|SIYE Time:15:15 on 16th June 2019|
Seven Billion Muggles Can't Be Wrong
By Laura Laurent
- Text Size +
Category: Muggle Picnic Challenge (2005-2)
Genres: Fluff, Humor, General, Songfic
Story is Complete
Summary: The DA, a leader under pressure, and a troubled little sister---with only one real question: do you believe in magic?
Hitcount: Story Total: 4726
A/N: So I think I've followed the letter of the law but I've certainly deviated from the spirit. And, secondly, somebody shoot me---I think I've written a songfic. Just kidding, it's definitely got more to it than that, but I would recommend listening to the Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe In Magic?"
And Review? Pwease? :-)
Seven Billion Muggles Can’t Be Wrong
For the readers who review,
I wish I could name you all,
but I'm so glad---there are too many.
Remus Hermione Potter, privately and affectionately called Missy by close friends and family, and known simply as Miss or Miss Potter to anyone who did not wish to suffer the iciest glare in Hogwarts history, stood by at the doorway to the Room of Requirement as the attendants of this week’s meeting filed dutifully in. She did a mental headcount... all the Gryffindors expected to be there were present, they were still missing a couple of Ravenclaws...but that’s right–Robert MacMillan and Rachel Finch-Fletchey had spoken to her after breakfast and told her they wouldn’t be able to come. ...And all the usual Hufflepuffs were accounted for. She kicked the stop out from under the door and gave Patrick a look that signaled him to begin to call the meeting into session when she spotted someone making their way down the hall towards her and the mercury plummeted rapidly on her mood index. She shut the door, leaning slightly on the hand which held the knob in a protective grip and the other haughtily resting on the divide between her pants and shirt.
“You’re wasting your time, McDonough,” she said, preemptively checking the advancing Slytherin, “I talked with McGonagall herself this morning and there is nothing wrong–“
“Don’t get your panties in a twist,” he said smoothly, and she willed her face to retain its normal color at the mention of her underwear.
“What are you doing here?” she asked coldly.
“Well, the announcements say that everyone’s welcome, don’t they?”
“Not if you’re only coming to make my life miserable.”
“Well that’s not the only reason I’m coming... so–“ he motioned for her to open the door and let him in. She didn’t move.
“Would you look at that...” he said, a note of danger creeping quickly into his voice, as his smile faded away “The DA, which is supposed to be opposing prejudice in the public at large, turns away a muggle-born student at the door–just because he’s in Slytherin house...”
There was a secretly uncertain silence, before he continued predatorily.
“How many Slytherins would you say are in that room as we speak?”
“Every single one who’s ever shown an interest in ending racism against non-magic peoples,” she answered quickly. He straightened with a small smirk,
“Well, there’s a first time for everything now isn’t there?”
“You know exactly why you’re here a–“
“But you don’t. You’re only assuming, and you know it. Go ahead–be a hypocrite–“
Before he could speak another word she swung the door open and allowed him to pass with a blank expression on her face, as if he had said the magic word.
When the door opened Patrick Finnegan, vice-president of the DA, looked up from the agenda he was reading to the group, and was shocked to see Elijah McDonough being shown into the room. He caught Missy’s eye in a questioning glance.
She shook her head darkly: After the meeting. He gave one last skeptical glare at the Slytherin before he continued.
Fifteen minutes passed without a hitch, noted Remus, watching the clock anxiously. She gave a sidelong glance to McDonough, who was watching the meeting in a good impression of honest interest.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have said anything; now he’d be careful not to do anything overtly disruptive just to prove her wrong, and when the meeting was over he’d know everything they’d be planning on doing in the next month. He’d find a way to be in their way as much as possible, she was sure.
