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16 July 2008 @ 11:38 pm
Fic: The Backs Of Their Heads 1/2  
I think this one needs some explanation.

 

So, I was working my way through the wonderful world of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and I came to The Sandman Volume Eight: World's End.  The blurb is this: "caught in the vortex of a reality storm, wayfarers from throughout time, myth and the imagination converge on a mysterious inn at Worlds' End.  In the tradition of Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales', as the travellers wait out the tempest that rages around them, they share stories of the places they've been, the things they’ve seen… and those that they've dreamed."

 

There is a panel towards the end, specifically page 141 in the version I have, that shows far more people that we are introduced to in the story (and far more people than an actual inn could hold), which led me to wondering what other people might have been there.  (Can you see where this is going?  And I suspect it's probably been done before.)

 

This is the most crossed-over crossover piece of fanfiction I've ever written, but you only need to be familiar with Harry Potter.  The setting, main idea and a pinch of dialogue are from The Sandman, but the two main characters, including the narrator, are from Harry Potter.  (However, feel free to take a guess at which characters and fandoms you recognise.  I've blanked out part of the disclaimer for those of you who don't want to 'cheat' at that game.)

 

Sadly, it remained un-beta read, so if you see any mistakes please do yell at me. :o)

 

Title: The Backs Of Their Heads


Total Length:
5,588 words


Rating/Warnings:
PG13 (to be on the safe side) People talk a lot, with a little religion, a fairy tale featuring physical disfigurement, some mild swearing, and Crumple-Horned Snorkaks.

 

Summary: Dean and Luna get caught in a storm whilst staying at Shell Cottage, but this is a strange storm for April and the inn where they take shelter is a place where stories are told.

 

Disclaimer: The Harry Potter verse belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Brothers, with some dialogue at the end of this story taken directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, page 413 of the hardback edition published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury.  The Sandman verse belongs to Neil Gaiman and DC Comics, specifically The Sandman 8: Worlds' End, from which the premise of this story, a minor character or so, and some snatches of dialogue are taken.

 

Highlight the space between the starts to read the rest of the disclaimer: * There are characters and a story from 'Dogma', which belongs to Kevin Smith and View Askew Productions, and a retelling of a Celtic Fairy Tale, which probably belongs to the Celts.  You might (if I've written them recognisably) spot Gibbs from Walt Disney's 'The Pirates of the Caribbean', Mal from Joss Whedon and Fox's 'Firefly', Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' and a Shang warrior from Tamora Pierce's 'Tortall' books, as well as characters from Brian Jacque's 'Tales of Redwall' series, Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' series, Derek Landy's 'Skulduggery Pleasant', Marvel Comics and various fairytales.

 

Anything else could be mine. *

 

 

 

 

The Backs Of Their Heads

 

It happened during the war.

 

(I suppose you're used to hearing a lot of stories that begin like that, but you know what it's like – everything I can remember happened during the war, and even if it didn't I think it did.)

 

This was after I was caught by the Snatchers and before the big showdown at Hogwarts; a real rainy day in April and there was a bunch of us staying in cottage owned by one of Ron's brothers - the one with the French wife.

 

She was a bit over the top, Mrs Weasley, like she was trying to take care of us, when it seemed a little too late for that.  I didn't talk to her husband much, but then I didn't talk to anyone much.  Harry, Ron and Hermione were plotting something, there was this goblin that glared if you so much as looked at him and then there was Ollivander, but he was too beaten up for conversation.

 

I ended up following Luna around.  (Luna Lovegood, a year younger than us, Ravenclaw?  Commentated that match in sixth year with the –  Yeah, her.)  She talked enough that I didn't need to.

 

She'd go for lots of walks and I'd follow, staying close enough to the cottage so that we were still under the Fidelius.  One day she collected pebbles and we threw them into the ocean, thwop after thwop, no arty skimming them over the surface, just launched them in.

 

This day she said we were collecting driftwood.  We did that a lot.  There was a pile of it by the backdoor, sheltered under a jutting out piece of roof.  We burnt it to keep the cottage warm.  I taught her how to lay wood in the fireplaces so it would catch properly, but neither of us had wands to light it, so we needed one of the others to finish the job off.  Anyway, gathering driftwood was a useful thing to be doing.

 

I was bending over, trying to pick up an armful of the wood we'd gotten so far, when Luna said quietly, "Do you think we'd make it if we ran?"

 

I looked up at her and she was standing close to the water, looking out to sea, with the wind playing havoc with her hair, whipping it about her head so I couldn't see her face.  I remember that I stood up, my arms full of wood, to see what had caught her attention this time, and I'd never seen anything so fantastical, so bizarrely magical…which sounds a lot like Luna rubbed off on me, I guess, or at least on my vocabulary.

