Tag Archives: fanfiction

Complicated

11 Aug

I am a millennial. A twenty-something. A whatever-you’d-call-it. Mostly I’m just a young adult trying to get her shit together. This is my general impression of most members of my generation, whatever their current socioeconomic status. We might have a good job with lots of money and work we love to do, or we might have no job and no money and be getting really fucking bored of the wallpaper in our parents’ basement. But no matter what, for the most part, we’re trying.

The world got a lot bigger for us than it was for previous generations. Sure, the same is true for those other age cohorts as well, but the internet was really quite an impressive thing when it came to exposure-expansion. My generation saw phones go from pixel bots you played snake on to life boxes you can somehow use to do your laundry. On the scale of what’s available to us to see and know and do and talk about, the world got blown pretty fucking wide open.

And we’re trying really hard to put all that shit together and figure it out.

We’re willing to work with gray areas. We’re willing to question and re-think and reconsider. We’re willing to toy with paradigms to stretch discrete units into spectrums. We’re willing to rewrite the rules. We’re willing to rewrite a lot of things, actually.

Let me talk to you about Harry Potter fanfiction.

As someone who fancies herself a writer, I resisted the idea that fanfiction carried any sort of legitimacy for a while. “It’s just copycat. Unoriginal. Cheating. Usually just a facade for slapdash porn, at best.”

Okay, at the point I was thinking those things I hadn’t really read any fanfiction yet. But that’s how stigmas work. You don’t approach the taboo thing because the thing is taboo because… it’s… taboo… because…

*endless loop of unreasoned fear-avoidance*

And then I spent more time on the internet and was exposed to a lot of the “best of” snippets that people posted on facebook and tumblr and such, and my pretension about this genre of writing that can be as good or as bad as any other sector of writing slowly faded away.

Yes, some fanfiction is unoriginal. Cheating. A cheap facade for shitty porn full of too-quick nudity and broke-back sentences.

But some of it is brilliant.

I like what books do to people. I like seeing how my generation has grown up and whipped out our own pens (or, ya know, keyboards) and managed to occasionally add on or change up the writing that was already given to us, in a way that doesn’t feel strange or blasphemous but real and clever. I like seeing how my generation gets to creating, when it comes to the Harry Potter story. I am delighted by the number of good writers it’s gotten talking, because they wanted to put their own spin on our favorite childhood narrative.

But I am delighted, most, by the way it shows how my generation is thinking.

Here, let me show you the particular piece that got me blathering:

prismatic-bell:

cinematicnomad:

aplatonicjacuzzi:

crazybutperfectlysane:

So I was rereading Harry Potter, when I came across this and thought- what if instead of Cedric Diggory, Cassius Warrington had been chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament?Imagine Dumbledore calling out the name of the Hogwarts champion and it isn’t a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw, or even a Hufflepuff, but it’s a Slytherin. A student from a House most people hate.Imagine Cassius Warrington getting up, and three out of four Houses are booing at him and shouting things like “NO!” or, “We can’t have a Slytherin champion!” or demanding a retry. But he’s a Slytherin- he’s been dealing with this shit since he got sorted, so he keeps his head high and joins the other champions.Imagine Harry trying to catch Warrington alone because he doesn’t really want to associate with Slytherins (plus Malfoy has this tendency of being around the guy ALL THE TIME since he got chosen), but at the same time he’s also fair enough not to want him to walk into the first task unprepared.Imagine Warrington walking over to Harry a few months later, and Ron and Hermione both jump into a protective stance, wands out, but instead of attacking Harry he just tells him to stick the egg underwater. (Because Slytherins don’t forget those who helped them out).Imagine Warrington and Harry helping each other out in the labyrinth.Imagine Harry being devastated when Peter kills Warrington- because Voldemort doesn’t care what house they’re form, a spare is a spare.Imagine the uproar that causes among the Slytherins, because some of their parents really are Death Eaters and they know what really happened.Imagine Slytherins fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts and shouting “This is for Cassius!”

