Did You Get Your Letter?

Today’s the day young British wizards & witches depart for Hogwarts on the Express. In celebration of the auspicious day, here’s a snippet from my fanfiction work, George & Annie: An Unofficial Biography.

August 1989

“Wish you could’ve come too, Annie. It was bloody amazing!” Fred raved.

George agreed with his brother. “Fortescue’s was brilliant! I’ve never seen so many flavors of ice cream in one place…”

“And Quality Quidditch! That latest Nimbus model looked wicked fast. Bet Charlie wishes he could ride one of those, instead of the old Cleansweep…”

“But Gambol & Japes—that was the best. We spent everything we had there.”

“That’s the life, isn’t it, George? Nothing but jokes and pranks all day long, year in, year out.”

George nodded in hearty agreement with his twin.

“So show me! Didn’t you bring any?” Annie asked.

Both boys’ smiles faded to rueful smirks. “Mum confiscated practically the lot. We’ll be lucky to nick it back before we leave…”

And there it was: the elephant in the room. They were leaving for Hogwarts, just a couple days away now, leaving Annie to suffer through life in Ottery without them. Her best friends were so excited to leave her behind, heading off to live in a castle and learn to do magic like proper wizards, while she got to look forward to algebra and book reports…

The stars were just beginning to twinkle as they sat around the dying fire. When Fred noticed something poking his leg, an excited smile spread across his face as he recalled what was hidden in his pocket. He had completely forgotten about it all day.

“Oi, Annie. Check it out.” He slowly pulled out his new wand.

Annie’s wide eyes lit up—he could see them even in the dim twilight. “Is that what I think it is? A real magic wand?” The awestruck tone of her voice was as gratifying.

Fred nodded as Annie crept closer, her brow furrowed. “It looks like an old stick, doesn’t it?”

“What d’you mean? It’s a proper wand, and brand new to boot. Blackthorn, with dragon heartstring,” he explained with injured pride. Fred put the wand back in his pocket in a huff.

“Oh,” said Annie. She hadn’t meant to offend him, but apparently had. “Did you get one too, George?”

He nodded and began fishing in his pocket. “Apple wood, with dragon heartstring as well,” he informed her.

Annie reached out a tentative finger and gingerly touched it. It felt cool and smooth, just like any polished wood.

“It won’t bite. Here, you take it,” he offered.

Annie’s heart skipped a beat. She was dying to ask him that very thing. As she reached out for it, Fred warned.

“Have a care, George. She probably shouldn’t touch it.”

George smirked at his brother and rolled his eyes. Annie’s hackles rose—why shouldn’t I touch it? It was just a silly piece of wood, after all. She wouldn’t harm it. And she certainly wasn’t afraid of it.

Annie took the wand in a firm grasp, glaring at Fred with indignant anger. The handle quickly became frighteningly hot.

“George?” she asked, slightly worried.

Alarmed, George reached out to take the wand back. For an instant their hands met, both holding the wand at the same time. A brilliant yellow explosion of light shot out of the wand, striking the willow’s trunk with a loud clap. A black scorch mark about the size of a dinner plate now marred the tree.

Annie and George stared wide-eyed at each other, mouths agape.

“You idiot! George, you’ve done it now!” cried Fred, panicked at the thought that George had activated his Trace and they were about to be descended upon by Ministry officials.

“It wasn’t me, I swear!” cried George.

Fred considered this a moment, weighing whether to believe his brother. “I told you not to let her touch it,” he snapped.

“You mean I did that?” Annie stammered in a weak voice.
“No, stupid git. The wand did. Muggles aren’t supposed to touch them. They’re likely to go off. You could’ve done some real damage, you know,” Fred scolded.

“Sorry,” she murmured.

“Lay off, Fred,” growled George. “No harm done. Blimey, though, that was awesome, Annie,” he tried to cheer her, chuckling in surprise.

“The blast’s still smoking, Annie,” Fred laughed in spite of his concern.

