Cary hovered over the tablet, his hand shaking above it. The screen displayed the front page of Pottermore. But something was off... Gently, Cary extended his index finger to the tablet. When it touched the screen a bright flash of light exploded, causing Cary to jerk his hand back. When his vision cleared his eyes went straight to the tablet. Pottermore was still there, but rather than the standard welcome page, was the image of a book. Written on the cover with lightning bolts forming the stem of the “b” and the “f” was the phrase The Book of Fates. Cary took a deep, strong breath.
What is going on? Have I really lost it now? This can't be real. Maybe it's just some new thing JK has put on the website and Clearing found it?
As if in response to his thoughts a little bubble popped up next to the Book. It read “Touch here to read the Book of Fates!” Cary cast a glance behind him, nervous. He licked his lips. Then, slowly, he pressed his index finger on the bubble. The cover slashed open. Pages whirred by and a stream of light flooded up from it, so bright Cary's arms whipped back up to his head to block it. He yelped and stumbled backwards, hitting his butt hard on the floor, only slightly muffled by the carpeting. Footsteps shook the floor as Clearing came rushing in from the other room. Cary was halfway to his feet when the teacher hovered up.
“Cary? What is going on? What happened?” Clearing asked solicitously, bending over as much as his belly allowed. He helped Cary get the rest of the way to his feet. “Are you alright?”
“I. Um. Yes.” Cary said, as he strained to keep his eyes off the tablet. For the briefest moment he thought Clearing's eyes drifted in that direction, but he could not be certain. Once Cary was back on his feet, Clearing grabbed his shoulders lightly. “Try not to hurt yourself, Carver.”
Clearing rambled back out of the room.
Cary moved hesitantly towards the desk again, and the tablet. He was alright, though his butt hurt from the fall, but his mind was clear - fixated on the tablet, on the Book of Fates.
Is it some new Harry Potter novel? Or stories or something? Hadn't Clearing said Pottermore had new Harry Potter stories on it? Maybe this is all some silly fantasy in my head...
Even as he had these thoughts, Cary put his finger back on the tablet, which flared to life. It had stopped flipping itself and no longer shone with too-bright light. Cary started to call Clearing, tell him what he had seen but stopped.
Clearing will think I'm crazy. He won't believe me and he definitely won't let him come over or see the Book again. Not to mention the computers they were building.
No, Cary realized, I can't tell Clearing what I saw, not and the risk of losing the his kindness.
And still resonating through Cary's mind was his fervent wish, words rumbling across his brain.
“I want a REAL friend.”
Those words caromed off the edges insides his head, crashed into one another and amplified until they drowned out nearly every other thought. He was consumed by the wish he didn't hear Clearing return until the man shook him gently.
"Really, Cary? Are you OK?”
Cary sucked in a huge, first breath, jerked his hand away from the tablet. Came back to the moment. "Um. Yeah, sorry. I just fell over.”
Clearing looked suspiciously from the tablet to Cary and back again. "Fell over, huh. How did that happen?” Clearing asked, leaned over and saw what was on the tablet. “Pottermore again? There's all kinds of new stuff on there I hear. You're a big Harry Potter fan, right?”
“And I'm guessing you don't have access to the Net at your home?”
“Well. Feel free to use the tablet for a bit, OK? If you PROMISE to take care of it? It very...expensive.” Clearing said, though it had sounded for a moment as if he would say something else aside from “expensive”, but Cary could not parse what the word might have been.
“OK then, well, I'll come back and check on you shortly.” Clearing said, then he left.
Well at least the tablet isn't a figment of my imagination! Clearing definitely saw it!
Cary pulled the small chair up to the desk and leaned in over the tablet, his face inches above it. He had read magazines left behind at school about tablets, iPads and what not. Though he had never used one before this one. He found it intuitive enough. The tablet did not flash when Cary touched it this time, though Cary had silently wished it would not. Pottermore came up, just like before. And there it was, still, The Book Of Fates.
Cary pushed his finger against the screen and swiped it left. The Book's cover flapped open. Pottermore disappeared, the Book took up the whole of the tablet's screen.
“Cool!” Cary said.
