lili-summer

Harry Potter and the Neural Network fan fiction

Or, what happens if you train a neural network on the titles and plot summaries of over 100,000 works of Harry Potter fan fiction.

In the decades since the Harry Potter books were published, fans have written literally hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter stories of their own, and shared them online. Can a neural network join in on the fun?

In a way, everything a recurrent neural network writes is fan fiction. A recurrent neural network looks at an example dataset (such as the complete Sherlock Holmes stories) and teaches itself the patterns and conventions that it sees. So, if it’s given Sherlock Holmes stories, it will become obsessed with Holmes and Watson, and if it’s given knock-knock jokes, it will spend all day telling awful knock-knock jokes of its own.

Thanks to an idea by a couple of readers, some heroic work by @b8horpet in scraping (with permission) hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter fan fiction titles and summaries from AO3, and a flexible new recurrent neural network implementation by Chen Liang, the neural network’s latest obsession is Harry Potter.

The Perfect Party by iamisaac
Draco has been left alone, and Ginny confused must learn and who has his best friend. They were breathed by a love that didn’t become his grounds and the flowers begin.

This is a typical example of the neural network’s fan fiction - romantic pairings of two or more Harry Potter characters (called “ships” in fan fiction-speak). In this case, it even has chosen a plausible author: iamisaac is a real and fairly prolific fan fiction author whose works do tend to be of the “romantic” variety. 

The Garden by perverse_idyll for lexigilite
Ron and Hermione move after a man party. What did her best things go and has to deal with people she loves? How many imperfect love really belonges them and needs to be a person? Or will they learn and more than the war?

Mirror Thing by Queen_Elexhan
“Are you there for a relationship? I was a sad future for your love.”  Harry and Ginny find out the meaning is.

Shatters by Kis [archived by TheHexFiles_archivist ]
Based on the Spot Are It Falls Into A Heir by NextrangeOnTheThree
Draco and Hermione share a whole indescribbening.

Again, “perverse_idyll” and “TheHexFiles_archivist” are fairly active authors. (Hi, if you’re reading! The neural network seems to like your writing, and is writing fan fiction of your fan fiction!) Those familiar with Harry Potter fan fiction will not be surprised to learn that the neural network really likes to generate ships; pretty much every combination of characters is represented (some of the more unusual combinations being “The Snow/Voldemort”, “The Ministry/Draco Malfoy”, and “Voldemort/Random Quidditch Child”).

By turning down the neural network’s creativity setting to near-zero, we arrive at its vision of what the quintessential Harry Potter fan fiction would be like - and we also learn its favorite ship:

Persuading by theladyblack
Harry and Draco are still a second chance at the end of the war.  Will they be able to do with the fairy tale of the first time they were a strange stranger to the street of the war and the war is over?

It turns out the neural network is obsessed with Harry/Draco, although in a pinch, Sirius/Remus will also do.

The neural network also seems to really like stories about Professor Snape trying to do rather ordinary things:

New Moon Boys by Dungoonke for Loki_Kukaka
Severus Snape comes back to a night’s politics.

In the Reason Is Blinders by LittleRoma
Severus has been through his lost remote.

In The Alteri Silence by Forest_of_Holly for roscreens41
Snape receives life after plants to do by work over whether they get into. Just Hell.

A Second Chance by DarkCorgi
Snape had a second thing, and that is better than anything for for the rest of his life.

Mirror by orphan_account
Severus Snape tries to get a lot of dragons and that was to be more than he didn’t expect to continue. He has always been a bit of an old and a baby to stay the way he’d been the brother at Hogwarts and he keeps the chance of meeting…

Deception by FlyingEyes
Snape is a British Robes of interesting things and worrys like a little fun and sees the pretty battle for a while.

Another thing that happened, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever, is that the neural network apparently encountered some fan fiction stories that were not in English. As a result, it learned to do this from time to time:

The Secretary Of the World 
Challenge inspired by GoF and la mating resigns de la mill colors per mereple beruit carteur la pelete el wert rardo completing and herillo intus den una a des rush sentines kelta an transoles… 

Between by Cheyangel13
A series of fivers are unexpectedly depressed and controlled by the bed, with least more from una perfemale erpensa de the maesse akai suidadium dela vida call de la los se terriuus do form en sou dies de fasurard il resisted de for dogs la sementu sein prong colors itu dee adte se sige natard…

The neural network has also learned to employ capital letters:

Les finds love by violet_quill for starstruck1986
Severus Snape wanted him to be more and she likes Draco.  The person he wants an energy to him.  WHALIDE NO GEATIRE SOURR INSPE AHARMANABLISH ALL SOME TO VERY THE RERIDE!!!!!!!

secret Quidditch by snapsleert
Collapse and find the second worst and very different. See Gain and Descent motivate surprising death. Unbusing one of the months: should make more bumo.choooshots. HUGULATED

And the neural network occasionally uses content warnings, although it seems to have a rather fuzzy idea about what to warn its readers about:

Better With The Broom Complicate by Margyn_Black
Tonks gets more than the best girl of creation. (Rated Maturisle, mark, a violence, contract) (slash] part of themes) ferret.

