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Chapter 1: The Knock On the Door
a/n: Welcome, one and all, to the long-awaited sequel to Reading Between the Lines. (I sound so modest there, don’t I?) Well, okay, I guess it’s up to you, the reader, to decide what is “long-awaited” and what isn’t. But I seem to remember a lot of you telling me to hurry up and write the sequel; therefore I assumed it was “long-awaited,” as mentioned above. If my assumption was incorrect, my most sincere apologies. *bows*
So…here we are again. Another story. [If you haven’t read the first story, I strongly suggest reading it before you continue—it’s hard to re-explain details and the recap might not be enough to fully explain everything that went on in the first story. If you know anything about it, you know that the details are everything. For everyone that’s already read the first story,] While I’ve got your attention in this author’s note, let’s take a moment to recap what happened on Claire Wood’s previous adventure into the Harry Potter books:
On her 12th birthday, Claire Woods received a present for which she had been waiting for nearly three years—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Like most avid Harry Potter fans, she was devastated by the death of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, at the end of the novel. In order to cheer herself up, she began re-reading the series—but no matter what she did, she could not get over the fact that Sirius was now gone. The books were more than just books to her; they were like her best friends, and the loss of one of her favorite characters came as a heavy blow.
Not long after she finished Order of the Phoenix, Claire’s great-grandmother came to visit on a rainy afternoon. That night, when Claire was in the middle of reading Prisoner of Azkaban in her bedroom, the old woman came in to chat. The two began discussing the death of Sirius and how Claire would do anything if she could somehow change the course of events in the story, in order to prevent the dreadful event in the Department of Mysteries from ever taking place. Intrigued by her great-granddaughter’s determination, the old woman laid her hands on the young girl’s head, left the room, and Claire soon fell into a deep slumber. When she woke up, Claire was in the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Putting two and two together, Claire soon realized that she had fallen into the part of Prisoner of Azkaban she had last read. A world of opportunities was now open to her; she began formulating a plan to somehow change the events of the story she inhabited, in order to somehow change what happened in the books later on in the Department of Mysteries…and a few other details she didn’t particularly care for.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as she had planned. She found herself in detention a handful of times and, therefore, on the wrong side of the teachers—the potion’s master in particular. (But could you blame him? She blew up a cauldron full of Sleeping Potion, putting the entire class into a stupor while she wrote on his face with Inerasable Ink!) Without meaning too, she came into contact with Harry, Ron, and Hermione several times, and suddenly realized she was a main character in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
With the help of a mysterious (and rather sarcastic) talking owl sent to her by her great-grandmother, Aquinas, she managed to get things back on the right track…sort of. She discovered that she was not the only fan inside the story—her brooding classmate, Robin Gregory, had received the special Gift as well. Robin tried to warn Claire of the consequences of getting too involved with the characters, but Claire was too stubborn and star-struck to listen. She ended up attending Patronus lessons with Harry and altering the plot in a major way: Harry hadn’t learned how to properly conjure a Patronus, which caused his godfather’s, as well as his own, early death at the end of the book.
Robin and Claire teamed up to try and repair Claire’s mistake and save Harry’s life, Robin being the main genius behind the idea. Their plan could have worked, too…if a certain angry potion’s master hadn’t gotten in the way. The pair of girls ended up having to flee out of the books after a run for their very lives, not knowing if several key characters had been seriously injured or killed, and realizing that several fans, one livid girl in particular, Bethany, were plotting to get revenge against them for destroying the Potter books and the fantasy world which was so dear to their hearts. To make matters worse, when Claire returned back to the real world, she discovered that her great-grandmother had passed away during the night; her last chance to return into the books and fix things was gone.
Two years have passed. Claire is fourteen years old and strangely mature for her age. Her parents are confused by her sudden change of personality (she used to be so spunky and full of life), but as far as they know she’s never been the same since the death of the great-grandmother she was so close to. Claire is rarely seen smiling and tends to spend hours at a time alone in her room, pouring over books. She doesn’t go out with friends—in fact, she doesn’t really care to have friends any more. When her mother and father confront her about her strange behavior, she merely says her best friends in life were lost, possibly never to be found. Her teachers send her to the school pyscologist several times during the year, worried that something isn’t quite right, but no one can figure out why she is acting so differently than the Claire she was before.
The summer before her second year of high school, the sixteenth of July to be precise, is where our story starts…
Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter in any way, shape, or form. I also don’t own the snippets of Nickelback lyrics in this chapter. (It is NOT a songfic, don’t freak out, people!) Thank you very much.
Chapter 1: The Knock On the Door
Try not to think about it.
A two of hearts. She couldn’t do anything with it. What she really needed was a seven in either spades or clubs. She set it down in the steadily-growing discard pile, and as she did so her gaze fell unwillingly upon her bookshelf. The book was just sitting there, waiting until she obsessively flipped through its pages again, searching for anything that would give her a hint, a clue of some sort…
She forced her eyes down again on the cards in front of her.
