Being the Miracle

  

My writing has been slow these last several months and my attention to my books has been shifted in a new direction. No, I’m not stopping, but I needed to take some time to go on a journey of self discovery.

It’s been a crazy year of changes and learning about life and what makes me tick. Writing has been an outlet to expel negative thoughts and emotions but also to celebrate victories. It just wasn’t quite enough. There was one event that really had a huge impact and it forced me to take a step back and evaluate where my life was headed.

In going through my journey, I’ve noticed how many others are in the same boat I was. I’m definitely not perfect, but shifting myself to better places takes time and effort. With healthcare being what it is, I feel that every single person in our world deserves to enlighten themselves, if they so desire.

Through many hours of prayer, meditation, and brain storming, I’ve decided to continue working on a project I had started a couple of years ago: Being the Miracle. 

This book is designed to be a journal that spans the realms of feeding the body, moving the body, and loving the body. It’s aimed at raising the personal energetic vibration of those who use it and inspire a collective sense of well being in our communities. 

My journey has been very profound and I wish that for all people. Discard the rigid, negative shell that you’ve built as a fortress around your heart and start living life as you were intended to!

  

I have no release date at this time, but I am working hard at getting it finished and finalized. So keep watching for more information and share with those who would benefit. Uh, that’s everyone.

Time to go recharge at the lake! Have an amazing week!

Harry Potter Fanfiction: The Chronicles of Libby Archibald Part 3

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The man in the white apron behind the counter shouted loudly when Harry returned with the two girls in tow. “Professor McGonagall’s been for ya, Potter! Said to have ya some supper and she’ll be back. Said to stay put.”

“Right, so what have you got to eat?” Harry asked taking a seat in a wobbly wooden chair, the girls following suit.

Three helpings of Shepherd’s Pie landed with a thud before the three hungry kids and they tore right into the goods. There was no conversation, just the bustle of the business and the snapping of the fire. Three foamy Butterbeers balanced on a round tray were brought over by a tall, thin woman wearing a white cap and dark dress.

“Thank you,” Libby said between bites of the warm and satisfying food. She took the handle of the stein and drank deeply of the sweet and satisfying beverage. The creamy foam that rested on the surface clung to her lips so that she had to wipe her mouth. It was such a mystery to her, the creamy goodness and the hint of butterscotch or caramel. She suddenly smiled, feeling uplifted and happy; content.

There was a man seated at the end of the long table reading a newspaper, steam rising from his own beverage. The headline on the paper blared at her even from the distance between them and a figure on the front page moved from side to side. “Escape from Azkaban” was what it said.

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“Is that picture moving on the paper?” Libby asked not moving her eyes from the paper.

“Yes,” smiled Hermione, “all the pictures move here.”
Harry looked uncomfortable, as if a cloud just descended over him.

“So who is that? The picture of the man? Is that what I’m seeing?” Libby continued.

Harry spoke up, but his voice was quiet as if he were hiding from someone. “That’s Sirius Black. He killed people when I was a baby. I don’t know much more than that except he is the only prisoner to escape from Azkaban. So yea, there is a killer on the loose.”

Libby swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly feeling dry. She drank again from her cup and fell silent.

“Good to see you made it back, Potter,” Professor McGonagall said suddenly standing before them with her arms crossed over her chest and looking as stern as she had earlier that morning.

“We got all the shopping done, Professor,” Harry answered.

“I gathered that by the amount of packages,” she said with a twitch of her lips as though she wanted to smile.

Libby just sat there staring in silence. The professor took a chair just in front of her and sat, folding her hands elegantly upon the table. “Miss Archibald,” she began softly, “I know you have many questions about what has happened today. I promise you that the Headmaster has all the answers. I, however, do not. Sometimes you just have to trust that everything happens for a reason and that all is as it should be. Do not fret, your family is just fine and they wish you well. You have a room here, next door to Potter. Stay close to him until we can get you to Hogwarts tomorrow. Upon arriving, Dumbledore will explain everything to you. I just ask that you stay indoors as much as possible. Stay safe.”

Libby merely nodded, her eyes flicked to Harry trying to read the hard lines on his young face. Was that fear that stared back at her through the rounded spectacles? Or did he resent her for having to babysit her? She felt uncomfortable and didn’t want Harry to hate her.

With a nod, McGonagall stood and walked away, her posh, green velvet cloak billowing in her wake.

Once she was out of earshot Libby decided to get one thing clear. “Harry, I don’t expect you-”

“It’s okay, Libby. Really. I’m here, you’re here…we might as well stick together, right?” he smiled back at her, the harshness gone from his face once again.

“So why are you stuck here like me?” Libby asked, wondering about his family and if they knew he was gone too.

“I blew up my aunt,” he said and laughter bubbled up inside of him, escaping as a snort.

Libby’s eyes grew huge at the visual.

“Not blew her up, blew her up…I inflated her like a balloon for bad-mouthing my parents. She ended up floating away. You should have seen her face when her necklace burst from around her fat neck and she couldn’t hardly move. Teaches her to throw insults around. But the Minister of Magic put her right and made her believe a story about what happened. So now we wait until the train comes,” he said with a grin of satisfaction at the memory.

“Oh,” Libby replied, relieved. “She doesn’t sound very nice…”

Harry’s lip curled bitterly. “No, she’s not. None of my family is very nice unfortunately. I wish I had family here to stay with and never have to go back to the Dursley’s again.”

“I’m sure Ron’s family would take you in if you ask, Harry,” said Hermione.

Harry looked down at his food and shook his head to the negative. “The Weasleys already struggle for room and to make ends meet, Hermione. I could never…”

The three of them returned to eating, no one saying another word, and Libby sneaking peeks at the wild looking man on the front of the newspaper at the end of the table.

When every bite had been eaten and every drop had been sipped, Harry stood and the legs of the shabby wooden chair scraped against the stone floor. “I will help you take your things to your room,” he said sounding tired and very worn out for a young boy.

“It’s okay, Harry. I can get it…I just need to know where my room is,” Libby giggled softly.

“Oh please,” said Hermione rolling her eyes, “we are here to help you so just say thank you, Libby.” She grabbed a few bags and started for the rickety looking staircase.

Harry hurried to take some also and Libby took hold of Serendipity’s cage and her bag of robes and the like, hurrying to catch up.

“I’m sorry!” Libby shouted after them feeling a sense of panic that her new friends would be mad at her. “Thank you for helping me!”

Harry turned to Libby as she came up on his right going up the creaky old stairs. “Don’t mind her, she wasn’t trying to be rude. She is just very to the point sometimes. You will learn that we are happy to help you. Not because McGonagall told us to, but because we want to. If friends offer to help, just accept it and be glad you have good people in your life,” he smiled warmly.

“It’s just that…well, I haven’t had friends for a long time. I’ve always been kind of a loner and a misfit. But I’m glad I ran into you guys. You’ve been great to me,” Libby answered feeling strange revealing that part of her to Harry.

“Well,” he said looking back up toward Hermione, “the three of us were just the same as you but we found each other and we all belong together. True friendship doesn’t happen often.”

“Is Hermione…like…your girlfriend?” Libby asked innocently.

Harry laughed loudly. “No, no…not Hermione. She’s more like my…sister. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great person. But she’s definitely more like family, you know?”

“She’s very smart. I can tell that,” Libby said trying to be positive after such a blunder.

“Best witch I’ve ever known,” he replied and led her down a narrow hallway of uneven planks for walls, cobwebs in the corners, and paint peeling doors that hung crooked on their hinges. “Here we are…”

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Hermione had opened the door and was putting the bags she carried on a table to the left of the large four posted bed with a faded blue velvet canopy and curtains that looked like it was hiding under years of dust. The wooden floor creaked with every step and Libby could hear the wind racing over the roof. A shudder stole through her.

“They should be around in a bit to start a fire for you. That will take the chill out,” Hermione said having seen goosebumps erupt all over Libby’s arms when she slipped out of the loaned robe. “You have all these school books to read and Serendipity here to keep you company when we aren’t hanging out. I’m going to bed now, so I will see you two for breakfast in the morning.”

“Hey, Hermione…” Libby called out as Hermione was about to walk through the door.

The frizzy haired girl turned around with eyebrows raised in question.

“Thank you. For everything today. I couldn’t have done it without you guys,” Libby said with a racing heart. She was afraid of being rejected or ridiculed. It was difficult at best to express her emotions. It hurt so much less just to hide them inside.

Hermione smiled warmly. “You’re welcome, Libby. You are a great kid. Goodnight.”

“I’m going to bed as well. We will talk more tomorrow,” Harry said setting Libby’s treasures on the floor beside the table and retreating to the hall.

Libby waived goodbye and felt oddly empty as their energy left with them, leaving her room bare and cold. Serendipity gave a squawk and Libby set her on the table, bending to meet the owl’s gaze. “Just you and me, girl. What book should we read first?”

