Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Man Who Died

While we're on the subject of Harry Potter fanfiction...

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, of the Burrow, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the first people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, as they always held with such nonsense.
Mr. Weasley worked for the ministry, in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. He was a small, thin, balding man, with red hair on the sides of his head. Mrs. Weasly was short and full figured, and had just as red hair as Mr. Weasley. The Weasleys had 6 sons, named William, Charles, Percival, Frederick, George, and Ronald; and in their opinions, there were no finer boys anywhere.
The Weasleys didn’t have much, but at least they didn’t have a secret, and didn’t have to worry about anyone discovering it. But, there was a secret in the Weasley house, and if they had known it, then they would have great cause to worry. They wouldn’t bear it if they found out about Scabbers. Scabbers was Percy’s rat, but he wasn’t actually a rat; in fact, Scabbers pretended to be a rat, because he was an animagus on the run and was as un-Weasleyish as it was possible to be. He shuddered to think what the Weasleys would do if they found out who he was. They would know that he had supposedly died recently, but had actually faked it. This was another good reason for staying hidden; he didn’t want the Weasleys to find out about that.
When Mr. and Mrs. Weasley woke on the dull grey Monday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things that would no longer be happening all over the country. Mr. Weasley hummed as he picked out his most outrageous tie for work, and Mrs. Weasley scolded the children as she tried to get them under control.
None of them noticed a yellow-brown rat with a missing toe slip out the window.
At half-past eight, Mr. Weasley packed into his “modified” car, pecked Mrs. Weasley on the cheek and tried to kiss his sons goodbye, but missed because there were too many of them for him to count. “Little tykes,” chortled Mr. Weasley as he left the house. He got into his car and backed out of the Burrow’s drive.
It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something peculiar – a rat sitting on a wall. For a second, Mr. Weasley didn’t realize what he had seen – then he jerked his head around to look again. There was a yellow-brown rat sitting on the wall around the burrow, but it was only Percy’s. What could he have been thinking of? It must have been all this stress. Mr. Weasley blinked, and stared at the rat. It stared back. As Mr. Weasley drove around the corner and up the road, he watched the rat in his mirror. It was now waving its paw – no, lifting its paw; rats couldn’t wave paws at people. Mr. Weasley gave himself a little shake and put the rat out of his mind. As he drove towards the town, he thought of nothing except a large number of muggle artifacts that he was hoping to examine that day.
But on the edge of town, muggle artifacts were driven out of his mind by something else. As he flew above the usual morning traffic jam, he couldn’t help noticing that there a lot of normally clad people about. People in black robes. Mr. Weasley couldn’t bear people who didn’t dress in normal clothes – the get-ups you saw on muggles! He supposed that this was some sort of regression in fashion. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and his eyes fell on a huddle of these people standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mr. Weasley was enraged to see that a couple of them weren’t wearing black at all; why, that man had to be older than he was, and wearing an emerald-green robe! The nerve of him! But then it struck Mr. Weasley that this was probably some silly stunt – these people were obviously protesting something…yes, that would be it. Mr. Weasley moved on and a few minutes later, he arrived in the Ministry car park, his mind back on muggle artifacts.
Mr. Weasley always sat in an office on with no window in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts division. If he hadn’t, he might have found it harder to concentrate on muggle artifacts that morning. He didn’t see the hooded figures going rushing past in broad daylight, though the people down on the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as Death Eater after Death Eater sped by. Most of them had never seen a Death Eater, even at night-time. Mr. Weasley, however, had a perfectly normal, Death Eater-free morning. He was yelled at by five different people. He worked through several important documents and was shouted at a bit more. He was in a very good mood until lunch-time, when he thought he’d stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy a bun from the baker’s opposite.
