Chapter 49 : Fox in the Cornfield
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Fox In the Cornfield
Dudley was amazed at the fact that his daughter was in a commercial, and after watching it air three weeks later on Harry's telly, he went straight home to Monica and his parents to tell them about it. The news made Petunia and Vernon sit up and take notice . . . until Vernon asked what channel it was on and Dudley told them they needed a magical TV set. Then Vernon harrumphed and said that "proper" people didn't have such things.
"But think about it, Dad!" Dudley protested. "Your granddaughter's in a commercial! Who cares what kind? She's gonna be famous."
Petunia snorted and frowned, her pinched face getting even more so. "Don't forget, your cousin was famous too, and look where that got him."
"Mum, that's different. Harry was different. Don't you want to see Celia happy?"
"She would be a lot happier if you didn't allow her to fill her head with all this magic nonsense," Petunia growled.
"It's not nonsense, Mum. You ought to know that."
Petunia's gaze hardened. "Yes, I do know that. I spent years of my life involved with the so-called magical world, whether I wanted it or not, and I'm telling you right now, Dudley, I won't be involved in it again. It was your choice to send her to Harry, and now you have to live with it, but don't expect me to like it."
"You sound like Monica. You're acting like I had a choice."
"You did. You could have ignored it."
"Like you did to Harry, Mum? How far did that get you?"
"Dudley, be quiet! I put up with a lot from that boy over the years, and I never thought I'd have to deal with anything from those freaks again and now you've overturned a can of worms all right!"
Dudley set his jaw. "Mum, one of those "freaks", as you put it, is your granddaughter."
"Don't remind me." Petunia sighed, "She was lovely until you let her . . . "magic" show."
"I couldn't help it. Magic is part of her, like it is Harry," Dudley objected.
"Then she's where she belongs, with Harry and his family, and there's an end to it. Right, Vern?"
Vernon nodded shortly.
Dudley stared at them. "You're unbelievable. How can you just forget your own flesh and blood?"
"I close my eyes," Petunia replied.
"Fine! Be that way!" Dudley snapped. "But just remember this, when you hear all your old pals talking down at the pub, Dad, or your meetings, Mum! You could be talking about what a wonderful granddaughter you have, never mind what she can do, and you'll just have to shut up and listen to everyone else brag about theirs."
He slammed out of the house. Now he really didn't want to go home to Monica, for fear of what she'd say, but again, he had no choice. He hoped she would react better, but didn't hold out much hope.
He found Monica home, for once, polishing her nails. "Hey. Guess what?" he asked, coming up behind her and hugging her.
"Dudley! Please! You'll wreck the polish!" she squealed.
"So? You can always do it over. I have something to tell you."
"Like what? A new promotion?" Monica purred.
"No. Something about Celia."
Monica's face clouded. "Is she going to forget all that magic junk and come home?"
"Monica . . . she can't. Being a witch is who she is. But . . . she was picked to be in an advertisement on the telly. Isn't that awesome? She's one of four kids out of over a hundred! Isn't that something?"
"Really? Where is it? I'd like to see it."
"Uh . . . well . . . you can't unless you . . . uh . . . have a magic TV set," Dudley stammered.
Monica's mouth thinned. "You mean, I can't watch it unless I have some kind of—of magical device? That's ridiculous! What kind of thing is this? A joke?"
"No, but . . . Monica, you promised you were going to try harder to see things my way . . . Celia loves you and she wants to come home but . . . how can she when you won't let her be herself?"
Monica glared at him. "Be herself? Some kind of freak who believes in fairies and creatures that appear in the moonlight? Give me a break! I'll not have it, Dudley! My daughter us going to be normal, or else she can stay with your crazy relatives."
"How can you say that? Don't you want your child back?"
"I want her back, but not full of crazed notions and believing in magic. I want a normal child, don't you know what that is?" she shouted.
"Celia is normal!" Dudley shouted back. "Don't you realize that?"
"Only for people like you, who are in denial! If I told any of my friends and co-workers about her, do you know what they'd do? They'd laugh in my face or have me committed to mental institute. Sometimes I'm not sure if I shouldn't have you committed!"
"Try it and see how far you get!" he snarled. "Someday, Monica, you're going to regret all these wasted chances. Someday, when Celia's grown and the only thing she recalls about her mummy is a sour cruel person who hated her." With that, he turned to go.
"Wait! What are you doing? You can't leave! You just got home."
"I'm going to see the daughter you claim we don't have," he said tightly. "Have fun painting your nails." The door slammed.
