The Sugar Quill
Author: Norwegian Blue  Story: Half of a Venn Diagram  Chapter: Default
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“It’s ok, the baby always stops crying soon,” His voice said

“It’s ok, the baby always stops crying soon,” His voice said.

He was right; the baby would stop crying as soon as she gave him a piece of candy. The baby did love the candy. The candy and the song always made things better. She didn’t want to keep giving him the candy. Mother always said that her mistake with her was giving her too much sugar as a child. But the crying… She started to hum, maybe that would be enough….

“That’s a beautiful song,” She smiled at the woman, such a pretty woman in pretty green robes. “What song is it?” She shook her head and smiled at the pretty green woman. If she stopped humming to the baby, he would start crying again. Didn’t the green woman know that?

So tired, so very tired. Was she always so tired? There had to be a time when she wasn’t. It was the baby. She had to take care of the baby. Always had to take care of the baby. She smiled and started humming again. She loved the baby. She would never sleep again if that was what it took to take care of the baby….

He was stacking the candy on the table. He loved the candy. She always gave her candy to Him, He loved it so. If she asked, He would give her a piece for the baby. He loved the baby, but she had to take care of it.

She smiled at the candy in her hand, the one that wasn’t holding the baby. She loved the candy. She loved the baby. She remembered eating this candy, but now, all her candy went to Him or the baby. The candy came apart her hand. The outer part came off from around the inner part. Always give the insides to the baby. The baby couldn’t eat the outside. She would give it to Him but He didn’t eat the outsides. He stacked them. Maybe this time, she would save the outside for herself. She would eat it later, when the baby was asleep. The baby was having trouble sleeping today. There were already three outsides on the table. She added the fourth one to the pile. Maybe she would give it to Him. He was better at stacking them then she was.

She looked around for Him. He was sitting at His table. The outsides were stacked neatly. She closed her hand around the outsides and clenched it into a fist. He liked smoothing them, making them perfect. He liked them bad, the better it was when they were good. She dropped them on the table. He looked up and smiled. He gently took them with shaking hands and started to work on them.

The baby was starting to fuss again and she sat back down again with him. She considered giving an outside to him, but he already had sugar. He would never be able to sleep tonight. She hummed again, the song that the green lady said was beautiful… beautiful…What is it called? She was so tired. Maybe if she slept, the baby would sleep too. She closed her eyes, humming to the baby.

She opened her eyes. He was standing over her. Next to her face on the pillow were the four outsides. Flat, perfect.

“It’s not time for them yet. It won’t work until it is time. When it is time, I will have more. You can have them.” He said, smiling that smile. That beautiful smile… Only His smile was that beautiful. Even before the baby His smile was so beautiful. That was all that was left from before the baby. She frowned. There was nothing before the baby. There was just the baby and Him and the baby was happy and that was what made her and Him happy. If the baby was happy, everything was fine. Everything was good. That was what was important. Taking care of the baby was important. That was the most important. Later she would give the outsides to the baby, if he fussed.

There was a woman. She wrapped her arms around Him and then kissed her face. She tried to show this other woman, this other woman who was not the woman in the green robe but wearing a green dress all the same, she tried to show this woman her baby; to show that she was doing well with the baby, the baby was happy.

“Very nice, dear,” The other green woman said. She put the baby on bed. The other green woman always bought a boy with her. “How are you doing, Mum?” the boy stammered. She smiled at him. The boy was pale. He took the boy by the arm and showed him the candy and the outsides of candy that He had stacked on the table. “That’s great, Dad,”

She looked at the boy, he looked so sad. She touched his shoulder, and it drooped a little. The boy gave her a sad smile. She was sorry that he was so sad. She saw the outsides of the candy on her table. She would like to give them to him, but they were for the baby.

The boy is the baby, the voice told her. She shook her head, smiling at the thought. The boy wasn’t the baby. The baby was on the bed. She turned around to pick up the baby, to prove the voice wrong. But the baby wasn’t there. She started to cry. Where was the baby? She couldn’t have lost the baby.

“It’s ok, Mum,” The boy said, holding her arm. She smiled at him through her tears. The boy thought that he was her baby, too. If he wanted to be her baby, that was good. He was such a nice boy. “Please stop, Mum, it’ll be alright.” The boy said again. He looked so sad. She turned around to give him three outsides. The baby shouldn’t eat candy. If the baby came back, she would never give him candy again.

The boy gave her that sad smile again. “Thanks, Mum” See the boy is the baby. The voice said. He called you ‘Mum’. She shook her head violently and began to look for the baby again. She felt herself crying again.

“It’ll be ok, Mum,” The boy said again. “Please stop,”

“Come, Neville, I think it’s time to go,” The other green woman said. They walked away. She looked at the boy again and picked up her last outside. She walked over and put her hand on the boy’s shoulder. The boy turned around and she held out her hand. He did the same and she dropped the last outside into his hand. “Thanks, Mum,” he whispered, looking into her face.

