The Scar: A Harry Potter Alternate Universe

Harry Potter has been part of my life for 17 years. Interesting how numbers can be important. A witch or wizard comes of age at 17.


And after 17 years of Harry Potter, yesterday I realized that my son is exactly the age Harry was when Lily and James died.


This got me thinking, once more, about all the things that scare me about parenthood, primarily, What would happen to my baby if something happened to me and Nic?  


I envisioned the scene at Godric’s Hollow. Voldemort walking through the broken Fidelius Charm and into the Potter’s home. I saw Lily pick up toddler Harry and race up the stairs as James tried to hold Voldemort off without his wand.

I grabbed my light-up holly and phoenix feather wand and carried it with me all day, even inside my oversized handbag while out shopping at the grocery store with C, even knowing it’s a kid’s toy, containing two aaa batteries, instead of being made of willow, or being good for charm work. Not exactly a match for a dark wizard’s unforgivable curses. It was a psychological security measure.


I thought about what would happen . . . like, even if a dark wizard didn’t show up, what if . . .


What if there really had been a car crash like Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had always told Harry that Lily and James had died in?


I thought about my sister, and how, thankfully, she’s about as unDursleyish as I am. Though she’s got two kids of her own, I know that she would do her best to take good care of my baby, raise him like her own, give him everything she could and make sure he knows he is deeply loved by his whole family.


So, what if that had been the case with Harry? What if his aunt and uncle had cared more?


What if Harry ‘s cool aunt & uncle had raised him on elaborate tales of magical heritage and a narrow escape from an evil dark wizard after his parents died . . . in a car crash.


The perfect opposite of what happened in the series. Harry as an ordinary boy whose loving aunt and uncle told him bedtime stories about a wizarding world to cheer him up as he grew up parentless?


I discussed this with my sister all afternoon.


If anything happens to me and Nic, Bettie and Oslowe know what to do.


And now, without further ado, my rewrite of an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


Chapter One. The Boy Who Lived.

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number 4 Privet Drive, were perfectly normal, if normal were a thing that actually existed. They were above average people who might be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they were fascinated by that sort of thing.

. . . Mrs. Potter was Mrs. Dursley’s sister, but they hadn’t met for several years, because the country was just too big and neither of them had the budget for regular visits.

. . . When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the bright, cloudless Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the blue sky outside to suggest that a profoundly personal tragedy would soon be gripping news readers all over the country.

. . .

Chapter Two.

Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had been woken by the police bringing their nephew up the front step, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all.

. . . Only the photographs on the mantlepiece really showed how much time had passed. Ten years ago, there had been lots of pictures of what looked like a large pink beach ball wearing different-coloured bobble hats – but Dudley Dursley was no longer a baby, and now the photographs showed a large, blond boy riding his first bicycle, beside his dark haired cousin, both grinning with matching ripped trouser knees from where they’d fallen one after another around the same corner as they learned how to ride. There was no sign that the second boy hadn’t always lived there.

Harry Potter was asleep at the moment, but not for long. His Aunt Petunia was awake and it was her voice which made the first sound of the day.

“Up, boys! Get up!”

Harry woke with a start. His aunt knocked on the door again.

“Come on, get up!”

Harry heard her walking down the stairs and towards the kitchen, and then the sound of the frying pan being put on the cooker. He rolled on to his back and tried to remember the dream he had been having. It had been a good one. There had been a huge fire engine in it. He had a funny feeling he’d had the same dream before.


. . . Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. . . He had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright-green eyes. He wore round glasses. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning. He had had it as long as he could remember and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had got it.

“In the attack by the dark wizard Voldemort when your parents were killed,” she had said. “I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions.” And she hugged him.





Rewritten from:
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 1997. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.




I’ve made mousse au chocolat, so if you’re feeling at all the way I am, come over and have some. Professor R.J. Lupin had it right, you know.

A Vision of Ourselves

Dear Husband,

By the time you come home

we have spent the day

refuting all the compliments

you now rain on us


We have spent half the morning trying to keep the baby out of the dog’s water bowl and the other half trying to find clothes that halfway fit because not everyone can make it through a pregnancy in fifteen pounds and our bodies are not ready for size four. We spend our energy fighting our fear and regret that we’ve done everything wrong and our horrific jealousy of our friends who seem to have gotten everything right.

Our tired eyes are glazed with the miracle that overfills our hearts and the bags beneath them are testament to our sleepless hours comforting our cold or hungry or frightened children until they fall happily back to sleep and we lay awake wondering if it will stick or if we should rouse ourselves to walk down the hall to the bathroom.

