Chapter 1 : No One Writes Letters Anymore
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The letter on her doorstep was the first indication that something was wrong.
No one ever wrote letters anymore -- at least, no one who owned a computer or a mobile, and that meant just about everyone. Besides, it was evening. She already had the morning mail sitting on her countertop. The only explanation for this unexpected letter, addressed in royal purple ink and clearly not printed from a word processor, was that it must be from a wizard. The magical community’s main form of communication was through owl post, after all.
She didn’t have to read it to know what it was about. Dennis hadn’t come home last night.
It was full of nonsense about how the Auror department was sorry they couldn’t send someone in person, but work was just so busy, and everyone was mourning his loss, and he would always remain in their hearts, to be honored forever.
She threw it in the rubbish bin along with the daily newspaper and a pamphlet urging her to upgrade to Charter Internet.
The tears were bound to come, later. For the moment she poured a glass of iced tea, too lazy to brew a real kettle of it, and turned on the telly. There was a news report of a woman whose husband wanted to press charges because she ran over his dog, an update on the reconstruction of an old community library, and something about a school volunteer effort to redecorate the local nursing home. Nothing about the death of Dennis Creevey, a boy who'd gone to that school a long time ago, and who'd lived in this neighborhood to the very end.
It was only to be expected. Oh, they'd get wind of it eventually, but for now it was exclusive to the magical community. Maybe no one outside the Ministry and close friends even knew yet; she didn't know how that worked.
She remembered with surprising ease the day Dennis told her he wanted to be an Auror. She'd looked at him blankly, because ten years since learning magic was real and half the things her sons said still sounded like gibberish. Once he explained, though, she hugged him tightly and tried not to let him see her worry.
Three years later and her little boy was boasting about his first official day on duty, and how he'd Stunned a bunch of Dark wizards trying to attack a hospital called St. Mungo's. He assured her that no one was hurt too badly, and it hadn't been much of a fight, anyway, because the Aurors could take down anyone, with their eyes closed and wands snapped in half, even. She'd suspected he was exaggerating quite a bit, but just smiled.
There'd been a couple instances when he'd had to Disapparate in the middle of dinner for an urgent firecall from the Ministry, but he always came home, albeit not always unscathed. How many times had she stayed up into the morning hours to bandage a wound he was too stubborn to let a Healer or doctor take care of?
From the moment he told her what he wanted for a career, she'd known it would eventually end this way. However unfair, it was the hand fate had dealt her -- two beautiful young boys doomed to meet their downfall in battle.
He'd always done everything like his brother, so it only fit that he should die like him, as well.
It occurred to her that there were other family members that ought to hear the news before they saw it on the telly. She got off the couch, turned the television volume down low, and dialed the first number that came to mind.
"That you, Susie?" came the voice on the line. She almost cried just hearing it, because she and her sister hadn't spoken in so long, not since her husband's burial. "You seen this rubbish about the minister? Top Yahoo story, and it's completely--"
"Oh, Carla," she said in a trembling voice. "Carla, I don't know what to do. I got this letter--"
A scoff cut her off. "Letters? Who writes anymore? In this day and age, no one even bothers to e-mail. Oh, no, it's gotta be instant messaging--"
"Dennis was killed."
The silence stretched forever. She supposed she could have put it more tactfully, but what was the point? Dead was dead, no matter how you chose to say it. She didn't believe in sugar-coating it with words like "passed away" or "left us." What it all boiled down to was one less living soul.
"I'll be right over," Carla said softly.
"No, don't. Honestly, you live hours away, you're not driving that far tonight, it's already getting dark out. I'll let you know the date so you can make it to the f-funeral." The word still stuck in her throat, no matter how familiar it had become over the years. "Just don't," she repeated.
Neither one of them spoke for a while, and eventually, Susie fumbled out a goodbye and hung up. Carla never asked how Dennis died. Susie supposed it was because her sister didn't trust her to tell the truth about it. She refused to believe that Colin was killed in some magical war off in a mysterious school for witches and wizards. Susie wouldn't have, either.
As far as the rest of the family was concerned, Dennis was unemployed. She'd tried to persuade him to let her tell everyone he was a police officer -- the near-truth -- but he'd only snorted and said, "Who in their right mind would believe that? Nah, just tell them I don't know what I'm doing yet."
