Storm clouds grizzled the sky a pewter grey. Through the approaching storm front, Malcolm Steel strode up the street dividing Hgsmeade. Sofia was ahead, presumably heading to the bookstore for school supplies. Under the brim of his fedora, Malcolm watched his energertic daughter with a mix of pride and trepidation.
Pride, because she was a strong young lady about to come of age. She'd not let anyone take advantage of her, mentally or physically. She knew what was right and defended it with what she had.
Trepidation because she was his only. There would be no more after her...that was the law of nature concerning age and offspring. Danika had sorely wanted siblings for Sophia, but complications arose, and the Steels decided to be grateful for the one they had. And now, the world was going to hell and his little girl was rushing headlong to meet it, even if she was still unaware of the consuming flames. Would she be able? Would she be well equipped to face the fire? Would she stumble and fall like so many before, or would she be smart enough to hunker down and endure?
Mentally, he chided himself. He wasn't 'smart enough' to just endure this catastrophe of a government. Odds are, his angel wouldn't either, once she knew what was happening.
Sofi peered into the shop windows around her, looking for something interesting. She hadn't been to Hogsmeade since the last school year, and she had never been there in the summer, so she was interested to examine what sort of things happened there in this different time.
She was with her father... well, at the moment she wasn't, but that was his fault, not hers. He kept falling behind, a fact that amused more than annoyed her. Still, it was rather odd having to glance over her shoulder all the time to make sure he was still there. Almost like they had reversed their relationships, she mused. This thought amused her even more, and she fought to keep a grin off her face at the thought.
"Hey, old man!" she called teasingly, to relieve her feelings, "What're you doin' all the way back there? Nothin' to look at, there... C'mon, I thought you were here to hang out with me..."
Old man? She'd been spending too much time with Cross. Malcolm kidded himself that the boy was the fault of her teasing. She had done this sort of thing since before she knew him. Cross was just a good scapegoat. Eventually, Steel would have something significant to blame him for, but that time hadn't come yet.
"Watch who you call old man, whelp. The stores ain't gonna change if I walk any faster or slower. You know its been forever since I've gotten out of the cave...let me enjoy myself, eh?"
And of all the days to emerge from his workroom, it had to threaten rain. Oh well. The shill breeze that heralded the coming rain was a beneficial change to the oppressive heat wave that had blanketed the season.
The stores had changed so much since his own time in school. This used to be a tourist town, and now its an economic hub. Why had Diagon alley been attacked? It hadn't been the Order. They'd never had the resources necessary to bring down such a large area. No, the only ones with resources nowadays ALSO had the tools to blame whomever they wished. Still, at least Hogsmeade prospered.
"Slow down and tell me what you want for your birthday. Besides the leathers...I want to get you something respectable in addition to that....flashy...gear." He bit out the words carefully, knowing Sofia would find it amusing. Honestly though, girls weren't supposed to dress like that. Try telling that to a model and her daughter though. For them, clothing was a statement. For him, it was a way to not be naked.
Sofi giggled, but she moved back to slide her arm into her father's. She really was glad he was there, but she could tell he was having trouble keeping his mind on one thing. Not that this was a rare thing for him; as a writer, her father's mind often wandered. But he still seemed more preoccupied than usual.
"Daaaaad.... why bug me about the leathers now? You haven't before... not really, anyway.... do you really not like them? I think they're fun, is all." She frowned slightly, bumping his upper arm with her forehead. "And why are you so distracted right now? Are you thinking of something new to write?"
Malcolm placed an arm over her shoulder. Tilting his head back to look at the sky, he began carefully with his words. He remembered a similar talk with his mother before he joined the service.
"Well, baby girl, I've been thinking of you. How much I love you, and want the best for you. And I can't guarantee that when you go out to face the world. I hope I've armed you with the best knowledge and abilities a parent can, but its still scary for me to see you all grown up. When you fall, Mr. Boo-Boo Bunny isn't gonna make it better anymore." He referenced a stuffed toy of Sofia's with a straight face. The fuzzy blue stuffed rabbit had dried more tears and cured more bumps and bruises than any other toy.
