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Challenge fic for mafdet - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenge fic for mafdet
Ted Tonks, average Muggle-born, gets his Hogwarts letter. If I recall correctly, Muggle-borns have someone come along with the letter, which strikes me as a good idea if they don't want it tossed in the nearest bin.

Start 4:45

"Oh, yeah I... tell you something... I think you'll understand...," Ted Tonks sang to the grungy stray cat he'd named Dodger. "When I... say that something... I wanna hold your HAND!"

He grabbed Dodger's front paws and danced them around, twitching them around to the beat of the song in his head. He was only two fortunes away from being able to buy a whole album, and he had the whole summer ahead of him to set up shop on the back stairs. He might be able to buy two albums, if he was right enough to keep people coming back.

Dodger bobbed his head to the rhythm (or maybe it was just a coincidence, since the song wasn't actually playing), and Ted smiled. Dodger smiled back and purred. Mum said he was filthy and covered with fleas, but she let Ted bring him inside and feed him, and last week, she'd even taken some of her pin money and bought a special wash to kill the fleas. They'd both got pretty scratched up trying to give him a bath, but Dodger seemed to understand that they'd meant well, and he'd kept coming back.

"Oi, Teddy!"

Ted looked up. Gracie Baker and her two girlfriends were coming across the car park, wearing short skirts and boots that came up to their knees. Gracie had her hair puffed up somehow so it looked like someone drawing a cartoon of hair, and it was tied back with a wide blue sort of thing. Her friends were giggling about something.

"Wotcher, Gracie," he said, waving.

They came to the base of the stairs. "Are you still telling fortunes?" she asked.

Ted shrugged, and pulled out the bright colored scarf that Mum had given him for this. He tied it around his head. "What can I See for you today?" he asked in his best spooky voice.

The friends giggled again.

Gracie elbowed one of them. "He's really good. He was the one who told me not to go out with Frank Forrest, and you saw what happened when Mabel did." She shook her head. "Teddy knows what he's doing."

Ted grinned, but didn't say anything. He hadn't needed to See a thing about Frank Forrest. Everyone knew he kissed a lot of girls, even when he was supposed to be going steady with one of them.

"Anyway," Gracie said, "These are Nan and Vicki. They'd like to have their fortunes told."

"Sure. I'm taking it up to a shilling this summer. Things to buy, you know."

The girls conferred about this, then happily came up the stairs, opening their handbags as they came. Nan had pretty blond hair down to the middle of her back, so straight that Ted supposed she ironed it. She squatted down, trying to find a comfortable place to sit, and Ted looked away, because her skirt was so short he could see her pants every time she moved.

Finally, she settled, and put her handbag in her lap to block the bottom of her skirt. She handed Ted a shilling. "What do I need to do?"

Ted reached back and got a frying pan that Mum had lent him--there were no handy puddles today--and told her to pour in water from the pitcher by the door. ("Like this?" she asked, like it was a complicated thing to do.) He bent over the panful of water when she finished. "Is there anything you want to know?"

The girls giggled again, and Nan turned bright red. "Does Kit Sparks fancy me?"

Ted stared into his reflection in the water and watched himself roll his eyes. Why did girls always ask him that? Why didn't they ever just ask the boys they fancied?

Still, she was paying.

He didn't know Kit Sparks, so he couldn't figure it out from anything anyone said. If he didn't See anything in the water, he'd have to give her shilling back, unless she asked him something else that he could--

Something moved at the bottom of the black pan, a flash of white light.

He leaned forward.

"What is it?" Nan said, but her voice was echoey and distant.

The light came again, a beam... no, a cone. Two cones.

Headlights, Ted thought just before the vision opened up and he saw a road and trees and a car barreling down it at night, headlights swinging here and there, and Nan was in that car, crying in the front seat, while a scowling boy with arrogant good looks kept driving faster, faster, and then there was a tree and...

Someone pulled him backward. He looked up to find Gracie frowning down at him. "Did you have a fit or something?" she asked.

Ted shook his head. "This Kit bloke," he said to Nan, "is he sort of tall, with brown hair, bit curly?"

Nan nodded, awed.