 

It was storm clouds rolling in across the ocean, a huge angry blanket of them, churning grey and black with sudden flashes of lightening, and white-topped waves stretching up to meet them before failing and crashing down. 

 

We both stood there staring.

 

My fingers itched to draw that landscape, but my legs itched too, wanting to run for shelter like the practical-minded limbs they are, and both ached after… well, things that had happened that generally happen in a war and aren't conductive to running.

 

"We're going to get wet," said Luna. 

 

That was the funniest thing I'd heard in ages.  I mean, it was so obvious, but it was just really funny the way she said it, and we were both laughing, and then we were both running.  Sort of.  I had driftwood in my arms and I wasn't running too fast, because it was heavy and, naturally, I didn’t want Luna to fall behind.

 

The rain came down hard and heavy.  It hit the top of my head, hit my face and my hands, and it stung.  I could barely see the wood I was holding, never mind where I was supposed to be going.

 

There was hail mixed in with the rain and I didn't notice at first, then I did and I thought it was strange weather in April, even for Britain, you know?  That was the first and only time I stayed on the coast, though, so maybe it was normal for where we were.

 

Luna's hand gripped my shoulder, but if she hadn't been holding tight I wouldn't have felt it; she was just as cold as I was and just as cold as everything else, even the air.  The cold made my aches worse.  My feet were heavy and my legs were heavy.  I felt like if I stopped a moment to rest I wouldn't get up again, but that not stopping to rest wasn't an option.

 

"I think we have to believe that there's somewhere to be," Luna shouted near my ear, and that's exactly the kind of thing she says that you think is crazy, because of course there was somewhere to be – the cottage that I knew couldn't be all that far away.

 

"Somewhere warm, please," she shouted again and my mind jumped to a huge fireplace, like in the Leaky Cauldron or The Three Broomsticks.

 

I never asked what, or where, Luna thought of, but there were lights in front of us and they came from a pub and we went in.

 

It was odd, this pub in the middle of nowhere that I'd never seen before, and I could have sworn we hadn't left the boundary of the Fidelius Charm around the cottage anyway, and there were definitely no pubs included in that.

 

Otherwise, everything seemed normal.  It was a pub, with wood panelled walls and large wooden beams above our heads, a large fireplace, barrels behind the bar, and lots of tables, benches, chairs and people. 

 

A woman, with skin a bit lighter than mine and wearing a blue sari, moved out from behind the bar, handed me a firewhisky and gave Luna a steaming-hot butterbeer that she downed.  I expected Luna's ears to be like they are after you've drunk Pepper Up Potion, with smoke pouring out of them, but she just smiled up at me and said, "Warm is good."

 

I couldn't argue with that.

 

"Welcome to our free house, the inn of the worlds' end." said the woman.  "How did you come to be here?"

 

"Watching storms is more fun than being caught by them," replied Luna and she pulled a face, scrunching up her nose as if something smelt bad.

 

The woman smiled.  "There are a lot of people that have been caught in this one."   

 

There were a lot of people.  It was a little like an illusion charm that Professor Flitwick showed us once.  If you kept your head very still and looked carefully out of the corner of your eye without thinking too much about what you were doing then you could see that something wasn't quite right.  Maybe there were too many people for them all to fit inside the inn and maybe the inn was stretchy and thin around them.  I wasn't sure.

 

They were in groups, most of them around tables but some in clusters of chairs, and for each group one person was talking animatedly whilst the others listened or drank or even, in the case of a nearby cat wearing black boots, slept.

 

Luna placed her hand on my arm, like I was a gentleman escorting her to a banquet hall or something.  "It's an old tradition, telling tales around the campfire and waiting for the dark to go away."

 

Telling tales until the storm broke.  I assumed that was what she meant and what everyone was doing.

 

It wasn't so 'old' a tradition to me when I'd been sitting around fires in the middle of nowhere for months, exchanging stories to try and find out what was going on in the world and if the war would be over soon, but I think she knew that and her hand was warm through my wet shirt sleeve.

 

"Wish we had wands," I said.  Croaked more like with my voice all hoarse, probably from the whisky.

 

"We can dry by the fire," Luna told me and I didn't ask how she'd known what I meant.  (I'd been following her around for ages and she's not dumb.  She's a Ravenclaw after all, so I figure the Sorting Hat didn't think she was dumb either.)

 

A bench on one side of the table closest to the fireplace was empty, so we sat on that.  The people on the other side, in high-backed chairs, didn’t seem to mind.  The woman opposite Luna even smiled at her.