Art for the Sun a Scary by disillusionist9
A collection of warnings: characters and situations of silence.

Some of the neural network’s stories, though, are just plain weird.

Harry Potter and the Painful Eyes by dark_pook
A Birthday drabble about the problems and a woman who shows up a lot less than she checks at Hogwarts in the destiny to the infamous adventure of control of the Art of The Good Boy Kings With Hermione.

Harry and the Blue Special Delicious by apolavia_scg
An unexpected potions messaged in the world their lives are to find friendship following the day of different pagers. James and Lily come to the summer before the war.

The Perfect Cow by alafaye
Severus and Hermione start a horcruxes

Art: Let Draco roll the light of the moon, and means. by Dangelanne
What happens after the war. Not drawn to Draco Malfoy jumpers. Originally written in 2008.

Birds of a Saturday by SasuNarufan13
Harry Potter is drunk and discovers he is an alternate universe.

Holly theody by yesIpxdishoftlyGrinli
What would be dangerous! Side Voldemort Jones does all lord off the sunshine show.

Lily Evans and the Ravenclaw of a Christmas Surprise by ci
Severus angst the truth of a frighten situation for the wink.

Persuasion by Samanthian
The Sorting Hat is fighting in one of the houses.

lily’s family by sharkle
Harry woke up in searching after a werewolf Sherlock’s picnic. He is furious.

As a bonus, I leave you with some fairly-plausible screennames the neural network invented, which appear not to be taken (yet):

desire_at_the_malfoy
SeverelyAshed
fishlingthelovely
thedarklyblue
phantombeers
captainingthetrain
siriusly_harry
DarkVoldember
ChildOfAtSperble
all_frogs
BelladonnaLeek
Sneaking_UnicornWitch
bluemelooppiesweatled

anonymous asked:

i have a prompt for you: what if snape hadn't called lily 'mudblood' that day. what if their friendship had stayed strong, unbreakable. would he have grown to be a better person? would lily have loved him, rather than james? would harry just have another godfather? would james and lily have survived?

Okay you have successfully convinced me to write a Snape thing, which is a possibility I have audibly forsworn many times to my loved ones. But I’m a sucker for concepts like “Harry gets another godfather,” so, here we go.


When Severus was seven, he fell in love with the girl down the street. She had long red hair and dirty knees and she offered him half her candy bar one drizzly afternoon, waiting outside the school for her parents to come pick her up.

His parents weren’t coming— dad working late and mum at the pub recounting old Hogwarts glory stories, talking of years when her life was magical– but he didn’t tell Lily that. He was just waiting for the older bully boys who lurked in the empty lot on his way home to get bored and leave.

He ate the candy slowly in neat little bites while she grinned and told him about her big sister’s feud with the science teacher, like her Tuney was some sort of hero in a political espionage drama. She talked with her hands, narrow little things with freckled backs. He watched her wave from the back window of her mother’s car and then he started the long walk home.

When Severus was fifteen, James Potter dangled him upside down in the quad and laughed. Severus landed on elbows and knees. The bruises would stay for a week. The memories would not die with them— James’s cocky grin, the laughter in the spring air, the long whip of Lily’s red hair.

He felt small, bug-like, his knees pressing into the grass. His mother would come home some nights, kick the threadbare carpet, rattle the battered old pans in the cupboard, curse a Ministry that hated purebloods, that sucked up to halfbreeds and Mudbloods, that left the true wizards to rot in filth. He would curl up, make himself small, bug-like, imagine a chitinous shield growing over his shoulders, his spine, the softness of his kidneys. Some days, his father slept through this. Some days he screamed back.

After Severus met Lily, he would curl up under his covers, small, bug-like, and read through the comics she’d lent him with his hands pressed up over his ears. He wanted Professor X to come take him away. He wanted to be someone special, someone saved. He wanted a giant to burst through his door and frighten his mother and offer him a squashed birthday cake and a way out.