He’d forgotten all about the people in non-black robes until he passed a group of them next to the baker’s. He eyed them angrily as he passed. He didn’t know why, but they made him uneasy. This lot were whispering excitedly, too, and he couldn’t see a single protest sign. It was on his way back past them, clutching a large doughnut in his bag, that he caught a few words of what they were saying.
“The Potters, that’s right, that’s what I heard –”
“–yes, Lilly and James–”
Mr. Weasley stopped dead. Fear flooded him. He looked back at the whisperers as if he wanted to say something to them, but thought better of it.
He dashed back across the road, hurried up to his office, was snapped at by his secretary not to disturb her, seized his floo powder, and had almost finished throwing it into the fireplace, and saying, “The Burrow”, when he changed his mind. He put the powder back and rubbed his bald spot, thinking … no, he was just over-reacting. The Potters weren’t that good friends of his. He had always resented James for his untidy hair. Come to think of it, The Dark Lord killed a lot of people. He didn’t really know them that well. They might deserve it. There was no point in worrying Mrs. Weasley, this thing happened all the time. He could understand it – if he’d been a mass murdering psychopath … but all the same, Lilly and James Potter…
He found it a lot harder to concentrate on muggle artifacts that afternoon and when he left the building at five o’ clock, he was still so worried that he walked straight into someone just outside the door.
“Sorry,” he said, as the tiny old man stumbled and almost fell. It was a few seconds before Mr. Weasley realized that the man was wearing a violet cloak. He didn’t seem at all upset at being almost knocked to the ground. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smile and he said in a squeaky voice that made passers-by stare: “Don’t be sorry, my dear sir, for the end is nigh! Fear, for You-Know-Who will kill us all! Even fatheads like yourself should be mourning, this cruel, cruel fate!”
And the old man gave Mr. Weasley a dirty look and walked off.
Mr. Weasley stood rooted to the spot. He had been confronted by a doomsayer. He also thought he had been called a fathead, whatever that was. He was rattled. He hurried to his car, and set off home, hoping that the old man would fall and break his neck, which he had never hoped before, because he didn’t approve of violence.
As he pulled into The Burrow, the first thing he saw – and it didn’t improve his mood – was the yellow-brown rat he had spotted that morning. It was now sitting on the garden wall. He was sure it was the same one; it was missing the same toe.
“Shoo!” said Mr. Weasley loudly.
The rat didn’t move. It just gave him a sneaky look. Was this normal rat behavior, Mr. Weasley wondered. Trying to pull himself together, he let himself into the house. He was still determined not to care.
Mrs. Weasley had had a nice, hectic day. She told him over dinner all about how Fred and George had bothered Percy and how Bill had gotten into some trouble with the gnomes. Mr. Weasley tired to act normally. When the kids had been put to bed, he picked up the Daily Prophet and read the evening news:
“Voldemort strikes again! He is reported to have killed the Lilly and James Potter, and their son, Harry. Well, he hasn’t actually done so yet, but he’s going to. I really shouldn’t be telling you this, because it’s a secret, but we’ve always been good friends. Besides, I like your face. You’ve got a nice face. But keep in mind, this is just a secret between those of us in the know, don’t you know, so don’t tell the Potters. We wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.” Mr. Weasley allowed himself a grin. It was just like the Daily Prophet to like his face. That’s why he kept reading it. “Anyways, keep it secret. And now, turn the page so you can read the next article. I’m told it’s very exciting.”
Mr. Weasley turned the page.
“Well, Ted,” the article began, “I really don’t have a clue what’s going on. So, I’m going to present some muggle news instead. Big news today, a Mrs. Figg of Little Whingim lost a cat. Key members of parliament have dropped by her house to offer condolences, and the government has enlisted the help of the secret service to locate the animal. Mrs. Figg had some things to say about this, but she’s just an old lady and no-one really cares what she says anyhow. In other news, the state of West Virginia has defected from the United States of America. The president has vowed to consider thinking about this issue, and says that he might actually be moved to deeming it worth caring about. There were massive protests all over the country as – no, wait, that’s the cat story again. Sorry for the trouble, and more later on these events.”
