The hp_oldladysb com should not go gently into that good night of lessening fandom interest; it's far too valuable a place for that to happen.
My good intention for 2017 is to keep the place alive and kicking. Please do post and repost stories, all of you OLSB fans. And post recs as well. Together we can keep the spirit up.
Here's the first one.
This story was written as a gift for kellychambliss in the rarepair_shorts summer wishlist.
Title: For Her Sins
Pairing: Poppy Pomfrey / Pomona Sprout
Request: summer hols
Rating: PG 13
Word Count: 2500
Summary: Poppy never wanted to do it - her friends made her. It's all their fault. Well, nearly all.
Author's Notes: Poor Poppy isn't the only one to suffer like this.
Many thanks to my two lovely betas, miss_morland and lash_larue, who did their utmost to keep me on the grammatical straight-and-narrow and whose suggestions were invaluable.
At some point in her life, Poppy Pomfrey had done a terrible deed. A truly wicked, evil thing. And she had never regretted it, never atoned for it.
She didn’t even know what it was.
But at some point she must have done something really bad. It was the only explanation that made sense of her present situation. She was being punished, “for her sins,” as her mother used to say whenever bad things happened to people. “She gets it for her sins,” and now Poppy had got it. For a sin in her past.
It had to be in her past, for at this stage of her life, she was a dedicated, hard-working, conscientious Healer. She needed her vacation as much as the next woman, and more than some. Certainly more than that Rolanda, who spent her days riding brooms and her nights riding Minerva – a Minerva who was no better than she should be. Never mind that those two had been her best friends for years. Rolanda and Minerva got the holidays of their dreams in their cottage on the isle of Skye, and it just wasn’t fair.
For what did she, Poppy, get? Her usual two weeks of blissful house-sitting for her cousin, who lived in the Cotswolds? Hours of reading in the garden, strolling through villages, and taking her time in second-hand bookstores? Dinners consisting of just what she liked best, bought ready-cooked at those fun Muggle supermarkets?
No. The Great Goddess had intervened. And Poppy Pomfrey was doomed to go on a package trip to Mykonos, Greece. She hated package trips. She hadn’t actually taken one, but that was precisely because, from everything she had heard about them, they were full of things she hated. Long-distance Portkey travel, for instance. Endless souvlakis for dinner. Traipsing around in the hot sun. The towel-on-the-chair fight. Masses of sweaty tourists buying masses of ugly souvenirs.
And now she would have to take a package trip herself, and it was the fault of those two devious hussies. All of it. Except for the part where Poppy had done the wicked deed, of course. If only she knew what it was. Then she could atone, and perhaps …
No, it was too late now. They would leave the next day, she and Pomona. Pomona liked package holidays. She always went off for a week to the Mediterranean – stayed in a small apartment, visited quaint villages and towns, ate the ‘wonderful Mediterranean food’, as she called it. Garlicky and oily and fishy, Poppy had always thought. Literally fishy. Poppy could enjoy a slice of smoked salmon or a piece of cod in white sauce. She just didn’t care for sardines and squids.
In the past, Pomona had taken her trips with Roderick, Roddy, her ‘gentleman friend’, as she called him. It had taken some time before Poppy realised that Roddy was a gentleman and a friend, but not in the usual sense.
“Gay as a string of fairy lights,” Rolanda had grinned. “They’ve been friends – oohh, forever. Pomona took Roddy along a few years ago, when he and his boyfriend had just broken up. They both liked it. They enjoy the same things, so it became a habit.” Poppy had nodded. Sensible thing to do.
And now Roddy, who had never done a wicked deed in his life, and therefore had good things coming to him, had met someone new. And had gone on a holiday with him.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pomona had said bravely, during their weekly Coven meeting. “I will be able to find someone who will take Roddy’s place. After all, he insisted on paying his full share, since it was already booked, and who wouldn’t enjoy a free holiday?”
That was when it had all gone pear-shaped. Rolanda and Minerva had taken one good long look at each other, and they had launched their attack. It would be so lovely for Poppy to have some sunshine, they enthused. And a real holiday abroad for once. See different things. And didn’t Poppy and Pomona get along just fine, and wouldn’t they have the most glorious fun together?
Neither Poppy nor Pomona had managed to get in a word, and by the time those two harpies had finished, making objections would have been unutterably rude. Poppy couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t be a clear rejection of Pomona.
It was all Minerva’s and Rolanda’s fault.
