Chapter 45 : Little Magic Girl, Lost and Found
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Little Magic Girl, Lost and Found
Dudley found Celia playing on the swingset with Severus, trying to see who would go higher. He smiled when the little girl laughed at the dark-haired boy, who gave her a rare smile in return. "Celia, come here for a minute," he called, beckoning to his daughter.
She hopped off the swing and came to stand next to him. "What is it, Daddy? I like it here at Uncle Harry's. Sev and Alby have the best toys, it's fun here."
Dudley gently drew Celia off to one side. "I'm glad you like it here, pretty girl," he said, using his pet name for her. He knelt down on one knee, struggling to keep from crying. He wished he could keep his child forever, but knew that here was the best place for her, where she would be loved for what and who she was and not shunned or made to feel inferior. "Remember when I said that Mummy doesn't understand when you do magic and she gets mad at you because she's frustrated?"
"Uh huh. You said Mummy thinks normal is better. But Dad, you know I'm special, why can you accept that and not Mummy?" she asked innocently.
"Because I grew up around special . . . your Uncle Harry. I know that . . . that having magic isn't something to be afraid of, but to love. And that's just the way I love you, Celia." He hugged his daughter, suppressing a sob as he did so. When he thought about what he was doing he felt so guilty, but then he supposed this was his penance for treating Harry like a doormat all those years ago.
"Do you love me all the way to the moon and back?" Celia asked, teasing.
"To the moon and back and every bit more," her father whispered. There were tears in his eyes that he blinked away. "Celia, I . . . I came here to talk to your Uncle Harry because he has magic and so do you. And so do his children. Your uncle . . . he knows how to control his magic and he can teach you like he does his own kids. He won't be afraid or angry when you make a doll dance or some shoes skip along by themselves. It's called accidental magic and all young witches do it."
"Is that what I am—a witch?"
"Yes. Your Uncle Harry and your cousins are wizards."
Dudley swallowed hard, then continued. "I . . . wish I could convince your mother that you have a special gift, but she's so . . . stubborn. There's no reasoning with her. That's why I . . . want you to stay here with Uncle Harry and his family. He can help you, Celia. He can show you magic like I can't."
"But Daddy, I want you here!" Celia cried, clinging to him.
"I know, sweetheart. But I can't . . . I can't be here all the time. Only on the weekends, and then only for a few hours." Dudley said. It was almost like getting a divorce, only the one who left was the child, not the parent. "I'll see you as much as I can then," he promised, knowing his job would allow the time off.
"W-Will I see you for . . . for holidays . . .like Christmas and Boxing Day?" Celia sniffled.
"Yeah, of course. I'd never forget you, Cee," Dudley reassured her.
Celia did not know what to do. She didn't want her daddy to leave, but she also knew that nothing she did, not even throwing the worst tantrum ever, would stop him from going. He had that look in his eye, the one that said he would do what he said no matter what. And she knew he had to leave, and she would stay, because she was an evil wicked brat, like her mother always said. Tears ran down her cheeks.
"Don't cry, Celia." Dudley pleaded. "I'll be back before you know it." He picked her up and carried her over to where Harry stood on the porch steps. "Uncle Harry will take good care of you and maybe someday we can make Mummy understand that you're the specialist girl ever and you can come home," Dudley told her hopefully. He truly hoped that would be the case, but he wasn't holding his breath. He gently handed Celia to Harry and said, "I . . . I have to go . . . I'll see Celia this weekend." He quickly went down the stairs, brushing at his eyes as he did so.
His car started and he drove away, leaving poor Harry with an armful of weeping little girl, yet another magical child Fate had cast away.
Severus came around the side of the house and stared up at the man he considered his father—more than the one who had sired him at any rate—and looked at Harry and Celia. He said nothing, but sighed gravely as Harry brought the distraught little girl inside to the bedroom she shared with Indigo. Indigo was asleep, but Harry cast a Silencing Charm about her cot so she wouldn't be disturbed.
Harry would have held Celia until she stopped crying, but the child pulled away from him and ran to the empty bed, throwing herself on it and sobbing into the pillow.
