I saw the newspaper this morning. I think the headline mightíve been even bigger than the one when Fudge admitted that You-Know-Who was really back. Mind you, fair enough. It was always pretty obvious that they werenít going to be able to keep a grip on Azkaban after the Dementors left, but it sounds like they were really hoping that itíd last a bit longer. As it is, not everyone escaped, but pretty much all of the Death Eaters from the sound of things. But then, youíd know. I hope you get to see your dad again pretty soon. He should be really proud of your OWL results, they were very good. Iíll be lucky to do half as well ó itís intimidating!
But Iím still nervous about the fact that all those people escaped. If the Ministry canít keep them locked up, what are they going to do with them if they do capture them again? Where are they going to put them? Itís easy for the Death Eaters, they just kill anyone whoís on the other side, but the Ministry has to have proper trials and all that. Are Aurors allowed to use the Unforgivables? I seem to remember reading something that said they were allowed to in the first war but I canít remember where. Then again, there are lots of other ways to kill people than to use Avada Kedavra, I mean even the simplest spells can probably be lethal if you do particular things with them, but I suppose theyíre the very worst. Thatís why theyíre called the Unforgivables.
Do you think thereís much chance of anything happening here? My parents seem to think itís all so far away but it isnít, itís the same country, itís people we both know. Cedric Diggory. He was in my House, after all. Not that there are very many wizards where I live, just the Martins, I told you about them, but Mrs. Martinís a Muggle and thatís what the Death Eaters are against, isnít it? Not that youíd even think about it most of the time, sheís totally happy in the magic world. Iíd hate it if anything happened to them, their kids are so little ó Elise is only twelve, and sheís the oldest. Itíd kill her. By the way, they got that information pack as well, and Mr. Martin came around to put up a couple of wards on our house. It wouldnít help all that much if the Death Eaters really did come, but it was a neighbourly thing to do, and it makes me feel better.
In other (happier) news, Theresaís got her wand! We made a short trip to Diagon Alley today just to do that and show her around, sheíd never been there before. Weíre going to leave getting her other school things until the end of the month, but she was nagging Mum about it for so long, and between getting her wand and going to Hogwarts is the only chance sheíll have to do any magic at home until sheís seventeen, so Mum said yes. It was rowan and dragon heartstring, nine inches, "rather difficult to handle" as Ollivander put it. Itís Terry who's difficult, half the time.
I stopped in at the Quidditch shop and got a copy of that magazine you mentioned ó you might not remember, it was a while ago. Just to have a look, and things. I never knew you could get so many types of brooms ó but then, look at cars, or even simple things like shoes. So I suppose itís not that surprising. It was great to be back in the Wizarding world again, apart from my visit to Maiís and babysitting the Martin kids. That went really well, by the way, her brother and sister are nice and it was great being in a wizarding household, thereís so much done by magic! I never imagined quite how much could be. Her sisterís starting this year, like Terry, sheís very shy (unlike Terry, whoís ó well, Terry.) It was good to see Mai again, as well, we had a good talk and she told me some more stuff about the war that isnít in the paper but her father hears about. He used to be some sort of diplomat, or something.
Diagon Alley was quieter than normal, the attacks I guess ó I hate it how everything comes back to that. But all the shops were still there, and Terry spent a very long time looking in the window of the pet shop, declaring her intention to get a cat if sheís allowed one. I think I might ask Mum if Nicola and Ed and I can chip in for one for a birthday present for her. Itíd be something nice (if stretching the budget a little.) If she does get a cat, I just hope it leaves Gwaihir alone. And your Bronwyn when sheís over delivering letters. Mind you, theyíre both fairly big owls, arenít they, so the cat might be the one in trouble! I donít actually mind cats that much, but I like having an owl better. So much more useful.
Speaking of animals, if you donít mind me askingÖwhy can you see Thestrals? Donít tell me if you donít want to. I know it's none of my business.
Anyway, Iíve rambled on for quite long enough ó if you havenít got bored and wandered off to play the piano or something!
P.S. Jokes as well? You have been corrupted. Iíd try to cackle, but unfortunately Iím writing, so I canít. Youíll just have to imagine it.
