Chapter 1 : Treasure Hunts
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The first time I met Dennis Creevey, he stumbled into the cafe in a suit and tie, enough to make the clients stare. Sure, there were plenty of Muggle-borns who ducked into Diagon Alley looking similar, and sure, the Ministry had its fair share of jobs that involved enough contact with Muggles to require Muggle clothes, but he still looked out of place. In itself, the suit wasn't all that unusual. He was just too rumpled, too harried, for him to be just any old Muggle-born or Ministry employee.
He spent quite some time scrutinizing the menu up on the wall, and his eyes looked almost unfocused. If I hadn't had experience with feeling so lost, as he clearly was, I might have mistaken him for drunk. I guess he was lucky I'd suffered similarly.
Finally he ordered, then dug in his pockets for change, dropping half of it on the floor in the process. “Damn it,” he sighed, crouching to retrieve his coins.
“No, it's really not.” His voice was muffled, still below the counter. “My kids are sick, my wife thinks I work too late, and to top it all off, my wand snapped this morning. Right in two. I didn't even know that could happen. And I haven't been here in so long, I missed the entrance. And...” He reemerged, suit even more rumpled now, his tie crooked. Sighed again. “And you were probably just asking about the change. Sorry about that.” He counted out four Sickles and slid them towards me, pocketing several Muggle coins with the other hand. “Keep the change.”
“Have a nice day,” I called after him. One of the regulars glanced up at my voice, then back out the window where the man stood rooted outside the shop, looking left and right several times before deciding his course. She wandered over for a napkin.
“Now that is a bad case of the squiggles if I've ever seen one,” she remarked.
“The squiggles; a cross between a Squib and Muggle. You've never heard of it?” She shrugged. “It's what they call it when wizards renounce magic completely and try to live life as Muggles, usually because they married one and want to keep things simple. But it rarely works.”
“I would think so,” I said. “It's giving up half of your world.”
“Exactly. You become as miserable as a Squib.”
The man had certainly looked as sad as a Squib. However, I still couldn't feel entirely sympathetic for him. After all, he wasn't the only one having a bad day, and if he really did have “the squiggles,” it was by his own choice. You give up something, you face the consequences. I knew that well enough, and I wasn't crying about it.
“Hey, you're the guy whose wand snapped a few days ago, right?” The man was back at the counter, still a bit on the slow side, still looking at bit shell-shocked.
“Good memory,” he said. “I'll... I'll have a medium coffee, please. With milk.”
“How'd that work out?” I asked him as I poured. “The wand thing.”
“Ollivander saved the day,” he replied. “No surprise, really. He couldn't fix it, but he got me a new one.”
“And your kids are better?”
Now he looked at me sideways, and threaded his fingers around his coffee. “Do you remember so much about all your customers?”
“You were the most exciting thing that happened all week,” I said. Which was entirely true. It just also helped that he had a nice head of blond hair and eyes that never left your own, so that when you spoke, the conversation felt uncannily deep. Even if it was only about snapped wands and dropped change.
“Doesn't say much about the shop.”
“No, it really doesn't,” I agreed.
He glanced at his watch, picked up his coffee. “Well, I've got to get to work eventually. Have a good one.”
“You too,” I said, then added, “but you never told me about your kids.”
He grinned at that, for the first time. It was a huge improvement on his previous disposition. “They're better. Thanks.”
I watched him leave the shop, turn right, stop, and decide to Apparate away. From that day on, Dennis Creevey was a regular at the cafe. I credited that to the good service he could count on.
Whenever my sister suggested we go out for a cup of coffee, I agreed on the grounds that we made it a full-on lunch. I spent far too much time in the cafe anyway, and she knew it, but she still made the offer every time. I think it was because she didn't want to me spend too much on lunch with her when I was supposed to be saving every Knut for my night courses. I also always refused to let her pick up the whole bill. But we continued to play our little game a couple times a month, and each time I won out.
“You really want to eat here?” Demelza asked as we approached the restaurant.
“Come on, it's your birthday! Relax a little. My loans aren't going anywhere.”
“Neither is my diet,” she replied.
But I was right, of course, and she did end up enjoying herself. I would never get away with paying for her lunch, but at least we could pretend I was taking her out for a nice meal. She didn't have to know I also intended to pump her for information.
