Umbridge's Guide to Breaking the Rules
In a sleepy English village fifty years ago, where Jane Fulford lives, a mysterious event is about to occur. Something never accounted for in wizarding history books. Something that could change the world. Where does Umbridge fit in? All will be revealed in due time...
"Don't wave it too fast," she cautioned. "It'll go out."
Jane glanced at her. "Mum, is dad going to come home tonight?"
Her mother seemed taken aback by this suggestion. She didn't answer for several long moments, merely staring into the flame of her own sparkler. Bursts and crackles bounced against her face.
"Daddy," she repeated, less firmly. "Is he...?"
Her mother bit her lip, setting the match box that was clutched in her left hand down on the ground. Finally, she shuffled over to Jane on her knees, wrapped her free arm around her, and gave a careful half-hug.
"It's New Years Eve, darling! Let's worry about that later. I so rarely get to spend time with you!"
Jane gave her a half-hearted smile. She swished the sparkler, then flicked it. It went out in a whisp of smoke.
"That was the last one," Jane's mother told her, picking up the box of matches again. She handed her sparkler to her daughter, letting her wave it around for the last sparks inside. "Come on," she beckoned to her, standing up. "Bed time."
Jane stared at her shoes. "Oh, mum. Can I stay out here a bit longer? Pleeeease? It's almost midnight."
She looked bashfully at the dead sparkler for a moment, then dropped it into the dirt of their backyard. "Just this once," she muttered.
Some pitying look broke out in her mother's gaze. She tilted her head and sighed, patting the child's arm. "Alright. But come in at twelve o'clock, sharp."
Jane smiled, looking back up at her mother. "Thanks."
"Don't get used to it," her mum replied, pecking her on the forehead. "Stay in the backyard."
Jane nodded. The gate into the front yard had always creaked. And anyhow, she didn't want to be out on the street at this time of night, not even on New Year's Eve. Not alone.
As soon as her mother has shut the back door, she kicked off her shoes and peeled off her socks. The cool dirt and sharp rocks greeted her feet like old friends. Patches of weedy grass felt almost spiny against her toes. She wiggled her feet, digging deeper into the soil. This stuff didn't grow anything. Not even a measly tomato plant.
The brisk, cold air tickled her face. She touched her cheek with one hand, shivering. She liked this. The crispness, the sharpness, it enlivened her, more than anything else. Not even candies, or prayer-time in church, or building dolls from paper. Something in horrible cold slapped her in the face, woke her up, made it better to be just alive. She inhaled it, extended her tongue to taste it. Silence pressed in around her, deep, but loud just under the surface. She could feel the commotion, the people who were celebrating by banging pots and pans together at the stroke of midnight. People who were rich enough to launch their own fireworks, neighborhoods away.
It was so black, aside from the street lamps, that closing her eyes didn't change much. Jane walked over to the division between her house and the next: a large, thick wood picket fence, twice as tall as her. She peered through a hole in the fence, the length and width of her pinkie finger nail, and saw nothing. She felt a tickling sensation run down her spine. The house next door was abandoned. Every time she even just thought about it, the house gave her the heebie jeebies. Once, she'd seen lights on in the attic over there. To soothe her, her mum had once said something along the lines of "probably just drug dealers."
Now, she relished the almost-perfect silence, turning away from the hole in the fence with a thrill of fear. Nothing helped her sleep more than her mother sitting quietly nearby, stroking the side of her head and not saying a word. Silence.
Her feet shifted in the rocky dirt, dusty ground crunching underneath. Jane hummed a tune.
Suddenly, her humming was interrupted by a brilliant flash of light, and a fantastic BOOM!
Jane jumped halfway out of her skin, landing on her butt. She watched and listened, hardly daring to turn her head. Had she imagined it? She hoped she'd imagined it.
But no, there it was again! Softer now, the flash of light flew up into the air, bright green and looking like a huge ball teeming with lizards. She closed her gaping mouth, then let it fall open again. Jane stood up, brushing off her hands and skirt. She didn't say anything, but took careful steps up to the front gate, grabbing the low fence top with both hands.
A high pitched whistle, unmistakably a firework, went rushing up from the same place in the sky. This time, it was one great big ball of sparkling blue light. The ball spun in dizzy circles, exploding into five dizzy circles, which scampered into the sky and went out.
Jane's breath caught. Those balls weren't normal fireworks, were they? Not in this neighborhood. Anyone who could afford fireworks like those wouldn't live here. They were almost... magical. Yes, there was something magical about fireworks. Jane watched again, as fireworks shot into the air, shorter and sweeter, swirling pink and purple like tiny pinwheels.
With a dying pop, they disappeared. It wasn't quite as dark as before. Wisps of smoke drifted in the air, carried by a cold wind.
Mesmerized, Jane flipped the latch on the gate. She tip toed onto the sidewalk, craning her neck around. The row of houses went on and on and on. All of them looked slightly old, or dead, or glum. But one house, one house on the other side of the street, three houses down, a green glow cast faintly from the back, outlining the house with hardly distinguishable light.
Jane swallowed a smile. A real smile, the kind she hadn't felt in weeks. This could be something huge. With a final, curious glance at the house three rows down, she went back into the backyard, closed the gate behind her, and went to bed.