Disclaimer. J. K. Rowling owns
everything. I own nothing. This story is not generating any pecuniary
gain for anyone.
Sunday 7 July 1985
Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
Rated G for references to soft toys.
“Stop! Leave me alone!” Hannah tried to slink off behind a tree.
“Give me Ramkin,”
bargained Miriam menacingly, “and I’ll go away.”
“No, he’s mine!” She clutched a grubby stuffed toy closer.
“I’ll pull your
hair.” The larger girl extended a fist.
hurt him – ooowww!” Hannah gasped and
squealed in pain as her sister grabbed at a pigtail with one hand and reached
out for the toy with the other.
“Give me Ramkin,” Miriam
repeated, as Hannah squashed her toy against her chest with both arms and tried
to jerk her hair out of her sister’s grasp.
She screamed piercingly,
and suddenly her hair was released.
Miriam’s scrabbling hands were nowhere near her. She could not even see Miriam. All she could see was the green branches of
trees – not trunks, definitely branches – and Ramkin was safe in her arms.
Hannah cuddled his grubby
fur and looked around. She was
apparently sitting in a tree. She was
up high, in the comfortable fork between two large branches, surrounded by rustling
green leaves. She looked down. She was so high up that it would have been
scary if the fork hadn’t been so broad and flat. Over her shoulder and in the distance, she
could just make out their parents sitting on the picnic rug. Miriam was standing firmly on the ground
below her, holding Hannah’s flaxen pigtail in her hand, and staring up
“Hannah, come down!”
“Shan’t,” said Hannah, for
indeed she had no idea how she would climb down such a tall, smooth trunk. Now she came to think of it, how had she
climbed up? And so quickly, too!
“Do you want me telling
Mum and Dad?”
“Tell if you like!” Since it was obvious that Miriam would never
manage to follow them up this tree, it was obvious that she and Ramkin were
safe, so Hannah didn’t care who told what.
“Hannah, don’t you understand?” sighed Miriam. “It’s happened again! Everyone will know you couldn’t have climbed that tree. Do you want everyone knowing that it has happened again?”
Hannah supposed that was
true. She hadn’t climbed, she had
simply, well, arrived. With
Ramkin. And without her pigtail, which
Miriam was still holding. Mummy and
Daddy wouldn’t believe that Miriam had pulled her pigtail out; they would say that Hannah had cut it off
with scissors (even though, of course, she hadn’t brought any scissors into the
forest with her). And they wouldn’t
believe that she didn’t know how she had landed up in the tree; they would say it was more of her “odd” behaviour.
“If they know that it has happened,” Miriam yelled,
“they’ll take you off to that cycle-jist again. You’ll be locked up in hospital! I told you to be careful. They’ll feed you pills for the rest of your
life, and everyone at school will say you’re weird!”
Everyone at school thought
Hannah was weird as it was. When Hannah
was around, unbreakable glass windows shattered, turned-off cold taps spurted
hot water, paint-pots caught fire, and Hannah herself was found sitting on top
of the stock-cupboard or inside the grand piano. Hannah promised every morning that “I won’t
let anything weird happen today,” but she couldn’t really stop the weird things
happening because she didn’t know how she did them.
“Throw Ramkin down and I
won’t tell!” Miriam was shouting. “It’s starting to rain, you have to come
“Strangers are coming,”
said Hannah. She knew that Miriam was
embarrassed to let strangers know about the odd happenings in their family.
Miriam closed her mouth
and turned around carefully. Two
strangers were indeed emerging between the trees, a man and a woman both
dressed in a kind of loose gown. They
didn’t seem to be noticing the rain, although they had no umbrella, and they
didn’t seem to be noticing the children, because they were too absorbed in
their grown-up talk to each other.
“Hannah.” Miriam’s voice was low and urgent now. “You must
come down. Those people will know you couldn’t have climbed up. Otherwise you’ll in trouble for being up a
tree that can’t be climbed. But I’m not
in trouble because nobody has done anything to Ramkin. So do as I say.”
“I can’t climb down,” said
Hannah. “Why should those people notice
me?” They might not have noticed,
except that Hannah had made no effort to keep her pitch or volume low, and the
strangers had just stepped within earshot.
At the moment Hannah was saying “notice me”, they both turned their
heads, and they did notice her. As they began to walk over, Miriam’s face
was an agony of embarrassment, and Hannah meanly felt herself avenged for
Miriam’s cruelty to Ramkin.
“I don’t think it’s allowed to be up public trees,” Miriam
“Well, I can’t come down,”
said Hannah, more loudly still. “I flew
up and I don’t know the way down.