...But then again maybe not, She reminded herself. No one in the world was as careful about remaining politically correct and unprejudiced as Miss Potter was. She worked tirelessly to end discrimination against muggles and muggle-borns–had resurrected the nearly lifeless DA, which had gone into disuse after the war and by now held little interest after nearly seventeen years of relative peace in the wizarding world, and reformed it into an activist society with the mission of uniting the four houses over the issue of race, and curbing hostility towards all other minorities in the magical community as a whole. She would not for the world have it cast upon her that she was anything but a fitting figurehead for her movement.
And yet... she wasn’t naive; she’d known Eli McDonough since her first year, and until fifteen minutes ago he had never, to the best of her knowledge, referred to himself as Muggle-born. He may have been raised in a Muggle orphanage all his life after his family had completely annihilated or incarcerated themselves in the Second War, but ever since she’d met him in his third year, he’d been chauvinism incarnate.
Thoughts of McDonough were momentarily pushed from her mind when Rona finnished reading off the minutes from the last meeting and handed Missy the clipboard. Miss stood up and cleared her throat. She’d never admit it to anyone, but though she had been the fairly elected facilitator of the meetings since she revived the organisation nearly three years ago, Miss Potter still felt a bit of nervous adrenaline every time she stood up there, in front of all those older kids, with nothing but very sketchy notes to guide her. She cleared her throat again and began speaking–adressing the issue of their previous idea to go on a week-long magic strike, which was now a no-go, as McGonagall had denied the proposal, clearly stating that any students not fully participating in classes would be in far more trouble than it was worth.
“I know it’s disappointing,” she said into the room of sighs, which were probably overplayed a bit to disguise a certain amount of secret relief. “But let’s not be discouraged.”
Miss used her best crowd instincts to test the waters of the group morale in the few seconds it took for the noise level to die down. Yes indeed, they could do with a nice motivational speech about now.
“I know it’s seemed, as of late, that we’re being met with opposition from the staff instead of support–I’ll admit that, but McGonagall and the rest teachers would lose their jobs if they openly supported our organization. But that shouldn’t matter–because we didn’t–we’re not here to please the staff, or even to have their approval–if we’re here for the cause we’d better act that way, which means we’ve got to stand up, and keep fighting!”
She knew she was rambling, but her adrenaline was building, and her energy was beginning to rub off the people in the room–she could see it happenening little by little. Rapt attention turned to shivers, and then to people nodding their heads; she continued,
“The DA was started by students trying to defend themselves and do the right thing, rather than believe the lies of the Ministry, and we’ve got to carry on that tradition. We’ve got to roll with the punches, take the slanders and hostility in stride, and keep on going! We’ve got to reach out to people we normally wouldn’t associate with, take the hands of people we’d normally avoid. I’m not just talking about Muggle-borns, but their families and their friends–and half breeds, werewolves, squibs–“
And then she heard it: the derisive, antagonizing voice she’d come to know and loathe.
“Isn’t your sister a Squib?”
The silence was deafening. For a moment she grappled with herself, trying to work out how he knew, before she realized that that wasn’t important right now. She remained straightened and poised, determined to give him nothing to subtract.
“What’s it to you?”
“What’s it to you?”
She’d never met anyone so gifted with spinning things… She answered him honestly,
“Nothing–magic or not she’s my sister, now if you’ll excuse me, I was in the middle of my notes.”
She returned her eyes to the clipboard for the first time since announcing defeat of their last idea, but she didn't even get a chance to start speaking before he interrupted her,
“So it hasn’t changed anything between you two? Because you’re unprejudiced?”
She was growing increasingly uneasy. She took a quick glance around the room and was heartened to find that at least half of the group members were glaring at him–many of those were family, but many were not. But the Slythein appeared unfazed, and merely shocked his eyebrows up again in question.
“When’s the last time you spoke to her?”
“McDonough, get OUT!”
He merely smiled a smile that indicated he was only having fun, but everyone knew better.
“Why don’t you just answer the question?”
Missy felt warm all over–and was suddenly very aware of her ears, “Because I’m in the middle of a meeting and it’s not pertinent!”
