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Brighter Morning by greengecko
Chapter 2 : Dear Mr. Potter
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 6


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Chapter 2 - Dear Mr. Potter

Arthur put his hand out; the stone and wood of the buildings felt just as they looked. He closed his eyes—still the same. He pulled the money sack out of his pocket and let it fall open so he could see the coins inside. The little ones were cheap, light, and corroded. The gold ones glistened. They were real gold, which always surprised him when his dad showed him this. “Seventeen Sickles to a Galleon,” Arthur recited to himself as though it were a mantra.

“What are you doing, boy?” A voice nearby scolded. A woman grabbed his elbow and pulled him forward, right at the wall. “Don’t hang around out here like that—you should know better.” Arthur closed his eyes and let her arm guide him. When he opened them again he was inside the partitioned entryway of a pub. His heart barely kept rhythm with itself as he took in the very dark old wood and wavy glass. Remembering himself, he pulled the robe over his head as the women hooked a cloak around her neck while stepping inside.

Arthur adjusted the robe and checked that the wand was still in his pocket before he stepped around the partition. If his dad had not warned him, he would have stood there gaping like an idiot. The room was certainly filled with strange looking people. Arthur espied the back door and walked purposefully toward it. An old woman with silver hair sticking in all directions, sitting smoking a long pipe, put out a hand and grabbed his sleeve.

“Just a moment, there,” she said in a hoarse voice. Arthur tried to not stare at the large mole, complete with long black hair, on her nose. “You look awfully familiar,” she crowed suspiciously.

“I’m sure we haven’t met, ma’am,” Arthur said. He pulled his sleeve free and walked faster. His dad was two for two. When he stepped out to the back, he had to admit three for three, as he looked over the brick wall. With shaking hands he pulled the paper back out and studied the diagram. He counted up from the dustbin with his eyes and pulled out the wand. Carefully, like dialing a telephone, he tapped out the bricks, then jumped back in shock as the wall twisted into itself.

Arthur stood breathless as an archway opened onto the oddest street he had ever seen. He brushed a tear away and silently apologized to his father for ever thinking he was cracked. Afraid the archway would close again, Arthur hopped through it. On the immediate right was the Apothecary, but it was full of customers. He wandered down the street some, trying not to look like a bumpkin in the city and gawk at everything.

Halfway down the street, Arthur froze. On the left was a colorful sign reading Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. Arthur sidled shyly up to the window.

“What can I get ya’?” the man asked.

“A chocolate sundae,” Arthur answered. “Extra chocolate sauce if you would.” He looked around for the prices, finally seeing them chalked on a slate tablet beside the window. He pulled out two Sickles as the largest mound of white and dark brown ever to grace a glass dish was pushed out onto his side of the shelf.

“My boy, you look to me an awful lot like someone famous,” the man said.

“Huh?” Arthur replied, still stunned by the pudding pushed his way.

“You related to Harry Potter?” the man said with a laugh in his voice.

“He’s my dad,” Arthur answered, distracted.

“You aren’t joking,” the man stated. “You are the spittin' image. Haven’t seen him in years. Years and years. Good to see you my dear boy. Very good to see you. No charge,” he insisted as Arthur tried to push the coins toward him. “Tell your dad there are still free sundaes for him here.”

Arthur stood stunned before worrying his ice cream might melt. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Balancing a spoon, his money sack, and his sundae, Arthur took a seat at the outside table under the overhang. It was in the shade, which had the advantage of keeping his ice cream cool but also making it harder to see him.

You look like someone famous, played in Arthur’s mind over and over as he devoured the most amazing ice cream he had ever had. As he filled up, he spent more time watching the shoppers move up and down the road. Kids his age and younger pulled at their parents to look at brooms, of all things. Old people lamented the price of various pickled parts of rodents and other small mammals. His father’s comment about having a hallucination seemed very appropriate now and it took the sting out of it a lot to realize that.

With a sigh he checked that he had everything and walked back to the end of the road. There was only one customer in the Apothecary's shop now. Arthur went in and looked around the shelves. Some things, like aspirin, were normal, but most were completely unheard of, like Bubotubor pus. The whole shop was a twisted museum that should be in a theme park.

“May I help you, son?” the old man at the counter asked after the woman departed with her package.

Arthur stepped over and watched the man’s face change from bored to curiously confused. “I need to find someone, and someone told me you might know how to reach him.” Arthur wrinkled his nose at that. If they just had a bloody web directory, this would have been much easier. But the web required electricity, which this alley didn’t seem to have.

