Chapter 1 : Her Old Hands
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Old eyes blinked as the moonlight fell softly over yellowed pages. Under the dim light coming in from the window her wrinkles shadowed her face, and it was an old woman, sleek and stiff, who closed a book and swallowed slowly. Yes, youth had been so swift and so incredibly long ago, and Augusta Longbottom had lived so many times the duration of that whimsical and so overestimated period, that it was almost preposterous how its memories stealthily found their path into her mind.
The witch’s arms trembled as she pulled her height up to stand tall, alone, in the living room, and Augusta found, not with a hint of shame, that she felt fear. Because she was as weak as she was old, and as time walked her closer and closer to an end, there was always the dread that, one day, the determined look on her eyes would be overcome by the incontrollable growing weakness of her body and mind.
But she would not fail him. Even if her steps were slow as she moved towards the door, and her hand was shaky as she tried to reach for her wand. She would not fail him, and age would not win over her. Not today. Not after all those times when she was younger and stronger and unafraid, and yet so shamefully blind. She had not been the family he needed. In a fear greater than that of old age, greater than that of losing, greater than that of dying, Augusta had wasted her life thinking she might have lost everything she ever loved and that the only thing she had left – the only part of that bravery, that honour, that love – was that small, lifeless boy, full of fear and self-doubt.
She had clung to it. The small, witless boy, the only thing left of her son. But she had tried to change him. Years she had spent trying to change him, trying to make him all those things she had lost. And all that time she had not seen him. She had not seen how he was not lifeless, how he was not witless, and how self-doubt – and oh, how that was strikingly her fault! – was always overcome when more important things rose. And how she could have been full of pride her whole life!
Her fingers closed slowly and painfully around her wand, shaking slightly with every breath she took, but they would not fail her today. Her knees complained with every step she took, as a quiet reminder of how quickly life had passed, but they would not fail her today.
Because Augusta Longbottom would not waste another day of her life failing her grandson.
“I am so sorry about this,” a voice said as she reached the hallway and faced the open door where he stood, young and tall and strong and with a wand mercilessly facing her.
“Not yet, Mr. Dawlish, you are not.”
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