“Sure it is–you know, you sound an awful lot like someone with something to hide…”
A younger Missy would have started crying under the pressure, and it took every single ounce of gumption she had to remain in any relative state of composure, “McDonough–“
“Just answer the question–have you even spoken to your sister in the past month?”
The silence was unnatural. Miss hated that no one, not herself, nor Rona, nor Patrick seemed to be able to speak. It was as though the entire room had been watching two people argue over a glass bowl when suddenly it had shattered. She felt sick to her stomach to see that satisfied smirk creeping across his merciless face, and she retreated inside her mind, hardly hearing the words he spoke as she concentrated on disconnecting her facial muscles from her nervous sytem, and began to think of a plan.
“So you sit up here on your soapbox preaching about reaching out and embracing the non-magic world, but you’ve got a squib-sister within walking distance whom you haven’t spoke to in a month because–let’s face it, you do look down on non-magic people, just like the rest of us.”
The room remained silent–completely at a loss of what to say or do, as his words sunk in and they fought not to believe them. But though minor setbacks tended to send the high-strung Miss Potter spiralling, she never failed to meet the giant ones with unflinching courage and determination. She answered coolly,
She could smell the political tide turning in the room, as he obviously had not anticipated her confidence. He called her on her bluff,
“Well what then?”
But by now Miss had more than half of her story worked out, “If you would have just shut up and let me finish my notes... you would know by now that for the past month I have been up to my ears with various projects, and the most important one, in fact, is a giant surprise party for my squib sister’s twelfth birthday.”
“Well that’s lovely,” said McDonough, in a tone that intimated impending irony, “but then what’s it got to do with this?”
He should not have been so cocky and derisive, perhaps if he had talked a little faster he could have beaten her, but little Miss Potter was now past the point of social danger and running free with a new idea, “Well it’s going to be an all school event–thrown by the DA, if we all agree that is.”
She stopped talking to McDonough and addressed the rest of the DA, “The big push here is to have a fun, memorable party prepared, decorated, thrown, and struck… drumroll please… completely without the use of magic!”
There were no cheers of excitement. No one was even smiling. They looked at her as if she had lobsters crawling out of her ears.
“That’s going to be bloody difficult,” said Julian Bell, a popular Gryffindor in seventh year who had never been overly warm to Miss.
There was more silence, everyone was either too taken aback or too sheepish to contradict Julian Bell.
Then Patrick, who had supplied Miss with a drumroll, spoke up faithfully, “Oh come on people, this is Miss Potter–we’ll pull it off, and if we can’t, she’ll do it herself.”
The room laughed, and the tension was broken for good. She smiled, whispered, “Thanks Pat,” and looked up to continue with the plan, “Really everyone, I think it’ll be a lot of fun–a Muggle picnic, if you will. We’ll have Muggle music, muggle games, muggle food, muggle drinks, you name it–Yes, Gina?“
She was trying hard to avoid the frantically raised hand of Harry Creevey, a boy whom she'd once heard her mother claim, under her breath, was almost as annoying as his father.
“Would this be students only?”
“No, that wasn’t what I had in mind–I was thinking we’d turn it into more of a community event.”
At this point Patrick jumped in, “Students and their families would be invited–it’s a great way for non-magic families to get in touch with our world in a comfortable environment.”
There were several murmurs of agreement at this. Miss grinned and called on Mallory Vance,
“Can I be in charge of games?”
"---Ooh! Can I be in charge of a swimsuit contest?" interrupted Jeremy Wood, who usually got away with a little bit more political incorrectness than anyone else because Miss found his zooming energy to be funny, and well... it couldn't be denied that he was... aesthetically pleasing as well.
“Sure!” she said whimsically, “I was thinking about a swimsuit contest, and for games---we could have a sack race, and I was thinking we maybe could make some kites to fly, if anyone's feeling artistic, that is–Patrick?”
“Get me the rubric please, and could you and Chris start explaining kites, barbecues, sack races, and muggle music?”