"And he plays..." Ted tried to remember the vision, the flash of white beneath Kit's face. "...tennis? Somewhere rich where he has to wear white?"

"Yes. At the club."

Ted sighed and gave her shilling back. She'd ask for it anyway. They always did if he Saw something bad. "He doesn't think much of you. He'll take you out and all, but only because he thinks you're..." Ted looked away. "Er, not, erm, nice."

"How dare--"

"And he'll be angry with you, and there's an accident and--"

"I'm leaving," Nan declared, standing up and dusting herself off. "He's making it up to scare us."

"I don't think so," Gracie said. "I know Teddy, and he doesn't lie."

Nan looked at her sourly. "I'm going. Come with me or not."

She stormed down the stairs, Vicki immiediately in her wake. Gracie bit her lip, muttered, "Sorry, Teddy," and went after them.

Ted pulled the scarf off of his head, feeling guilty and wishing he'd just made something up, or not Seen anything and just given her money back. That happened a lot. Most times, even. Dodger came over and sat beside him, nudging up against his ribs and asking for a bit of a scratch.

After awhile, the mood started to lift, and he decided to bring his things in. Mum would be home from her shift at the restaurant soon, and he could have dinner ready for them both so she wouldn't have to stand by the stove after walking all that time. She'd go out again later--she sold ladies' things, make-up and so on, door to door, so she could send Ted to a better school next year--and Ted figured it would be good for her to have her feet up for awhile. She always seemed so tired.

He bent to the frying pan, meaning to simply tip it over, but he couldn't. There was still something to see in the water. He stared at it, willing himself to see something moving, anything more cheerful than an accident. Somewhere in the car park, something made a popping sound.

Something flashed on the surface of the water. A swirl of tartan, like--

He looked up.

It wasn't a vision, but a reflection.

A lady was standing beside him. She was wearing heavy clothes, even though it was hot, and bit of a pointed hat. Square glasses perched on her bony nose, and her black hair was drawn back into a bun. "It's time to put that away," she said, before even saying hello. Then she pulled a wooden stick out from the sleeve of her blouse, pointed it at the frying pan, and said, "Evanesco."

The pan and the water disappeared.

Ted looked at the woman's face. She was smiling faintly, though it did nothing to make her less severe. "Perhaps we can talk, Mr. Tonks?" she said. "With your mother as well."

"Mum's not home yet," he said, but Mum made a liar out of him by choosing that exact moment to open the door and call out, "I'm home! Are you out back again?"

The magical lady raised her eyebrows. "She took a moment longer than we'd expected to get home."

"Traffic," Ted said vaguely. "The tube was probably crowded."

"Ted?" Mum called.

"I'm out back," he called back to her. "There's... er... someone here to see us."

The screen door opened with its usual scream, and Mum stood there in her bright-colored restaurant uniform, frowning at the new arrival. "Who are you?" she asked.

The lady in tartan extended her hand. "Minerva McGonagall," she said. "I've come about your son."

"What about him?" Mum asked, stepping between them protectively.

Minerva McGonagall pursed her lips, looking impatient. "He has a talent. I've come from a school that will help him develop it."

Mum balled her hands into fists, and planted them firmly on her hips.

"She made the frying pan disappear, Mum," Ted said. "Just pointed a stick at it and, whoosh. It's gone."

Mum didn't say anything at all, but her head was cocked to one side, like she was listening for something. "It's about what he sees, isn't it? The dreams and the things in the water."

McGonagall nodded. "Perhaps we'd best go inside."

For a minute, Ted thought Mum might throw her out anyway, but she didn't. The three of them went into the flat, and sat down on the creaky second-hand furniture. Dodger followed brazenly and jumped onto Ted's lap.

McGonagall pulled out the stick again and waved it at the air, and a piece of cream-colored parchment with bright green ink appeared. She handed it to Mum. "You decide whether or not to give it to him," she said.

Mum scowled. "It's addressed to him. I'm not going to keep his own mail from him."

She handed it across, and Ted read it, his mind rather numb. An invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. "Is this a real place?" he asked. "Or is this a joke? Something Gracie's friends made up because they're annoyed with me...?"

