Running Backwards Chapter Seven (2015-12-27)

I woke up with a jerk, and almost startled sideways off of my bed. The room was still unfamiliar and thus disorienting in the dark.
Despite being underground, the Hufflepuff dorm ceilings were supposed to be lit following the school’s circadian pattern. Meaning that there was no reason for me to be awake.

I wasn’t one to awaken easily in the night, despite being in a new location, and so I sat up to search for the reason.

Our room was fairly large, understandable since it did have to house four adolescent boys and their inevitable mess, but still small enough to feel cozy. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I spotted Farold and Arthur’s prone bodies across the room. Besides Farold’s mild whistling snore, which I had accustomed myself to early on in the night, neither of them were the cause of my conscious state.

In the bed beside mine, a blanket cocoon curled further in on itself, and a muffled cry made its way over to my ears.

Ah. Cedric.

I dithered, unsure whether or not I should go over or leave him alone. I didn’t want to embarrass him by causing a fuss, especially since we didn’t know each other all that well, but he was my friend and I remembered being eleven and being homesick. Even if I had the maturity of a previous life, the first time around I didn’t, and I remembered my own bouts of loneliness. By day, they had seemed silly, but the nights made it hurt more.

Another muffled cry made the decision for me.

I padded over on silent feet to Cedric’s bed and laid a hand on his shoulder, “Cedric?” I murmured.

His shaking form stiffened, even though he shouldn’t have been able to feel my touch through the blanket cocoon. The tawny brown of his hair popped out and his face freed itself soon after, “Sorry, sorry,” he half-sobbed, pressing his damp face into the pillow, still trying to stop the flow of his tears, “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“It’s okay, Cedric,” I assured him and sat down in the empty space left by the curve of his body. Petting his hair would be far too forward, even if it did look remarkably fluffy, so I kept my hand on his shoulder in a hopefully soothing manner, “It’s okay,” I repeated inanely.

“I don’t know why–this is stupid–I’m sorry. I shouldn’t,” he stammered, but his breathing calmed and his tears stopped and he didn’t make any moves to push me away, so I assumed I was doing something correct.

I hesitated to speak, the only thing on my tongue was yet another rendition of ‘it’s okay’–which was practically useless. “It’s okay to miss your parents,” I said, which was at least more substantial than before, “But you don’t have to feel alone,” which was much better.

“I’m here for you and so are Arthur and Farold and Stephanie. And the rest of the Hufflepuffs will be, too,” I continued, voice becoming less certain, before I gathered myself to reaffirm, “You can cry, there’s nothing wrong with that. And if you need me, I’ll be here.”

I gave a wobbly, helpless smile, which Cedric returned.

Several hours later, in the morning proper, Arthur woke up to find the two of us in symmetric blanket cocoons on Cedric’s bed.

~

A/N: … who are you @cheloneuniverse? What is your methodology for going through my posts? Chronological? By fandom? Do you follow the trail of tags into the rabbit hole?

Well, anyway, thanks for reminding me of this series. And I’m glad you enjoy my writing 🙂

Running Backwards Chapter Six (2015-04-06)

The Hufflepuff dorms are the only ones that have an active defense. Slytherins prefer absolute stealth–their entrance is a blank stone wall indistinguishable from the rest of the castle–and the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw dorms have semi-sentient guardians in the form of a portrait and an enchanted door-knocker. But the Hufflepuff entrance? It will drench any would-be invaders with vinegar should they make any wrong move. One of the prefects, Danica Delano, cheerfully informs us that it used to be bubotuber pus up until 1837, when the Board of Governors had the Head of House change it to something less… drastic.

“That was the year when all the other Houses made it a challenge to get into our common room–the number of visits to the infirmary was ridiculous. Even to this day, only Hufflepuffs have ever been inside,” Danica continued, as she led the group to a room next to the kitchen stuffed full of barrels. The nine of us first years looked around in puzzlement but remained silent–Danica was an engaging speaker, and generous with her Hufflepuff knowledge, she’d tell us soon enough.

