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Chapter 1 : Memories
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Bright splashes of verdant green holly leaves with scattered crimson berries shine off the wrapping paper of the small Christmas present nestled under the small lopsided tree. It entices me with its wrapping paper; Rolf knows just how to pique my interest. The gift is calling to me, whispering my name in its quiet way.
“Luna, Luna, come open me.”
I resist the temptation bravely for a few minutes, reading about Delbert Deffleby’s excursion to Central America in search of the chupacabra. Then, I make the critical error of looking back at the package.
“Open me; Rolf won’t mind.”
“Open me! Open me! Open me!”
Before I realise what I’m doing, I’m uncurling and am moving to the tree, which is glittering in its everburning candles. I’m kneeling down in a haze of pleasant memories and grasping the gift. Like a child on Christmas Eve, I check to make sure I’m not being observed, even though I know I’m the only one home. I lift the package to my ear and shake it, but it doesn’t rattle at all. I heft it in my hand, trying to judge its weight. It’s heavier than a book and oddly shaped. I briefly consider using my wand to take a quick peek inside, but then I guiltily put it back under the tree, trying to make it look like it was never moved.
I curl back up in my chair and pick my book up. I just can’t get back into my book and find myself reading the same passage over and over again as I think back to Christmases past. I smile to myself when I remember seeing Ginny with baby James bouncing on her knee and how happy she and Harry both were.
I glance again at the package under the tree.
“You can re-wrap me and Rolf will never know.”
I find myself again in front of the tree, not remembering how I got there, the package in my hands. I’ve already grasped a corner of the paper and started to pull gently. I stop myself before I tear the paper and start to put it down when I notice the smell. Cinnamon, cloves and allspice; pine needles and treacle all emanate from the small package. I lift it to my face and sniff. I’m transported back to childhood; transported back to Christmas with my mother and father; the Christmas that I received the book that would change my life forever.
I never thought that I would ever get married, much less to someone as wonderful and adventurous as Newt Scamander’s grandson. When I read that book as a child, I imagined accompanying Newt on his expeditions, searching for beasts half-hidden for centuries, tracking them down through legends and stories. Now, my dreams had come true. Sitting here in the Republic of the Congo, holding a small parcel under a makeshift Christmas tree, waiting for Rolf to come back from the village where he was asking the village elders for folklore on the M’kele M’bembe. Normally, I would have accompanied him, but I was sick again this morning. I have my suspicions about that, but I’ll keep them to myself until I’m sure.
I come out of my reverie and stare again at the small, brightly wrapped gift. I sigh and put it back under the tree, being sure that I haven’t marred the wrapping. I go back to my book. I flip ahead to a chapter that never fails to interest me, the chapter where Professor Deffleby is wrestling with the chupacabra, trying to pull it away from a goat to tag it. I become engrossed in his descriptions of the fangs of the chupacabra trying to rip his throat as he and his assistants wrestle it to the ground and tag its ear. The illustration of the chupacabra never fails to make me laugh.
I look back at the tree again, and the gift is moving, sliding slowly from under the tree. I know the culprit and call her by name. “Zephira, you leave that alone.”
A whiskered face peers out at me from under the tree skirt and mews at me. I call her again and she springs out from under the tree and leaps onto my lap, purring in contrition or greeting; I can never tell which. She lays across my bosom, rumbling, and lifts her head to have her chin scratched. As I reach down to scratch her throat, I notice a piece of the wrapping paper stuck to her left paw. I reach down, pull it off and examine it; it’s a small ripped corner. As I lift it to look at it better, Zephira sees it wiggling and swats it away with her paw. It flutters to the ground, drawing her after it, tail lashing and teeth chattering.
I move back to the gift and examine it again. In the small hole from the ripped paper I can see a purple shine. Amethyst sparkles fill my eyes and I involuntarily look at my engagement band, sparking with amethysts and topazes. Tears fill my eyes as I remember the proposal on the top of Mount Aetna where we searched for wild pegasi. The ring is an antique passed down from his great-great-grandmother. I can’t believe that I’m wearing a ring that’s been in his family for generations. They’ve made me feel so welcome into their family. My eyes wander up and look at the wedding band that sits over the engagement band and I smile again, remembering our wedding day. It had been just the two of us, the minister, my father, Rolf’s parents and Harry and Ginny gathered in the gardens that my mother had planted. Most of the wedding was a blur, but I clearly remember Harry kissing me on the cheek and telling me that he was sure my mother was watching.
