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Grover Penn

A sparrow in a hat can make a happy home

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Grover Penn

Following the event that Joubert had later referred to as “shock therapy”, Grover had insisted quite strongly that he needed a break from his animagus training to recuperate.  This impromptu leave of absence did not sit well with Joubert, but considering he had essentially abandoned his charge to the terrors of his greatest irrational fear, he gracefully conceded that his egregious error likely warranted some much needed alone time.  Grover needed to come to terms with what had happened.

 

And for those of you who are just now tuning in, what had happened was that Grover had absolutely and embarrassingly failed to fly out of a hole in the ground.  Why, you ask?  Well, there’s an entirely separate dumb thread for you to read here if you’re really that curious, but in short: boggarts.  Boggarts was why.

 

Grover wished he could be mad at Joubert for agreeing to his demands so readily.  The absence of a challenge more or less forced him to silently reflect upon his failings and the position that they left him in.  An old pastime for some, perhaps, but Grover’s thoughts had never lingered on his faults for long.  There were more than enough people in the world willing to criticize everything about him, from his looks to his financial situation, to his crooked code of ethics.

 

They didn’t need Grover’s help to paint a target on his back, and he’d never made it easy for them.  Moving targets were just more fun for everyone involved, weren’t they?

 

Unfortunately, it was less easy for Grover to shrug off something that didn’t stem from someone’s preconceived notion of what it meant to be ‘respectable’.

 

POST 01 II WC 277

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Grover Penn

The things that Grover hated most about himself all boiled down to physical and mental limitations.  Of course, he’d also be the first to brag that he had no physical or mental limitations.  He was in good health, and in better physical condition than most of his classmates.  Every muscle and reflex had been carefully crafted through years of hard work.  Grover had maps of London in his head, marked with broken nails scraped across brick and dirty shoe prints pressed into walls.

 

Mentally he was more or less conceited, but not without reason.  Harsh living conditions made for a harsh outlook on life, after all.  Everything that could be consumed was easy come, easy go, and anyone who sought permanence in such things idealistically idiotic.  Grover could rationalize loss, didn’t let his mind linger over-long on insult, could adapt to situations that had unexpectedly turned sour.  He could find creative and unorthodox solutions to unforeseen and unexpected problems, and he knew when it was time to cut and run.

 

All of this he’d claimed with pride, at least until the day he was forced to reveal just how much of it was smoke and mirrors and the old ‘razzle dazzle’.   Every time he was forced to reveal the truth of himself—desperate, cornered, and searching for an out—he lost a piece of that carefully constructed identity; a loss he was sure to never regain.  His parents had taken an inch, and a foot, and a leg the pursuit of satisfaction.  They had borrowed Grover’s freedom, chipped away at the dwindling resource that was his self-respect.  They delighted in dangling the reminder of Epona’s uncertain future as a squib in front of his face because their world that valued magic and seldom else.

 

You can help her, you can save her, and all you have to do is obey.

 

It was a lot of pressure to put on a boy of 16 going on 17 going on adulthood.  He didn’t feel as old as the world expected him to be, demanded he be.  Real men probably weren’t afraid of deep holes in the ground, or of never touching the sky.

 

POST 02 II WC 361

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Grover Penn

Grover had spent most of his Hogwarts career avoiding what he liked to call ‘the moody teenage years’.  This was not because he lacked emotion or moods.  Grover simply did not have time for volatile hormonal outbursts or ‘charming’ fits of miscommunication to ruin the few relationships he cherished.  Unfortunately that left him with a lot to repress as he sidelined his own feelings and disappeared into the sweet obscurity that was school life.  One face in a hundred, and his didn’t matter so long as he said ‘I’m fine’ with a wink and a smile and an applause worthy execution of finger guns.

 

Adults, unfortunately, had the time of day to be more attentive.  It didn’t take long for Joubert to catch him on a weekend, looking uncharacteristically sheepish. “We need to talk.”

 

“Yeah, okay.” Grover managed to reply, realizing that the two of them were perhaps kindred spirits in their embarrassment.  It was probably accurate to say that neither of them were especially used to failure.

