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Batch 27 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Batch 27
Something with cuddling. for Anon


"Let me get you some tea," Merope said, starting to get up.

Tom pulled her back to bed and kissed her forehead. "I don't want tea. Just stay a bit. How could I want anything but to be with you? I don't need tea to keep warm."

She bit her lip nervously, and her eyes seemed to darken. They turned outward, pushing to their edges like she was trying to see all the world at once. Tom usually found them enticing, and loved to try to catch both of them at the same time. It was sometimes frustrating that he couldn't seem to get her full attention, but mostly, it was part of the fun to try. Now, though, they seemed to be darting nervously.

She's hideous.

Tom blinked. Where had such a thought come from? Merope was a goddess, had always been a goddess. He blinked, and the thought went away.

"Just wait here," she said apologetically. "I really could use something to drink."

He waggled his eyebrows. "Hot work, eh?"

She nodded furtively, extracted her hand from his, and backed out of the room. He could hear her fussing in the kitchen, making tea, as she nearly always did after they'd been together. A bear for tea, was Merope. He hadn't the heart to tell her that she brewed it strangely; there was always a bitter undertaste. On the other hand, he rather thought that she might be using something other than straight tea. He always felt mellow and pleasant after a cup of Merope's tea. He thought he might even be addicted to that bitterness. Given that she was sober as a nun (if, thankfully, unlike a nun in other matters), he suspected that she didn't know something had been added, and he'd decided not to enlighten her. She was always playful after a cup as well.

Yes, but she's hideous, and strange, and all of your mates think you're mad.

Tom frowned in the darkness, trying to recall why he'd thought Merope strange. Something about the house she'd lived in. And there'd been a girl, and horses, and... and hadn't he thought she was nearly monstrous once? Hadn't he...?

The door opened, and the leading edge of the tray came in, followed by Merope. He caught a glimpse of her, and had a moment to think, Dear Lord, she is ugly,, but then the light went out, and he could only hear her light footsteps as she came to bed. "I thought I'd rather stay with you than go turn out the light later," she said softly, then pressed a cup into his hands. "Here, drink your tea."

Tom took a sip, and the odd thoughts began to float away. He drank in silence, the bitter undertaste filling his mind with a strange intoxication. The smell of it always seemed a little different--tonight, it called up memories of riding his horse across the grassy hills, and the scent of smoke from the campfire. He could feel Merope beside him, hear her sipping her own tea. He finished his off and set it on the end table, and took hers away as well (it felt about half full). "Come, my dear," he said. "I want you beside me. Remind me how lucky I am."

There was a whisper of cloth as her nightgown slid off, then she slipped under the covers beside him and cuddled up against his side. She was trembling. "Tell me I'm beautiful," she said.

"You're the most beautiful creature on earth," Tom said, thinking of the sun reflecting on her black hair. He would have to take her riding sometime. Riding, and then camping in the mountains, lying beside her by the fire, making love to her in the starlight. "You're lovelier than the sea and gentler than the breeze."

She sighed, and her trembling didn't cease. "Tell me you love me."

"Of course I love you! I adore you! How could I not? You're amazing."

"And that you need me."

"I need you," he said, kissing the top of her head. "No one else makes me feel like this. I can't go back to life before you."

He felt her nod against his side, then, to his surprise, she choked back a sob.

"What is it?" he asked. "Darling, what's wrong? Have I said something wrong?"

"No," she said. "No, nothing wrong. You say all the right things. Always."

"Then why are you crying?"

She hitched in a shaky breath. "I don't know," she said. "It's everything I wanted. Everything. All those years, it's all I wanted. I suppose I... I just can't believe you're here with me. I worry that you won't always be."

"I could never leave you," Tom said. "I'll always be there. I'd follow you to hell! You're a wonder, Merope, and if either of us should be stunned by luck, it should be me, I--"

"Stop," she said. "Just stop."

"If that's what you want."