Patrick nodded---this duty had been commonly asked of him, because besides being the son of Seamus Finnegan, a half blood who had known her parents, he had studied muggles and their way of life almost as furiously as Miss had. He and Chris Clearwater, whose mother, Penny, was a muggle-born, walked to the other side of the room with their hands held high, “Magic-born folks–“
“Or any other severely confused folks–“
Harry Potter sat on his front porch that evening, rocking his baby to sleep in the old hammock as the early spring night sunk in around them. The sounds of his wife humming to herself as she washed the dishes from the kitchen floated through the open window, and in the distance the shrill piercing shrieks of the young Potter brood as they chased each other and the lightning bugs sounded almost pleasant.
He liked springtime–staying at home all day with his kids and doing laundry and cooking supper while Ginny took over the second term was so much better than any other career he might have chosen. To be sure, he enjoyed his time teaching a great deal, but all the students at Hogwarts fancied themselves as grown ups, and he rather preferred spending his days with the little kids who hadn’t gone completely nutters yet.
The screen door opened and one of the nutters in question appeared, carrying a glass of pumpkin juice.
“’That for me?” he asked hopefully, careful not to speak too loudly.
Missy shook her head, but offered him a sip, which he took gratefully.
“I’m going to head back soon,” she said quietly, and he nodded. Missy had been at school four years now, and Rona for three. He understood Ginny’s adamancy in allowing them the same independence that other students had, but all the same he missed his tallest daughters. That was the biggest drawback to his term off–he got to spend his days at home, but it also meant he didn’t get to see Missy and Rona in lessons every day. The only times he ever really got to see them were when they decided to eat dinner at home, and very occasionally spend the night.
“Did Mum tell you about the party?” she asked.
He nodded, “A little–after James went out to play–how are you planning on keeping this secret from her anyhow?” he asked, “Because there’s no way we’re going to be able to keep her in the house for two days ahead of time while you set things up.”
“I was thinking that maybe James could go spend a few days with Aunt Hermione–you know, she could take her around London and take her shopping for some new school clothes or something.”
“Have you asked Aunt Hermione about this?”
“Well no, not exactly, but she did try to cheer James up with a similar idea at Christmas–James wasn’t very receptive at the time but now that…”
Missy trailed off. She’d wished many times since last July that she could have been the one who didn’t get a letter when she was eleven–because for all that loved muggles and learning about their way of life---James had a broomstick. James had planned on being the best seeker Gryffindor had seen since Dad…
The family had tried everything in the months following her lack of a first-year letter–all sorts of magicologists, power-finding therapy, medications–but about three weeks ago they’d finally been told by the doctors and mediwitches that James was simply not a witch. That night James chucked her broomstick into the lake, and then immediately regretted doing so, and had tried swimming out to get it. She nearly drowned, and came even nearer to freezing to death. Since then she’d been steadily getting better, and coming to terms with her fate, but Mum had been acting a bit strangely and now any mention of magic in this house seemed less welcome than it was on Privet Drive, she was sure. She finished her pumpkin juice momentarily,
“I think I’ll be off now,” she said. Harry nodded and they both stood and walked inside the house. Missy bid goodnight to her mother, as Harry put Ella to bed in her crib. He opened the porch door a few minutes later as Missy was pulling on her shoes on the front steps.
“Are you too old to have your dad escort you back to the castle?”
Missy flashed him a grin, “Nope–not yet.”
Harry returned from his escorting duties to find James sitting on the hammock that night in the porchlight. She saw him, and she hesitated, but then patted the space beside her. He climbed in and she settled on his chest, taking momentary comfort from the great hollow feeling in her chest that had been her constant companion for weeks now.