Imagine Harry returning with Warrington’s body, and the crowd realizes what’s happened, but Warrington’s parents don’t show up. There’s no one to mourn him, to cradle him in their arms and cry for their son. The Slytherins know why. His parents were Death Eaters, too.Imagine Slytherins reaching out, asking for help from classmates from other houses. They’re terrified, truly terrified because the being their parents claimed would never hurt them because they’re pureblood, they realize that he does not care.Imagine Slytherins in the 5th book sneaking off to join Dumbledore’s Army, to learn more about who Voldemort is without their parents acting as a filter. Imagine the shock when they’re told what he’s really done.Imagine that a few talented Slytherins went with Harry and the others into the Ministry of Magic. The others are a bit wary but they prove themselves as friends.Imagine them being confronted by Lucius Malfoy in the the Hall of Prophecy, and when the Death Eaters descend, they know that any one of them could be their parents.Imagine the shocked gasp of a Death Eater as they realize their own child, a pureblood, is standing defiantly with Harry Potter. They choke back a cry. They can’t let their child know that they were about to duel to the death.Imagine a DA Slytherin facing off against their own Death Eater parent. That they make the decision to let their child defeat them, because in that moment, they realize that they love their child more than they fear Voldemort. They go down, mask unveiled, and the Slytherin kid has to be dragged from the fight before he gets killed.Imagine Book 6 Slytherins getting more friendly and cooperative with the other houses. Two years of Voldemort terrorizing the muggle and Wizarding world, two years where their parents just up and leave some days, cringing from the pain in their arm, two years after the death of the first Slytherin pureblood, Cassius Warrington, killed by Voldemort’s right-hand man, and they’re slowly hitting the breaking point.Imagine Slytherin kids keeping tabs on their parents, sending the information to Harry, who shares it with the Order of the Phoenix, and hoping that their parents won’t be killed.Imagine Book 7 Slytherins low-key rebelling against the new oppressive Hogwarts staff.Imagine the final siege on Hogwarts, where Slytherins stand proudly by their fellow houses, knowing full-well they could be fighting their own parents. Some Slytherins know their parents were in the fighting. They hope to find them first and sneak them away. Their fellow students understand. Professor McGonagall allows 7th Year Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson, to duel a death eater in her stead; her father is under that veil. She knows it.Imagine the aftermath of the battle; every house suffered loses. Slytherin students crying over the deaths of friends they made in every house.Imagine 

 a Cassius Warrington statue made in his honor, the first Slytherin to fight and die nobly with Harry Potter, the boy who lived, in the face of ultimate evil. He was a true Slytherin, and it’s in his name that Slytherin children and their families have cut all ties with the Death Eaters, denounced Voldemort, and are finally living in peace.

#i do enjoy cedric #but this would have been immensely wonderful in many ways (via batty4u) 