When Severus was fifteen, he slammed to his knees on the green Hogwarts quad. Laughter burrowed into his ears, like curses, like the nights his father screamed back, and when Lily stepped toward him he snapped, “I don’t need help from a Mudblood.”

When Severus slouched up to her door that summer, Lily didn’t invite him in. She leaned on the open frame of the door, arms crossed. He had so rarely seen Lily neither smiling or incandescent with rage, but she watched him with snakeskin eyes and a set mouth, still.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t–”

She twitched a strand of hair over her shoulder, the irritation the closest thing to an emotion he could spot on her. He was watching, desperate– this was Lily, she gave things away. She talked with her hands. He never felt lost, with her. “But why,” said Lily. “Why are you sorry? Because I’m upset, or because what you did was wrong?”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“You did, and it’s not the point. I don’t care if it’s the part you care about, Sev, it’s not the part that matters. That was an awful thing to say– to say to anyone. You were cruel because you were scared and embarrassed, but Sev I could really care less. You were cruel.”

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“Sorry’s not enough, Sev. Be fucking better.”

He jerked back and tried to turn it into some kind of laugh. “Language, careful, your mum might hear.”

She shrugged, and stepped back through the open door, and shut it in his face.

He spent the summer reading comic books, haunting the local library, then the local park once it’d closed, and then sneaking home when he was hopeful his parents would be asleep. He tried to think about bravery, but sometimes he just thought about Lily’s hair, the way it went more golden in summer. He tried to think about nobility, ethics and grace, but the clouds chased each other, fat and white, across the sky and he wasn’t sure what any of this had to do with him.

His father took him fishing by a dreary brown creek and they sat in silence. Severus could hear every creak of the rods, every lap of the water, every inhale and movement his father made. He thought maybe if he just said nothing, nothing ever, he’d never say anything again that made Lily’s face go so flat and distant. If he said nothing, maybe nothing would hurt.

His father reached back for a beer can in a swift movement and Severus froze himself unflinching. He sat in that silence afterward, slowing his heartbeat, picking apart the sudden rigid shell of his shoulders. His father hummed, cracking the can open like a gunshot.

He sat alone on the Hogwarts Express that year, stuffed in a compartment with a handful of second years who gave him half the seats while they giggled among themselves about the haircut of someone named Gertrude. Every summer’s end, for five years, he and Lily had boarded the train together, pressed their noses to the window glass, and watched the land rush by.

For the first month of school, Severus practiced pausing before he spoke, for seconds, minutes if he needed them. Sometimes he’d add an answer after the conversation had already moved on, bent over his mashed potatoes, weighing words as carefully as he weighed salamander eyes and mandrake root.

(If you crushed firedrake seeds with the flat of your blade, instead of cutting them, they made a more potent potion. The textbooks told you to stir six times counterclockwise to make Sleeping Draught, but he knew–because he had thought, and tried, and tried again–that if you did five counterclockwise and two clockwise the draught would turn that perfect turquoise and the sleep would be dreamless and sweet and deep. He kept notes in his textbook’s margins, because it helped to remember.)

In the second month, he tried to listen. People were starting to think about life after school, a big yawning chasm they were supposed to fill with themselves. People were starting to fall in love, puppyish and petty. People were starting to believe in the war, whispering, dreaming, fearing.

In the common room, one of the kids said something about Mudbloods and Severus’s head snapped up. He tried to imagine a shell growing into his shoulders, over his spine, covering all the soft parts of him. He wanted his covers, he wanted to shrink, he wanted Lily’s boxfuls of comics, but he rose to his feet and snapped back. Sometimes saying nothing hurt people, too. A small Muggleborn in green and silver ducked away to her dorm, clutching quietly at her sleeves.

For the third month, he tried to watch– not for warning sneers or cocky grins, clenched fists and broad shoulders, all the things he’d been watching for since before he could name them– but for the way shoulders might go rigid, the way fists might clench but hide, wishing for something to shield every soft part of them.

Severus was bony and pimply, sixteen years old and graceless in it, but he could be an interruption. He could mock with the best of them, flicking his brows and twisting his nose, and asking pointed questions. He could talk, smart-mouthed and snide, until the focus turned to him, and then he could survive anything they handed out. He could give as good as he got. The pauses were shorter, these days, before he spoke, but they would always be there, an echo offset from the shout, an avalanche that struck late and terrible.