Annie smiled. “That was the coolest thing ever, wasn’t it? Completely wicked, eh?” She imagined how useful a wand would be in the schoolyard this year, fantasizing about picking off a choice few of her schoolmates….

“You’re a hazard, Annie, that’s for sure,” laughed George.

Slide2You can read the entire story of George & Annie: An Unofficial Biography, at The Petulant Poetess‘ free online archive, though you must register for an account to do so. Just click on the image to the left. 🙂


May 2—Battle of Hogwarts Anniversary


In honor of what I imagine to be the post-HP wizarding world’s version of Memorial Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, here’s a snippet from George & Annie: An Unofficial Biography


May 2, 1999

The day was warm and grey. Low clouds scudded across the sky. Occasionally a fine mist would descend from one of them for a short while. Otherwise the air was still. The army of workers who usually surrounded the castle, rebuilding where possible and expanding when necessary, was silent today out of respect.

By midday, a vast throng of people had assembled on the damp grounds of Hogwarts. Directly in front of a large veiled monument, in the shadow of the ruined section of the castle, a hundred and fifty chairs aligned in prim rows. Each seat was filled with a mourner of one of the fallen heroes of the Battle of Hogwarts, as it was now known. Spread out behind the seated, a solemn crowd of at least twice as many people stood shoulder to shoulder, staring gravely ahead in dark robes.

The entire Weasley family sat near the front, surrounded by their usual retinue of otherwise family-less Order members. The ranks of honorary Weasleys burgeoned at this point; Molly seemed to be a magnet for orphans—like Annie herself, she mused—in dire need of a mother figure. Annie and George sat together at the end of the row. It was the twins’ usual naptime, and by some miracle, they had fallen asleep in their parents’ arms.

Despite the mob of people, the air was quiet as everyone awaited the start of the ceremony. Annie watched as a very small man directed a choir of young people in a mournful song. Dignitaries she had neither recognized nor heard of stood and spoke briefly in turn. It was painfully hard to pay attention to them. It was hard to be here at all. The monstrous grief within her rattled the bars of its cage. She tried to focus attention instead on little Fred’s innocent sleeping face, his comforting weight in her arms.

Finally, the monument was unveiled. A gleaming white marble phoenix, captured in the moment of landing on its perch with its wings curled in front of its body, rested atop a six-foot-high by ten-foot-wide cubical base. Sitting as close as they were, they could see that arranged on each face of the base were carved more than fifty names of the defenders of Hogwarts who had perished in the battle.

A tall, elderly woman strode confidently to the front of the audience. In a strong, lovely brogue, she introduced the next speaker: Harry Potter. The man of the moment. The hero of it all. The crowd behind the seated mourners began to murmur and rustle: this is what they had come to here see, what they had been waiting for with baited breath.

Harry walked purposefully up to the front, like he didn’t really want to be there, and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. At least he doesn’t revel in it, this adoration people shower him with, Annie thought. And as she had gotten to know him better during the past year, on a personal level as her sister-in-law’s boyfriend, she learned he was a nice enough fellow. A bit overly serious, sometimes; perhaps a little too sensitive about some things. It had taken a great deal of coaxing and arguing and laying on of guilt-trips by a lot of different people to get him to speak here at all. He owed it to the ones who followed him, fought alongside him, and gave the ultimate sacrifice, they all told him. Harry now turned to face the crowd, pointed his wand at his throat, and began to read from a piece of paper.

“We come together today to remember those who gave their lives one year ago. They did not die in glory—for nothing about war is ever glorious. They did however die with honor, defending Hogwarts, their families, and our comrades. They died protecting a way of life that values people, and love, more than power.

“Voldemort is gone. He was defeated because we were all willing to give our lives for something worth believing in. Every single one of the heroes we remember today made that choice of their own free will. They chose love, and were willing to die for it.

“We, who stand here today because of the sacrifice of our loved ones, must never forget. We must never let anyone ever forget.