Zephira, now bored with playing, curls up on the floor and sleeps in the boneless way of cats (and kneazles). I retrieve the slightly chewed and damp piece of wrapping paper and place it back on the package, mending it with my wand.
I pass the rest of the morning daydreaming, remembering all the happy times of my past. Memories of friends pass by in blurring streaks of colour: Neville coming to me, his cheeks flushed, telling me of his appointment to Hogwarts; Harry and Ginny announcing that they were having a girl this time and they were going to name her Lily Luna; Dean hesitantly telling me that he was engaged, waiting to gauge my reaction; Rolf’s sister Caroline letting us choose a kneazle kitten from the litter; the first time Zephira climbed in my lap as a kitten and purred at me; the first Christmas with Rolf when we had barely unpacked from our wedding and we couldn’t find each others’ presents.
Thinking of Rolf opens up a whole other series of images. Vivid images of the first time we met: I had just given a speech on Crumple-Horned Snorkacks to the British Cryptozoological Society when we were introduced to each other by Hagrid. Hagrid’s sly smile gave away that he was match-making. I clearly remember the light shining on Rolf’s green eyes, eyes that reminded me strangely of Harry’s. I know I must have been babbling incoherently to him, but he didn’t seem to mind. We hit it off straight away and talked all night about our various expeditions. I told him of my time in Norway and he told me of his travels in Indonesia.
Our first year together as a couple passes by quickly, highlighted by our first kiss by the Thames as we walked at midnight on New Year’s Eve and the first time he stayed overnight at my flat in London. I think back to that night and his warm touch and scent. Cinnamon from the package stirs that memory and I colour a bit, not with embarrassment, but with warmth. The second year of memories pass by, the scent of cloves from the package brings to mind the memory of our expedition to Pakistan. We stayed in a thatched hut as we hunted together for Nagas.
Together as friends and lovers for three years, together as an engaged couple for two more years until we returned to England for our wedding. I flash back again to that first Christmas in our new home, searching frantically for Rolf’s present. I had made him a bust of his grandfather out of marble, but I couldn’t find it in the mess of boxes.
He searched through the boxes for my gift as well, but couldn’t find it. We didn’t dare do Summoning Charms with all of the delicate instruments and sculptures around, so we had no choice but to search by hand. Rolf finally said, “I give up.” He came over and put his arms around me from behind and breathed gently on my neck. He whispered into my ear, “I already have the best Christmas gift ever.”
I turned in his arms and returned his kiss. I arched against him and whispered back, “You’d better unwrap it then.”
I return to the present, taken out of the past by a pleasant voice outside the door. Rolf comes in, tan dust falling from his robes as he sweeps the door open. He sees my flushed cheeks and comes to me. His welcoming kiss lingers as he lifts me into his arms.
I pull back first and ask, “How did the hunt go in the village?”
He returns me to my feet and holds me tight. “The elders there didn’t really have any first-hand knowledge of the M’kele M’bembe, but they recommended a village a few miles south of here. I think we should stay here for Christmas and then move on Boxing Day.”
I nod assent, breathing in his pleasant scent.
He flicks his eye toward the tree and asks, “How have you been enjoying your gift?”
“I haven’t opened it, I promise,” I tell him.
“But you wanted to, didn’t you?” He laughs slyly.
He moves to pick up the package and hands it to me.
“Go ahead and open it.”
I open the package, revealing a strange, pyramidal mixed-media sculpture. Photographs of family and friends cover the surface, along with semi-precious gemstones and whole spices covered in glossy shellac. As I pick up the sculpture, memories flood over me, scents and pictures triggering memories. As I start to become lost in the memories, I feel a touch on my hand. I refocus my eyes on Rolf, standing patiently.
“Do you like it?” he asks. “I’ve been working on it for three years. The memory triggering charms are quite tricky.”
“I love it. I love you. Thank you.” I put the sculpture down on the table, making sure that Zephira’s not stalking it.
“Let’s go make some more memories.”
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