindor.

 

It was true enough that Hedwig could feel pride while everything else was falling apart.

 

(There had to be something she was missing.)

 

Faucet-sound slipped over slick rocks; the quick, deliberate churning of caught legs; her own lungs, attempting speech, wrung like a washcloth; and somewhere, the stuttering of balmy, pricked wings.

 

From the ceiling, Hedwig spotted it. The toy dragon was slithering between the curious circles of pipe work, regarding his master where he stood clutched in the throw of his brother’s arm—needing him, but without a command.

 

"I'll give you ten seconds to get us out of here and show me where you hid them, and you will get us out of here, or I'll—"

 

"Come on, Gal. You should know my favourite things."

 

Hedwig had tried Knut's favourite colour, favourite word. All failed.

 

“Don’t I get some treat, before you go?" Hedwig piped. "Like a cauldron cake.

 

Knut watched her, eyes bright against his brother’s hold.

 

“Or pancakes, maybe. I like lemon.”

 

Knut didn’t like to talk about anything personal, most days. He assured her he wasn’t worried about being taken, although he wouldn’t say why.

 

It’s about power, he’d explained. That's why you keep your secrets close, so no one can use them to hurt you.

 

Or help. Hedwig hadn’t understood why he had laughed then, or how he could qualify his favourite things as something that could harm.

 

Uncover that, and you’ll have everything you need.

 

For?

 

Hedwig could abide the logic. Guarded, she’d once reasoned the same. At the surface, immaculate, but at the centre…

 

Galleon laughed.

"Are you trying to summon it yourself? Adorable!"

 

Little Hedwig Lane-Foley would not have hesitated in listing the things she loved best. It was a doiling, muggle life. Hedwig had liked thin rain and recognition. The blood-fire pump of a sports match. Colour-box shorts and easy-made marks. Late nights, independence, loud music and terrible jokes. Dominance and physical affection, open spaces. The want of touch, but never its care. What else? What was it that you could not voice? If you could not depend on love to stay, what took its place in secret? What did Knut love?

 

Galleon regarded her as he had before, something distant, unnecessary.

 

“See Knut, this woman doesn't love you, either. She'll abandon you, too."

 

“You know,” Hedwig answered. “I’m getting bloody tired of nobody knowing my name.”

 

Woman, Miss Lane-Foley, even girlfriend. Hedwig was never meant to be a witch. She was not partial to fiction, but she knew the strength of alternate worlds. Hedwig might have known the same as Knut had she not been tutored by her betters, or loved in the ways she could not account, these commitments folded through her bones like trees through the earth. What were her favourite things?

 

Galleon rolled his eyes (she removed it).

 

The branching of snowfall. Quidditch, and respect. Tight clothes and opening drawers in familiar places. Late nights on a long walk home. Laughter and mutual humour. Submitting where one admit fault, and excelling in the things she knew best. Affection, still, but remembered—small spaces, the worrying of over-loved hands. It was not a list she could claim for her own. Age had shifted priorities. Loving had built itself names.

 

“I know who you are,” Galleon said.

 

Baiting, baiting. Silence was often the best tactic for drawing another from the same. Could she catch a bigger fish?

 

He leered, fixed in his issue of certainty. Closer, closer.

 

Hedwig,” he said.

 

The dragon struggled to life, form whipped like the casting of stone. Galleon raised an arm, startled by its movement, and Hedwig wrestled—screaming—to her feet. She locked to Knut’s side, and tore the boy from his hold, just as Galleon (too, at last) disappeared. His body stonewashed, exhaled like vapour from the mouth, blinking, diminished—drifting, then gone. It wasn’t quick, and Hedwig felt everything as they landed, crashing to the underwater floor.

 

The heart kicked; knees popped; teeth shouting; her own body ripping itself away and away again, a wary cargo that could not decide if it wanted to sleep.

 

“You’re… you’re okay,” she breathed, maybe laughed, collapsing beside him and bathed in relief. You’re okay. It had been guess work at best. Knut had said his favourite thing changed from week to week. There was no way to presume it could have been her when she’d abandoned him, but the luck had struck gold (this time), her theory proved.

 

The tongue of lapped water ; the ram of heavy doors; the yelling of indistinct strangers.

 

Hedwid released him. Her blood felt thick as syrup, lifted then spilled. There was an ache in her chest (how odd). Ceilings toppled; a door made a dent to the floor.

 

Alive, alive. She could sleep here, Hedwig thought suddenly. Blessedly, Hedwig was drenched in a feeling not unlike drowning, she thought, but kinder, soft. It was so soft here.

 

“We’re okay.” Shh, shh, I’ll protect you.

 

Knut held her now, rocking her gently—ah, no, that was false language—he was rocking her with panic. It was a startling adventure to be unfamiliar with your own skin, abandoned by syntactical sense. A question mark; exclamation points. Her shins hummed with the fervour of bees. Hedwig wanted to tell Knut she’d be with him soon, but her tongue had grown weight, bewildered and inadequate at comforts. How unnecessarily dramatic, Hedwig thought uselessly, as she settled. The pupil of a lovestruck eye. The wilt of a hole. The night, somewhere, tucking the sun out of summer.

 

Knut opened his mouth, but she could not hear it. Had he thanked her?

 

"Hedwig," he said. "Hedwig."

 

But Hedwig didn't mind. After all, Hedwig had a soft spot for criminals. Why else would she be here?

 

 

fin.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0