“Maybe this is the way it was supposed to be,” he ventured after several minutes. She began to cry silently, and Harry felt pain unlike anything he had ever experienced in his life before fatherhood. He was at a loss of what to do. Tantrums and fits hadn’t been uncommon in the brood of children who were half Ginny Weasley, half Harry Potter–but this was more despondent than anything he’d ever seen in one of his children. “Maybe–“ he cast about his mind for something---anything he might say that could make her not hurt so badly. In a flash of inspiration he recalled something Ginny had once expressed to him as a doubt of her capabilities as a mother.
"Do you remember how you used to wonder about the things? You used to ask Mum about the moon? or why leaves turned red and yellow every year instead of blue and purple? or why bananas were so predictable?”
James nodded against him.
“And you remember how Mum could never tell you for sure exactly–and she’d send you to me. Except that I never knew either.”
James sat up and looked at him, wondering where this was going.
“Maybe you were meant to be in a world where–“ he choked, “Where there are answers to those kinds of things.”
James mulled this over for a few seconds, desperately sucking the marrow of hope from it, but finding that it did little to sustain her. Knowing what sort of rock the moon was made of seemed like an awfully small trade off when weighed against the loneliness as she thought about the life now stretching out ahead of her.
“It’s not magic,” she said softly, looking balefully up at him.
He frowned slightly, “You don’t think so?”
She shook her head.
“You don’t think that great hunks of metal with seating for four moving around without being pulled or pushed is magic?”
She gazed out at the grounds, “It’s just ectricity.”
“So? Who says that isn’t magic?”
He had her attention.
“Maybe muggles can’t just–make things happen like wizards can, but they’ve done things we could never do in a million years.”
She gave him a look asking him if he was sure that wasn’t an exaggeration.
“Come on---muggles know why the planets orbit the sun, and how long the earth has been around–they know exactly what everything in the world is made up of, and why balloons get smaller when you take them out in the cold.”
Even through her despair–her curiosity was beginning to awaken.
“Muggles have cut river ways through continents, taken pictures of the entire world at once. James–muggles have walked on the moon.”
There was a long silence as Harry waited, and gave the words some time. But soon a rather amusing thought occurred to him and he spoke,
“So someday---you’ll be up there in the stars, looking down at the tiny little world, and you’ll see me and Mum---sitting here on the front porch–turning water goblets into parakeets and back again.”
James went to bed that night feeling as though she had finally grabbed some semblence of a hold on the good things that muggle life had to offer, and the possibilites were so numerous that she was able to ignore the fact that it wasn't being Muggle that hurt---so much as not being a witch.
Three Weeks Later…
“Alright then,” said Hermione, taking the armful of clothes from James, separating the items that worked from the ones that didn’t, “Do you think your mum will find this adequate?”
James nodded, wide-eyed. Hermione agreed, setting the misfits on the rack,
“Yes–let’s see here, you’ve got plenty of clothes for summer–“ she rifled through the bag of things they’d already purchased at other stores as they exited the changing rooms and headed towards the front of the store to pay for the blouse and undershirt in James’s arms, “about a million pairs of jeans and corduroys for fall–one skirt–in the event that hell freezes over and you actually consent to wear it outside the changing room…”
James laughed, as Hermione smiled and continued, “About a billion shirts of every variety, and one adorable denim jacket.“
She pulled it out of the bag and gazed at it wistfully,
“Hide this when you’re not wearing it,” she advised, “Or Ginny will steal it.”
But something had caught James’s eye–a red dress that was far too revealing for a twelve-year-old, but beautiful and irresistibly appealing nonetheless. Hermione followed her gaze, and leaned her head conspiratorially in James’s direction.
“Are you looking at the dresses?”
James suddenly noticed that there were dozens of them hanging around the red one–every one at least as gorgeous as the others. She turned to look at Hermione,
“I hate dresses.” She said resolutely.
“So do I.” said Hermione stoutly, before a grin flickered on her face, “What do you say we try them on?”
“I call the red one,” mumbled James, as they took off at a near run towards the racks.
“Change quickly!” called Hermione from the next stall, “This song they’re playing–I want to dance to it!”