“Who?”

“Severus Snape.”

The man seemed unimpressed. “He teaches at Hogwarts School. This time o’ year . . . hm.” The man thought a moment. He took out a parchment and wrote on it. “Your owl will reach him here.” He held it out.

Uxbridge Road, Ealing, it read. Arthur looked at him in confusion. “Owl him?”

“Well, boy, if you want to meet him face-to-face, you ought to be willing to send a letter as well. Go on down to the post,” the man said, a little put out.

“Oh, yes. Thank you.” Arthur meant it. He had been at a loss as to his next step.

Arthur took the scrap of old paper and headed back out. Walking so as to read the signs of each shop, he walked past the bank and finally found the post—only it wasn’t quite what he had been expecting. The back wall was full of cages of owls with signs posted with the prices for various speeds of service. One day Europa up to 6 ounces, was listed at two Sickles. “Ounces?” Arthur murmured to himself. Pushed aside by a fast moving witch with a package that no owl magical or otherwise could carry, Arthur stepped back and looked around. On the side wall were two stands with small sheets of parchment and envelopes. A tin beside said, 1 Knut.

Arthur went over to the first and took out a Knut and dropped it in before pulling out a sheet and envelope. There were beaten up quills for use and ink bottles, but the tips of the quills were all smashed and splintered. Arthur was about to check the other stand when two pretty blonde girls stepped up to it. They were gossiping in obsequious tones. One of them took a sheet without paying. The can jumped up and tried to hit her hand, startling Arthur much more than the girl. The girl pointed her wand at the can and muttered something. A burst like a laser shot out of the wand and the can jumped back into place and remained there.

Arthur started to ignore them, but then noticed that the girl took out a tiny knife when she put her wand in her pocket. With quick motions she cut and cored the next part of the feather point. She jotted out her message quickly, gabbing at the same time.

“What are you looking at?” the other girl asked Arthur sharply.

Arthur blushed a little. He had been staring. “Nothing,” he answered in his coolest voice.

The girl sauntered over his way. “You a mudblood? You look like one,” she sneered.

“No,” he answered rudely. He had no idea what it was, but it didn’t sound flattering. “Why would you think that?” It was occurring to him that he was passing himself off as something he wasn’t and only now did the possible bad consequences start to sink in. He couldn’t fake being a wizard by any stretch; that money canister would have beaten him to a pulp, he was sure.

The girl shrugged one shoulder. “You look unrefined.”

“And you are the queen of that, I suppose?” Arthur came back.

The girl actually laughed lightly, enjoying the banter. “Come on Licia,” her friend said. “He isn’t up to Malfoy standards by any stretch.” They both tossed their hair and departed, which was what Arthur wanted, since they had left the good quill behind.

Arthur grabbed up the feather and dipped it in the well. In his best cursive hand, the one his father methodically taught him at the age of six, back when he would be awake for four to six hours at a time, he started to write. Dear Mr. Snape, then stopped. What the heck was he supposed to say? I hated him. He hated me, his father’s voice replayed in his mind. Best start with the basics. My name is Arthur Potter. My father is Harry Potter. I am a Muggle. His writing looked pretty good, bolstering him. His teachers were always amazed at this skill of his, one that he was certain no other students in his school had. His schoolmates often brought him envelopes to address to their aunts and grandmothers.

My father asked me to contact you because he thinks you can assist us. I hope you can see past the . . . He paused and practiced spelling enmity a few ways on the blotter covering the small stand. Writing without an automatic spell checker was annoying. ... enmity between you and reply to this message. He frowned at the letter, but it would have to do. He signed it after some thought, Very sincerely yours, Arthur Potter. He left off most of the flourish he would normally have put on his name.

He took out the sheet of parchment and copied the address onto the envelope. On the back he put their full Little Whinging address. Fighting painful hope, he put the letter in and sealed it.

At the desk he half-expected the woman to say, “Why are you writing to this bloke?” Instead she took the letter and his six Knuts without any change in expression. “It should be there in about fifteen minutes,” she commented in a generically helpful tone.

Arthur stared at her. A chill passed through him. He had to get home; he had already missed an hour or more of his dad’s being awake. The woman called down an owl which scooped up the letter in its claws and headed out a small, high window. Arthur left at a run.