“So, how does David feel about Ben going off to Hogwarts next year?”
“He's had about ten years to prepare for it,” Demelza said. “He's not exactly thrilled that his son will be so far away, but he knows there's not much of a choice.” She looked at me oddly; she'd told me all this before.
“The whole magic thing doesn't bother him?”
Demelza frowned. “Lyra, you know he came to terms with that before we were married. Why do you think it'd change now?”
“I don't; just curious. You haven't addressed it in awhile.”
“Because I haven't had to,” she said. “Is everything okay? Are you seeing a Muggle or something?”
“No, nothing like that,” I replied. A waiter came by with water, and we ordered, which allowed Demelza's searching look to dissipate a bit. While she sipped her drink, I took the opportunity to explain without interruption.
“It's just that there's this man who comes to the cafe everyday, and I've talked to him a bit,” I said. “He's a Muggle-born, married to a Muggle, with two kids who haven't shown any signs of magic yet.”
“Exactly. And he won't admit it, but he's Muggled-out. Except for his coffee, he's cut himself off from the wizarding world.”
“Your coffee's that good?” she grinned. I rolled my eyes.
“Look, I just feel bad for him. His wife doesn't even know he's a wizard. He can't be himself.”
“Well, it was his choice,” Demelza said. “There are plenty of horror stories out there about wizard-Muggle relationships, and plenty of happy endings as well. He must've heard enough to know there are precious few happy couples where the Muggle knows nothing of their spouse's true identity.”
“Don't get yourself worked up over the guy. Let him figure himself out,” she added. “What's his name, anyway? Out of curiosity. Maybe I knew him at school.”
She coughed on her water, spraying the table in front of her. I had to thump her on the back while she gulped down more, until she finally recovered.
“Dennis Creevey? He was in my year! He was in Gryffindor with me!”
“Merlin, no wonder he cut himself off from the wizarding world...” Demelza pressed her napkin agains the damp tablecloth, shaking her head. “Have you ever heard of Colin Creevey?”
“The name sounds a bit familiar.”
“He was Dennis's older brother, and Dennis worshipped him.” Demelza said. “He died in the Battle of Hogwarts. I don't blame him for hating wizards, after that. Not at all.”
No wonder Dennis let himself remain rooted in his miserable, Muggle world. No wonder he avoided all things magical. If it reminded him of his brother...
“But if he hates magic so much,” I said, “why would he come to Diagon Alley every day?”
“Maybe he thinks you're cute,” Demelza said, which earned her a slap on the shoulder. “Hey, no man is immune to good looks. Not even depressed ones.”
I decided it was high time to change the subject. “So, am I still on for babysitting Saturday?”
Demelza raised her eyebrows, but she knew I wasn't big on discussing my romantic life. “Yes, yes you are.”
When I arrived at the cafe the next day, Dennis was already there, far earlier than he'd ever been. He was hunched over his coffee, staring at the same spot in his newspaper, and I became so preoccupied trying to inconspicuously watch him that I didn't notice my boss, at least until he tossed me the cafe keys. I had to drop my coat to catch them.
“You remember I'm going away for the weekend, right?” my boss said. “And you're opening and closing up shop while I'm gone?”
“Yeah,” I said, clutching my bag to me as I bent to retrieve my coat. “No problem.”
“Let me,” a voice said, and Dennis himself appeared and picked it up for me.
“I'll be back Monday morning,” my boss continued. He didn't seem impressed by Dennis's chivalry.
“Got it.” That seemed to do it for him, and he returned to the back room. He'd always been a man of few words.
Once everyone had dispersed and I got my things in order, Dennis came up to the counter.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked.
“A cranberry muffin, if you could.”
He found his money while I filled his order. “This place is growing on you, huh?” I said.
“A bit,” he said. "I just wish I could bring my kids here; they'd love it. All of Diagon Alley. I'm actually a bit surprised they're both Muggles, seeing as half their genes are magical."
"They could always be late bloomers," I pointed out. "How old are they?"