You know there’s nothing in there. Don’t think about it!
The Jack of diamonds. She couldn’t do anything with that either. She tossed it a little harder than she meant to into her discard pile and sighed heavily.
Yes, it was true—Claire Woods was reduced to playing Solitaire in order to keep her mind off of Harry Potter. Sure, there used to be a lot of other kids across the world that had to play games all afternoon in order not to wet themselves with excitement on the days the books and movies were being released…but not any more. Claire had seen to that; she was now certainly the only one in the world who was thinking about Harry and his friends.
She was fighting a losing battle, if truth be told. Not even endless hours of pointless card games could make her forget the guilt. It had sat there on her shoulders, weighing her down helplessly for the past two years.
Claire ran a hand over the top of the cards, knocking them all asunder and pushing them into a pile. She left them there on the floor as they were; knowing her daily routine, she was sure to come back to the cards later.
An Exploding Snap game would probably blow up if I just left it sitting there in a pile like that—
She ended this unfinished thought with a painful twang of her heart. Exploding Snap…she had played that game with Harry, Ron, Fred, and George once…but she didn’t want to remember that. Memories could be very painful things sometimes.
Claire flopped back onto her bed, punching the button on her alarm clock that would turn on the radio. Meaningless music. Certainly that could take her mind off things…
“Someday, somehow, I’m gonna make it all right, but not right now. I know you’re wondering wheeeen…”
…or maybe not. She glared at the radio.
“Thanks. Thanks a lot,” she said aloud, pulling a pillow towards her and pressing it over her face to block out the music. Sure, she could have just turned it off, but that required energy—something she didn’t have a lot of any more.
She narrowed her eyes underneath the pillow. Claire knew perfectly well that her parents were downstairs in the kitchen at this very moment on the phone with a physiatrist in the city, trying to see if he could somehow fit their daughter into his busy schedule. She knew that everyone was worried about her, about how she wasn’t eating or sleeping regularly and not making many friends at school, but quite frankly she had seen enough doctors in the past two years to last a lifetime. What was she supposed to say to them, anyway?…
“I’m sorry, I’m a little depressed because I jumped into a fantasy story that I loved more than life itself and basically destroyed it. Oh, and I went in twice, which caused the woman who sent me to die because she was too old to handle the magic or whatever the hell it was that sent me back when I wasn’t supposed to be going again anyway. Do they make a pill for that?”
She allowed herself a hollow chuckle and rolled over to face the wall.
Of course, her parents had sat in here with her until they were ready to cry because Claire wouldn’t tell them what was wrong. That was one of the things that hurt her the most. She couldn’t explain to them the reasons why she spent so much time locked upstairs, pouring over her Harry Potter books, looking for some clue telling her where she could go from here.
“Now the story’s played out like this, just like a paper-back novel. Let’s rewrite an ending that fits, instead of a Hollywood horror…” sang the radio on her nightstand.
“I’m trying!” she said to the radio, as if it were accusing her of doing nothing. “I am!”
Even though her great-grandmother was dead, Claire knew there still had to be some way she could get back into the story and make things right. Her great-grandma couldn’t have been the only Bestower on the planet; somehow, other kids had been able to get into the story, just like Claire had been able to. She was hoping if she read between the lines of the books, there might be some sort of clue hidden in them, telling her where she could find someone who could send her back into the story. So far, she hadn’t had much luck.
A voice sounded in her head, as if it had been recorded there long ago.
Shouldn’t you have read between the lines before you mutilated everything? said the voice sarcastically.
Claire sighed, remembering a small, feathery friend that had once tried to help her fix things when she had still been inside Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Aquinas—that was his name. He was a tiny, smart-aleck talking owl. If only she knew what had happened to him, she was certain he would be able to tell her what to do in her present situation. Aquinas always had answers.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
She looked over at the door.
She rolled her eyes.
“Come in, Mom.”
The door tentatively creaked open.
“Everything all right?” Mrs. Woods asked her daughter.
Claire sat up on the bed and folded her hands in her lap.
“Fine,” she answered. She bit her tongue before she added, “Just like I was twenty minutes ago when you asked me.”
“Good, good,” Mrs. Woods said. She looked tired. “Honey, your father and I are going out—to the store. Can you keep an eye on your brother for a little while?”
Claire flashed her mother half a smile, trying to play the part of someone who was “fine.”
“Sure, Mom,” she said. “No problem.”
“Thank you, sweetie,” her mother said. “Do you need anything—from the store, I mean?”
“Oh…no, I don’t think so.”
“All right…well, call if you think of anything, or need anything, okay?”
Her mother departed, shutting the door softly behind her.
Claire leapt off her bed and dashed over to her bookshelf, seizing the thick book that had been taunting her all afternoon, knowing she wouldn’t be able to resist looking through it one more time. Lowering herself to the floor, all sense of grace or manner forgotten, she began flipping to the end of the book, searching, hoping…
“ENOUGH!” Snape bellowed, pointing his wand at Lupin.