Libby blinked her eyes awake, the sunshine of the late summer day pouring through the grimy window, and she sat up with a yawn that threatened to make her lungs explode. The tips of her fingers massaged the sleep from her eyes. She had almost forgotten where she was. But the sight of the old door barely clinging to its hinges brought back the events that had happened the day before. This was not her bedroom of soft baby blue with ruffles on the bedspread and feminine white posts reaching to the ceiling. However, although it was not her pretty, young girl’s décor, this world felt more like home than being back with her family.

Climbing from beneath her covers, she went to the mirror and looked into the warped, rippled glass. It reminded her of a fun house mirror and she smoothed her hair that was sticking up. Her clothes, her only clothes, were still out of place and bright compared to her surroundings.

She opened the bag of robes and pulled out a plain black one that actually fit her slight frame, a gray pleated skirt, white button-up shirt, and a gray knitted sweater. In the bottom of the bag, she found the black tie with a colorful crest adorning it.

Carefully, she dressed herself, taking pride in how the clothes transformed her. She was a new person in a place where she belonged. Turing to look in the mirror again, she spied two gray socks and a pair of black shoes on the end of her bed. Moving slowly in a circle, Libby searched for the person that entered her room unannounced but found no one. Leery, she hesitantly picked up the socks and drew them on, the tops coming to her bare knees. Then she slipped into those shiny black Mary Janes that gleamed in the morning sunshine that streamed through her window.

There was a knock on the door and Libby visibly jumped, her heart lurching into her throat. She opened the shabby door just a crack and peered out into the hallway. She saw a sliver of Harry and let out a breath of relief, opening the door fully to him.

“Good morning,” he greeted her. “Sleep well?”

“Yes, surprisingly,” she laughed.

“I see you’ve already got your robes on…”

Feeling suddenly self-conscious, she started to shield herself with her arms. “Was I not supposed to?”

Harry cast her a grin and put his hands on her shoulders. Bringing himself a few inches from her face, he looked her right in the eyes. “Libby, it was exactly what you are supposed to do. Don’t doubt yourself so. Everything is as it should be, alright?”

“It’s just so…” she started.

“Deep breath,” he cut in, “This place is great. Just wait until you see the castle we will live in while we are going to school. There will be times it tests your logic and it defies everything you have ever known, but I can tell you it will be great. So don’t be scared and wear a smile today. We are all here with you.” Then he stood up and motioned for her to follow him out of the room. “Sounds like the Weasleys are downstairs, we should go get some food.”

“Okay, let’s go,” she said with a smile of thanks.

Harry gave her courage. It seeped out of his body like sweat and she could breathe it in like air when she was around him. It filled her up and made her feel strong, as if she could do anything. She just needed to stay close to him, she decided in her mind. She needed him to lend her his courage and self-assurance.

It was bustling and noisy at the bottom of the stairs. So many bodies in such a small space. But Libby could see several bright red heads bobbing from here to there and all over the space. Hermione was seated on a stool holding her cat and talking with another girl that Libby had never seen before. Seconds later, a man Libby assumed was the Weasley father took Harry aside and around a pillar. He was talking quite seriously to Harry and Libby felt that courage fade within her, leaving her feeling shy and awkward around all these people she didn’t know.

Hermione caught her eye, she was waving Libby over. As Libby started toward her, the young girl, Ron’s sister fell into step with her.

“I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Ginny Weasley. I am one year ahead of you in classes so I understand how you must be feeling.” She laughed and Libby let out a nervous sounding noise that was supposed to be merriment, but it didn’t quite come out that way. She sounded rather strangled instead. “Come sit with us and get something to eat.”

Ginny was warm and bubbly, a feeling that Libby liked almost as much as the courage Harry lent her. She followed Ginny and motioned to Hermione to come sit with them.

The three of them sat at the end of the long table and a plump, red-headed woman sat plates of pastries down before them. “Eat up, dears. It’s almost time to head to the platform.”

Ginny smiled up at her. “Thanks, mum.”

Libby had guessed that the woman was the mother of the family that sported that same color of hair. “So is that your father? The man talking with Harry?”

“Yes. He feels very protective over Harry. He wanted a word with him about the prisoner that escaped Azkaban. He feels like Harry is in some kind of danger. It seems Harry is always in danger,” Ginny sighed.

Hermione looked troubled for just a quick moment. Then the cloud of emotion passed and she brightened. “You look great in your uniform, Libby.”

“Thank you, I love them!” she replied with a smile that stretched her mouth wide and showed her crooked teeth. Almost immediately, she sobered and closed her lips tight.

“Can I ask you a question, Libby?” Ginny asked after swallowing a bite.

“Sure,” Libby said and a feeling of nausea crept into her belly. It was never good when people asked permission to ask you a question.

“Did you come from America? I mean, there has never been an American student at Hogwarts before so I was just wondering how you came to be here.”

“I really don’t know how I came to be here. Professor McGonagall told me that Dumbledore would explain everything when I get there. But it feels weird to be the only one that talks differently,” Libby said, once again feeling out of place when she had just started feeling comfortable.

“Don’t worry about that…It makes you unique. It’s refreshing,” Hermione said with Ginny nodding in agreement.

There was commotion at the staircase and suddenly, Ginny’s mother was gathering her children like they were chicks. “Time to go or we’ll be late!” she clucked. “Come now, don’t want to miss the train!”

Hermione took Libby by the shoulder, steering her toward the door.

“Wait! My things!” Libby shouted above the chaos.

“It’s alright. They will get everything to the station for us,” Hermione said with her voice raised so Libby could hear her. And then she let out a giggle and turned to Ginny. “Are you sure you are ready to go back after last year?”

Ginny sent over an exasperated look but there was some fear in her face. “Hopefully the snakes are all gone and Tom Riddle stays away from me,” she said with half a laugh, making light of something she obviously feared.

“You don’t like sleeping in cold, damp, dungeons, Ginny?” Hermione said very sarcastically.

“Not in the slightest,” was her snarky reply.

Libby had no idea what they were bantering about, but she made a mental note to ask more about that story. It sounded to her that Ginny had a rough year her first year. Fear of the unknown seized her lungs and she kept running threads of imagination in her mind, conjuring up the worst of circumstances.

“Walk a bit faster,” the shrill voice of Ginny’s mother rang out over the streets of what appeared to be London…from what Libby had seen from photos.

“Next stop, Kings Cross Station!” said one of Ginny’s brothers.

Looming in the distance was a large building of brick and arches. It was huge. Probably larger than anything Libby had ever seen. She wondered if the bricks opened up and transported them to Hogwarts, just like the wall opened up to The Leaky Cauldron. But she continued following the red haired family with Ron, Harry, and Hermione right behind her.

They entered through the ordinary, plain door; as everyone else did, and they were blasted with a rush of cool air compared to that of outside. They were hurrying so fast, Libby was not able to take everything in. But she was thankful that Ron’s mother knew the way. She would have been so lost if she’d had to figure it all out alone.

Stepping into the area with numbered posts and trains sitting lazily in wait of their cargo to board, Libby could hear someone counting as they passed each post until they came to number nine.

“Platform Nine,” the mother said with conviction. “All right, Fred. You’re up.” And she clapped her hands to hurry him along a bit.

Just as Fred was looking like he was going to sprint at the wall, a loud crashing sound interrupted them and Libby recognized some of the grown-ups from the shabby tavern. They were each pushing two carts laden with trunks and animals in cages.

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“Here! Take your trolleys, kids!” bellowed Ron and Ginny’s dad.

All seven children scurried over to find their own cart and then Fred and George took off at a full run and disappeared into the very solid looking brick wall. Libby cast around to see if anyone noticed the odd happenings, but no one seemed to care in the least. The other people, the muggles, were so engrossed in their mobile phones, their newspapers, or novels that they had no idea what was going on around them.

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“Go on, Libby, you’re next!” urged Ginny. Libby looked around for Harry but he seemed to have already gone ahead.

“Just get a run at it, dear. You will go right through. Like waking up after a dream.” Mrs. Weasley prompted.

Libby’s heart began to race and she started breathing rather heavily. Wiping her palms on her robes, she gripped the trolley tightly. Deep breath in, deep breath out. And off she went, the wall looming closer and closer. As she came dangerously near, she closed her eyes tightly and held her breath, bracing for the worst. When there was no crash, no falling, and no screaming, she opened her eyes and slowed her pace, nearly bumping right into Ron.

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She was facing a beautiful black train with gold lettering and red trim in places. There was a crest on the side of the puffing engine and the compartment doors were gaping open in welcome. A high pitched whistle blew and all the kids picked up their pace to find a spot before they were all taken.

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Suddenly, Ginny was right behind her. “Come sit with me, Libby!” she called out over the din.

“Where’s Harry?” Libby asked.

“He will be along. Harry is one that disappears and then reappears covered in blood,” she laughed. “But we really should hurry! Train’s about to leave!”

Libby looked over the crowd in search of her friend’s familiar faces and did not find them. Her blood ran cold and she felt a bit afraid. So she had no choice but to follow Ginny.

