Birds of a feather flock together
AU Harry Potter | Winter 2018
G: 479 H: 469 R: 675 S: 363
TW: Death (Told you the Forbidden Forest is a dangerous place!!)
TW: Death (Told you the Forbidden Forest is a dangerous place!!)
Name: Nollaig ‘Henry’ O’Sullivan
Ever heard of the phrase: “standing tall and proud”? Well, Henry most definitely is far from being the definition of it, for while he does stand at a very impressive 6’6”, there is not much that can truly be considered proud about him. If anything, most would rather describe him as shabby, his copper hair often a mess thanks to the work of the breeze at Scotland’s Highlands - the fact that strands are cut irregularly certainly not being of any help to make it any more neat or tidy. Sometimes he sports a beard, sometimes merely stubble, all of it depending on how prone he feels towards taking the time to shave on most mornings. To Henry, his appearance simply isn’t a grand concern, and perhaps that is one of the things he likes the most about his job, as when does anyone ever expect a Groundskeeper to always look his best?
If one were to judge people based on the archetypal behaviours expected of those sorted in this or that Hogwarts house, most would likely be shocked to find out that Henry O’Sullivan once sported yellow and black. Then again, who ever said that all Hufflepuff had to be nice, sweet, and kind? Once, he was, truly, back when he was a young boy who was all too excited about learning how to use magic; smiling brightly the moment the Sorting Hat spoke the house’s name after a mere eight seconds of sitting atop unruly copper hair. His father had been a Hufflepuff as well, and somehow, the knowledge that they had such a thing in common, despite not being truly related by blood, made the boy happier than what he had been in a long time.
He was never the friendliest one around, not because he particularly disliked others, but because making friends was something at which he wasn’t all that great. Animals, plants, those had always been easier to understand; those he could handle, those he could relate to, those he could spend hours and hours next to without having boredom rise. As a child, he often wished for the company of children his own age, of friends, but truthfully, after years, Henry learned the hard way that solitude was for the best.
It still is for the best. Attachments are an inconvenience, friendship is annoying, and letting people close can be a dangerous game. He has his rules, his reminders, all the things meant to keep him sane… to keep him from committing the same mistakes he once made. He thinks about it almost everyday; because of the sight of young student, because of the scent of the forest, because of those accusatory words that still haunt him even after fifteen years have passed - making him feel as if he still were a sixteen year old child.
He will never be able to forgot, or well… more like he will never be able to remember if he truly did do all the things others claim. Some nights he dreams of horrors, others he lays awake, and when such is the case, hours of darkness are spent gazing at the soft pages of a sketchbook, drawing all those terrible thoughts that fill his head. During the days, he keeps himself occupied, the outdoors always being preferred, resulting fond of caring for those plants which remind him of his mother, or all those creatures he had once considered his friends. Perhaps they still are, although it can be said that the only friend Henry does have is the large cat that seems so set on following him around, a kind creature of long ginger fur and raspy meows. Nutmeg, as it seems that as hard as he tries, he just can’t seem to escape all the Christmas references in his life.
Then again, was he not the one to name the cat? He claims to dislike his own name, demanding everyone refers to him as ‘Henry’ and not as ‘Nollaig’, but if such were the truth he would have changed it long ago, instead holding onto it for the sentimental value - for the reminders of the people who had truly been kind of him in life. Then again, sentimental value or not, anyone who dares refer to him by his Irish name will only end up being reprimanded for it, as Henry often seems so terribly annoyed about….well, just about anything. He’s not beneath yelling and screaming if necessary, declaring students are a pain, especially those who seem set on breaking rules - especially those who seem fond of venturing into the forest as if the word ‘forbidden’ were not in its name. Sometimes, the mere sight of it makes him nauseous, and perhaps that is why he is so set on keeping everyone away... for the own sake.
Don’t you know? The Forbidden Forest is a terribly dangerous place.
Life is not easy. It has never been, it will probably never be, but needless to say, sometimes it truly seems as if some individuals find misfortune with every single step.
Desmond O’Sullivan, for example, lived a life that could only be considered average at best. He was an only child, raised by a single mother who did not even know his father’s name. They were not rich, they were not poor, yet they struggled from time to time, as even with the help of magic, providing for their small family proved hard when also having to pay loans and bills with the salary a Ministry secretary earned. His books were old, his clothes were second-hand, but he still truly did enjoy his time at Hogwarts, even if his ability for magic did not seem to be the best. He worked, and he worked hard, yet sometimes, as Desmond learned out of experience, hard work just wasn’t enough. By the time graduation came, his NEWTs results were poor and not enough to earn him one of those prestigious jobs with high pay. He became no Cursebreaker, no worker of some important Ministry department or any of that, instead, he worked at the Leaky Cauldron, because it was simply the first job he could snatch.