“Inside first, it’s more secure,” She whispered conspiratorially, knuckles rapping against one of the barrels until it revealed a tunnel. It was dimly lit, but not so dark that I couldn’t still spot the prefect’s magically colored purple hair.

The tunnel opened up into the common room and I could only describe it as, “It’s like a hobbit hole,” I read a lot, both in this life and my previous one, and certain books in both. The magical raised children that had heard me looked confused, but one of the other Hufflepuff girls, one I vaguely recognized from the Diagon Alley trip, grinned at me in agreement.

It really was like a hobbit hole–or at least what I imagined one looked like, and what images of the Lord of the Rings films I could fathom from the depths of my mind. The common room was all curved frames and comfortable fabrics and warm colors. The furniture was pressed along the walls leaving, the center of the room was raised slightly like a low stage, empty and available. It was open, but somehow cozy.

“All of what I told you outside is true, but it’s knowledge easily available in Hogwarts: A History. What is only known to Hufflepuffs–and can only be known to Hufflepuffs–is that we have another layer of defense. One little bit of history that people like to brush over is that our founder, Helga Hufflepuff, made Hogwarts available as a refuge for House Elves. Those who were abused could come and work here without fear of injury. Most of the House Elves work in the kitchens, though some of them do work in other parts of the castle. We passed the kitchen on our way here. Does anyone know where I’m leading with this?” Danica had a passion for history, at least history relating to Hufflepuff, and would undoubtedly be a better teacher than Binns.

“The House Elves protect the Hufflepuff dorms,” Farold concluded, rightly so as our prefect guide nodded.

“Yes, exactly! Those other barrels? Well, some of them do contain projectile vinegar, but others are actually where some of the House Elves sleep,”

“You make them sleep in barrels?” My fellow muggleborn interjected, brow furrowed in displeasure. I couldn’t say I didn’t feel the same.

“Ah, muggleborn. Tara Kahn, right?”

“Yes,” Tara bit out through grit teeth.

“My friend had a similar reaction. I’ll tell you what we were told by our prefect: House Elves are different from humans. Wizards and witches? Our magic is within us. But House Elves draw power from a building–a house, a castle–any structure whose foundation is magic. If anything, the Hogwarts elves are much stronger than any elves serving in some family’s ancient and noble manor…” The nine of us were riveted, even Tara who still had a frown on her face.

“… But it’s the serving part that gets to you, the sleeping in barrels. House Elves are more like poltergeists than you’d think–not physically–but while poltergeist magic manifests itself as mischief and mayhem, House Elf magic is for improving and preserving their House and its inhabitants. As for sleeping in barrels, well… technically House Elves don’t need to sleep. They can sustain themselves indefinitely on magic alone. Hogwarts elves have mandatory break times–because if Helga Hufflepuff hadn’t specified that, then they wouldn’t take any. As for the barrels? Well, they are fairly large and they’re cushioned inside. Considering most House Elves are at most three feet tall, it’s about as comfortable for them as your beds will be for you,” At the mention of beds, most of us remembered how weary we were; some even yawned.

“I still don’t like it,” Tara grumbled around her yawn.

“That’s okay. I have some issues with it too, but House Elves… sometimes change has to come from within. We can’t force liberty on them, because that would be worse than letting them do what they want. And according to Mimsy, a lot of them feel honored that their sleeping quarters are so close to our entrance–that they can help protect us at all times. Now then–”

“Oh, Danica… why are the first years not in bed yet?” Professor Sprout, who had been pointed out to us at the staff table, lightly chided from behind us. “Were you lecturing them on history?” She asked, amused.

Danica blushed, unable to deny it.

“Your passion is admirable, but you’re prefect for a reason. I’ll let you do your duties. Remember, tomorrow morning we have a House meeting,” With that, Professor Sprout made her way towards one of the many tunnel offshoots of the common room, presumably to her own quarters.

