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Title: Runs in the Family
Author: [livejournal.com profile] escribo
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2533
Summary: It's 1980 and Sybill can see into the future. There's just a small problem of her family curse.



The train was nearly five hours late by the time it rolled through the unnaturally dense fog that had plagued the North Country for the last few weeks, and stopped at the station in Hogsmeade. It'd been a terrible journey, cold and uncomfortable, and Sybill kept her seat, searching for discarded tissues and tickets, tugging her tattered shawl from where it'd caught on the bench, until the conductor came to hurry her along. She was nearly the last person off the train, towering over an elderly wizard being helped by a young witch and wobbling a bit on the thin heels of her shoes as she balanced her valise in one hand and the cage that held her cat, Ourania, in the other.

It began to rain, a misty, drizzling affair, just as she stepped out onto the platform, and Sybill squinted up at the thick, gray clouds before she moved cautiously down the stairs, encouraged on by a less than subtle jab in the back by the old man behind her, harrumphing about his tea. She frowned harder when the toe of her maroon suede boot landed into a muddy puddle, and nodded once, firm. She'd predicted that, of course, and it was a sight harder to figure than the weather. It'd been spelled out in her tea leaves at the bottom of the cup she'd bought in Clapham with her last bit of Muggle money.

Ourania mewed pitifully, not liking the wet, and Sybill sympathized. She didn't much care for it herself. Actually, she didn't like traveling much at all and was glad this was to be the last for a long time. She was finally home, or back home, rather. It'd been less than four years since she'd last been to Hogwarts Castle and she had missed it more than she ever had the tiny, stone cottage on the moors where she'd been born. Of course, it had been no comfort to know she would return when she'd spent the last several years cold, hungry, and lonely much of the time. For that matter, as the damp seeped through to drench the thin wool of her stockings, she didn't take comfort in it now, either. There was still much that could go wrong. She hadn't needed leaves to know that--it was dangerous times for everyone and she saw the signs of death everywhere, not just in teacups.

Another meow shook Sybill away from those thoughts and she moved forward through the station as she shook her wet foot like a finicky cat in an odd step-shake-step-shake gait until she realized it was hopeless. She'd have to scurgify her boots once she got to her room at the Hog's Head, and hope that the spell wouldn't destroy her favorite, and coincidentally, last decent pair of shoes. She looked at her watch, the only thing of any value left to her by her mother that had survived the quick fingers of her last partner, and then eyed the cafe across the street. It was only three in the afternoon and there were still hours to kill until her interview with Professor Dumbledore. She had no more Muggle money and only just enough in Wizarding to cover her room and dinner if she was careful. There was time enough for that if she hurried, and didn't fuss with her boots.

It was warm in the cafe, almost steamy near the huge open fireplace, and Sybill wilted deep into her overstuffed chair. She ordered a pot of tea and an omelet for herself and a tuna sandwich for Ourania. The food was hot and good when it finally arrived, but she let herself dream for a moment of the meal she'd likely have tomorrow at the school: roast chicken and mash, roast carrots, Yorkshire pudding precisely how her mother didn't make (and so, therefore, edible), gravy, boiled cabbage. Even boiled cabbage at Hogwarts was tasty. Though the classes were out for holidays, the house elves would still prepare the most magnificent meals for those who remained. Only the interview to be got through. Still, here dinner was good and she cleaned her plate, using a thick slice of bread to sop up the last of the butter and eggs.

Last night had been the last she would ever spend in the threadbare room above her landlady's kitchen in a rundown house off the main road in Whirlipshire, or at least that's what she had read in the stars a week ago this morning. She'd barely eaten. She'd had the smallest room and so always had the most meagre portions of stewed gristle, stale bread, cold porridge, and weak tea. It'd been even less appealing on her last night, as had her tiny cot. She'd slept poorly, and now, her stomach full, she found her eyes drooping. Straightening, she tucked her shawl closer about her shoulders and hitched up the waist of her voluminous skirt, frowning once more as her nylons pinched at her thigh. It'd been a long journey, as she'd had to settle for coach, and she'd developed a crick in her neck when she'd dozed a bit sometime during an endless story about her seatmate's cats, which even Ourania hadn't appreciated.