"And for the leathers...I've not really had a good opportunity now have I? I know what your mother would say should she hear me bicker about it, and I'm not fool enough to pick a fight over fashion with her."
Sofi snuggled under her father's arm, just as she'd been doing since she was very small. Since he was so tall, she was still able to do so with ease.
"I'll be fine, Daddy," she muttered, using the more affectionate name to set him at ease, "I can take care of myself... though I'll always look to you and Mum if I ever need help, don't worry about that. As you say, I'm gettin' older.... not long till my birthday, now.... but I'm still gonna be with you guys for a while, ya know."
She was quiet for a moment, still as her father in thought. "You came home from work really quiet the other day, Dad... why? Did something bad happen?"
He was still amazed at how perceptive she was. Anyone else save Dani wouldn't have seen the trouble that plagued him. The weight of an intellectual revolutionary had weighed on his shoulders that day. He hadn't actually been at work, but he was working far harder than his daughter knew.
"In a sense, you could say that. One of my aquaintences heard that his family had been killed. As his friend, he came to me for help. Its just too easy to imagine his situation hitting closer to home, baby girl."
Indeed, it was extremely easy. Martinov's family had been slayed because of the mother's muggleborn status. And here he was, not only muggleborn, but sitting with falsified documents. Would that earn the entire family the death sentence here in England? Probably not. More likely, slavery. Which, honestly, was worse.
He decided to change the subject.
"That, though, is a dark and depressing matter. Lets talk of something else. How is that Cross boy? He still a pain in the ass?" His tone wasn't disapproving. If anything, the supposed insult was becoming a term of endearment for the boy. God help him.
Sofi bit her lip, watching her father carefully and almost anxiously as he spoke of his friend from work. Secretly she was wondering if it might have been something else her father had learned, and that he was just hiding it from her. She could read her father well, and there seemed to be more on his mind than just concern for a friend, though how he could be thinking that his own family was in trouble was beyond Sofi. They hadn't done anything wrong by being what they were, and as long as they didn't make too much of a public stink about how things in the government were going, they would still be perfectly all right.
She almost wanted to ask her father more about his worries, but then he changed the subject. The new subject he had chosen, however, came as a surprise to Sofi, and she felt her face grow warm before she could stop it. "Oh, him? Yeah, same as ever.... Ya know, he was at the hospital with me, you remember, you were the one to pick me up... We actually got to hang out a bit, which was way more fun than I'da thought." She lapsed into silence, biting her lip once more, but it was more from the awkwardness of her own feelings than worry for another's.
"Yes, I remember...I'm in my forties, not senile...Go any place interesting when you were hanging out with him? Or, let me guess, you two spent all your time in the quidditch shop drooling over racing brooms?" He gave his child a teasing smile. She was one of the few people who got to receive the expression. As the new Captain for the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, she seemed bound and determined to take the school by a storm.
Honestly, her odds were pretty good, Malcolm reflected. She had a lot of fire for a Hufflepuff in addition to the desire to work hard and get the job done. With a wildcard like Cross on the team, should he make it, they might just have the energy and drive this year to win the cup.
"Think Cross has a chance of keeping his nose clean this semester? Its do or die if he gets on the team. And if he screws it up, I know his address...we can egg his house..." A twinkle of mischief shown in his eye. Only around his angel. Only here and her, would he ever get the spirit in him to be like this.
Sofi laughed aloud at her father's teasing. She knew he was just kidding her, but she still poked him in the side, tickling him as only she and her mother knew how.
"We didn't just go to the Quidditch store, though we did go there.... he needed new pads, ya see.... But he also took me to this weird little cafe in Knockturn, the Duck and Dagger, ever hear of it? Good food, but crazy logo, lemme tell ya... Hmmm, what else did we do? Oh, yeah, the pet store.... and we went so I could look at leathers.... and that was it." She decided to leave out all the subsequent events, to spare her father from worrying more.
