Aunt Marge's Big Mistake
A small, silver third hand of a simple silver watch appeared broken. The hand, which had little runes carved into it, jumped to seemingly random numbers. For the past week, the rune covered hand would jump from 12 o'clock to 10 o'clock then be at 5 o'clock until late, where it would go to 2 o'clock for an hour or two, before retiring to 3 o'clock for a few hours of sleep.
Three days ago, Uncle Vernon had complained about Sirius's car, which had still been parked outside. The next morning, before any of them had woken up, it was gone. Sirius had not said anything. He had not written a letter and Hedwig, Siria's owl, had been left at Grimmauld Place. She would have given anything to know he was okay. The look she had grown so sick of seeing was the last face he had made. Before Remus had called, Sirius had been doing a good job of looking like he would be fine. What Remus could have said haunted Siria for her week at the Dursleys.
Light shot through the curtains. "Today" Siria smiled. Finally, after a week, Sirius would be here. She closed her trunk and turned the dial from artic blue to orange. When she opened it back up, the small staircase and study had been replaced with a normal, short trunk of clothes and Muggle books. Siria switched into a fresh set of clothes, with the same jacket she'd worn the whole week, and rifled through for Love and Logic: Logic Grids for the Heart. She clicked the trunk closed and went to wait on the porch.
Minutes rolled into hours as the morning became the afternoon. Siria had flipped through most of the first chapter of puzzles. After a week, the mandrake root had lost a lot of the bitterness it used to have. It was almost bearable, but still distracting. She was stumped on the current puzzle and couldn't tell if it was actually the puzzle, the mandrake leaf, or the fact that, at any moment, Sirius would round the corner. For the third time, she re-read the first clue.
Absently, she tapped her pen on the page of squares, as she watched the street corner. "Any minute" she told herself and stole another look at her watch. For Siria, it was as though time was both passing and not. It crept closer and closer, but felt like it didn't move at all. There was a sharp— CRACK! And Siria rushed into the house.
Aunt Petunia screamed from the kitchen. Dudley clattered from his chair and onto the floor. Uncle Vernon burst into an unintelligible shout that drowned out Siria's cry. In the kitchen, between Dudley and his new television, stood a guest that wasn't Sirius or Remus, but Siria didn't care. She fell to her knees and hugged the small house elf. "Kreacher!" She smiled. Even Kreacher's smell of dust and grime was more welcoming and homey than the smell of the Dursleys'.
"Let me get my trunk," Siria told him and rose to her feet. Kreacher took hold of her hand. His large eyes beamed up at her. Siria's heart dropped to the floor. "You aren't here to get me, are you?" The elf looked on the verge of tears. If Siria were completely honest with herself, she wanted to cry too.
"What?" Uncle Vernon cried in outrage. "Where is that good for nothing—" Siria drew her wand at him.
"Don't—you—dare." Though her voice was level her hand trembled. She struggled to tighten her grip. Just two summers ago, Sirius expressed how important it was to hold her wand firmly. "It's your lifeline" he told her. He meant her wand connected to her magic, which was her best weapon. She felt like it was what connected her to relationships, which were her greatest treasure.
"If Sirius isn't coming to get me, he has good reason. I'm safest here and at Hogwarts," Siria raised her head as high as she could. Her hand stopped trembling. She was resolved to stay, even if she didn't want to. Dudley whimpered behind Aunt Petunia. They were pressed against the wall with their breath held. Siria glared at Uncle Vernon, but placed her wand back in her jacket.
Kreacher gave Siria's hand a light tug and she allowed herself to drop her glare. She knelt down beside Kreacher, who produced two letters. Her heart shook, but she accepted them. The house elf leaned in and whispered into Siria's ear. CRACK Kreacher was gone. Without a word to the Dursleys, Siria placed one of the letters on the counter for them, as it was titled: Them. She marched up the stairs, ignoring Uncle Vernon's shouts, turned her trunk to the artic blue point of the star, and climbed into it.
When she was secured in the hammock, Siria tore open the letter that Sirius had addressed with a star.
My Dearest Siria,
Keep your head up and your wand at the ready. Please trust that what I'm doing is for the best. Kreacher will be stopping by to make sure the Dursleys are taking care of you. I'm sorry.