James listened as the first bars floated in from the speaker overhead–she didn’t know the first thing about muggle music, but there was something about the song–something about the way the melody seemed to climb gradually in intensity, or seemed to tighten some sort of coil inside her, but it really did make her want to dance–and she wasn’t normally the dancing type.
She hurried and pulled the dress over her head as Hermione began humming along, sounding familiar with it but horribly out of practice. James pulled open the door to find Hermione waiting for her, tapping her foot as she shimmied slowly back and forth, shaking her head and singing,
“–you believe in magic–‘nin a young girl’s heart–da nuh music can dyah dah–‘ennever it starts–and it’s magic–“
She ran out of breath as they began moving around the changing rooms, which were empty except for themselves and the thousands of reflections that echoed their images to infinity in the body length mirrors that adorned every available wall space,
“–mmovie–tell you nuh nuh magic nana free your soul but it’s like tryin’ to tell a stranger ‘bout a rock and ro-oo-oll ...if you believe in magic–“
Hermione bumbled out the words, closing her eyes as nostalgia seemed to strum the wilder reaches of her soul. James herself was overcome with a strange new feeling–a healthy flood of purely happy feelings seemed to be multiplying in a place somewhere just below her ribcage. She laughed–just because it better expressed the bubbling, gurgling gladness seizing her middle than any kind of grin “...that won’t wipe off your face, no matter how hard you try–“
Hermione approached her in her dance, holding out her hands as she sang under her breath,
“–feet start tappin’n’ you can’t seem to find, how got–so just blow your mii-ind...”
A twang sounded in the absence of words, and James made up her mind that someday she wanted to find out exactly why it thrilled her so deeply without being actually magical. Hermione took her hand and they began dancing together, and this time when she felt that refrain approaching she was ready: as Hermione twirled her under her arm they chorused, “–f you believe in maagic...”
Hermione pulled her back again and they rocked back and forth, listening to the man as he told them, “Come along with me–we’ll dance until morning, ‘illeres just you and me and maaybe, if the music is right, I’ll reach tomorrow so buh-lay’d at night–and we’ll go dancing baby then you will see–how the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me-ee–yeah–if you believe in magic...”
The day of the picnic dawned bright and clear, a simple fact that did much to ease Miss Potter’s frantic tension to have everything ready. She kept running over the checklist in her head as she helped direct the setup committee... it was shocking how useless some people were without magic...
Needless to say she was more prone to thinking uncharitably of her peers in this heightened state of neurotic tension. More than once Patrick had to make her sit down and drink a glass of water,
“You know,” he said, “Before you hurt yourself.”
But she needn’t have worried, because by the time the picnic was underway and James was expected to arrive, everything was running smoothly.
“Well done Miss Potter!” squeaked Professor Flitwick, who was wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and a pair of what she felt sure were very large boxer shorts, but she bit her lip and acknowledged him politely,
“I must say—I was a bit skeptical at how you would manage to pull this off, but you’ve come through wonderfully!”
She smiled, not sure how to feel about that.
“Oh!” he said, pointing at a mannequin being set up behind her, “Is that a muggle bathing suit, dearie?”
Miss nodded nervously at the highly scanty article–that was ridiculous for a school event–whoever was on the Swimsuit Committee would be getting an earful when this was over...
“I understand there’s going to be a contest?” he continued, still enthusiastically. Miss nodded again.
“—And I hear that Madam Pomfrey will be competing!”
She almost swallowed her own tongue... she definitely had not heard that.
“Oh I hope so! Heavens knows I’d sure like to see Poppy in that outfit, wouldn’t you?”
And with that he tottered away, laughing madly. Missy merely stood, dumbstruck for a moment, before Patrick came up behind her,
“Kind of puts that whole ‘the paperweights should look professional’ thing into perspective now, doesn’t it?”
She laughed, and reached our to smacked him on the shoulder, but he caught her arm,
“Anyway,” he said, sounding very relaxed, “I just came over to tell you that James is here–and she’s crying tears of joy and–“
“What?!” yelped Missy, snapping back into her scrunchy mode, “She’s here?!”