Did he hate it? Not at all. Did he love it? Not really, but it was alright, as conformism was something Desmond had grown quite used to in life. Still, he worked as hard as he always had, and sometimes, such work did pay off, for after years he went from mopping floors to operating the place. During those years, his mother fell ill and passed, leaving him with no family at all, but Desmond kept on working through all the hardship as he always had.There were, of course, some moments of joy, like those short stays of one Lisa Hall just about every month. She would go to London on the first weekend of every month to buy items for her Herbology supply shop, over her visits sharing small bits and pieces of information whenever they talked. She lived at Godric’s Hollow, she had graduated Hogwarts four years after he had, and she was a Halfblood wix just like he was. Eventually, they became more and more close, and one point or another, Desmond began looking forward to her visits, hoping to speak to her more.
So it was that Lisa Hall became the one reason for Desmond O’Sullivan to choose to leave his job and London behind, moving to Godric’s Hollow and helping around at the small shop despite his general inability for the botanic arts. They married, they were happy, but as many times as they tried, they seemed unable to have a child. As years passed, they simply gave up, continuing to do what they knew, being happy by each other’s side, working as hard as they always had. But, of course, sometimes life just had to bring more mishaps, such as the sudden December fire that left a small boy in the village orphaned, being taken in by the couple after quite a lot of bureaucratic interactions. See, sometimes, even if life did bring those mishaps, sometimes miracles could come from all the pain as chaos, such as the miracle that was that small baby Lisa was finally able to hold in her arms on Christmas night. Nollaig, they called him, a name traditionally given to babies born on such a night.
It was, without a doubt, the best thing that had happened to the both of them, even if they soon learned that their Nollaig wasn’t going to be the sweet child for which they had hoped since their wedding day. They loved him, of course they did, more than anything else in their lives, but that did not mean that life raising him was at all easy or sweet. They blamed the fact that they were too old to raise children, already reaching their forties when Nollaig began to take his first insecure toddler steps, but the truth was that any parents would have struggled just as much. He was sickly, often bedridden and unable to leave the house, spending his time inside instead of in the company of other children his own age. He would spend his time following Lisa as she cared for the shop, fascinated by everything she had to say about this or that plant. There were times when he wondered why he was not allowed to leave the house, anger rising into childish temper tantrums that came accompanied by the terrible effects underage magic seemed to have.
Perhaps that was why he was so glad when his Hogwarts letter arrived, excitement rising even if it came accompanied by the fear of doing all those things he had never truly done: going to a new place, being forced to interact with people, and leaving his parents behind. His parents themselves were reluctant about it, unsure of if he should attend the school or not, fearing he would fall ill once again or worse. Eventually they agreed to letting him board the Hogwarts Express, and it was fine, or well… as fine as things could be for someone like Nollaig. He was quiet, he tried his best to avoid interacting with others, seeming shy from the perspective of most. In truth, he was just scared, and soon enough he learnt that plants and creatures made for easier friends than people. He did not mind it, his years at Hogwarts could have almost been considered peaceful and happy… until it happened.
Remember how some people seem to encounter misfortune with every single step? Well, Nollaig O’Sullivan was one of those people, and on a cold Autumn morning during his sixth year at Hogwarts, his whole world took a turn towards chaos. It was the morning he woke up at the Forbidden Forest, near the edge of the lake and with a terrible headache. The morning a body was found deep within the woods; a girl, younger, a Fourth Year, a Prefect. He had never known her, he was sure he had never even seen her before or heard her name, but the authorities never really cared about any of those things, did they? They wanted someone to blame, they wanted to bring peace to the family of the victim, and he was the one who seemed most guilty. He was blamed for her murder, he was expelled, and it was all over the Prophet, but no matter how many terrible things people could say, all Nollaig could think of was: had he really killed her?
From that day on, the name Remiel Donovan would haunt his nights, unable to escape the memory of the girl he only knew from pictures no matter how far from the castle he got. Finding a job in wizarding society as someone who had been expelled and had no NEWTs scores was hard enough, finding one after being involved in a terrible scandal was even more, and eventually, the only option Nollaig had left was the muggle world. That was when he started going by Henry, O’Sullivan being a surname common enough for him not to feel any need to change it, pretending to be a muggle just like any other and leaving behind the home of his parents in Godric’s Hollow. He could have stayed, he could have worked in the shop… if people had even considered buying anything from his mother after they heard what happened at the school. The O’Sullivan’s were forced to close their small shop, and from time to time Henry would visit them at their home, even if the visits became more and more sporadic with the passing of the years.
He had failed them, he had made their lives harder than what they would have been if they had never taken him as their child, and that was how he learnt that attachments were something he could not allow himself to have - that others would only be harmed with him by their side. Years were spent going from one menial muggle job to another, nothing ever resulting truly fulfilling, nothing ever seeming to make him happy. Sometimes it felt as if he was empty, sometimes he wished he could have gone back in time and stopped all those horrors from happening, but not once did he seek help, for all Henry ever did was harming others.
Still, even in a life like his, there were those small miracles like the one that had been his family. First there was the small kitten he found at a park during winter holidays - Nutmeg. Then, many years later, there was his encounter with Hogwarts’ own headmistress, for the first time speaking face to face about the events occured at the school after fifteen long years. It was then when an offer was made, and when Henry found himself packing, moving to live right next to that dark forest that haunted his nightmares.
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