She looked at her watch again. Still time. Outside, the rain continued to fall heavily and she watched the few people still out, clutching umbrellas and running with their robes hitched above sopping ankles and feet. She recognized very few faces, or rather, recognized quite a few but knew the names of none. Her dreams had been filled with strangers since the war started, and she couldn't walk down a street (or sit on a train, or a café for that matter) and not know the futures of those around her. Generally, they had none, and she despised knowing that. She never told any of them. They wouldn't have believed her, no one ever did. She sometimes didn't believe it herself. It was far easier to turn the handsome dark haired men that plagued her dreams into stories of romance for the lonely young shop girls who sometimes begged her for a reading, giving them a future than neither would have.

A man caught her eye now, as he stood just outside the sweets shop across the road, though he wasn't handsome or dark haired. He was rather short, actually, and clutching a small paper bag in one hand and an umbrella that had blown inside out in the other. He grimaced at the rain, turning his pointed nose toward the sky, sniffing at the air.

He was familiar, Sybill realized. Different. She squinted at him, trying to remember. It wasn't death who stalked him, no. She saw something else, instead. She saw.... She shook her head but the memory stubbornly danced at the edges of her consciousness. She started to turn away but couldn't quite. It seemed suddenly important to talk to him and she surprised herself by tapping at the window.

The man looked up then around, his mouth dropping open, startled, though he didn't seem to realize it was Sybill who wanted him. She tapped again, waving at him. Beckoning. She never offered readings like this, at least not since she'd been in school, and as soon as the bells over the door rang out, she regretted acting so rashly. Ourania, sat up on the arm of the chair, primly curled her black tail around her pretty, white feet, and stared at her in a way that conveyed disapproval. "There's nothing for it now," Sybill hissed, and the cat mewed in return.

"I'm sorry," the man said, reaching for his hat before seeming to remember that he wore none. Wispy strands of mousy brown hair curled in the sudden heat of the room and his round cheeks grew rosy as he tugged at his collar. "I was meant to meet someone but he hasn't turned up."

"He's been delayed," she replied automatically, stroking her hand over Ourania's fur as the small cat seemed to double in size, taking an instant dislike to the man. He hardly seemed to notice as he rolled back on his heels, looking annoyed as he took in the café and its scattered patrons as if his friend might be hiding in a corner. Finding no one, he turned back to her.

"That's Sirius for you," he mumbled to himself. "Never seems to mind that I've a job when he hasn't, does he. I can't exactly go flooing about the country on a whim. Did he at least leave me a message?"

"No," Sybill sniffed. As if she were an owl. "I saw it in the stars," she said, fanning her fingers into the air. "The great aether often tells me such things."

He eyed her for a moment, though not quite with the look of disbelief that she usually received. A doubter, she supposed, but one not willing to take a chance. There were many of those now. He probably avoided walking beneath ladders and toss spilled salt over his shoulder, too.

"Ah," he said after a long stretch of uncomfortable silence. He dug his hands deep into his pockets but stood there. He eyed her again, sizing her up, and she pulled one of her thin shawls more tightly around her shoulders. "Fortune teller, then," he said after another cord of silence had snapped between them. "I don't have a spare knut on me."

"I am the great-great-great granddaughter of Cassandra Trelawney the Magnificent, seer of the Great Unknown," she said in her most ominous voice. She always added that last bit though her mum said she wasn't that great at all, but then that was their curse--the power of prophecy but never to be believed. If one believed in curses, which Sybill didn't. At least, not that kind of curse.

The young man across from her stared at her blankly, his small, watery blue eyes giving no hint of recognition. She thought that he couldn't be more than twenty, barely out of Hogwarts. He looked out the window again, down the empty street for the friend who definitely wasn't coming to meet him. "You read tea leaves, though, right? I suppose maybe I could find a bit of change."

