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Chapter 1 : Follow Me Down
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For the House Cup 2013 on the Forums, a story writing activity gave us this prompt:
"Been on a recent adventure? The Salem Daily Post is now accepting travel-themed story submissions for publication in an upcoming section of the paper. No previous writing experience required. The paper will pay 5 sickles a story. All entries must be one-shots between 1000-5000 words. All submissions must include "travel" as a major theme of the story."
Finding an "Up For Grabs" banner with the words, "Follow Me Down" by inspector@TDA, I came up with this little story. I hope you enjoy. Go Slytherin House!
“Madam Rosmerta, your carriage awaits.”
“Hmm? Oh. Yes, of course.”
Rosmerta McKenna, purveyor of The Three Broomsticks in Hogmeade was brought back to the present, spending the better part of a five hour train ride somewhere in the distant past.
The young man politely offered a hand, but she couldn’t possibly take it.
She didn’t own a suitcase, which caused her hands to be full of different sizes of mismatched bags for her short trip to the northern countryside.
She looked odd, she knew. For the bags she was carrying didn’t actually hold anything. They were as empty as the day she purchased them at various second-hand stores.
The entire trip was odd, really. She never left Hogsmeade; never left the Three Broomsticks for employees to manage. It was unheard of. That was her home and she never did need to leave it, nor did she want to. It was hers. Well, no… it was actually his.
She sighed as she took in her surroundings, stepping off the train. The place was amazingly the same as she remembered… what was it now a quarter century ago? The same dusty windows of the depot. The same gravel pathway to the carriages pulled by Thestrals.
Her hands being full, she unsuccessfully blew a blonde curl away from her face, hoping for a slight breeze to take care of it for her.
She didn’t want to take this trip. But she wanted him… and magical law forced her to go in person, with minimal magical assistance. No Apparating. No Portkey. Nothing that could hurt delicate cargo.
Once she was well on her slow way in the carriage, her mind once again went back in time as she passed the little white church that they would’ve been married in. Passed the rows of lavender fields where they met as little youngsters picking Easter Eggs. He let her have a pink one. She would’ve picked flowers from that very field for her bouquet… the aroma bringing it all back.
She didn’t mind these memories and welcomed them like a long lost friend.
Rosmerta had been a stunning, beautiful girl with suitors and proposals galore. But her heart belonged to him. It always had and always would.
She even had the opportunity to leave and live a life of a model, an actress maybe, but that was never her dream. He was her dream.
He wanted to own a little pub where he would sing his silly love songs to entertain the locals and travelers alike. As it turned out, the owner of The Three Broomsticks, where they had worked as young adults, knew of his dreams and offered it to him cheap, so long as he didn’t change the name.
He could not resist the opportunity to go back to Hogsmeade and make it his. And so he did, leaving her in their hometown.
She felt lost and a bit abandoned when he left to take ownership. He hadn’t made her any promises, nor had he professed his love.
And when it came time for her to leave on a promised career that would bring wealth and fame, Jaxson McKenna finally showed up.
They spent the day together, walking hand in hand passed all of their favorite places. She thought for sure he was bidding her a last farewell.
As they walked passed youngsters enjoying the playground swings, he smiled and said, “I’ve written another song. Would you like to hear it?” He asked rather shyly.
“You know I never tire of your songs.” She smiled in return, hoping that it was not a goodbye that was going to crush her heart.
But that was not the reason for this song. For it was the very one that told her that he wanted her in his life… wanted to own that pub with her by his side.
He got close and actually didn’t sing this one. Instead, he spoke it as a soft poem to her ear. It was called "Follow Me Down."
When she didn’t say anything, he became worrisome and desperate.
“Jayden owled me your plans. Please my Rose, don’t go. Come with me?”
She sighed at the memory, wishing she could remember more than just a stanza or two of the poem; the first to speak of his love for her.