Unfinished artistry lays on the shelf where it goes untouched for days or weeks. Five minutes to sit and write is taken up with dead batteries and slow servers and a scramble to find a pen.

The living dream is everything we ever asked for. But it is everything else, too. And just because it’s perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.


After I pour the half and half into my reheated cup of coffee, I pass by the pack n play to make sure he’s breathing before I sit back down at the computer.

The dog, my beloved fluffy companion, is curled on the couch by the window, awaiting some attention which has been seriously lacking the past few months.

It is still very cold outside and snowed a bit yesterday. I’m wearing a heavy open fronted sweater over one of the two borrowed maternity shirts I wear almost every day. They gained favour by opening down the front enough to make feeding easy.

The baby wakes and reaches for the stars hanging over him in the play crib. He’s grown quite adept at aiming for them.

I think about the first time I saw him. I’d been looking at my husband as he held my hand. With a sense of confusion at the voices telling me to turn my head the other way, I did so, and there was this messy muddy baby covered in goo. I’d forgotten what the purpose of this stage of the crucible was. We’d been at the hospital so long that I’d forgotten why we’d gone there. I didn’t expect anything out of the experience except another step in the journey that had taken up nearly all of the three days following Christmas. After forty-three and half hours of contractions, the later of which were at an intensity that was literally off the chart, three hours of unsuccessful pushing, and the final decision that if he wasn’t able to come out on his own we’d have to go in and get him, it was hard for me to remember there was a bright side to it all. When the surgery was done, I’d go to the recovery room, then Nic and I would go home, just the two of us. Business as usual. I had completely forgotten that we had a very good chance of going home with somebody else. I’d forgotten we were there to get our baby. But there he was. Messy but alive.

A minute later they brought him, cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, to my husband while they stitched me up. At one point they laid him down next to my head. I couldn’t hold him yet. But I remember his eyes. The deepest, darkest blue I’d ever seen. With lashes thick and dark. And so, so beautiful.

Then they took him to the nursery and, after they were done closing the rift in my abdomen, wheeled me back upstairs to my room in the maternity ward.

At around 8:00pm they brought him to me. I’ll never forget that vision: Tiny angel in a Christmas Tree hat, swaddled tightly over a little kimono shirt and a Huggies diaper bearing Winnie the Pooh. His face glowed when he heard me speak to him. And then he was in my arms.

I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand. I was full of medications and anesthetics and completely worn out. My dream of keeping him in the room with me every night was dashed. He could have stayed, but I knew that as exhausted and delirious as I was it wouldn’t have been safe. So after he nursed for the first time and I held him for a while, he went away and I tried to sleep. I kept waking up. It was horrid being alone, in the darkness. Falling asleep after all those hours of pointless labor should have been easy. I kept waking. Occasionally a nurse would come in to check my vitals. Finally at around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning he came back. It was like in His Dark Materials when Pan had been too far away – that pang in my heart, almost painful, finally eased.

At some point, during one of his midnight visits to me, he was placed in my arms, the nurse left, and instead of feeding, he laid his head on top of my bosom and went so happily to sleep. One time I heard him crying all the way up the hall. Once he was in the room I called to him, and his face split into radiance and he stopped crying immediately. He knew me. He knew me!



A shower and a few diaper changes later, I sit eating two left over slices of pepperoni pizza and thinking about my postpartum body. The baby cries and I give him his lunch as well.

I gained about 55 lbs during our pregnancy, 20 more than the outer limit of what I was *supposed to* gain. I think of my friends who had at this point already lost more than they’d gained. I still have 19 lbs to go. I try to remember that some of those women were horribly sick their entire pregnancies and I was fortunate enough to have a relatively easy one. I try to remember that every body is different just as every pregnancy is different. I think of my cousins and friends who had easy, short labors, those who have two or three kids, and I wonder why I didn’t get to experience that. Two pregnancies, only one baby to show for it. A three week bleed with a ten hour laborious miscarriage at 11 weeks. A 43.5 hour labor, three hours of pushing, and still I needed a c-section to get my baby out. I think about this and remember: afterwards we were both safe; we were both healthy and, most importantly, Alive.

