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Chapter 2 : Ariana's Tale
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Aurelia, Regulus, and the girl all leapt off of their rocks and landed softly on their feet in the grass. Aurelia strode over to James and Lily and embraced them both in turn. Then she stepped back, face glowing with an even broader smile. She seemed to be drinking the sight of them both in.
For a moment all three of them stood there, doing nothing but beaming at each other. In the silence filled only by the rustling of the grasses in the warm breeze that swept through they were all so absorbed in each other that they didn’t notice Regulus leaning back against his rock with his arms folded, nor the girl, who stood nearer to them, watching them with seemingly keen interest.
“It’s so good to see you both again,” Aurelia said at last. “’Course we all wish it could be under much different circumstances, but….”
James and Lily both nodded solemnly.
“Come on,” Aurelia went on, brightening, and beckoning them forward. “I’d like you to meet my two companions here. James, Lily: this is Albus’ little sister, Ariana Dumbledore.”
James and Lily exchanged glances, recalling times when they had heard the name slip past either Albus’ or Aberforth’s lips while in the presence of other members of the Order of the Phoenix, which Albus himself had founded. Now they understood who she was, exactly.
They could not help but smile when Ariana curtsied for them. “Pleasure to meet you,” she said in a rather dreamy sort of voice.
“Pleasure to meet you too,” said Lily, miming a curtsy back as Ariana straightened up.
“Likewise,” said James, giving a little bow.
“I’m sorry to say that your brothers never spoke of you to anyone else,” said Lily somewhat sadly.
Ariana blinked, her smile fading slightly. “They—They don’t…talk about me?”
James and Lily shook their heads.
Ariana sighed, but she widened her smile once more. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. My life caused so much strife between them—” She gave an almost fragile chuckle “—Actually, it’s quite funny how it took death to make me right in the head again.”
“Right in the head?” Lily asked, unable to help herself.
Ariana closed her eyes and took a deep breath. For a moment, something like pain stirred in her face, but as soon as she blinked her eyes back open the pain left, and the vacant sweetness returned as she beamed at them all. Nodding, she said, slowly, “You see, when I was six years old—at that age when witches and wizards show signs of their powers, and can do magic, but can’t control it—I was in the garden of our country home, and I was just having fun with being able to levitate a few inches off of the ground. But some mean Muggle boys saw me doing it, and they burst through the hedges demanding that I do it again for them, so they could see if I really could do it.
“But all they did was scare me, and I just couldn’t do it. So they—they—hit me. A lot.” She swallowed, staring off at some faraway place for a moment as the breezes played with her pallid, blonde locks, before snapping herself out of it and continuing her story. “It scared me so much. I never wanted to do magic. Ever. Again. I did everything in my power not to use my powers. And then I went…funny. The magic…because I kept it bottled up…but it sort of wanted to get out at the same time…turned into me…. Like, it twisted me inside.
“Papa went after the boys who hurt me, and he got sent to prison for it. He died there later. He’s with Mama now, they’re at the cottage. They don’t mind I come out to play, but they prefer to stay home.”
Lily noticed James open his mouth, about to interrupt with a question about this “cottage” of which Ariana spoke, and she silenced him at once with a look.
“But back to what was happening when I was still alive, after Papa got arrested, we had already moved to our new home in Godric’s Hollow.”
“Yes! I remember! Bathilda Bagshot told us about you when we lived there!” Lily blurted out. “I knew we’d heard about you from somewhere else….”She heard James clear his throat, and she looked over to see him raise his eyebrows at her. The color rose in her cheeks. “Sorry,” she said timidly to Ariana. “Please. Go on.”
“It’s alright,” said Ariana kindly. “I remember Auntie Bathilda. She scared me sometimes, but she made good cauldron cakes. Anyhow, as I was saying, while I don’t remember much about our life in the country, I do remember Godric’s Hollow…a little. Mostly I was just so scared all of the time. Godric’s Hollow has Muggles living in it too, and I was afraid more of them would hurt me. And I missed Papa so much. The only person that made me happy was my big brother.”
