The following participants have been eliminated for not turning in their drabbles on time:
my_quorum (dropped out)
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Warnings: None, adult themes
Word Count: 287
Through the camera lens, Ginny watches while Freddy blows out his two candles. It’s a difficult feat for so little a boy, and the cold February wind doesn’t help. Angelina stands smiling in the background while George almost shouts his encouragement; they hold hands behind their son’s head.
Later, Mrs Potter and her brother watch while little Fred runs around with Victoire, the two of them lost in memories. After the silence has gone on for a while, she asks a question across the open air.
“What’re you thinking about?”
He smiles a little sadly. “Fred.”
She looks across at the over excited toddler. “He’s beautiful, George.”
“Oh.” George looks disoriented for a moment. “Not that Fred.”
For a while Ginny doesn’t know what to say, and the first thing that she thinks of is horribly inane. “He looks like you.”
A little laugh escapes her brother’s lips, and if she’s not mistaken it’s slightly bitter. “And I look exactly like Fred did.”
“Listen Ginny, I’ve always thought you had your suspicions.”
She wants to say she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but she does. She thinks back to George and Angelina’s wedding, the December frost thick on the ground and Angelina’s swollen belly. Months aren’t too hard to count…
“Yeah, I have.”
Her brother says nothing.
“Did Fred know?”
Tears fall from his eyes. “Yeah, he did. He always said he’d propose when the war was over.”
“But you did it for him.”
George breathes deeply, shuts his eyes and wipes them. “It is what it is, Gin. It works.”
She thinks she can’t understand, but as she watches the little boy so happy, she realises that maybe she can. “Yeah George, it does.”
Title: A Lucky Man
Warnings: Technically, I suppose it's sort of dub-con.
Word Count: 498
He has little basis for comparison, never having known the sting of misfortune firsthand; still, he believes himself extraordinarily lucky. He's lucky to have found a flat so reasonably priced, two poky rooms over a pub, all full of sunlight and the sultry smell of day-old smoke. He's lucky to have no place special to be, and lucky that the fistful of money from his father's safe has lasted so long. Mostly he is lucky to have her: a prize rare and luminescent as pearls. She is like some delicate flame, and everything around her seems to glow. In her blessed presence, nothing is as it was. Even the water he takes from the clay jug on the sideboard seems to have a strange, faint sweetness. It tastes, to him, like the salt of her skin.
He had not believed himself capable, in the time before, of loving anything so well. Her face hangs behind his eyes, like the moon. At night he tangles his fingers into her hair, which is soft, and no particular color. He rests the flat of his hand on her stomach, in the place where it is just beginning to swell. She believes the child will be a boy; she would like to name it for him. He himself isn't bothered what they call it. He can make himself think of nothing but her.
Of course he fails her, being unworthy. It pains him that she does not seem to notice: he would like to be punished, to atone, but she seems incapable of anger. Or perhaps not: there is a morning he steps in water, spreading like sorrow over the floor of the dingy kitchenette. The jug has been smashed, while he slept, into a shrapnel jagged and almost white. He thinks of foxes, which he used to hunt, the splintering of bones after the hounds were through with them.
All that day he feels out-of-sorts: it is like struggling from sleep, and in the end he goes to bed early. She is beside him when he wakes, a mound of flesh in the brighter pallor of moonlight, and he understands something is terribly wrong.
"Merope," he begins to say, and then understands that he doesn't want to wake her. He doesn't want to see her face. He recalls all in a moment, like a great lungful of air, what she is. What he is, or was. He thinks of the thing slouching towards life inside her-- his child, theirs-- "Taken in!" he hisses, maybe only to himself.
Tom does not feel guilty, as he packs his valise. He thinks how he is ill-used, and clean of blame. The love he felt clings still to the inside of his skin: only as ugly, now, as love always is. He can feel it, when he moves: the terrible heft of dead weight.
Title: Desired Constellation (Summer of 1974)
Word Count: 499
Regulus knows what comes undone can’t help but slip away indefinitely. He watches his family ties unravel, unfurling and shaking themselves out with a lazy ease that recalls the way his brother shakes out his hair.