And Poppy’s, for being so very evil at some point.
And I’m insensitive at this point in my life, Poppy thought as she looked at Pomona’s worried face. Pomona had just asked Poppy whether she preferred unpacking first, or would like a stroll, or the pool, or … whatever …
Poppy looked around the apartment that was to be their home for a week. So far it had been as bad as expected. The Portkey had left her nauseous, it was scorching hot, and the swimming pool, of which she had caught a fleeting glimpse as she carried her suitcase to their apartment, was surrounded by towel-sporting deck chairs.
The place itself wasn’t bad. It had two rooms and a small, shady veranda with comfortable chairs and a table. There were some simple cooking facilities. Tea could be had, perhaps on the nice veranda. It had a lovely view. Poppy had brought proper tea, and Pomona liked proper tea, it was one of her many good points. Tea that was a liquid, not Minerva’s inky-black concoction. Black as her soul, thought Poppy, and repeated the promise she had made herself: that she would get the two ugliest, unsightliest, most touristy things and give them to those two for Christmas presents. Would they sell plastic snow globes in Greece, or was that too much to ask?
“Poppy?” asked Pomona.
Damn. She had spent too much time in her own thoughts – looking angry, too, probably. Poor Pomona.
It wasn’t until Pomona, usually breezily-confident, had asked her in such a worried, insecure way what Poppy would like that she had realised Pomona had felt trapped, too. Pomona would probably have preferred being on her own, and feared that Poppy, mutinous, ungracious Poppy, would spoil her holiday. And Pomona needed a holiday, and she was a lovely, kind woman. Poppy had always enjoyed her company. In fact, she would have liked the chance to spend time with her. It was the package trip she hated.
That’s it, Poppy decided. I may not know what I have done to deserve this, but I will atone by being the best, kindest travel companion possible. I will make sure Pomona has a lovely time.
“I would like to unpack,” she said, hesitatingly, ready to say she didn’t really mind one way or the other. But, “So do I,” beamed Pomona. They finished their task quickly, and when Poppy placed her little pile of books neatly on the side table, Pomona said that it made the place look like a proper home and put her own books next to them. They browsed each other’s pile enthusiastically and noticed several things they’d like to read. No risk of running out of books then. Poppy had been worried about that – no Cotswold bookshops to stock up in, and what with the weight limitations on her luggage ...
The stroll wasn’t a bad idea, either. Mykonos really was uncommonly pretty. Some streets were so full of people you could barely see what they looked like, but there were many quieter ones. “And all white!” Poppy exclaimed. “All the houses, and even the streets! And look at the pretty colours!” For many doors and shutters were that amazing blue one associates with Greece, but there were also green ones, and red, and lilac, even. Poppy would enjoy further exploration of this enchanting place.
And their lunch was good, too. “You want nice Greek salad,” the waiter had said, and he hadn’t been wrong. It was delicious.
“They all say that. Not everything on their menu is always in stock; I just hope you won’t get sick of Greek salad,” Pomona said, looking worried. But Poppy thought that she would long for a nice Greek salad on winter nights at Hogwarts, rather than tire of them here.
She raised her glass of retsina to Pomona. “To Greece,” she said. “I’m loving it already.” And it wasn’t precisely a lie, either.
After their lunch, they returned to the hotel for a deck chair in the shade. “There will be room in the afternoon,” Pomona had said. “There usually is, and it’s less hot.” She had been right, and Poppy had a lovely book and an ice-cold fruit juice. And, surprisingly, a good time.
Pomona had fetched the fruit juices, and when she had walked back to Poppy, she had held in her stomach – not much, but enough for a Healer to notice. Poppy had spent a few moments looking around – who could it have been, the one Pomona was interested in? Because that would be why she held in her stomach, right? To look better. Pomona had never mentioned a love-life, and naturally Poppy had never presumed to ask. But she’d always had the impression that, like Minerva and Rolanda, Pomona preferred women.
The blonde near the bar? A bit young, perhaps. But who knows? That girl could win in a Venus lookalike contest. Or perhaps the voluptuous one in the flowery bathing suit? A stronger contestant, Poppy thought. She would make very sure never to be an inconvenient third. A considerate travel-companion should remember such things.
And Poppy very much wanted to be a considerate companion. Both because Pomona deserved one, and because, when all was said and done, her judgment on package holidays had perhaps been a bit hasty. She liked their apartment, and this pool area with its cheerful tubs of flowers was nice, too. And the town was lovely. Touristy and hot, yes, but there were plenty of quiet, small, shady streets. All in all she was having a very good time, indeed.