“Right then. For you first years, your rooms are down the tunnels furthest from the entrance; the left are the boys’ dorms, the right are the girls’,” She gestured appropriately while she spoke, “While you can go into other tunnels, you won’t be able to get into the rooms unless you are an inhabitant. Bedrooms should be safe spaces and it’s not fair to have others barge in whenever they want–it doesn’t matter what gender. The only exceptions to this are Professor Sprout, and the seventh year prefects. For the boys that’s Leonard Montgomery, and for the girls it’ll be me. As Professor Sprout said, there’ll be a House meeting tomorrow morning eight o’ clock. A prefect will knock on your door at half seven, but it’s your responsibility to get yourselves ready. Your luggage should be in your room–feel free to switch beds around, if you don’t like the one your trunk is in front of. Now off with you, just looking at all of your sleepy faces makes me feel sleepy,” She shooed us away and we trudged into our respective tunnels.

~
A/N: Still no plot, just some House Elf head-canons! Hermione’s SPEW was well-intended but without getting the opinion of the “victims” was just as high-handed as any master. Hogwarts is a safe haven for House Elves, you think muggleborn Hufflepuffs haven’t had a similar reaction to what is tantamount to slavery? SPEW really should have focused on getting abused House Elves out of their households and into Hogwarts, not taking them out of Hogwarts and into the streets. Like… where would they have gone if SPEW had successfully liberated them? There was no next step, which is highly problematic.

Running Backwards Chapter Five (2015-04-04)

Dumbledore’s speech was as nonsensical and boring as it had been in canon. There hadn’t even been a forbidden third floor mentioned to spice things up. So it was unsurprising that eventually all of the Hufflepuffs around us just tuned him out and waited patiently for the food to appear.

I don’t know what the usual size of the student body is meant to be–Harry’s dorm room had five boys, but as far as I can remember Hermione’s only had three girls. On top of that, were certain houses more populated than others? Were certain years? Regardless, including Arthur, Cedric, and myself,  there were a total of four boys. The other boy that would be our roommate for the next seven years was Farold Stebbins. Except for grimacing when we misunderstood and called him Harold, he was congenial enough. A decent bloke to have as a roommate, but I wasn’t getting the same vibes of potential friendship as I had before with Arthur, Cedric, or Stephanie.

There were five Hufflepuff first year girls, though I only caught two of their names–Margaret Presley, who preferred to go by Maggie, and Heather Jarvis, who seemed to be rather timid when introducing herself then boisterous when talking about Charms.

I knew the wizarding world was larger than what Harry had been exposed to in the books, but I had still assumed that it was a fairly small society. Purebloods knowing each other as children, even half-bloods having recognizable surnames and relations to pureblood families; but this was not the case. I was the only muggleborn in my immediate vicinity–sitting between Arthur and Cedric, across from Maggie, Heather, and Farold–and yet it was the first time anyone met each other.

I suppose this wasn’t something that could be chalked up to Harry’s obliviousness or House-blindness so much as his social circle. Despite the conflicts inherent in their ideology, Harry only interacted with the upper echelons of wizarding society. And I don’t just mean Draco Malfoy or Neville Longbottom or Sirius Black. Despite their financial struggles, the Weasleys were well known and well connected, Shacklebolt was head of the aurors and poised to become the new Minister, Dumbledore’s active, personal interest in Harry gave him an enviable social capital which was superfluous considering his celebrity status. He was networking with highly important people without even knowing it, without even trying–no wonder Slughorn wanted him in the Slug Club.

But I digress. There was more to the wizarding world than what Harry had seen, and it was what I would be part of for the next seven years. The background extras, the silent majority, the sheep. Except for Cedric, who was only important as a teenage martyr, no one in my immediate vicinity would ever be on Harry Potter’s radar. For all I know, I’m canon.

It was a disturbing thought which made me lose my appetite, conveniently after I had finished my meal but sadly before I could partake in the custard in front of me.