August 12, 1996
Do you want to meet in Diagon Alley on the twenty-third? Thatís when Iím going in to get my school stuff, I think Ellie is too, we should try and get together. Youíll be coming with your sister, of course, is she looking forward to Hogwarts? I know I couldnít wait, when I got my letter. Has she got a wand yet?
Iím a bit worried by everything thatís been happening, to be honest, so many people have got killed and itís been just a couple of weeks. Whatís happening? They seem to be going for Ministry people and their families. We should all be okay, but I just donít know.
Enough of the gloomy stuff, guess what, Chris has been writing to me! Isnít that cool? I mean, how many boys write letters? And theyíre pretty long ones too. I really think I might be lucky hereÖcross your fingers! Only three more weeks Ďtill school starts and I can see him again, too!
Why does time go so slowly in the holidays?
See you, Gabby
August 14, 1996
Yes, I have seen my father. He stopped in briefly, but he couldnít stay too long, because, well, you know. I wish I could have had a proper talk to him, but he was talking to my aunt and uncle for a lot of the time. I need to talk to him, even if there are some things I can't say. The Ministry are going to be keeping an eye on us after this, an eye on everyone who has family who were in the breakout. Post owls are notoriously hard to catch, though, so I doubt theyíll be reading this. I hope not, anyway. I cringe at the thought of some Auror reading my ramblings about how much I hate Care of Magical Creatures, or on broomsticks. Or anything Iíve written, really. They would probably find it quite amusing. These letters are very dangerous, have you noticed that? Itís so easy to pour your heart out, almost as bad as having a diary, because itís not face to face and you know itís only going to go to one person. I find Iím letting myself say more in these letters than I think I ever did in the five or so months I knew you at Hogwarts. Itís oddly disturbing. But then again, you seem to be writing almost as much, and Iíd hate to stop. As much as part of me says itís dangerous, it also feels quite safe having someone to talk to. Not talk, of course, since there are letters, but ó discuss things with, might be a better term.
And enough of the philosophy. You do make me talk far too much. Even when youíre in Essex I can still see you listening so attentively, leaning against the table in that practice room with your flute in one hand. Youíre frowning slightly, and tapping your fingers on the flute, giving whatever it is Iím saying far more attention than it actually deserves. You manage to listen even when you arenít, somehow. I just brood. Itís a far less attractive quality.
Good God, I am rambling. Almost as bad as some of your letters! And no offence meant, but you can drift off topic startlingly at times. Not that it isnít interesting, of course ó itís always interesting. Believe me, I have never abandoned a letter of yours in favour of the piano. And all this is an attempt to not talk about my father, not that I donít want to tell you, but the topic is currently rather unsettling. My aunt seems a little less distracted, more relaxed, now her older brother is free. She knows heís not in Azkaban. Iím happier, knowing that. Even with knowing what he is ó I hate the thought of him locked up. Heís like me. We both like the moors, the open places. He hated Azkaban, I can tell. Even without the Dementors, he looked so much older than the last time I saw him ó then again, that was Christmas. He was quite happy with my results, although he was disappointed I failed Care of Magical Creatures. I didnít care, but I felt bad about it because he felt bad, you know? I hate disappointing him. We only have each other, a lot of the time, and he puts so much of his hope onto me. I know that he believes he's making the world a better place for me by being a Death Eater. It scares me. But I felt so ó safe, just for a couple of hours, because he was back and I have the residual childhood belief that my father can keep me safe. He canít, I know, but it isnít a rational thing. I wish heíd been able to stay longer ó but then he might have been caught, and that would be ó not good.
On the other hand, Iím afraid about my father being out, not because of him, but because of what it means. Thereíve been attacks already, and now with more Death Eaters thereíll be more. Iím safe, but you just may not be ó and what about everyone else? I keep seeing us going back to a Hogwarts where half the students are gone, and I hate it. People there may not be friends, they may not be Slytherins, but ó if they died or something because of what they are ó that would be ó terrible. That sounds like a clichť, but itís what I mean. I donít want them to die. And yet people will, and part of that will be because my father is free, and Iím happy he is, which makes me feel vaguely guilty even though I have never done nor have any intention of doing anything for the Dark Lord.