"The older one, Tommy, is eight," he began, but then the bells on the door tinkled and cut him off. An all-too familiar face stepped into the shop, looking just as he had five years ago: the same broad shoulders, crooked nose, thumbs hooked in his pockets. Leo Kovack had always been painfully unaware of his good looks. Unaware of most things, actually. Upon entering, his coat caught on the door handle and he turned to yank it out, giving me the second I needed.
“Excuse me,” I spluttered, shoving Dennis's change back at him. By the time he opened his mouth to ask what was up, I'd ducked into the back room.
“What's wrong?” my boss asked.
“Er, cramps,” I called over my shoulder. He squeezed his eyes shut, shook his shoulders a bit as if to shake off the offending image, then reopened them and went out front.
I sank into a seat and tried not to let Leo's voice rattle around in my head, without much luck. As much as I hated to admit it, that voice had been giving my a headache since I left Hogwarts.
When my nephew was little, he literally climbed the walls. He would push chairs or cushions or whatever he could get his sticky hands on over to the counter, and just go up from there. Not long after, he had a phase in which he possessed what he called “Spidey powers,” and he could scale the walls like his favorite Muggle superhero. Demelza informed her wide-eyed husband that these were the signs of magic she'd warned him about.
At ten years of age, Ben still barreled around his house. But now he was big enough to do some damage.
“Land ho!” he cried, opening his front door. He was holding a cricket bat up to his eye like a spyglass.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“A pirate,” Demelza replied, coming up behind him. He swung around to see her and nearly whacked a picture off the wall with his bat.
“Why don't we hold the games until your parents leave,” I suggested, teasing the bat out of his fingers. “We can sail the seven seas when they're not here to give us time-outs.”
“I'm too big for time-outs,” Ben said, but he was already running into the kitchen, no doubt in search of another prop.
“Thanks a million,” Demelza said, kissing me on the cheek. “We'll be back by eleven.” David greeted me, then they were gone, and I followed the sounds of crashing that came from the back of the house.
After making a killer pirate ship out of the couch, complete with every blanket in the house doubling as sails, we scrounged up some frozen pizza for dinner. I'd babysat Ben enough to be a master at the microwave, was looking forward to watching a rare bit of TV with him afterward. He could usually be convinced to put on a football game, as opposed to say, Spongebob.
However, a full stomach didn't weigh Ben down at all, and he was still boiling over with energy by the time I'd washed all the dinner dishes. He hung himself outside a window and stuck out his tongue as if to catch a raindrop, but there were none to be seen; the clouds had just rolled in and parked themselves above us.
“What's for dessert?” he asked, sliding back inside.
“I don't think you need any sugar, kiddo,” I replied. “How about some fruit?”
He made a gagging noise and rolled around on the floor, as if just the thought of anything healthy did him in. Even when I tickled him until he screamed, he refused to eat any.
“All right, all right,” I gasped, once he'd turned the tables, pinned me to the floor and sat on my stomach. “We need to get you out of the house. Let's walk down to the cafe where I work, there's bound to be something you like there.”
He was all for that plan, so we put on our coats and set off for the cafe, the rain managing to hold off until we arrived. I found the lights, left the “closed” sign in place, and led Ben behind the counter. He appeared pretty impressed with the VIP service. Or maybe it was the basket of chocolate chip cookies left on the counter.
“Just one,” I said, and when he tried to sneak a second, levitated the basket above his head. “In your dreams, kiddo.”
There was a knock on the door before he could fight me further. I turned, ready to point to the sign in the window. But Dennis Creevey of all people huddled just outside, raindrops streaking his robes. There was no way I'd let my favorite brooding client get caught in a storm.
“Thanks,” Dennis said, wiping his face with his sleeve. “I know it says it's closed, but when I passed by and saw it was you, I hoped you'd take pity on me.”
“No problem,” I said. It was the first time I'd seen Dennis in wizarding clothes; somehow they didn't work on him, as if they knew they were rarely worn. His robes hung a bit too short, and were creased in odd places.
“Who's this?” Dennis asked, and I turned to see Ben whip his hand out of the cookie basket, which had drifted back down.
“This is Ben,” I sighed, “my nephew. I'm looking after him for the night.”
“Hello.” Dennis shook Ben's hand, and came back with chocolate on his palm.
“Ben, haven't you ever heard of napkins?” I demanded.