 

She had frizzy hair that was a bit like Hermione's and a baby in her arms, wrapped in a pink blanket, and Luna took it off her to 'oooo' over it.  That's a girl thing, I think.  I've seen blokes talk babyish to little kids sometimes, or in funny voices, but they don’t do the 'oooo' thing.

 

"I was going to church," this woman said, "and now I'm drinking alcohol.  God has a sense of humour, you know?"

 

I turned my head to look at the baby and then looked back at her, half curious and half disapproving.

 

She grinned.  "Only a little bit of alcohol.  If I'd gone to church I would have been drinking some wine anyway."  She crossed and uncrossed her arms, as if she didn't know what to do know now that she was baby-less, and leaned back in her chair.  "Do you believe in God?"

 

I shrugged.  Religion wasn't something I'd thought much about since going to Hogwarts, not that it was something I'd thought much about before that.

 

"I believe in God," she told me, "but I don’t think I believe in the church anymore.  I still go though.  Isn’t that funny?"

 

It wasn't really, but she was smiling, so I smiled back, being polite.

 

"We ain't here for a religious debate," said the man sitting next to her.  He had scruffy hair, rough skin and a large tankard of something on the table in front of him.  I thought he looked a bit like a cowboy from the old West and I swear he had a holstered gun.  "We're supposed to tell stories.  Leastways, that's what I heard.  Stories or nothin'.  Not that the Bible ain't full of that."

 

"Nothing, or stories?" said the woman and the cowboy smirked.  "Here's a tale for you then," she said, and the cadence of her voice changed as she slipped into what I assumed was her storytelling mode.  "I was lost in the woods once and I came across a large pool of still water, dark with dots of light as if it was reflecting the night sky or as if it was so deep that it went right through to the other side of the Earth itself and the bottom was the night sky of the other side.

 

'I don’t want this', I called out, because I didn't.  I didn't want to be lost, not knowing where I was or what I was meant to do.  Then I saw a man walking towards me, walking across the water on top of it with barely a ripple."

 

"Jesus, right?" the man interrupted.

 

"An angel," she corrected him.  "The Voice of God himself, and he told me that no one ever really wants what they have, even him."

 

"You mean 'it'.  Angels don’t have a sex, do they?"  A bearded man was sat on the other side of the cowboy, with tanned skin that was even rougher than his neighbour's and large hands that were gripping a beer of some kind.

 

"I think you're supposed to say 'gender'," I muttered.

 

"Why?  What's wrong with sex?"

 

"What did he have," Luna asked quietly, "that he didn't want?"

 

"Besides the fact that angels can't imbibe alcohol and can't have sex?" The woman said with a small twist of her lips.  "His existence.  The purpose of the Voice of God is to say the things that God can't say to his people, because God's own voice is so powerful that if a human being hears it then he or she, well, explodes.  As the Voice of God, the Metatron, for that's what this particular angel is called, has to deliver God's word.

 

He walked across the water and he knelt on it in front of me and, as I stood there feeling cold, helpless and alone, he told me a story.

 

He told me about a small boy who loved playing chase with his friends and helping his father make things out of wood in a shed behind their house.  One day the Metatron is ordered by God to visit this boy and tell him the truth of his life – that his father isn't his father, that he is God's only son and that he's going to live a hard life before dying at the hands of the very people he has to save.

 

The boy stares up at the angel with wide eyes and begs with him to make it not true, to let him be his father's son and make his father proud by growing up as a good carpenter and a good man, but the angel can't do that.  He can only say as God has said.

 

And the Metatron lifted me out of the water and gave me his coat to stop me from shivering, and he told me something that he said he had never told anyone before: that if he had the power, he would have.  He would have changed the Son of God into a mortal man and none of what happened would have happened the way it did."

 

"Reckon it didn't happen anyway," the cowboy said.

 

The bearded man shot him a disturbed look, murmured something under his breath and spat on the floor, which was kind of disgusting, but not as bad as someone throwing up after being cruciated, or any other number of disgusting things, really.

 

Luna looked at the woman solemnly, gently rocking the baby in her arms.  "If God could tell your little girl things about her life, would you want Him to?"

 

"I think," she replied slowly, "that I would want God to tell her things about her life if she wanted Him to."

 

"Even bad things?" Luna asked.

 

The woman reached out her arms across the table and Luna gave her the baby, who mewled in protest.  "I think she needs feeding.  Excuse me."

 

I looked at Luna's face and I wondered if she'd been thinking of her mum, and how much did Luna know about God anyway?  Was it something that she'd read about alongside Crumple-Horned Snorkaks?

 
 
feeling: relaxedrelaxed