When kids cried in bathrooms or empty classrooms or the library, he didn’t move to comfort them, though he heard them. He didn’t know how. He wrote his own curses, out in the forest where he could scar the trees in experiment, and they all turned out bloody. He loved few things, even Lily, as much as he loved pouring all of himself into his work, until something new and his own grew out of it. He wasn’t sure he’d ever invented something kind.

He didn’t try to find Lily, but he came back from the Forest once and almost tripped over her, half-napping in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch. He stumbled back into a gargantuan gourd while she pushed hair out of her face and peered up at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, after a pause that rumbled and roiled in his gut, that he clung to with both hands, breathing into it and letting his shoulders go soft. “I’m sorry I said it. I’m sorry I made you feel small because I was feeling– small.”

Lily sat up a bit, in the little semi circle she’d built herself of books and scrolls and gobstones and snacks. She had built fairy circles like that, when they were children, of the flowers he’d transfigured for her.

“I’m sorry anyone has to feel that way, ever,” he said. “They shouldn’t. I’m angry anyone has to feel that way.”

“Me, too,” she said, and, fishing around in the detritus that surrounded her, handed him half a candy bar. “C'mon, you want some tea? Hagrid said he’d put a kettle on for me if I finished my Arithmancy.”

When Severus was in sixth year, Remus Lupin almost killed him on a moonlit night.

Severus had wanted answers, had wanted to get them in trouble, had wanted something a bit like vengeance, and Sirius had told him about the Whomping Willow. Sirius had grinned when he’d done it, small and bitter, and Severus had wondered if he was fighting with James again, wondering why else he’d sell out his friends.

“I didn’t think–” Sirius tried, the morning after, watching Remus across dry toast and cocoa, big juicy bowls of melon.

“You never do,” Remus snapped. (A bare handful of years later, standing in the smoldering ruins of James and Lily’s house, Remus would think about Sirius’s erratic gaze, the sharp edge of his voice, his last name, and wonder if he should have seen it coming. What here was premeditated? What was mischief? Sirius had once almost painted Remus’s own hands with red blood.)

But for now, Remus was sixteen and angry; he was sixteen and guilty of things that might have happened. He didn’t speak to Sirius for a month.

James refused to speak with Sirius, too, but he only lasted a week. Moony was sulking and Peter was busy studying his little heart out, and James got twitchy without proper and regular socialization.

“I’ll punch him in the nose,” said Lily, when Severus told her. She shifted where she sat cross-legged on the library table, like she might go off and hunt him down that second.

“Black doesn’t deserve the attention,” said Severus.

“Getting his ass kicked by a girl? That type of attention?”

“Getting his ass kicked by Lily Evans,” Severus said. “It’d be an honor and you know it.”

Reports of violence outside Hogwarts got worse. People were disappearing. People were whispering, fearing. The papers were ignoring the important things, and feeding off the fearmongering, or so Lily announced in the library while Severus was trying to study.

Alice and Lily had spent years sharing hissed rants in humid greenhouses. Over an undulating bed of luminescent deadly nightshade, Alice bent her head close to Lily’s and asked, “Have you heard of the Order of the Phoenix?”

Keep Reading (Ao3)

Keep reading

French Lesbian Films: Recommendations

Water Lilies (2007)

Summer in a new suburb outside Paris. Nothing to do but look at the ceiling. Marie, Anne and Floriane are 15. Their paths cross in the corridors at the local swimming pool, where love and desire make a sudden, dramatic appearance.

Breathe (2014)

It is tale of two teenage girls who develop an intense and dangerous friendship. Charlie is a 17-year-old girl tortured by doubt, disillusionment and solitude. When the beautiful and self-confident Sarah arrives and the two become inseparable, Charlie is thrilled to feel alive, fulfilled and invincible in their intense friendship. But as Sarah tires of Charlie and begins to look elsewhere for a new friend, their friendship takes an ominous turn.

Summertime (2015)

There was little chance, in the year 1971, that Carole, a Paris Spanish teacher and feminist militant, would ever meet Delphine, the daughter of a couple of Limousin farmers. But they did meet and not only did they come across each other but they fell passionately in love as well. Unfortunately, Delphine’s father fell victim to a stroke, and the young woman had no other choice but to go back home to help her mother run the family farm. Carole, who was so smitten by Delphine, couldn’t stand the estrangement and decided to join her lover at the farm. But could feminism and lesbianism easily be transferred to the countryside and its standards of the time…?

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

Adèle’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.

Secret Things (2002)

Two young women find themselves struggling to survive in Paris, street-wise Nathalie, a stripper, and naïve Sandrine, a barmaid. Together, they discover that sex can be used to their advantage, and pleasure.