And she tore off to find out what she had missed, while Patrick smiled after her, enjoying the mad way she flitted around the place making sure everything looked perfect while ignoring the way she looked. As if she had received a wire containing his thoughts, she tore back in his direction,
“Lordisa!” she cried, “I completely forgot to change, come on Pat!”
She grabbed his arm and they ran up to the castle, as Pat’s id made bets with his conscience as to how long it would take her before she realized that there wasn't a whole lot he'd be able to do to help with this particular task...
Ginny grew gladder as the afternoon wore on. She had greatly enjoyed the swimsuit contest, in which the contestants seemed to merely be competing for who could cover the bare essentials with the least amount of material, as well as Jeremy Wood’s clever idea for the first prize–a polar plunge into the lake in front of everyone. Sort of wished you’d worn more material now, don’t you?
Turnout for the event was high, the quality of Ron’s grilling abilities was higher than expected, and she hadn’t seen James so happy in what seemed like forever.
“–The most amazing thing though,” the girl said, talking to a group of eager first years about her visit to muggle London, “Was this giant store–it had entire houses in it! It was called...Ikea!”
She said the word with almost uncharacteristic relish, and her audience oohed and aahed in amazement.
“—Life changing!” declared a little boy who looked much like his father–a certain former Gryffindor by the name of Oliver Wood.
“It was. They had this wicked bed that could turn into a couch... without magic!”
The boys and girls gasped again,
“It was called a fondue–I’ve asked for one for Christmas.”
Hermione laughed a little from the other end of their picnic table, “That’s a futon, James.”
James shrugged with a smile, “Futon, fondue, what’s the difference?”
At that moment Ginny spied Harry across the way, bending down and talking to two little girls they didn’t know yet. Children did seem to take a liking to him immediately, she mused. He stood up and led them over to James’s table,
“Hey James,” he said. James turned around, “This is Andrea, and Amanda Macmillan–Andrea will be starting at Hogwarts next year, and she and Amanda here wanted to ask you a question about your trip.”
James looked genuinely delighted.
“Um... well, we wanted to ask you...” said the older one, “If...”
“When you were in London,” the other one added, while Harry faded away, and made his way over to Ginny, who was still watching the scene with rapt attention,
“We wanted to ask you... “
“If you met the queen.”
James bit her lip, “No." and then brightened, "But my Aunt Hermione brought me to a bar and I did see this guy crush a metal can on his head.”
“Whoa!” the entire group burst.
“I’d take that over the queen any day!”
Harry and Ginny laughed to themselves, while Hermione was frantically trying to explain herself to them,
“We were asking for directions–“ she hissed, “We weren’t there for more than a minute...”
Ginny and Harry merely laughed harder, as Harry dragged Ginny over to the dance area. As they swayed gently to the slow, nameless rock ballad, Harry felt Ginny take a shuddering breath against him.
“Are you alright Ginny?” he asked, in a tone that begged no pleasantries.
“I’m fine.” replied Ginny–not falsely cheerful, but not quite honest, either.
“I’m worried about you,” he sad unnecessarily, “You don’t seem fine.”
Ginny sighed, “And I don’t want to seem not fine–“
“Come on, Ginny,” he pleaded, “What’s wrong?”
“I just–“ she paused open-mouthed, “It just hurts me so–to see her in pain, and not be able to help her! It’s the most awful, discouraging, disheartening, distressing–feeling in the world!””
Harry was silent, understanding at least in part what she was trying to say.
“What do you mean ‘you can’t help her’?” he asked.
“I mean I’m completely useless!”
“You’re not useless.”
But Ginny didn’t acknowledge that,
“–All I do is sit around, being clueless, with my stupid pureblood...”
Harry began to understand.
“Come on,” he said, “You know loads about Muggles–you’re Arthur Weasley’s daughter for merlin’s sake!”