But as he swiped through the first pages frustration mounted. Nothing but strange symbols, none of which he could read. Growing annoyed he swiped faster, harder, until pages flickered by. More and more unreadable symbols. Eventually, Cary was too bothered and wished the Book weren't there. I'd rather be looking at Pottermore.
He swiped right and the Book dwindled. There was Pottermore again. No idea what he was looking for, Cary clicked around the site, got sorted into Slytherin and assigned a screenname – IcarusDraconis1007.
“No way.” Cary said, but he did not stop surfing, to wonder. He tried to brew a potion, Cure For Boils, failed at it and gave up. He went to Diagon Alley several times. Bought a wand and an cat. He lost several duels in the Dueling Club. Cary was just about to try and go to the Forbidden Forest when a shadow crested over him from behind and he yelped..
“Well that's enough of THAT for today, don't you think?” Clearing mumbled. Cary took a relieved breath and stared at the carpet.
“I didn't scare you did I? Sorry about that. Come on then, Cary, let's get some work done, OK? Pottermore will be here next time, it's not going anywhere.” Cary looked up and saw Clearing's face had the strangest expression, it was almost greedy. The teacher licked his lips, then smiled, though it felt forced to Cary. “Do you think you can focus enough....?” Clearing asked. Cary wondered if the teacher was being mean, but he smiled, so Cary assumed not. He nodded up at Clearing. The pleasant warmth Cary had felt when he first started using the tablet had slowed and seeped out of him, from a spot just under his heart, like there was a fan there blowing the warmth towards the device. Cary sighed as the last of it flowed out, as Clearing stepped between Cary and the tablet. The connection was severed, Cary sighed, which brought another look from Clearing, indecipherable, they didn't speak again as Clearing led Cary back to the workroom and the repair bench. They worked in relative silence for the rest of the afternoon, Cary's hands mostly acted on their own, his mind constantly went back to the tablet, to the strange Book of Fates and to Cary's sincere wish. Would it come true? And what about the Book flipping itself? And those lights? The strange symbols? What did it all mean?
At one point the nasty voice in Cary's head came up.
It means you're crazysauce, is what it means! the voice said. Cary pushed it away. Much like the night before when he had read the Book the first time, when the symbols had somehow become legible, his mind was strangely clear, not crowded with a thousand conflicting, all but uncontrollable thoughts.
Maybe that's it? Maybe I just have to focus harder?
His mind drifted back to the Book and it sucked the air out of his usual, uncontrollable thoughts. However, he did think of other things, eventually. Like the fact Clearing didn't really need his help to build these computers. The man had clearly just been trying to be kind and find a way to give Cary something to make Cary happy. Cary did appreciate it, even if he didn't know how to say it properly, or show it.
An alternately warm feeling, this one not so good, of pure guilt rushed through Cary.
I sneaked into his house. Lied to his face. Rifled through the Book without permission.
That was no way to treat someone who had been as nice as Clearing had been. Cary could not imagine telling the teacher the truth, not and risk losing the brief kindness the teacher had shown him.
Or the Book. Or the computer. Or offering to let me use his tablet whenever I want!
Cary focused on the task at hand. He was learning, his mind able to focus, he absorbed everything Clearing said and taught him about building a computer, about the parts which went into it, what it each did and why. The day had slipped into dusk when Clearing leaned back, stretched his arms out wide and yawned. “Well, that's gonna be it for today, Cary. You should get on home before your family gets worried!” Clearing said.
Cary wanted to scoff.
Bird or Lana worry about me?
Either of them being worried about him was laughable. They could be angry at me or worried I would steal something, break or lose their things, burn their house down but worry? Never, not about my well being. Cary was sure of that, but couldn't and wouldn't tell Clearing any of that. The man wouldn't want to be friends anymore if he knew, Cary was sure of it. Just like he won't want to be friends with you when he realizes you're batshit crazy? Seeing Books that aren't real on Pottermore? Just like Jonathan....
“OK.” Cary said, yet again shoving the nasty voice aside. Clearing yawned and hustled Cary out of the house, wished him a pleasant evening before he shut the door behind him. Cary stood staring for a moment until a deadbolt clicked. Cary sighed and turned towards home.