Therese and Isabelle (1968)

Two young girls experience awakening sexuality in the heated atmosphere of a Swiss girls’ boarding school.

The Page Turner (2006)

The girl Mélanie Prouvost is an aspirant pianist and her parents make her application to the Conservatory. During the entrance exam, she begins with a great performance but she is distracted by one member of the admittance board, Ariane, and she fails. Years later, Mélanie, unrecognized by Ariane, becomes her page turner. And thus begins her carefully planned revenge against the woman that destroyed her dreams.

Les Biches (1968)

Architect Paul Thomas insinuates himself into the relationship of two bisexual women living in a St. Tropez villa with tragic consequences.

Rough Around the Edges

upperstories submitted: 

Climbing up six flights of stairs was a pain.

Climbing up six flights of stairs after driving what felt like thousands of miles without stopping for anything but gas and coffee wasn’t much better.

But climbing up six flights of stairs with a bad knee, three exhausted bundles of living ink clinging to you like a lifeline, and going on nothing—no real food or water or even a bathroom break—but sheer grit? Downright impossible.

Henry Ross cleared it in half his usual time.

He didn’t care how late it was, how much he ached or how much he wanted to just curl up next to the chipped floor molding and become comatose, he was not in the mood for any of his neighbors catching him as he was. He just thanks god his doorman, a short ruddy-faced man named Patrick, had fallen asleep at his desk before he’d snuck in, like old Patty always did after 11:00 PM.

“644, 645—646,” said Henry, stopping to catch his breath.  “Here. This is it.”

He could feel Boris, Alice, and Bendy collectively sigh in relief, wilting like lilies in the hot summer sun.

Boris was fairing what seemed like the best of them; hand on Henry’s shoulder for balance, but with enough of his druthers to stand upright without help. Alice clung to Henry’s left pant leg, leaning heavily, her black eyes barely open, and not at all complaining when Henry used his free arm to help keep her steady. Bendy, for all his intents and purposes, hadn’t left Henry’s grasp since the studio, tucked against his left side with his face half buried in the old animator’s collar. Henry was pretty sure he’d fallen asleep at least 3 times on the way—he had one hell of a loud snore for a shorty. He hadn’t asked to be put down once, but Henry did not complain. It had been a long day for all of them, but Bendy had had it the roughest—which was saying something, as Henry had learnt that hard way that being turned into a living cartoon was no picnic.

“What’s the plan, Henry?” said Boris, catching Henry off guard.

“Plan is, uh,” Henry mumbled, fumbling with keeping Bendy and Alice from toppling over while he fished for his keys. They weren’t in either of his pockets… where were they?

“Get inside, go to bed. Try to sleep and…” He sighed, “I don’t know, come up with a better plan in the morning.”

“Works fer me,” Bendy muttered, not even opening his eyes.

It was then Henry noticed a small shimmer along the door’s upper frame. Bracing Alice as best he could, he reached up and ran a hand along the top of the door molding and caught something metal on the far corner. Of course. Right where he left it.

“Henr—ry?” said Boris, muffling a yawn behind the back of his hand. “That, uh, don’t seem particularly safe there, leaving yer key where someone can find it. What if someone tries breakin’ in?”

“Not to worry Boris,” said Henry, smirking to himself sardonically, “I doubt anyone would find anything of mine worth stealing…”

The lock gave a rusty clunk, and Henry shouldered it open.

The sound of a rickety radiator and the smell of old newsprint, a faint burnt wood-like scent, and cardboard greeted them along with the faint sting of old alcohol. The light of the hallway cast a thin orange glow into the otherwise pitch-black apartment. Henry couldn’t remember feeling so relieved to see color, faded and muted as it was.  He ushered everyone in and quickly shut the door behind them before trying a light switch. It flickered twice before dimly glowing weakly, barely any better than the hallway light. With a small fzzt!, it went right back out.

“Great,” Henry grumbled. It took a bit of blind stumbling, but he managed to reach a tall lamp next to the couch and switched that on instead. The bedroom was cast a pale light, giving everything a pale bluish tint. “Gonna need to replace that.”

Alice and Boris blinked in the sudden light, Bendy preferring to just keep his face buried under Henry’s chin.

“Well, uh,” Henry said, eyebrows creasing as it seemed something very apparent dawned on him. He tried his best to smile, but only managed a wince and he half-heartedly motioned to the living room. “Here we are. Home sweet home.”