Imagine a story in which Harry wasn’t in love with his fellow champion’s girlfriend, but after her boyfriend’s death just hugs her so long, so hard, and says “he wanted to win for you. You should know–you should know he won, he did it for you” and gives her the best hug and shoulder he knows how to be because her parents aren’t there either and she must know why.Imagine Harry staring over her head at everyone else until Hermione steps up–it doesn’t take long, but it takes long enough that when she does all eyes are on her as a source of motion–and says “we’re never going to forget this. They’re not going to get away with it” and the girlfriend just latches onto Hermione and everyone is in wands-out stance convinced she’s about to attack the shit out of Hermione, and then the girlfriend stares into her eyes and says “do you promise me” and Hermione just gives her this super-firm nod and says “I promise” and the girlfriend just collapses on her, sobbing. Imagine Dumbledore trying to give some flowery speech about inter-wizard solidarity while glossing over why, because Slytherins have always been a touchy subject, and Ron gets to his feet and says “Professor, I need to say something important” and Dumbledore is so surprised he just cedes the floor, and Ron–after that awkward moment when he realizes everyone is staring at him–says he didn’t know Warrington particularly, but he knows how Warrington and Harry played. That each was always cheering on the other. Both wanted to win, but neither was willing to undercut the other by underhanded means. He finishes up saying “I think–I think it’s important everyone should know he died being what a champion should be. Because he could have abandoned Harry and instead he stood up with him to play the game the honest way, and he died for it. And–and Slytherin House should be proud, and we should all be proud, because Warrington was a good bloke.” He sits back down all flustered because he didn’t actually stand up meaning to make a speech. And then Pansy Parkinson stands up before Dumbledore can take back control of the room and says “I want to tell Weasley thank you.” And all of Slytherin House raises a glass–to Warrington, to Weasley, to Potter–and the other houses follow suit. Many years later, Wizarding scholars will say that was the moment Voldemort truly lost.Imagine later that summer. Harry gets several owls on his birthday, all unsigned. The birds are plump and pretentious and well-cared-for. He will never know which Slytherins sent him their treasures: parchments with hexes developed by the Death Eaters; a strange locket that will only open if he whispers a special spell but that always shows him the picture he most needs to see; a page torn from a potions book that, brewed properly, will allow him extra time to summon a Patronus by giving him a few crucial seconds not just of happiness but of bliss. It doesn’t matter. Harry knows these gifts not as birthday gifts but for what they really are, and he treasures the locket and copies out the potion to send to Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, and when first summoned by the Order of the Phoenix he marches straight up to Dumbledore with the hexes and says “I can’t tell you where I got these, Professor. But they’re in use by the Death Eaters and I think you should have them.” Months later, Sirius will recognize the spell Bellatrix shoots at him, and will dive out of the way just in the nick of time.The final battle. Everyone is there. Sirius somehow ends up herding a group of Slytherins. They all stare at him and he at them, across a centuries-old divide Voldemort has only succeeded in deepening. Then he remembers the hexes. Harry’s locket, now tucked under Sirius’ shirt because Harry’s friends are with him in this battle but most of Sirius’ are dead. The moment that happiness potion saved Remus’ life, his very soul. Snape’s final words to Harry, finally seen not as mockery but real true advice. What Harry said Voldemort said–his first words in his new form. They are kids, and they are sharing the same kind of hurt he once wouldn’t admit to, watching his mother burn his name off the family tree. “When we go in there, it’s going to be hell,” he tells the Slytherins. “Some of you are probably going to die. I might go down too, and if I do I want your best curser in the front. But I want you all to remember one thing. There are no spares.”  Later retellings of the battle never fail to mention the moment a group of angry, screaming teens burst into the Great Hall, wearing their green and silver as the badge of honor it should be, shouting NO SPARES, NO SPARES at the tops of their voices in between hexes and curses and the occasional physical punch. When Hermione is present, she always interrupts the storyteller to be sure everyone knows about the moment Blaise Zabini shoved her to the floor, dropped on top of her, fired off three curses in rapid succession and said “stay alive, Granger, we need you” before jumping back to his feet and vanishing into the melee–how, for all anyone knows, those may have been his last words, and she will not let his sacrifice go unnoted. The aftermath. Malfoy holds out a hand to Sirius, badly injured on the floor. Sirius asks how Malfoy is willing to trust him. Malfoy nods at his chest. “You’ve got my godfather’s locket,” he says, and when Sirius and Harry finally speak after the battle Harry gives his full agreement to the very first thing out of  Sirius’ mouth. They give the locket to Malfoy. Sirius grits his teeth and closes his eyes and opens them and says “He probably saved my life, giving Harry that.” He doesn’t say thank you. Malfoy hears it anyway. The school reopens under a single banner: the four Houses united. The House rivalry is reduced to just that–a competition in fun–with those deep divides slowly healing to scars, and eventually away to nothing at all.Imagine it.

prismatic-bell:

cinematicnomad:

aplatonicjacuzzi:

crazybutperfectlysane:

So I was rereading Harry Potter, when I came across this and thought- what if instead of Cedric Diggory,Cassius Warrington had been chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament?

Imagine Dumbledore calling out the name of the Hogwarts champion and it isn’t a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw, or even a Hufflepuff, but it’s a Slytherin.A student from a House most people hate.

