Chapter 1 : Vanishing Act
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Rain falls like teardrops, smattering softly on the roof that she watches with disinterest. The tiny beads of water hit the shingles and shatter, exploding into a million fragments before her very eyes. She is bored, cast away by her sisters and left to discover her own means of entertainment, and so she has found herself watching the rain out of her window with her chin propped up on her elbows. The weather does not interest her, but then again, neither does anything else in the house.
Clatters can be heard from down the stairs, but she pays it no mind. It is a normal occurrence, really. Her sister has always hated it, insisting that the bickering among their parents is something that should be stopped. "You don't know what you're talking about," Bella will always say, and Andromeda will go back to crying into her mattress. Cissy will watch with hesitant eyes as her sisters make this exchange almost everyday, but will say nothing so as not to get involved. She does not like getting noticed, not when her sisters are arguing.
Bella runs past her bedroom in only her socks, but Narcissa does not turn around. She only stares out the window, watching with a listless stare as rain trickles from the heavens. "Mum!" her sister is shouting, and now she can make out the fading of the footsteps down the stairs. "I can't find my potions book!"
Narcissa adjusts her elbows along the windowsill. Her sister is busy with school, concerned about the coming year as the date when she will leave for her very first time on the Hogwarts express creeps closer and closer. Andromeda has tried to help her, packing away the robes and books that her sister has required neatly into a trunk. Cissy hasn't come even remotely near that blasted case, refusing to help speed the process along of anything that might take her sister away from her. She's said this dozens of times, but Bella has always rolled her eyes, sighing about how much of a baby she still is. She hasn't listened to her protests. Nobody ever does.
The yelling downstairs, which is now saturated with her sister's voice, is starting to become something she cannot ignore. The rain isn't an object she can concentrate on much longer. She rises, tucking her hands in the pockets of her skirt as she makes her way to the door. Andromeda is nowhere in sight, not even when Cissy glances around the hallway and the surrounding bedrooms. She is better at avoiding things than Cissy is, and always had been. Quietly, the blond steps down the stairs that lead into the dimly lit sitting room. The yelling, hissing, shouting are all coming from the kitchen, thank Merlin, and she is careful not to disrupt it. She does not want to become involved. She is never one for arguments, and has always preferred the rare peace that the house enjoys only few days out of the week.
The weather outside is just as she left it, but she pays it no mind as she steps out of the front doorway. It is only light rain. Nothing to get upset about. Before her lies stretches of grass, each blade shining with drops of water that slide and melt into the earth below. The noise of voice upon voice that she had previously been exposed to is behind her, replaced with the soft pitter-patter of the rain as it shatters on the earth and its inhabitants.
Turning, she gazes up at the house behind her. It is huge, with dark stones layering the outside and shimmering with water. It looms above her, casting a ghastly shadow over her slight form as she stares up at it. She does not like the house. It is too huge, too dark, too cold. When she is older, she wants a small house. Yes, a cottage nestled in a forest somewhere, with a burning fire in the corner that warms every room.
Clinging to the thought of this imaginary house of hers like a baby clutches at a balloon, she skips to the patch of trees that surrounds the stretches of shimmering grass. Her small fingers brush the trunks as she hops by them. The cottage she has pictured in her mind suddenly surrounds her, with trees outlining the walls and the leaves they posses crowning over her head like a roof. The rain cannot get to her in the imaginary cottage she is able to call her own. Gazing around, she fills in the spaces next to her with furniture. There is the bed, there is the stove, there is the fireplace.
A bird overhead twitters a song, each note different than the last. The small girl looks up, spotting the magnificent animal as it continues to warble. "Hello!" she calls, but it does not answer. It just sings, ignoring her completely as if she hadn't even existed. "Fine then," she says in a sing-song voice, skipping over to the make-believe bed. "You don't have to talk to me. I can talk to you instead."
The rain doesn't seem to bother the bird, who sits with its feathers fluffed around it on a branch high above the ground. It it sheltered there, it seems, from the wet weather that rages just outside of the tree's leaves. It is protected, safe. And so it sings, celebrating its seclusion from the rain the only way it knows how: by song.
"Do you want to come live with me?" she calls, still gazing upward at the tiny bird. "I have a nice house! And it has a fire!" The bird continues to carol above her, and she takes this as his answer. "I won't put you in a cage," she whispers, "I promise." The whistle she hears in a response triggers a smile to spread across her face. Her front tooth is missing, something she has tried to hide in embarrassment, but she pays it no mind now that her only company is a singing bird.
"Cissy!" In an instant, the walls dissolve around her, leaving her standing in merely a patch of trees. The roof, the floor, the bed, the fire, all melt into nothing as she turns to see her sibling calling her name. The bird, startled by this sudden call, flaps its wings in a hurry and flutters off the branch and into the now pouring rain.
"You frightened it," she says softly, watching as her sister's black hair streams behind her like storm clouds.
"What?" She is tired, bitter, and the youngest can hear it in her voice.
"The bird," she pipes. "You scared it away."
The eldest dismisses this as she would an argument that has nothing to do with her, and grasps her sister's shoulder. "Mum wants you, Cissy," she hisses quietly, though not cruelly.
"Oh." Slipping her hand into her sisters, the youngest allows herself to be led into the rain and out of the shelter of the trees. The memory of her cottage is now distant, and the house, tall and dark, towers closer and closer until she has arrived at the front steps.
The thought of the song that had made her smile just moments ago is blown away by the shouting that hits her as she enters the house. The only sound in her ears is the bitter arguing of her parents, and it grows louder as she is led forward. Try as she might, the little girl cannot replace it with the sounds of the bird caroling above her, cannot conjure back the memory of the high and low notes the bird had managed to hit while singing for, what seemed like, only her.
It is a distant thought now, looming immediately out of her grasp just as the cottage and its tiny fireplace that can warm every single room in the house.
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