“No pudding, Rey?” Arthur asked, reaching over to swipe one of the raspberry tarts before Heather, who had already eaten three, could finish them off. Not that that was a problem, considering the House Elves in the kitchens could easily make more.

“No pudding,” I echoed, swirling my spoon through the dregs of sauce that remained on my plate.

“Not hungry?” This time Cedric asked, his own plate holding a slice of chocolate cake.

“Not hungry,” I echoed, again, before realizing how poor of a conversationalist I was being, “I guess I just ate fast. I’m pretty full already. Kind of sleepy…” I trailed off, wincing. That wasn’t a sterling example of conversation either.

But Maggie picked up my tenuous thread, “Oh, me, too. Today was very exciting but very tiring.” A yawn broke across her face, and she abandoned her fork to prop her elbow on the table and lean her face into her hand.

Like a wave, Heather yawned, then Farold, and on both sides of me I heard my friends yawn. Overwhelmed, I did so too. We blinked sleepily at each other before giggling.

“Looks like it’s bed time for the firsties!” One of the older students called out, not unkindly. Whether it was a signal or not, soon enough we were dismissed from the Great Hall. Following after the Hufflepuff prefects, we made our way to the Hufflepuff dorms–my home for the next seven years of my life.

~
A/N: This is both slower going and faster than I expected. I didn’t think it would take me five “chapters” to not even get to the dorm rooms yet, but I’m also surprised I even wrote five chapters… Usually I write an outline only or one or two chapters and then… just stop. Let’s hope I didn’t jinx myself.

Running Backwards Chapter Four (2015-04-02)

Hogwarts castle is like a geode–the outside is tough, but inside is all vivid colors and mesmerizing shapes. Oh, sure, the stonework outside was the same, but inside is where Hogwarts truly came to life. We could see the staircases moving above us, portraits peeking in curiosity at our little herd. And the ceiling of the Great Hall was literally marvelous.

In a way, being an unsorted Hogwarts student would be the last time all of us were equals. Blood purity, magical versus not childhoods, fore-knowledge of spells–none of that mattered when all of us were gaping at Hogwarts in amazement. Even having watched the movies, I was as unprepared as the next child–who in this case was Cedric, a pureblood–and the one after that, who really was a normal muggleborn.

But soon enough, I felt the eyes of the crowd on us. And while I was one amongst many I couldn’t help but hunch my shoulders and duck close to Cedric who had an unenviable four inches of height on me. I knew it was mostly benign attention and nothing personal, probably wondering how many first years would be sorted into their respective houses, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I stood out I would be hunted.

Which is unfortunate, considering the method of Sorting literally has one called out by name and seated at the front of the hall. So while my fellow first years murmured in shock about the sentience of the Sorting Hat, my head was on a swivel–scanning the rest of the hall and all the very many people in it.

My surname started with C, which meant, probably, I would get it over with early without having to be the dreaded first position. Fortunately there was an “Avery, Cornelius” and a “Burke, Octavia,” ahead of me–the former sorted into Ravenclaw, the latter into Slytherin.

“Chason, Reyniero,” Professor McGonagall called, and I tried not to wince when all eyes turned to me, as predicted. I also tried not to trip as I walked to the stool, but I suppose I can be glad that I managed to catch myself before I fell. I sat, trying to keep my gaze on my new friends instead of staring fearfully at everyone else in the room. Thankfully, the Sorting Hat was placed on my head, the width easily causing it to fall down to my eye level.

My mind was open.

Not that much. You’re surprisingly steady beneath the nerves. Unusual for a child… then again you don’t truly consider yourself as one. Do you?

I didn’t want to respond.

Come now, this is one of the most interesting minds I’ve seen in centuries.

So I didn’t.

You wouldn’t deprive an old hat of a little entertainment. The headmaster’s office gets so boring, and Fawkes is a terrible conversationalist.

Really?

Yes. Though according to your memories, none of this is real.

Was he having an existential crisis during my sorting?

I’m a talking hat, I have other reasons to have existential crises over.

I waited for the hat to get back on topic.