I look at this little milk-sotted face, sleeping against my breast, (he smiles in his sleep, his eyes slightly open), and I know that while I could never do it again, it was in some way All Worth It. I get jealous of friends who got healthy pregnancies on the first try. I think of those ten months of trying before we had a successful healthy low-risk pregnancy. The tests and exams and poking and prodding and fruitless perfect lab results leading to more questions and fewer answers. I remember the tears, the frustration, the agony, the guilt, the wondering – why couldn’t I succeed in this? And then I look again at this little face. He wrinkles it in his sleep and I wonder if in his dreams he remembers his harrowing journey to reach us. I kiss the wrinkles away and tell him it’s okay and that I’m right here.

Will I ever forget our trials? Probably not. I know with all my heart I could not be looking at This face if it had worked out any other way. I start to lower him into the pack n play to nap and he grasps at me. We sit back down together, his little head resting on Mommy’s Magical Dinner Pillows ™, these ridiculous breasts that finally have a purpose.

He turned two months on Sunday. My little sugar pea. Our sweet and perfect son. My whole magnificent world.

IMG_1861 (2)

Our little miracle. photo by Jenny Rader, brilliant and devoted nurse




And sometimes, just sometimes, after hardship and heartache, you get a miracle.

Expected January 2016

Expected January 2016

Year: 1

Year- 1

Wedding Day by Steve Badgley 1st Anniversary by Robin Jones Conklin

We’ve been friends for five years. We’ve been together for almost three years. Yesterday was our first Wedding Anniversary. It feels Sweet and Normal. Just how I think it’s supposed to be.


They say that the family of the 21st century is made up of friends rather than relatives.”

-Tim, Spaced

I believe this is very true, but I believe it’s a combination of both.

For all the friends, and a few special relations, who have come together, who have supported and loved me, regardless of blood, who have been there in person or from across the world, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear my troubles, worries, and joys, whose hearts have joined me in celebration.

Our friendships have shaped who I am as much as, if not more than, my heritage has done.

You are my family.

We have built my reality, my personality, my history, and my life. Together.

Thank you, from the center of my being.

Thank you friends and siblings. Thank you caring relatives and in-laws. Thank you, sweet husband. Thank you, dog. Thank you teachers and classmates. Thank you professors and directors. Thank you, internet friends, those who have reached out and helped me understand and face the hard times, and for sharing amusements that have made my days brighter.

Thank you to those who have traveled for me, and who have put me up when I needed a place to stay. Thanks for having my back, even if our views sometimes differ. Thanks for holding my hand when I am whiny, or distraught. Thank you for taking me shopping when I was broke, and holding together my pieces when I was broken.  Thanks for everything.

Thank you for being my family.

Because most of my blood relatives are pretentious assholes.

My oath to you:

(This was, for the most part, in fact meant to be my tribute to the female guests at our wedding, but through the works of our dj, who gave an inaccurate introduction to my speech introducing Oath, only one other guest understood it was for more than just my bridesmaids. So here, I dedicate this song to all of you. My girlfriends. My guy friends. My family.)


*I know the punctuation in this blog sucks today. I don’t really fucking care. Sorry.

A Letter

Dear Baby,


I’ve been thinking about the future and in a non-morbid more-of-a-practical way I’ve been thinking about things like my immanent demise. Not like, (good gods I hope not), tomorrow or anything, but as I’ve learned ever so deeply this year, things don’t always happen how or when we think they will.


You haven’t even been conceived yet, but I’m thinking a lot about you. You see, your father and I want to meet you desperately. It took a long time after our great disappointment this past year to get excited about trying to meet you. It is scary and hard to trust that we might or might not get the chance.


You see, your older brother was supposed to be born next week.


I say brother because I am certain that is what he would have been. Of course, we will never know for certain. And I say supposed to because if everything had gone as planned, he would have been.


But as I’ve said, things don’t always go according to plan, or expectation, or hope.


But we’re finally managing to stay positive that you might someday arrive, and hopefully, that day will be soon.


As I said, I’ve been thinking about the other side of things a bit this week. Like, your daddy and I should each write a Last Will and Testament. I’ve never thought about needing one. But now that I have a husband, it seems so much more important. And if you come to stay with us it will be more important still. And then I started thinking just now, what if something happened to me after you arrived and you never really got to know me personally. You would have stories from your dad, and your grandparents, and your aunts and uncles. You would have stories from our friends. And hopefully you would feel like you had known me even just a little.


So I decided to write you this letter, baby girl. This letter is so that you know a few more things about me that you’d probably hear from your dad and some other important people, but I want you to hear it from me, too.


Because I assumed you would be reading this after I was gone, I had at first written it in past tenses, though perhaps it would be more comforting, though potentially more confusing, in the present tense. It might be a little muddled, but I hope it is ok.


