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Chapter 2 : Taking Flight
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Politely excusing herself after sitting through a long discussion of the marriage, Barabelle raced up the grand staircase to her bedchamber, clutching the folds of her dress in her hurry. Allowing herself a small smirk, she reveled in the fact that the adults, chatting idly in the sitting room downstairs, hadn’t the foggiest of what she was up to.
They’ll see, she thought cunningly to herself, they’ll get what they deserve for trying to sell me like a pretty piece of livestock!
She sat in the center of her soft four-poster bed with all the lamps out, hugging her knees to her chest, until she was sure Karkaroff had left the manor and her parents were asleep in their chamber. By that time, all the candles had burned down to the wax, their dying yellow light casting long eerie shadows on the walls. She silently willed her stormy gray owl, Odin, to stay quiet in his cage while she cautiously relaxed her limbs and began to pack, not making the tiniest noise.
Her favorite spellbooks, her Hogwarts letter, Odin’s owl cage, clothes and a decently sized sack of money she had saved up over the years fit snugly into her travel trunk. She mentally thanked any deities that would listen for the good fortune of purchasing such a useful piece of baggage during a rare shopping trip with her mother. Who knew the “adorable accessory” would carry all she had as she made her midnight escape?
Now free from his rusty, wired cage, Odin flicked his round golden orbs around the room, eager to stretch his wings. Stroking his steel-colored feathers affectionately, Barabelle whispered to the animal, “Take this letter to Hogwarts and meet me at the Leaky Cauldron.” She placed her acceptance letter gingerly in his beak. With an expression in his metallic eyes she could have sworn was comprehension, Odin hopped off her arm and flew out her bedroom window into the tranquil night not even a gentle swoosh of air to betray his passing.
Watching him fly away almost enviously for a few seconds, Barabelle put on her warm travel robes and lifted up her travel trunk. When I buy my wand, I won’t have to do this the Muggle way, she thought to herself, smiling a little as she charged out of her room. She tried desperately to not make any noise as she stepped out into the hallway lined with invaluable portraits of her Parkinson ancestors.
But it didn’t end up mattering how much noise she made.
A sweaty slab of a hand crashed down on her mouth from behind, muffling her choked scream. As she was pushed roughly against the broad chest behind her, another arm snaked around her middle, pinning her arms to her sides so she couldn’t move an inch. All she could do was thrash her legs in vain, like a child throwing a tantrum.
“Trying to escape, are we?” breathed her brother Conan as his rough thumb stroked her cheek. She flailed and jerked away from his constrictive hold to the best of her ability, but his much larger stature had her completely overpowered. “No, we can’t have that. Then poor Vladimir would be all alone, with no one to share his inheritance with,” he hissed viciously. “And here we all thought you didn’t have the nerve.”
The huge boy’s hand was severely restricting her ability to breathe, much less cry out, and her violent struggling only made trickles of perspiration bead on her forehead as her vision swam before her. Her thoughts whirled and spun, made of few coherent words, as undiluted panic seeping into her brain. The thought of what they would let Karkaroff do to his little fiancée upon hearing of her embarrassing rebellious streak made her blood run cold.
Her chaotic thoughts came to a screeching halt and dissociated, her active consciousness fading into the background all at once. She was no longer a thinking, speaking entity; she was simply a body, a mindless, unpredictable thing.
Barabelle’s hair stood on end as a tightly coiled feeling built in the pit of her chest. She stopped her struggling suddenly as her pupils dilated, electric fire burning through her veins. Conan, surprised at her sudden limpness and lack of resistance, relaxed his vice-like grip just a notch. That was all she needed.
With a deafening bang, Conan was thrown off his sister’s body and collided with a priceless settee, thirty feet down the narrow hallway, with a crash. There was a sickening crunch as his nose shattered, spewing crimson all over the Oriental rug. Barabelle exhaled as she regained control of her untamed magic, her body unclenching itself muscle by muscle. Her short black curls flew about her face in the aftermath of the magical mishap like agitated snakes. She threw it briskly out of her face as she watched her brother groan in pain at the other end of the corridor, his toujour pur blood now trickling torpidly from his loutish nose.
Her amber eyes darkened to the color of pitch black and a dark smile snuck onto her childlike face as his eyes closed sluggishly. He passed out, his mouth agape allowing blood to flow in from his wounded nose.
Nimbly, gathering her things and turning on her heel, Barabelle flew from the scene of the crime. All the familiar objects of Parkinson Manor flew by her in a flash as she launched herself over the marble barrier that led to the grand staircase in the atrium of the mansion. Her heels ached for a moment as she landed with a tap, but she shook off the throbbing pain. Pushing open the heavy double doors of the house would never feel so good.
As her far too expensive sandals first brushed the dewy grass of the grounds outside her house, she turned around for a moment and took a good look at the big sprawling mansion. Her mother’s rosebush swayed a bit in the summer’s night wind; it seemed as if the white flower bulbs were waving goodbye.