The Thestrals took her past the park where they would play every day until sunset, years before they got their Hogwarts letters. They would swing together… summer after summer.
The carriage slowly moved past the Kranstone, a once run-down boarded-up Magical property. To her surprise, someone had fixed it up beautifully and it was now a stunning, busy Bed and Breakfast. She looked with intrigue, wondering if they had kept the wishing well that had been protected by three oaks. A few more steps passed the building and she would know.
It came into view, now surrounded by vibrant flowers of purple and white. It was more beautiful than she had ever seen it. No longer barren with impacted ground from generations of well-wishers.
It was a place where her first real wish came true the very day that she happened upon a galleon coin on the ground and tossed it into that well.
“I wish… Jaxson McKenna would hold my hand someday.”
Pure joy overwhelmed her heart, recalling such youthful, happy innocence. He must’ve overheard her wish. He had to have. But regardless of why or how, he took her hand and held it all the way home that day… and took the long way.
Oh, if anyone could ever grasp the depths of her feelings, they just might understand how she’d gone unmarried all this time; why she had declined more than a dozen proposals in twenty-five years.
Jaxson died a hero three days before they were to wed.
A fire had broken out in a row house a few doors down from the pub.
When he heard of it, he ran to it, saving two people who spoke of another. And so he went back into the burning house unknowing that the third had already escaped. In his frantic search, Apparating from one level to the next, he was splinched. He then tried to crawl, searching for a victim who was not there. In the end, her beloved had died of smoke inhalation, unable to be revived.
As she slowly pulled into the long, winding drive to his mother’s home, she recalled the last time she was there.
For they had not been able to marry and so the Three Broomsticks technically would belong to his family and she had no rights to his remains and no say to where they would end up.
She wanted to keep him close, buried in a plot close to their home, close to Hogwarts; a place where they were always together, even when away from home. They had been together nearly their entire lives and she couldn’t imagine life without him and wanted his remains so very badly.
But his grieving mother wanted them as well… kept unburied.
And so the woman made a deal that Rosmerta could not refuse. It was a rather generous one, she knew.
“You can keep the Three Broomsticks and… the use of his last name. That for the ashes,” the heartbroken woman offered. “You can legally change your name, if you wish. I know he loved you that much. You meant the world to him, you know.”
Both women could not hold back their tears, much like Rosmerta could not hold them back now.
She took the offer, not thinking that twenty-five years later, his mother would die and she would receive an owl from his brother, offering Jaxson’s ashes should she still want them. It was another offer that she could not refuse, even after all this time.
She immediately recognized the handsome man who walked purposefully from the steps of the old country manor. He was the brother who never really liked leaving home. Like her, he only left when he had to.
“Rosmerta, you are as beautiful as ever. What’s it been, two or so years since I last visited Three Brooms?”
It seemed more like seven to her.
“Jayden McKenna, it’s been entirely too long. How are you?”
He took her into a tender embrace, which she welcomed. He looked so much like Jaxson. This was so hard.
He couldn’t help but notice that she held onto him longer than she ever had before and he obliged, holding her close for as long as she wanted. He didn’t mind. He never did.
“Come. Let’s have some tea, shall we?” he offered.
The two trudged up the stone steps and being a gentleman, he opened the age-old arched door allowing her to enter first.
The place hadn’t changed much. It had been a beautiful place, much larger than the cozy cottage home of her childhood, but it was still warm and inviting, just like she remembered.
They settled for a spot in the kitchen to sip their tea.
“Will you be staying the night? You are welcome, you know. If not here, you can stay at my place or I can arrange a room at the old Kranstone’s place. It’s a Magical Bed and Breakfast now.”
“I saw it coming in. Someone must’ve spent a fortune fixing up that old place.”
“Yes, I did.”
“You’d be proud to know that I’ve become quite successful at my endeavors.”
She flashed a genuine smile that dazzled him.
“I am so proud of you. That’s wonderful. Truly it is. Congratulations.” She smiled again.
