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.
house, a small one-storey in a suburb of Manchester, she has surrounded herself with
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.
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
She smiles to herself as she sits in her armchair.
Her boy had been brave.
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
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
Bob. Bob was different from Gladys.
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.
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.
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
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.
would rather not remember. So she sleeps on her bed never looking below.
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...
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.
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…
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.
Her inescapable memories …
She sighs and closes her eyes.
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.