Monica ground her teeth. Sometimes she really wanted to strangle her husband. And to think, once she'd had the perfect family!
Dudley took Celia out for ice cream at Diagon Alley along with Harry and his friends Ron and Remus. Ginny and the children, and also Hermione and Rose, were over at the Burrow. While Harry and the other wizards enjoyed themselves, Severus, Alby, and Rose went exploring in the cornfield behind the Burrow. Ginny talked with Molly and Hermione, while feeding Indi, joking with the older witches about how Hermione looked like she was carrying three people and not two.
Hermione just shook her head. "I think I've forgotten where my feet used to be. All I see is this huge bulge! And my bladder's the size of a pea!"
Ginny laughed. "Don't you feel like you need a hose attached to you? When I was carrying Indi, I thought I could never go anywhere, because two minutes later I needed the loo."
"Me too, especially when I had Ron," Molly said, remembering. "Your father said I needed a portable potty."
Hermione sighed. "That's why I stayed here today. So Ron could go out and have fun. He's been so . . . hovery lately, it's been driving me nuts."
"Hovery?" Ginny repeated. "Is that a word?"
"It is now," Hermione replied. "And your brother does it constantly."
"He's a man, dear. They're all like that, especially when a woman's pregnant," Molly said wisely. "It's like they don't quite know what to do with themselves."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You can say that again." She smiled at Indi. "When you're done, can I hold her, Ginny? She's so cute!"
Ginny laughed. "Harry says that too . . . until she spits up on him." She finished burping Indi and then handed the giggling baby to Hermione.
Out in the cornfield, the children were hunting for frogs and beetles. Severus had recalled a potion that used beetle carapaces to change your hair color (like a Metamorphmagus), and Rose wanted to make some. But they needed some beetles, and Alby wanted to find a frog to talk to, even though he wasn't sure if his Beast Master talent would let him speak with it.
The cornfield wasn't huge, but it seemed vast to the children, who were small. The cornfield actually didn't belong to the Weasleys, but their neighboring farmer, who harvested most of the crop to sell. Right now the corn wasn't ripe, but the stalks were green and tall, they rustled as the children made their way through them.
With all the rustling and shoving through the stalks, it was a wonder that anyone found anything in that field. But Rose, who was sharp eyed, found three large beetles crawling on the ground. Unlike some girls, bugs didn't bother her too much, and she scooped them up in her small hat, imprisoning them. "How many beetles do we need again, Sev?"
Severus, who was bit ahead of her, turned. "Three or five. Five's the most we'll need."
"Okay. We've got three, let's see if I can find us another. Or two." She scanned the ground, as did the others.
Before long, Alby spotted another beetle, this one was a rainbowed color, and grabbed it. "Here, Rosie! I got number four! Now let's look for a frog." He placed the beetle inside Rosie's hat.
While Rosie and Alby went to look for frogs, Severus pushed ahead through the stalks. It was starting to get hot and muggy and Severus hoped that Lily and Cory got better soon. They were sick with a sore throat, which Harry suspected might be strep, so Severus and Alby weren't allowed to go over to the manor until they were recovered. He didn't want his sons getting sick, or bringing sickness home to baby Indigo.
As he pushed through the rustling stalks, Severus paused to catch his breath. He could hear Alby and Rosie a few yards off, talking about frogs. Suddenly, Severus pushed aside the corn stalk in front of him and saw an amazing thing.
There, right in front of his feet, was a little mound of dirt, leaves, and some broken cornstalks. Atop the mound was a small animal, a little black baby, that at first Severus was sure was a kitten. It was only as he bent closer that he saw the baby was too big to be a cat, and also had a more pointed snout.
Severus peered closely at it, then whispered, "Why . . . you're a fox! A rare black fox."
The fox kit looked up at him then, plainly it was agitated, but didn't run off like Severus thought it would do. Instead it lifted its head and yipped pitifully. Though Severus didn't know it, the fix kit had been hidden here for two days, while its mother had led a hunter away from her baby. The kit had remained where the mother had left it, but unknown to it, Mama Fax was dead, having succumbed to a hunter's bullet on the second day. Her pelt was being made into a muff for the hunter's girlfriend. The little fox was an orphan.
Now Severus knew better than to disturb a seemingly abandoned baby. He knew that most wild animals would return for their young if they were able and one should never disturb a hidden baby, magical or otherwise. So despite his longing to run his fingers through the kit's soft fuzzy fur, he did not touch the fox. Instead he called Alby and Rosie back.