“Let us honor their sacrifice by living the kind of lives they chose to defend. Lives committed to love, and justice, and what is right.”

Perfect silence answered Harry’s brief words: no animal moved, no breeze ruffled, no bird called. The only sounds interrupting the quiet were a few scattered sniffs and muffled sobs from the ranks of the seated mourners. After five minutes of mutely observed grief, the stately witch returned to dismiss the audience. The standing multitude turned and began walking back toward the village. The rest of the day and the school’s grounds were reserved for the families of the heroic dead.

The seated mourners slowly began to rise and queue up to file past the monument. Each stood silently before the names that meant the most to them. Some gathered into various vessels a few drops of water that dripped from the marble bird’s eyes into a small, shallow collection bowl before spilling over the edge and onto gravel below. Afterward, they greeted and consoled each other, spreading about the grounds, gathering into small groups.

The Weasleys held back and were one of the last families to arrive at the statue. They formed a sort of semicircle before Fred’s name for a few moments of silence. Molly and Arthur had silent tears on their cheeks, holding each other for comfort. The Weasley siblings stood stoically around them, gazing at the statue, or the ground, or the sky. They held their arms folded across their chests, or stuffed clenched fists firmly into pockets. Annie held George’s free hand with her own: each of them still carried a sleeping infant in their arms.

George’s breath became irregular as he fought to maintain control. The uneven, jerking movements of his chest woke little Art, who reached up to his father’s cheeks to examine the tears he found there with innocent curiosity.

Annie heard George’s struggle over the growing clatter within her own soul. Tears coursed down her own cheeks as she handed the still sleeping baby Fred to Charlie, then took little Art from her husband’s arms to pass off to Ginny. The rest of the Weasleys retreated, leaving George and Annie to grieve in peace.

Annie held her husband as he gave up the battle for control. George bowed his head, burying his face in her hair, and cried as his hand rested on Fred’s carved name. Annie barely heard his sobs over the cacophony the caged monster was making, having now fully awakened. It snarled and howled within her as she clung to George. They held each other and wept where they stood.

No one else, it seemed, was ready to leave. Several of the older generation struck up a song, and as more people joined in, the swelling sound of it broke through George and Annie’s little shell of sadness. The worst of the grief spent now, the caged monster within Annie quieted down again, and they composed themselves in order to rejoin the family.

“Sorry about your hair. I know how vain you are about it,” George said with a half smile as he wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand.

“Don’t you start with me. I’m in no mood whatsoever,” she threatened, but with a timid answering smile and laugh of her own. They walked together toward their waiting family, who all smiled back at them.

All except for Fleur. Her normally serenely beautiful face was pale and haggard, anxiety shadowing her features. Annie wondered when the change had occurred—she had been seated at the far end of the row from Fleur during the memorial ceremony, and of course had been preoccupied since.

“Fleur, are you all right?”

Her sister-in-law looked at her with frightened eyes. “I think perhaps I need to sit down.” Fleur gripped Annie’s arm painfully tightly as she helped her into the seat that had just flown to them and settled on the ground. Her grip didn’t loosen once she sat, but held tightly for a few minutes longer. Bill fell to his knees in front of her, next to Annie, staring into her eyes, asking his wife what was the matter.

“Ze baby. I think eet eez coming…” she whispered.

Of course. Annie should have recognized that look of fear in Fleur’s eyes. They were a mirror of her own a mere six months ago. Annie hugged Fleur’s shoulders, whispering words of comfort, while Bill yelled for his mother.

Molly quickly deduced what was happening and immediately began barking orders to her sons. Percy sprinted into the castle’s hospital ward to alert Madam Pomfrey, while Charlie and Bill first helped, then ultimately carried Fleur into the castle. Molly trotted behind them, calling out encouragement.

“No shortage of drama here,” mumbled Ginny with a roll of her eyes.

The long-winded funereal song had finally finished, and the excitement of Fleur being carried off had lightened the mood considerably.

