21 drabbles with intertextuality and food. These stories sometimes refer to real-world events: look at the dates.
Oh, history matters; but sometimes only personal experience convinces. So ... In my youth, I befriended a muggle actress. No, quite chastely: she had a lover, also famous, who wrote novels.
Perhaps you read his Christmas story - no? Well. No matter.
This fellow could not meet his obligations - books, speeches, travel - yet he had to support both the actress and a large family. I, in my foolishness, gave him a time-turner. He worked himself into the grave. I never saw her again.
(For once, the blue eyes fail to twinkle.)
And so I learned why we don't live among muggles.
2. For Idlerat: Michel Foucault picks at an airplane meal, somewhere over Kansas, October 1977
His California acid experiments brought to mind a conversation with a blond trick in Paris. Over coffee, afterwards, the Brit - too aristocratic for his taste, but satisfyingly authoritative - described how the right words in the right mouths reshaped reality. Proving his point, he waved a stick at the philosopher's head, mumbled some latinate gibberish, and made the conversation vanish from his mind. Until the LSD brought it back.
But no. A hallucination, surely, reflecting his obsessions: language, power, sex. One imbibed those drugs precisely for hallucinations. He kicked the seat in front of him, murmuring, "Thus I refute Lucius Malfoy."
3. For Two Toed Sloth: The vacationing schoolmarms are given inscribed copies of The Raw and the Cooked, July 1980
Sprout and Pomfrey vacationed on the Normandy coast together in search, they claimed, of plants for potions. They loved that little inn. If Vector sniffed that they were slumming with the muggles, so what?
Once, a Parisian professor joined their table. Over an excellent bottle - well, several - he expounded on his theories about symbols, superstitions, beliefs; he called all cultures essentially alike. He was brilliant, and quite wrong. Piqued, they demonstrated (with Sprout's broom) then Obliviated him as the law required. After three days spent hunting for ingredients, they slipped fresh Long-Life potion into his burgundy: an apology and farewell.
4. For Tinderblast: Charlie comes home for Sunday dinner, August 1989
Molly charmed the extra table setting from the cupboard; Ron dragged in another chair. Percy, bumped unexpectedly from the eldest child's place, sulked. In the sitting room, Charlie brandished a Romanian newspaper - only he could read the enormous, urgent headlines - while Arthur examined the small article torn from last Friday's Prophet.
- Dad, you have to explain to them at the Ministry. Their policy won't work!
- Is it a danger to the dragon preserve? Wasn't it the ... howdoIsayit ... Communites who protected it? Why change sides?
- Even I know some things matter more than dragons.
Ginny, eavesdropping, gasped.
5. For Noblerot: Lucius Malfoy reminisces over an after-dinner cognac, September, 1990.
I used to amuse myself in certain muggle bars, in Paris. (Hah! As if you never did.) There was this man ... so forceful ... though not a wizard. Nor a top. I didn't mind. My very gaze could punish him. A great ... pleasure, yes.
We talked once, afterwards. His ideas! He understood the power of words -- very nearly, about spells. Had he been a wizard ... He wasn't. But he was a muggle philosopher before dying young, of some muggle disease.
Ah, well. It's what they say about mud-bloods: entertaining, but you wouldn't allow your son to marry one.
6. For Mulberry Fields: Hermione offers Madame Hooch a chocolate frog, April 1992
Gryffindor's worst flyer wrote essays instead of taking class. Clever Hermione efficiently combined research on "Witches Fly Better than Wizards" with a Muggle Studies paper, "How Flight Without Brooms Began," bringing books and papers to Hooch's office.
What's this, Miss Granger? Ah, The Fun of It - Amelia's book. And ... the 1953 Harpies on that trading card?
Look! That aviatrix, their Seeker - they're the same!
Yes, a brilliant Seeker.
But ... She ... Her plane disappeared in the Pacific!
A great achievement, returning by broomstick, alone. But Amelia was decisive. When she quit their world, she quit for good.
7. For Chaos Rose: Minerva asks the house-elves to prepare a rather grand cake, August 1997
Minerva snorted. Couldn't their Dutch errand await peacetime? But Pomona and Poppy sat in her office, waving that muggle newspaper, talking and talking:
-- If you could mind the greenhouses?
-- Snape agreed to staff the infirmary. Yes, we know, but it's just the three days --
-- We know there's a war on. That's why, you see?
-- You married in wartime. You understand -
-- Now we can marry properly there - even if it's only under muggle law ...