Rose and Alby rushed over to Severus, thinking maybe he was hurt. "What happened, Sevvy?" Rose called, clutching her hat to her chest.
"Are you hurt?" inquired his brother.
"No, I'm fine. But see what I found!" He pointed to the fox kit huddled on the bed of leaves.
"Aww, how adorable!" Rose cried. "What is it?"
"It's a fox," Severus said softly.
"Cool! Where's its mama?"
"I don't know. Alby, can you talk to it?"
"I can try," Alby said, kneeling down next to the fox. He looked at the fox and said, "Hello. My name's Alby. What's yours? Do you live around here?"
The kit yipped in answer.
"Well? What'd he say?" Rose asked.
"It's a she, not a he," Alby corrected. "She says her name's not something we could pronounce in our talk, but nearest I can come to it is . . . uh . . . Bright Shadow."
"Bright Shadow?" Rose repeated. "Isn't that an oxymoron?"
"A what?" Alby stared at her.
"Yes, it is," Severus answered. "But it fits her. Alby, can you ask her why she's here? Does she need help?"
Alby turned back to the fox. "Uh . . . my brother wants to know why you're here and if you need help."
Again the fox answered with some short sharp barks.
Alby looked up. "She says her mama left her here two days ago 'cause some bad people was hunting them. She was to stay still and quiet till her mum got back, but she never did. Now she's hungry and thirsty, but she's afraid to move."
Rose bit her lip. "Oh no! Sev, what if . . . her mama's hurt or . . . or something worse?"
"Like dead?" Severus clarified. He didn't want to be cruel, but he was willing to face facts.
Rose nodded unhappily. "What do we do?"
"We bring her some food and water," Severus said decisively. "What sorts of things do foxes eat, Alby?"
Alby asked then said that most foxes ate meat, like rabbits and stuff, but Bright Shadow had only started eating meat last week and it wasn't very big. "It's sort of soft," Alby explained.
"Like what we'd give a baby with a few teeth?" Rose guessed.
"Yeah, I guess."
Severus thought for a moment. "Do we have any ground beef over here?"
"Grammy has some hamburger meat," Rose said. "We could use that."
"I can mix it with a little milk," Severus said. "Let's go get it."
By the time the children snuck the hamburger meat and some milk into a bowl, along with some water from the tap, it was almost lunchtime. Ginny came in the kitchen to see what she could make and saw the kids going out the back door. "Hey! Aren't you kids hungry?"
"We'll eat later!" Severus called, trying to keep her from seeing the bowl of food he was carrying.
But Ginny saw Rose holding the bowl of water. "What's that you've got there, Rosie?"
"Uh, nothing, Aunt Ginny! Just some water. To put a frog in."
"Oh, I see. Well, I'm going to see what we have for lunch. Come back in twenty minutes."
They promised they would, then they ran as quickly as they could towards the cornfield.
Now Ginny wasn't dumb, and she sensed the three were up to something. Curious, she followed them across the yard.
Once they found the fox again, Severus set the bowl of food down and Rose the water.
"Go on, eat it!" Alby urged.
Bright Shadow didn't need to be told twice. She stood and began to gobble the food down. In a twinkling the bowl was empty.
She began to lap the water up when she froze, and looked behind the three children. Suddenly she shrank back.
"We won't hurt you," Severus began, but before he could reassure the kit further, they heard the sharp sound of a throat being cleared.
"So this is what you three were up to!"
"Hi, Aunt Ginny! We were saving a baby fox's life," Rose said. "See? Alby says her name's Bright Shadow and she can't find her mama."
"How did you know?" Severus asked.
"Because I grew up with Fred and George. Those two were geniuses at finding trouble and sneaking off," Ginny laughed. "I know what to look for, and you all had "guilty secret" written all over, especially you, Albus." She stared down at the little fox. "What a beautiful creature!"
Bright Shadow trembled. Though this big human was soft spoken, she was too much like that other human for the little fox to trust.
"You're scaring her, Mum," Alby said. "'Cause you're big. Her mama's gone missing."
Severus knelt and gently encircled the fox kit with his arms. "It's all right. Ginny won't hurt you." He peered up at Ginny through his bangs, which now needed to be cut. "I don't think she has a mama anymore, Al. And she can't stay here on her own. Can we keep her?"
He gave Ginny a look from his big dark eyes that caused her heart to melt.
A/N: Well? How did you like this one? Will Sev be able to keep the fox? Yes or no?
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