Imagine Cassius Warrington getting up, and three out of four Houses are booing at him and shouting things like “NO!” or, “We can’t have a Slytherin champion!” or demanding a retry. But he’s a Slytherin- he’s been dealing with this shit since he got sorted, so he keeps his head high and joins the other champions.

Imagine Harry trying to catch Warrington alone because he doesn’t really want to associate with Slytherins (plus Malfoy has this tendency of being around the guy ALL THE TIME since he got chosen), but at the same time he’s also fair enough not to want him to walk into the first task unprepared.

Imagine Warrington walking over to Harry a few months later, and Ron and Hermione both jump into a protective stance, wands out, but instead of attacking Harry he just tells him to stick the egg underwater. (Because Slytherins don’t forget those who helped them out).

Imagine Warrington and Harry helping each other out in the labyrinth.

Imagine Harry being devastated when Peter kills Warrington- because Voldemort doesn’t care what house they’re form, a spare is a spare.

Imagine the uproar that causes among the Slytherins, because some of their parents really are Death Eaters and they know what really happened.

Imagine Slytherins fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts and shouting “This is for Cassius!”

Imagine Harry returning with Warrington’s body, and the crowd realizes what’s happened, but Warrington’s parents don’t show up. There’s no one to mourn him, to cradle him in their arms and cry for their son. The Slytherins know why. His parents were Death Eaters, too.

Imagine Slytherins reaching out, asking for help from classmates from other houses. They’re terrified, truly terrified because the being their parents claimed would never hurt them because they’re pureblood, they realize that he does not care.

Imagine Slytherins in the 5th book sneaking off to join Dumbledore’s Army, to learn more about who Voldemort is without their parents acting as a filter.

Imagine the shock when they’re told what he’s really done.

Imagine that a few talented Slytherins went with Harry and the others into the Ministry of Magic. The others are a bit wary but they prove themselves as friends.

Imagine them being confronted by Lucius Malfoy in the the Hall of Prophecy, and when the Death Eaters descend, they know that any one of them could be their parents.

Imagine the shocked gasp of a Death Eater as they realize their own child, a pureblood, is standing defiantly with Harry Potter. They choke back a cry. They can’t let their child know that they were about to duel to the death.

Imagine a DA Slytherin facing off against their own Death Eater parent. That they make the decision to let their child defeat them, because in that moment, they realize that they love their child more than they fear Voldemort. They go down, mask unveiled, and the Slytherin kid has to be dragged from the fight before he gets killed.

Imagine Book 6 Slytherins getting more friendly and cooperative with the other houses. Two years of Voldemort terrorizing the muggle and Wizarding world, two years where their parents just up and leave some days, cringing from the pain in their arm, two years after the death of the first Slytherin pureblood, Cassius Warrington, killed by Voldemort’s right-hand man, and they’re slowly hitting the breaking point.

Imagine Slytherin kids keeping tabs on their parents, sending the information to Harry, who shares it with the Order of the Phoenix, and hoping that their parents won’t be killed.

Imagine Book 7 Slytherins low-key rebelling against the new oppressive Hogwarts staff.

Imagine the final siege on Hogwarts, where Slytherins stand proudly by their fellow houses, knowing full-well they could be fighting their own parents. Some Slytherins know their parents were in the fighting. They hope to find them first and sneak them away. Their fellow students understand. Professor McGonagall allows 7th Year Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson, to duel a death eater in her stead; her father is under that veil. She knows it.

Imagine the aftermath of the battle; every house suffered loses. Slytherin students crying over the deaths of friends they made in every house.

Imagine a Cassius Warrington statue made in his honor, the first Slytherin to fight and die nobly with Harry Potter, the boy who lived, in the face of ultimate evil. He was a true Slytherin, and it’s in his name that Slytherin children and their families have cut all ties with the Death Eaters, denounced Voldemort, and are finally living in peace.