As you have said, everything does keep coming back to this, doesnít it? The war, the consequences, the choices. More for me than you, but even so ó I would give anything for life to go back to fourth year, when all we had to worry about was watching the Triwizard Tournament and hoping Diggory won it. (Iím assuming that as a Hufflepuff you supported him.) Death and danger are so much more palatable when theyíre in a controlled environment ó for rather obvious reasons. And most especially happening to people who have volunteered. No one volunteers to be a victim. Watching someone die ó itís not exactly pleasant. To answer your question: I saw my cousin die, Celia and Lucas's older brother, which is why I can see the Thestrals. I was eight.
This is depressing, so Iíll tell you the why and how another time.
Right. Happy thoughts. How is your brotherís, what was it, cricket going? Are you practising your flute a lot? Is your sister learning any magic, and is she driving you crazy with it? Do you wish you were back at Hogwarts? Donít the holidays go slowly when bad things are happening, or maybe itís faster, what do you think? Am I rambling?
PS I finally worked out what I meant by all that nonsense at the top of the letter about you listening. And whatís responsible for the sentimental bits weíve been discussing. I miss you. It made far more sense when I re-read it, not that it makes all that much sense, but that was the gist of it. T.
Memo Auror Division To: Henry Phillips
I almost feel bad after reading that last letter from the Nott kid. It did have some useful info Ė we can try and track down Eric Nott, and if we know he was at home some time between the thirteenth and the fifteenth, itís all data Ė but still, it is a bit off reading other peopleís letters. Especially some of these latest ones - it's a bit personal. I know, itís not like we're reading love letters or anything. Although these two are so clueless it's cute.
On the other hand, it has a funny kind of fascination. Sort of like watching Home and Away. You know you shouldnít be, and you feel like youíre prying, but you keep wanting to see what comes next. I never reckoned I'd be doing something like this when I signed up to be an Auror Ė still, you learn something new every day, donít you?
P.S. The actual point of this memo was to "request your thoughts on the latest intercepted correspondence" Ė thatís what I told Hartley I was doing, interfering cow. I could come over and talk to you, but I like making the paper planes more.
Memo Auror Division To: Dion Archer
Agree with what you said. Mainly when I was reading that bit where he speculated if we could be reading it Ė I just hope he never finds out that someone was reading his letters. If it was me, I'd want to go and hide in my room for the next year if I found out. Have you noticed that Jo still won't take our word that these letters are genuine? She had me trying to figure out codes all day yesterday. It's getting ridiculous.
By the way, why are we sending memos when weíre just across the room from each other? And what in Merlinís name is "Home and Away"? My dadís Muggle-born, but thatís not anything heís ever mentioned.
Memo Auror Division To: Henry Phillips
Weíre sending memos because itís almost lunchtime, Iíve finished what Iím doing, and with the hard yakka weíre putting in now I canít be stuffed telling Jo Iíve finished and getting a whole lot more. Iíll do that after lunch. Coming over and talking to youíd be too obvious.
As for Home and Away, itís a TV programme, soap opera type of thing, but itís from back in Aussie so you wouldnít know it. Itís sort of like your Coronation St only lower grade. You do know about TV, don't you?
August 16, 1996
Iím glad to hear you got to see your father. The news has been so depressing what with the attacks getting more frequent, and more people dying, itís nice to know someone got something happy out of it. Damn, that sounds awful. I mean, obviously people are going to be happy about this in a nasty way, the ones who are doing it, but I was glad that something innocently happy came out of it. If thatís the phrase Ė not really, but you know what I mean, donít you? Youíre right, Iím way better at listening than I am at talking. I always seem to get my thoughts mixed up, or they come out wrong, and when itís something like this thatís the last thing you want. Then again, this is the type of topic where itís so hard to find the right thing to say anyway, so I guess itís not surprising.