If things don't get better before then, I'll take you to Diagon Alley for your things on August 31st. It may be unlike me to say, but stay out of trouble.
Siria's eyes poured over the letter. She held it to the magical light of the room, flipped the parchment over, left her trunk to press it to the window. All it told her was that he didn't hesitate once. Sirius had no intention of telling her what was wrong. She closed her trunk, turned the star, and sat down.
It didn't make any sense. She was so mad she wanted to put Sirius's letter into the food processor, but so sad she wanted to eat Dudley's weight in ice cream. Part of her wanted to scream and throw things until all the broken junk Dudley owned was irreparable. Somehow, she didn't have the energy. Siria held the letter to her chest. A lump welled up in her throat and she wondered how long it would be until she cried.
Snuffles had been unable to answer Siria's questions, but would bring her books and letters with the answers she wanted. One summer, she had asked him why the sky was blue; the next day, Snuffles had brought her a book on colors, air, and molecules with the page on why the sky was blue bookmarked. No matter how passing her desire to learn something was, if she asked, Snuffles would find her the answer.
Sirius answered all her questions, except for what he did for work and why he wouldn't date anyone. If she wanted to know a spell, he would find it. From who wrote the song they heard on the radio earlier to what happened to boys during puberty, no question was too serious or too trivial. Whatever was happening, he didn't even give her the window to ask.
She supposed, if she wasn't given the opportunity to ask what was happening, he wouldn't have to deflect it. What do you do (for work)? "Boring, Muggle job." Why won't you date Chloe or Remus? "And lose time with you? Never!" If they were in hiding, how did Tom find my parents? "Sometimes people get lucky. Sometimes we trust the wrong people."
The longer Siria thought about the questions Sirius hadn't answered, the more her anger grew. She glared at the letter, placed her hands at the top of its envelope and tore. In the silence of the room, the tearing of the envelope sounded like breaking glass. It seemed to echo through the room. Its tearing was the only thing Siria could hear. Until the pieces were too small for her to tear anymore, she didn't even know she started crying.
"You're spoiled" she cursed at herself. "A spoiled brat," she glared at the broken toys and trinkets around the room. "You're just as bad as Dudley."
The afternoon turned into the evening. All too slowly, time rolled into night. Siria sat on her trunk, sprinkled with torn bits of Sirius's letter. Watching without seeing, her green eyes followed the minute hand on her watch. In a few days, she would be thirteen. Thirteen seemed so nice and enjoyable a week ago. Kreacher had promised to make a thirteen layer cake, with each layer a different flavor. Siria tried to tell him there was no way they could eat a cake that large, but he was insistent and Sirius had bought a book on baking to encourage Kreacher. Sirius had promised they would visit every shop in Diagon Alley until she found the perfect gift. He didn't believe her when she said that being with him and Kreacher was the best birthday present.
Like a whisper, the minute hand ticked. THUMP! Siria jolted up. Her trunk was pounding. She pressed herself against the wall by the door, her wand at the ready. By itself, the star of the trunk turned to artic blue. Siria raised her wand and pulled in a breath.
"Mistress?" Croaked the bullfrogy voice of Kreacher.
"Kreacher?" Siria hissed in the darkness. The house elf opened the trunk fully.
"Why is Mistress up? Is Mistress needing comfort?" He asked as he climbed into the bedroom.
"No. I'm— I'm fine." She lied. Siria pulled her face into her best smile. It made her feel worse, but she couldn't worry Kreacher. If she worried him, he would tell Sirius, who would worry as well. Then they all would be worried… more worried.
"What are you doing here?" Siria asked as she placed her wand back into her jacket.
"Kreacher has brought Mistress her cake." The elf took hold of Siria's left hand. Siria followed him into the trunk.
"You know my birthday isn't until Wednesday, right?" She asked. Despite this, on the round table, stacked almost as tall as she was, Kreacher had a cake thirteen layers tall. Next to it was Hedwig. Siria opened Hedwig's cage so the owl could stretch her wings while Kreacher sang her happy birthday and they ate a slice of the cake together.
"Kreacher will be back to check on Mistress tomorrow." Kreacher promised. He patted Siria's hand. "Master has changed the word to 'Bombarda'. Mistress must not tell anyone the word."