The light made it easier to take stock of just how messy the man’s apartment really was. A quintessential bachelor pad, with bare walls, sealed and opened boxes alike strewn everywhere, bookshelves decorated with everything from empty whiskey and beer bottles to unfinished model ships—and pretty much everything except for books. Dirty laundry littered the floor, waste bins sat overturned in the corner. The kitchen looked almost unused, save for the stacks of pots and pans stuck to the grimy stone tops, and piles of unread junk mail and bills sat on the kitchen counter, unsorted. The couch looked about as comfortable as a sack of potatoes, the green fabric a shade greyer than when it was first bought.  One of its legs was held up by an old phone book.

A thick, sturdy easel and stool sat out of place in the corner, next to a far window, unmistakable in spite of a tarp covered it. Stacks upon stacks of blank newspaper leaned against the corner behind it, book-ended by empty sketchbooks that looked hardly handled. A stray sheet of sketch paper poked out from under the tarp, the off-white paper marred with frustrated, uninspired scribbles of charcoal.

Henry was suddenly acutely aware of Alice and Boris’s stares. He coughed.

“Sorry about the mess,” said Henry, rubbing the back of his neck and looking down, “I don’t, uh, get guests all that often.”

“S’alright Henry,” said Boris, voice no longer tired. His ears had pulled back, eyes downcast as well. “We don’t mind it.”

“S’not like we got anywhere else to be,” Bendy mumbled, peaking up. “Even if it is a pig’s sty.”

“Bendy,” said Alice, sharply.

“Any port in a storm, huh?” Henry shrugged, smirking ruefully. “Alright, alright, everybody to bed. We can worry about this mess in the morning.”

He didn’t need to tell the Toons twice. Henry herded them into the next room, which was surprisingly less musty than the den. There were still more piles of boxes strewn about, sure, but the desk next to his bed was only slightly disheveled, and bed looked well made. Almost as if Henry never really slept in it… or used his bedroom at all.

He led Boris to one end and helped him strip the covers to climb in. Afterwards, he lifted Alice up onto the mattress. Up next was Bendy.

“Alright, short stuff, time to get down,” said Henry, leaning down for Bendy to easily fall onto the mattress. Which he did not. “C’mon, I need my arm back at some point.”

“Can’t here yah, I’m asleep,” said Bendy, pretending to snore, clinging all the tighter.

It took a couple of attempts, but he finally managed to pry Bendy free from his side, his arm practically all pins and needles from the tight hold the little demon had on him. In spite of the little devil’s petulance, Henry gently set him down next to Alice and gave his arm a slow pinwheel stretch. He ignored Bendy’s pointed, pouting glare, clearly not liking being rudely stripped from his warm perch. The fact that a draft ran along Henry’s apartment didn’t improve things much either.

“It’s cold,” said Bendy.

“I know. Sorry,” said Henry. He shouldn’t feel this guilty. “It’s all we got for now.”

The apartment was small, the circumstances messy, the bed a single, and tomorrow looked big and uncertain… but it was all Henry had on such short notice. He only got color back a day ago; he could worry about living conditions later.  

Tomorrow. He could worry about it tomorrow.

He motioned to tuck them in and—stopped himself when Bendy gave him a look.

Why had he moved to do that?

He rubbed his neck and stifled a yawn with his knuckles.

“I’ll be in the den if you need me,” he mumbled, suddenly feeling very foolish.

“You’re not staying here?” Alice asked. Boris looked surprised as well, but Bendy ignored all of them and crawled under the sheets, pointedly looking away from Henry. Something about that stung, just a little.

“Not enough room for all of us on there, Angel,” said Henry. The stinging didn’t go away. He’d gotten them all out, hadn’t he? He brushed it off. “But, uh, I’ll leave the door open. You can bug me for anything.”

Alice nodded, but she looked like she wanted to say something else. Henry waited… and she just followed Bendy, tucking herself between the demon and the wolf without another word. Boris gave Henry a little wave, but didn’t say much more before his head fell back on the pillows. Within seconds, he was snoring up a storm along with Bendy, Alice silently snoozing between them.

“Thing’s’ll be better in the morning,” he said, half heartedly. He wasn’t sure if he was talking more to them or himself. “Promise.”

The Toons said nothing.

Henry trudged to the couch, every inch of him feeling almost as heavy and war-beaten as when he returned to the States from the Front. As he turned off the lamplight, he only hoped sleep would come to him as easily as it had the Toons.

In spite of a million thoughts churned in his mind, clicking like giant cogs. The studio, Bendy, Boris, Alice, Sammy, Joey, their escape, the look on Bendy’s face and the strange ache it left in his gut. Or maybe he was just tired from all the running and the fear and the coffee. Henry pushed it all down, too tired to think, and fell face first onto the lumpy, familiar couch. His arm was left dangling over the side.