Ginny left her trolley with a man and proceeded to board. She poked her head back out a moment later and instructed Libby to leave hers as well. “They will put it in your room when we get to Hogwarts. Come on!”

Libby stepped aboard the train to find small little rooms that lined one side of the train car. Ginny’s head was vanishing into the second one and Libby pressed forward.

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“Sit here,” Ginny instructed her, patting the bench beside her. Libby did as she was told, feeling awkward. Ginny had probably known the others in the cabin her whole life. She felt almost like an intruder.

“Guys, this is Libby. She will be at Hogwarts this year. Libby, this is Luna and Alice. This is Alice’s first year as well.”

They exchanged pleasantries and the whistle blew loudly once again.

“I expect we’ll be taking off soon,” Ginny smiled.

“So what happens when we get there,” Libby asked with a raise in her brow.

“You’re American, aren’t you?” Luna blurted out.

Libby shrunk back as if she had done something wrong.

“It just so happens that she is,” Ginny said seeing Libby’s expression and flashing a look at Luna that she clearly didn’t understand.

“How is it you came to be at Hogwarts?” Luna asked. Her tone was of complete curiosity and not taunting or viscious.

“I really don’t know,” Libby said. “But I’m supposed to see Professor Dumble…”

“Dumbledore?” Luna finished for her.

“Yes, him. I suppose he has all the answers to this little mystery,” Libby said feeling defeated and more of an outcast.

“Well, don’t be afraid of being different. I’m different and I like who I am. Sometimes others just don’t understand what they perceive to be odd. It isn’t their fault, really,” Luna added in her dreamy sort of voice.

“I think there’s a difference between being odd and an outsider,” Libby said sitting back on the bench seat, her arms crossing over her chest in a sort of frustrated pout.

The train lurched and started forward, slowly at first and accelerating to a healthy speed…for a train. Libby watched the scenery as it sped by and disappeared behind them.

“Well,” piped in Ginny, “I think that Dumbledore has a good reason for breaking with tradition, Libby. You must be someone very special. Generally speaking, rules like that are never broken.”

“Rules are merely guidelines anyway,” said Luna thoughtfully. “I’m pretty sure Dumbledore said that at some point, but I can’t really remember.”

“So what do you know about Hogwarts?” the girl named Alice asked demurely.

“Well, I know its a magic school. I know Professor McGonagall. I know Harry Potter goes there. I know what I had to buy for supplies. I know it all happens in a castle. That’s about it,” Libby said with a smile. “Tell me what I’m getting into, will you?”

The three girls looked from one to the other waiting for one of them to say something.

“Well, it’s your first year I’d expect,” started Ginny, “So you will take the boats in across the Black Lake.”

“Yes, and then you will be sorted before the feast into the house you will belong to during your schooling,” said Luna.

“And then we go to our dormitories, each house has their own,” Alice added as though it were her favorite part.

“So what are the houses you’re talking about?” Libby asked, a new fear threatening to strangle her. What if she was cast out by herself and knew no one?

“Well, there is Gryffindor,” explained Ginny, “That’s my house. Well, that’s also Harry, Ron and Hermione’s house too. Then there’s Hufflepuff; they tend to be really loyal people who have more patience than some. Umm…Ravenclaw seem to be more artistically minded…creative types. And Slytherin are most often nasty sorts of wizards. Not many of them aren’t bad.”

“I don’t think I want to be put in there…” Libby said nervously chewing the inside of her cheek.

“I highly doubt the sorting hat will put you there. You don’t seem the type so don’t worry about it. Any of the other three houses are great! Although some think Hufflepuffs are a little dim.”

“What did you mean about a sorting hat?” Libby asked.

Ginny giggled. “I need to keep some things a surprise don’t you think?”

“Just know that the hat listens to your wants also, Libby. So you can give it you opinion too,” Alice chimed in. “My older brother Jasper told me so.”

Libby had her mouth open to reply when a strong feeling of dread came over her like the chilling waters of the lake in McCall. The difference was, at that moment, she felt like crying. Goosebumps erupted all over her body and the train slowed, slamming the compartment door shut.

“What’s going on?” she heard herself cry out.

All three girls were staring at Libby and then, the train just stopped and the lights flickered in the little cabins. Rain pounded the window creating beads of water that dripped down the glass leaving long trails of sadness in their wake.

Libby could hear something, like the rattling wheezing of a severe asthmatic breathing in her ear and she could see shadows beyond the glass in the compartment door. Wispy shadows that resembled nothing she had ever witnessed before stopped right in front of their door. She covered her face with her hands to hide her tears; so much sadness and terror filling her heart until she thought she would die from the pain. In her mind, she tumbled into the darkness where it threatened to swallow her up forever.

Time ticked by so slowly it felt like hours passed before a bright light descended down the corridor and just as quickly as it had begun, it was over; leaving Libby to wonder what in the world had just happened to her.

In Celebration of Indie Authors Everywhere!

  

 

Being an Indie Author is hard work! It means wearing the hat of writer, publisher, and marketer all at once. (And there is so much more to it than just that.)

I guess today is Indie Pride Day. A day to celebrate those authors that bust their behinds to make their dreams come true. No big company to pass the load off to, no one to tell you what would work the best, and no one to tell you that you’re on the right track! You are everything. A one man band that wears many different hats. It’s hard work and I applaud those that jump in and do it.

So whether you are an author or a reader, take just a moment to embrace an Indie Author and buy their book. Show them some extra love and support. I’m sure most gave their work on sale.

In fact, all of my published works through Smashwords is on sale! If you are looking to find a great new read for your weekend trip, this is the place! Just tap here for the books I have on sale through the end of July. Be sure to use coupon code SSW50 to get your 50% off! And as always, Noble Courage: Book One of the Aspen Series is always free!

And, you can delve a little deeper into my mind by reading my author interview on Smashwords as well! You might learn something new about me in the process!

If you are wanting more, sign up for my Lords and Ladies Club for a FREE ebook delivered right to your inbox. The Serpent Strikes is the first installment in the prequel that started it all.

Harry Potter Fanfiction: The Chronicles of Libby Archibald Part 2

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A cloaked figure with a pointed hat stepped before the three of them just as they were about to exit the Leaky Cauldron.

“Professor McGonagall!” Harry gasped and Libby’s eyes adjusted to take in the details of the older, very stern faced woman.

“I don’t have time to explain, Potter, but I need your help. I see you have met Miss Archibald…if you and Miss Granger could make sure she is readied for her first year, I would greatly appreciate it,” the woman rushed glancing left and right, thrusting a paper and several Galleons into Harry’s hands.

“But Professor…” Harry tried to clarify.

“No time, Potter! Just do as I ask. You’ll be fine to peruse the shops within Diagon Alley. Do not go any further and stay out of Knockturn Alley. Dumbledore will see Miss Archibald upon her arrival at Hogwarts and all will be explained.” Then she turned right to Libby and smiled warmly, the age etched in her face deepened and her eyes twinkled just a bit. A quick breeze ruffled the feather in her tall, pointed hat and the professor handed Libby an envelope sealed with wax. “Welcome home, Miss Archibald.”

And then she was gone, leaving the three adolescents staring at each other, completely bewildered.

Libby chanced a glance down at the envelope to see scrawling letters that were hard for her to decipher, but she could make out her own name right there on the front.

“Go on, open it, Libby!” Harry smiled knowingly.

With shaking hands, Libby turned the envelope over and ran a finger over the wax seal. Carefully, she slipped that same finger under the flap and snapped the seal open. She looked up to see the expectant faces of Harry and Hermione before she pulled the letter out and unfolded it.

Dear Libby Archibald,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

“I don’t understand…” Libby said lost for words. She was completely confused.

“Let’s just get you to Dumbledore. He seems to have all the answers,” Hermione chimed in, pushing the two out of the doorway.

Libby scanned the second page, identical to the paper the professor gave to Harry, and saw it was a list of books and items she had never heard of…or thought twice about. A small paper floated to the ground and Libby picked it up. It looked like a ticket.

“Keep that safe, Libby. That is your ticket to Hogwarts. But don’t worry, we will be with you the whole time. It will all make sense soon,” Harry said pointing at the paper in her hands.

Hermione took the paper from Harry. “Robes. We need to head to Madam Malkins first.”

Libby had no choice but to follow the pair, still feeling in the dark with very few answers. Her mind was racing as fast as her heart. None of this made any sense.

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Madam Malkins was dim inside and it took a bit to be able to see. A thin woman strode to them, a beaming smile on her middle-aged face. “What can I do for you, darlings?”

“Libby here needs her first year robes,” Hermione said pulling Libby forward.

“Ah!” the woman exclaimed in delight and pulled out her wand. A tape measure exploded from the end and fell to the floor. The woman muttered to herself, as if to remember something, and hurried to a rack of black robes. Rifling through them, she came up with what she had been looking for.

Libby slipped Hermione’s robe off and shrugged into the new one. The woman clapped in delight. “Perfect fit!” she shrieked.

