Disclaimer: Still not mine, no profit is being made...
Author's Note: Here's chapter 2! This story moves somewhat slowly, but I'm building momentum :) please, enjoy! thanks!
I sighed, sipped my tea, watching my small daughter wake up, until her eyes were bright and intelligent again, and she climbed off my lap, toddling off to a corner of the kitchen to abuse the cat who hunched there. The animal tolerated the abuse to a point, and then moved out of reach atop the refrigerator, and ignored any of her attempts to coax him down. That he was a black cat, with inscrutable yellow eyes was even funnier—did everything in this cottage have some latent resemblance to its former master?
Emily finally gave up on the cat, who regarded her with tolerant affection from his perch on the fridge, and toddled out into the living room to find a toy. I sat, staring into my tea, willing myself to move and make supper. The snow outside was growing heavier, the sky seemed even closer to the top of the cottage, as if intent on suffocating the world. The cat lifted his amber eyes stared meaningfully at me, so I rose languidly, knowing Emily would soon be hungry.
My back was to the hearth, it being an old fashioned kitchen to still have a hearth, when flames roared in its depths and a woman stepped free of it, shaking soot from her robes and wiping the thin lenses of her spectacles on her front. I didn't even turn, my eyes had sought the clock a few minutes before and had anticipated her arrival.
"The bundle's by the door." I pointed with my spoon, one hand already setting the tea kettle back into place. Emily arrived on the scene, totting the much-abused cat who squirmed away the minute the child released him, in favor of the woman who scooped her up and planted a dry kiss on the child's cheek.
"How are you?"
"Well enough." I answered and turned to look back over my shoulder, my dark hair a wild mass around my face. "And you Minerva?"
"Well enough." She answered and set the squirming child on her feet, "And you, little miss?" The last question was directed at Emily, who was grinning around as if the room was teeming with an audience. She had taken, lately, to pretending we had company nearly all the time. Perhaps it was a sign that we'd spent too much time in this cottage. Emily sputtered a happy,
"Nice, nice." Whether or not that was an answer to the question was not clear, but it hardly mattered. She suddenly sprinted out into the living room, her chubby legs carrying her off to more interesting adventures.
"You really ought to come have dinner at Hogwarts some time. Dumbledore…Dumbledor's portrait has asked after you." Minerva sighed, and I resolutely stirred the pot of rice I was minding with more attention than necessary. There was a long silence, in which Emily could be heard telling a complicated story to one of her toys. Most of the words were unintelligible, but she hardly cared. "Sarah—"
"I know. But I really don't want to." I said quietly, frowning in frustration. "Because I know that if I go see the old man, then I will see him and damnit…I'll have to ask. I'm not sure I want to know."
"No one has to know the truth Sarah, only the two of you. Emily will certainly never know—"
"It doesn't matter. I'll know and that might be enough. I'm afraid of what he'll say."
"You can't avoid the man forever, you know. You live in his house, and—ostensibly—that is his baby that plays in that room. She bears his name, will inherit his lands, money and titles and she'll attend Hogwarts, where his memory will never really settle. She will ask you one day and by god—you had better know the answer. Even if it is a lie." Minerva was adamant today. I sighed heavily, rolled my shoulders as if I could dislodge the unwanted feelings and sighed again. The rice was not in need of my careful attention, but when I glanced back at her, I found that intractable look on her face again and couldn't quite face it.
"What if…what if he…he was such a cruel man." I finished lamely. It was ugly, but true. "A good man, but a cruel man. I don't think I can face that scorn this time—not this time. I prefer my fantasy." It was honest and stupid and I knew it. Minerva laughed, pushing her glasses further up onto her nose with an empathic shove.
"That's not the Sarah I remember, facing the monster down, word for word, wit for wit. He might not have liked you Sarah, but he respected you. That was rare enough in itself. I don't think he'll disrespect you in this, if you have the bravery to ask." There was another silence. "My herbs are ready?" It was broken by the common question and I finally turned and nodded at the neat bundle by the door.
"Freshly picked yesterday. Yellow fickle-root is especially tender, so be careful about bruising it when you unwrap it. It took me hours to gather." I added the last as a further warning, but the Headmistress of Hogwarts didn't really need it. She glanced at me over her glasses, and I had a suddenly painful jerk of loss in my stomach as her expression closely mirrored one of her predecessors at Hogwarts. Dumbledore would have known the answer perhaps—and he was far less acerbic than his junior.
Minerva gathered up the bundle, called a goodbye to Emily—which was answered with a bright shriek-and stepped into the fireplace. Old habits die hard, and some of the anti-apparition wards had yet to be removed, so the only way into the cottage was an hour's walk down an overgrown road, or by Flu. Though I myself had no magic, this mode of transport worked equally well for Muggles. Minerva's nimble fingers scooped up a handful of the magical Flu powder and flung it to the floor of the hearth. Green flames erupted, roaring up around her, the fury of the blaze almost overwhelming her tiny voice as she yelled 'Hogwarts!' and vanished in a puff of smoke. The flames extinguished themselves and there was tinny silence in the kitchen—which was broken a few seconds later by the arrival of Emily on the scene. She'd gotten into the bathroom and made herself a beautiful scarf/shawl/skirt from toilet paper and proudly strutted in, still trailing the roll. I sighed, turned my eyes towards the ceiling and went to extricate my child from the mess.
Bedtime arrived with the slowly inevitability of a cranky child. At seven-thirty I deemed her exhausted and went through the routine of bedtime snack, washing faces, brushing teeth, pajama selection and finally, bedtime stories. These she loved. No child that I had ever seen had as deep an adoration of stories as she. She listened avidly as I read to her, sometimes totally ignoring the pictures, though they moved, like most images in the wizard world. She equally enjoyed the stories I told her of my life, sprucing things up a bit with the odd exaggeration, and dulling the frightening bits with humor.
When she finally slept, I stood and stared down at her for a while, bewildered as to the wonder that was my child. I wondered if ever I would be able to tell her the truth, ever. I doubted it. If anyone ever discovered the truth…
End Note: Thanks for reading, please review :) naja