“Enough of this weepin’! Let’s have ourselves a proper wake!” someone shouted in a thick Irish accent. Annie recognized the voice—Seamus, wasn’t it?—from the planning meetings held at her home. Cheers went up as the younger members of the crowd heartily agreed.

A month ago, when word had gone out that the Ministry had planned a memorial service to be held at Hogwarts, George and his school chums went into immediate action. Their fallen friends would never be satisfied by an ‘officially sanctioned’ event, they reasoned, so why should they? And when it came to matters unofficial and non-sanctioned, there was really only one man left to turn to: George Weasley.

A dozen or so of George’s friends and siblings had gathered at the Hill to brainstorm. Annie feared at first they would try to disrupt the official ceremony in some inappropriate way, and while she agreed with the sentiment in principle, she was rather tired by now of being a target for official disapproval. Seamus, whose voice Annie had just recognized, was the one who suggested a “proper” Irish wake, complete with live music, tables groaning with food, and rivers of booze. It was surely the only reasonable send-off, everyone at the meeting had agreed. They had all pitched in funds (though George and Harry had ponied up the lion’s share, being by far the most solvent of the group) and Seamus contracted the band, who just happened to have been one of Fred’s old favorites. Ron volunteered to work closely with the proprietress of a local pub in Hogsmeade, regarding the libations. Hermione had then glared daggers at him, for some reason unknown to Annie.

On George’s signal (an enormous volley of fireworks, of course), the band began to play a rousing revolutionary tune, exhorting them all to resist authority. Annie had to admit this would have been Fred’s idea of a cracking good time. Kegs were tapped and bottles were drained. Everyone sang and danced long into the evening. News came down from the castle several hours into the party that Fleur had delivered a healthy baby girl, eliciting a loud cheer and multiple toasts. Soon after, Arthur offered to take the twins home to the Hill so Annie and George could stay with his friends.

Annie sat with George in a small group of chairs, quite a distance away from the band, as his friends from school came and went all evening long. Many of them she met for the first time, as her husband introduced her as his wife to each and every one with pride. She giggled each of the dozen times he had retold the story of how they had met in the woods of his home when they were merely seven. By the end of the night, he was claiming to have fallen in love with a little Muggle girl up in the oak tree that very day.

She learned so much from their reminiscing, their stories of school, and the battle tales from the war. She discovered the name of the student resistance group, during his last year in school, was Dumbledore’s Army—George had never told her. She could see they all still considered themselves members. A fellow named Neville fished out some sort of magical coin from his pocket, having something to do with the Army. It was difficult to understand his explanation, or any of the rest of them for that matter, as the night was getting late, and they were each and every one of them tanked well up by this point.

Annie and Hermione seemed to be the only sober ones in their now small group. Well, the dreamy girl named Luna might not be drunk, but she had always seemed a bit flighty to Annie, so she couldn’t be sure. Annie offered to track down the older Weasley brothers, hoping to find them in a better state to help move the partygoers back to their homes, if Hermione would keep an eye on the group currently assembled.

It was nearly midnight when Annie found Charlie and Percy seated on some steps leading to the castle. She was relieved (yet mostly unsurprised) to find them sober and far removed from the festivities, and recruited them to help bust up the last straggling bit of the party, which primarily consisted of every Weasley younger than they, and their respective companions.

“Percy, would you mind taking me back to the Hill first, and I’ll get things ready for the rest of them. Your poor mum doesn’t deserve an invasion of rowdy stinking drunks.”

“Excellent plan, Annie,” he nodded primly.

Poor Percy, thought Annie. He cannot help but sound pompous, apparently. They rose to follow her back to the party.

“Charlie, can you take Angelina and Lee back to their house?”

“Er, I’ve never been to their place before, so…”

“Damn. Oh well, I guess it’ll be the couches for the lads and the guest room for the newlyweds.” They had reached what was left of the happy circle of drunks—according to a giggling Hermione, Luna had taken Neville off by herself. Perhaps Hermione was not quite as sober as Annie had first assumed.