"It is," Merope said. "Just... just hold me."

Tom did.

maybe Honoria and Andromeda (with a mention of Rita:)) having a conversation mentioning publication and ethics? for lecharmediscret


Andromeda had never really experienced the whole of Teddy's year. She knew he was close to his handful of friends, but she had never realized in any visceral way that this handful was nearly half the year, at least not until all but one of them appeared in the garden for a post-Hogwarts picnic. (The one holdout, a Muggle-born called Geoffrey Phillips, had been dutifully invited, but no one seemed sorry that he'd opted not to come.)

Donzo McCormack, of course, was a regular, and Corky Atkinson and Maurice Burke had been in and out since third year (Corky often coming to stay for a day or two whilst waiting for a Portkey). Roger Young was always on the periphery of the group, and Tinny Gudgeon had gone out with Frankie Apcarne for so long that Andromeda had forgotten she was actually in Teddy's year. Teddy had gone out with Lizzie Richardson and Laura Chapman, so Andromeda had met both of them briefly during their fourth year. Janey Hunter had been a rather longer run during sixth year, and Andromeda liked her a great deal, for being a Muggle-born Slytherin if nothing else. Most of the others, she hadn't met, but knew their names, as Teddy was as sociable as Dora ever had been, if in a less flamboyant way. Franklin Driscoll, Connie Deverell, Joe Palmer, Brendan Lynch... names she knew, names Teddy mentioned in a reasonably friendly light. She even knew Phillips' name, though he seemed to be the only one Teddy had never found any common ground with.

And then, there was Honoria Higgs.

From the start, she'd been a focus of Teddy's--she'd apparently been cruel about Remus on the first day and had pulled a few tricks with her newspaper during the first year that had been less than an ideal introduction, but Andromeda had got the idea, despite Teddy's protestations to the contrary, that they'd become friends since third year, and her attachment to Corky Atkinson had only cemented it. Now, she seemed to be at any gathering of Teddy's friends, who all--with the exception of Corky--insisted that they hated her, but never barred her from anything, and in fact often invited her inside. Teddy had been shocked when she'd written kindly of him in the Daily Prophet--had, in fact, credited him with being the center of her year and with inspiring her to be a better human being by telling her once that she could be "useful"--but Andromeda hadn't, any more than she'd been shocked when Teddy had written her a glowing recommendation for her apprenticeship at the Prophet, not that she'd really needed it. (Harry'd been shocked, but he'd always taken Teddy's statements more literally than Andromeda had.)

Andromeda made no protestations on the subject. She liked Honoria a great deal, and was quite glad when she offered to help put things together to carry out from the kitchen.

"Are you writing anything new?" Honoria asked, covering up the salad bowl and setting it to shake and twist in mid-air. "I keep hoping to see something on the history of Metamorphmagery from you."

"I don't know about that," Andromeda said. "There's still a lot people don't know. How it's passed, for instance. Obviously, Teddy inherited it from Dora, and there were other cases in my family, but they were all isolated. Why did Dora's pass when the others didn't?"

"Probably there were some in Teddy's father's family, too," Honoria suggested. "Have you done any research on the Lupins?"

"Other than a penchant for marrying Muggle-borns, I haven't found anything."

"Maybe the lycanthropy was involved. It is shapeshifting."

"Maybe so, but we don't know. I'm not going to set a lot of little girls off looking for werewolves just because they're hoping for a cute baby who can make his hair blue."

Honoria shrugged, unconcerned. "Rita says that all news stories have consequences, and we shouldn't worry ourselves about them, as long as we're telling the truth."

"The truth. That's a curious concept from Rita."

Honoria looked at her sharply. "Rita's my godmother."

"So sorry. But you know you've surpassed her as a journalist. Her books are somewhat questionable as well--a lot of speculation that's not identified as speculation."

"As everyone knows it's speculation, I can't see why she'd need to mention it. She writes what people want to read. Scandals, secrets... all of that. She does quite a lot of research on her subjects."

