Chapter 1 : Prologue
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“There, sweetie, have a good term.”
I hugged my daughter briefly and smiled. Aurora smiled back, her brown eyes twinkling. I turned to my right, where Alex was lugging his mahogany trunk. I sighed and flicked my finger. The huge trunk hoisted itself off the ground and flew into the train, and sat meekly beside its twin trunk, Aurora’s.
Alex caught my eye and grinned, flashing his perfect teeth. I grinned back and pulled him into a hug, too.
“Behave yourself this year,” I admonished him, playfully ruffling his hair.
“Aw, Mom!” he groaned, trying to fix up his hair as it had been before, in a windswept look, in vain. “It took me an hour do that!”
I smiled. Really, the boy had an ego the size of Atlantic Ocean.
Sighing softly as the clocked ticked to half-past 10, I pulled both my kids into a group hug, something that had become a tradition for the past four years that my twins had been going to Hogwarts.
“I’m really going to miss both of you,” I said tearfully into my son’s hair. He pulled away an made a face.
“You say that every time, yet you land up with the most number of animal captures only when we aren’t ’round,” Alex used me, imitating my famous cross-hands posture. “And all of them happen to involve you in near-fatal accidents. I say, no more dangerous animals when we aren‘t around!” He set his jaw and glanced at Aurora, who rolled her eyes, but agreed with her twin.
“Yeah, and we’re supposed to be the pranksters of Hogwarts.” she piped up for her part, shaking her head.
I reflected my son’s posture and raised my eyebrows. “You’re not old enough o capture Chimaeras, both of you. Now go find a compartment before the whole school troops in! Go!” I made a shooing action and stepped back a bit.
Both of them rolled their eyes this time, but soon dragged their trunks and tramped out of sight. They’d be back soon.
I glanced around the 9 ¾ platform. We were early, but not the first and only ones there. Infact, if it weren’t for Alex, we’d still be asleep - my son had an enormous amount of morning energy - like his dad.
As time trickled by, more and more wizards filed onto the platform. Kids were boisterous, jumping and running of in the direction of their friends, leaving their parents to struggle with the heavy trunks. I spotted a few of the 4th year Gryffindors, friends of Alex, and the Bones girl, who was in Auri’s class. One of them waved at me. I smiled and waved back at the kid. It was Shannon Bridge, Alex’s current girlfriend, and probably his 5th. I sighed as the devil himself appeared beside me and waved at the Bridge girl. She came over, almost skipping with happiness.
I almost sniggered as Alex tried to refix his hair, again. I turned around, not wanting to stand talking to that girl. It was enough having her over for a week this summer; I mean, which girl didn’t like animals? Honestly, Alex had a bad taste - though he admitted he was going to break up at the Welcoming Feast, when I told him she was a real disaster for him. I couldn’t help but think she was a right pain in the -
A mass of black hair just entered through the gate. My heart nearly froze. It can’t be, no, it can’t be…
The wizard raised his head and looked around anxiously. I inwardly hit myself. Ofcourse, it wasn’t him. This was Harry Potter.
“What are you looking at, Mrs. Black?” a shrill voice sounded somewhere on my left. I turned and saw Shannon looking at me, with a big fake smile, her teeth dangerously white. The girl liked me as much as I liked her. Thankfully.
“First years,” I answered mechanically, staring at the little boy with Harry as if to prove my point. Aurora, who was back, grimaced at the girl who’d joined us.
“Bridge,” she said icily.
“Black,” the girl spat back. Alex looked stuck between his sister and soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.
“Seriously, I swear they’re getting smaller every year,” he attempted feebly, prodding Aurora to shake out of the glare match. “I don’t think we were that tiny in our first year, eh, mum?”
Auri glared at him and then turned to see what I was so intently staring at. The little boy I was staring at looked so familiar… I was wondering if I knew his parents - after all, the Daily Prophet kept blaring the news that this was the first generation of children born after the War to go to Hogwarts. Ofcourse, all the hype was stirring excitement into people, from what I could see. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Shannon glare at Aurora and stomp away to her Hufflepuff friends, only after kissing Alex sloppily. I cringed inside. Ugh, mothers shouldn’t be allowed to see this.