“Great! We need three of them, a hat, gloves, and one for winter with silver fastenings,” Hermione said in a commanding tone.

It wasn’t long after and Libby held a heavy bag in her hands and Hermione led the way to the bookstore; Flourish & Blotts.

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The store was small and crammed with bound papers and parchment everywhere you looked, clear to the ceiling. It felt full and as though it might explode at any moment. It was clearly the day for shopping because every inch of walking room was filled with people bumping against other shoulders and intertwining bags, many apologies being muttered as they all tried to move through that small, cramped place. It made Libby anxious to slither through the crowds being in a strange place and afraid to lose sight of her circumstantial friends.

Hermione sensed the hesitation in Libby and grabbed her arm, towing her into the clustered people, Harry following close behind. He seemed to be scanning each person, as if they were all criminals that needed to prove themselves otherwise to him.

There were eight books on her list, all with strange names and magical references. “This one is very informational if you take the time to read it,” Hermione said handing over a copy of The Standard Book of Spells.

Libby turned the book over in her hands, the weight of the volume intimidating her with her reading abilities.

“That book saved the three of us on more than one occasion our first year,” Hermione continued with a smirk aimed toward Harry.

“Yeah, if Hermione hadn’t been there to bail Ron and I out, I don’t think I’d be here talking to you right now. She has always been the smart one of our bunch,” Harry agreed.

“And here is A Beginner’s Guide to Transformation,” Hermione said. “Professor McGonagall is such a great teacher of that subject.”

Harry started laughing. “Just don’t get on her bad side…so you know, she transforms into a cat before class starts. If you’re late, she will know. Ron and I found that out the hard way.”

The three of them laughed about it together and Libby relaxed a little bit.

When all eight books were packed into bags and the weight had been distributed between them all, they hurried outside for fresh air.

“Now we are down to the fun stuff, right Hermione?” Harry asked looking at the list over her shoulder.

“It’s time to see Mr. Ollivander for a wand,” Hermione replied excitedly.

“Mr. who?” Libby questioned as she quickened her pace to keep up with Hermione.

Harry jogged a few steps to catch up as well. “You’ll like him. He’s been crafting wands for ages and he will find just the right wand for you. See, the thing about wands is that there is one out there that will speak to you. Not really, but you will know when you are holding the right one.”

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Ollivander’s shop was charcoal in color on the outside with a turret of dingy windows on either side of the door. The inside was dusty and smelled of ancient things. The sunlight filtered through the particles floating in the air, casting softened sunbeams through the windows and into the dim space. There was barely enough room for the three of them to stand with all the shelves of small boxes in varying colors.

“Would you like us to wait outside, Libby?” Harry asked.

“Why?” she replied staring in awe to the ceiling where the wand boxes finally stopped.

“Well, it can be a very personal experience. If you’d rather we weren’t watching, we understand.”

Libby thought about this. Her heart raced at the thought of ‘personal experience’. Would he make her undress? Would he ask her things that no one else knew? Perhaps things she was embarrassed about… But the thought of being in there all alone made her feel small and afraid.

“No, if you’d stay with me, I would feel better,” Libby said turning to look at both of her new friends, fear shining back at them in her eyes.

“Don’t worry, Libby. We are here for you,” Hermione comforted with a hand placed on her shoulder and a slight squeeze of encouragement.

“Hello? Mr. Ollivander?” Harry called out.

“Mr. Potter? Is that you?” an old, feeble voice called from somewhere ahead of them.

“Yes, sir. We have a friend in need of her first wand,” Harry replied in the direction the voice had come from.

A white haired man appeared, time and experience apparent in the lines on his face. He smiled warmly at Libby. “I was able to recognize Mr. Potter at first glance, my dear, but I can’t seem to place you. Tell me your name…”

Libby’s mouth went dry. Had there been some mistake? Did she really not belong here after all? A sigh escaped her. Perhaps she just didn’t belong anywhere. “I’m Libby Archibald, sir.”

Ollivander straightened as though she had struck him and his eyes narrowed at her. “Archibald, you say?” Libby nodded in acknowledgment. “It’s been many years since that name has entered my shop, Miss Archibald. It’s good to have you back.”

Libby felt at ease in his grin.

“Shall we find your magical partner? Let’s see…”

Ollivander came away with a small black box and he blew the dust from the top. Carefully, he removed the lid and lifted out a long, slender, crafted piece of wood. “This is a strong oak with a soft core. Hold it in your hand, see how it feels to you.”

Libby took the end he offered. It felt cold and smooth in her hand.

“Wave it around a bit,” Harry whispered to her.

She moved it around as a music conductor would and a few sparks flew from the end and it gave her a small shock, as if she had drug her socked feet over the carpet and touched a doorknob. She dropped the stick immediately and rubbed her fingers. Harry quickly retrieved the wand from the floor and handed it back to Ollivander.

“Well, that’s not the one…” Ollivander muttered. “We will try again.”

It felt like it took all day, one wand after another, before a tired Ollivander went in the back and brought out a gold box. Gently, he lifted the beautifully crafted piece and handed it to her.

Tired of being shocked, Libby hesitantly took the wand and immediately felt a sense of peace wash over her. A light began to form from her insides until she was glowing like a light bulb. The wand grew warm in her fingers, like it belonged there.

Ollivander sighed with a large smile of yellowed teeth. “I should have guessed that Hornbeam would have been the one for you, Miss Archibald. It recognizes the passion in you, even if you haven’t recognized that in yourself.” He drew his face closer to hers. “This wand will be so loyal to you that no one else will be able to use it, even for simple spells.” He stood again and continued, “The core is Unicorn Hair, which almost always refuses to perform dark magic. It is very forthright and becomes very attached to its owner. But don’t mishandle this masterpiece, my dear Libby, for it will grow sad and could die. But I don’t sense that to be in your character, young lady. It has a soft composition so it quickly bends to your style of magic. It loves you. This wand would not choose someone with a dark tendency. It sees light and love within you, and a fierce loyalty. Perhaps that will be a guiding light for you as you come into yourself.”

Libby felt as if she had just taken the very first breath of her entire life. She never wanted to let go and felt like she would revert to her old self so she refused to repackage the wand.

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“If you look right inside your robe, Libby, there is a pocket made just for your wand. Stow it away while we are still shopping, we don’t want to make anyone nervous,” Hermione smiled at her, never having experienced such a moving wand choosing before. Not that she had seen many, but it was so electrifying, it made all the hairs on her body stand at attention.

Satisfied with keeping the wand in her robe pocket, she slipped it right inside. It was like watching a butterfly in science class come out of its cocoon. Libby thought she certainly felt like the butterfly, once being restrained now being set free. Almost like a rebirth, a new start.

“Come on, it’s getting late and we still have a few things left on your list. But I think we can find the rest fairly quickly,” Hermione said once they had received the wrapped box from Ollivander. Libby put it in one of her other bags and they started toward yet another shop in search of a cauldron.

A young man trailed by two others strode up the street and Libby thought he had intention plastered over his pale face and was accentuated by his nearly white, albino hair. A sneer formed over his mouth and Harry changed course down the sidewalk. The white headed boy changed his course to match, coming straight for them. With a muffled thud, the fair-headed boy’s shoulder collided with Harry’s.

“Watch where you are going, Potter!” he called out.

A feeling of loathing came over Libby. It was a darkness she couldn’t shake.

Harry turned to face the young man. “I think you are lost, Malfoy. Knockturn Alley is the other way!”

The sneer turned into a spiteful grin. “Just had to be able to say that I rubbed shoulders with the Great Harry Potter, you poor excuse for a wizard. It’s a bit warm for my taste over here. But The Leaky Cauldron has the best Butterbeer and I’m famished. It was nice to bump into you, Potter.”

Libby felt Harry’s mood shift and become rather turbulent. The energies of the two were polar opposites, like two magnets repelling each other and the longer they stood in each other’s presence, the stronger the resistance became.

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Hermione commanded, pulling Harry’s shirt sleeve.

“You’d better follow like the dog you are, Potter, or that mud blood will put a collar and leash on you!” Malfoy retorted and he laughed, being joined by his two companions.

Libby’s heart began to pound in her ears and anger brewed within her. The boy instantly turned his eyes to her.

“Who are you? I’ve never seen you before, you must be a lowly first year.”

Libby’s blood turned to ice and her hands and feet went numb. She struggled to hold onto that wonderful feeling she felt in holding her wand the first time.

“This is Libby, Draco, for your information. And yes, she is a first year. Leave her alone,” Hermione said standing her ground after Malfoy’s apparent insults.

“Are you a mud blood too? You look like you don’t know a thing. It would explain why Granger here feels the need to protect you and speak for you. She’s such a puppet master, that Granger. She pulls the strings and you all do exactly what she wants you to. As long as you are with her, you will never think for yourself. She tends to ‘know it all’,” he smirked and flicked his light eyes to Hermione to gauge her reaction.