That’s what we can tell people.”
The strange man glanced up
at the tree, then down at Miriam.
Miriam was miserable, but she still hurled a hateful, predatory glance
at Ramkin. It was this glance that
tempted Hannah to one last taunt.
“I had a flying carpet,
and it flew off without me,” she announced.
“So now Ramkin and I are staying up this tree for ever and ever unless
you call the fire brigade to bring us down.”
“Girls,” broke in the
strange man, “do your parents know that you’re playing here?”
They weren’t really
supposed to talk to strangers, but the man had a kind face, and Hannah knew
that, since she would have to come down from the tree eventually, she needed
adult help – especially if Ramkin were to be safe from Miriam.
“They’re just over
there.” Hannah pointed.
“Do they know that you’re
up a tree and can’t get down?”
“No, they do not,” said Miriam. “It was very naughty of Hannah to climb up
“I didn’t climb, I flew,”
“Ah. A very intelligent piece of climbing – er –
flying.” The man walked around the
tree, as if looking for the footholds that would have helped her up to her
sanctuary. “I wonder just how you did
The strange lady spoke for
the first time. “Hannah, are you scared
about being up in the tree, or are you scared about being down again?” Her voice lilted, as if her words were
poetry, and she rolled her Rs in the Scottish way. Her eyes were large and startlingly blue,
and the eccentric gown looked pretty rather
than silly on her.
“Down. Miriam was going to hurt Ramkin.”
“I was not!” lied Miriam.
The stranger ignored her.
“She was going to do an
operation on him by tearing up his stitches with a sharp stick and burying his
insides in the river. I’m not coming
down unless Ramkin is safe.”
“How did you get up?”
“I was running away from
Miriam, and she was trying to grab Ramkin, and I kept running, and suddenly I
was up here.”
“I suppose,” said the man,
still from behind the tree, “you climbed the ladder.”
“But there isn’t any lad – ” Miriam began.
“I’ll stand right behind
the ladder,” said the man evenly.
“Hannah, throw Ramkin down to my wife, then climb down. You won’t fall, but if you do I’ll catch
Ramkin was flying through
the air before Hannah thought to ask whether she should trust the strange lady
with the large blue eyes. Hannah had
thrown crookedly, so that Ramkin almost – dangerously – landed on Miriam’s
head, but somehow the curiously-dressed stranger caught him anyway, and began
stroking him between her two hands.
“He’s a ram,” she
said. “That’s why you’re calling him
Ramkin’s fur was so dirty,
and his face so squashed, and one horn so twisted out of shape, that it wasn’t
surprising that strangers didn’t usually recognise what animal he was. “Most people don’t know that,” said Hannah. “Most people say he’s a sheep. Unless they think he’s a dog or a dinosaur.”
“They must be city
people,” said the lady. “I grew up on a
farm, so I know the difference between a ram and a ewe. Now, can you make it to the ladder safely?”
Hannah looked around and,
to her astonishment, saw that there was a
ladder behind her, a ladder that reached all the way up to her
branch-fork. She didn’t remember seeing
it when she had looked around for her parents, but there it was, exactly the
right height. She shuffled around
cautiously and placed her feet on the second-highest rung. The man stood there, holding the ladder, as
he had promised. He had light-brown
hair and a thin bony face.
Hannah stood up slowly,
leaning against the tree-branch, and managed to turn herself around so that she
was facing the ladder. She grasped the
sides and began to climb down. There
was something odd about this ladder.
The rungs were very broad, and they were close together, so she didn’t
have far to step from one to the next – it was more like the steps up to a
slide in the park than a real grown-up ladder.
She relaxed, although it was such a long descent, and quickened her
She reached the ground and
the man said, “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head. “Ramkin.”
“Here.” The lady walked around and handed him
back. Hannah cradled him; he was wet from the rain.
“What happened to your
hair?” asked the man.
“Miriam …” She had forgotten about the missing pigtail,
and now she didn’t know how to explain it.
“She was holding it before I flew – I mean, before I went up the tree.”
“I did not cut it,” said Miriam loudly. “I don’t have any scissors.” She opened her fingers and threw the yellow
plait down on the ground. “Here, I
don’t want your stupid hair. Mum and
Dad will be furious to see it off.
They’ll make you pay a hundred pounds out of your pocket money for your
The strange lady picked it
up, glanced at her husband, then said, “You’re saying Miriam held your hair,
and it just came off in her hand?
Without her pulling?”
“Not much pulling. And no scissors.” Hannah felt very small and silly to have to
explain an impossible thing like that.