My, she was beautiful.
“Does that mean you’ll stay?”
His offer was genuine and friendly and she had to admit, it was very tempting… especially the way that he was looking at her.
“Honestly, thank you, but I need to get back.” She paused for a moment, thinking of the task at hand. “Thank you for everything… for doing this for me.”
She looked up at him with tearful eyes, but managed to blink them away.
“Rosmerta, I overheard your conversation with Mother that day. I know what this means to you and I’m glad to do it.”
The depth of understanding in his words overwhelmed her a bit. She was normally a strong woman, but today was a day for tears. Even at times like this, when she didn’t intend for them to fall.
Jayden moved behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he comforted, handing her an embroidered handkerchief.
She accepted it, trying to keep herself together as he bent down and kissed her temple tenderly.
She didn’t mind being kissed and comforted by him. He was gentle like Jaxson; cut from the same cloth, from the same hometown, raised by the same parents.
Once she gained her composure, she spoke softly, hoping that he would be okay with a special request.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I brought some handbags with me, hoping that I might be able to have some items of his. Maybe she kept a box or two of his things that I might take a peek at. Would you mind?”
“Boxes? There are no boxes.”
“She didn’t keep anything?”
“No. That’s not what I meant. When he moved to Three Brooms, he left a few things behind. His room remains as it was. There are things there that I wanted to give you long ago, but Mother wouldn’t have it. I thought you might want to have a look.”
“Oh,” she managed to breathe.
“As far as I’m concerned, those things are still his… and so, rightfully yours.”
He had always been so delicate with her. He had always supported her with kind words and in keeping in touch from time to time. He even visited to tell her he was going to name his new baby Jaxson. It was as if he was asking her permission to have another Jaxson McKenna in the world. Jayden had been an excellent, caring brother-in-law, well… had she and Jaxson actually married.
The two eventually made their way up the stairs and to the left to a door that had not been opened in quite some time.
“Mother used to come in here on his birthday or Christmas night, but not the last several years probably. Forgive the dust.”
He was trying to keep things lighthearted, she knew. But right then, she needed a hand to hold.
Just before going in, he asked with a caring whisper, “You okay?”
She nodded, but then took his hand. She needed him to be with her.
“Just don’t leave me alone?”
“I won’t,” he promised as he kept her hand and turned the antique crystal knob that would open the door.
They were met with a stream of sunlight that lit the room in a sepia tone.
The room was neat and tidy. Everything had a place. It wasn’t Jaxson’s style, but it was something his mother had insisted. And so, there wasn’t much to go through.
His closet and drawers had few clothing, most likely left because they no longer fit him back then; a Hogwarts Hufflepuff robe being among them.
“Under the bed, he kept his drawings.” Jayden bent down, pulling them out with his free hand and placing them on the bed. There must’ve been ten or so landscapes. But then there was one that seemed to mesmerize her.
“The wishing well…” She smiled in awe of it. “He added flowers. There were never any flowers, until now.”
She eyed Jaxson’s signature on the bottom right corner… such artistic and fancy lettering.
“I’d like to keep this one. I think I’ll frame it, if you don’t mind.”
“Take it, please,” Jayden encouraged.
“Every wish I ever made in that well came true.” She smiled at the memories.
“What? That wishing well doesn’t grant wishes, I assure you.”
Jayden was surprised that she wasn’t aware of what that well actually did. Apparently his brother never told her. But of course, that would’ve been to his advantage.
“Yes, it does,” she playfully disagreed.
He was close to spilling the secret, but quickly changed his mind. For he knew that memories were precious things and who was he to ruin them for her?
Playing along, he simply stated, “There is a small fortune of coins with my fingerprints in that well and I want my money back.”
She let out a giggle that was infectious. Soon he joined in her laughter. Were they allowed to laugh in his deceased brother’s bedroom? Was she?