Dear Baby,

Mommy was a dancer. She loved modern dance and ballet. Sometimes she even did belly dancing and ballroom dancing (which she learned with Daddy before they got married). She loved her pointe shoes, but they hurt her feet a lot. Hopefully some of them will survive so that you can see them. But don’t put them on your feet, because you might get injured if you do so before your teacher says you are ready. If you ask Nana, that is why Mommy’s ankles always hurt her so much. When she went to college, Mommy danced an awful lot and got very good at it. She even taught other kids to dance after she graduated. She doesn’t think she did a very good job at this, but she loved helping those kids enjoy dance as much as she did. There are a few photographs of Mommy dancing, and if you can find a VHS player you can even watch a video of her. Movement was very important as a mode of expression, as an art form, and as her voice, when words would not suffice. Mum hopes you will find that joy as well, whether in dance, or another artform.


Mommy loved to make costumes. She loved to sew and to knit. She loved playing make-believe and she loved fairy stories. But really she liked to be practical too. Sometimes these things worked very well together.


Mommy hoped that you would love Harry Potter like she did and that you will always be brave even when you are really very scared. Mommy hopes you will read To Kill a Mockingbird so you can understand about courage from the words of Harper Lee and Atticus Finch.


Mom liked to cook and to bake. Well, she Loved it, really. But it took her a long time to find the confidence to do it. She was often afraid she was messing everything up but was particularly giddy when something turned out just right, because that made it seem like it was really beyond perfect.


And Mommy loved you more than all of it.


So, now, little baby that hasn’t even been conceived, I hope you know a couple important things about your mother now. I hope you will never have to read these things to know them. I hope you will know them from me personally. Because I want you to help me to sew pretty clothes for you. And I want you to help me measure the flour for biscuits. And I want you to dance with me and your daddy, and laugh, and read fairy tales, and be brave warriors. I want us to do all these things together. But in case we can’t, now you have this little letter, from me to you.


Love, Mum.


Fairy Tales. I love them. I love all forms of them. Books, movies, plays, ballets. I especially love new versions of them. Because the old ones sometimes leave something to be desired. Really, retellings of fairy tales are the closest thing to ‘fan-fiction’ I can stomach. I adore retellings.


“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” -Albert Einstein


I grew up on fairy tales. ‘Raised by them’ might even be accurate. From backyard reenactments of Rapunzel to kitchen dance routines with a straw broom pretending to be Cinderella, my childhood revolved around fairy stories.


As an adult, I have become embittered to a great many of these sugar coated tales but I still cling to what’s underneath: the potential for true love and self actualization. And I’ve come to appreciate more than anything, my proud role as Self-Rescuing Princess.


I dare say that most of us here probably grew up on fairy tales as told by Walt Disney and his successors. And many of us, now that we are actually grown up, have realized what a load of shit most of what we learned from them really was.


When you look at all the lies we’ve been fed, it’s really no wonder that we’ve had such fucked up relationships and relationship expectations.


True Love does not come to you as Instant Gratification.


I can’t know every situation, for you maybe it did come to you like that, but I can’t see how that is ever possible. True Love is something so deep that it takes time to come to life and even more time to recognize.


As our generations grow older, and we are the ones behind the camera, controlling the production of new work, penning new versions of old tales, it is no wonder that we have made strides in shifting our culture’s view and started producing tales from the opposite perspective. Because we have finally realized that the flowery, sugar coated stories about instantaneous love and always being happy, joyful, and kind, just don’t hold up when you’ve been faced with death, betrayal, heartbreak, abuse, manipulation, divorce, child loss, et cetera et cetera et cetera.


It is time to tell the story from a different view point. And Disney has finally risen to the call.


I am so thankful that Disney is finally recognizing the folly of glorifying Love-Without-Friendship, which often seems to coincide with Stalkery Love (we have Twilight and the like for that), or even Love of Riches (I can’t explain this one without sounding like an asshole, so I’m just going to leave it for you to think about).


“Nobody poor was ever called democratic for marrying somebody rich.” -Sabrina (1954)

Seriously, though, I don’t even want to be a princess! (It’s the Queen or Nothing, bitches!) I really don’t want to wear a formal dress for more than two hours at a time (despite how much I dote over pretty clothes, I’ve already mentioned how much I love yoga pants, and pants in general). I don’t want to deal with Politics. I don’t want to be watched 24 hours a day. And I don’t want a Prince Charming. I want my hardworking, caring, normal guy, who can laugh with me and makes me laugh more than I have ever laughed before in ways I never have, build a life With me within our means, play with legos, walk the dog, clean the toilet, complain about the horrendous bigotry and all the beauty we see in our daily lives, write silly or serious stories with, wear ripped jeans or stained shirts, leave off the makeup for a night, belch in front of, and never be afraid of being less than cartoon perfect.