*****************************************************************************************

Neville’s grandmother firmly gripped his upper arm and pulled him to the doors at the front of the room. Usually she was good; she acted like it didn’t bother her. This time something bothered her or at least bothered her more than it usually did. Maybe she usually hid it and this time something bothered her and she cracked a little. Just a little. Her posture was still straight as an arrow and there was nothing showing on her face to indicate she was upset. Even he wouldn’t know that something was bothering her if she wasn’t holding onto him.

They went out the front door and down the stairs into the lobby, where they stepped into the fireplace in the corner. “Why don’t you go upstairs and study for a while, or write Uncle Algie. It’s almost his birthday.”

Neville nodded. It was obvious, even to him, that she wanted him out of the way. He went to his room, but didn’t feel like studying or writing to his Uncle Algie. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling, where reflections of the planets played across the painted wood.

That stupid blanket. Why did he ever give it to her? He remembered too clearly the time he had given it to her. He had been four and was starting to realize what was wrong with his parents. Not completely. He couldn’t grasp stuff that quickly now, never mind when he was four years old. But he had felt stupid carrying around that stupid baby blanket, needing to sleep with it. He gave it to his mother, stupidly thinking that it might help her remember him. His father, always playing with candy, he just showed Neville the patterns he had made. But his mother sometimes clasped him on the shoulder or patted his cheek and almost always gave him one of those candy wrappers. Things that he thought might be signs that she loved him, things that to her, might have been signs of affection. He didn’t consciously realize these things until he was older, but when he was little, he thought that his mother might be a little easier to reach.

But she didn’t change. At least, not to him. Still patted his face, still rubbed his shoulder, still insisted on making sure she gave him a candy wrapper. But the nurse, who saw him and his grandmother quite often, told them that she held the blanket like a baby, always taking care of it, sometimes coaxing a piece of candy away from his father and tucking it in a fold in the blanket. The healer said that eventually the candy fell on the floor and his father took it.

It might have helped, giving her something to focus on, like his father with the candy. The healer said this to Neville, as though this was supposed to make him feel better. All it did was make him feel worse. His mother now focused on the stupid blanket instead of him. If she thought of something normal she would get better. When Neville and his grandmother visited, if she put the blanket on the bed and then turned to look at it, she didn’t appear to see it. She looked at it with eyes more vacant than usual and would then start to cry. When he was younger, Neville would show her the blanket, to show her it was right where she left it. But as he grew older, he learned that the crying wouldn’t stop until she found the blanket herself. The healer said that she didn’t do this when they weren’t there. Guilt wrenched his stomach. He was making things worse. But he couldn’t stop going.

This is what always happened. He would go and visit his parents. They wouldn’t recognize him; it was lucky if they noticed that someone other than a healer was there. His grandmother would take him home and he would feel disappointed and angry that he couldn’t do anything more. He had failed.

He sighed. He was always a failure. He was a disappointment. He got some of the lowest grades in his year. He was a klutz. Whenever Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle showed up and started saying he was a shame to his name, he was always silent because he couldn’t think of anything that he had ever done to deny it.

His parents had given their minds to save the world. If it hadn’t been for the pictures, he wouldn’t have believed that they were related. Even he could see the similarities between him and his mother. His parents were two of the bravest people to face You-Know-Who, and people said that anyone who faced You-Know-Who was brave. What had he done that merited him being placed in Gryffindor? He should have been in Hufflepuff. If it hadn’t been for the fact that both his parents were in Gryffindor, he knew he would have been. He was scared of a professor he had had almost every school day since he was eleven. He was afraid of any Slytherin. He was afraid of nearly every magical creature Hagrid brought in for Care of Magical Creatures. Nearly every prediction Professor Trelawney made frightened him. He was a coward. Even seeing his parents frightened him. He had to admit that each time he went in there he hoped for some glimmer of recognition from either of them. And each time, when he saw her stroking the blanket and him pushing around pieces of bubble gum, the disappointment shot through him like a curse. And he was afraid waiting for that curse.

He had long ago stopped crying when he saw them like that, not recognizing him even though this was the hundredth time he had visited them. Crying didn’t do any good and his grandmother would whisper to her sister and her other son and his wife and the next day they would come over for dinner. He was already the odd one in the family. The stupid one. The inept one. He was the closest thing to a squib without being one. Almost a squib. There were rumors at school that Filch was one. Neville pictured himself pushing a mop around Hogwarts twenty years into the future. He shook his head.

One day they’ll come back, he said to himself. He told himself this after every time. It was the one thing that kept him from giving up. Whenever he recovered from the last visit he would tell himself that them coming back was about as likely as him passing Potions with an O. And he would still believe just as strongly then as he did now.

One day they’ll come back, he continued. And I have to be able to show them that I turned out all right. Neville turned on his side and eased the candy wrapper out of his pocket. He got up and put it in a drawer with all the others.

 

Author’s Note: Many thanks to Beth, my brand new Beta, for making excellent suggestions that really improved the flow of the story. Thanks also to Frankie B, who helped me celebrate.

 

 

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