#i do enjoy cedric #but this would have been immensely wonderful in many ways (via batty4u)

Imagine a story in which Harry wasn’t in love with his fellow champion’s girlfriend, but after her boyfriend’s death just hugs her so long, so hard, and says “he wanted to win for you. You should know–you should know he won, he did it for you” and gives her the best hug and shoulder he knows how to be because her parents aren’t there either and she must know why.

Imagine Harry staring over her head at everyone else until Hermione steps up–it doesn’t take long, but it takes long enough that when she does all eyes are on her as a source of motion–and says “we’re never going to forget this. They’re not going to get away with it” and the girlfriend just latches onto Hermione and everyone is in wands-out stance convinced she’s about to attack the shit out of Hermione, and then the girlfriend stares into her eyes and says “do you promise me” and Hermione just gives her this super-firm nod and says “I promise” and the girlfriend just collapses on her, sobbing.

Imagine Dumbledore trying to give some flowery speech about inter-wizard solidarity while glossing over why, because Slytherins have always been a touchy subject, and Ron gets to his feet and says “Professor, I need to say something important” and Dumbledore is so surprised he just cedes the floor, and Ron–after that awkward moment when he realizes everyone is staring at him–says he didn’t know Warrington particularly, but he knows how Warrington and Harry played. That each was always cheering on the other. Both wanted to win, but neither was willing to undercut the other by underhanded means. He finishes up saying “I think–I think it’s important everyone should know he died being what a champion should be. Because he could have abandoned Harry and instead he stood up with him to play the game the honest way, and he died for it. And–and Slytherin House should be proud, and we should all be proud, because Warrington was a good bloke.” He sits back down all flustered because he didn’t actually stand up meaning to make a speech. And then Pansy Parkinson stands up before Dumbledore can take back control of the room and says “I want to tell Weasley thank you.” And all of Slytherin House raises a glass–to Warrington, to Weasley, to Potter–and the other houses follow suit. Many years later, Wizarding scholars will say that was the moment Voldemort truly lost.

Imagine later that summer. Harry gets several owls on his birthday, all unsigned. The birds are plump and pretentious and well-cared-for. He will never know which Slytherins sent him their treasures: parchments with hexes developed by the Death Eaters; a strange locket that will only open if he whispers a special spell but that always shows him the picture he most needs to see; a page torn from a potions book that, brewed properly, will allow him extra time to summon a Patronus by giving him a few crucial seconds not just of happiness but of bliss. It doesn’t matter. Harry knows these gifts not as birthday gifts but for what they really are, and he treasures the locket and copies out the potion to send to Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, and when first summoned by the Order of the Phoenix he marches straight up to Dumbledore with the hexes and says “I can’t tell you where I got these, Professor. But they’re in use by the Death Eaters and I think you should have them.” Months later, Sirius will recognize the spell Bellatrix shoots at him, and will dive out of the way just in the nick of time.

The final battle. Everyone is there. Sirius somehow ends up herding a group of Slytherins. They all stare at him and he at them, across a centuries-old divide Voldemort has only succeeded in deepening. Then he remembers the hexes. Harry’s locket, now tucked under Sirius’ shirt because Harry’s friends are with him in this battle but most of Sirius’ are dead. The moment that happiness potion saved Remus’ life, his very soul. Snape’s final words to Harry, finally seen not as mockery but real true advice. What Harry said Voldemort said–his first words in his new form. They are kids, and they are sharing the same kind of hurt he once wouldn’t admit to, watching his mother burn his name off the family tree. “When we go in there, it’s going to be hell,” he tells the Slytherins. “Some of you are probably going to die. I might go down too, and if I do I want your best curser in the front. But I want you all to remember one thing. There are no spares.”  Later retellings of the battle never fail to mention the moment a group of angry, screaming teens burst into the Great Hall, wearing their green and silver as the badge of honor it should be, shouting NO SPARES, NO SPARES at the tops of their voices in between hexes and curses and the occasional physical punch. When Hermione is present, she always interrupts the storyteller to be sure everyone knows about the moment Blaise Zabini shoved her to the floor, dropped on top of her, fired off three curses in rapid succession and said “stay alive, Granger, we need you” before jumping back to his feet and vanishing into the melee–how, for all anyone knows, those may have been his last words, and she will not let his sacrifice go unnoted.

