Chapter 10 : Hidden Secrets
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My hands were shaking, crumpling the sides of the Daily Prophet that was clenched in my grasp. It was getting bad over there, according to the headlines...
American Muggle President Goes Back on His Word: Condemnation of Witches and Wizards...
Another story questioned: Will This Send Millions of American Magic Folk into Hiding?
On Monday afternoon the President of the United States held a press conference condemning the actions of this Saturday Anti-Mag rally. With an alarming turn of events, it was not the Anti-Mag rally, but rather the counter protest, that was awarded the Muggle president's reprimand. Meanwhile, Anti-Mag rallies have experienced escalated violence in the streets. One woman walking her son home from school recounted a recent incident, which was determined later as a mixed Muggle-Wizard family hate crime. "I was so frightened for him, my five-year-old son, and the hooded group that ambushed us were terrifying. It seemed as if they knew who we were, you know, from a wizard family. I know that sounds crazy because they were a bunch of Muggles...but the look in the one man's eyes. I've never seen anything like it. They were going to kill us." When asked about the magical status of her son, the woman said, "Yeah, he takes after his father. He's been showing signs since about a year ago, but we knew how important it was to hide it. Especially nowadays." Similar reports to the woman's have been made with the allegations growing more violent. Even more disturbing, a Muggle couple that frequently participated in the Anti-Mag rallies was prosecuted by American Aurors this week for drowning their four-year-old daughter. It was later discovered that the deceased child was demonstrating signs of magic. Moreover, a mother was caught and charged before attempting to burn her twins at the stake in a backyard fire pit. The Muggle neighbor, whom witnessed and intervened in the incident, had to be Oblivated accordingly. Fortunately, both children have been placed in custody and have notably demonstrated signs of magic.
Families have been suggested to exercise caution when around these Anti-Mag groups. Also, a curfew has been set for residents to be inside before dark to decrease the likelihood of violent behavior during this time of crisis. Strangely, the American President has also issued a ban from neighboring counties, that are highly populated with Magic folk, from entering the United States...
I stopped reading, a chill rolling over my body like a frigid autumn day. Would mum and I be safe now from it all?
I set the paper down on the table, revealing the face of James Potter. My eyes flint around the Great Hall, which is fairly empty at the early hour, before landing back on James. I greeted him with a sigh, but that was about it, and picked up my cup of tea. James grabbed the Daily Prophet off of the table and flipped through the pages. From the corner of my eye, I saw him frown when he got to the page I'd been reading.
"Bloody hell," he whispered, narrowing his eyes at the article. "I wonder if dad's-"
"Don't you have any friends?" Delilah interrupted and demanded with a glare, and then searched up and down the Hall. "Great, I see Weasley waltzing this way now, too. You're a menace, you know that, Potter?" She sat down next to me with a scowl on her face.
James just stared, beaming from ear to ear, down at her. "I do believe you just contradict yourself."
"Can't you stalk Sly some other time?" I choked on the tea that I was taking a sip of and threw Delilah a dark look. "Or, I don't know, not stalk her at all? Bloody hell, Sly, wipe that expression from your face. I wasn't being serious."
James opened up his mouth, "Well, of course not...because I'm-" and then Fred Weasley covered his mouth.
"No one wants to hear the serious/Sirius joke, Jamie." James glared at him and acted like he was going to bite Freddy's hand. "And I like her dark looks," Fred Weasley remarked with a laugh. "Makes her seem extra sassy."
"Go jump off a broomstick, Weasley. Preferably from the top of the Quidditch pitch." Delilah grabbed the plate, which she'd been piling up mounts upon mounts of pancakes on, and slammed it down on the table.
Freddy stared at the mountain of pancakes, which stood a good foot and a half high, and laughed. "Got enough cakes, Olivander?" Delilah glared at him hotly as she poured syrup over the large stack, not breaking eye contact with Freddy even as she shoveled a forkful of pancake in her mouth. He shook his head and smirked at James. "She's really quite mental, eh?"
James didn't respond, instead choosing to stare at Ainsly with a wistful expression on his face.
Freddy smiled at his friend's expression. "Alright mate," he said and clapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse us, maladies. I have to educate this bloke on the subtle art of pursing a bird." He dragged James by the collar of his uniform.