Anger overcame Libby and she stepped closer, her hand on her wand for strength. “I am capable of thinking for myself, thank you. Now go away and leave us alone!”

Draco took one step back and looked at her in surprise, almost horror even. “You aren’t even from here, are you? How did you get into Hogwarts when you are American? No accent, no manners… My father will hear about this, mark my words!”

And with that, Draco turned on his heel and continued down the road toward The Leaky Cauldron with his henchmen on his tail.

The anger lifted from Libby and she let go of her wand once again, her breath coming quickly and her hands and knees shaking violently.

“Who was that?” she asked absently. “I mean, I know his name, but who in the world could be so awful?”

Hermione snorted. “You can’t let him bother you, Libby. He’s a picture perfect Slytherin and he comes from a line of Death Eaters. He’s vile and nasty and I expect he always will be. Definitely not worth your energy to hate him. That’s what he likes, what he feeds on. Pay him no mind.”

“What’s a ‘mud blood’?” Libby asked as they resumed walking.

No one spoke for a moment. Hermione’s usual knowledgeable self grew quiet and retreated within herself. Harry cleared his throat. “It’s a term used as a slur toward those who have no magical parents. It means ‘dirty blood’. Some witches and wizards feel that they have no place in the magical world.”

“Is that what you are?” Libby asked quietly, hoping to not offend.

“No, Harry had magical parents. I do not, however. So I will be forever insulted by people like Malfoy,” Hermione answered thickly.

“Well, I don’t think I have magical parents either…” Libby said to comfort her. “I didn’t even know I was magical.”

Hermione smiled. “Well, from the look on Ollivander’s face, you have ties in your family line to the magical world. I however, do not.”

“I’m sure Dumbledore has all the answers…he always does,” Harry chimed in and they entered the cauldron shop to buy a pewter, standard size 2. But the words ‘Death Eaters” stuck out in Libby’s mind like poison and her curiosity began to intensify in this new world that had found her.

Within just a few minutes they had finished the list down to just choosing what animal Libby wanted to take with her, if she so desired.

“An owl, cat, or a toad?” Libby asked aloud as if it would answer her question to say it aloud. “How do you decide?”

Hermione stepped closer to her and her very knowledgeable voice turned on. “Well, a cat is a cuddly friend when you just need someone to be close to you. An owl is good for sending messages though. And I have no idea why anyone would want to have a toad. I mean really! They aren’t good for anything!”

“But there is a special connection with owls. They have more to them than just delivering letters. Hedwig is very protective of me and she seems to know when I’m upset. So they really are the most versatile pet to bring with you. It depends on who you talk to because Ron would tell you that cats are the devil, right Hermione?” Harry laughed.

Hermione scowled at him. “Ronald is totally daft if he thinks Crookshanks killed his rat. That doesn’t make my cat a bad companion, Harry. It just means Ron can’t keep track of Scabbers.”

They walked at a leisurely pace, peeking in windows and watching people bustle about as the sun was close to setting and the sky turned a lovely shade of yellow-blue and the sun’s beams turned to gold. They came to a shop where loud screeching could be heard from within and something caught Libby’s eye.

Sitting regally upon a perch was an owl cloaked in feathers the color of rust with bright yellow eyes wide and black talons. She looked right at Libby and made that instant connection. “I want that owl,” she said softly.

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Harry beamed beside her. “She’s amazing, Libby. She can’t take her eyes off you.”

Libby entered the shop, it was dank and cool inside with obvious splats of bird excrement covering every surface. The handler placed the red owl in a vintage looking wire cage and Libby handed over the coins in return.

“What will you name her?” Hermione asked.

“Serendipity,” Libby replied.

“Perfect,” breathed Harry. “We should probably get back to The Leaky Cauldron. It’ll be dark soon.”

“Where am I supposed to go from there?” Libby asked suddenly realizing she was stuck.

“Well, I assume you will stay with us there,” Harry said shrugging his shoulders and pushing his round spectacles back up on his nose.

“My parents will be worried sick if I never show up again. How can I just stay here?” She started chewing the inside of her cheek nervously.

Hermione put her arm around Libby’s shoulders. “Dumbledore has everything under control, I’m sure of it. Don’t worry, just take the time to become great friends with Serendipity and we will do what we can to fill you in on this new side to your life. Maybe we will find out something about your family or even find your magical family.”

Feeling uneasy, Libby went with them back to where it all started.

From the Record Book of Aspen Darktower: Autumn’s Splendor

  

It has been a while since I have posted from Aspen’s diary. Today seemed like a great day to find an entry that fits. As some of you know, I have spent the last couple of months moving from one state to another. Here in my new home, the mountains above me are changing color and the canyon I drive through to work each day is showing signs that fall is here. It’s my favorite season. Not my nose’s favorite season, but I still love it. Happy Fall!

“Little Harbour is a pretty little place when I can step back and appreciate it for what it really is. This was freedom for a handful of people before my father was even born. It’s this small, heavily treed area next to the sea, set back in a slight cove of sorts.
This was where my father fell deeply in love with my mama, where the visions of his future with her took root. I sit here beneath a sweet smelling tree and close my eyes to the pain and frustration of being here and I try to imagine a time when my father smiled and spoke words of adoration to his Lyndsay. I try to hear the sound of her laughter and I wonder if she was as docile as a young woman as she was when I left her side. I like to think she had some sass to her, a mind all her own. 
And now, I shed my cloak of duty and see this place through child-like eyes where I can appreciate the unique colors of the leaves surrounding me: the gold and yellow hues, the reds, browns, and oranges that have dropped over all the leaves on the trees, as if the sprites had been hard at work painting a masterpiece for the world.
Here, beside the sea, there are few days of sunshine. But to feel that occasional beam on my face makes me smile and to breathe in that crisp, sweet air that blends with the brine of the sea, fills my body with comfort and hope before I puff it out in a cloud of smoke from my mouth.
The Autumn Splendor shows me that there is always hope. That all things are temporary. Everything changes constantly. I need to take comfort in that knowledge. It isn’t always easy, but it is beautiful.”

I have a handful of short stories that tell the tale of Aspen’s mother and father, long before she was born. I call these short readings “The Tales of Elgolan”. They are short supplemental readings that expand on a certain story from The Aspen Series. Right now, the first story in the “Tales” stories is available to you at no charge when you join my Lords and Ladies Club. This first installment is called “The Serpent Strikes” and is not available anywhere else, unless you buy the book from my publisher. 

  

I published the next story on Amazon last month, “The Devil’s Lair”. And today, “Brimstone’s Ashes” went live! There are two more installments about Vatric and Lyndsay to go! They will go live on the first of the next two months! All of the “Tales” stories, except #1 are only .99! This isn’t because they are crappy stories, it’s because they are shorter reads than a full novel. So pour a cup of tea and get lost in the dramatic “Tales of Elgolan” stories!

   

 

And on a side note, if you have not yet read Noble Courage, the first of the Aspen Series, you have a couple of options: A. Download from Smashwords for FREE or B. Download from Amazon for .99 (they refuse to match the free price for me, but they might for you). Either way, you get a full novel to read, to love, and to enjoy. I decided to price it lower because it was the first in the series and I love my readers. It’s a great adventure, in my own biased opinion, and I want EVERYONE to feel like they can enjoy it. So how can you give me some love? Read the books, leave me your thoughts, and be a part of my club. Members knew about the release of the “Tales” stories weeks before anyone else. I love to stay in touch with my biggest fans! And the greatest compliment to my work would be to share it with someone you know. Thanks for the love!

  

Harry Potter Fan Fiction: The Libby Archibald Chronicles Part 1

Libby Archibald

So I spent the last week watching the whole Harry Potter series again. I’ve probably seen it fifty times and I never tire of it. But I found out something this week… Harry Potter motivates me. He is a muse of sorts that encourages me to create and write. J.K. Rowling’s documentary makes me feel that my dreams are just as possible as hers were. That I’m just as ordinary and down to earth as she is and I’m just as deserving to watch my dreams become reality.

This week, magic happened. It’s funny how spending your time out of work with those characters can trick your mind into feeling like they are your close friends. You laugh with them, cry with them, you’re scared with them, and you love with them. And so I woke up yesterday feeling compelled to write myself into the amazing world of Harry Potter. I’ve never written any kind of fan fiction before, but I thought it was a lot of fun and I’m sure I will do more of it. I found it to be almost more therapeutic than writing my own stories in my own worlds. To escape to another world for a while is pure magic in itself. I felt just as lost through writing it as I would have being thrown into it. The few hours of make believe were very good for me today and the drinking of homemade Butterbeer set the mood. I’m sharing here because I can’t do much with it aside from blogging it. But I hope you can relate to Libby. I think most of us have a little Libby inside.

The Odd Brick Wall that isn’t a Brick Wall at all.

Life is a curious thing. Most of the time, when you most want something it never happens. Sometimes, it will surprise you and magic happens. There was such a time for Libby Archibald. 