So far the only package trip prejudices that had truly withstood the test of reality were long-distance Portkey travel (but the nasty part of that lasted only for half an hour or so) and the towel-on-the-chair thing.
Even now there were a few chairs with towels on them, and no-one had claimed them during the time they had spent at the pool. And she distinctly remembered the flaming pink with orange one, which had been empty when they left for lunch, as well.
Poppy looked at Pomona, who was engrossed in a novel. “I never realised the towel battles could last this long,” she grinned. Pomona’s face fell at once, and she looked, Poppy realised with a shock, unsecure and unhappy again. Far more than she had done that morning, even. But surely their lovely stroll and lunch had convinced Pomona that Poppy was having a good time?
“You really hate this kind of holiday, don’t you? You only came along because you were pressurized into accepting. And it’s all my fault,” Pomona blurted out. “You must hate me for it.”
Never say ‘what’, dear, say ‘pardon’. Another of her mother’s sayings. Surely years of saying ‘what’ in spite of having been brought up to know better couldn’t be the very evil thing she had done?
But here was Pomona, horribly upset by what Poppy had meant as a joke. And thinking she had done something.
“You never did nothing,” said Poppy, ungrammatical for once. “It’s Rolanda and Minerva. They saddled you with me, and you probably didn’t want that, either. And I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s my fault. I told them … Well, I told them that I’d like to get to know you better. I mean … that is to say …”
“Better than just colleagues, or members of the Coven, you mean? ” Poppy asked. She had occasionally thought herself that she’d like to be proper friends with Pomona. To do things together, not just as two members of a foursome. It was nice to hear that was mutual.
“Well, yes,” said Pomona. “Yes. I’d really like to get to know you, Poppy. And I told Ro and Min, and that’s why they put up that whole show, forcing you … us …”
“Well,” said Poppy, thinking that honesty was the best way, “I was miffed – but not because of spending time with you. I felt that Ro and Min were forcing my hand, and I just didn’t like the idea of a package holiday. But actually, I was thinking just now how much nicer it all is than I thought it would be, and that the only bit that actually lives up to its reputation is the towel-thing. That’s why I said it – I meant it as a joke. But I’m enjoying myself. A lot. I’m glad I came, Pomona, really I am.” To her own surprise, she meant it.
“That’s good to hear,” said Pomona. “I thought that between them Ro and Min had ruined every chance I had.”
Poppy smiled. She was glad to see Pomona smile back. And what was that little movement? Another little ripple in the abdominal muscles? But …
Surely not …
Surely Pomona hadn't meant … when she said that thing about knowing each other better …
Now what was Poppy supposed to say? What would Pomona say? Or do?
“Great,” said Pomona. “I’m glad we talked about it. Set my mind at rest, that did.” And she smiled again and continued her reading.
What did you expect? Poppy asked herself. Did you think Pomona would jump on you and ravish you here at the swimming pool? She has declared an interest. An interest to know you, that’s all – you know it’s more, but that is because of your Healer’s habit of spotting even the smallest change in a body. And you wouldn’t mind knowing her better, either. Certainly for friendship. For more?
Who knows? When Pomona had walked to their chairs with the glasses of juice, Poppy’s main thought had been that whomever Pomona was holding in her stomach for had better tell her quickly just how great she looked just as she was. Poppy had always thought that Pomona, aptly-named Pomona, was her idea of a Goddess.
And the wonderful thing was, Poppy would get all the time she needed to sort out her feelings. Pomona was comfortable to be with. Look at the way she had ended the conversation before anything difficult or premature had been said, and had made it clear that they would just have a nice holiday, if Poppy wanted no more than that.
If there was anyone who understood that things should be allow to grow in their own, good time, it was Pomona.
Poppy leaned back and closed her eyes. She would have a little nap. And tonight they’d go out for dinner at the taverna they had spotted earlier. And tomorrow they would … They might make plans for tomorrow at dinner … All sorts of possibilities …
Perhaps … yes, perhaps … she might even go to that shop with the lovely embroidery … maybe buy something nice for Minerva and Rolanda … to give with the dreadful touristy things, of course … They still deserved those … meddlers that they were …
Pomona would probably love the ugly-gift-idea … They could select it together … that would be fun …
Whatever it was she had done in her life, it couldn’t have been too bad.
Smiling, Poppy fell asleep.