"Maladies is an illness, you idiot!" Delilah yelled, through a mouthful of pancake I might add, down the Hall at Freddy. He just laughed and bowed at her dramatically.
"What. An. Idiot," she exclaimed, wiping some syrup from the corner of her mouth, but I could also tell that she was hiding a hint of a smile behind her napkin.
"Mhmm," Savannah murmured, sitting down at the table and placing eggs onto her plate.
I put away my sketchbook and pulled out my letter, settling down into the cold grass. You could really tell when winter was nearing because the Hogwarts grounds became noticeably chilly, especially at night.
Dearest Girl in the Constellation Shirt,
The stars have been shining so brightly lately. Did you take Astronomy? I never saw you in my class, and I would have definitely noticed otherwise. And not to be creepy, but I've noticed you stargazing outside since first year. I remember it like yesterday, the vision of your small body bundled in a winter poncho and the snow-covered ground. During that day, you reached a hand up towards the sky and attempted to grasp a star from the night. So beautiful you were...so beautiful you are, Ainsly. I hope that wasn't too sappy for you, but I meant every word. Some nights I'll walk the grounds when I cannot sleep, and during some of those nights I notice someone stargazing. Maybe one day I'll gain the courage to sit with you... Would you like that, too? I will eagerly await your reply.
Pocketing Admirer's letter with a smile, I stared up and noticed that I could barely see the stars tonight. "Oh, there's one." My breath makes a rolling fog at my words, and with cold fingers I make a box with my hands to capture the single star in the sky. My eyes snap a mental picture of the brightness with a dark backdrop. "Tiny and useless, just like me..." I let my hands drop to my sides, staring up at the sky. I was not ready to go inside yet.
"You're not useless."
How was he always around? I didn't even bother glancing over because I knew my eyes would be greeted by the handsome James Potter.
"Stalking is illegal," I commented to the tiny star.
"This is true," James replied, and he sat down next to me.
I released a sigh. "Why are you here, James?"
"I noticed that you were sitting on the cold ground and became concerned with your mental health," he replied casually. "Never know with you Americans."
I glared at him. I didn't understand him. "I left America a long time ago," my voice hissed at him. "And there are a lot of issues going on over there that you apparently don't understand, so please...stop it." I looked away from him while I finished my sentence, wrapping my arms around myself. People were dying and all he seemed to care about was how people looked... What if the Anti-Mag found us somehow? They were killing children, or attempting to, almost daily.
"Ainsly..." I felt a hand pressed upon my shoulder, and then a gentle squeeze of comfort. "I didn't mean it." Another hand was pressed to my other shoulder and my nose was reintroduced with the scent of James Potter's shirt. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around me and I became filled with heat.
"May my sighs be blamed upon the moon," I whispered, raising my head and staring up at the moon. "Or do my tears come from the feelings it invokes*?" I swallowed and cleared my throat, all the while blushing at the fact that I recited a poem randomly. Usually, the thoughts I had remained in my head.
"What's that from?" He smiled down at me.
"Emperor Tenji, who was 38th Emperor of Japan. It's a poem written by him." I sent him a sheepish look. "Random, I know...sorry."
"Don't be sorry," James muttered and held me closer to him. I felt confused by his behavior, and then he pressed his lips on the top of my head. I freaked out, jumping and knocking him in the face with my head.
"Bloody hell, Ainsly."
"What are you playing at?" I stared at him, awaiting the answer to my question as he held his jaw, where I must have smacked him.
"Ainsly... listen," James bit his lip, searching for the correct words to say. "There is something I probably should tell you..." He seemed so flustered, running his hands through his hair with a wild, desperate look in his eyes. He gulped, audibly, and then cupped my face in his hands. James was the most popular boy at Hogwarts, even by all House standards. The social gap between us was immense. He didn't know I existed...and would easily forget again. So even the fact that this interaction occurred left me baffled. I didn't know what to make if it. Before I could manage blinking, let alone processing a thought or question, I felt pressure on my lips.
With wide eyes, my mind caught up to the thumping in my chest and the blurred vision cleared.
James Potter had kissed me.
Ainsly stared at me with wide, panicked eyes and mouth agape.
"Um..." I rubbed the back of my neck awkwardly, a little stunned from the tingling of my lips. And, with closer inspection, I noticed that she was blushing pretty heavily. "Why are you blushing so much?"