Mr. Weasley sat frozen in his armchair. A missing cat? The secret service? A missing cat? And something about West Virginia, not really important…
Mrs. Weasley came into the living-room carrying two cups of tea. It was no good. He would have to spit it out. He drooled into his cup nervously. “Er – Molly, dear – you don’t mind if I spit out the tea, do you?”
As he had expected, Mrs. Weasley looked shocked and angry. After all, they normally pretended that they could afford good tea.
“Yes,” she said sharply. “Why?”
“It’s, well, nasty,” Mr. Weasley mumbled. “It’s bland … watery … got bits in it … and I don’t really like tea …”
“So?” snapped Mrs. Weasley.
“Well, I just thought … maybe … I could maybe just … you know … spit it out.”
Mrs. Weasley sipped her tea through pursed lips. Mr. Weasley wondered whether he dared tell her he’d heard about a missing cat. He decided he didn’t dare. Instead, he said, as casually as he could,
“I don’t have to actually spit. Could I dump it out on a plant?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Weasley stiffly.
“Where’s our plant again? Over in the bathroom, isn’t it?”
“We don’t have a plant. Nasty common things, if you ask me.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Weasley, his heart sinking horribly. “Yes, I quite agree.”
He didn’t say another word on the subject as they went upstairs to bed. While Mrs. Weasley was dumping her tea out on a plant in the bathroom, Mr. Weasley crept to the bedroom window and poured his tea down onto the front garden. The rat became quite wet. It stared up at Mr. Weasley as though it were thinking of doing violent things to him.
Was he imagining things? Could all this have anything to do with his pouring tea on the rat? If she … if Mrs. Weasley found out that he had poured her tea out of the window – well, he didn’t think he could bear it.
The Weasleys got into bed. Mrs. Weasley fell asleep quickly, but Mr. Weasley lay awake, turning it all over in his mind. His last, comforting thought before he fell asleep was that even if Mrs. Weasley did find out, he could always blame it on the garden gnomes. The Weasleys knew very well what kind of mischief the gnomes got into … he couldn’t see how Molly could pin any conclusive blame on anyone. He yawned, and pushed his tea cup under the bed with all the others. It couldn’t affect him …
How very wrong he was.
Mr. Weasley might have been drifting into an uneasy sleep, but the rat on the wall was showing no signs of sleepiness. Tea dripped off it like pigeon poop off a statue, assuming that the pigeon poop was very runny, and the statue was ambulatory. It quavered quite a bit when something in a nearby town exploded, and when two owls flew overhead. In fact, it was before midnight when the rat stopped moving at all.
A man had appeared on the corner the rat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground. The rat’s whiskers twitched and its nose eyes widened.
Nothing like this man had ever been seen in The Burrow. He was tall and thin and somewhat young, judging by the way he stood and walked. He had long, silver hair, but not long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a black cloak which swept the ground, and buckled boots. His grey eyes were dark, cold, and menacing and his face was pale and pointed. This man’s name was Lucius Malfoy.
Lucius Malfoy realized that he had just arrived at a house where everything from his name to snake-headed cane was unwelcome. He was busy rummaging in his cloak, looking for something. But he seemed to realize he was being watched, because he looked up suddenly at the rat, which was still staring at him from on top of the wall. For some reason, the sight of the rat seemed to amuse him. He chuckled and muttered, “I should have known.”
He had found what he was looking for in his inside pocket. It seemed to be a camera. He flicked open the lens, held it up in the air, and clicked it. There was a little pop and a flash of light. A section of the burrow disappeared. He clicked it again – another chunk of the house was gone. Twelve times he clicked the button, until the only remains of the Burrow were the wall on which the rat was sitting, and a few gnomes. If anyone looked at them now, even Mad-eye Moody couldn’t have seen the house. Lucius slipped the camera back inside his cloak and set off towards the wall, where he sat down next to the rat. He didn’t look at it, but after a moment, he spoke to it.
“You’re wet, Wormtail.”

I couldn't keep up the sentence structure though the dialogue and still have it make sense, so I decided to cut things off here.

And by "things", I'm not referring to anybody's fingers.

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