"And there he was! Grindelwald! I know they say that old fool Albus Dumbledore got rid of him! Codswallop! I saw him! With my own two eyes!" The frail woman began swinging her cane in the air. "But! I gave him the old one two!"
"Oh, Grandmum, I'm sure you did." she agreed, without exactly knowing what the old one two was.
"Of damn course I did, girl!"
Jade shook her head. Her grandmother, whom Jade had been named after, was a very impressive woman. She was strict, fierce, and damn loyal. Poor Grandpa Litwin could never control his wife. His wife was a woman far beyond her time. She had no use to sit around at home doing nothing important with her life, much unlike her daughter Audrey.
She worked at the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement nearly 20 years ago. Standing at a menacing five feet, Grandmum Litwin was one of the most successful members of her department. Jade remembered only seeing her grandmother during the holidays while Grandpa was still alive. Unfortunately, after Grandpa's tragic death from dragon pox, Grandmum was never the same and had begun to lose her sanity. All the more fun for Jade.
"Well, while you ladies get started in the kitchen, I think I'm going to go lie down for a bit. Worked hard this morning, you know!" Jade said happily as she excused herself from the kitchen.
Christmas Eve was always a lovely day at the Sterling house. Grandmum and Mum would bake fresh cookies in the kitchen, and would eagerly chatter about the upcoming day. Like always, the Sterlings would be hosting several families for dinner. Jade always dreaded these dinners as a child. Abraxas, Currier, and Bradley always chased her about the house and teased her.
"You're nothing but a stupid girl!" Abraxas taunted, pointing his toy wand in her direction.
"You shut up, Abraxas Malfoy, or I'm telling your mum!" she complained as she stuck out her bottom lip.
The young men all laughed at the little girl in front of them. Abraxas threw his arm over Currier’s and Bradley's shoulders.
"You'll never do anything but be such an ugly and stupid girl!" Currier shouted. The young men broke into loud laughter.
Now, Jade may have only been six years old, but she didn't take grief from anybody, especially a trio of boys. Instead of letting them enjoy their taunting for a moment longer, she slipped off her shoe. Abraxas eyed her carefully.
"What are you doing?"
Without a word in response, she lobbed the shoe straight toward the group of boys. It hit Currier right in the middle of his abnormally large forehead. Abraxas and Bradley watched in horror as the small girl rushed toward them and managed to tackle Currier to the ground.
"I'm not stupid!" she shouted as she fisted the lapel of his jacket into her small hands. He stared up at her in shock while she shook him violently.
"I'm… I'm getting your mum!" Abraxas screamed as he ran out of the play room and down the hall into the lounge where their parents were having an after dinner drink. Jade punched Currier in the eyeball before she crawled off of him and quickly scrambled to pick up her porcelain doll near the door.
A moment later, Audrey, Hermia Malfoy, Pearl Avery, and Faye Goyle came rushing into the room. The scene portrayed Jade in an extremely favourable light. Currier was lying on the floor with his hand over his eye, Bradley standing over the top of him with a look of surprise across his fat face. Abraxas was gripping his mother's leg as he pointed a shaky finger at the only little girl in the room. And there young Jade Sterling was: combing her dolly's hair.
"She… she was hitting Currier, Mum! I swear it!"
Jade glanced up from her doll and blinked several times at the women in the doorway. "Mummy, I've been brushing Mildred's hair! The boys were playing around with the toy broomstick! Currier fell off. I told them not to play with it!"
The women in the doorway simply laughed. "Now, Abraxas, stop making up stories to try and stay out of trouble. It's quite all right if you play with the toy broomstick. But, please, boys, do be more careful," Hermia said as she pushed her son back into the room. After the door closed, Abraxas pounded his foot on the floor.
"You always get out of trouble! One day you won't be so lucky! You wait until I have my real wand!"
"Oh, Abraxas, I'm so scared. An idiot like you with a wand," Jade sang pleasantly as she broke the head off of her doll; she never did like that ugly blonde hair.
This year would be something different altogether. The Malfoys were going to bring Tom Riddle along with them. Jade buried her head under three separate pillows on her bed. Hopefully the pillows in the way of her ears would prevent any and all thoughts that rushed into her mind at the very wrong moment.
