Chapter 1 : Dame Fortune
| ||Rating: 15+||Chapter Reviews: 11|
Change Background: Change Font color:
The small family stood around the open grave, huddled together under a large umbrella and dressed all in black. The father of the little family held tightly to his teenage daughters, who stood sobbing in the circle of his arms, clinging to him as if his presence might ward off the reality of what had happened. The mother stood to one side of them, staring blankly at the coffin as the rain beat down upon it, sounding a final tattoo for the extinguished life of the young man inside it.
Henrietta Habbershaw-Smythe watched her eldest child and only son being lowered into the cold, unfeeling earth, but there were no tears to wipe away for her. Hattie had not cried yet for her dear Humphrey.
Hattie was angry.
At times she was so angry she could not even speak. She was so angry she thought she might burst with it.
He was only twenty-one. His entire life was ahead of him. He’d always been such a good boy, studying hard in school, becoming a prefect, and beginning a career at the Ministry in Magical Law Enforcement. He’d done nothing wrong, nothing. Always on the side of law and order, her darling Humphrey, of fairness and justice. He’d been such a good boy. And what had come of it? His body, found dead outside the Ministry of Magic. No explanation from the Ministry. No 'condolences on your dead son, ma’am.' Nothing. Only Humphrey's body, delivered with a salute by a pair of impassive Hit Wizards.
Hattie had been filled with an incandescent rage since she’d seen Humphrey’s body brought home that day. It burned white hot inside her, keeping all other thought at bay, so that her only focus was to make someone pay for Humphrey’s death. The only problem was that she did not know what to do, where to start. Who to hurt the way she was hurting.
The first shovelful of earth hit the coffin with a wet thump.
“Ashes to ashes,” began the grey-haired little wizard officiating the funeral services.
Hattie watched as the rest of the mound of earth next to the grave was moved by magic, burying her son so he was gone from her sight forever. Her daughters sobbed harder, and she gripped her umbrella more tightly, her knuckles as white as the rage that consumed her.
The small funeral cortège had moved to Hattie’s home, where a table of refreshments had been laid by her daughters. Hattie had supervised the funeral preparations, but she had not touched any of the food herself. The only refreshment she was interested in was a bottle of firewhisky and the oblivion it might bring.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Hattie.” Molly Weasley hugged her longtime friend, sitting down next to her on the sofa.
“Thank you,” Hattie said without emotion.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” Molly’s brown eyes were kind. Her face seemed to have aged a few more years in the short time since Hattie had seen her at her son Bill’s wedding.
“No,” Hattie said coldly. “What help is there for me? My son is dead.”
Her friend’s voice was full of sympathy and compassion, but it did nothing to cool the rage inside Hattie. She thought about the deep scars on Bill Weasley’s face, and the missing ear on one of the twins, and wondered that Molly was not also filled with an unquenchable fury.
Scars and a missing ear… Molly's husband Arthur loved Muggles, always had, had written the Muggle Protection Act and made sure it was passed. He would never stand for the wanton persecution of Muggles and Muggle-borns that the Death Eaters had always committed, in the first war and now, and Molly had always supported her husband in everything. Molly’s brothers had been killed by Death Eaters almost twenty years ago, and now two of her sons had been maimed. And then there was Arthur's mysterious accident the Christmas before last, when he'd been hospitalized in St. Mungo's for weeks...
A realization settled over Hattie, something she thought she must have always known but had never put much thought into until now, as she'd been trapped in a comfortable little bubble over the years with her precious family.
Molly’s family was fighting You-Know-Who, had been fighting him for over twenty years, husband, brothers, children, and Molly herself.
They were fighting Humphrey’s killers.
She turned to her old friend. “I have to do something to fight them, Molly. I want to help.”
Molly’s eyes slid away from hers, and she said evasively, in a light tone, “Whatever do you mean, Hattie?”
A hot surge of anger flared inside Hattie. “Don’t play stupid with me, Molly Prewett, I’ve known you for over thirty-five years. They killed my son. My baby boy.”
Molly looked at her, stricken, and Hattie continued, lowering her voice so no one would hear them, “I know you’re involved. They killed your brothers, just as they killed my son. You and Arthur are fighters, you would have been involved last time if you hadn’t kept getting pregnant, so I know you’re involved now that your children are grown –”
“They’re not all grown,” Molly hedged. “Ginny’s still in school, and Ron –”
“Molly. I want to help. I’m not a fighter like you, but there must be something I can do. How would you feel if it was Bill’s body that was brought home to you? Or your baby, Ginny, your little girl?” Hattie gave Molly a hard look. “They killed Gideon and Fabian. They scarred Bill. They took George's ear. Arthur nearly died. Don't tell me you're not fighting!”