“Do you know him, Mum?” Auri asked softly. I looked at her curiously. The whole wizarding world knew Harry Potter - why, Auri herself had an embossed Harry Potter Fan card stuck under the lid of her trunk.
And then, I understood the purpose of the anxious look around the platform when Harry first entered. Glamour Charms. I sighed. I should’ve realized sooner that a famous wizard never let his appearance known; atleast not Harry. He was too much like Lily for that. Any way, Glamour charms are some that don’t work on my eyes. I could see past any Glamour charm - that was the basic advantage to my profession.
Aurora nudged me. She wanted an answer.
“It’s Harry Potter,” I whispered to her, placing a hand on her shoulder in case she squealed or anything. She did nothing of the sort. Instead, her eyes grew rounder and she uttered a soft , “Oh”.
“Is that his son?” she asked, equally low-voiced, turning to me. I looked at the kid. He did look familiar, with sandy hair and grey eyes. Definitely, it wasn’t Harry’s son. I shook my head lightly.
“Lupin,” I mouthed unconsciously. The boy looked like Remus. A lot, now that I realized it. “It must be Remus Lupin’s son.”
“It means he’s Tonksie’s son!” Alex declared happily, scaring us both out of our skins as he suddenly jumped from behind us. “Then, he’s Cousin Lupin!” Both Auri and I caught the back of his shirt before he jumped away in the direction of Little Lupin. He stopped and scowled at both of us. I nodded in the direction of the oncomers, and he understood that both wizards were heading in our direction. I was ready to bet Auri sent him a telepathic warning, No need to scare them off!
Soon enough, Harry Potter and the little Lupin kid came over to where we were standing, a little away from crowds. I almost wished I could see what their glamour charms made them look like. Lupin looked up at my twins and smiled hesitantly. Aurora smiled back warmly, and Alex grinned widely. Lupin immediately broadened is grin and tugged Harry over to us.
“I’m Teddy Lupin,” he said excitedly. “I’m starting this year! Are anyone of you in Gryffindor? This is my godfather, Harry Potter!” Behind him, Harry looked embarrassed and turned red. I don’t know if glamour charms hid that too.
Alex held out a hand and sported a crooked smile. “Alex Black, 4th year Gryffindor.”
Both wizards gaped at him after my son announced his name. Auri and I looked at each other. But Teddy broke the silence by accepting Alex’s proffered hand. Harry’s eyes squinted curiously at me. I smiled back, and held my hand out to him.
“Lynn Black, of Magical Menagerie,” I introduced myself. He took my hand lightly, still not dropping his curious look.
“Merlynn Black,” Alex corrected me, as Aurora and Teddy acquainted to each other. I shot a glare at him and he quieted.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” Harry asked me, speaking for the first time since we met. Ofcourse, he has; I’ve held him loads of times when he was still a newborn. I’ve seen him laugh his first laugh, speak his first word and all that.
I tilted my head slightly to my right and smiled. “At the Eeylop’s? I supply there…” He shook his head, a smile forming on his face. I furrowed my brow.
“At the Battle?” I asked quietly. His smile faded, and his eyes shifted away, looking into his past. Slowly, he shook his head.
“No,” he said firmly. “I’ve seen you… in my parents’ wedding photo.”
Drat it. The only evidence to show I’d once known the Potters and lived in their world. I looked at him squarely and nodded. “I knew them.”
Harry nodded and looked at my twins, who were now entertaining Teddy, or, maybe, it was the other way round. All three of them were smiling and I could see Harry’s eyebrows raise very imperceptibly as he looked at Alex. I knew what he was thinking - honestly, everyone who knew my husband could see the strong resemblance between him and my son. When he turned to me, I could literally see the question etched inside his eyes. Thankfully, the Hogwarts Express started spouting puffs of smoke, and I took the chance to shoo the kids into the train.