She realized, without a hint of bitterness, that the once aristocratic look of the Manor had deteriorated, with wayward ivy growing up the exterior walls and rather large chunks of the house looking weather-abused and dilapidated. Although once whitewashed and grand, a visual jewel, it had fallen into disrepair in the name of not looking, Merlin forbid, like nouveau riche. Keeping in the long shadows of the damp evening, Barabelle looked up an ancient stone statue of a cherub, one chubby leg held up for balance as it shot an arrow. Its blank, staring face was crisscrossed with cracks of age and its nose had been lopped off long ago.
She realized, with a twinge, that her family would probably disown her for “running away like a common Muggle brat”. She could never go back here, not willingly anyway. Yes, her relatives were imperfect and flawed, but they were all she had, up until now. She simply knew no one else.
Whatever relationship she had with any of the people who were supposed to love her unconditionally would always be one-sided. They would always be scrutinizing her for imperfections and shortcomings. Because she could never be exactly like them, she could only force them to love a person other than themselves, a task she knew was next to impossible. Whatever feeble attempts at affection they would tantalize her with would be temporary and limited at best. Fate forced her into this. It was high time she forced her way out.
With that, she turned her back determinedly from the house that had imprisoned her in childhood, feeling at once that she was leaving behind not only the Manor and those who lived there, but the way of life it represented as well. The feeling was bittersweet, but far worth it. So this is what freedom tastes like, she thought dizzily, an elated smile escaping across her features as she crossed the grounds at a hasty stride.
As soon as she arrived at the cobbled street that encircled Parkinson Manor, she set her belongings down. Although she may have barely experienced life outside the Manor, she was a sharp girl and knew at once what to do from her studious reading and observance of the place beyond. She held out her dominant hand, her wand hand, and raised it tentatively to the inky black sky above her.
Almost instantaneously, there was a deafening BANG and a blindingly bright light. An unusually narrow, scandalously violet-colored triple-decker bus appeared out of nowhere just inches in front of her face. Sparkling lettering above the windshield announced that the rather preposterous-looking machine before her was, indeed, The Knight Bus, just as she had hoped.
A stout, round man waddled out of the door of the bus in a purple uniform. He wore absurdly large glasses that made his entire appearance remind her of a rather fat, purple fly. He gazed disinterestedly at Barabelle before rattling off what sounded like a slightly stale official greeting.
“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step aboard and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Ernie Prang, and I will be your conductor this…” he checked his watch, “morning,” he finished, looking around idly while Barabelle gathered her things. “Oh, no, no, no, I’ll take that, miss,” he protested, and with a wave of his wand, sent her luggage sailing into the baggage shelf inside the bus.
“How much to the Leaky Cauldron?” Barabelle asked, trying to keep her voice steady and mature-sounding as she boarded the bus behind Ernie.
“That’ll be eleven Sickles, but for thirteen…” he was cut off as Barabelle dropped the money unceremoniously into his hand and surveyed the bus to find a seat.
Only there were no seats. On the first level alone, there were six copper-framed beds swinging precariously from their hooks on the ceiling. Small candles flickered from the walls and Barabelle even saw a ridiculously fancy-looking chandelier hanging above all three floors of the bus at once.
As Barabelle gaped at the inside of the marvelous Knight Bus in a mix of disbelief and shock, still standing dumbly in the aisle, Ernie found his seat next to the driver. “All right, Davie,” he said to the very small wizard with a disproportionately large moustache in the driver’s seat, “Take ‘er away!”
The bus gave a sudden lurch and landscape of the Manor vanished in a blur of color and sound as the bus took off like a shot. Barabelle was thrown onto the nearest bed in the acceleration and landed on the soft mattress with an oof!
After a few minutes of hanging on to the metal bedposts for dear life, she found herself becoming accustomed to the almost rhythmic lurching of the Knight Bus. She rubbed her eyes absently and a wave of fatigue almost overcame her. No, not yet, she thought decidedly, I still have some things to work out before I reach the inn.
First, it occurred to her, she should have a new name. Not only did she not want to be tracked down by some dodgy lackey of her father’s, or worse, Karkaroff’s, but the thought of being associated with them as a full-fledged adult witch repulsed her. I should keep my first name; it always suited me, she mused. But a last name… she scanned the inside of the bus for inspiration.
A peculiarly bright light caught her distracted eye. Across the aisle of the bus, she noticed one of the candles. It was almost out as the flame consumed what was left of the dwindling wick. But, she realized, the candle’s light was all the brighter for it.
She may have had a hard life, discounted by those who should have loved her most, but that only made her all the more determined, she realized as she gazed at the headstrong little light. Like her, it was giving all it had, making the best of what life threw at it and retaliating with every ounce of energy it had left until it could no longer go on. Not taking “no” for an answer until the very end.
Smallwick. The name came almost unbidden into her mind. My new surname shall be Smallwick. She smiled to herself as the appealing, musical name mulled itself over in her head. Finally letting herself down into the downy bed, she fell soundly asleep, a liberated witch at last.
A/N: Chapter image by FairyQueen at The Dark Arts. The chapter was beta'd by prove you wrong at Betas R Us. Be sure to drop review in the box below the chapter and leave me your thoughts. I'm sure you have many whizzing around in that little head of yours!
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