 

Together they roamed the castle grounds, stopping where cliff edge met water; a view that looked out over the docks.  Joubert leaned against a stone barricade that had no doubt prevented many a Gryffindor from a watery, rocky grave.  The invitation for Grover to join him was silent.  He complied.  Having already been seen at his lowest, Grover suspected there was little point now in putting on airs.

 

Down below, voices mingled with sea spray and the crash of waves against stone.  The Black Lake wasn’t known to be restless, but today it was anything but calm.  Strong winds battering against its surface, disturbing more than the water as one of the students down below let out an annoyed cry while scrambling to grasp a roll of parchment that had taken flight in the air.

 

If only it were that easy, Grover thought.  What he said was, “What do you want to talk about?”

 

POST 03 II WC 322

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“Yes,” Joubert replied, easier than Grover would have expected. “I’ve done a lot of thinking these past couple of days, and while I long ago accepted blame for starting us off on the wrong foot, I don’t think I ever gave you the apology you deserved for my… Well, I don’t even know where to begin in terms of where I went wrong,” he admitted, deep creases forming around his mouth as he frowned, “but I’m sorry for making you feel as though you couldn’t confide in me.”

 

“Okay.” Grover replied, purposefully not looking at Joubert.  It was another fault of his, this inability to forgive or forget easily, but in this case, he did wince internally at his own response.  Joubert was accepting blame in this conversation (and rightly so), but Grover knew himself too well to ignore the fact that he had taken great delight in being an irritant.  He sighed. “Don’t beat yourself up over it.  S’not like I didn’t enjoy being a pain in the arse of ‘THE LAW’.” Grover admitted, complete with finger quotes.

 

“Perhaps,” Joubert agreed, sporting the faintest of grins, “though I would like to properly understand why.”

 

Grover frowned, brows lowers and lips pursed as he fought the urge to fall back into old habits.  His most obvious tell always had been discomfort.

 

“Do we really need to have a conversation about how the establishment is rigged?  Or about how the concept of freedom and choice is a lie perpetuated by the Ministry to delude the gullible masses?  Or about how people only want to believe they’re ruled by just systems principled in fairness and equality so that they can hold on to their own prejudices without remorse?”

 

Joubert was silent for a long moment, caught somewhere between dry amusement and discomfort. “I told you from the start—and several times after—that you would succeed or fail by your own merits.” he replied, neither confirming nor denying Grover’s statement.

 

Grover snorted humorlessly. “Oh yes. “Grover tried his very best, but tragically I had to fail him on the grounds that his best just wasn’t good enough.  You know how these poor types are, lazy, ambitionless; believe the world owes them something for their lot in life,” but tell me again how I was going to succeed or fail by my own merit.” Grover parroted back, gaze zeroing in on Joubert, who appeared as though he were connecting the dots for the very first time.

 

“You thought… I held a personal bias against you because you’re poor?” he asked, somehow managing to sound offended by the notion.

 

Grover shrugged. “You said it yourself: we started off on the wrong foot.”

 

POST 04 II WC 448

Edited by Grover Penn

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“I see…” Joubert trailed off.

 

The man had never been that hard to read, but he was controlled, like every expression to cross his features had to receive special permission from a separate governing body before presenting itself to the world.  It was the main reason why Grover enjoyed getting under his skin.  There was something real and sincere about Joubert’s annoyance at his antics.  His thoughtful expressions were just as honest, though not nearly as much fun to provoke.  They filled Grover with a very different sort of satisfaction when they appeared.

 

“Perhaps it is my turn to explain myself.” Joubert admitted, gaze shifting to the docks down below where students had begun pinning their assignments down with rocks.

 

Grover was certain he heard one Hufflepuff girl loudly lament, “Why did I think taking Mermish was a good idea?!” before Joubert continued.

 

“I believe I told you when we first met that the Ministry assigned me to you because we had things on common?” he started, to which Grover nodded silently. “What I didn’t tell you was that I was selected because I also come from… shall we say, humble beginnings.” he admitted, sounding very much like he was using someone else’s words. “I wasn’t just born into poverty.  My mother carried me while serving a sentence for some petty crime she’d committed.”