Rosmerta let go of Jayden’s hand, holding the delicate artwork so that it wouldn’t tear, placing it back on the bed.
“Over here, in this drawer, is what I thought you might really want to keep.”
He opened the top drawer of Jaxson’s dresser. It was thinner than the other drawers, but filled to the rim with all sizes and colors of parchment. They were Jaxson’s writings… his poems, his songs.
“Oh, Jayden,” she said his name in a whisper. “This is truly the treasure I was hoping to find.”
She emptied every last piece of parchment from the drawer. But the stack was short in height. So little.
“Oh, this really is all that is left of him, isn’t it? His words?” She let out a sob.
“I’m sorry there isn’t more, Rose. I’m so sorry.”
Rose? She never let anyone call her that. Only Jaxson. But now, coming from Jayden, it was okay for him too. She didn’t know why, but he was allowed and so she didn’t correct him like she would if it was anyone else.
“Jayden, it is I who am sorry. I just expected… well, hoped for more.”
“There are pictures. You can have all of them,” he offered, hoping they would help.
She stood, scanning the photos of her beloved, only to sigh her disappointment.
“I already have them. Your mother was good to me long ago, making sure of it.”
But then there was one photo on a nightstand that wasn’t in a frame. It was a snapshot taken in the dining room. She could tell by the flourishes of the wallpaper in the background. He was wearing an old school jumper with a crimped neckline. His face cocked to one side, his right hand in his hair as if in deep contemplation.
She studied his eyes, his full lips, his stubbly chin, remembering how it felt against her delicate face. It was a rare glimpse of his serious side.
“I don’t have this one,” she said quietly.
“Then it’s yours.”
Their eyes met then. She was hurting, he knew. And all he wanted to do was pull her close and comfort her, but he dare not.
“Mother kept his ashes over here.” He broke their gaze, trying to avoid the rush of inappropriate feelings for the woman that should’ve been his sister-in-law. “She placed them on his chair, where he sat whenever he put on his shoes.”
“So that he wouldn’t mess up the bed after he made it,” she acknowledged.
“Yes.” He was surprised that she remembered such a seemingly unimportant detail from so long ago.
Picking up the ornately engraved urn, he turned and offered it to her.
She looked at it and swallowed hard.
“Will you carry it down for me?” she asked.
“Of course. Is there anything else that you want?”
She looked around briefly, but there really wasn’t much in the room. Only furniture, but she was after personal items, not things that could be anyone’s.
“I think I’m good,” she said rather sadly, hugging Jaxson’s papers to her chest. But when she was about to leave the room, she went ahead and took all of the drawings too, not leaving a single one.
Jayden gave her a sad smile and a nod. They were hers, if she wanted them.
She wasted no time in placing the items in the carriage that was still waiting for her.
Jayden placed the urn on the seat and was pleased that she hadn’t climbed into it yet.
“Rosmerta,” he paused, not wanting her to leave just yet. “Allow me to show you Kranstone, will you? Grab a bite to eat before you leave?”
“I don’t know.” Her apprehension was tangible.
“You know, every time I’ve ever visited you at Three Brooms, you always took care of me. Will you let me take care of you for once? I owe you.”
“Well, since you put it like that. I suppose you could show me around and feed me.”
He helped her into the carriage and she took the ashes, placing them in her lap for the trip toward town.
It was truly a lovely day and riding with Jayden McKenna by her side was much better than riding alone.
He was witty and funny until he spoke of how his wife really had left him for someone with wealth and how he worked hard to get her back. But now that he had money, he didn’t want her after all.
When they arrived at Kranstone, he gave her the grand tour and spoke of all that he had done. She remained fairly quiet listening to him and marveling at the changes. He spoke of others places just like it scattered in various Magical towns.
“I enjoy restoring Magical properties, Rosmerta. I sell some. I keep some.”
“It’s wonderful… preserving Magical history. Very noble of you.”