Molly stared off over Hattie’s shoulder for a moment, and Hattie knew she was looking at her husband, who was chatting kindly with Hattie’s eldest daughter on the other side of the room. Hattie continued to stare stonily at her old school friend, her face set.
“It's dangerous,” Molly said in quiet undertones.
“I don't care.”
“Your daughters do.”
They were silent again for a few moments. Molly seemed to be struggling internally, and Hattie looked away, watching her youngest daughter, Euphemia, sitting across the room next to Reid Akins, a longtime family friend and former schoolmate of Hattie's. Effie was nibbling at a cookie, her eyes still full of tears, and Reid gave her a comforting hug. Effie was barely fourteen, still a baby in her mother's eyes, and Hattie felt a shiver of unease slide through the rage that haunted her. She could not risk their lives, but she had to do something for Humphrey.
She glanced over at her husband. Edwin was holding up better than she was, she knew, and he seemed to feel her gaze and turned to give her a sad nod, as if he could not manage a smile even for his wife. He was a good man. She knew she could speak for both of them in offering to help.
“You and Edwin have a big house,” Molly said finally.
Hattie did not answer this, and simply watched her friend's face.
“There would be plenty of room here… for someone to stay, if they needed a safe place to go…”
Hattie’s shoulders unknotted a little. “If you need a refuge, a safehouse -”
“There’s always need for refuge. There are a lot of Muggleborns out there.” Molly gave Hattie another hug. “I’ll be in touch. Arthur and I have to get home, I’m afraid. We can’t stay any longer.”
“Of course. I hope Ron’s spattergroit is better soon, the poor dear.”
Molly’s eyes slid away from hers, but her expression did not change. “Thank you.”
Hattie sat at her kitchen table with a bottle of wine in front of her, staring at the oil painting of a branch of cherry blossoms that Humphrey had done a few years ago. He had been so talented. It was so unfair that her darling boy was gone, she wanted to scream every time she thought about it. Her hand tightened on the bottle, and she wanted to throw it, see it smash in a shower of splintered glass against the stone wall, but she knew her daughters would be frightened. She could not let them see how she felt.
She didn't want to send them back to school. There were rumors that the new headmaster would be Professor Snape, who had been a shoddy Potions teacher at best. She couldn't imagine he was going to care any more for the welfare of the students as a headmaster than he had as a professor, but it seemed she had little choice. School started in a fortnight, and despite her letters to the Ministry, her daughters were unable to stay home that year.
She had tried to tell herself she was being overprotective, but her son was dead. Was there such a thing as too much protection any more? The girls were safer at home. She wanted them where she could see them at all times. The thought of putting them on the train that year gave her panic attacks. Edwin was going to have to see them off to school by himself.
The bottle was empty. The thought of lifting her wand to refill it seemed too much effort. It was probably for the best; she'd drunk too much already. Hattie dragged herself out of her chair and dropped the empty bottle carefully into the garbage bin before heading upstairs to her room.
Edwin was already in bed, stretched out on his back and staring at the ceiling.
“Were you drinking?” he asked without looking at her.
She climbed into bed and curled up against him, and his arms went around her automatically. He seemed distant still, though, as if holding her had been an afterthought rather than a desire to comfort her.
Hattie looked up at a soft knock on her door frame. Her middle daughter, Adelaide, stood in the open doorway, looking worried.
Hattie patted the bed next to her and Addie climbed in next to her mother, lying at her side with her head pillowed on Hattie's arm.
“Why do we have to go back to school? You said we could stay home this year.”
“It's mandatory,” Hattie said tiredly. “All children with magical blood must go.”
“What they really mean is that all purebloods must go and all Muggle-borns must turn up to be arrested at King's Cross. Do the new laws even consider the girls pureblooded?” Edwin wondered. He hadn't taken his gaze off the ceiling. “I'm not, you know. My mother was Muggle-born.”
“Mum's a pureblood though,” Addie pointed out. “And Grandpa was a half-blood, wasn't he?”
“True. I suppose that makes me nearly pureblooded, not that it matters, really.”
It matters to the Ministry, Hattie thought, but Addie was speaking again.
“No, you're probably still half-blood, Dad. You had two Muggle grandparents.”
“Don't repeat that,” Hattie said sharply. She did not want to discuss blood status. She hated the very thought of it. Her mother and stepfather had moved to France thirty years ago because of blood status and him, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and now it was happening all over again. “If anyone asks you, your father is a pureblood as well.”