You were right about letters being Ė well, you said dangerous, but the word Iíd use is addictive, because itís so impossible to say some things face to face. Not to mention embarrassing. Itís like keeping a diary, you can say anything you want to, or almost. I did that for my first year at Hogwarts, just to keep a handle on things because I was so far away from home, but I gave it up in second year, after I got closer to the other girls. It was too hard too keep up, and anyway, they kept wanting to read it, and I like all of them, but Ė thereís stuff you donít want to tell anyone, or at least, not most people. Thereís things Iíd write to you I wouldnít tell them, but then, there are definitely things I discuss with the girls I wouldnít be writing to you about (that is, unless you want to carry on a conversation about whether Ron Weasley is really as cute as Harry Potter And no, this is not a topic I willingly talk about. I blame it all on Gabby.) But I do tell you more than almost anyone else. Youíre not so bad at listening, yourself. You donít make me feel like an idiot. Okay, you used to quite a lot, or at least you made me feel like you thought I was an idiot. But you donít anymore, and certainly not in any of these letters, so forget I said that. And forget about the Thestrals thing. Like I said, itís not any of my business.
Iíve been teaching Theresa some magic, although itís difficult since I canít demonstrate. So far weíve done Wingardium Leviosa, some of the really basic charms in my first-year textbook, and Reparo. I figured it would be a good idea to have her able to fix broken things ó at least for the next two weeks, until we go back! Do you have any ideas about what else I should teach her? Sheís having quite a lot of trouble, since she is just starting out, but sheís getting better fast. Ollivander was right about her wand. She tends to not do things for ages and then overdo them, but her control is improving. At least, she hasnít blown anything up yet, and thatís definitely a good thing! Iíve finished all my homework, even that awful Potions essay, so I can relax until school starts again ó I wish they didnít give us homework over the summer holidays, it seems unfair, but thereís not much you can do about it is there?
As for my brotherís cricket team, nice of you to ask, theyíre winning quite a few of their games, I think. My brother was really happy because he got three wickets in their last game ó heís a bowler, thatís the one who throws the ball at the batsman. Of course he bats as well but bowlers donít score as many runs normally. Oh, and something else ó turns out one of the summer players for their team goes to Hogwarts! Not anyone I know, heís a third year Gryffindor, and he comes from quite a ways away. I only found out because I went along to watch one of the games, Ed was going on about it ó I try to do things with him, since Iím away most of the year ó and his wand fell out of his cricket bag after the game, so I asked him about it. I wasnít surprised he was carrying it, really, heís half-blood and with all the attacks people are nervous.
Nicola is the only one without something to keep her busy, so sheís been watching me try to teach Terry magic ó she keeps making comments about how she wants to be able to do it. Still, she does keep pretty quiet, so I canít really complain. I do, of course, but then thatís what siblings are for. I wouldnít not have them for anything.
Rambling and sentimentality in letters have to be directly linked, I swear.
P.S. I sort of figured it out. About missing me. Not that it was really obvious or something. But it was a bit.
P.P.S. I miss you. I'm pretty sure you know that.
August 18, 1996
I think you need to teach your sister some defensive spells. I know that sheís only starting at Hogwarts, but she could use them and anyone can master the Bodybind Jinx if they practice long enough. Or the Leg-Locker Curse. Just think, you get to be target practice, isnít that going to be fun?
But Iím quite serious. With things the way they are, you need someone in the house who knows those spells, since you canít use magic ó not that youíd get in trouble if your family was attacked and you used magic, but two have better odds than one. And when she starts at Hogwarts, theyíll be useful too. With the war, quite a few of my House are going to feel entirely justified about picking on some of the Muggle-born first and second years who will presumably be unable to defend themselves, and if she already knows some spells like that ó even if she canít do them right all the time ó then sheíll be ahead of the game. And, of course, the image of Malfoy going after some supposedly defenceless first-year and ending up petrified is a particularly pleasant one, I have to tell you. Watching him be nasty to the younger kids all of last year was ó slightly uncomfortable. It wasnít as if they were doing anything to him, after! all, even if they were only first-years. I see no point in unjustified attacks. They merely make you enemies ó Malfoy certainly has enough! The only people in my year and House who seem to realise this are Blaise Zabini and Tracey Davis. They both keep very quiet, but Zabini is a bit odd. He may not be doing what Malfoy does, but Iím not entirely sure Iíd trust him not to if no one was looking. Of course, there are very few people I trust entirely, so this isnít too much of a surprise.