“It didn’t even hurt. It just …
fell … ”
As if it were the most
natural thing in the world, the lady said, “Let’s stick it back on, before your
parents find out.” She held the severed
pigtail against the shorn part of Hannah’s hair and murmured something that
sounded like, “Repair it.” When she
pulled her hand away, she wasn’t holding the hair any more.
Gingerly, Hannah touched
her head. The pigtail was back in the
right place, growing out of her head as if it had never been pulled off. She hardly dared ask how the lady had done
The oddest thing about
these odd people was how they didn’t seem to find her odd at all.
“Hannah, does anything
like this ever happen to Miriam? Does
she ever fly up trees, or lose body parts or – or make things happen?”
Make things happen. Hannah knew exactly what kind of things the
lady meant. With a rush of gratitude,
she said, “No, never.”
“Of course I don’t,” said
Miriam, piqued that they weren’t speaking to her.
“Or your mother or your
“Definitely not Mum or
Dad,” said Miriam. “Only Hannah is
weird enough. And we try to stop her,
because we don’t want people thinking our whole family is weird.”
“Hannah.” The lady knelt down (in the mud!) and held
Hannah’s arms with her hands. “Things
like that happen to lots of people. But
the other people, to whom it’s not
happening, are scared of it. So it’s
probably easier to keep it a secret.
We’re not needing to tell your parents about what happened today, are
disappointed, but Hannah nodded again.
“Let’s go and look for
your mother and ask her to take care of Ramkin.”
Hannah held the lady’s
hand, while Miriam kicked at the ground and then followed. Hannah heard her saying to the strange man,
“Why are you dressed up like that?”
“Why do you think?”
“You look like something
off the telly. Are you actors? Are they making a film in Sherwood Forest?”
“We all have to do some
acting,” said the man. “Like now, when
we pretend that you and your sister didn’t quarrel, and that nobody flew up a
tree or pulled hair off. Because that’s
the kindest thing to say to your parents, and it saves both of you from being
“Why is it kind?” Miriam
grumbled. “Hannah deserves to be punished for climbing public trees.” But she grumbled without passion. Hannah felt she must have worked out that
their parents would not be pleased about Hannah’s version of why she had flown up the tree.
Their parents came into
view; they were the process of packing
up the picnic rug, because the picnic weather was over for the day. That reminded Hannah of something else.
“Why aren’t you wet?” she asked the lady. “It’s raining on everyone, but not on you. You don’t even have mud where you were
The lady looked surprised,
as if she hadn’t thought of this.
“Well, nobody’s liking to be wet, so I’m supposing I keep the rain at a
distance,” she said. The lilt in her
soft voice was like music. “You’ve
caught me out, Hannah. It’s another of
those things where I should not be letting anybody know my secret, should I?”
The lady stopped walking and let go
of Hannah’s hand. The man stopped
talking just as their parents looked up from the packed picnic basket.
“Oh, there you are, girls,” said
their mother. “It looks as if our
picnic is rained out … Who are those people?
Did they speak to you?”
Hannah kept quiet. Miriam opened her mouth, then closed it
again. It looked as if she didn’t want
to accuse Hannah of anything else today.
“Girls, we have warned you about
speaking to strangers,” said their father.
“We can’t let you play out of our sight if you’re going to speak to
every stranger who walks past.”
“But they weren’t strangers,” said
Hannah. “They knew our names.”
“They said, ‘Where are your
parents?’” said Miriam. “And Hannah
pointed. And then they said we should
go back to where our parents could see us.
So we did.”
Their mother nodded. “That was probably all right, then. Especially as there was a lady there. But don’t let it happen again. Anyway, that’s definitely the end of the
picnic, so let’s drive to Newstead Abbey.”
Miriam, who seemed to have forgotten
all about tormenting Ramkin, followed their parents back to the car park. But Hannah looked back at the kind man and
lady in the odd gowns, who were still standing between the trees, just out of
earshot. The man had his arm around the
lady’s waist, but they were watching Hannah’s family, to make sure she and
Ramkin were safe with her parents.
Although it was raining quite hard by now, Hannah couldn’t help noticing
that they still didn’t seem to be wet.
The lady’s hair, which hung very long down her back, still had a soft,
wavy look, and their old-fashioned gowns were loose, not clingy, with no wet
patches at all. The rain should have
been hitting the man right in the chest, but Hannah was sure she could see it
bouncing off, about six inches away from him, and hitting puddles at his feet.
She waved at them. They waved back, then turned around, joined
hands, and walked back into the trees.
They weren’t going towards the car park or the city; they were heading deeper into the forest.