Yes, very well. Muggleborn, oughtn’t put you in Slytherin then, not that you have any cunning or ambition to speak of.

I had kept my past life secret so far, lies of omission counted, right?

Hardly the tools of a master manipulator. And to what end? Not that you want to be in Slytherin.

Of course not.

Nor Gryffindor.

That would have been terrible.

A mind in that noggin of yours, doubly so with that condition. Your head start would help you fit in with Ravenclaw quite nicely.

Were those puns?

Ah, but I see the truth. You want to be in–

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

I guess it seemed like an obvious choice, even if it was one I had made subliminally. Talking to the hat, it didn’t feel like my Sorting had taken that long at all. But when it was pulled off my head, I could see everyone looking mildly to majorly irritated. There was clapping, of course, but as I took my seat at the Hufflepuff table I could hear some older Gryffindors behind me grumbling. Merlin’s balls, a Hatstall that long just for a ‘Puff?

Immediately after me was Cedric who was also sorted into Hufflepuff. I was relieved to find I hadn’t done anything to irrevocably change canon in less than a day. And, funnily enough, following him was Arthur who had also been declared Hufflepuff. As they sat down next to me we grinned and nudged at each other playfully.

Stephanie, after Arthur, I wasn’t surprised to see get sorted into Ravenclaw, though I was a little disappointed. We could still be friends, of course, and judging by her teasing pout she would make it so.

The sorting went on, but I didn’t really care all that much. I recognized some of the Gryffindors–the ones that Harry had bothered to notice–like Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, Alicia Spinnet, and the Weasley twins. And the name Adrian Pucey–Slytherin–sounded vaguely familiar. But I was mostly just whiling away my time until finally the last of us, “Yaxley, Mitchell,” had been sorted.

Then, once the tired, impatient applause petered out, Dumbledore stood up.

~

A/N: He’s not really going to say anything important. But it seemed like a good spot to stop as any.

Running Backwards prequel (2015-03-28)

I’ll admit, dying as a twenty-four year old in 2015 then waking up as a newborn baby in the year 1978 was rather shocking. On the one hand, I’m Buddhist, so I feel vindicated knowing that samsara is real and my karma was good enough not to have been reborn as a bug and immediately squashed. Or, at least I was raised Buddhist in my first life, which is chronologically after my second life… Which leads to the other hand: I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to remember your past lives, much less that technically your past life is in the future.

So, no, I suppose the actual reincarnation wasn’t surprising to me; I was just getting caught on those fiddly little details for no reason. Or perhaps I just wanted to distract myself from my grief. Because even though I’m the one who died, I still lost my life–my family, my friends, my history, my identity–I have a valid reason to mourn.

It only took me a little while to get over it–give or take a few years. My new parents always seemed thankful that I was a quiet, solemn toddler. It was a little worrying to them, true, but better than having a shrieking, ill-mannered child like most other parents. But, eventually, I moved on. This life isn’t so bad. And in all honesty, it was pretty fun to be a kid again.

It’s pretty much the same as last time–I guess I wasn’t so good as to be reborn as royalty–if a decade or so earlier than my memories. Sure I kind of missed Pokemon and some of the cartoons from the 90s, but the 80s weren’t so different. Less reliant on video games and television, sure, but I had always been more of a reader than a gamer. Luckily, most of my favorite children’s books had been published before the 90s.

Well, my absolute favorite children’s books wouldn’t be published until the late 90s, but I had other activities to keep me occupied. It was enough that I still held the series dear in my memories; and I suppose I could be patient enough to wait until 1997 for the first book. But perhaps I spoke too soon.

In July of 1989, just a few months after my second eleventh birthday, my mum opened the door to an particularly interesting man bearing an even more particularly interesting letter. The man, shorter than my average eleven-year-old height, introduced himself as Filius Flitwick, Professor of Hogwarts. One of my future teachers. My parents took some convincing–by way of Professor Flitwick charming the coffee table to canter around the room, the tea set levitating around it in a whimsical orbit–but eventually they believed. I didn’t even need that much.