"She goes off and finds what she wants, and ignores the rest." Andromeda sliced a few dozen hamburger buns with a cut of her wand. "It is important to think about the consequences of what you're writing. Try to be sober."

"From the person who decided to make myths about Black family?"

"Myths make themselves," Andromeda said. "I also did my research, and found things I wasn't expecting and didn't care for. That's why there's a whole chapter on the craziness, and several on the hatefulness."

"All leading to a beautiful redemptive arc." Honoria raised her eyebrows. "Purely an accident, I'm sure."

"When I said you need to think of the consequences, I didn't mean that writing shouldn't have consequences. Look at your piece on Alderman and Vivian and the others. It made people re-think what that Mathilde girl had written."

"One of my best moments," Honoria said proudly. "Dubois had really twisted things up. People love that sort of thing--'Look how good people are really evil and evil people are really good.' They eat it up. Makes them feel smart and superior. I made them think around that."

"Yes, you did."

"It's a good thing to do. Of course, I imagine Alderman and Vivian's perceptions were true to them, just like Mathilde's were true to her--"

"And you were doing so well," Andromeda said, and Summoned a case of beer from the basement. "Really, there is a question of which is actually true."

"Of course, but that rarely makes a difference to readers." Honoria decided the salad was well shaken and set it down on the counter, Conjuring a large tray for it to land on. She put the sliced buns on beside it, and Levitated the whole thing, sending it floating out to the pond, where the others were now playing broomstick volleyball. "Readers go by the gut, not the head."


"Which brings us back to your book on the family. You knew that they'd see the tragedy and madness and put all the pieces together the way you wanted them to."


"So how is that different from what Rita does?"

"More information," Andromeda said. "And the end result."

"Myths about the Blacks?"

"Kindness toward them. Toward other people in general. Appealing to their higher instincts instead of their lower ones. Feeling empathy instead of superiority." She considered it. "But based on fact, for heaven's sake, not speculation."

"Ah," Honoria said, "Rita calls that 'gooey sentimentalism.'"

"And you?"

"I don't know. I don't think it's sentimental--you're a bit tougher than that. But who's to say what's better?"

"I suppose it's something you'll figure out as you go."

"Don't count on me coming to your conclusion."

"I think you already have."

Honoria smiled. "Yes, well, it is useful..."

They continued chatting as they sent the food on down the hill.

15 comments or Leave a comment
From: severely_lupine Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, wow, that first one is cool. Way to take a fluffy prompt and write something sad and creepy.

had never really experience -- Missing 'd'?

about Black family -- Should there be a 'the' there?

Nice to see Honoria came to her senses eventually. The world did not need another Rita Skeeter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Got the 'd,' on my way to catch the 'the'. Dangers of late night writing. ;p

I guess I was feeling contrary on the fluff!
beceh From: beceh Date: January 3rd, 2010 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Both of those were very good, thank you :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 3rd, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved the first one. I would never have thought of cuddling in the same sentence with the Riddle family.

I also liked the conversation between Andromeda and Honoria. It seems that Honoria has two mentors.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It took me a while to decide who would be cuddling that I could make a story-let out of.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: January 3rd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I had ever thought so sympathetically about Merope. I suppose a part of me only thought she had the hots for the guy. But she just wanted to feel loved- and that's so human.

Oh, Honoria thinks she's tough, but she's learned already what a real journalist does.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do feel bad for Merope, and she obviously was never taught any better about how to treat Muggles (on the "Did she know it was wrong when she did it?" question, I think the answer would be, not in the least, though at best that's a mitigating factor in a rape case).
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: January 3rd, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Both excellent! The snippet about Merope and Tom is heartbreaking and horrifying and not at all what I would have thought when asked to produce a short piece on snuggling -- so kudos to you. Andromeda is one smart cookie, but so is Honoria. I'm so glad that the latter is living up to her name, even if her rationale for doing so is still being formed.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the thing with smart Slytherins is that they can be really useful and good, but the weakness is that, since they make their own practical self-interest a cause, they're also quite easy to sway. Hopefully, Honoria will realize that her deeper interests are served by remaining on the right side of things.
hungrytiger11 From: hungrytiger11 Date: January 3rd, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Taking the first prompt and seeing what you did with it, sent shivers down my back! Especially since you little snippets of Tom's "real" thoughts slipping through. He was not a nice man but that Amoretia potion is cruel; it chains people. And you brought that out wonderfully.