 
Summer was Libby’s favorite time of the year. Not because it was hot and ice cream was best eaten when it was hot, but because she could be outside and escape the confining walls of her house. 

Every year, the Archibald family traveled several hours to a special place in the mountains and it was here that Libby felt alive. The smell of the pine trees, the fresh air, and the sound of the lake lapping at the shore brought her a sense of peace. A whole year of fighting her way through life was kindly rewarded with one week in the small town of McCall. 

 
And so Libby crossed the busy main street that ran close to the water, her family was lazing about on the warm, sandy beach or swimming in the shallow waters close to their vacation rental.

“Is it okay if I walk to get ice cream?” she had asked her parents. She was bored and they were occupied with spreading suntan lotion over their arms and legs. 

 
“I suppose, Libby. Don’t be too long,” her mother sighed and laid herself out over the bold blue and white striped beach towel. 

 
“Thanks, mom,” Libby replied and shoved her slender hand in the pocket of her pink capris to feel for her five dollar bill. 

 
Now, she was walking beneath the eaves that cast the sidewalk in shadow. A breeze blowing in from the water made the shade feel cool as Libby made a left turn between the coffee shop and the souvenir store. It was a narrow passage partially blocked by a staircase in the alley and reminded her of some secret place. Starting down the short pathway, the gravel crunching beneath her flip flops, Libby took her time staring at the brick wall on the left, the names on all the bricks fascinating her. She always wanted to scratch her name on one too, but it appeared that all the bricks were used up with other names. There were several Makenzies and many Mikes but nowhere did she see her name.

That was one thing Libby really hated; her name was never found on anything but vegetable cans. Sometimes she wished her name was Sarah or Mary so she could be ordinary and fit in. 

 
Two bigger kids, probably a girlfriend and a boyfriend, walked by with cups of the creamy goodness that only Ice Cream Alley could offer. As they passed, the boy’s elbow poked her just behind her ear and she rubbed at it furiously to ease the pain. 

 
“Stupid kids. Why can’t they stay by their parents? They just get in the way,” the boy remarked and continued on his way. 

 
Comments such as that one were not new to Libby. Being the oldest of the four children in a very strict household, she was often made an example to her siblings by her father. She was never right as it wasn’t a child’s right to be correct. It was the grown-up’s right to always be the smartest. Libby couldn’t wait to be an adult so she could move far away and be who she wanted to be. 

 
Rounding the corner, there was a line of about ten people waiting to get their hands on the cold ice cream in nearly every flavor imaginable. 

 
“I wish I was magic. I could make everyone disappear and it would be my turn,” she sighed taking her place at the end of the line. 

 
Nearly every table was full of people, some in shorts and some in swimsuits, umbrellas were unfolded overhead for a bit of shade. There were a few small children sitting on a bench swing that were screeching in fun, ice cream rings surrounding their lips in the various colors of the flavors they chose. Their parents sat nearby, never saying a word, not telling them to be quiet…Libby could imagine how the veins would bulge out of her father’s forehead and neck because they were being so unruly. If that was her trying to have fun, he would have walked right up to her and thumped her in the back of her head or he might even grab those tiny hairs at the base of her neck and twist them enough to bring tears to her eyes and force her to just sit quietly. That’s when he liked her the most; when she was silent and still. 

 
It was the pleasure she felt in these moments, when she was by herself and could breathe without fear of wrongdoing. Yes, these moments made it all worth while. It was time away from her very annoying family, it was time away from the horrid kids at school that teased her mercilessly, and it was time spent getting to know who she really was. 

 
You see, Libby was shy and quite backward. She didn’t like to talk out of fear of being incorrect. Some viewed this as rude. For Libby, it was a defense mechanism. It was safe just to be quiet. Rarely could you get Libby to make eye contact with you because she knew others would see the story she held behind her eyes that had recently changed from light blue to a beautiful shade of green. This girl was down right skinny with knobby knees and elbows and crooked teeth. She sported dark brown hair with a hint of red that her mother kept short in a most embarrassing “wedge” style. Libby would look at her sister with the pretty blonde strands that flowed perfectly to her shoulders and felt jealousy that Adrianna looked like a girl and she herself looked like a boy. It wasn’t fair.

The kids at school were cruel and asked her why she looked like a boy. They poked such fun at her expense when she spent time with her friends that were girls, that Libby stopped making friends at all. 

In time, even her old friends started calling her a name that brought tears to her eyes every time. Monkey Girl was what they would chant behind her during the walk home from school. Granted, Libby was cursed with hairy arms and legs that her mother said she would grow out of. But Libby hated it and

would wear longer pants and shirts with sleeves all year round just to conceal it. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the taunting and if she ran from the kids, they would run after her shouting “Monkey Girl, Monkey Girl” all the louder. 

 
Absently, Libby ran her hands over her arms self-consciously and stepped forward in the line. It was almost her turn. She could almost feel the icy goodness running down her throat. It was getting hot. 

 
An odd place on the brick wall stood out to Libby. She hadn’t ever noticed it before on their many visits to Ice Cream Alley. The bricks were arranged in a different pattern and the cement was thicker around them. All the people, it seemed, never looked up and saw it. They just went on as though nothing was out of the ordinary. Like they were blind to the different pattern. Or perhaps they just didn’t care that it was odd. Libby wondered a moment why the wall got no attention for being odd but she got more than her share. Where was the justice in that?

“What can I get started for you?” the girl behind the whitewashed counter asked snapping Libby from her thoughts about the wall. 

 
Shyly, Libby stepped forward and barely peered over the counter, she was so short for her eleven years. “Um, a single scoop of Rocky Road in a cup, please.” She handed over her five dollars and the girl handed her back some change.

“It will be ready around the corner, thank you!” the employee said, motioning her along to the other side of the small building that looked more like a lemonade stand than an ice cream shop.

Libby sauntered around the corner to wait for her delightful concoction of chocolate, almonds, and marshmallows. 

A couple behind her at a smaller table stood up to leave and so she decided to take that place for herself. It was almost directly below the imperfect bricks she had noticed just moments before.

Another gal bellowed out that the Rocky Road was up so Libby hurriedly grabbed it, a spoon and a napkin, returning to the table she had claimed. 

Her eyes closed as the heavenly explosion happened in her mouth as the first bite of some of the best Rocky Road ice cream danced on her tastebuds. It was smooth and cold, the marshmallows were fluffy on her tongue.

She gave a slight grin and reopened her eyes. She scanned the crowd for her father before she picked up a pebble and tossed it up to hit the rebellious pattern in the brick wall. Missing her target, she tried again and her pebble found one of the lower bricks. She gave a chuckle and grabbed an arsenal of rocks throwing them one at a time, each connecting solidly. 

 
Libby was just about to throw another when she noticed the wall starting to move. She sat upright in her chair and stared in disbelief as the wall began to rip open and she could see a room on the other side. Libby tore her eyes from the sight and glanced around to see if anyone else was witnessing this incredible phenomenon. No one was paying attention. No one cared. They were all absorbed in their own world, laughing, joking, and enjoying each other’s company. No, no one was watching Libby and the ripped open brick wall. 

 
Cautiously, she stood and walked the four steps to the opening where she peered inside. No one in the dingy room ahead seemed to notice her either. It was dark in there with weathered wood walls, plank floors and lanterns for lights. There was no music and tones felt hushed without stepping foot in there. Casting a quick backward glance, her heart beating wildly in her chest, Libby took a chance. For the first time in her young life, she stepped forward out of everything she had ever known and stepped into a world so foreign it frightened her. 

 
Once both feet were firmly planted in the strange place on the other side of the bricks, the wall knitted itself back together until it was just as before. Libby quickly turned and placed her hands on the wall, pressing and tapping to find that opening…but there wasn’t one. It was solid. There was nowhere to go but forward. 

 
Libby slowly turned around and tried to slow her breathing. She forced herself to swallow hard and soaked up her surroundings. 

The room looked to be a restaurant or a bar of some kind with several tables and chairs and a long bar area with a large man standing behind the counter, a white apron tied around his waist and a towel thrown over his shoulder. 

There were a few people at tables and as she walked through the small establishment, she saw three young people talking quietly at a table in the corner. From their hairstyles, she guessed it was two boys and a girl. All had dark clothes on, coats of sorts with hoods. One had dark disheveled hair, one bright red that stood out, and the girl looked to have frizzy hair that fell just past her shoulders. 

 
The dark headed boy happened to cast his glance beyond his red-headed friend before him and he narrowed his eyes behind round spectacles to look right at Libby. He muttered something and stood, the other two twisting in their seats looking on curiously.

“I recognize that look,” he smiled at Libby. 

 
“What?” she asked, confused. “Where am I?” 

 
“This is The Leaky Cauldron. My name is Harry, this is Ron and Hermione. What is your name?” he asked.

Libby licked her lips, her knees shaking, and said, “Libby. I’m Libby Archibald.” 