I said Iíd tell you about my cousin, so I will. Itís not some big secret, or anything. He was Celia and Lucasís older brother, two years older than me. They were over visiting one day, and heíd brought his new broom; I was insanely jealous, because I didnít have one. He said I could have a ride on it, so we sneaked out while the adults were talking. As soon as we were outside, he flew off; he wasnít going to let some whiny eight-year-old on his new broom. I yelled after him, but he ignored me. I donít know if you know Yorkshire at all, but there are some quite steep bluffs, and he flew straight out over one near our house. It doesnít look like thereís a drop, but there is. He must have got a fright, or lost control, or ó I donít know. It was blowing a gale, that day. Maybe a gust caught him. I saw him disappear. I waited, and he didnít come back. I was scared to go back to the house ó we werenít supposed to be out there ó so I climbed down the sheep-track, instead. It took me about ten minutes. I wasnít supposed to do that, either.
He wasnít dead, when I got there. Wizards ó well, weíre hard to kill. More so than Muggles, at any rate. But he wasnít unconscious, either. Just lying there, with his neck all wrong, and his eyes closed. I shook him by the shoulders, to make him open his eyes. I know thatís the worst thing to do, now. I didnít then. He did look at me. He said he couldnít feel anything. That was all. There was blood coming out of his mouth. I remember that more than anything; the sun through the clouds, the new growth on the field, and the blood trickling down his face and onto the ground. Then he closed his eyes again. I saw him die. I donít know if youíll quite understand that; I mean I could tell. Whoever says the dead look like theyíre sleeping ó well, theyíre wrong. I canít describe it, but you know. You canít miss it. I didnít bother trying to make him wake up again. I was eight, but I wasnít stupid. So I just stayed there. My mother came to look for us, eventually. It had clearedup, that was the worst thing. All the clouds were gone, and it was sunny and still. Even the wind had died. And I was just kneeling there beside him because you canít run away from death, and thatís the only way I knew how to deal with it; run. I told them he was dead when I found him. It was easier. In fact, I don't think anyone knows I did see him die - some of my Housemates might have worked it out when they realised I could see the Thestrals, but they didn't ask. And I didn't tell.
Thatís half the reason Iím running from being a Death Eater. I know what death means, and itís not pretty or fair or fun. I couldnít do that, kill someone, because I know if I did Iíd just see Kenneth. Because I realised then that if he could die, it could have been me. It could be anyone else I cared about. Malfoy, the others, they donít know what that means; they think death is easy. So when I realised the Dark Lord might come back, I decided to run as soon as I could. I wasn't going to risk seeing death again.
Then I ran into you, and things started changing. Thatís what I hate about this war; it could be me, and nowÖit could be you. I donít want that, and the Dark Lord deals death too easily.
I miss home so much, now. I like our house; itís big, and old, and rambling, and thereíre all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies that you can curl up into with a book on a rainy day. Thereís always somewhere else to discover, something that's been hidden for decades or centuires. My father told me my mother always thought it was too "lower class", because itís obvious it was once a farmhouse. I don't see how she could think that. It feels like home to me ó it is my home, and Iíll always want to come back. I hate the thought of it lying empty waiting for my father and me to return. I suppose our house elf is there, but - that doesn't count. It's the Nott home, and for the first time we are not there.
I love the countryside there, too ó itís so wild and open. You just know that there arenít any people for miles, and thereís nothing in the way of the sky. Thatís one of the reasons I like Hogwarts ó itís in the middle of the country, and you can see the stars at night. Astronomy is one of my favourite subjects; but I prefer, when Iím looking at the stars, to just look at all of them. Not just one, through a telescope. You live in a town, so you probably know what the sky is like there, but itís nothing compared to the sky at night in the country. Itís magnificent.
Love from, Theo
P.S. You are certainly right about rambling and sentimentality. I was practically waxing poetic. Oh dear.
August 19, 1996 (about midnight)
Dad and the others got back. There was an attack in your town, I heard him say. He was there. Tell me youíre okay, tell me it wasnít you. As fast as you can.
August 20, 1996
Iím okay. So is my family. No, Iím not okay Ė but not like you meant. It wasn't us. God help me, it wasn't us.