I suppose I wouldn’t have to wait so long for the Harry Potter series if I was already in it.

~

A/N: Prequel for this brainstorm, aka the Hufflepuff OC. Yes, I know Flitwick is Ravenclaw’s Head of House, but I figured multiple staff members help deliver letters to muggleborns and it’s not like they know which House they’ll end up in pre-Sorting. And Flitwick is cool.

If I’m going to be completely honest, the title is a reference to “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall),” and although I was tempted greatly… calling it Honey Badger Don’t Give A Shit would probably give readers the wrong idea.

Untitled HufflepuffOC brainstorm (2015-03-21)

I want to write a story. And I’m not even sure if it’s a self-insert or not, but I want to write a story about an OC Hufflepuff boy Cedric’s age. And he’s sarcastic and funny and a little crude. “We’re Hufflepuffs, man, loyalty and all that utter shite. You’re stuck with me forever,” and he’s Cedric’s best friend because he’s the only one who won’t put up with his stupid–I’m a nice person and so perfect and my father’s heir–thing. And during the Triwizard tournament (is Cedric sixth year or seventh year then?) he’s pretty much the only Hufflepuff not to think Harry Potter is a glory-seeking hound. I mean, he’s a little annoyed that Gryffindor’s trying to usurp Hufflepuff again, but he doesn’t think it’s Harry’s fault. And plus, he’s just a kid, a kid who has had all sorts of terrible shit happen to him. It’s not his fault.

OC Hufflepuff is probably a muggleborn, or a half-blood, regardless of if he’s a self-insert or not. I use “self-insert” perhaps a little incorrectly, but “someone from our world” is a rather wordy. So he has a lot in common with both of the muggle-raised Hermione and Harry. Which helps when his standing up for Harry temporarily puts him on the outs not only with his best friend but with the rest of Hufflepuff. And at first they’re a little suspicious of him too, but, well. The more the merrier. And he maybe sort of falls for Hermione. Like, when Cedric and he finally reconcile it’s something he bemoans. Which Cedric doesn’t really get, because, “She’s a fourth year, mate. It’s a bit weird.” And he goes, “Bugger off, Diggory, she could probably be the youngest Minister of Magic if she wanted and since I don’t have a certain someone’s pretty boy looks I have to make sure I’m worthy to be her trophy husband in some other way… Maybe I should learn how to bake.”

Except maybe Cedric does get it because, “I can’t like him. He’s a fourth year. And a boy.” Oh, be still my inner CedricxHarry shipper heart. And OC’s just like, “The only thing wrong about it is that I’m pretty sure you’ve only said like… ten words to him. You should probably fix that.”

And if it is a self-insert, well. Muggleborn, that way OC can’t know for sure what’s happening until he turns eleven. And so let’s say Cedric is only two years older, well OC isn’t amazing, doesn’t have any special powers, only has moderate magical abilities and no protagonist luck like the Golden Trio seem to do. He doesn’t want to change the world, really. He just wants to make sure his best friend lives. Because Hufflepuff loyalty and all that shite, his best friend isn’t going to be casualty number one in a war.

I guess it’s just something that struck me as particularly feasible? Because for the first eleven years of OC’s life he probably just thinks he’s been regularly reincarnated… back in time. Because JK Rowling didn’t publish the first book until 1997 which is, you know, basically completely after the events of the books. So OC doesn’t think it’s weird that they don’t exist… uuuntil he gets a certain letter.  And, because of that–because he wasn’t expecting to be in the HP series, he didn’t make plans to change the world. So… I guess as an overarching issue, OC has given up on making the world a better place even before he tries?

If I do actually want to get him involved in the main plot outside of the GoF mess, though, I guess he takes Divination and cheats with his book-knowledge, but then Dumbledore takes notice and is like “Finally, a reliable seer.”

I dunno what else, though.

[EDIT: I’ve written a prequel! Also, this is titled Running Backwards]