Minerva, suddenly teary, nodded. She did understand. They shook hands before the betrothed couple flew away; out of earshot, she whispered a blessing.
8./ For Mulberry Fields: Hermione skips supper, November 1998/
Her mother sent stupid paperbacks to distract her from war and exams. Hermione ignored all but one, which had its own, compelling, Muggle magic. Everyone left her to read in the common room except Professor McGonagall, who lifted the novel from her hands.
Oh, I've read The Handmaid's Tale; it's upsetting, isn't it?
It's only a story.
Yes and no. Our war isn't the only war, unfortunately.
A pause. The professor decided Hermione required facts more than soothing. She cleared her throat, and began. Miss Granger, I believe the second year Muggle Studies curriculum mentions where flying carpets are made?
9. For Executrix: Baby Rosa Granger-Weasley nurses at 3 a.m., January 2001
Mrs. Weasley sent a tiny Weasley jumper and a tearstained note, by owl. Mrs. Granger sent a crate of Muggle books on child development, by parcel post. Some were new, some left over from Hermione's infancy, some older still. She still thought they were much too young to be parents, but at least they could be well-informed about it.
So while Ginny nursed the baby, Hermione read aloud. When they reached the oldest book, at the bottom of the stack - a thin paperback translated from the German - Ginny rebelled.
"For goodness sake! Sometimes a wand is only a wand, Hermione!"
10./ For Ptyx and Tinderblast: Dumbledore hands out hard candies, July 2001/
Hermione needed help with The House Elf Question. The headmaster offered sherbet lemons and books: one enormous three-volume work, and a pamphlet. He said, "I met the author, a radical muggle philosopher, when I was young, while conducting research at the British Museum. I gave him a potion for some nasty boils and in exchange asked for advice on this very problem - telling him, of course, that it was merely allegory. He gave me these studies in political economy. You may find them useful."
But even the pamphlet's first sentence confused her. How could a single specter haunt all Europe?
11./ For Ellen Fremedon: Bill Weasley drinks coffee with Noam Chomsky, December 2001./
Bill adored Cairo's souk: one never found true artifacts there, but always met interesting strangers. Once he sat in a cafe with an American who spoke of old wars, wars to come, empires colliding... and petroleum, whatever that was. This much-troubled region would soon see worse days, the muggle scholar predicted. Weasley, who had flubbed Divination, couldn't say; instead he offered tales of ancient curses, runes and codes - the muggle already knew so much! - then flew them back to his hotel, by carpet.
Please don't tell.
Don't worry, the linguist replied. Nobody ever believes me anyhow.
12./ For Mulberry Fields: Sprout and Pomfrey share a midnight snack, July 2002/
Pomona relaxed with lurid muggle non-fiction; stubborn Poppy plowed through professional journals. One night, over tea and biscuits, Pomona complained about The Dark Lady of DNA. No romance and no real crime, just academic politics. Yes, muggles have them, just like us. It seems this scientist, Rosalind something, was not actually murdered by the men who used her work to win some famous prize. If disappointment did her in, who cares?
Poppy, in turn, described Snape's latest article - "remember helping with the ingredients, while I ran the trials? Here we are in the footnotes!"
The biscuits crumbled between their fingers.
13./ For Executrix: Harry and the new Minister meet for lunch, March 2003/
What was Bill doing in London? He walked right past Harry as he entered the Minister's office.
Arthur looked up from -- was that a Muggle newspaper? Oh, Harry. See what's become of this collection of magical artifacts. Oldest in the world. From before the Wizarding world was separate from Muggles. We thought it safe in that museum among all the other antiquities. But there's a war there. The whole collection ... looted, destroyed. Gone forever.
The Minister sighed. They call me a Muggle-lover; it's true enough. But days like this - just between us - I can almost see Voldemort's point.
14. For Cathexys: Colin Creevey chokes on his morning tea, April 2004
To his surprise, he survived the war. Now he worked photographing wizarding society, weddings a specialty. Still, he dreamed of covering world events like the great muggle photojournalists. They worked with limited equipment, not like wizards; but look what they could do by being there at the decisive moment ... Colin took all the London newspapers, muggle ones too, just for the pictures.
And if today the amateurish front-page photographs depicted unbearable cruelty - still he was glad, upon reflection, that they existed. If such crimes were to be committed, let there be a record, though the criminals made it themselves.