"Yes, yes, of course I do," she answered, annoyed, bothered that she had summoned him at all. He wasn't different, she decided. Same as all the other boys she had known: a Ministry job, a few years from settling down with a nice witch. At least if this war didn't kill him first. She waved him toward a chair. "Pour a cup, drink it down, and pass it to me. No, no sugar. It clouds the inner eye."

Sybill watched as he took a sip of the hot tea, burnt his tongue, and took another, slower sip. She sighed. It'd been a dozen years since her mother had shaken loose her earthly bonds and Sybill had been set adrift in this world, alone and nearly friendless. Of course, she'd seen it coming but that hadn't made it (any of it) easier. Nothing's had been easy since she left Hogwarts, determined to make her mark on the world, and yet here she was, reading tea leaves for a tuppence, just as her mother once had, though at least Sybill had the skill that her mother never had, even if no one ever believed her.

The pale boy passed his empty cup over, clutching his hands together in his lap, impatient. She stared at him for a moment, noting his thinning hair again, the way he gnawed at his chapped lips. He had a bland face, inoffensive. She tried to guess what she would see in his cup before she looked but not too hard. She didn't supposed it would hold be much. She set the cup onto the table and turned it once, twice, three times and then leaned over it.

At the bottom of the cup, the leaves settled in the remaining dregs of tea, shaping fate and showing their secrets to Sybill. Ourania stretched, balanced on the arm of the chair, and rubbed her head against Sybill's shoulder. Sybill reached out with a hand that trembled slightly to pet the silky head.

"So, what do you see, then? Should I put ten quid on the Montrose Magpies, do you think?"

Betrayal. Death. A rat. Those beautiful, dark haired boys and an end to this war than had seemed interminable since the day it began. "Peter Pettigrew," she whispered, shaken. The vision collapsed and disappeared as if it had been nothing more than a whiff of smoke. Savior or villain? She didn't know. Couldn't say.

"Yeah. How'd you know that, then? Did the leaves spell out my name? I could never see anything more than Earl Grey during Divination. James said it was all rubbish." His voice shook as he spoke and he passed a hand over his eyes. "James said," he whispered again, almost to himself before shaking himself to his feet. "You're having me on, aren't you? Sirius set you up to this, hasn't he? A little prank on poor Peter. I don't think it's funny. A man has to work, hasn't he. Can't pop around the countryside because Sirius Black is bored."

Sybill stared at the cup a moment longer and then tipped it over with her hand, letting the contents shift and disappear. She held her hand out to him but he shook his head. "For telling me my own name?"

"For telling you to be cautious. I see--" Sybill stopped, unsure what to say. She was quite sure she wouldn't be believed. She couldn't quite believe it herself. "A girl," she finally stuttered. "A happy marriage. A wee babe. You'll have a family," she whispered over the sound of Ourania's displeased hiss. Sybill collected the cat into her arms. "It wasn't a joke. I don't know your friend. I don't want your money."

Peter stared at her for another long minute, clasping his hand over his other arm and rubbing as if it pained him. Sybill refused to look at him, humming to herself as she petted Ourania. She began to wonder what lie she could give to make him leave when he finally tossed a handful of coins onto the table in front of her and fled back onto the street.

It took a long time before Sybill's racing heart slowed, and she loosened her grip on Ourania, who resumed her perch on the arm of the chair. She carefully collected each of the coins, leaving enough to cover her tea. She looked down at her boots and frowned at the stained suede. There really wasn't time now. She had to meet Dumbledore. She had to secure her future. She had to give one last prophecy and then she could rest safe here in the castle. She was sure of it. She only had to say the right thing to the headmaster.

Standing, Sybill took her time gathering her belongings, the tissues and scarves that seemed to float in her wake, tucked Ourania into her cage, and stepped out to meet her fate.

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