There are several things I liked about the second. I love that it probably doesn't really hit people (except the teachers and other years, maybe) just what Teddy's class is like. Because,..wow. Also, I love how Andromeda is always so philosphical while still practical in your stories. She's a thinker and I love that she likes Honoria and sees that intelligence and growth in her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 3rd, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do feel bad for Tom, Sr, actually. Yes, he's a lout and not a very nice human being, but he was also duped and used and manipulated in a particularly nasty way. Basically, she fed him a date rape drug, and kept doing so until she thought she had him well-caught. Yes, he should have taken responsibility for young Tom anyway (it was hardly young Tom's fault what Merope did), but then you run into the fact that victim was less sympathetic than the perpetrator in this particular crime, and remember that the "not nice" thing will play into how he ends up responding to it all.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: January 4th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Two Words: Cary Stayner...

Was he really a lout before the whole Merope thing? He seems to have been a fairly good-natured, if slightly airheaded, young man. Imagine how he was treated when he came back after having been held hostage! Think Cecily would have let bygones be bygones and taken him back? (Think that sounds like another ficlet prompt?)

Consider that in those days, the "right thing" was pretty much what happened: the baby was raised in a fairly decent orphanage (how did Merope know to go to that particular Muggle orphanage?) JKR had a grandmother who was raised in an orphanage -- lawyers visited every so often to check on her and pay her expenses until she came of age, but there was no family contact. Anyway, was Tom's story any more tragic than that of any other orphan?

There's also the fact that Tom didn't grow up knowing the circumstances of his birth. He had to do a lot of research once he got to Hogwarts to find enough facts to put together a story to support his delusions of grandeur and silence the condescending whispers about his background.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 4th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Part of the thing about Merope is that she never seems fully competent. I seriously doubt that she grasps why it's wrong to give someone a love potion to get him to marry her. But, then, it's open to question whether she's ever even been allowed to speak to anyone besides her father and brother.

Hmm, the Gaunt family ethical hierarchy:

At the top - Merope, who at least seems to grasp that forcing a person to do something with threats of physical violence and abuse is not desirable. Doesn't grasp that using drugs to make a person _want_ to do something he wouldn't while in his normal mind is also wrong.

Pater and Filius Gaunt - Have some (limited) regard for family. It's unlikely either of them would frame a long lost relative for a murder they themselves had committed. Both seem to have a need for others that Tom, Jr. lacks. The brother, in particular, seemed quite pitiful in his response when Tom, Jr. showed up. In a lot of ways, he seemed just glad to have someone to talk to.

Tom, Jr. - Lacks the aforementioned, positive qualities.

Boy, that's sad when that trio scores as morally superior to you.

But Merope makes me wonder what would have happened if she had had someone to help her, to give her options besides staying in an abusive environment the rest of her life or running off with Tom, Sr, which seemed to be the only choices she could imagine.

yohumblenarr8or From: yohumblenarr8or Date: January 4th, 2010 11:33 am (UTC) (Link)
What's interesting in the first one is how the potion forces him to see beautiful features in Merope. It's like it's presenting a completely different perspective. It's still basically the date rape drug, I agree with you there. It was a sad story though, and I kind of wish we could see more--although, it's so disturbing I'm not sure.

I liked Honoria and Andi. I'm glad Teddy's class grew up to be pretty decent people overall.
15 comments or Leave a comment