"I assure you, it's quite real." McGonagall turned to Mum. "You've noticed that he sometimes Sees things. It's a rare gift. Have you seen anything else?"

"The windows around his bed are loose," Mum said after a minute. "But the rain never leaks in. And no one ever hits him when they throw things at him. And..." She shook her head. "Dozens of things. Nothing like pulling a bit of paper out of thin air, though."

"That takes practice," McGonagall said. "And training. Which is what the school is for."

Mum stood up and crossed the room, crossing her arms over her chest. Ted could tell that she wanted to have a cigarette by the way she was tapping her fingers on her arms. "I think there are more important things for him to learn if he wants to get along in the real world."

"It is a real world, Mrs. Tonks. And one in which your son will have a great deal of opportunity."

Mum reached over and Ted put the letter back in her hand. She read it more carefully. "This is a boarding school," she said.

"Yes, of course."

Mum bit her lip, not saying what Ted knew she was thinking: she had to work sixteen hour days to afford the tuition for St. Matthew's. There was no way they could afford a fancy boarding school, no matter what it was teaching.

"There's help available," McGonagall said, apparently picking up on this.

Mum looked at her with carefully banked shame and anger. "I can take care of my own son. I've no need for help."

"Tuition is waived where there is need of it, and your son needs it."

"And room and board?"

"Is part of tuition."

"I don't want to send Ted away," Mum said tightly. "We only have so many people in this world."

Ted took her hand. "It's all right, Mum."

"It's not all right."

Ted thought about his visions, and about McGonagall making the frying pan vanish, and about the possibility of some other world where all the things he could do would make sense. He wanted it. "Mum... if I went to boarding school, you could take that position in the sales office, instead of selling things door-to-door. You could travel, as they want you to. And I'd be back for holidays."

Mum frowned. "I don't want you gone most of the year. I know nothing about this."

"That's why I'm here," McGonagall said. "To answer your questions."

"I don't even know enough to know what questions I have."

McGonagall pulled out her wand again, and drew several books from the air. "Then why don't we start talking?"

End 6:01. When did I stop being able to limit myself to an hour???


9 comments or Leave a comment
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: October 24th, 2004 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very interesting! So I guess Ted is a Seer?
sreya From: sreya Date: October 24th, 2004 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
End 6:01. When did I stop being able to limit myself to an hour???

You're just out of practice. :~P I wish I could just plop myself down for an hour and start writing like you do!

Loved the bit with the girls asking for their fortunes. Especially Ted's eye-rolling over the "does he like me?" bit. Sad, though, that they wouldn't listen to his warning about the accident.

I really love your idea of Ted Tonks, he's an intriguing character.
isiscolo From: isiscolo Date: October 24th, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, very nice. I liked the tone and Ted as a seer. I'd have ended it, though, at: "I've come about your son." That's really the punchline, here - the rest doesn't really add anything to the vignette.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 24th, 2004 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, but the challenge was sort of to write about his reaction to the letter... everything before it was an extensive prologue.
isiscolo From: isiscolo Date: October 24th, 2004 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, well, never mind then!
mafdet From: mafdet Date: October 24th, 2004 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Squee! Thank you so much! I love your Ted - he's one of my favorite almost-OC's. It's too bad that Ted couldn't deflea Dodger using magic!

I was amused that he was caught doing Divination by none other than Minerva McGonagall. :D
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: October 25th, 2004 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I love it! :~)
From: psalm_27 Date: April 29th, 2005 12:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not suggesting that Professor McGonagall is flea-bitten or anything, but I suspected that Dodger would end up being someone we knew. Of course, one would hope that Ted and Granny Tonks could tell the difference between a boy cat and a girl cat. :-)

This was a great ficlet. I love your insights into any character's past. The bit at the beginning with Ted singing ties in nicely with what you've written about him in other fics. And, naturally, I'll be singing, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" for the rest of the day.
verdenia From: verdenia Date: May 23rd, 2006 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Ted Tonks' Letter

:D [very big grin] This was wonderful! So...viewable. That is, I could really see it. Or See it, lol. Great stuff. Sad about the car crash.
9 comments or Leave a comment