 
“Nice to meet you, Libby. You have the same look on your face I did a couple of years ago. It’s a lot to take in all at once. Come sit down and we’ll talk about it,” Harry said motioning to the empty seat at the table. 

 
Not knowing what else to do, Libby sat and Hermione went to order one more Butterbeer for their table. 

 
“Are you a muggle?” Ron blurted out.

Libby’s head snapped to stare at the boy with red hair. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but never a-a muggle… What is that?” 

 
“A muggle is a person who can’t do magic. They don’t see magic and they rarely feel it. They are just ordinary people in a boring world,” Harry explained. 

 
Libby nodded her head. “Yes, that is me. I’m a muggle. Boring person in a boring world,” she breathed.

“How do you know? That you’re a muggle, I mean. How do you know?” Harry asked her.

“Well because everyone knows there is no such thing as magic, Harry. That is what makes up storybooks and movies. And Disneyland. Disneyland is pretty magical, I think, but I’ve never been there. I’ve only seen pictures, you see…” Libby rambled on. 

 
Ron and Harry looked at each other and grinned.

“So you think you are not magical because other people told you so?” Harry asked her. “I mean, why would you listen to boring people who can’t see anything that’s right in front of them? Why would you trust those kind of people to tell you who you are?” Harry asked her. 

 
Libby sat silent a moment, not sure how to explain to this boy that magic was just fantasy…make believe. She was just Libby. So she decided to change the subject. “Can you please tell me where I am?” 

 
“This is The Leaky Cauldron. It’s part of Diagon Alley,” Hermione piped in as she set the frothy mug of Butterbeer on the table. “You are very…bright. You stand out quite a lot.” She rummaged through a bag on the floor and came away with a dark bundle of fabric. “This should help you.” 

 
Libby unfolded the gift and discovered that it was the same kind of cloak the others were wearing. As she flung it around her shoulders, it was easy to notice that Hermione was right. Her pink pants and yellow shirt with pink stars were like sunshine in a cave. She definitely looked out of place…a misfit. The funny thing about it was that she looked like everyone else in her own world and was treated like the outcast. Here in a completely foreign world, she looked like the misfit but was treated like she was the same as everyone else. 

 
“Thank you, Hermione,” Libby said with a shy smile. “I-I…Forgive me, but I have no idea where Diagon Alley is. I’ve never heard of it. One minute I was eating ice cream and the next there was a huge hole in the wall that brought me here. Why am I here?” 

 
Hermione smiled warmly. “Well, I can tell you aren’t from anywhere close to London so the only explanation is that you are magical. I don’t think the portal would have opened for you any other way. Muggles can’t see the openings nor can they see the wizarding world. They don’t see anything really. So how old are you?” 

 
“I just turned eleven,” Libby explained.

An awkward silence wound around the four young people and they all grabbed their mugs to gulp at the sweet, frothy Butterbeer. 

 
“So now that I’m here, what do I do? Can I get back home?” 

 
“I’m sure there is a way, but we need to find someone like Hagrid or maybe your dad, Ron, to help us. This is a most curious situation.” Harry said. 

 
A girl ran in, catching her breath she placed her hands on her knees. Her bright red hair and light complexion told Libby she belonged to Ron’s family. “Ron, mum wants you.” 

 
Ron turned around in his chair. “What does she want, Ginny?” 

 
Ginny stood upright and squinted her eyes at him. “I don’t know, she just told me to come get you! Who’s that?” she asked, her eyes widening again when she saw Libby. 

  Harry stood up, tugging on Libby’s elbow. “Ginny, this is Libby Archibald. Libby, meet Ron’s sister Ginny. You are both the same age.” 

 
“Good to meet you,” Ginny smiled before turning her gaze back to her brother. “Come on, Ron! Best not keep mum waiting!” 

 
“Right,” Ron mumbled and gulped the rest of his drink, wiping the foam from his mouth with the back of his hand. “Sorry ’bout this, I gotta go.” 

 
They all said their goodbyes to Ron and Ginny and made to set off in search of someone who could give them some answers.

Virtual Birthday Bash: Day 6- The Key of the Kingdom Sneak Peek!

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So it’s the last day of the birthday celebration! Thank you to all of you that spent the week with Aspen and I! You made it quite a fun event! You have until the clock strikes midnight to get your entries in on all the Facebook games!

Okay, I promised a sneak peek of this last book. I have been working on it but still have a ways to go. War is brewing and lives are changing! Here you go!

Frog shrieked again as loud as his lungs would scream and tried with all his might to remove his hand from the rope holding him. “I did it for my wife…and for my son! Please don’t!” he sobbed.

“What of them?” Thorne queried. “What do they have to do with you delivering that message?”

Frog’s head fell back to rest on the chair, the tears still streaming down his face. “I gave it to you so that they would live! He is always watching you!”

Thorne lowered the hammer to his side. “Dracul ransomed your family for this message to be delivered? If that is true, I can guarantee you that your wife and son are dead. Dracul never bargains…not even with his own.”

New tears washed over Frog’s face. “I cannot believe you. My master cares for those who are faithful to him. Please let me go to them! Allow me to show you that you are wrong.

“Glade, take men with you and bring the village within the gates to ensure their safety…if it isn’t too late for them already. I have a feeling that this was all a diversion. Jackal, I want Valliant and Miquel to join us as we escort Frog to his home and alert our closest allies. Choose a rider to dispatch for Foxglove Pass and River’s Bend. The time has come, my friends. Our greatest foe is making his move,” Thorne said. “Have Stewart come and tend to this man’s hand. He can take us to his wife and son and either he will prove his point or I will prove mine. Glade, I am leaving my family in your hands. Make sure they follow the plans precisely. I will hold you responsible for them.”

There was a moment when time froze. No one could breathe, no one could think. They all just needed a moment to digest what had been ordered.

Thorne dropped the mallet to the ground. “Gents, we must move now. There isn’t much time.”

And with that, the men departed leaving Frog tied and crying with the pain of one crushed hand and the relief of his good hand spared.

Thorne veered to a hallway less traveled and took a moment to catch his breath against the cold stone wall. He felt sick, like the walls were moving and his insides were boiling and he was sweating as one does just before they lose their stomach. He had intentionally wounded another soul, villain or not, and he hated himself.

“You are no better than that scoundrel St. Michael,” he whispered to himself.

“Father, are you alright?” Dalen exclaimed and scuffled to Thorne’s side.

“I’m fine, my boy. I’m fine. Listen to me closely. Take your mother and brothers and Mira to the secret place with a bite of food and stay there until I retrieve you. Do you understand?”

Dalen’s face paled and he nodded. “This is it, isn’t it?”

Thorne wiped the perspiration from his face and stood on his feet again. “It could be. I must go with a man who is with the enemy to stop all this.”

“Father, that was not the plan. You are to be with us also. We are to survive this together!” Dalen reminded him.

“Shhh…I will be fine. But you must promise me to keep your mother in hiding for she is terrible at obeying orders. I need you both to stay alive at all costs. Now obey me and get everyone to safety,” Thorne said pulling his son’s body into an embrace. “These times make men out of boys, Dalen. Don’t stray from the plan. Don’t be like me in this one instance, please.”

Thorne could feel his son shake and heard him sniff loudly. Dalen nodded in his arms and both fought the tears that threatened them.

“She told me this day would come. She has been preparing me for it since I can remember,” Dalen whispered sadly.

“I will return. Those dreams your mother has cannot possibly be full of truth. We have the power to change them so do not fret.”

Thorne pushed Dalen away from him and watched the lad hurry off to gather the family together.

“Today is not my day to die,” Thorne said aloud, his voice echoing through the hallway.

The sun was high in the sky when Frog had been produced by the Doctor Love. The villain’s hand was bound thickly and hung in a sling. A cart was brought into the bailey and Thorne signaled his men to climb in. “Make sure he can’t jump and escape,” he added before hopping up next to Jackal, who was driving the team.

Glade sat beside Frog, a dagger poised at the man’s throat, and demanded he tell them where his home was located. Frog swallowed hard against being torn between life and death. Thorne shouted above the noise of the cart bumping down the road for the location.

“Please just tell him, Frog. I was where you are now except I was barely clinging to life. His lordship is a good man but he is protecting his family as you are. He will not kill them and I believe he will spare you if you are honest,” Glade recounted.

Frog’s shoulders slumped in defeat and he gave the easterly command to Rosehill. Glade pulled back just a notch, as though he hadn’t heard correctly, and relayed the information to Thorne. His lordship whipped his head around and narrowed his eyes as he visibly contemplated the danger that could lie ahead. Sauren most likely had no idea he had been infiltrated by the enemy.

“How many of you are stationed there as spies and henchmen?” Glade asked knowing Thorne would want to know.

“Just me and my family. Marriage was not allowed in my master’s camps. I fell in love with a woman while in a place called Foxglove Pass and we ran. We felt we had disappeared from his reach. We were married and had a son before Dracul found us. He tied ropes around the neck of my wife and son, pulling them off the ground using the beams of the rafters in our home. Desperate to save them, I agreed to do anything he asked of me. I don’t want to die, but if I must so my family can live, I will gladly give it up,” Frog replied grimly.