So she did. Her parents asked every so often; "Has that boy found a proper job yet?" No, she told them, he was still considering several possibilities. "And what would those be?" Oh, some business-related industries, maybe manufacturing. From the looks she got, she might as well have told them that he was out chasing Dark wizards. "Not near serious enough for an office job, that one. Or labor of any sort. Too much like his brother."
She tended to clench a fist at that, because her parents didn't know even the basic principles of tact. They didn't intentionally make insensitive remarks, and it wasn't their fault they didn't miss their grandchild like she did. His years at Hogwarts meant little time to spend with family, especially since every other word out of his mouth was something like "Quidditch" or "Merlin's pants." That would take some explaining if he let it slip in front of his cousins.
Perhaps it wasn't right that Dennis's death didn't feel like a new wound, but rather like the return of an older one that had never fully healed. Colin's death had felt fresher, but even that one seemed more like she'd just lost her husband for the second time, rather than just plain grief for losing a son.
Ironically enough, her husband Ralph died in a magical incident as well, but she didn't realize it until after she came face-to-face with the magical world again, two years later, when a mysterious letter addressed to Colin appeared in the post.
"Mum, Mum, guess what?" he'd shouted when she got home from work, running to meet her at the door. "I'm a wizard!"
"That's nice, dear," had been her response, flinging the keys on the table and starting to put away the dishes in the sink. What was she supposed to think? Every kid in the world pretended they were a cowboy or a pirate or a wizard at some point.
Then he pulled out the letter and waved it around, shoving it eagerly into her hands so she could see for herself. She'd dismissed it as a joke -- maybe even a scam -- and left it on the counter. Only the next morning, Saturday, when she didn't have work, she answered a knock on the door, and in walked the strangest man she'd ever seen. He was positively miniscule, only coming up to her chest, and wore flowing black robes. He introduced himself as Filius Flitwick and, with a flick of a little stick, brought the letter sailing over from the other side of the table.
And so, forced to admit that maybe this Hogwarts place existed after all, she'd been faced with the question, "Can I go, then?"
She pondered now the response she gave eighteen years ago. If she had some way of changing time, would she do it, knowing how it all turned out -- one child lost to war, another to his career? Had she looked Colin in the eye then and told him he was going to secondary school as planned, they both might still be alive.
They'd be alive, but something else would have been missing: the knowledge of a whole separate world, where people rode brooms for sport and studied dragons for a living. How would Colin have felt all his life, knowing what he could have done if only his mother let him? And Dennis, who might never have known of it at all? Would they have bothered sending him a letter when they knew she hadn't let Colin go?
She had every right to hate magic after all she'd lost. It was clearly dangerous, and so easily used for evil. It was wrong, in a way, that certain people got all that power while all the rest stumbled through their daily lives with no magic to make things easier.
It was difficult to hate it, though. The way her boys' eyes shone when they talked about it, the way they used to come home during the holdays and chatter for hours about things like Honeydukes and dungbombs and a secret Defense group called Dumbledore's Army.
There was a memorial at the school for everyone who'd lost their life in the war. She'd never been there -- Colin was buried in the local cemetery, and one slab of stone detailing his heroism was quite enough. Wasn't it more important for his name to be engraved on her heart than on a rock? Now, though, with Dennis gone as well, she wanted to know more, to see this magical place where her kids spent so much time growing up.
She could never blame magic, nor Hogwarts, nor even herself for giving in to Colin's pleas. The pain was there, and the tears would flow at any moment, but what mattered most was not that Dennis had died, but that he'd gotten to live out something that few others did. He and Colin both.
She was alone now, but that couldn't compare to the fact that they were together, her husband and her sons.
The sun would set tonight and rise again in the morning. Tomorrow, she'd receive no handwritten letters in the post, although come to think of it, the electric bill was on its way.
Later, she would turn off the telly completely, lie down on the couch (because she hated sleeping upstairs with no one else home), and weep until her sorrow turned to dreams of the days when the four of them were still alive and well and together.
For now, she had a lot more phone calls to make.
This was an idea I had one day that wouldn't let me go. Let me know what you thought of it! Also, feel free to point out typos if you see any, because this is pretty unedited.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it :)