 

“… #####.” Grover replied.  No other word could encapsulate the full spectrum of what he was feeling following that reveal.

 

Joubert nodded. “Needless to say, she was deemed an unfit mother, and with no named father or relatives to take me in, you could say I was ‘raised by the system’.”  Joubert stepped back from the barricade half a foot, back straightening in what must have been a nervous gesture. “I hold no resentment for the Ministry.  Their judgement in this situation put me on a better path—the right path.  I’ve never once considered that I might be better off in my mother’s care or seen the point in wondering about ‘what could have been.’  She was an adult woman who made adult decisions with adult consequences.

 

“I have, however, always felt a need to payback the Ministry for salvaging my life.  I committed myself to the law and the pursuit of justice because it was all I knew, but also because I was ashamed of where I came from.  I wanted to prove I was worthy of the life I’d been granted.  Unfortunately… one’s past is difficult to overlook, no matter how decorated one might be in the present.  Generally when people bring up my roots, it’s to subtly remind me that I didn’t quite fit in, which is where you entered the picture…”

 

POST 05 II WC 450

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Joubert turned to Grover now, who met his gaze guiltily.

 

“You don’t have to look guilty,” Joubert commented, pegging the expression immediately.

 

“I’m not.” Grover half-lied before shooting Joubert a petulant scowl.  He did… feel bad for getting Joubert so wrong.  With the power of hindsight, he could see how the dedication he had previously derided as blind obedience was in fact an admirable show of gratitude and dedication.

 

What he couldn’t understand was Joubert’s shame.  As far as Grover could tell, the life he’d escaped was just as responsible for shaping him as the Ministry’s intervention.  What purpose was there in hiding the event that had forged him?

 

Grover did not think it worthwhile or wise to voice this opinion out loud, however.  As Joubert had said, this was an apology, and he’d already been interrupted enough.

 

“When I was pulled from active duty to oversee your Animgus training, my higher-ups insinuated through discussion that I wasn’t selected because of any aptitude for training or similarity in our dispositions.

 

“When the higher-ups pulled me aside and told me that I’d be overseeing your training, they made it very clear that I was not being pulled from active duty because I had an aptitude for training or because we had any qualities of significance in common.  I’d been selected to act as your trainer because, in their eyes, we shared sob stories.” Joubert snorted, the sounded tainted by old bitterness. “It occurred to me in that moment that despite my years of service, they still saw me as something they’d salvaged from off street.

 

“Because of this… I did treat you poorly.” Joubert admitted with his eyes downcast in shameful apology. “Don’t get me wrong, I stand by what I’ve said all this time: I never would have assessed you unfairly, but I did cast judgements upon you, and for that, I am very, very sorry.  I’m sorry that I did not recognize how much work you willing to throw into your training.  I’m sorry that I gave you reason to doubt my authenticity and interest in your success.  Most of all, I’m deeply regretful that I allowed my insecurities to turn me into the unapproachable authority figure vulnerable parties like yourself avoid.”

 

“WOAH, man,” Grover interrupted, jumping in mild alarm. “What about this,” he continued, gesturing wildly at himself, “strikes you as vulnerable?  I am a steel trap, a paragon of strength!”

 

“Cut the act, kid.” Joubert replied, eyes once again cutting sharp. “I understand you don’t want to talk about… whatever it is that’s going on with you, but we’ve been working together for over a year and I didn’t even know you were claustrophobic.  Because you felt you couldn’t trust me.

 

“I put you in that situation and that was… irresponsible of me.” Joubert sighed, carding a hand through his hair.  “Look, I have my suspicions about… what’s going on with you, but you’re intelligent.  Gifted.  Dedicated.  I trust you to make smart decisions.  Just… know you have someone in your corner if and when you need it.” He cracked a smile when Grover regarded him with a conflicted look. “After all, we Ministry poster boys need to look out for each other.”