The crowded alleyway slowed him down just past the bank. Arthur cranked his neck as he passed a sweet shop, and stopped dead. A bent over old witch mumbled something at him in annoyance—he hoped it wasn’t a real curse. In the window of the shop stood a stack of yellow boxes and a sign. Chokolet Frogs - buy 2 get 1 free. He wondered if no wizards could spell as he stepped in the door and picked up three boxes which he cradled in his hands as though they were absolutely precious. As he waited in queue to pay, he felt a rushing happiness—his father had mentioned these mythical sweets many times before and he could actually, truly bring him some.

Back at the brick wall, he stopped in concern about how to re-open the archway. After a pause it reopened on its own and he gratefully stepped through. He stopped only to take off the robe, in the pockets of which he made certain the wand, the money, and the sweets were secured. He ran full tilt back to the underground stop, just making a train as the doors closed.

Eyes came up to him as he stumbled along the tilting car looking for a seat. A woman watching a movie on her phone moved her backpack out of the way without looking up. Arthur caught his breath as the train rumbled along and the windows flickered dark and darker with odd scenes of side tunnels, access doors, piping and wiring.

Back at home, he yanked open the side door, again out of breath. Harry sat at the table, clearly clinging to his teacup. “Made it,” Arthur breathed.

“You were gone a long while,” Elsa criticized him.

“Let me show you this game cartridge,” Arthur said, drawing Harry away from the table.

Inside Arthur’s room they sat on the floor before the extremely thin television which sat on an adjustable rolling unit that Dudley would have been proud of. Arthur moved the immersion goggles out of the way and changed the cartridge to one with a louder demo. The game booted up. With impatience he selected the autoplay option.

When the noise of the game filled the room, he said, “It was just like you said. The ice cream was good too.” He set the rolled up robe aside and hugged Harry. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you,” he whispered in an unsteady voice.

Harry put his arms around him. “It’s all right,” he insisted. “Tell me what happened.”

“I sent an owl to Mr. Snape,” he shrugged. “The man at the apothecary’s knew where he lived during the summer holidays. I put this address as the return.”

“Good boy,” Harry said, finally releasing him slightly when Arthur reached for the robe.

“I got you something,” Arthur said eagerly, sitting back against Harry who obligingly rewrapped his arms around him. Arthur sorted through the robe and pulled the sweets out of the pocket.

“Ah, thank you.” Harry took one up and opened it. Arthur gave a cry as it leapt away. Harry caught it up easily and a moment later it was still. He broke off a leg and handed it to his son.

“Eya,” Arthur declaimed.

“It’s just chocolate,” Harry insisted. “Charmed to pretend to be a frog.” Arthur accepted it then. Harry broke the body in half and nibbled on it.

“You need to eat more when you are awake. You don’t eat at all,” Arthur commented. “We lied to the doctors, who kept insisting you should be dead from lack of food.”

“I’ll eat this frog then.” He pulled out the card and read the back. “Haggerty Higgins, famous for his invention of the self-stirring cooking cauldron, the self-rising bread baking stone and his porridge pie.”

Arthur looked over the card after wiping his fingers on his jeans. He spent an inordinate amount of time peering at the blinking image on the front. “Doesn’t seem worth being famous for.” He opened the next one and had to struggle to catch the frog.

“Wow, two hops—that‘s pretty good,” Harry said.

Arthur broke this one in half and handed half back to Harry. One handed, he pulled out the card. “Albert of the Thames,” he read. Albert immediately walked out of the scene.

“He has other things to do, apparently,” Harry commented.

“Yeah, right,” Arthur said sarcastically. He put that card aside and opened the last pack.

Harry said, “Hopefully it’s Dumbledore. His was the first card I ever got.”

This frog jumped only once then squirmed, Arthur set it on the bedspread behind them to finish hopping. Harry pulled out the card. “Well, look at that,” he commented as he held it up. “It’s me.”

“What?” Arthur blurted sharply, snatching it from him. He stared at the picture of Harry standing in a dark hall, wand at his side. Silhouetted figures stepped around behind him. “It is you. Is that Voldemort?”

“What was left of him,” Harry commented, regarding the fallen figure on the floor. “That is the Great Hall at my old school. “Can’t see the enchanted ceiling at all in this picture. Some of my teachers are in the background, but they are too small to see.” Harry’s speech was slowing down as he fought for awareness.

Arthur read the back. “What was the Tri-Wizard Tournament?”