“It's fine,” Dennis said. “My boys aren't too much younger, and they do the exact same thing.” He found a napkin for himself and used half, offering the rest to Ben.
We fell silent then, with Dennis leaning against the counter, Ben munching on his stolen cookie, and me hovering, uncertain. I figured I should just spit it out.
“So what brings you here, alone, on a Saturday night?”
Dennis turned to me, eyes full of... what? Pain? Sadness? Memories? “It gets harder and harder to leave Diagon Alley everyday. I think I'm homesick.” This last part with a bit of a smile.
“You don't need to give up on the wizarding world, you know.”
He looked a bit taken aback, then considered what I'd said. “It's really a lot easier to be a Muggle. For me, for my family.”
“You're the only wizard, right?”
“I wasn't always,” he said. “I had a brother, who died in the Battle of Hogwarts.”
He looked up, locked eyes with me. “You knew him?”
“My sister did. She just told me about him. And God, Dennis—” Now I'd never keep my mouth shut. “You can't give up on magic because of him! It does nothing for you!”
Once again, I'd caught him by surprise. “It's not as simple as that, all right?” he said. “I fell in love with a Muggle, it wasn't like I planned it. It was easiest not to explain anything, and my parents were thrilled that I might be like them again. You don't understand. You're too young.”
“I fell in love,” I said. “Oh, don't make that face, I know what you're thinking. I was about to leave Hogwarts, I was stupid, I gave everything to a guy. I practically failed my N.E.W.T.s because I thought he needed me. So don't tell me I don't understand; I know nothing's ever as simple as it seems.”
Ben hadn't said a word this whole time; he was on what had to be his third or fourth cookie, and emerged from the back room with a glass of milk, ready to watch the show.
Meanwhile, Dennis had moved closer, rubbed his eyes. “Hey, let's not do this. I'm sorry. I don't even know you well enough to be pouring my life out on you— or to criticize you.”
“You have a bad habit of doing that. Pouring your life out.”
“I guess I do.”
“And I'm sorry too... for assuming I knew everything.”
“No, you were right,” Dennis said. “I can't live without wizards.”
“D'either of you want the rest of my cookie?” Ben piped up. “I'm full.”
“We'll take it home for later,” I said, looking back to Dennis.
“Hey,” he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Forget everything I said. We're all good.”
I wasn't so sure about that, but I let him believe it.
Sunday mornings were lazy at the cafe, as people took advantage of the weekend and slept in. So I was surprised to see two men practically tripping over themselves to get into the door. Then I recognized them, and was even more shocked.
“Lyra!” Dennis called, beaming. “You'll never believe what just happened.”
“Lyra—” said the other man, and cut himself off when I turned rigid.
Dennis and the man paused, sized each other up.
“Leo, this is Dennis,” I finally offered. “Dennis, this is Leo... I mentioned him last night.”
“Hi,” Leo said, looking perfectly charming as he shook Dennis's hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you,” Dennis said, although he didn't sound too sincere. Then he turned to me. “Hey, I came as soon as I could, because you're the only person to tell. Last night, when I got home, my oldest son... He'd turned our rug into a flying carpet.”
“He's a wizard,” Dennis said. “I'm sure of it. I had a hell of a time explaining it to my wife, but I think she's okay— I think we're all going to be okay.”
“That's wonderful!” I came around from the counter to give him a hug, ignoring Leo's gaze. “That's really great.”
“I had to tell somebody,” Dennis said. “But I don't keep in touch with too many wizards.”
“No, I'm glad you came.” Dennis looked like a different man than the one last night, the one who'd spilled his troubles and tried to take them back just as quickly. Now he stood straighter, rocked on the balls of his feet.
“I guess I'll leave you be,” Dennis said, glancing to Leo. “I'll see you later. I want to show him Diagon Alley, it'll explain everything a hundred times better than I can.”
“Bring him now, if you like. We won't be long.” Leo opened his mouth, then thought better of it and stayed silent.
Dennis slipped out of the shop, looking so free. I wished, not for the first time, that he didn't belong to someone else. Still in front of me, Leo cleared his throat.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Want to sit for a second?” he said. “It's been what, four years? Five?”
“I don't know, Leo. I think it'd be better if you left.”