“Go on, have a nice term,” I said, hugging them hurriedly and planted a light kiss on their foreheads. I really would miss them, no matter what Alex said, I know they know it, too. I hugged Teddy, too, and he beamed at me and then ran away to hug Harry. Both of them exchanged a totally whispered conversation and finally, Harry let go of Teddy, his eyes soft and anxious as the little boy pulled up his trunk. Aurora helped him up, and smiled at me and Harry.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Potter,” she said in her most diligent voice. “We’ll take good care of him.”
“Yeah, Mr. Potter!” Alex hollered from behind Aurora, fighting with both their trunks. “Ted’s in good hands!”
Harry chuckled lightly, his eyes never leaving Teddy’s form, even as the train started to move away from the platform. I watched as Auri and Alex helped him into a compartment and both of them waved at me, with identical smiles stuck on their faces.
Both of us, Harry and I, as did all of the wizards on the platform, stood back and waved as our loved ones sped away inside the scarlet and black carriages. Soon, the Hogwarts Express was but a speck at the distance.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be safe,” I assured Harry, amused by his expression. “Alex may be goofy character, but he keeps up his promises.”
“I’m not worried,” Harry replied, turning to look at me. “You were her bridesmaid, weren’t you?”
I sighed. This was it. The truth revealing time. Bye-bye secrets.
“Yes, I was Lily’s Maid of Honor,” I admitted. “Since your aunt Petunia refused to speak to her, at all.”
“Your name was different back then,” Harry questioned on. “Wasn’t it?”
I nodded. “I was a different person back then, kiddo.”
A new kind of smile came to his face, a quizzical, amused smile. “Weren’t you engaged to Sirius Black?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me; but it was.
It’s been 3 months since I waved off Alex and Auri to Hogwarts, and I was sitting in the Potters’ living room, sipping green tea. Young Mrs. Ginny Potter sat across me, flaming red hair and all, with a sleeping baby on her lap. Harry was upstairs, I was informed, tucking the boys in. The way she sat, the light from the blazing fireplace and the cozily set up living room brought back a very painful albeit happy memory. I’d seen Lily bundled with Harry like this, too many times, while waiting for James and Sirius to come back home. It was eerily familiar.
I still couldn’t believe I was here. I mean, this was the Noble House of the Black. The place Sirius had detested all his life. The place that had been hell in his childhood. But now, I wondered if Harry still kept the junk Sirius had been happy enough to litter around Hogwarts campus - his heirlooms. I suppose it must somewhere in the attics, where most of Sirius’ holidays were spent in. The huge, spider-driven attics with the evil-looking gargoyles. Lily liked to refer to it as Gotham City.
I tried to smile at the house-elf, who was looking at me with a mixture disdain, disbelief and slightly fervent expression. He had been slightly bored when he’d opened the door for me, but soon reformed his face to look like this when I gave forth my name. Another reason I tried my best to avoid telling my name. It was too impressive. I could see Kreacher was dying to ask me how I ever sported the noble nomenclature of the distinguished clan. I quickly averted my eyes. I chided myself for being so aware of other’s thoughts.
“You look awfully young to have been with Sirius and Remus in school,” Ginny said, looking at me intently. I couldn’t help it; I blushed - it was the nicest compliment I’d received in a while. I smiled at her.
“I’m forty-nine,” I said unabashedly. “Believe it or not.”
“Not,” Ginny replied, grinning. I grinned back, thankful that Harry had a similar taste to his father’s. Lily was my closest friend after school, and used to refer to me as the ‘kid’, owing to my physical slightness. I was not a tall person, nor too broad, and had a pair of big eyes, which often gave the look of a much younger witch than I really was. Lily referred to a lot of things in her own way. I missed that. I miss her.
“Thanks for inviting me and my kids to stay over for the break,” I thanked finally, remembering my manners. “The new batch of Lizargons had just been imported, and Phyllis was the only one who could tame the newborn ones.” Phyllis was my life’s best companion - our House-elf.
“Did you know that Lizargons -” Ginny started excitedly.
“Were a hybrid introduced by your brother, the Great Charlie Weasley?” I completed for her. She smiled widely, nodding her head. “Ofcourse I do! Mr. Weasley’s one of the few geniuses in the world who truly know about animals!”