"Kreacher, is Sirius okay?" Siria asked. She tried not to be worried, but it was hard. Kreacher had worked so hard that Siria felt bad for missing Sirius.
"Master is fine. He is working." Kreacher lied. Siria opened her mouth to call him a liar, but it wasn't fair to Kreacher. Over and over in her head, she repeated that it wasn't Kreacher's fault. If Sirius didn't want Siria to know and told Kreacher to tell her he was working, then that's what Kreacher had to do.
"Thank you!" She hugged him. Kreacher ushered her back up the stairs, into the bedroom. He closed the trunk on himself and she knew he was gone. She drafted a letter to Sirius and had Hedwig take it right before bed.
(Book: B3, 16-18 The Dursleys are watching the news in the kitchen, as they installed the tv for Dudley [because he complained about the walk from the fridge to the tv]. There's an escaped convict announcement
"...The public is warned that Pettigrew is armed and extremely dangerous… (B3, 16-17)" but not where he escaped from.
Siria learns Vernon's sister, Marge, is coming)
When Siria gasped, she inhaled an unchewed bit of toast. In her coughing fit, she exclaimed "Marge?"
"That's Aunt Marge!" Uncle Vernon barked at her. "You were supposed to be gone." Siria's gaze narrowed and Uncle Vernon dropped his tone. "She'll be here for the week— while you're both here, you are not to say a word about your abnormality. As far as Marge is concerned you go to Saint Anthony's Secure Center for Mislaid Maidens—"
"What?" Siria shouted.
"Saint Anthony's Secure Center for Mislaid Maidens; it's a correctional facility. You'll be sticking to that story, girl." He pointed his large, meaty, purple finger at her.
"Fine!" Siria rose to her feet to clean her plate. "Fine." She repeated as she wet the plate. Forget about her letter to Sirius. The moment Kreacher came to check on her, she was going back to Grimmauld Place with him or she was taking the Knight Bus. "Marge" Siria growled at the drying dishes. "Marge" she groaned as she marched up the stairs. She would sooner volunteer to spend a week with Dudley and Draco Malfoy than a day with Marge.
"Oh," Siria trembled in anger. "If she says one thing— one, I'll..." She took a deep breath, but her chest shook with rage. Siria slammed her fists into her pillow. She pictured Marge's big, red face and punched. "One thing" she growled at the pillow. "Not this year."
Once her pillow was properly pummeled into a misshapen lump, Siria retreated into the study room of her trunk. She pulled out the accessory box Chloe had given her for Christmas, and pulled her hair into a tight ponytail. Up in the tight, high ponytail, all the unmanageable mess of her hair turned into volume. Her hair wasn't really that thick, but it would be enough Marge shouldn't be able to criticize it… as much as she usually did.
Siria looked at her reflection. From her messy black hair, to her thin frame, down past her knobby knees, Siria already looked as UnDursleyish as one could be. Even with her hair up tight, it was still black and clashed with their family aesthetic. She could wear one of Aunt Petunia's ugly, old dresses and would still look out of place with them. Her heart sank. Siria never felt like she belonged with the Dursleys and they made a point to enforce that feeling.
With Sirius, she looked like she could be his daughter. Sure, her hair was unbelievably messy and not nearly as pretty as his, but they both had black hair. He always stood tall and carried himself well. When she could, Siria did the same. If nothing else, Siria felt less out of place and less uncomfortable in her skin when she was with Sirius.
"Girl!" Aunt Petunia shouted from the base of the stairs. Siria scanned the room, as if it would give her courage or comfort, then bolted out of the trunk. She snapped it shut, turned the star, and hurried down the stairs. Aunt Petunia tugged on Siria's ponytail, "Really?" she barked. "Couldn't you have braided it?"
"But it doesn't look messy!" Siria pulled her hair out of Aunt Petunia's hand. "It never braids evenly, but this" she gestured to the top of her head where her hair looked flat because of how tightly she tied it "looks okay."