“But my friend Romilda said-”
“Adelaide!” Hattie sat up and frowned at her daughter. Addie was fifteen and had the determined self-focus of her age, but she wilted under her mother's angry stare.
“I'm sorry, Mum. I...”
“It isn't safe to talk about your Muggle ancestors,” Hattie said, but she couldn't help softening a little, and gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead. “Go on to bed, dear.”
“Yes, Mum.” Addie slid out of the bed dejectedly. Hattie watched her leave and then rolled over, away from her husband, staring out the window.
It wasn't fair. Why did she have to deal with this... this mess? She just wanted her family back, whole and untouched. Was that really so much to ask? Her heart ached to have Humphrey back. She wanted to hold her son; more than she'd ever wanted anything in her life, she wanted to hold him and feel the breath and life in him again.
She listened in the darkness as Edwin's breathing evened out and slowed with sleep, but it was a long time before sleep took her as well.
Hattie's eldest daughter, Beatrice, was over for dinner the next day, and then every night until Addie and Effie left for school. Beatrice was nineteen, and hadn't been home for dinner every night in years. Whether she was doing so because she was frightened, or because she thought it was making her mother feel better to have a child at home still, Hattie didn't know or care. She wondered if she could talk Beatrice into moving back home until the war was over.
Beatrice was just setting the table one night when there came a loud knock at the door. Beatrice drew her wand and went to answer it. The sight of her daughter with wand drawn to protect their home made Hattie feel both proud and slightly ill. Why was this happening again? It was supposed to have all been over with little Harry Potter, so many years ago. It was supposed to be over.
“Who's there?” Beatrice asked, her voice steady.
“Arthur Weasley. I've come to see your mother, Hattie Habbershaw-Smythe. We've known each other since school.”
“Mum?” Beatrice turned to her questioningly.
She didn't know what she could ask Arthur to prove it was him. She walked over and flung open the door, her wand in hand, so she could look him in the eyes.
“Is it you, then?” she asked rudely.
Arthur seemed rather taken aback by this breach of procedure. “It's me. You... you helped my wife brew a love potion for Thad Peabody in sixth year.”
Hattie couldn't help but smile at that. Surely no one else but Arthur and Molly would know that.
“You did what, Mum?” Beatrice asked from behind her.
“Come in, Arthur.”
He followed her inside, and she dispatched Beatrice to make a pot of tea while they sat on the couch.
As soon as Beatrice was out of earshot, Arthur leaned toward Hattie and said in a low, urgent voice, “Molly tells me you want to help the Order.”
“The Order of the Phoenix. The war effort against You-Know-Who.” Arthur glanced into the kitchen, where Beatrice was noisily laying the tea tray. “There was an incident today at the Ministry, and we've got some people we need to hide straightaway, until we can get them somewhere more permanent and safe. Can you help?”
“Yes, of course,” she said immediately.
“All right. We'll be back in about an hour. Does Edwin know about-”
“I'll tell him,” Hattie interrupted. “Arthur, what can we do?”
“Extra enchantments on your home. Here's a list, Molly wrote it up for you.” He pulled a scrap of parchment from his pocket and handed it to her, glancing into the kitchen again at Beatrice. “Hattie, can Bea keep quiet?”
“She won't say a word. She's been home every night, anyway, ever since... since Humphrey's funeral.”
Arthur was silent for a moment, his face sad, but then he rose, saying, “I'd better be off. We'll be back before long, Hattie. Can you have everything ready?”
She glanced down at the list of spells. Some were beyond her abilities, but with Edwin... “Yes. I'll do my best.”
“Thanks, Hattie.” Arthur put a hand on her shoulder for a moment, and then he was out the door.
Beatrice came into the room. “Did Mr. Weasley leave already?”
Hattie was still staring at the list, but she said, “Beatrice, go and fetch your father, quickly.”
It didn't take her long to bring Edwin up to speed. He didn't look particularly pleased by her plan to aid the war effort, but he looked over the list and agreed to help. Hattie sent Beatrice off to bed, and led her husband outside to cast the spells.
Her husband watched her working on the protective enchantments, and when she'd done all she could, she turned to him.
“Can you do these three? I've never even heard of that last one before.”
“I think I know it.” Edwin took the list, but he was staring at her. “What have you got us into, Hattie?” he asked quietly.
“I'm only doing what's right.”
“For you or for the children?”
“For the greater good,” she snapped. “For Humphrey.”
Edwin's eyes filled with tears. “Hattie...”
“Do shut up and cast the spells, Edwin.”
He raised his wand, and his deep baritone was steady as he invoked the last of the protective magic around their house.