Chapter 1 : Australia
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“Never pinned you down as a romantic,” Jean grins, taking another sip out of her plastic cup of wine and grinning at the book, “Othello, really?”
“Well?” Margaret asks, dusting the sand thoughtfully off her book with a smile. “About to turn Superior-literature student on me?”
“Hardly,” Jean said, tracing out a heart in the sand with her big toe, “it’s just not really a beach read.”
“I like Shakespeare,” Margaret says, “I like his obsession with new places, and travelling, and Italy; Venice, Verona... and the inevitability of the tragedy...”
“All right,” Jean says, “I forgot that wine made you pretentious. Bloody dentist,”
“Right,” Jean grins, “another year until you’re officially certified to dig around in people’s mouths, whilst I’m graduated and free of exams forever.”
“Everywhere needs dentists,”
“And the pays good,” Jean adds, “and you get to call yourself Doctor.”
“It means,” Margaret interrupts, kicking off her sandals and standing up, “that whilst you will forever remain a penniless reader of fine literature, I will be able to keep travelling,” she steps towards the frothy edges of the sea, standing stationary until the water envelops them. “Cyprus, like Othello, and Africa, America, India... Australia.”
“Oh, Mags,” Jean grins from the beach, digging her plastic cup into the sand to keep it up right, “I hope you forever remain in motion, and reading Shakespeare, and believing in the wonder of travel. And I hope you get to Australia, because then I can visit and you can pay for my flights with your big dentist pay cheque.”
“As long as you don’t visit too often,” Margaret returns, stepping further into the sea, the cold water licking her ankles, as she steps towards the horizon.
The phrase was too easy on the tip of her tongue; it dropped off without thought or consideration, more instinct than anything else. We’ve always wanted to move to Australia. She remembered the smiles of their new neighbours, their nods of acceptance, the odd question that really made her think. Won’t you miss your friends and family? It’s a long way from home.
It was a very long way from home.
“Wendell,” Monica said, shrugging her shoulders against the heat and glancing up at the sun. Australia was so very different to England that it was sometimes difficult to imagine that they were part of the same world; the stars are the same, but the sky feels so open... which is why she can never understand what is suffocating her. “When we went to Dijon...” She began, glancing back down at her side and finding her gaze wandering absently towards her husband, “Do you remember the bouillabaisse?”
She did always want to go to Australia. She knew that. She remembered the summer she backpacked around Europe with those friends and dragged two month’s of belonging across Prague, Budapest and Vienna. The ghost like mountains on the other side of Lake Garda; getting lost in Venice; being ripped off in Paris. She remembered that it filled her with a desire to keep travelling and to keep moving until she got somewhere, and – back then – she thought that place was Australia.
It’s just... it no longer felt like the destination. There was something off about the way the words fall of her tongue. There was something wrong about her certainty, because if Australia had, all these years, been the destination, then why had it taken so long to get there?
“I don’t really like fish, Mon,” Wendell returned, his forehead creasing, “I didn’t try any,”
“We shared it,” Monica pressed, “and we both liked it and we wish we’d ordered one each,”
“I doubt it,” Wendell said, “I don’t like fish,”
“I know,” Monica said, but she remembered the act of sharing the bouillabaisse. It was like a resonance of a dream and she was sure they asked for another spoon, leaning over one bowl and racing each other for the last bits. There was intimacy and laugher and something she wanted hold onto.
“Maybe you tried it with Chrissy when you toured France,”
“Maybe,” Monica agreed, although she doesn’t really feel the conviction. “Haven’t heard from Chrissy for awhile,” Monica said, “maybe I should give her a call.”
All their friends seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth with the move to Australia, or perhaps before them. There was some insurmountable distance between them and she’s not entirely sure what it was.
“Maybe,” Wendell said, and that’s that.
“So there goes the dream,” Jean says, “resigning yourself to a life of motherhood and dentistry. You’re going to become a Granger, live stagnantly, buy a three bed house in suburbs. Good God, Margaret, just promise me you won’t go private practice –”
“– it’s a girl,” Margaret interrupts, her whole face stretched into a smile that still doesn’t convey how she feels. It’s like that feeling she gets when she’s stood at the top of a mountain, or in the heart of a city she’s never been to before, stranded in a place where she can’t speak the language. It’s sublime and it’s joy and it’s being alive.
“And you’re never going to get to Australia,”
“We might,” Margaret grins, “they’ll just be three of us,”
“Are you high on dentist anaesthetic?” Jean asks, prodding her in the ribs, “you can’t take a baby on day long flights every time your kid wants to see her godmother, or her grandparents. And I sure as hell can’t afford to visit every time you need a babysitter.”