(Book: B3, 22-23 Marge arrives, Dudley gets paid to hug her, Marge thrusts her trunk at Siria, who takes it upstairs and into the guest room. The Dursleys serve Marge & her dog Ripper tea. When Siria joins them, Ripper growls & directs Marge's attention to Siria)
"Still here, are you?" Marge barked (B3, 23). Siria closed her eyes for the quickest moment took the best breath she could. She dragged the corners of her mouth into her best smile.
"I am," she told Marge in the sweetest voice she could manage, which was currently a rather pained version of her usual voice.
(Book: B3, 23-25 & 6-15 Marge isn't happy with Siria's reply, says that Siria would have been off to an orphanage if she'd been dumped at Marge's, and Marge thinks Siria is smirking at her. She snaps at Siria more and more. Marge tells the Dursleys that they should write to Siria's school & tell them not to hold back during Siria's beatings. On the evening of her birthday, Siria's presents arrive [Sneakoscope from Ron, Broom servicing kit from Hermione, Monster Book of Monsters from Hagrid, and a letter from Hogwarts].)
Siria wrote out to letters for Hedwig to take when she returned. One was to Hagrid, asking how to get the Monster Book of Monsters to calm down because she didn't want to damage her belt. The second was to Professor McGonagall, asking if they could use her classroom on Sundays, and apologizing if Hermione had already asked. Siria wanted to know if the people who had been petrified last year could join. She didn't included it, but Siria mostly hoped Ginny and Colin could join. Ginny was not petrified, but had experienced something that seemed much worse to Siria.
(Book: B3, 23-25 Siria makes it to day three, where Marge is saying the reason Siria is "rotten on the inside")
Under the table, Siria's hands trembled. She told herself "think of Kreacher. Any day, Kreacher will visit and you can go back to Grimmauld Place." Her chest trembled. She was so furious it felt like the room was vibrating. Marge went on and on and the more she spoke the more a trembling filled Siria's ears. It was almost deafening— almost.
"It's one of the basic rules of breeding," Marge told them as she took another hearty swing from her wine glass; "you see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup…" (B3, 25). Siria wanted to ask how they couldn't feel the room moving. Everything in the room felt alive and like it was screaming. It made her want to scream. Her teeth chattered and Siria forced her jaw to clamp down.
"Any day now" she told herself. "Think of anything…" Siria closed her eyes. She tried to think about a good reply from Professor McGonagall. If they received permission to use her classroom on Sunday mornings to study and practice, she would to ask Ginny, Colin, and Justin to join them. Neville had been the most disappointed when they had to cancel last year, so he would probably be really happy if they started up again. Her thoughts were loud enough to cover the screaming of the room, but still not loud enough to cover Marge.
"Weak. Underbred." Marge told them (B3, 27). Siria was sure Marge was talking about another runt of a litter, but in reference to Siria.
(Book: B3, 28-29 Marge gets more and more wine; she continues to criticize Siria's parents & says they were no doubt drunk in the car crash. Siria can't take anymore.)
When Siria rose to her feet, the screaming of the objects in the room seemed to reach its peak. It was piercing and disorienting the way the whole room vibrated.
"They died in a car crash—" Marge repeated, but was cut off. It was as if time itself had frozen for a moment. The room went silent and still. Then, all at once, all of the room seemed to break.
Their plates and cups shattered, the table splintered, even the silverware seemed to splinter. Aunt Petunia let out the first shriek as she jolted to her feet before her chair burst underneath her. Dudley, Marge, and Uncle Vernon all crashed to the floor and onto a pile of splinters that were once their chairs. The Dursleys appeared to be in shock. Three of them knew exactly what had happened— Siria had accidently done wandless magic.
Before they could collect themselves, Siria dashed upstairs to her trunk. She hoisted it off the floor, grabbed Hedwig's empty cage, and dashed down the stairs. "GIRL!" Uncle Vernon barked. Siria looked at the front door and it burst open for her. "Don't even try to stop me!" Siria shouted over her shoulder. She rushed the curb and held her right hand out. With a deafening BANG, the triple-decker, violently purple Knight Bus appeared for her (B3, 33).
Uncle Vernon had dashed into the yard after her. Siria knew it was childish, knew she shouldn't, but she was still furious. She stepped onto the bus, turned the back of her hand to him, and raised just her index and middle finger. "See you next summer!" Siria sang at him as Ernie Prang, the driver closed the doors.