Alas, it didn't work. She dreamt of Tom leading her through an exquisite mansion, their fingers entwined. The aged wood beneath them creaked under their heavy footsteps. The home, at least Jade imagined it was a home, was beautiful. Pottery and art lined the hallways; even the wallpaper seemed to be made of gold. A high-pitched voice could be heard talking excitedly about a beautiful new dress and some hot cocoa.
Merlin was pecking loudly on her bedroom window, apparently too lazy or stupid to fly to the front door and wait for Mum to let him in.
She rubbed her eyes as she slid out of her bed. Ruddy hawk, he ruined a perfectly good dream. The window slid open with ease and Merlin flew in quickly and shook small snowflakes off of his wings. He held out a leg and stared up toward Jade. Ignoring the letter, she slipped back into her bed and pulled the covers over herself. Merlin, not appreciating being ignored, flew onto the bed and began nudging her with his beak, nipping her fingers through the sheets every so often.
"All right! Keep your pants on!" She untied the letter from his leg and rolled over. He pecked her roughly on the back of the head and flew out of her room toward the kitchen for a snack.
Jade never understood the need for owls to carry the post. Surely wizards could have figured out a better method of post carrying by now? Perhaps by some sort of magically enchanted diary? Or was that just Tom Riddle's little piece of dirty work? Her blood boiled at the thought of that stupid little diary. She grumbled as she unrolled the letter in her hand. "Oh, pink ink. Must be from Dahlia."
I'm so sorry for everything. I was out of line when I accused you of being jealous. It was horribly childish of me. It's Christmas and I want us to get along again. …I also really miss my bed. But, not as much as you!! Alphard tells me you've been spending loads of time with Riddle, and I'm really interested in hearing all about it! So, please, please, please write me back! If I don't hear from you, I'll be sure to jinx you in your sleep when we get back to school! Just kidding, I won’t really do that, I promise.
Ps – Happy Christmas!
She rolled her eyes as she crumpled the parchment. "Of course she came crawling back," she thought smugly. That damn girl was so lost in her own little mind that she needed Jade to steer her in the proper direction. It was a surprise she hadn't died after spending so long away from her. Stupid girl.
It hadn't even been ten minutes of silence before an infernal pecking on the window once again interrupted her slumber. "Can't a girl take a nap in peace in this house?" She opened the window and ripped a letter off of a tiny barn owl’s leg. Ignoring his small hoots, she shoved him back outside and slammed the window shut.
She sighed and unrolled the parchment.
I told you I'd be seeing you soon.
That bastard. She ripped the letter in half and threw the pieces in the bin beside her bed. It was clear that she wasn't going to get another wink of sleep this afternoon, what with all of the damn owl's terrorizing her windowsill every time she nodded off. And now with Tom's newest stunt, she was sure that she would be dealing with much, much more than the typical holiday hustle and bustle.
Grumbling, and feeling very much sorry for herself, she rummaged through her school bag in search for a piece of parchment and a quill. She may as well accept Dahlia's grovelling apology; perhaps when school starts again she'll have a brand new gift awaiting her. Dahlia wasn't necessarily rich – her family were mostly Hufflepuffs, after all – but she always picked out the nicest bath salts for the holidays.
Can't say I'm surprised. I appreciate your apology, although it's come a bit late. I'm sure Black has already told you about Riddle and I. It is nothing more than course work. Please don't think that I spend my precious school hours snogging the time away. I plan on doing something great with my life that requires a proper education. Sorry to see that my parents didn't invite your family to Christmas again this year, perhaps if your father transferred his job from the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office you would finally be able to come. Tell him to consider a different career path; maybe my father would be willing to help. Meet me at King’s Cross; we can have a cup of tea before we get onto the train. Perhaps when we get back to school we can convince Dippet to let us sneak off to Hogsmeade?
She dropped the quill onto her bedside table and read her note over a few times before deciding it was satisfactory. Opening a green curtain just slightly, she found the same pathetic barn owl she'd shoved out the window staring back at her. How owls could even stay alive was astounding, she'd never seen such a stupid animal. She quickly opened the window and grabbed the bird around its middle and set it on the table. It blinked at her a few times and hooted loudly.