15. For Idlerat: Lucius Malfoy breakfasts alone, early May 2004
They didn't merely break his wand, after they released him. Banished from the wizarding world, without family, minions, or house elves, Malfoy could not so much as subscribe to a magical periodical. So he was reduced to taking the Muggle Times of London. He read it every day, as he buttered the toast he burnt and sipped the tea he brewed for himself. This morning, the front-page photographs were so dreadful that he felt grateful they couldn't move -- one wouldn't want further details. How revolting mudbloods could be. How predictable, that they would create a prison worse than Azkaban.
16. Draco Malfoy eats brunch in a Manhattan coffee shop, May 23, 2004
Draco Malfoy, far from home, missed his long-dead mother. The local Sunday paper - why could one never find the Prophet here? - reported muggles resorting to familiar excuses for actions like those that finally made him betray his family in their war. Those people, neither soldiers nor civilians, must have done something or why would we imprison them? the muggle torturers said. The conventions do not apply to them, nor us. He remembered her words as he watched her don those robes, that mask: hush darling, don't let it trouble you, they're only muggles, they don't feel it as we do.
17. Four-year-old Rosa Granger-Weasley gets her regular mug of warm pumpkin juice and three chapters from A Magical Child's History of the Wizarding Wars at bedtime, November 3, 2004
"Enough for tonight!" said Hermione, leaving the bookmark at page 342.
Rosa said, "But it turns out right?"
"Yes," Hermione replied, "you know Uncle Harry beats Voldemort in the end."
"But mummy? Mummy? In the middle of the story, were you scared?"
"Yes, sweetness. We were scared. It's frightening when you don't know how the story ends."
"I'm glad the middle's over now," Rosa said, yawning. Rosa's parents smiled over their little girl's head.
But as they were reading the paper in the parlor, hours later, Ginny whispered, "what I hate is, it's always the middle of the story somewhere."
18. For Scribbulus Ink: The Auror representing the Muggle Obliviation Squad declines a scone but demands an explanation, July 2005
Setting his teacup down on an old /Fewmets Interpretation Quarterly/, Hagrid explained:
Yeh see, I'm going on holiday, an' I needed a gift for my friend at Beauxbatons -- somethin' she'd not find in France. But a' the entrance to Harrods they stop everyone for an inspection. Where's the harm? I think, so I give them my umbrella and empty out my pockets. They say nothin', bu' they look at me funny, like. So I say, It's jes dog biscuits and sweets. See? Humbugs ... an' a few Exploding Bon-Bons, of course.
An' that's when they started gettin' all excited.
19. For Elphaba of Oz: Five-year-old Rosa Granger-Weasley drinks her regular mug of warm pumpkin juice and listens to the last ten pages of A Magical Child's History of the Wizarding Wars at bedtime, November 3, 2005
"... ever after!"
Hermione closed the book. Rosa squirmed. "Then what happened?"
"After the war? That's when the fight really began."
"But Voldemort was dead, mum!"
Ginny, standing in the doorway, joined in. "The war didn't fix everything, and - "
"There were laws against werewolves, and centaurs, and - somebody had to do something!" Hermione added.
"Is that the next book?" Rosa wondered. Over her head, her parents smiled.
Ginny answered, finally. "It would be dull. Persuading your own side's not the same as fighting Death Eaters. But -- if there were such a book? Your mum would be the hero."
20. For Beth H.: Hermione's copy of Fear of Flying is hidden under Ginny's napkin, July 2011
When her daughter's Hogwarts letter arrived, Hermione visited the bookstore, returning with armloads of tomes -- Muggle and magical -- about all the problems their little Rosa might face. Ginny Granger-Weasley dutifully examined the towering pile of books on their kitchen table, pausing at a yellowing paperback.
"Mum had a copy of this! She kept it in the cupboard with the concealment spell!"
"Really? She didn't expect that any of you would have a problem with learning to use a broomstick, did she?"
Ginny blushed. "Er, Hermione ... that is ... I think the title might be a bit misleading."
21./For Elgoose: Snape invites an old friend to tea, c. 2025/
He led a double life - at least. Honorably retired, he turned to reading muggle histories, hoping to catch up on what he had missed while fighting and working among wizards. A friend brought books, starting with Tacitus on the ancient world and working up to the French revolution, and beyond: Hobsbawm's Age of Revolution, of Capital, of Empire ... Hermione hesitated before handing over the last, Age of Extremes, 1914-1991.
Severus, are you sure you want to -
Handing the book back, he sighed. Probably not. Poor muggles. From those earlier volumes, I'd guessed their story can't have a happy ending.