 

Grover choked, Joubert’s comment catching him somewhere between a laugh and a wince.

 

“Perhaps we both need to cut the Ministry some slack.” he admitted, peering down at the spectacle by the docks.

 

A strong gust of wind had upset someone’s inkwell all over the paper they’d been writing. “WHY IS THIS MY LIFE?” A Gryffindor boy asked loudly in exasperation.

 

“This didn’t turn out so bad?” he added, giving a hopeful little shrug. “I’m sorry I… misread your intentions.  That I didn’t trust you.  Honesty is a two-way street, we should really work together, blah, blah… can we end this conversation before it gets any more awkward?” he pleaded, wincing visibly.

 

POST 06 II WC 648

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“Oh no,” Joubert replied, cracking a toothy grin that Grover would describe as disturbing, “I’m afraid we still have some unfinished business to attend to.”

 

“There can’t possibly be more to hash out.” Grover replied with a sigh as he rolled his eyes to the sky.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m happy to close the chapter on that debacle if you are.” Joubert replied, following Grover’s gaze.

 

“Then…?”

 

“I still haven’t given up on shock therapy.”

 

Ugggg…” Grover groaned loudly. “No more holes.”

 

“No more holes,” Joubert agreed with carefully restrained enthusiasm, “but hear me out.  I believe before we were focusing too heavily on the mechanics of animagus transformation, but at its core, transfiguration has always been deeply rooted in imagination.  No one can master such complicated magic while lacking in both creativity and complexity.

 

“When I was training to become an animagus, I didn’t… envision myself taking shape.  It was my ideals, my ambitions, by hopes for the future, my dogged pursuit of the law and justice.” Joubert added, smiling in a way that suggested he knew the crime he was guilty of.

 

“You’re stealing my puns.” Grover accused anyway, just in case.

 

“So, I have to ask: what do you want out of this?”

 

Grover sighed, fingers gripping the edge of the stone barricade tightly as leaned back. “Back to this, aye?

 

Honesty: Grover’s issue with honesty couldn’t be solved in a single conversation, no matter heartfelt and apologetic, however…

 

However, he recognized it was about time he got over himself.  Grover had seen the worst possible side of himself through his interactions with Joubert; developed a persecution complex so strong he’d blindly done himself harm.  It had to stop.

 

He didn’t want to be like his parents.

 

POST 07 II WC 289

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Grover wanted to succeed and, he had to admit that somewhere down the line his hesitation in accepting Joubert’s aid had hindered his progression.  Joubert had offered him the olive branch several times over the year, and Grover had been too petty and mistrusting to accept.  He’d had his reasons, sure, but if he didn’t correct his course now, he’d always be…

 

“Stuck.” He admitted. “I don’t like feeling stuck.  Sometimes I just feel… trapped.  Like every freedom I’ve ever valued has been stripped away by some wild event out of my control.  And I wish I could be selfish and pretend that these problems only affect me, but they don’t.  My sisters are targets too, and they are vulnerable.  I just… don’t want them to ever think they can’t rely on me.  I don’t want to say I signed up for this because it’d look good on a resume,” because that wasn’t true, “but it is a skill.  A rare one.  I can do things with this.  Make life a little easier for all of us.”

 

“I think… your outlook might be a part of the problem.” Joubert admitted.  It was a thoughtful statement, not admonishing or snide. “You want freedom, but you’re tied down by obligation.  It weighs on you constantly.  You value freedom and want to fly, but you’re constantly looking back at what you’ve left on the ground.”

 

Grover made a noise of agreement as he watched the students down below pack up their things with waning interest. “I don’t think I chose poorly though.  No other animal would have fit.”

 

“I’m glad you said that.  There’s no room for hesitancy this far in your training.” Joubert commented, fingers tapping rhythmically across against the smooth surface of the barricade. “You said you empathized with pigeons.  Why?”

 

“They’re hassled and disrespected in the streets, but they don’t care.  They’ve got wings.  They can just fly away.” Grover admitted nonchalantly.  It was nothing they hadn’t discussed before.