The aftermath. Malfoy holds out a hand to Sirius, badly injured on the floor. Sirius asks how Malfoy is willing to trust him. Malfoy nods at his chest. “You’ve got my godfather’s locket,” he says, and when Sirius and Harry finally speak after the battle Harry gives his full agreement to the very first thing out of  Sirius’ mouth. They give the locket to Malfoy. Sirius grits his teeth and closes his eyes and opens them and says “He probably saved my life, giving Harry that.” He doesn’t say thank you. Malfoy hears it anyway.

The school reopens under a single banner: the four Houses united. The House rivalry is reduced to just that–a competition in fun–with those deep divides slowly healing to scars, and eventually away to nothing at all.

Imagine it.

(via sci-fantasy)

(original post here)

JKR gave us these books, seven wonderful, complex books with a story about bravery vs. cowardice, right vs. wrong, light vs. dark, and they were good. Really good. Something we could all pretty much get behind.

But then we readers grew up and came of writing age, and while we all appreciate what was given to us, I see in our fanfic how we also sit down and look at the world and look at each other and go, “Yeah, but what if it were more complicated than that…”

And that makes me really goddamn proud.

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Water Bottles

16 Mar

– A Miriam Black fanfiction

Vamp-red hair and black leather, a mousy brown-blond braid plus jeans, and sharp bob on top of a suit. This was going to be an odd conference.

All three were women. All three had something to do with a story. All three looked anything but placid. The similarities ended there.

The suit sat down. She extended a hand towards the noncommittal middle space between her two guests. “Hello. Thank you both for coming. I’m -”

“Cynthia, but you go by Cindy,” braid-jeans cut in. “You think it makes you seem more accessible, less exotic. You always resented having such a French mother, growing up in America. Made assimilation so much harder.”

Cynthia – er, Cindy – colored. She retracted her hand. “Uh, yes, that’s… that’s, uh, accurate.”

Vamp snorted. “Nice,” she muttered, throwing a look of appreciation across the table at her fellow guest.

“Sorry!” braid-jeans back-pedalled hastily. “It’s just… well, it’s true!”

Cindy brushed off her clothes, as if straightening them could somehow restore her lost composure. “Yes!” Her voice was too loud. “You must be, uh…” she checked her notepad. “Margaret, is it?”

Braid-jeans nodded. “Yup. Such a sweet-sounding name, isn’t it? Everyone’s always so surprised when they learn it means “bitterness.” Fitting, really.”

Vamp raised an eyebrow and stuck out her hand. The red nail polish on her fingers was chipping visibly. “Miriam,” she said after a second. She released Margaret’s hand quickly. Margaret nodded. “Your nail polish is more chipped than you like it to be. You’ve been busy.”

Miriam cocked her head sideways. “Can you ever not do that?”

“Tell the truth?” the edges of Margaret’s face pulled away in wry wrinkles. “No.”

“That’s so interesting. I would hate it.”

“And that,” Cindy cut in hastily, leaning forward across the table in an attempt to regain authority (they were her guests, after all), “is why we’re here! As I was saying, thank you both for coming. The Daily Dish thanks you for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk with me about this piece.”

Miriam and Margaret looked at each other. “Busy?” Margaret scoffed. Miriam raised an eyebrow again. “Schedule?”

Cindy bit her lip. “Uh…”

“Ah yes, I’ve been so busy,” Margaret muttered bitterly. “What with trying to avoid people and all…” Across the table, Miriam nodded. Margaret gestured towards her fellow guest. “You get it.”

“Oh honey,” Miriam said, “I get it hard.”

“Whydon’tyoutellmemoreaboutthat,” Cindy spurted out, desperate to regain her ground. She flipped open her notebook again, uncapped a pen. “Margaret, how about you first? Why do you want to avoid people so much?”

Miriam choked on her own laughter.