It was kind of cute. Jade stroked the owl’s head with her index finger. The small thing shook lightly and hooted in appreciation.
"You must be a school owl." She shook her head. "That place is really going to the dogs. Dippet can't even afford proper owls."
Not appreciating such an insult, the small thing ruffled its feathers and bit her finger.
"Ouch!" Jade recoiled her hand quickly and glared down at the bird. "Owls," she grumbled. The owl hooted softly and flew onto her shoulder and began nuzzling her neck. Stupid animals apparently forgave rather easily.
The owl's sharp claws dug into her shoulders for dear life while Jade stomped out of her room. Merlin did not appreciate Jade's new bird and glared haughtily at the two from his perch. He was a proud bird and did not appreciate new competition.
"Oh! You've finally gotten yourself a friend!" Audrey chimed with a demeaning undertone as her daughter strolled into the kitchen. Jade ignored the insult as she rummaged through the cabinets for a loaf of bread. She vowed to herself last night to ignore her mum for the rest of the holiday. Sanity was a trait Jade would love to take back to Hogwarts.
"Did you buy that poor excuse of a bird while at school?" Grandmother Jade inquired as the owl chomped happily on pieces of bread.
"No. I think it's a school post owl." she replied absently. A cup of tea floated in front of her. "No, thanks, Grandmum, I'm not thirsty." Jade tried to wave the cup away from her face.
"Don't be rude, child!" The cup floated closer and bumped into her nose. "Does that fat little thing have a name?" Grandmother Jade peered at the owl's feathers through her large rounded spectacles.
"I don't know."
"Well, you'd better name it!"
"It's just a school post owl, it doesn't need a name, Grandmum."
"Well fine! If you don't want to name it, I will!"
Deciding it was not worth the fight, Jade drank her tea in silence. Grandmum went through an extensive list of names (including the name of her deceased husband which sent her into a hysterical fit about his dirty socks he would leave all over the room), before she and the owl seemed satisfied with the name Boris.
"Boris? What kind of name is Boris?" Audrey giggled.
"Boris! A perfectly acceptable name. I worked with a Boris McKinnon when I first started at the ministry. A wonderful man… although he did begin to lose his mind as he aged. Of course, it could have been because he got hit with one too many stunning spells. He had a rather large wart on his nose. I reckon it was from a hag he picked up in Albania. Of course he completely denied this, but if I took up with a hag I would deny it, too."
Boris pranced happily around the table, enjoying the attention that surrounded him. It was a clumsy bird and would often trip over his own feet; he would helplessly roll around on his stomach and flap his wings; which sent the room into hysterics.
Audrey couldn't help but notice Jade's unmistakably kind eyes as she gazed upon the small owl. An odd sight, to see her daughter enjoying the company of something so harmless, something that could bring the best news to loved ones. Admittedly, Audrey hadn't always been the kindest mother to her only child. There was just something about Jade that she never understood, a sort of unrelenting determination that was wholly irritating.
A real "career" was never an aspiration of Audrey. She knew the moment her parents introduced her to Acton Sterling that her life would be nothing but plush living quarters, expensive wine, and an unlimited pocket book. Acton was a levelheaded and practical young man; he was intelligent, handsome, and could charm his way out of any sort of trouble.
She never really fell in love with Acton himself. But, she fell in love with how he treated her. When Audrey fell pregnant with her only child, Acton's eyes welled with tears as he wrapped his arms around her. Audrey's eyes had filled with tears when she had found out about her pregnancy, as well. The body she'd worked so hard to maintain was going to be ruined in only 9 short and insignificant months. The responsibility of a child was about to fall onto her shoulders.
The day after giving birth to their daughter, Audrey made a trip to the doctors. She never did tell Acton why she was never able to fall pregnant again.
"That's it. Get that disgusting thing off of my kitchen table. We have work to do!" She pushed the owl off the table before turning toward Jade. "And as for you, young lady. You had better go practice your manners. Any outbursts like last night, and I will see to it that you never make it back to school."
Jade didn’t bother appeasing her mother with an answer. She grabbed the owl around the middle and marched out of the kitchen, whispering under her breath. “And I should see to it that you do not breathe for another year.”