Only after they were out of sight
did Hannah ask, “Mummy, why do you think those people didn’t get wet?”
“What? The ones who told you to go back to your
parents? Of course they must have been
wet, in this downpour.”
“No, the rain wasn’t touching them,
“They must have been sheltered under
a tree, then,” said her mother.
But Hannah knew they hadn’t
been. “They were dressed strange,” she
said. “Maybe they were actors for a
“But there were no cameras,” argued
Miriam. “And they weren’t wearing
make-up. You have to wear stage make-up
all over your face for a film.”
“Perhaps they were members of a
club,” suggested their father. “There
is a club where grown-ups can dress up like people out of the Middle Ages.”
Hannah thought that sounded like
fun, but Miriam broke in again. “Did
you notice that they were in lo-o-o-ove?”
Hannah didn’t know how you noticed a
thing like that. “He said they were
married,” she volunteered.
“They couldn’t have been
married. They were in lo-o-o-ove. Didn’t you see the stupid way he was looking
at her, as if he had no brains at all?
She was no better, she thought he was Superman or something.”
“But he said she was his wife.”
“Well, she was really his
girlfriend. Or else they’d only been
married for about one day. One day at
the most … Mum, are we allowed a
chocolate bar after we’re in the car?”
Hannah held her chocolate bar
without unwrapping it. She couldn’t
stop thinking about the people who understood about making things happen. She
remembered how her pigtail had come off in Miriam’s hand, just because she had
been so angry with Miriam that she had had
to escape her, and how the blue-eyed lady had stuck it on again just as
easily. Neither thing was supposed to
happen, yet it had all seemed so natural.
How had the man found that ladder so quickly? Why did the rain bounce off both of
them? How had Hannah herself so
suddenly flown from the ground to the tree?
Was it really true that things like
that happened to lots of people?
* * * *
* * *
Remus and Ariadne Lupin walked on into the
forest. The rain dripped down from the
leaves above them, and was deflected by the Impervius
charm. When the Muggle family was well
behind them, Remus waved his wand in the direction of Hannah’s tree, and a
flash of silver light arched over the tree-tops to Vanish the Conjured
ladder. Then they continued walking
through the trees.
“You didn’t say what you
were thinking,” he said.
“Was I thinking
“I distinctly saw a
thought cross your face, but you decided not to confide it in me.”
“I was thinking,” she
conceded, “that if anybody else had thrown a spell backwards without looking,
and with his wrong hand, and the spell had not bounced straight back to him,
and it had not missed the ladder altogether … well, if anybody else had done it, it might have looked
like showing off.”
“I had to find some way to
impress the most brilliant Potions student in seven years. And trying to brew a ladder-dissolver in the
middle of Sherwood Forest might not have worked out too well. But nobody would have seen the flash amid
all this rain.”
“The little girl was
asking about why the rain’s not touching us.
Remus, what happens to children like that? The Muggle-borns, whose families are not
understanding what’s happening?”
“My parents told me that
their parents reasoned it away. Magic
didn’t exist, therefore magic couldn’t have happened. Muggle parents just don’t see it, Ariadne.”
“Do all Muggle siblings
tease as much as we saw Miriam teasing Hannah?”
“Probably not all the
time. We don’t know whether Miriam
always teases Hannah; today might have
been a bad day. For all we know, it
could have been Hannah who started the fight, and Miriam was only
over-reacting. Besides, the quarrel
didn’t seem to be about magic; it was
just a quarrel. All siblings do that.”
“Not all siblings are that spiteful all the time,”
Ariadne observed. “The quarrel may not
have been about magic this time, but I’m feeling the – the toxicity between the
sisters arose because Miriam can sense that Hannah’s different. Is that the usual atmosphere in a
“Not always. But it’s certainly a …” He trailed off.
Her fingers closed more
tightly around his. She knew he was
thinking about Harry Potter, his honorary nephew, the famous boy-wizard who was
growing up among Muggles.
He knew that she was
thinking about the children whom they had agreed never to have in their own
home. For the rest of their lives, it
was to be just the two of them.
But “just the two of them” was, for the time being, a
happy thought. When he chanced a look
down at her, he found that she was turning her head to gaze up at him. Each saw that the other was smiling. For, as young Miriam Abbott had correctly
observed, they had only been married for one day.
A/N. This story is the first chapter of The
Werewolf’s Bride, which is the third part
of the story begun in Moons of Deceit
and Crown of the North. For thematic reasons, the remainder of The
Werewolf’s Bride will not be posted at
the Sugar Quill. However, it will be
available at Fanfiction.net, and probably also at Fiction Alley.