Tyler  McNamara
Writing. World Building. Game Design.

Reality Fan Fiction

Guillotine + Playgrounds (part 2)


“A wizard knows these things,” I said, handing the wand back to him, but he was unwilling to take it.

Using his bangs like an invisibility cloak to hide behind he said, “They were calling me a muggle because I didn’t have a wand, and I didn’t know how to make one, so after this boy Cain was cursed, I took his.”

“Cursed? I thought he was dead?”

“He is. It was the killing curse, Avvv....” His mouth clamped shut.

“That’s unforgivable!” I heard myself say, outraged. I had stopped pretending. “Who cast it on him?”

He shrugged, “It happened before I started. I asked about it, but no one saw it happen.”

“How…” I was about to ask if we could bring him back to life, but I quickly remember that my son didn’t even know how to make a wand. I looked out the window at the sun on the horizon. We had about 40 minutes until it would be too dark.

“How about you and I take a trip to Ollivander’s and get you a wand of your own?”

He looked confused, “Ollivander’s is back at school. The hole in the fence by the backstop is Diagon Alley, only the 7th graders are allowed to go outside the playground.”

I look at him astounded, “You think such a well-to-do Wizarding family like us wouldn’t have a floo?” I winked at him.

In the back yard we began to walk the borders of our small property. To the east, our land abutted an abandoned farm lot, and the line between the tall grass of our yard, and the edges of the untamed wild was blurry. Somewhere in the mass of weeds was a stone wall that I was afraid of hitting with the lawnmower, and was therefore bullied by the weeds into mowing less and less of the yard. Maybe if I kept up with the mowing it wouldn’t get such a running start. The south border was our sleepy avenue lined with young lindens. To the west was a row of overgrown shrubs nine or twelve feet high, which had been planted alongside a fence, but had long ago incorporated the chainlink into their branches. To the north was a white cedar fence, greyed by time and put up long before we moved in. Pulling on a particularly straight branch of the evergreen shrub, he asked, “Mom, what kind of bush is this?”

“It’s a yew,” I said, remembering the day my father had taken me to another tree, identical to this one, and pointed at the bright red berries saying, “Never, ever eat these.”

His little nose crinkled up in revulsion. The branch sprung back up as he released it. He walked the opposite direction. “I think I want a goldenrod wand like Cain’s.”

“Any of those with the yellow flowers." I pointed toward the weeds.

His eyes quickly found the straightest one and his hand beelined toward it. “Aah!” He called out pulling back his hand and clutching it in the other. The cry felt like an icy bullet.

“What happened?” My maternal danger sense flared and I immediately saw the perpetrator. It was the only weed bobbing from disturbance.

“Something bit me,” he looked toward the overgrowth with a tinge of fear.

“No. You just got chosen.” I handed him the small paring knife and pointed to the rose briar, growing straight up, battling the goldenrod for sunlight.

“That?” He pointed at the thin, green stalk.

I shook my head 'no'. “In there.” Around its base were straight dead stalks no more than 20 inches in length. “Rose,” He crinkled his nose again. “Rozsa, rho-don, draa-gon.” The spark of imagination caught and lit. “You must reach into the maw of the dragon and cut a wand without getting your arm bitten off.” Who am I? I thought. I’m actively encouraging my son to get scratched to hell in a bramble bush.
“It hurts.” He showed me where the other pricker had ‘bit’ him.”

“I thought you wanted a wand.” I shrugged, and turned back to the house. “Let’s go inside and get ready for bed.”

Behind me there was a sharp hiss of pain, but when I turned around he was already running toward me. The bramble wand was clutched is his barely scratched hand.

In the house, we cut off the cruel-looking thorns, and burned out the pithy core using a six-volt battery, and a carefully split pencil.

“We never did anything this cool in science class!”

“That’s because this is dangerous.” I meant to say it as a warning, but ‘dangerous’ came out sounding like a synonym for ‘awesome’.

It had been raining all morning. The school activities director called me up and told me I wouldn’t be needed to help supervise at afternoon recess. It would probably get cancelled because of rain. A few hours later the sun came out, and I again received a call from the activities director, who apologized for the last minute notice, but would I be able to help out after all.

Puddles still lingered on the plastic seats of the see-saws and the swings, pooled at the bottom of the slide, and the rain had washed away all the chalk hop-scotch boards. All of the wet seemed to push the children off the structures, and into the center of the playground. The sandbox’s green hard plastic cover had yet to be opened, and Cain had sprawled himself across it dramatically. I watched, proudly as my son approached Cain, announced to everyone than he had found the resurrection stone in Gaunt’s shack. He pointed across the school grounds to the sports equipment shed.

“That’s Hagrid’s hut,” one of the children pointed out.

“Not that,” he answered, “There.” He adjusted his aim toward the pitcher’s mound. “It took me a while to figure out that the baseball diamond, was actually a clue to the stone’s location.”

Nice touch.

“Wait, don’t!” Called one of the girls, who I later discovered was Cain’s twin sister. But it was too late. He touched the stone to Cain’s chest, and the boy rose, taking in a very convincing gasp for air.

Cain looked around as if getting his bearings. One of the children asked, “Do you remember who did it?”

“Give him a minute,” my son said, handing the goldenrod wand back to Cain.

“But if someone here cast an unforgivable curse, we need to have a Wizengamit, and send them to Azcaban!”

There was a long silence as Cain looked at each of the onlookers faces, scrutinizing each one. Finally Cain’s mouth opened and there was a loud SKREE! The inhuman sound frightened me for a moment before I realized that it was just the see-saw, which a couple of younger children had decided to use at the cost of a wet bum.

Cain locked eyes with his twin sister and seemed to remember something. “How could you?” He bellowed at her.

She raised her wand defensively and backed away, but she was already surrounded by a gamut of sticks. “I didn’t mean to say it! It just came out! I was— I was—”

“Un…For…givable.” Cain reminded her.

“Expelliarmus!” One of the older boys commanded, and Cain’s sister’s wand went flying through the air toward him.

“HEY!” One of the mothers yelled at the congregation of wiz—I mean children, “No stick fighting!”

“They’re not…” I started to explain, but she was already marching across the playground toward them.

I heard one of the children say, “Dementors!” under his breath and all of the children scattered. All except Cain’s sister, who just stood there, locked in this woman’s angry glare.

“If I see you throwing sticks again you’re going straight to the principal young lady!”

As the girl stared up into the face of this older woman, I watched as the energy, the wildness, the innocence was sucked from her. She nodded despondently, walked over to the half-sphere climbing structure all made up of triangles, and sat down inside it. She didn’t look scared, and she wasn’t crying. Somehow I could tell she was coldly plotting her escape.

The older woman stomped back over to where I was standing. “Didn’t you see them stick fighting?”

“I... I didn’t,” I said and shrugged.

“Well. Pay more attention, we need to keep them safe!”

I nodded, but inside all I could think was, Muggle.