Shaking his head, Harry turned away, sensing he could do no more for the child. As he walked away, Severus came down the hall, heading to his room.
Severus was going to get a book to read, but he could hardly help hearing Celia. Like Indigo, once she got going, she was like a force of nature. He paused with the book in his hand and listened to the little girl crying her heart out in the next room. He felt bad for her, he knew what it was like to have a parent who hated you for having magic, but at least his mother had never left him with strangers—for despite their blood ties, Harry and his family were strangers to Celia.
He hesitated on the threshold of the girl's room, considering. If he went to her, would she feel better or worse? Unsure, he waited to see if Harry would return, or Ginny. He knew Alby would already be hugging her if he wasn't so busy playing in the yard with his new Herbology kit. He bit his lip, finally deciding she needed him more than he needed to read about herbs and fungi.
He cautiously approached her, as if she were a wild thing, and touched her shoulder with his small hand. "Hey. It's okay to cry, just remember you're not the only one with crazy parents."
"I'm not? How would you know?" Celia demanded haughtily, though it was a front. She sat up, wiping her face on her duvet, and looked rather crossly at Severus. She hated when she cried and hated more having someone catch her at it.
"Because I know what it's like to have a parent hate you for having magic," Severus confided in a whisper.
Celia's mouth dropped open. This was the last thing she expected. "Did your Mum think you were evil and belonged to the devil too?"
"No, but my dad did. He thought I was a freak and he could beat the magic outta me."
Celia hung her head. "My mummy thinks a priest and holy water can drive the demons from me. But I'm not evil! I'm not!"
Severus clasped her hands. "Of course you're not. Anymore than I am. Or Harry, Ginny, and Alby are. You're a witch like your aunt, Lily. She was the best witch ever." Severus said firmly. She was also the best witch now, but he didn't say that. Poor Celia was confused enough as it was.
"Do you mean that, Severus?" Celia asked then, looking pitiful. She didn't know she looked that way, but it was so. "I know I'm good, but Mummy thinks . . . she thinks I'm bad because I can do things."
"You're not. Any witch that can do accidental magic is strong," Severus reassured her.
Celia liked that idea—that she was a strong witch. A strong witch wouldn't be scared of the dark, or miss her daddy so much. A strong witch would be glad she was living with her uncle Harry and learning about magic. She knew she needed to learn all she could, her dad had said so, and her dad was the smartest man in the world. The smartest, she thought fondly, but sometimes he forgot he had a little girl who missed him something awful.
She gazed at Severus and said softly, "Am I really a strong witch? Do you know a lot of them?"
Severus considered. "Ginny's one. And so's Lily, Cory Malfoy's sister. And Hermione Granger, Harry's best friend. And Luna and Astoria. And you too. You have Harry's blood in you, Celia. And that makes a strong witch."
"Good, 'cause I think I'm gonna need it," Celia said, with a toss of her head. Then she hugged Severus. It was not the sort of hug you gave a friend, but rather the hug you gave a family member.
Severus was startled at first—he still wasn't used to being hugged—but then he realized this was Celia's way of thanking him, and he relaxed and hugged her back.
Celia smiled. "I'll be a strong witch—for you and Uncle Harry, Sevvy," she declared and then she released him. "Maybe someday Daddy will get through to Mummy and we can live together again," she said before running down the hall to wash her face.
Severus didn't have the heart to tell her that people like Monica hardly ever changed, they just grew more set in their ways, like Tobias had. But he kept silent, for he didn't want to upset Celia anymore than she already was, he liked her as a little sister, she was more fun than Indigo.
At dinner that night, Celia ate all her vegetables without complaint and even had two helpings of Ginny's mince pie, it was better than Monica's. Then she sat in Harry's lap and listened to him tell a story about his crazy schooldays, drowsing in his arms like she did with Dudley.
Harry felt a rush of love envelop him for his small niece, and he thought how lucky he was to have the love of a good woman, his two boys, both of which were curled up on either side of him, his baby girl, and now Celia, the little magic girl who once was lost, but who now was found.
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