“Didn’t I tell you about that?” Harry asked.

“Is that the one with the maze?”

“Yes.”

Arthur turned the card back over. “You did tell me about that. About the graveyard and stuff.”

“Not a happy story,” Harry opined.

Arthur leaned back against him again and considered the card closely. “This is my favorite time with you,” he said.

“You mean when I am finally getting it and can at least act like a father?”

“Yeah.” Arthur sighed. “You know, Roger’s dad yells at him all the time and even tells him he’s stupid in front of Allen and me. I’d much rather have you than him. I’d much rather have you than most of the other kids’ dads.”

Harry tightened his hold on the boy. If he could have had his father for one hour a month he would have been very happy with that, though imagining the boy waiting and checking day after day made Harry’s heart ache.

Arthur went on, “And you’re a wizard. An actually effing wizard.” He jerked out of Harry’s arms to grab one of the cartridges beneath the television. “Just like in one of these games.” He held up Warlocks of Merlin’s Realm IV to show Harry before he dropped it back onto the pile.

“Keep trying to reach Professor Snape,” Harry said. “If you need to go back to Diagon Alley you . . . is there a key somewhere, a large strange one?”

“In your room. Hidden in one of your drawers.”

Harry forced his eyes open. “Good, you can take that to the bank, Gringotts. Tell them you want to get into my vault. There should be some wizard money in there. I don’t know exactly how much, but certainly enough for small stuff like post owls.” He held Arthur tighter yet. “I’m not going to make it much longer. I shouldn’t make you and Elsa carry me back to my room.”

He reluctantly released Arthur, who moved quickly to help him up. Harry needed to use the bed to get to his feet. Together they stumbled out of the room and down the hallway to the next bedroom. On the bed a fresh set of pyjamas was laid out. Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and changed into them with clumsy, slow movements. Every second stretched longer and longer and required more willpower to survive. He fell back on the bed, vaguely aware of Arthur lifting his feet up.

“I’m sorry, Arthur,” Harry whispered as he reached a blind hand out in the boy’s direction.

“It’s all right, Dad,” came the even reply as Harry blacked out.

Arthur wiped his eyes impatiently before turning and leaving the room.

“Back under again?” Elsa asked.

“Yeah,” Arthur replied as he returned to his room. He set the chocolates on his plate from lunch still on the night stand, and then stashed the magical cards in the game tip books beneath. Elsa never looked at those, and even if she did, she might think there were part of some game set. Then he stashed the things he had used: the robe, carefully folded, under his own stack of pyjamas in a drawer; the wand, he cellotaped up under the same drawer where Elsa wouldn’t find it at all.

In the kitchen, he poured himself the tall glass of water he had needed from running but hadn’t wanted to take the time to get earlier since every moment with his dad mattered far too much to miss. As he stared out the window after setting his empty glass in the sink, the shadow of a bird went past and he froze. Fifteen minutes there, fifteen minutes back meant a reply could be coming any moment. He glanced at the clock. “Wow, almost three,” Arthur commented in false surprise.

“Is it?” Elsa said in real surprise. “My.” She stood up and went to her room, closing her door as she did so. A television clicked on and afternoon soap opera music came up.

Arthur made himself a snack of cheese and toast. As he sat at the table to eat it, a scratching sounded at the window, making him jump. A very large owl clung to the narrow window ledge, flapping its broad wings to maintain its balance. Arthur jumped up and forced the window open as far as he could. The owl flapped into the room, dropped a letter on the table, circled once and flew back out. Arthur grabbed up the letter and tore it open. He unfolded the thick paper and stared at it. He had never seen such writing. It flourished above and below the lines in a mass of tangled, beautiful words.

Dear Mr. Potter, It is very surprising to hear from you. Rest assured the enmity between your father and I has waned sufficiently to certainly give a hearing to you, if nothing else. Perhaps if you could go into a bit more detail . . . The owl will await your reply. Hoot at her to come down for your letter. Sincerely, Severus Snape.

Arthur, heart beating rapidly, went to the small desk in the front hall. Old stationery boxes were crammed in it. He pulled out a few sheets of nice paper and a matching envelope as well as a good ball point pen. Back at the table he addressed another letter, then wrote, Thank you for your fast reply. Almost like email, Arthur thought. Thinking that he could assume Mr. Snape knew something, he began. The situation is this: the effects from the curses that damaged my father have become much worse than they used to be. The doctors have said he suffers from . . . Here Arthur listed all of the most-often repeated diagnosis, starting with acute narcolepsy. At five years of age he had had them memorized, stunning any new specialist brought in to look his father over.