 

“Alright.” Joubert agreed, nodding his head as though he’d come to some sort of decision. “So can your sisters.”

 

“…” Grover remained silent as he tried to process Joubert’s words.  After much deliberation, he decided that no, they didn’t make any sense. “What?” he asked, tone begging for an explanation.

 

“Your sisters,” Joubert repeated. “They can fly away.  They don’t need your permission, they don’t need you to save them.  They’re birds.  You should join them.”

 

“… Oh my god, are you drunk right now?” did they just have a meaningful heart-to-heart while Joubert was intoxicated?!

 

I’m not drunk.” Joubert replied, frowning disapprovingly.

 

“Oh.  Good.”

 

“I told you, it’s about visualization.  Stop trying to change yourself.  Instead, change your perspective.  You want to be free as a bird, but more than that you want to look out for your sisters.  They mean the world to you, but that’s where they keep you.  You’ve put them before yourself all this time, and you’re going to need to do it again before we get this right.  So here’s what we’re going to do, you’re going to stand up on this barricade.” Joubert eyed Grover significantly when he did not immediately hop up onto the stonework. “Now, Mister Penn.”

 

Grover sighed, but silently did as he was told. “What now?” he asked, feeling a slight tremble of fear shiver down his spine when the strong wind pushed against him, testing his balance.

 

There was a good possibility that this was how he was going to die.

 

“Close your eyes,” Grover did, fear intensifying as he wobbled gracelessly in the wind, “and picture your sisters standing up there with you, on either side.  Take their hands in yours—”

 

Cheesy.” Grover observed, now feeling the keen sting of embarrassment along with fear.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with having something you care about.” Joubert replied strictly, his old tones and mannerisms returning.  Still, Grover took some comfort in the familiarity and the words. “I want all three of you to jump—”

 

“What?”

 

“Your hearing is fine, Mister Penn.  I want all three of you to jump, and when you do, you’re going to release their hands.”

 

“You’re not going to push me, are you?”

 

“No.”

 

“Alright, and then what?”

 

“I think you know what comes next.” Joubert replied.  It was a vague response, but Grover knew what he meant.

 

“Right.”  Right. “I think I’ve forgotten how to breathe.”

 

“Take your time.”  Joubert reassured.

 

“Have the students by the docks shoved off?” Grover asked.

 

“Yes.  Why?”  Joubert asked.

 

“No real reason.  Just don’t want to scar anyone when I become a nice pancake shaped corpse on the ground below.”

 

Joubert sighed. “If something goes wrong, I’ll catch you, and I’m prepared to catch you however many times it takes for you to get this right.”

 

Grover tried to picture his sisters standing with him, up on the barricade and teetering in the wind.  It wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be.  He’d spent so many years hoping that one day Epona would join him at Hogwarts.  That she’d get to don his school’s grey sweaters and black robes.  That she’d have a house and find a family the way Grover had found Abby and Finch.

 

Azalea was harder to pull into the frame.  She was four now; talkative and expressive, with their mother’s dark green eyes and their father’s dirty-blonde hair.  She didn’t belong at Hogwarts, but Grover remembered the way she followed Epona round the house.  Azalea was as close to Epona as Epona was to Grover.

 

He… probably didn’t deserve to hold her hand right now.  Instead, this figment of Epona took her hand.  She wore baggy overalls and polka dots and her trademark color of soft pink.  Azalea took her hand gleefully, the two of them all bright smiles and excited gasps as they gazed out at a beautiful, cloudy sky that was slowly changing orange.

 

Grover felt Epona’s hand tighten in his own; fear and anticipation, but also trust.  In this moment, it all felt so real.

 

In this moment, Grover jumped.

 

He didn’t remember falling, didn’t feel the transformation.  He supposed it had all become muscle memory some time ago.  What he felt was Epona’s hand slip from his as excited laughter filled the skies as all three of them flew.

 

When he opened his eyes, he was alone, but the feeling—the essence of what had happened remained the same.  Something special locked in the cage of his chest where nasty, prying fingers couldn’t reach it.

 

He’d never felt so light.

 

END II WC 1092

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