“Right, let’s do this before one of these sods passes out. Hermione, will you keep an eye on Harry and Ron until Charlie and Percy come back for them on the second trip? Then you can take Ginny back to the Burrow, and try to keep out of Molly’s sight. She won’t be thrilled to discover her daughter in this state, to say the least.”

“Whatdya mean?” Ginny asked.

“You’re drunk, Ginny love,” giggled Harry, patting her cheek clumsily as she smiled. “Oops.”

“Good luck with them, Hermione. Okay, Charlie, have you got him?” Annie tugged George up out of his seat.

“Have you got me, Charlie?” teased George after Annie passed him off.

“Let’s go,” laughed Charlie.

Annie took Percy’s arm. A moment later, Annie was in her warm, dry home, discovering Arthur dozing on the sofa. She gently woke him and let him know he could leave, and probably should, due to the company she now had to prepare for.

“Oh dear. I suppose I should have seen this coming. Anything I can do to help?”

“You could clear the way for Hermione to bring Ginny back, if you know what I mean.” She winced, tossing blankets and pillows on the sofas.

Arthur nodded. “Understood. I’m off,” he chuckled as he disappeared.

“I’ll take him from here, Charlie. Go get the lads now and set them up on the sofas. Warn them from me, if either of them chuck in my house, I’ll be furious. And try to keep the noise down, if you can, for the babies’ sake.”

Annie took George by the waist and one arm as Charlie and Percy popped out of the house behind her. George was inebriated, for sure, but still managed the stairs just fine. She had managed to wrangle him into their room and sat him down on the bed before scuffling downstairs announced the arrival of more houseguests.

“Whassat?” George asked.

“Your drunken brother, his drunken best friend, and your drunken friends the Jordans,” she huffed. She pushed him down onto the bed and began to undress him, starting with his belt.

“Not tonight, Annie. ‘Mm a bit drunk, love,” he said in an inappropriately loud voice. Ron giggled downstairs.

“Sssh! George, be a good boy and cooperate, will you?” she begged in a whisper, smiling despite herself as she tugged off his trousers. Next, she set about wrestling with his shoes.

“Give it a firm tug, that’s a good girl!” he encouraged, still far too loudly. More giggles erupted downstairs.

“You are such a pain in my ass,” she laughed quietly. “Help me out, why don’t you?”

George sat up and kicked off his shoes. Meanwhile, Annie collected a bottle of aspirin and a filled a large carafe with water from the bathroom. She returned to find George sitting up as she left him, gazing at her with unfocused eyes, a silly smile on his face.

“Oh, honey. You’re going to have a full head tomorrow. Take these, and drink as much of this water as you can stand. Are you going to be sick?” she asked sympathetically as she stroked his hair.

George shook his head as he swallowed the aspirin.

“All right then, lie down and sleep it off. I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Okay, Annie.” He obeyed without further comment.

Charlie was downstairs, looking up at her. “Lee and Angelina seem to know their way around the place, and they’re in the back of the house somewhere. Ron emptied his tank before we left Hogwarts. I think Harry’s not nearly so bad off, he should be fine,” he chuckled.

“Thanks, Charlie. Can I get you anything before you go?”

“Nah. See you later,” and he walked out the door, headed to the Burrow.

Annie checking on all the guests, dispensing water and aspirin and wastebins to everyone. Fifteen minutes later, she crawled into her own bed, grimacing as she pondered what tomorrow morning would be like with a house full of hang-overs and six-month-old twins.

George rolled over and pulled her closer.

“Not tonight dear, you’re a bit drunk,” she teased.

“Maybe just a kiss and a cuddle, then,” he murmured, planting a few soft kisses on her neck and earlobe.

“Go to sleep, George,” she urged gently, and somewhat reluctantly.

He sighed and flopped his head back onto his pillow, but didn’t let go. Which was just fine by Annie.

If you’d like to read more, please visit The Petulant Poetess’s archive version of George & Annie.