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Chapter 1 : Of Sprites and Goblins
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The Winter's Tale, 2. 1 -- play by Shakespeare
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Curious brown eyes followed the path of the tiny bubble, almost going cross eyed as they attempted to look down their owner's nose. The shiny vesicle burst there, eliciting a shriek of delight from the three year old. Hermione's cheeks glowed pink and she looked at her Daddy. “More, more, more!” She stomped her foot in the enchanting manner children her age are wont to do, and was immediately granted her wish. Her squeals of excitement brought no small measure of happiness in her father, who treasured her whimsy like no other. She was Daddy's Little Girl, after all, no matter how much she took after her mother. His Princess. Baby. Angel. He would live and die for her, and he would beat the living crap of every boy who dared to touch his precious daughter. A much too unpleasant thought for his mind at the time, Daddy picked up his Little Girl suddenly and twirled her around, basking in her laughter like daisies in sunlight. Baby, baby.
He almost pouted when his darling wife took the rosy-cheeked cherub from his arms and told her it was bed time. This time, there was a pout, and a smug smile spread over his face. He was Favourite. But then little Hermione remembered that Mummy told fairy tales, and the thought had her drooling (literally) at the mouth. Annoyance. But as he watched the nightly routine in the ubiquitously pink room, the light frost that had collected around his heart melted, and he very willingly played the part of spectator. There were screams, and giggles, and lots of tickling before Little Girl settled into bed and Big Girl opened up a big fairy tales book. Tiny arms clutched a new teddy bear, Buttons, close to her heart as she veritably drank the story in, mouth hanging open and eyes wide in rapture and amazement as Cinderella is recounted for the millionth time.
Are there really Princes and Princesses? Where are dragons from? Why are stepmothers so evil? Are you a Queen, Mummy? Can I be a Princess? Daddy says I am.
Stream after stream of questions had Big Girl laughing and tucking the girl in firmly into bed. “You'll always be a Princess to us, Hermione.” A soft kiss on her forehead becomes two as Daddy joined in, his hand lingering on the little one's baby smooth skin. She will be the death of them, he knew. But her lashes have fallen now, forming dusky crescents on her cheeks, her breathing soft and slow as she slept. Her parents crept out of the room, sweaty hands pressed together and they closed the door. “Can we keep her this age?” rose the unbidden question from Big Girl's mouth. A wistful laugh.
“If we make magic real, yes.”
* * * * *
A blur of movement here, a blur of movement there. Daddy's head spun as he realised that throwing birthday parties was a lot harder than he thought it was. Riotous laughter was everywhere as little kids pulled each other's hair, threw things, did random cartwheels, ate boogers and teased mercifully. His bookish, quiet little Princess sat forlornly in the midst of it all, her mouth turned down and her eyes downcast. The image ripped at his heart and threatened to push him over the precipice of sadness. He knew that she didn't get along with her classmates very well, but he thought it was only because she surrounded herself by books, and Daddy had honestly thought that the party would make her popular because there were no room for informational tomes.
Apparently this was not so. His Princess wasn't a social butterfly, it seemed. He could see his wife's scolding look, but he ignored it. He had no time for I Told You So's. Daddy hated those. Hopefully the cake would salvage things. Sugary confections was always the way to go.
He waited with bated breath as he brought it out, causing all the crazy activity to stop and the kids to gather around the table. He put it down on the picnic table in front of Hermione, and smiled. “Blow out the candles, Princess.” Just then, a little boy who had been running to get to the table, failed to stop his own momentum and crashed into the table, toppling the cake, candles and all to the ground. Silence, then, as Hermione's lower lip trembled. It had been her Favourite. Triple fudge with chocolate frosting.
Daddy immediately made for her, his heart quivering. No, Baby, don't cry. Tears were bad. Very Very Bad. But before he could get there, and before he could be greeted with tears, Daddy was instead surprised by Hermione turning to the culprit, and the cake suddenly rising – floating – off the ground, in the air and into the face of the Little Boy Who Ruined It All. Her curls were crackling with static electricity, a faint snap, crackle and pop (could her favourite cereal maybe save the day?) audible as she screamed in pure, unadulterated anger, confusion and awe before running inside. Everything went berserk then.
Freakfreakfreak. He could hear the whispers of the word as all the parents and children looked on and speculated, hands waving, eyes goggling and mouths hanging aghast. Hadn't anyone told them that it all made them look very unattractive? But there were simply too many Questions to be answered for that fact to be heeded, apparently. What was that? Did you see the cake floating? Hey, mister, can we still have some of that cake? It looks good. Mr. Granger, I don't like the treatment of my son. Enough.
With a frustrated scream of his own, he pushed everyone out. This was no time for people. His poor Baby. She was no freak. She was Special. There had to be some logical explanation for it, anyway. His entire family craved elucidation, facts, and theory: they would figure it out. Their combined IQ was too high. NotafreakNotafreakNotafreak. No way, Jose. Everyone else was just not good enough. Hermione was normal, more than normal, she was his Perfect Princess. He ignored the twitch in his left eye as he walked in, the one that told him that he was lying to himself. Bodily reactions couldn't tell him what his heart knew and what logic did not need to prove. Oh, Baby, Baby.
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