Ginny pulled away a bit to look at his face,
“Harry–“ she said, and he couldn’t tell if it was a question or not, “I know about enough to raise James to be a culturally oblivious, severely confused toaster mechanic.”
Laughter had never been inappropriate between them, so they smiled a little, before Harry grew serious again.
“There’s more to what James has to do know than learn about Muggles,” he said.
“I know.” sighed Ginny, hugging him closer again, but it wasn’t until much later in the evening that she began to understand what she had to do.
Ginny, James, and Gus walked home through the dewy night as the last of the guests and family members departed and Harry stayed behind to help Missy and Rona clean up.
“Are you alright?” Ginny asked James, who was looking a little dewy herself.
“I’m fine.” said James, in exactly the way Ginny had said those words on the dance floor, “The party was wonderful.”
“Do you feel better about being a Squib now?” asked Ginny bravely.
“Mhm,” she said weakly, and then added with a hearty smile, “It’ll be great. I mean–seven billion muggles can’t be wrong, yeah?”
Ginny nodded, and continued watching her daughter thoughtfully.
“I just–“ she started, as her eyes brimmed over and her voice hitched, “I just really wanted to be magical...”
A single tear fell from her eye, but she didn’t acknowledge it, and blinked the rest of them away. Ginny wanted badly to give her a giant hug at that moment, but she was carrying Ella, and Ginny’s own arms were full of a sleeping Ally. They walked on in silence, and beneath the sagging lack of tension that ever-clever little Ginny Weasley---now Potter, was making a plan...
“James–“ whispered Ginny, creaking her door open in the middle of the night in pitch darkness, careful not to wake Ruby.
James groggily rubbed her eyes, “Whassamnt?”
“Come on–put your shoes on, I have something I want to show you.”
Within minutes James, whose curiosity had been piqued, was downstairs in the kitchen, holding a basket while her mother loaded it with various assortments of sugar and spices, apples and pears and onions... At which point she was too tired to be very confused, and thought insipidly,
Meh... I've seen odder.
She and her mother then put their cloaks and shoes on, and headed out into the fairly chilly night. James had expected a walk around the lake, and so she was surprised when Ginny instead led her deeper into the forest. She didn't know how long or how far they walked, but her toes were growing numb when she spied a pool of water reflecting the moonlight through the trees. As they neared the side of the pool, Ginny began to hum a song that was familiar to her somehow.
They stopped at the water's edge, and Ginny continued to sing, louder and clearer, in words that weren't English as she pulled a variety of sweet smelling spices and sugars from the bag and scattered them to the winds, where they sparkled in the air around them like faery dust. She handed James an apple she had cleaved in two, and told her to wait patiently a moment. It was several minutes of this waiting--in silence save for the song and the wind through the pine trees.
And then there was the gentle sound of something moving in the trees, and before she could consider being afraid a unicorn emerged, his pure whiteness taking on a otherworldy blue glow in the moonlight.
"Hold out the apple to her, James."
James hesitated, and felt Ginny come up behind her and guide her hand out in the perfect position. The unicorn stepped slowly but surely towards her, while her own blood raced faster with each passings second. The warmth of his breath on her palm and the way it tickled sent powerful chills up and down her body that had nothing to do with the cold. More unicorns were now appearing in James's peripheral vision, but her gaze was transfixed on the power and majesty of innocence before her.
When the apple half was gone the unicorn whinnied in contenment, and licked her hand for good measure. The tongue was soft and silky and warm---slick, and yet not quite wet, because her hand stayed warm long after the beast departed and another began approaching them.
Her mother's voice, the sweetest sound in the world just then, whispered in her ear,
"This is real magic, James," she said, "There are no wands involved at all---just good intentions and believing. You'll always be magical to me."
Her words left no echo, but were absorbed by the firs and the pines, and the moment was kept there forever in the greatest kind of magic, while the rest of forever bided its time.
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