Her hand lingered on her mouth, tracing the bottom and then her top lip. I'd tasted herbal tea and honey chapstick. And then she slapped me across the face, causing a different kind of tingling that was like a bee sting. Or like that time that Lily got angry and hit me with her broomstick for not allowing her to fly in the rain.
"Bloody hell," I held my injured cheek. "You have quite the swing."
Ainsly just continued to stare at me with a hand over her lips. With I start, I realized that her hand was trembling. "Wh-hy?" Sea-glass eyes brewed hotly in the moonlight.
"Because I wanted to," I said, my voice cocky. What was I doing?! I wanted to tell her that her lips were the best favor I ever tasted, not this arrogant shite. "You taste pretty good." Why don't I just bury my head in a hole? Bloody hell and a hand-basket. I'm an idiot. I resigned to my fate, locking eyes on the ground below my feet.
"That...that was," her voice cracked in a whimper that made my eyes jump to her face. Ainsly's jaw was set, her eyes pinned on the night sky. "I'd never..."
"Don't tell me that was your first kiss," I whispered in realization. I was her first kiss! Say something smooth, Potter! Something Sirius or grandpa would have said in a romantic tone. "There has really been no one else...?" I'm such a prat.
"No," Ainsly groaned, covering her face."
"Shite. Want to give it another go?" Bloody hell! Why am I the way I am? I blame dad... and the entirety of the Potter bloodline for that matter.
"I don't understand you..." Ainsly muttered, shaking her head. "We are just way too different."
"That's not true," I reasoned with a shake on my head. "And sometimes different can be a good thing."
"Not this time, James." She shook her shortened hair and frowned up at me. "You're James Potter."
"So what?" I wasn't following her.
"You're rich and famous...and can be egotistical because you know it." She stared up at the moon and continued, so I watched each word as it formed and flowed out into the night air. "You kiss girls because you want to... But a kiss without any affection behind it doesn't make some people happy." But what she was really saying was....it didn't make her happy.
I watched her walk away from me once more, as a deep ache filled my bones. Tell her, James... Damn it... Why can't you just tell her?
"While autumn leaves crumble under deer footsteps...the stag calls longingly for the doe,*" I murmured into into the chill of the night. Again, I watched as her figure became smaller and smaller, until she blurred into the darkness of the castle.
Present Day (One Year Post-Hogwarts)
"Mum's a loon sometimes," James said and rolled his eyes. "Dinner is so not ready. Why don't you spend some more time with Pork Chop, while I go help her? You can get more aquatinted with him-er, I mean, her." He beamed at me and before I had a chance to protest he had Apparate away.
I was alone for a good bit of time before I head footsteps approaching. They were light, and cautious but sure-footed.
"Ainsly," a familiar voice said, which caused me to turn around. My spin must have been a little too startling for Pork Chop because she ran off. Traitor.
"Mr. Potter," I nodded at him, almost doing a weird head bow thing. I needed to seriously calm myself. "Everything alright?"
"Ah yes," Harry replied, while his emerald orbs searched the grounds. "I've actually been meaning to talk with you more." I gulped, pretty audibly I might add.
"Do you remember your father?" This again? He's very persistent, I'll give him that but I'd been telling the truth.
"I said I didn't remember," I replied stiffly. And I didn't want to remember, I added in my head with a venom that was unlike me.
"Ainsly," he sighed, sounding defeated. Harry stared at me intently, the look of pure concentration in his emerald eyes creeping me out. And then there was darkness...until there was light.
I'm eight-years-old reading a manga, but I want the pictures to move. A frustrated feeling overwhelmed me as I stared at the page, imagining that it's like the anime show I'd watched. I'm closing my eyes and opening them, repeating the action over and over... Thinking hard to imagine it as the next part of the anime, so that the story will continue. And then, suddenly, I'm not imagining anymore...
"Mom look!" I called, a smile spread out on my face. "Dad's not going to believe this." I added, and then my smile fell, remembering that my dad's no longer here. And I don't want him to find us...
My mind spirals further back, until I'm four-years-old...
"Ainsly, darling, what did you do?" My mother's kind voice and gentle hand guided my chin up to meet her eyes. I clenched my sore, bruised fists and squeezed my eyes shut, refusing to meet her disapproving gaze. My mother let out a sigh, dropping her hand from my face. "The clergyman said you were fighting today."