The sunlight framed in the window flickers under the expanse of large, pulsing wings, and Mother languidly takes three letters from the owl, her spindly fingers twining around a bone-white envelope like a spider draining its prey; for just a moment, her eyes come alive with what she's absorbed, only to be snuffed back into twisting grey when the owl beats his wings to depart. She bows her head, speaking low with Father about whether there's a way to revoke Sirius’ permission to Hogsmead, though Sirius is still her son, and she seems not displeased to hear from him.
When Regulus' name leaves her lips, she hands him a similarly-addressed envelope that makes revulsion claw up his throat, curling his mouth like it’s soft dough.
“You won’t read what your brother has to say?” Mother asks, and Regulus drops it lazily near his toast, scowling darkly at bright pools of yellow on his plate as he asks to be excused. He knows how that letter will read, knows Sirius hasn’t thought anything pleasant about them all summer.
Regulus touches the banister on his way up the stairs, letting the memories etched into the wood soak through his fingertips – Sirius clutching the railing, and him clutching Sirius to keep from falling as Sirius laughed close to his face, and it was more like barking when Sirius told him he wouldn't let him fall, not ever, right before they both tumbled down the stairs.
The dark wood of his desk is cold when he leans his forehead against it, though not so cold as looking into Sirius' eyes before they’d exited the Hogwarts Express. Regulus'd seen leafy distances flitter by, greens the shades of curses woven into the silver of Sirius' eyes where his face was reflected, framed by the colours that shadow his brother's abhorrence. “I hate the lot of them,” Sirius’d said, getting too close, so for a moment Regulus saw nothing but black hair and sharp edges that could have belonged to Mother. “And if you keep going down that way, Reg, I’ll hate you too. You tell them I’m not writing.”
Regulus wrenches a drawer open, smoothing the arc of his back like he’s ironing cotton.
The sunlight meanders in like spun gold, twisting and hanging from the windows, and Regulus wants to grab on but needs to grab something solid. He can't let Sirius fall either.
He takes out a quill and parchment, reminding himself to fold out the words like lines stamped onto a face by careless laughter and not to let the ink-lined tip linger. Regulus lets the quill run over the parchment, tracing turns that are becoming more familiar, tracing lies that make him sick, as he writes another letter:
Dearest Mother; With Love, Sirius.
Title: The Trail
Warnings: AU Char Death
Word Count: 445 words
I have been in many wars. Too many, one could say. The battles I have been in stretch behind me, a winding trail of stale blood and splintered glass that follows no logical path but is, nonetheless, a depiction of my past.
Somewhere along that path, the blood became a little thinner on the ground. Not that there was any less of it - the number of people killed never lessens, the slaughter never ceases - but it was weaker. Watery. The blood a mere stride behind me was so faint as to be a dawn-pale pink. Along the trail the blood had slowly become diluted as I had learned the true value of life in war. I had realised how much every death should cost me.
At Hogwarts, fighting for Harry as I once fought for James, I have finally learned that it does not matter who dies. They will inevitably end up being people that I love. I have learned that in war, the value of life is naught, and so each death should cost me the same. Death is absolute and unavoidable - but life is evolving, changing and controllable. It is not the death that matters, but the life that preceded it.
I have also learned that there are many ways in which one can die. Death can be quick, slow, sharp, painless. It can be an accident, an illness or at the hand of an enemy. Death may be beyond our control, but the way we reach it is not. And sometimes, the way we reach it can mean everything in the world. While I have learned not to pay for the deaths of those around me, every painful or terrible last moment slashes through my veins, keeping the trail going.
I look at my wife, pink hair almost glowing, and know that she will not survive this battle. She will not live to see our son again. That, I know, is beyond my control. But her life is not. Is it not infinitesimally worse to die tortured by an enemy than quickly and painlessly in the arms of your lover? Is it not a far more fitting, meaningful, better, to pass on in that manner?
‘Nymphadora,’ I call, and my wife turns around, her face set into hard, focused lines.
‘I love you.’
I pull her to my chest, and as I see Dolohov appear at the very end of the hallway, I point my wand at the back of her head and whisper, ‘Avada Kedavra.’
I take another step on the trail, and behind me shines a puddle of water, not a speck of blood in sight.