Ginny smiled as she flicked her wand at the fireplace, and fire grew brighter, radiating more warmth. I finished my tea and gave the cup back to Kreacher with a small “thanks”, to which e muttered something unintelligible and Disapparated with a crack!
“Is he always like this?” I asked in disbelief, staring at the place where the house-elf had moments before stood. Ginny chuckled. I still tried to compare Phyllis to Kreacher; Phyl was a saint, Kreacher was an obnoxious old grandfather, I decided.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “Though I think his weird behavior is in respect of your name - but I’m sure he’s happy that Harry’s his current master. Heaven knows what tantrum he’d throw if we agreed to send him off to someone else.”
“He’s cynical,” I noted. “But, yeah, he likes you lot. I’ve heard worse cases of house-elves that don’t like their masters.”
“Like Dobby,” Ginny said simply.
“Like Grimlin,” I stated, remembering the tiny house-elf that had once accompanied Walden Macnair everywhere around the school, carrying his books and stuff. His murder of the senior Mrs. Macnair was an epic amongst the elves that had once realized they were abused. It was also Hermione Weasley’s (nee Granger) signature case for the cropping up the Elf Regulation Rights (ERR) a few years ago. Few who had seen the house-elf knew the extent of its abuse. I was one of those few.
The door opened widely and Harry came in, looking tired and happy. I was reminded so much of James, and the similar look on his face after doing a similar thing, once upon a time. I smiled at him as he came over and hugged Ginny, who kissed me lightly on the cheek and went to return the baby, Lily, to her cradle. I got up and hugged him lightly, since it was first time I saw him all evening. We were quite friendly to each other, our bond grown from little conversations over the last three months. I had, of course, spoken to Ginny, too, once when he brought her with him to Magical Menagerie last week. It was she who suggested we get closer like family - by staying over for the Christmas break, when my twins and Ted Lupin would be back from Hogwarts. Ted was family, and they were inviting Andromeda to stay over, too. Harry was going to pick her up tomorrow before going to King’s Cross for the kids. I wouldn’t miss the opportunity of being able to seeing her again. She was one of the few Blacks I liked.
“C’mon, I’ll show you your room and the twins’”, Harry offered, dimming the fire with a flick of his wand. I followed him onto the landing, dimly aware of the coldness that had descended with the night. I suppose the rooms were heated magically, but either way, temperature was never a problem with me. I loved the cold and the heat, so I wouldn’t mind walking barefoot on snow or on burning coals, according to Alex.
Harry trotted up the stairs and stopped on the second landing. “There you go,” he said happily, waving his hand at the blackwood door. “This will be your room - I had Kreacher assemble your things inside. And that,” he said, pointing to the opposite wall, where two identical doors stood. “That would be the twins’ rooms.” I smiled appreciatively at him.
“Thanks, again,” I said gratefully, thinking of our house, which was sure to have been partially demolished by the Lizargons by now. But nothing was unmanageable with Phyllis around.
“My pleasure,” Harry said graciously. “It’s a miracle I found my mum’s best friend after all these years.”
I laughed. “I’m sure she’s proud of you now that you’ve saved me from a self-induced fire accident.”
“Oh,” Harry answered flippantly, waving a hand. “I’m proud of myself, too.”
“I see James’ pride found its way into you, too,” I observed.
He smiled sadly. “You still haven’t met my son, James,” he said proudly. “You would probably being seeing my father’s double tomorrow morning.” He looked up and met my eyes. “Did I tell before that my oldest son’s name is James Sirius? And the younger is Albus Severus?”
“Gosh, mum, Lizargons?” was the first sentence I was greeted with when I saw my twins. Alex was looking at me wide-eyed and shocked, while Aurora calmly stood behind him.
“Good to see you, too,” I greeted him with a hug. “I take it you told him just now,” I asked of my daughter as she came forward to hug me. She grinned sheepishly.
“I needed to get rid of Bridge and his other stalkers before I could get him alone,” she explained, and Alex huffed behind her. “She upturned half the food on the Gryffindor table at the Welcoming Feast, when he broke up with her.”