"They started it." I kept my eyes squeezed shut as I said it.
"Oh Ainny..." My eyes opened at the disappointment in her tone.
"Benji was singing that song to Daisy today. The one about about burning and a noose and drowning...it made her cry."
"I told him to stop it, but he wouldn't and he was laughing at her." I squeezed my fingers into fists as I spoke, still not looking at my mother. "So I punched him."
"Ainsly," my mother said urgently. "What song?"
I stared at her, blinking slowly. "The catching witches song. You know, my momma, your momma..." I trailed off, not wanting to continue. Meanwhile, my mother's reaction was to squeeze my hand in surprise.
"Where did you learn that?"
"Bible school," I replied, feeling like I was about to be scolded. Instead, mom just tugged on my hand and we walked down the street. She was unusually quiet...I had hoped she wouldn't tell daddy about me fighting Benji, but if she didn't the clergyman would. Either way I'd lose...
Later that night, I was coloring up in my room when I heard shouting from downstairs. I'd tiptoed to not make any noise, which made me feel sly and sneaky.
"Do you think you can forget it?!" My father screamed, voice trembling in rage. "It's a part of her that needs to be ripped away."
I was four-years-old listening from the top of the staircase to my father and mother. I didn't understand it. Was it about me again? What was wrong with me?
"There is nothing wrong with her. She's just a child, Cal."
"She hit a kid during services today-"
"Because she was protecting another child when they were singing that horrible song," my mother's voice interrupted. There was a loud smacking sound and a thud that followed her words.
"Do not interrupt me, Faith. I am a Scourer." My heart pounded at the frigidity in his voice. "Ainny! Come down here now!" His voice boomed up the stairs, causing my eyes to burn with unshed tears. I was in trouble again.
I panted, exhausted in the action of having my memories resurfaced and dissected. I felt wetness on my cheeks, and my fingertips showed the evidence of tears.
"A Scourer," Harry whispered, oblivious of the trauma he just put me through. He got what he wanted. "Your father is a Scourer."
I just stared at him silently, too numb to speak.
"Do you know where he is Ainsly?" He sounded rushed and uneasy.
"No," I forced myself to reply and shook my head, slowly. I didn't know. And I didn't want to know, or remember.
"...." An awkward cough followed his silence. And a guarded, yet sheepish look mixed into his emerald orbs.
I glared back at him. "Not going to force me to remember my childhood anymore?"
He had the decency to appear regretful. "I have to protect my family, Ainsly. You must know that."
"Wonderful job," I replied, walking away. "And maybe...if you would have asked I would have voluntarily offered up some of my memories, rather than getting my mind wrongfully searched." Would that technically be a seizure as well? Dear Merlin...
Thankfully, Harry Potter didn't follow as I stormed away.
Leaning back against the tree trunk, I started lightly rocking my head against the rough bark. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
"What are you doing, Sly?" Albus' emerald eyes stared back at me, peering at me with a confused expression on his face.
"Oh, just trying to wake myself up." I answered Albus with my eyes shut.
"That seems more like a way to fall asleep. Like forever..."
"Uh-huh," I replied, still too exhausted to think properly. There was a long, uncomfortable pause as I felt Albus studying me.
"Dad did legimency on you, huh?"
My response was to open one eye at him, releasing a big sighing.
Albus paled a bit, but did not appear highly surprised. He ran a hand threw his black hair, permitting a resigned sigh of his own. "James is going to be so pissed when he finds out." Albus shook his head and laughed as he continued, "But that's nothing compared to how livid Mum's going to be at the Savior of the Wizard World." Albus laughed harder, holding his sides. "He's screwed."
And that was when I decided that I'd had enough for today. "I'm going to go," I said to Albus, walking away before he had time to comment. My feet carried me over to another huge Willow tree and then I decided to run. When I was a far enough distance away from the Potter estate, I pulled out my cell phone, dialed Savannah's number, and explained what I needed to.
"Mmmm," she drawled.
"I want to go see my mum," I noted in a forced calm voice.
"Mhmm," she replied, and then I find myself being side-along Apparated. No questions asked.
Will James understand? I should have probably left a note...
* I'm an anime nerd so the asterisks (*) refer to poems that are seen in Chihayafuru in the Second Season!
* Also, I do not own any of Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts content.
Please let me know your thoughts! The plot thickens!
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