Margaret merely rolled her eyes. “Only being able to tell the truth, always, forever, compulsively… do you really need any more explanation?”

Cindy leaned forward. Blinked. “Yes.”

Margaret sighed. “Knowing people’s truth… My grandfather told me it was a gift. My mother told me it was a curse. I’m more inclined to believe my mother, now, as an adult.”

Cindy was still staring. Her pen was suspended, floating right above the page. “And?”

Margaret looked at Cindy. Harder, this time. Dead in the eye. “Think about it. Ever told a white lie? Just a little one? To make your life just a little bit more convenient? Smooth something over? Tell someone what they wanted to hear?”

Cindy nodded slowly.

“Now imagine not being able to do that.”

For a moment, Cindy didn’t move. Then, slowly, her eyes got wider.

Miriam kicked her feet up on the table. Leaned back in her chair so it was tilted on two legs. She whistled. “Christ,” she looked at Margaret. “I mean, shit man.”

Margaret nodded. “Little white lies are the trivial fluff that keeps our delusioned society functional. Truth, on the other hand, is an ugly black boulder that people don’t seem to particularly care having lobbed in their face.”

Cindy was silent in her chair. Her face had started to blanch toward sheet-colored.

Miriam leaned forward in her chair. “You can’t even be manipulative with it, can you? Well, maybe you can, but fuck that would take some skill.”

Margaret nodded. “I don’t do it too often. Not saying things can be as much of a lie as telling deliberate falsehoods. Pauses, meaningful silences – they’re hard to do, when your tongue is chomping at the bit to flood someone with the full truth of it. Misconceptions – they’re hard to work into a routine intentionally.”

“So,” she looked back at Cindy. “Most of the time, I try to just avoid people. If I don’t see anyone, then I don’t have to tell them not-nice things. And when I do have to see people, I try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. You know, generic. Braid my hair like every other something-year-old. Jeans and a t-shirt, bland as can be. Kept my childhood name of Margaret. Simple name.” She eyed Miriam. “Though maybe I should just go for eccentric. Get it legally changed to Magnolia or something. Give people a reason to write me off.”

Miriam laughed, a rough, guttural sound. “Making yourself something most people don’t want to see certainly helps turn you invisible.”

Margaret smiled. Frowned. Turned to Cindy. The woman’s hand had gone limp and her pen lay on the floor. She was the color of a pale albino in winter.

“Uh,” Margaret took the woman’s hand and rubbed it between hers. “You okay there?”

Miriam reached out a hand, grasped the woman’s elbow. Margaret saw her eyes unfocus for a second.

Then Miriam blinked. Sat back in her chair. “Don’t worry,” she said, looking at Cindy, “you don’t die of shock. Not even a little.” She looked down into her coffee cup, still mostly-full of the unpalatable sludge they’d left out in the guest lobby. She pushed it toward Cindy. “Here. Taste of your own medicine. It’ll do you good.”

The woman grasped the cup, took a sip. Spluttered.

“Eh, there you go!” Miriam clapped her on the back. “There’s some color in your cheeks!”

Margaret reached into her purse and pulled out a water bottle. “Here,” she set the water bottle in front of the slightly-less-dazed reporter. “Helps the truth go down.”

Margaret and Miriam stood up, both watching Cindy work ineffectually at twisting the cap off. Miriam looked over at Margaret. “The truth, takes some getting used to, hunh?”

Margaret gave an upward flick of her eyebrows in agreement. She looked at Cindy. Made a face. “Just keep working at that. You’ll get it.”

Miriam took Margaret by the hand, pulled her towards the door of the conference room. “So, Magnolia, how about you and I go get gloriously drunk together?”

Margaret hesitated. “I don’t know… people tend to, uh, not like me very much when I’m drunk. You know, inhibitions and all that. Tend to say some pretty nasty things.”

“Lovely!” Miriam chirped. “So do I! We’ll get along splendidly.”

The sound of laughter followed the two women’s silhouettes out of the conference room and into the elevator.

Inside the conference room, there was silence.

Then, the sound of twisting. Something coming loose.

And a snap.