I grimaced. “Enough said. I still believe I’m not the one in danger,” I spoke, looking pointedly at Alex. It was high time he started to amend his dating techniques; but then again, he was his father’s son. Dating disasters were part of his blood. Alex scowled, but it soon softened. He shrugged nonchalantly and nodded. He understood what I meant.
A small figure wrapped its arms around my waist. Surprised, I looked down to see Ted Lupin grinning at me. I hugged him back.
“I got Gryffindor!” he cried, waving his house crest and jumping around the living room. Ginny and Andy laughed as he did a complete frog-leap session with his hair flashing red and gold alternatively. I smiled, impressed. Harry came in at that moment, flanked by two tiny figures in outdoor clothes. Teddy yelled his name and jumped onto his chest, making him topple to the ground. Harry laughed happily and mussed his godson’s newly colored hair. The two figures, who turned out to be the hyperactive Potter sons, James and Albus, joined the fray by jumping up on top of their father and hugging Teddy tightly. Harry reflected by tickling all the three boys, which made James and Albus squeal and run to their mother, leaving Harry and Teddy to laugh at them.
I smiled upon this lovely display of familial love, and watched as my twins were laughing with the others, too. But they grew up. I sighed softly. Why can’t kids stay forever as kids?
Ginny and I had prepared tonight’s dinner. I learnt over the whole preparation process that Harry, his sons and Teddy were extremely passionate eaters. I also noted that Ginny was one of those witches who shouldn’t be crossed with a ten-foot long wand when it came to kitchens, after seeing her shout instructions the knives, the stove and the house-elf. I meekly offered to design the dessert, if she wouldn’t mind. She had immediately softened up and agreed. I felt like looking at a reincarnation of Molly Weasley as I knew her back then. So I timidly stirred up few pies and a chocolate cake, all strong in spices and other nimble-wimbles, until they gave off alluring smells. When we were finished, the food looked insanely delicious, as Ginny surveyed them red-faced. She was a wonderful cook, like Molly. I had to give both Weasley women that credit. Merlin knows how many in the order depended on Molly for grubs during the war. Like me, for one.
Andromeda and I, we were a different story altogether. We shared history as friends, sisters of a sort. When she first saw me today, she blinked and stared, amusing Ginny. And then, she pulled me into a rough hug, which I happily returned. And then, I got smacked lightly on the head, for being “bloody disappearing”, and for letting her think she “lost” me again. I simply grinned at her, my eyes getting moist. It was years since I last saw her, and, Merlin, she looked old now. It was a rare moment to see someone you have known when you were a kid, and to recognize the same person as family much, much later.
“It’s Lynn, now,” I told Andy when Ginny called me by the name she had been told was mine. The older witch looked at me curiously, but nodded, surprised that I still stuck to that name.
The kids soon cleaned the platters of delicious food, including Alex and Auri, who, thankfully, had good appetites. I stuck rigidly to my salads and veggie rolls, playing my role as the ever-always vegetarian. Soon, the desserts floated to the table and everyone breathed in appreciatively. Aurora looked at me knowingly and dug into her cranberry pie, while Alex wiped non-existent tears and hugged me from his seat beside me.
“Ah,” he exclaimed, feigning boundless happiness. “How much I miss when I’m not home!” He blowed his nose, rather loudly into his kerchief. I smacked his arm.
“Drama queen,” Ginny, Andy, Auri and I said together, and started laughing. Immediately, James and Albus attempted the same stunt, making all of us positively howl with laughter. The baby, Lily, looked at us curiously, working into a smile.
“Drama Queen!” she squealed pointing at her two brothers and laughing with them. A year old, she had already begun to form clear legible phrases.
“You added cinnamon?” Ginny asked, surprised, after a bite into the chocolate cake. Andy looked just as surprised, and Harry looked no different. But my oh-so-helpful twins smiled wickedly.
“And cardamom,” Alex offered.
“Clove powder and ginger,” Aurora quipped.
“Peppermint and cacao,” Alex continued, in a string.