“You’re talking about Albus, I assume?” James said.
To his and Lily’s astonishment, Ariana shook her head.
“No. Not Albus. Albus was always too busy for me….” She lowered her eyes in a somber fashion, and it was obvious that Albus had made Ariana very sad with his preoccupations with things other than Ariana. She continued to look mournful, though still as vacantly sweet as ever, when she lifted her eyes to them all again. “Most of the year he was away at school, and when he was at home, he was usually up in his room. I missed him as much as I missed Papa, I think. And it was so bad because he wasn’t even in prison like Papa was.
“But Aberforth was always there when he could be, which was a lot. He always made me feel better. See, as I said before, my magic was trying to get out, and I was too scared to let it get out because I was afraid someone would hurt me again. But sometimes I just didn’t have the strength to hold it in, and so it blew up out of me. And that scared me even more—it made me worse, I think. It made me dangerous, and confused, and angry—but mostly so very, very, very scared.
“Aberforth knew how to chase the fear away though.” Her vacantly sweet smile returned more radiantly than before. “I remember helping him feed his pet goats, and that helped me feel better—calmer—less afraid of everything and everyone around me.
“Mama was never as patient with me, simply because she had so much to do, and without Papa helping I imagine it was hard for her. But I couldn’t understand that until after I’d died. So Aberforth, who could be more patient, always got me to do something if I wouldn’t do it for my mother. He could calm me down again, if I started to get excited…started to feel my magic about to explode….
“Then Aberforth was gone a lot when he started school. Except when he was home, he was always with me. But one day, while he and Albus were both away at school, I remember…Mama needed me to eat dinner, and I wouldn’t. She got so frustrated I thought she was going to hurt me like those Muggle boys—she wasn’t, but I was acting on instinct. I responded at once to my fear, and defensive walls gave way. With a scream I caused the window to shatter…and before I knew it…the glass had cut my mama so bad…cut her throat…it killed her….”
Now Ariana’s eyes shined bright with tears, her youthful face bent in anguish and guilt. “I tried to make her get up, but she wouldn’t…because she was dead…. And then…the shock was so…draining…on me…I fainted…and then I woke up in bed…and outside my bedroom door, I heard my brothers arguing….” She took a moment to wipe her eyes and regain her fourteen-year old composure before continuing. “Aberforth said he was willing to drop out of school to look after me, but Albus wouldn’t hear of it. He said he would do it—it was his responsibility as the oldest. I couldn’t help but feel a little happy.” Her mouth curved into a wide smile. “I even smiled through my mother’s funeral because I couldn’t stop thinking about how he was finally going to be around with me!” Then, as quickly as the smile had come, it faded, and there was a note of sad disappointment to her tone. “But he might as well have not stayed to look after me. I found that all he cared about was writing to this friend of his who came to Godric’s Hollow, visiting family, I think. Then he came to see Albus at our house. I didn’t like that boy very much.”
Lily exchanged a fleeting glance with James. Her brow as crinkled as his, she mouthed, “Grindelwald?”
James’ hazel eyes seemed to wonder the same thing.
They both faced Ariana, who seemed to have been distracted by trying to recall something. Her brow furrowed, she said to them, “I remember…Aberforth was mad about having Albus’ friend over. And the boy didn’t like Aberforth bothering him and Albus, I suppose, and then they started shouting. That’s what made me come out of my room….” She gulped and blinked up at them all, her pretty eyes despondent, but not fearful, nor confused, nor sad even. “Aberforth had been with me up in my room when the boy had arrived. He’d been telling me one of my favorite stories that he’d made up himself…about the toads who’d figured out how to turn wizards into peoplestools….” She laughed fondly at the memory. “Aberforth told me to stay in bed and keep quiet. But gently. ‘You have a fever, Ari,’ he said to me, waggling a finger in my face, wearing that grin of his. ‘Oh, very well,’ I replied, ‘but don’t you take too long. I want to hear the ending!’ It was the most I’d spoken all at once in a long time. And then he winked at me as he left, saying ‘I promise you I won’t be long.’” The despondency in her eyes returned. “After he’d been gone a few moments, I heard the shouting…and then Aberforth screaming…like he was in a lot of pain…. ‘I have to help him’, I said to myself…so I got out of bed and went downstairs to the sitting room….