“Was there ever a man with Dracul with light blonde hair and blue eyes? Might be his General?” Thorne asked twisting in his seat.

“Nay. I never saw him. Dracul’s general looks just as he does. It is my belief that he is a son,” Frog answered honestly.

Thorne nodded in understanding and swiveled back to face forward, his eyes scanning the sides of the road for signs of a trap.

Time felt as though it had passed so slowly, the trip to Rosehill feeling like it was taking longer than usual. But they finally rounded the bend in the road where the village could be seen. There was a large black cloud of smoke from an outer area close to the wall that surrounded the village.

Frog sat up, tears brimming in his eyes, as he beheld the site. “No, no, no, no…please God.”

Thorne knew his thoughts were correct. As soon as Frog had been dispatched, Dracul had done away with the wife and son and burned the home.

“The devil will be close, be on the offensive!” Thorne warned.

The gates of Rosehill had been closed once the fire erupted and several riders and thundered away on steeds of great size. They allowed Thorne entry and Frog pointed wordlessly in the direction of the billowing black cloud on their left.

Jackal pulled the horses to a stop and Thorne jumped from the cart dashing to the small house that was burning, his men close behind, and Glade with Frog bringing up the rear. The pungent smell of burning things made them all cough.

Jackal grabbed Thorne’s tunic and shouted for him to stay out of the croft. Thorne hesitated a moment but when he heard Frog’s cries of grief, he ran through the flames and into the structure. There, tied to chairs at the dining table, were two charred figures slightly slumped in posture. One was tall and slight, the other was obviously a small child.

“Quick! Get them out! Put them in the cart! We need to get to the keep!” Thorne shouted above the snapping of the flames.

Valiant cut the bonds of the victims and with Glade’s help, they carried them to the cart. Jackal shoved Thorne out the doorway and Miquel escorted Frog out into the clean air. All the men were coughing, their eyes stinging, but they guarded themselves against an ambush as they sped off to the castle in the heart of the village.

Frog’s cries of anguish could be heard over the rumbling of the wheels over the dirt roads. The man kept pawing at Miquel and Glade to get to the remains of his family. Thorne couldn’t help but think of what was happening at his own home. Was it all a part of the plan to lure himself out of the castle with his best men to leave the rest unproperly protected? And if every soul in his village perished, would they find Aspen and the children? Would he return home to find them charred and tied to their dining chairs? A shudder stole through him at the awful visual that filled his mind.

Pulling up to the keep where Sauren and Marissa resided with their beautiful daughter. Thorne could see Sauren exit the castle as the cart eased into the courtyard, an inquisitive expression clouding his features.

“What is going on, my lord?” Sauren called out as Thorne jumped lightly to the ground.

Thorne held out his hand for a quick shake in friendship. “We don’t have time to stand out here and explain. I need to see you within the safety of your home. These are my men and our hostage.”

Sauren motioned them to the door and no one said a word until they were safe within the confines of the modest study. All the men filtered in and took seats where they were available, leaving Thorne to sit before Sauren’s desk.

“Will you please tell me what is happening, my lord?” Sauren inquired sounding impatient.

Thorne reeled back as if he was dodging a blow. “Do you have something more important happening?”

Sauren lightened his mood sensing his lord’s foul disposition. “No, no, of course not, my lord. You have merely piqued my interest. I’m concerned about the secrecy and we’ve talked about attack plans in years past. Naturally, I’m worried.”

“Well, I have reason to believe that the time is near…if it isn’t this very day. Our-well, that man is called Frog and he lived in your village.”

“Has he done you wrong? Am I to punish him accordingly as his lord?” Sauren asked not understanding at all.

“Nay. He was sent to me to dispatch a message and we captured him. What we found out is that he tried to escape the reach of Dracul. We’ve spoken of him before. However, Frog here was betrayed by that villain. It is time to gather the men. I require all you can spare on the morrow,” Thorne explained further.

Sauren sat back in his chair. “Are you sure that is wise? What about the people here. Are they not entitled to the same protections as your people?”

“Sauren, it is true that no one is safe right now. Dracul was here in your own village long enough to slay Frog’s family and burn his home.” Frog began to sob once again from a tall backed chair next to the fireplace. “I feel that Marissa and Farrin should be in Cliffehaven where all the troops will be gathered. It will be the best place for them to hide. Farrin is partially my responsibility.”

“She is not, with all due respect, my lord. She is my responsibility. I do not want her in Cliffehaven. I will send you all the men I can spare and still keep her safe here,” Sauren said firmly while shaking his head.

“Sauren-I…”

He jumped to his feet then and slammed his hands down on the desk top. “I said no, my lord! Forgive my outburst but I told you that you cannot have my daughter just yet!”

Thorne slowly stood and held his ground. “You listen to me. Dracul might know everything about your castle right now. If Frog could live among you for all these years, so could any of his henchmen. Any one of your servants could be his spy! If I was going to attack a village such as mine, I would need a place to strategize and a man like him is not going to inhabit an abandoned shack! He is going to want your home! I have an army! My family knows the protocol for going into hiding. I have the best trained men coming to join our ranks and will outnumber your men even if you all stay here. There is no other place to be right now!”

“And I would rather die with my family than die alone, my lord. I’m sorry.”

“But your daughter is matched with my son. My eldest son…my heir. She is very important to my line, therefore, I feel the need to protect her far better than you ever could. Send them to us, Sauren. I’m not asking your permission. It is how it needs to be,” Thorne argued.

Sauren shook his head wildly to the negative. “We cannot agree.”

Thorne’s anger and frustration took over. He leaned over the desk and fired the look of death. “I really don’t care that we don’t agree. I am now ordering you to send Farrin to Cliffehaven.”

Sauren stared Thorne straight in the eyes. “You are no longer my superior, Earl Darktower. I care not about anything you say. I have tolerated you thus far. But I will not give you my only child…yet. She is not of age to marry so you have no right to her. Get out.”

“I had thought you a smart man, Sauren. Clearly you are as brainless as your father! Start planning your funerals, choose your burial sites, because you are not immune to this foe! He will kill you and drink your blood before he enjoys your women and then give them over to his followers before he kills them and drinks their blood too! You don’t understand what he is all about! If I leave here, do not ask me for another thing as long as you live. I will not come to your aid later, mark my words!” Thorne stormed. He stalked from the room and called for his men to follow.

The sun was nearly blinding when they emerged from the castle. Thorne told Jackal to load everyone up. Sauren stood in the open doorway, most likely to be sure Thorne left. There was a light whistle in the air, the kind that made Thorne instinctively duck. There was a scream, brief but loud.

“Frog was hit!” Glade shouted. “My lord! We must leave now!”

Thorne lifted his head to spy the horror on Sauren’s face. He looked to the back of the cart to see Frog lying there with an arrow protruding from his chest. His body took shallow breaths that were doing him no good. Thorne jumped into the back of the cart and took Frog’s healthy hand.

“Easy there, Frog. We will get you to a physician.”

“My lord…” Frog whispered, “You are a good man. He hates you for that.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you, Frog. I wish I could take that moment back,” Thorne apologized.

There was a slight gurgling sound from the struck man before his hand went limp and he let out a long, tired sigh. Thorne pressed his forehead to Frog’s fingers. Tears pricked at his eyes.

“My lord! We must be off!” Glade pressed.

Thorne raised his head in Sauren’s direction. “Dracul does this to his own men! What do you think he will do to you and your family?”

Jackal slapped the reins and the team raced off. Glade kept his sword drawn and screamed at Thorne to lie down.

Sauren watched the cart ramble off in a cloud of dust and sighed. Turning around, he allowed the door to close securely behind him, leaving him once again in the shadows. He told himself that he was glad Darktower had left but there was an ugly feeling in his gut. He wasn’t sure what to do.

“You performed well, Sauren, second son of the king,” came a voice in the hallway.

It took Sauren’s eyes a moment to find the dark figure that belonged to that voice. “Thank you, your grace,” he said shakily.

Dracul emerged from the dining hall doorway. Sauren could see his teeth in the low light, gleaming like pearls in the dark yet they were actually yellow in the light. Just the sound of the man’s breath made Sauren quake with fear. He did not trust the man one bit and he worried for his wife and daughter. But what could be done?

“I’m impressed that you swayed the obstinate Darktower as quickly as you did. You do indeed know how to get under his skin. It was delightful,” Dracul breathed.

If you missed the tour, you can catch up!

Day 1: Noble Courage Spotlight

Character Interview: Thorne Darktower

Day 2: Price of Power Spotlight

Character Interview: Rayven st. Michael

Day 3: Tears of Penance Spotlight

Character Interview: King Rothan

Day 4: Salvation of the Forgotten Spotlight

Character Interview: AspenTiller

Day 5: The Benevolent Light Spotlight

Bonus Character Interview: Cappy