Sleep fell over him like a thick, lead curtain. Like a flood of inky black.

***

Henry awoke from a nightmare, and for a moment he thought he was still dreaming it.

He couldn’t remember much, except there had been whites and grays and something about sheep—or was it the 3 little pigs and the big bad wolf?— and a big, empty black void collapsing on top of him.  A faint whine broke through the void, someone’s whine—was it his? When his eyes snapped open, all he saw was black, and his heart wouldn’t stop pounding.

He was back. He was there. Back in the studio. Escaping had just been a wonderful, hopeful dream and he was still there he was going to die there and the Toons Were In Trouble—!

But when Henry bolted upright, he felt the familiar lump fabric of his couch, heard the familiar sound of taxi’s speeding by his building in the horrible early hours following midnight. He even welcomed the musty smell of newsprint and old beer. He wasn’t in the studio. He was safe.

And the Toons—

Henry leapt to his feet and bolted for his room in two easy strides. The door was open. And in the bed.

They were there. Safe and sound. Their silhouettes were easily recognizable, even in the faint moonlight and the faraway streetlamp light

Boris was leaning halfway out of the bed, tongue poking out and lolling to the side as he snored, his feet jutting out comically from under the covers over the end board. The blanket looks uncomfortable small on him. Alice was breathing deeply, her face twitching occasionally from deep REM, but otherwise looking peacefully saint-like. Her halo was crooked and looked dangerously close to falling on her face, disturbing her sleep. Bendy was silent, facing away from Alice and…

He softly whined.

Henry was at his side in a second. Had he woken Bendy up with his frantic flailing in the next room?

No, Bendy was still fast asleep, his face scrunched up tight, hands balling up the blanket and comforter in bunches, hogging it and pulling it away from Boris. A droplet of ink dribbled from his temple, staining the large pillow they shared.

Bendy was having a nightmare.

Without thinking, Henry reached for his pocket and pulled out a grey-stained handkerchief. Praying he didn’t startle the Toon awake, he gingerly mopped the loose ink from Bendy’s forehead. Bendy flinched away, curling tighter into himself. The little devil suddenly seemed very small.

Henry quietly shushed him and continued mopping up his clammy forehead, swiping it in long, gentle strokes. Slowly but surely, Bendy’s hands began to unclench, his brow starting to dry. His face refused to give an inch, his whines only becoming more anguished.

“….mmm…jo….ey?” Bendy breathed.

Henry’s chest seized. He lost his voice, but only for a moment.

“Nah… no, half pint,” said Henry, all the gruff and bite leaving it as he spoke softly to the little devil. “S’just me.”

A pause. Bendy shifted, shut eyes seeming to relax a fraction. “….old m’n?” he muttered.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s old grouchy me,” said Henry, wanting to laugh. “Everything’s fine. Go back to sleep.”

“…stay’ere th’s time… kay?” said Bendy. His face finally relaxed.

Henry stopped mopping.

All at once, Henry faintly remembered something very striking. Something very specific. When he was a young lad, he’d become sick with pneumonia, and despite all his aching and griping and being a pain, his mother had dropped everything— work, her book club, volunteering at the library— to sit at his bedside for almost a whole three-day weekend. It had almost made up for being sick while school was out. And while he was sick, she read him stories. Treasure Island and Huck Finn. He never remembered thanking her for it, but he did remember drawing James Hawkins fighting Captain Long John Silver. She’d tacked up his drawing on the fridge with a green magnet and never took it down. She smiled for weeks on end after getting that gift.

He thought about that memory— that old smile she had where the edges of her eyes crinkled at the edges, and her teeth shown and she wheezed out a quiet laugh.

Seeing Bendy go back to slumbering peacefully, he could only wonder… Had this been how she felt while he was growing up?

A tightness settled in Henry’s chest and a whole different ache fell over on him. It wasn’t an entirely new realization, one he’d been grappling with ever since Boris had shakily asked Henry if he really meant they’d all escape with the animator. Ever since he’d found Bendy blindly running from his own solemn doppleganger. Ever since He’d told Bendy that he was his own story’s protagonist.

He was responsible for these three now.

Now, that wasn’t to say that Henry was irresponsible. He was a hard working, a dependable man of routine, and could even come handy in a pinch. 

But this was different. This was new. This was terrifying.