Truthfully, she was in awe. He was five years younger than Jaxson and tended to wander aimlessly from one job to the next. But this was something different. He had found something that he loved and could make a living at it.
Eventually, they found themselves at the circular stone wall of the wishing well.
“So many wishes came true here, at least for me,” Rosmerta reminisced.
“I can prove to you that it doesn’t work properly.”
“Because I could make a dozen wishes concerning you and I know none of them would come true.”
He nearly took her breath with his words. Suddenly everything seemed so serious between them. What was happening? What were these feelings that rushed over her?
“I could fill this well with gold and you still wouldn’t stay.”
She didn’t have the words to answer that.
“You work hard at Three Brooms. I’ve seen you in action. You hardly have any time to breathe. And yet, whenever I have visited, you slowed down and always gave me the time of day. Our long chats after hours talking about everything and nothing… you don’t know what they meant to me. If you stayed with me, I would make it so that you would never have to work another day in your life.”
She did miss their long chats. Their now undeniable connection and pull toward one another wasn’t imaginary. And what of his offer? She wouldn’t have to work so hard?
“Oh, Jayden. You make it hard for me to say no. Truly you do.”
“You gave up much to be with my brother at Three Brooms. I remember. You turned down fame, fortune. You must’ve loved him very much to give up so much.”
But Jayden had it wrong. And his words actually helped her make her decision.
“No, Jayden. It was quite the opposite. If I would’ve left for that kind of life, then I would’ve given up much. When Jaxson died, you wouldn’t believe the support that I received from all of Hogsmeade. That town rallied around me and still do to this day. Over the years, those people became my friends and then my family. And you asking me to stay here, as tempting as is it, you are asking me to leave much.”
She had a thought then. She couldn’t leave Three Brooms, but maybe he could leave? No. She couldn’t ask him to do that.
“I can’t leave The Three Broomsticks. It’s my life,” she breathed.
Rosmerta saw the disappointment in his eyes, but if Jayden was anything, he was respectful and kind. He always had been when it came to her.
“Do you know that I respect you more than anyone that I have ever known? Should you ever change your mind, let me know, will you?”
He took her hand and kissed the back of it as if she was worthy of nothing less.
“Let’s get you back then, shall we?”
“Actually… I would like a few moments alone in this place before I go. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back here and…”
“I understand,” he softly interrupted. “You need not explain.”
“Thank you… for everything. And I mean everything. When I took this trip, I certainly didn’t realize how difficult it would be to leave.” Her eyes began to get watery again and he pulled her into an embrace, much like the moment he first saw her that day.
“I’m not him. But I could love you,” he murmured. “I already do.”
She buried her head into his chest, truly feeling held by him. How long had it been since she wanted this? Wanted someone in her life?
His kissed her forehead, but pulled away from her soon after.
“Take as long as you want. And here,” he said tenderly, placing a galleon coin on the well. “Don’t leave without making a wish.”
She watched him walk away, wondering if she was making the right decision. He wasn’t Jaxson. They were similar in so many ways, but they were definitely different. One had asked her to go with him and the other was now asking her to stay.
Rosmerta stayed at the wishing well, reminiscing; her youth… the boy who had her heart… who had left this world much too soon… and all her wishes that had come true. Her life had been so happy with Jaxson in it. She hadn’t known such happiness since. The only thing that came close was being with Jayden, not just today, but every time she saw him. Which was why she had been so torn.
She stepped to the well once more and stood on her tippy-toes, like she had done as a child and dropped her coin.
She spoke to it at length… and then made her final wish.
Rosmerta went back to the carriage then to begin her long journey home. She stepped in and carefully placed her delicate cargo on her lap, where it would stay for the remainder of the trip.
She bent over Jaxson’s ashes as if protecting them for dear life, repeating his poem, talking to him.
I own a little place in a lowly little town.
If you’ll come live with me, be with me, love me.
Then I will love you.
If you’ll just follow me, follow me, follow me down.