What it really means is he sleeps for three weeks to a month at a time and is only awake for an hour or two at most in between. When he wakes up, he remembers nothing of the last fourteen years. Today for the first time, he suggested I contact you, so that is the reason for the letter. Arthur didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know exactly what his dad expected from this man. He is asleep again now, so if you have any questions you will have to rely on my memory of his stories for the answers. Arthur signed it, addressed it quickly, and sealed it up.

Outside in the garden, he looked around to find the owl up on the chimney. It resembled an ornament it sat so utterly still. He hooted quietly, which made it angle its head down to consider him. With a single flap it left the brick chimney and drifted down to him like a beautiful kite. At the last moment, Arthur thought to hold the letter up for it to grab, which it did, before flapping elegantly away again. The experience made having one as a pet seem much less crazy.

Arthur sat at the dining room table for the rest of the late afternoon, only shutting the window when the breeze became chilly. He read magazines, some graphic novels on his pad computer, and even the newspaper a bit for the sports news. Elsa eventually came out and made a light dinner. At ten, Arthur resigned himself to not getting another reply that evening.

The next morning, as he sat eating breakfast with the window open more than usual, but not far enough to attract attention, the owl returned. Elsa was vacuuming the hallway while listening to a music player. Arthur went to the window and took the letter from the window ledge where the hovering owl held it. As he disengaged it from the bird’s claws, the bird took off again quickly. Arthur glanced over to make sure he was unobserved before sticking the letter in his back pocket. He finished breakfast quickly, put the bowl in the sink, and went to his room. Sitting on his bed and listening idly to the security of the vacuum noise, he tore open the parchment envelope. This letter was much longer, covering both sides of a sheet.

Dear Mr. Potter, I now at least understand why you are contacting me and not your father. I have spent the night researching the condition you described as well as reviewing what I could of previous attempts at treating your father at St. Mungo’s. I cannot offer you any guarantees as to success, but I have come across a possible treatment in a recent treatise on stasis disorders, which is the class of condition your father has. For the uninitiated, it is similar to the one afflicting Rip Van Winkel.

Arthur’s heart rate went up again. He sat back farther on the bed and continued reading. I will need some things from you to begin to brew a potion. You must follow these instructions EXACTLY. At the next full moon, in the light of the full moon, cut a large lock of your father’s hair and take a half cup of his blood. The lines about the moon were double underlined. As well, send to me blood of yours from the palm of your hand on a white cotton cloth.

Arthur shook his head in amazement then shivered in dismay at the thought of carrying out this request.

I can start the potion with these things. Further instructions will follow when it is time for them. To that end, I need to know what range of days you expect him to re-awaken.

No note about the owl waiting—Mr. Snape just assumed he was going to do it.

Arthur sat down at his computer and pulled up a calendar program from his school’s interactive research app. The next full moon was six days away, a Friday. He hoped it wasn’t cloudy.

He stared at his paper calendar and worked backwards through the year, reconstructing as close as possible, the days his dad had been awake. When he was younger, he had marked it on a calendar religiously. That was when he had felt suspense about it rather than depression. An hour’s reviewing email messages and chat logs resulted in a pretty decent job of reconstructing the last six months. His heart felt leaden as he noted the gradually increasing spacing between the dates. He took a blank sheet from the printer and wrote out the dates and approximate durations of each of his father’s wakeful hours. Below it he wrote. Please determine for yourself an estimated date. He almost couldn’t stand to, although his eyes cast ahead and pinned a date anyway.

Friday arrived. Arthur lay on his bed in his dressing gown, staring at the dark ceiling of his room. His shade was all the way up. He had researched everything thoroughly, even to the point of realizing that he was lucky his dad’s room had an eastern window because the moon would rise just after sunset. He waited, eyes dark-adapted, for the bluish orb to rise above the trees and shine into his room in beams through the sections of the window. He honestly had never noticed that it did that. He could almost read by it, it was so bright.

With a deep breath to calm himself, he grabbed the paper sack out from under his night stand. He had put this together the day he had received the letter with the instructions. Though appalled, he really had nothing to lose. Moving stealthily, he went into the hallway. Flickering light and faint sound indicated that Elsa still had her television on. He closed his door carefully, then tip-toed to the next doorway in the other direction from the Nanny’s.

