The Sugar Quill
Author: Saiph  Story: Memory  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: The following characters, events and situations are the property of JK Rowling

Disclaimer: The following characters, events and situations are the property of JK Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author’s Note: Thanks to both Tournesol and Thrennish for the beta and advice!







She is not so old really. Only 72 last spring, though her face more than reflects the snapping winds of each of those winters and the harsh sun of every summer. Her hair, spun from burnished silver with vestiges of fiery copper still visible at the nape, is pulled back, as is her custom, in a simple twist without need for embellishment. She dresses plainly, without robes – a simple cream blouse and purple tweed skirt on this day. And the lens of her spectacles reflect the home she has made; clean, orderly but so very still, as Gladys lives alone.


In her house, a small one-storey in a suburb of Manchester, she has surrounded herself with gold-framed pictures.


Memories …


Remembrances of times gone by.


Pictures of laughing faces, jolly smiles. Pictures that show fierce whirlwinds of wrapping paper on Christmas mornings, ice-cubes clinking in drinks at river-side picnics. A soot-black kitten wriggles, held up by small hands. A boy soars against an azure summer sky. A suited man kisses a red-haired woman and she tosses a bouquet over her shoulder.


Those were the times when the cakes she baked were consumed by family, not fed to the waste bin. When Bob would swoop in on his broom, home from the Ministry, and sweep her off her feet with a chuckle, a flower from the garden, and a brash demand for dinner. The days when she waited eagerly for David’s letters from school to hear of his latest exploit, to read his looping script and laugh at his tomfoolery. Her boy was so brave, just like his father.


She smiles to herself as she sits in her armchair.


Her boy had been brave.


Upon receipt of each letter from him, wherever in the world he might be, her heart had filled with bursting pride and calm wonder. This child, this fearless bundle of mirth and mischief, was surely a part of her. And yet this truth was astonishing, for they were not alike – not at all. She had never been brave. She could not chortle at her own foolishness as David had; never laugh through tears as he did when attacked by moving trees or worse. She knows she had always lacked David’s freedom of spirit. She wonders if things would be different now, if only she’d caged that boisterous spirit in his youth.


She looks to the picture frame closest to her, passively, a subconscious act to seek reassurance. She returns the smile on the round face – a face so familiar, so beloved …


Bob. Bob was different from Gladys.


David was as obviously Bob’s son as he was ambiguously hers. Her boys had shared the same wide brown eyes that twinkled and crinkled and wrinkled when they smiled, the same flamboyance and confidence, same sandy hair that was so easy to muss – fine and strong strands that, when freshly washed, glistened like spun gold.


Fine and strong …


Her boys had always been fine and strong.


Of course, not every memory is gleeful anticipation and gentle laughter. There were days when Bob didn’t swoop in with his characteristic flourish, when her watching eyes didn’t light at the sight of him. There were weeks when David did not write, when she couldn’t slit open his parchment with her customary care.


But she tries not to think of these times. For if she does, she knows she’ll remember the day that heralded the beginning of those in which Bob did not come home. She’ll remember the first week her boy wrote to her no longer with tales of daring.


And if she were to look beneath her bed, perhaps then she’d find the newspapers carefully stowed away. The obituaries concealed within. The final goodbyes to her boys. And the somewhat empty words of the people who wrote to say ‘Yes, Robert Gudgeon. I knew him. A fine man and a meticulous worker. What a pity he strayed into that duel between light and darkness.’ Or perhaps she would read about ‘Dear Davey, who baited the manticore for the last time. Who showed the world what true Gryffindor bravery is ...’


Perhaps, she thinks as the ghost of a frown flits over her face.


Gladys would rather not remember. So she sleeps on her bed never looking below.   


But for today she waits, passing the time with bittersweet recollection. She waits for that all-familiar sound of air brushing over a hurtling feathered body. She savours that same pleasant keenness she felt when her David was scribbling his adventures to her in the Tower, when her Bob was softly landing by the flowering zinnias. Age has not dampened her spirit and time has not exiled her love for adventure. But, on this day, it is a different boy whom she awaits...


She smiles once more as she straightens in her faded green armchair. She has filled the water dish on the owl-stand. She has replenished the treats box. All is prepared. Raising a thin hand, unadorned but for a single, plain band of gold, she adjusts her glasses as her eyes fall on the bookshelf opposite. The fond smile travels upwards. Her eyes twinkle, crinkle and wrinkle.


These books are those of her correspondent. He tells tales of deeds and places she can scarcely imagine. He speaks of banshees and trolls and fearsome wolves that howl to the moon. Of strange places that she has not been to and doubts she will ever visit. Of cunning plans and intrepid showdowns…


And her gaze passes over his round amiable face, there on the cover; his beaming smile, his eyes which crumple just slightly beneath a cloud of shimmering hair spun of gold, his slanted scripted handwriting, which has lacked his usual refinement of late. She thinks of his words, his childlike joy and mirth, his bravery, and good deeds, and how adventure has been taken from him now with the caging of his memory – and her heart soars in an unstoppably swift crescendo of sobering thought – but at least he can still write to her, at least he has not gone for good, at least the newspapers speak only of his charming smile and heroic valour, and not of his death come too soon ... her smile fixes, then falters.


Memories …


Her inescapable memories …


She sighs and closes her eyes.


In time, there comes a soft, familiar rush of feather-beaten air on her face. An echo of letters carried by school owls, as parchment falls onto her skirt. The lap of water from the bowl across the room, while the sun reaches through the open window, brushing her face with a warm tender touch. She breathes in the drifting scent of the zinnias in her garden.


Perhaps, she thinks, she remembers the past well enough for both of them.






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