“It can wait,” Margaret laughs, “Australia can wait. Hermione’s coming.”
She’s been travelling and travelling. She’s thrived on the distance and the beauty of motion – it made her feel like the world was a little smaller, and remaindered herself of her own insignificance, and it the displacement used to make her happy.
She’s been travelling and travelling and she didn’t know where she was going, and she thinks maybe this is the destination after all.
Australia was beautiful.
They visited Sydney and the outback and Ayers rock and the coast line. It was hot – she always liked the heat – and it was fascinating. Wendell had tried surfing and she’d nearly died laughing. They had nice neighbours and she’d finally gotten to the place she’d always intended to go, but...
It didn’t feel right.
She didn’t feel whole.
She felt like she’d forgotten about the last step in her own home, or she’d returned to somewhere familiar to find it had been redecorated. There was something not right. There was definitely something.
“Mum,” Hermione says, “Mum, I swear Mum it moved, Mum –”
Margaret smiles and tucks her hair behind her eyes.
“Mags,” William says, bending over the campfire with a grimace, “Mags, can you light this? The damned things not working. Must have got wet in the rain...”
“I’ll go get the other matches out the car,” Margaret says, standing up. She likes the forest of Dean and its greenery, but she likes the camping more. It isn’t really William’s thing, but Hermione is loving it.
She stands up, exchanging a look with her husband.
“Mum,” Hermione says, “Mum, Mum it’s lit Mum it’s...”
They both pause, glancing back down at the campfire with a frown. Because the fire is lit and burning and there are discarded matches on the floor, and Hermione is blinking up at them all innocence and hair and front teeth.
“Wow,” William says, “hey, well done Hermione, but you know you shouldn’t play with matches like that. No playing with fire, okay?”
Hermione’s face turns solemn and serious as she nods once.
“Mum,” Hermione says, half an hour later when they’re all eating hot pasta, “Dad. Jean said that you always wanted t’go to Australia.”
“No,” Margaret smiles, “not any more, Hermione, now all we want is you.”
“We went skiing once,” Wendell told Mitchell and Grace - their Australian next door neighbours – as they sat under the veranda watching the sun set, “Monica nearly broke her ankle. The alps. God, feels like ages ago, doesn’t it Monica?”
“There was something disappointing about that holiday,” Monica said, fingers closing around her sugar-free fruit juice, “I don’t... I don’t remember what it was, but I remember being disappointed.”
She remembers the dwindling relationship between herself and her daughter. From her first year, when Hermione went off to boarding school (which was never something they’d wanted for her... but what choice was there?) things had obviously been different. They could never understand what came tagged along with ‘witch’ and, after the first few months where Margaret gleamed that her daughter didn’t feel she fit in, the tone of the letters lightened.
She is glad her daughter is happy. She is very glad that her daughter is magic and special and wonderful, but after that first summer the time spent at home seems to be Hermione’s purgatory until she can return back to her new, magical universe. Summer’s spent with her friend Harry and Ron and his family, and now, with the sparseness so the letter still filling up her head –
“Margaret,” William says, as they strap skis on their feet at the top of the mountain, “Hermione knows what’s she’s doing.”
This is true. Her daughter is smart and sensible and can make her own choices
– Ron’s Dad has been injured and I really feel they need me around at the moment. Have a good time skiing –
“It’s just not the same,” Margaret says, finally, as she looks out over the mountains. Snow topped and beautiful, with a backdrop of sheer sky; she just wishes her daughter could enjoy it, too.
“Excuse me,” A woman with bushy brown hair said, a young adult, with a smile that makes Monica want to stop, “M...Monica Wilkins?”
“Hello,” Monica said, turning to face her. The woman looked slightly tearful and a little shaky.
“I’m Hermione Granger.”
She’s been travelling and travelling and searching for something, and now all she wants to do is curl her life all around Hermione – her daughter – and watch her react to new places and new things. She wants her daughter to grow up happy and intelligent and strong willed.
She names her after Shakespeare, and Jean, and hopes that she loves books and travelling.
She doesn’t give a rat’s arse about Australia.
Hermione is crying and clutching her hand and Margaret remembers she remembers she remembers, oh God, she remembers everything –
“Mum,” Hermione says, fingers closing around her hand, “I just wanted to protect you. And you always meant to go to Australia, Mum, I thought maybe that you might be able to be happy there, but I knew you’d be safe.”
– and she knows the empty feeling in her stomach is her daughter, and that she is Margaret Granger, not Monica Wilkins, and now she can go home.
Not entirely happy with this. Unedited and definitely rushed but... well, go Ravenclaw! :)