His father lay as he had left him except that Elsa had pulled a blanket over him. Arthur crossed to the far side of the room and wound up both shades by hand. Moonlight filled the room, making that terrifying hope swell in him again.

He crouched down on the far side of the bed and slowly opened the sack. The crinkling paper sounded very loud, something he hadn’t noticed during the day. He set out each thing on the floor. The plastic urine sample cup with rubber cap that he had found in the linen closet, unused. The hair shears. A sandwich bag. A diaper changing sheet from an old box that was also in the linen closet. Finding it and realizing that it was perfect for his purposes, had made him believe that fate was on his side for the first time ever. Lastly, the razor and super glue his friend Roger had given him when he asked his army-obsessed friend how he would collect blood. Roger had insisted Arthur could use superglue to close the wound since it had been invented for that by the Americans in Vietnam. He had finally demonstrated to prove it.

Holding the sealable sandwich bag, Arthur leaned over his dad. Harry’s limp head tipped easily to the side. Arthur cut a large lock off the back where it wouldn’t be noticed for a while, if ever. He dropped the dark clump into the bag, carefully adding each stray hair before sealing it. Methodically, he put the plastic bag into the paper sack. Then he crouched back down and shifted his father’s arm into the moonlight better before sliding the diaper sheet under it. The sheet was thick paper with a plastic backing which reduced his chances of messing up the bedding considerably.

Right at the crook of the arm where it wouldn’t be noticed, but not so deep as to bleed forever, was the summary of Roger’s instructions. When pressed, Arthur had made up a story about wanting to go into cloning and he figured he could keep his dad’s blood in the freezer until he finished college. Roger had thought this was a marvelous idea. Arthur thought it was nuts.

He unsealed the thick, soft rubber lid and pressed the cup against his dad’s limp arm for positioning. It looked good. Biting his lip, Arthur picked up the blade, lowered his head so as to not shade the moonlight, and put a small nick right in the fold. Blood seeped from it for a moment then stopped. After a few deep breaths, he deepened it and pressed the cup beside it as blood flowed more freely. It took two more extensions of the cut to make it to the milliliter line that he’d computed as corresponding to a half cup. He repeatedly reminded himself that his dad couldn’t feel it at all.

Setting the cup aside, he pressed the paper side of the plastic sheet over the wound until the bleeding stopped. Then he carefully covered the sample container and placed it atop the lock of hair in the paper bag. He took out the tube of super glue and squeezed it out in a thin line over the cut. When it dried, which was seconds, he used a tissue and spit on it to clean up the smeared blood around the glue. He stood and readjusted the blanket and his father’s head to match what they had been when he arrived. Moving faster now, he bundled up the diaper sheet with all of the supplies in it, picked up the paper bag, and went to the door. “Good night, dad,” he whispered before he turned the handle.

The paper bag he stored in the refrigerator behind the milk, which Elsa didn’t use at breakfast, careful to put the side with the writing “science project” facing outward. The sheet he unwrapped and recovered the hair shears before bundling it back up and stuffing it in the bottom of the rubbish bin. The shears he took back to the bathroom, where he washed off the small smears of blood on his hands. No wonder people always got caught after murders, blood just got over everything no matter how careful you were.

Back in his room, he took out a second razor blade and a swatch cut from an old t-shirt. It hadn’t been clear if he was supposed to do this in moonlight as well, but he crouched before the window to slice his palm open before he pressed it against the cloth and his other bare arm. He had a plastic bag out for this as well, and in it went as soon as he could stand to release his hand from the biting pain.

He stashed the plastic bag with the cloth in a book under the night stand rather than heading back to the kitchen that night.

The next morning he awoke early, well before Elsa ever rose, and went to the kitchen with the date notations. He added that and the bloody cloth, now brown, to the bag before opening the window. Within moments the same owl fluttered down and into the room where it perched on the edge of the sink. It considered the bag Arthur held out to it and fluffed itself.

Arthur guessed the bird thought the bag not strong enough. He grabbed one of the cloth shopping bags from under the sink, dropped the paper bag into it and knotted it securely. The owl held out a leg for it. Arthur watched it grasp the canvas firmly as it took flight and soared back out the window, pulling in its wings just for the gap. Arthur felt drained as he stared out the window long after it had gone. Eventually he shook himself and closed the window. In a daze, he made breakfast for himself and took it to the dining room where he ate without tasting anything.





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