He was an old, bitter man. No living family left to speak of. Well on his way over the hill. Never had a thought in his mind about marriage or kids of his own, often only keeping his focus on staying alive, both during and after the war. Hell, he never even thought he’d set foot near an animation desk again before heading off to see Gabriel’s pearly gates (if he was that lucky). And yet, here he was, with three cartoons dropped in his lap. Who probably wouldn’t be able to handle living in the real world yet. Who probably shouldn’t be sharing a tiny bed in the middle of a run down apartment on the ass-end of a filthy city.

What could an angry old man with a tiny apartment and hardly anything to his name do for them?

“mmm… h’nry?” Bendy whined. Henry snapped out of his quiet, rising panic, stifling a yelp.

“S-still here,” he managed, feeling his voice crack.

“good…” Bendy relaxed against the pillow, completely at ease. Completely trusting.

The tightness in Henry’s chest finally unfurled, and his eyes felt a slight sting. He covered his mouth to muffle a deep, shaky sigh. Bendy had complete and utter trust in him. Was that a good thing? Did Henry deserve it? In spite of all that had happened these past few days, he suddenly didn’t feel so sure.

But… this was his chance right? He was supposed to figure things out now, wasn’t he? He felt so unprepared, like he’d been thrown out in No Man’s Land all over again.

But then again… this wasn’t like the war. Or the studio. Things were on his turf. If anyone should’ve felt like fish out of water, it was the Toons. He was the one with the knowledge of how the real world worked, how colors looked and how real sunlight felt on your skin.

He had to be there for them. He was going to be there for them. 

They were all he had now. 

Feeling more tired than ever, Henry stood from his seat as quietly as he could. He quickly grabbed Alice’s halo, just before it could teeter another centimeter and drop onto her nose, and after giving it a quick polish with his handkerchief, he set it on top of the bedside lamp, perfectly centered. He set to work on the blankets, adjusting it to be spread out evenly between the three of them— he left Boris’s feet sticking out, finding the silly sleeping position suited the wolf— and tucked them all in. It wasn’t the best, rough around the edges, and the blanket was lopsided. But Bendy re-curled around, snoring softly and facing Alice. Her head lolled, and she in turn nestled comfortably atop Bendy’s horns. Boris snuffled and licked his snout before settling more deeply against the pillow. They all seemed to just… fit together. Like puzzle pieces.

Henry felt that unfurling feeling return, and he quickly wiped his face.

Despite being exhausted, he hardly felt like returning to the lump couch. He returned to Bendy’s side of the bed, and took a seat. He knew his neck and back were going to kill him tomorrow, but he could worry about that later. He had more important matters to worry about.

Like making sure the other three got the best-damned night’s sleep they ever got. He wasn’t about to let their first night in the real world be a sorry one.

Tomorrow was going to be the roughest day of his life, and yet, somehow, he couldn’t find it in him to mind it.

I AM ACTUALLY SITTING HERE WIPING TEARS FROM MY EYES, GIRL

THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.  I LOVE THIS.  I LOVE THIS SO, SO MUCH; YOU HAVE A LOVELY WRITING STYLE HOLY SMOKES.

The Marauders
  • Remus: The tingle in your fingers when you hold a hot mug, feeling warm sunlight on your eyelids when you close your eyes, the vanilla-like smell of old books, soft musky cologne, cuddling with a dog and burying your face in their fur, bruises that you don't remember getting, the bite of cold wind on your cheeks, snuggling up in a blanket on a cold day, looking after your friends, wearing woolly jumpers that are too big for you, falling asleep studying, being quiet so you can observe rather than ignore, surprising people when you speak up, being fiercely loyal to your friends
  • Sirius: Leather jackets on hot days, that one pair of boots that are practically moulded to your feet, bleeding and bruised knuckles, running until your lungs burn, resting bitch face, flirting your way out of anything, quotes about rebelling against authority, graffiti, having a short temper, the chill in your blood when a wolf howls, saying "fight me" a lot for someone who couldn't hurt a fly, Arctic Monkeys songs, using sarcasm as a defence mechanism, the burn in your throat from drinking whisky too fast, trying to find a place where you belong, nails bitten to stubs
  • James: Grass under your bare feet, scuffed knees, freckles, cheeky grins, being loyal to your friends, trying to remember certain events to tell your children, messy hair that will never stay still, losing your glasses, not thinking before acting, falling in love so hard it hurts, the smell of lilies on a summer's day, the sting of the wind on your face, the smell of treacle tart and broomstick polish, chapped lips, a crooked nose from it being broken, having friends that are more like your brothers and sisters