Title: The Usual Suspect
Warnings: Nothing too major--it'll give away the surprise if I say!
Word Count: 498.
Nobody was quite sure where the fireworks came from at first.
They seemed to appear out of thin air, going off sporadically during classes, dinner, in the Slytherin dormitories, at one in the morning—it never seemed to end. The entire student body was lectured at least ten times the first week, and when no one came forward, teachers started calling all the usual suspects in for questioning and randomly taking away house points, depending on what group of students had been spotted nearest the source of the rogue fireworks.
This led to no answers, an increase in fireworks, and, strangely, all the house point hourglasses being emptied of their jewels and filled with chocolate pudding.
Minerva McGonagall was the first one to suspect that perhaps this was not the work of a hapless student.
She found Nearly Headless Nick the third time a round of firecrackers woke her up in the middle of the night, following a nasty hunch. Gryffindor House’s ghost was drifting along outside the library when Minerva, clad in her favorite tartan robe, marched up to him.
“Where is he, Nick?” she barked. Nearly Headless Nick surveyed her warily, eyes darting nervously.
“I wanted to tell you, Headmistress!” Nick said hastily. “I did! But the Bloody Baron said it was no business of ours to meddle…I tried reasoning with the boy, but it’s no use. He makes Peeves look like a timid, unsuspecting Hufflepuff first year!” Minerva sighed heavily, rubbing her temples.
“I’ll repeat, Nick: where is he?”
Minerva found him on the third floor, floating aimlessly along the corridor. He turned when he heard her footsteps, and his hair was just as fiery red as it had been in life.
“Hullo, Professor,” he said, grinning as irreverently as always. “I wondered when you’d figure it out.”
“Mr. Weasley.” Minerva rubbed her temples again. “Why…?”
“Long story short,” Fred Weasley said lightly, “I like it better here. Got to make sure no cheeky little git out-pranks good old George and me.” Minerva didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“I just have two questions,” she said after a moment. “One: where did you get the fireworks?”
“We stashed a big supply of them in one of the abandoned secret passages.” Fred chuckled reminiscently. “We’re bloody lucky nothing set them off before now.”
”Quite,” Minerva agreed dryly. “Now, two: when are you planning to stop driving us all barmy?”
”Never,” Fred replied, his smile widening. “That’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?” Minerva rolled her eyes despairingly.
“See that you stop waking me at three in the morning, at least,” she said, turning to leave. “Good night, Mr. Weasley.”
“G’night, Professor!” Fred called after her. “Don’t worry. I’m planning to use up the rest of the fireworks tomorrow in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. I’ve been saving these ones for last—they’re waterproof, you know.”
Despite herself, Minerva McGonagall chuckled fondly, heart aching a little less, and left Fred Weasley to do what he did best.
Title: The One That Remains
Word Count: 329
He stood stoically watching the train pull from the station, all around him parents and assorted family members walked away. Some of them were crying as they realised they wouldn't see their children for months, and some seemed almost happy that they were finally free.
Harry wasn't sure what he felt, he knew that he was going to have fun at Hogwarts, almost as much as he had had all those years ago. It was a strange feeling, he didn't want him to stay, he wanted him to learn, and make friends. He just didn't want him gone though, he wanted him close by to remind him of what he once had. To hold on to the people that he had loved, and lost.
He heard them shuffling around behind him, he turned towards them.
They smiled at him, "It's not like you'll never see him again, before you know it it'll be Christmas."
Harry sighed, glancing into the distance at the locomotive, "I know. Doesn't mean I won't miss him."
"It'll do him good," they started to pull him away from the tracks. "He needs to make friends that aren't seventeen years older than him, you know that."
"I do," he muttered, stepping through the barrier with him.
"Then," Draco smiled, pulling the hat down over his hair to keep him unrecognisable. "Let Teddy go, you need to start living properly, not hanging onto the past through his son. They are gone, and he's not them."
Harry scowled, "I know that."
"Do you? I think you forget sometimes," Draco said, starting through the Muggle crowd.
Harry stood still as he walked away, the feeling in his heart heavy. He knew he was hardly the best company at times, but there were two good things in his life; and with one now motoring a thousand miles away, it was time to focus on the one that remained.
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