“You know I failed most of my N.E.W.T.s, I because I was falling so hard for you?” I asked. There. I'd said it. “You know how hard it is to get a job now, because of that?”
“I do, I can imagine...”
“But I'm not worrying about the past anymore,” I said. “I've moved on.”
“You don't sound it.”
“No, really. I'm taking some night courses, I'm saving up for a flat that's not a sewer hole. I'm fine.”
“I just heard you worked here, I wanted to come see... I had no idea.”
"And that's big of you.” I said. “But look, we all do some stupid things. You know Dennis, the man who just came in? He tried to give up magic and live like a Muggle, then crashed and burned. He ran away from some bad memories, and lost the good ones as well. That's what I've done, only it's actually working. Or at least, I'm getting there.”
Leo paused, ran a hand through his hair. How many times had I seen him do that, to stall for time while he thought? “All right, then. I guess I should do that too.”
“It might work.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Well. I'll see you around then, maybe.”
“Maybe,” I said, watching as he took his leave, making sure he turned out and didn't come back. I wasn't entirely sure how five years of feelings had just been extinguished in just a few minutes, or if that was even possible, but I wasn't complaining.
I wouldn't get to reflect for too long, because just then Ben burst into the cafe, Demelza hot on his heels. “Hey Lyra!” he said. “I told Mum how good this place was, she said we could get breakfast here and bring some home to Dad.”
“That's not entirely how it went,” Demelza murmured to me, while Ben wandered behind the counter. “He refused to stop singing 'It's a Pirate's Life for Me' until I agreed to come here. I can't wait until this phase is over. Are you okay? You look a bit pale.”
“I heard that!” Ben called. “And it's not a phase, you know. Pirates are the best.”
“I bet they are,” I said.
“I read in this book that while pirates were around, even though they were killing and stealing, things were really good,” Ben added.
“Really. 'Cause anyone who wanted to go out and see the world could just jump on a ship and go. Anyone who wanted to could have an adventure. And there were lots of good pirates, too. A lot of the time they protected their own towns from other pirates.”
“He'll talk about it all day if you encourage him,” Demelza warned.
“And when the pirates died out,” Ben continued, “all that looting and stuff stopped—”
At that moment, Dennis reappeared in the shop, a little boy in tow. The boy craned his neck to to look all around, and jumped when he saw the Daily Prophet someone had left on a table, complete with a full color image of the Kenmare Kestrels zooming around a Quidditch pitch.
“—but all the other good stuff was gone too,” Ben finished, as if he'd never been interrupted.
“I've got some good stuff right here,” Dennis grinned. “Tommy, do you want to say hi to my friends?”
Tommy considered it. “Are they wizards too?” he whispered.
“Well, he's a pirate,” I said, nodding to Ben. Tommy gaped and looked up at his father,
“She's joking,” he said quickly.
“Right, yes, I am.” Tommy drifted off to watch a broom sweep the floor by itself, and while Demelza peeled Ben away from the cookies, I moved over to stand by Dennis.
I didn't need to point out that he'd found his pirate's booty. He'd still have to get his wife on board, and break it to his parents that he'd passed on the magical gene, but for the moment, something magical had resurfaced. Something he'd nearly lost.
“And Lyra?” Dennis was saying, though I must have missed at least half a conversation without knowing it. “Thanks. For reminding me I could never leave here, completely.”
“No problem,” I said. “All I did was serve the coffee.”
“Are you all good? With Leo and everything?”
“Oh, yes. He's not coming back,” I said. “I'm keeping my eye on the prize.”
“Getting the last N.E.W.T.s I need. To get a proper job.”
“I'm sure you will.”
“Me too,” I said. If Dennis could produce a magical son just when he needed one most, surely I could pass a test. I wasn't done looking for my treasure either.
A/N: The quotation at the beginning is from “Of Other Spaces” by Michel Foucault (page 27 in the journal Diacritics). It was given to me by AndrinaBlack for her Nonfiction Quote Challenge, in which I was asked to write a story inspired by said quotation. I went to town with it, and wrote far too many drafts of far too many stories, but in the end, this is what I came up with. Actual pirates, actual dreams. I hope you've enjoyed it. The challenge deadline is tomorrow, so I intend to let this one sit for a while, then come back with fresh eyes and revise the parts I'm not so happy with.