“Albus’ friend was hurting Aberforth with magic…and Albus was trying to stop him with magic too. I wanted to help him protect our brother—I didn’t see that Albus had managed it himself—that Aberforth was back on his feet, fighting Albus’ mean friend, who was shooting spells at him—and me too—and I heard Albus yelling for his friend to stop attacking me and Aberforth—and Aberforth was yelling at me to go back up to my room—”
By now James felt an ominous sensation in the pit of his stomach and beside him he saw Lily covering her mouth with her hands.
“The last thing I remember,” Ariana went on, “was flashes of red and green, and then…nothing…. I noticed I was hovering over my own dead body, and so absorbed was I in trying to comfort anguished Aberforth kneeling beside my body, and shocked Albus shouting at his so-called friend to get out, and didn’t realize the freedom I suddenly had—the fact that all fear was gone, I could control myself again. I didn’t realize it until after I had gone, when I had realized that I couldn’t stay, that I had to let them go.”
Lily lowered her hands from her mouth. “No wonder they didn’t talk about you.”
“What do you mean?” asked James.
“Well, I expect that Aberforth blamed Albus for what happened to Ariana,” said Lily.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” sighed Ariana.
James’ mind was racing—boiling over with questions, the most pressing of which was: What had Aurelia meant when she said that they could keep an eye on Severus Snape now that they were dead? He opened his mouth to ask, but Aurelia forestalled him.
“You have to meet my other companion here first,” she said somewhat slyly.
Regulus Black regarded them both coldly. Then he turned to Aurelia and said, “Aurelia, my story’s quite lengthy—”
“They need to understand why your soul was redeemed, Regulus,” Aurelia interrupted.
“No they don’t,” Regulus spat. “This is just between me and my brother, so when he gets here, I’ll tell him all about it. It’s bad enough you made me tell the two of you.” He straightened up and walked away from the rock against which he’d been leaning. He pushed past James and Lily and strode towards the horizon on the field of grass. He did not look back once even as Aurelia called after him, and then he disappeared into thin air.
“There he goes again,” Aurelia said resignedly, throwing her arms up in the air.
“He’ll be back,” said Ariana serenely.
“What did you mean about being able to keep an eye on Severus Snape now that we’re dead?” James asked, now seizing the opportunity to do so.
“Well, not really,” Aurelia replied, sounding—for the first time since James and Lily had arrived here—a little tired. She went over to the rock that Regulus had been leaning against, and struck the same pose of folding her arms, her eyes fixed in the distance at where Regulus himself had just disappeared.
“Then were you speaking metaphorically?”James pressed her, taking a step towards her.
Aurelia looked slowly up at him. She stared at him for a long moment, her eyes mournful.
Here James felt guilty. He had just bombarded her with this question he wanted so desperately to have answered, while she was probably desperately itching to ask him about Sirius. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. He felt somewhat better when he felt Lily’s hand on his shoulder, but felt guilty again because while he had her, Aurelia did not have her beloved Sirius to give her comfort. He looked at Lily, gazed solemnly into her bright, almond-shaped, green eyes—those eyes and that dark, fiery red hair that had bewitched him since the age of fifteen….
Lily read the guilt in him, and increased the gentle pressure of her hand on his shoulder. She too felt terrible for Aurelia, who was still separated from the man she loved by her state of being dead. She looked at Aurelia, and Aurelia said, “I meant that now that you’re dead, you have only to wait for Severus to die to learn the truth. And then of course…sometimes…there are ways in which the lines between the worlds of the dead and of the living blur. You never know when you might be lucky enough to have that happen, even for the briefest of moments.” The ghost of a smile graced her features. “So, tell me about Sirius.”
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