Long after she left, Jayden found himself at the wishing well. It was a violation of her privacy and not very gentlemen-like, he fretted. But he knew the secret to why her wishes came true. It was because that magical well was a tattle-tale of wishes. Jaxson without a doubt would go to the well and hear her wish repeated back to him. That’s how he knew her thoughts, what she wanted.
It had been a man’s best ally. For what man could really know the secrets of a woman’s heart? They were always left to guess and set themselves up for rejection and heartache. But not if they had a Magical wishing well.
He sighed. He looked around to make sure that no one was watching. He took out his wand and cast the charm that would bring a bucket of water up from the depths. Peering into the water, he saw the reflection of the roof in it, revealing the correct incantation to say that would have the well echoing the wish. He felt like such a Slytherin child.
But he said it anyway and listened carefully to Rosmerta’s voice echoing back to him and could not help but smile at what he heard.
Three months had gone by. Jayden had taken great care of the old country manor, keeping what he wanted and cleaning out the rest. He made repairs and renovations in keeping with the old charm of the place. In the end, he decided to keep it as a rental house.
Bookings for Kranstone surged well into a year’s advance. And when asked how, Jayden was given a newspaper article.
Someone had written of their travels… of playgrounds and magical wishing wells , fields and fields of lavender and of a transformed Magical property called The Kranstone Inn; a place where Magical families can go, relax, be themselves, and have their wishes come true.
The author was simply noted as… R.M. ~ Hogsmeade.
She never did want to be famous.
He promoted a management team to oversee his properties and make sure operations were going well and decided to travel South a bit. When asked when they should expect his return, he simply stated, “I don’t know.”
The Three Broomsticks was bustling with people and noisy with the clinking of glasses and varied conversations and laughter. It was a happy place full of people.
Tucking a medium-sized package underneath his arm, Jayden McKenna slipped past most of them and found a quiet two-seater near the back and turned to face the bar so that he might catch a glimpse of her, but something caught his eye.
High above the shelves of liquor bottles sat an ornate looking container with a nameplate. She had kept his ashes after all, returning his brother to his rightful place, overseeing his pub.
Jayden didn’t mind. It seemed right.
Rosmerta was ringing up a group of customers, when a lonely looking guest caught her eye. A smile that she could not contain flashed to her face. He had come.
As soon as she was able, she made her way to him, her heart soaring.
“Jayden McKenna, what in the world brings you here?” Her smile never ceased to dazzle him.
“I know you are busy, but could you sit for just a moment so that I can show you something?” He was beaming and she could not resist.
“What is it?” she asked with intrigue.
“More.” He opened the box lid and much to her amazement were papers and notebooks full of well-preserved writings. Her favorite, Follow Me Down sat right on the top of the stack, every stanza she couldn't remember... all in the hand-writing of her beloved.
“Jaxson’s writings. You were right. There is more. I found these stashed away in Mother’s things. There are three more boxes just like this one.”
Rosmerta gasped in awe. “I knew there had to be more. Oh, Jayden, this is amazing.”
“I would very much like to go through these with you.”
“But this could take a very long time. There’s so much.”
“It just so happens that I’ve cleared my schedule… that is, if you’ll let me… stay.”
“Can you help with dishes, take out the trash, and wipe down tables?”
“I can mop floors too, with the help of magic. And perhaps… fix the place up a bit?”
“Then you can definitely stay.”
The two shared a laugh and soon she left him for paying customers while he found a safe spot for the box, found a rubbery-looking apron, and started the dishes.
And while taking out the evening’s trash, Jayden couldn’t help but think of Rosmerta’s wish; happy that it was for him and feeling elated in making it come true.
“I must thank you, dear wishing well… for granting me so many wishes concerning my beloved. It’s been a long while now since I’ve spoken to you and I have but one final wish. Should he want to… I wish for Jayden McKenna to someday, when the time is right, come visit me… to Follow Me Down and never leave.”
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