There was a flash of light as he fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Harry held his breath. Was he…?
“NO!” Claire shouted, taking a step towards him.
“STEP ASIDE, YOU FOOLISH GIRL!” Snape shouted at her.
Hermione, Ron, and Black were staring at Lupin. He wasn’t moving…
Claire sighed heavily.
“…How the hell’d we wind up like this? Why weren’t we able to see the signs that we missed? And try and turn the tables…” Claire heard the radio through her cluttered thoughts. Remus Lupin had been killed because of her. Every single time she read this page the knife in her heart seemed to twist deeper within her flesh. The guilt was surely enough to kill her…
She continued to read:
Snape turned his wand on Harry instead.
“You are too much like your father for your own good, Potter,” he snarled, “and your pitiful godfather as well. I was going to take him back to the dementors, but this opportunity is too great to miss…”
He turned towards Black.
“Good riddance…” he muttered.
Without even being aware of doing it, Harry ran at Snape with all the force he could muster, shoving him aside. Claire and Robin had bravely stepped between Sirius and the tip of Snape’s wand, and Ron and Hermione were both pointing their wands threateningly in the direction of the fiasco, ready to strike.
Snape laughed, a high, cold laugh that reminded Harry of the nightmares he’d been having for the past three years…
He was saying something, but Harry didn’t hear a word. He was drawing his wand, wanting nothing more than to curse the man before him to pieces.
Harry was propelled into the back wall. As he slid down to the floor, leaving a trail of blood behind him, he knew it was no use. He was cornered, trapped…But he had to try to do something.
“The Dark Lord should have defeated you long ago, Potter,” Snape was muttering as he advanced upon Harry, who was struggling to stand, wanting nothing more than one last attempt to save his godfather. “I shall do the job for him tonight…”
Harry froze. Claire and Robin were shouting. Ron and Hermione were taking a breath to cast a spell.
Claire stopped there for a moment, puzzling as she had puzzled so many times before.
“…Let’s rewrite an ending that fits, instead of a Hollywood horror…” the radio sang ever-onward.
What had Snape meant when he said that? “The Dark Lord should have defeated you long ago…I shall do the job for him tonight…” Hadn’t Dumbledore always said that Snape was on their side? If he was, why would he try and kill Harry—and Ron and Hermione, and Claire and Robin for that matter? Something here wasn’t right…Was it something Claire and Robin had caused unintentionally by being there? Or was part of the story being revealed earlier than it was meant to be shown?
Well, Claire knew she would never know the answer to that. She was holding the last novel of the series in her hands. As soon as she had returned from her great-grandmother’s funeral she had done her research: J.K. Rowling had decided to discontinue writing the Harry Potter books. The third was unpopular enough to make Warner Bros. drop the movie deal, and her publishers drop her stories in turn. All because of Claire no one even knew who Harry was any more, other than a boy wizard who could have been famous if it wasn’t for the insertion of a character that just didn’t fit.
She stood up from the floor, holding the book tightly to her and walking over to her window. The highway ran behind her house. Normal people in normal cars, going about their normal business. Claire knew her life would never be normal again. She wouldn’t—couldn’t—rest until the wrongs had been righted. She had to find a way…
“..Someday, somehow, I’m gonna make it all right, but not right now…I know you’re wondering when…”
Maybe, she could—
Claire spun around. Someone was at the door. She sighed, throwing the book down on her bed.
Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!
“I’m coming, I’m coming! Sheesh, let’s have some patience…”
Claire thudded down the stairs and walked up the door. She put her eye to the peephole. It was some kid, probably selling something for some school fundraiser. She rolled her eyes and opened the door, intending to shoo them away onto the next unfortunate house.
“Look, I don’t want any magazines or candy bars or whatever it is you’ve got—” Claire said rudely, not even bothering to look the kid in the eye.
“That’s your problem, Woods,” said a familiar voice. “You never look before you leap—or in this case, speak.”
Claire looked up.
What she saw was no student selling frivolous stuff after all—it was a girl about her age. She had thick blonde hair with black extensions that looked like it had been run through a straightening iron several times in attempt to get out an annoying curl. Her bright eyes were masked with a lot of dark make-up and eyeliner and from her ears hung several earrings, including large, bright red guitars. She wore extremely baggy black pants held up by several studded belts and a large black Rancid T-shirt. She folded her arms, which were covered with bracelets and ending in long, black fingernails, looking pleased with herself.
“So, are you going to let me in or what?” she asked.
Claire couldn’t do anything but gawk, hoping she wasn’t just seeing things. She closed her eyes, shook her head rapidly, and opened them again. The girl was still there, tapping her foot impatiently. Claire swallowed hard and managed to get out a single word:
a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!! (I bet you missed the theme music, didn’t you?! I bet you couldn’t wait to hear it, huh?!) So…Robin has tracked down Claire. Will the girls be able to figure out where to go from here?! Does Robin already know where to go?! Has hope been restored?! Well, just sit back and wait for the next chapter, kiddies, for only then will you know the answers…