"And yeah, I think he has a chance of it, now... after I yelled at him, haha!" Her added-on laugh wasn't entirely sarcastic. "And let's not egg his house... he'll have to clean it all by himself...." She stopped talking, thinking about her friend's difficulty at home. It really hurt her to think that he was having such a hard time, that he had always had a hard time. To have parents that didn't love you... what kind of torture would that be? She herself couldn't even imagine it, since her own parents took care of her so carefully and well.
"Hey, hey now child! This is mutiny!" He dodged and wiggled sideways to avoid being touched on the one ticklish spot he had. Not fair at all.
"You took him to look at leathers. And no part of you thought that taking the king of the crude to look at leather corsets and skirts was a bad idea? At least you can beat him into submission. And if you won't..." He left the unspoken fatherly threat in the open. He was only half kidding too, which surprised him.
Malcolm turned his head to look long and hard at Sofia. Had DC told her about what an absolute cretin his mother was? Or, had she just picked up on the story? And, should she know that her father knew about the problems in the Cross household? He decided to say nothing at the time beyond a noncommital grunt.
"Weeeell.... I set ground rules," Sofi shrugged, but her face was getting warm again. She had wondered at the time if it was a good idea to take DC into a shop like that, but he had behaved surprisingly well, a fact that she decided to share.
"He stuck by 'em, too, I'll have you know... I didn't even hafta remind him once... He's an alright bloke, really, he's just... well, apparently it sucks for him at home. That's basically what he said. And I kinda picked up on some more, I think... poor guy. I really kinda feel... I dunno... sorry for him, I guess. He needs someone to care for him, I think..." She blushed even more, hastily shutting her mouth. She hoped her father wouldn't mention what she had just implied, but she knew he would, no matter what she wished.
"And you intend to be that person, eh? Well, its not going to be like a puppy, though smacking him upside the head with a newspaper might not be a bad idea...Look, Sofia, were it my choice, I'd tell you to run, not walk, away from this. But..."
He arched an eyebrow at her expression when he began to contradict his parental edict.
"You're smart enough to make your own decisions, and you obviously know something about the situation that I don't. All I can say is be careful. And if you need help, you can always come to your mother or me. Always."
Sofi practically gaped at her father in surprise, for his response had not been what she had been expecting at all. She had expected her father to go more along the lines of his "run, not walk, away" comment, but this... it was almost as if he was telling her it was ok. In fact, the more she thought about it, he basically had told her it was ok. She broke into a wide smile then, and hugged her father gratefully.
"Thanks, Daddy," she said sincerely, "Don't worry, I'll be fine... I can kick his ass if I need to, but I know it won't come to that." From experience, she thought, but decided not to say this aloud. "He's much better than Greg was, by the way... I don't even think he's capable of what that jerk did..." Once again, she thought slightly differently, since she knew DC was capable of plenty, but she was still convinced that he would never do that particular thing to her. "But... I was thinking... I wanna invite him to my birthday party. You could see him more then, and I think it would be fun to have him there... May I invite him?"
Malcolm happily returned Sofia's hug. She was obviously surprised at his comment and insinuation that she could handle the situation. Well, this was a controlled experiment. If it flopped, then there wasn't any real harm done. This was a humanitarian mission, and if she managed to help him, great. If not, she couldn't very well make it worse.
Steel mentally shuddered. Imagining Cross any worse than he actually was was akin to imagining an orphanage burning down. If the boy was any more chaotic, he'd be taking the world down with him. Still, if Sofia understood what made him tick, then perhaps she had a chance of preventing total catastrophe.
Her request to invite him to the birthday party had another shudder running down Steel's spine. His every instinct was to not only prevent the boy from getting into their house, but from even knowing where it was in the first place. Still, it would make Sofia happy, and if something went wrong, he could always curse the boy. Not that it was a viable solution. Still, there were solutions.
"Sure, honey, just make sure that your mother approves first."
Last Edit: Dec 26, 2010 22:20:40 GMT -8 by malcolm
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