“Fruitmints, chocoberries, white cocoa and marmalade!” both of them finished together, and the other adults looked at each other. Both my kids knew what I put into my cakes, for I was eternally grumbling how difficult it was to get the required ingredients.
“I didn’t even know chocoberries existed!” Ginny exclaimed in wonder.
“It’s amazing,” Harry complimented, taking a large bite out of the cake.
“And that’s something coming from a person living with Ginny,” I mumbled, quite humbly. Ginny beamed at me. I was pleased with the way my desserts were appreciated - even Lily bit a few mouthfuls, though half of it seemed to have stayed on her little frilly dress.
Later in the evening, after Lily was washed and redressed in baby slacks and a fluffy set of winter baby attire, all of us were sitting in the huge living room, contented with our sumptuous dinner and enjoying the antics of each other. Ginny’s say was the food, so Harry initiated a ball game for the kids on his part. Auri played with Lily, while Alex helped Harry - Harry, James and a very stubborn Albus were a team against Teddy and Alex. Soon, the boys got bored of it, after they realized Harry used magic to levitate the balls out of their reach. Andy then offered eggnog to everyone, which I refused on my part, taking hot chocolate with the kids instead.
By the time my twins perked up, James and Ted had gathered pillows and had spread them on the floor near the fireplace, and plopped down on it. Aurora and Alex, on their behalf, sang. They could sing rather well, and I made it a point that they attended singing classes when they were younger. Tonight, their pick was a raucous song about holidays and house-elves, by the Weird Siblings, released way back in my school days. Andy joined in, laughing, and quickly, too soon for my liking, two more jolly songs got over.
Oh, boy, I thought, as everyone turned to me. It was my turn to contribute something to the evening. All faces, young and old looked at me eagerly, and I almost felt like laughing.
“What shall I do?” I asked them, resigning myself to this new kind of tradition. Immediately voices sprang up.
“Story! Tell a story!” Ted shouted, nudging James to join him in his chanting.
“Yeah! Tell story!” Albus cried from his father’s lap. My daughter and son joined them, too, smiling all too well.
I sighed and nodded, smiling slightly. “A story it is, then.” Ted punched the air in triumph.
“Nightmare Before Christmas!” Teddy suggested, but James shook his head vehemently.
“NO! Tell us Marmee the Gnome of Plasmood!” the 4-year-old demanded, referring to the popular comic series for kindergarteners.
“Mermaid Merlynn,” Aurora said quietly. All of them fell silent to catch her words. “ Tell us the story of Mermaid Merlynn ”. She and Alex passed a look between each other; I knew only too well why she picked the story. It wasn’t a written story, but the one they grew up listening to. I flushed. It was too long a story.
“It’s a looong story,” I said for an explanation, stressing the word. But the damage was done. All the three younger boys lapped the name up and began chanting it. “I really can’t finish it in a night,” I sighed.
Harry smiled from his cozy armchair. “It’s ok,” he said. “We’ll listen to parts of it starting today… It sounds interesting” He had a knowing glint in his eye, and I knew that at least the adults understood what Aurora had just asked from me.
“Please, Mrs. Black?” Teddy asked, his eyes huge and turning into doe-brown. I laughed a little, and nodded slowly.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I opened them and looked at the excited faces in front of me.
It was time to begin the story of Mermaid Merlynn, the Child of Nature.
What I’m going to tell you all is not a normal story of an extra-ordinary witch. It’s not even an adventure story, for she was no heroine. Nor is this a love story, for the girl I speak of was not a hopeless romantic. It isn’t a sad thread of woe, for she had her fill of catastrophes, too, but no. She was happy, too, but then again, this is not a peachy narrative.
It’s the story of one young girl, who traveled far away from home in order to be where she belonged. It’s the tale of a witch who was powerful, yet invisible to the eyes of the others.
She’s not a legend in her own sense, but possessed a rare talent that was lost to the Modern World of Wizardry. A talent many today never knew existed once upon a time in the very heart of England.
She was the girl she was named as.
She was Mermaid Merlynn.