Disney is beginning to see that a better example of Love is one in which relationships are based on friendship, trust, and long standing relationships where the people in them have had time to get to know the deepest secrets, greatest fears, and most magnificent strengths of each person involved.


I am so thankful for their shift in dynamic from Love with a Stranger to the amazing journey that is Love, and even the many different forms Love can take.


I am so thankful for Toy Story, Brave, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time, and even Frozen (which I actually hated, but I’ll explain that later).


Maybe it’s thanks to their relationship with Pixar that Disney is finally changing their representation of Love and How People Find it. It’s rarely handed to us freely. There is almost always a struggle. And there is almost always a little heartbreak thrown in (sometimes a lot). Sometimes that’s the catalyst that makes us finally act, express our feelings, fight for what we want, or which leads us to a new and better path.


Now as The Disney Generations are becoming The Adults, we are, you might say, taking revenge upon those that lied to us. We are becoming the Fairy Tale Villains and telling the world how things really happen. And it is beautiful.


My director, John Fagan, of the Upstate Shakespeare Festival in Greenville, SC, once told us, during a rehearsal of King John (2003),


“Villains are never completely evil. They have Reasons for being evil.”


As a writer, I’m finding it a challenge to write villainous characters without them reading as flat – cardboard cutouts and stereotypical evil-doers. No backstory, just a lifetime of tying damsels to railroad tracks and over taxing the poor to build their seventeenth mansion.


Remembering that the Villain is also a person, has their own story, and probably has a reason for what they are doing is a very important thing. Both as motive for your character, and to make the story believable and full.


Look at Maleficent. Look at Regina and, to a lesser extent, Zelena. Look at Mor’du.


I won’t include all my thoughts on Maleficent, which I attended last night, because I want you to go to it Fresh. I will say these two things, though.


1. The movie and Story are Sheer Beauty

2. Heartbreak Changes People.


“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” -Neil Gaiman

Or as someone once responded, Befriended.

Six Months

Six months ago, today, we got married.

DSC03434 (2) (800x676) (photo by Steve Badgley, edited by moi)

I prefer celebrating the day that Nic and I became a couple, but I’m really glad we’re married now, so celebrating a half-year-wedding anniversary might be silly, but as I like celebrating things, and our relationship is something I really really like celebrating, Happy Half Year to Us!

People ask how we like married life. A lot of them seem to assume something has dramatically changed by us getting married. I think that’s pretty funny. We’ve been together officially since November 2011. Our relationship has grown and deepened ever since we met, back in July 2009. So by us getting married, I’d say, the only thing that’s changed is that our relationship has gone into a supreme level of fantasticness and officialness. O, and I now have a new last name. That’s pretty much it. That’s marriage right there. The ultimate edition of what beautiful life we already had. And it just keeps getting prettier.

Happy Demi-Anniversary to Us!

Paper Sanctuary

I’m going to tell you something incredibly selfish about myself.

I sometimes want to hoard books. 

(As in, I just want to hide books away so they can be only mine. Not, like, “I want to live in a house where I can’t walk for all the piles of books everywhere” . . . . wait, this was supposed to be a bad thing. Hang on . . . . )

Here are some reasons.

1.) I don’t like to lend out books, because they usually come back tattered with stains on them, if they come back at all. I love my books, so this upsets me. I’d rather everyone went and got their own copy. There might not be a large book store in town, but we do have a library! And is only a browser page away.

2.) I sometimes don’t like talking about books. I mean, I could talk at length about the books that I love the most. And often do. The worlds in which they take place sometimes become my very own personal world. And sometimes I find a kindred spirit with whom I can share the deepest secrets of that world. At others, I find someone who steals it from me. The trouble is that when I share a book I love, I share a piece of my heart and soul, whether the other person knows it or not. Sometimes sharing that book leaves me feeling a bit used. Because perhaps the other person does not understand the book. Because perhaps that other person loves the book so much that they usurp the position of Greatest Lover of [Enter Beloved Title Here] Ever leaving my adoration for it inadequate. And I feel like that secret world – my refuge – has been stolen from me. When they invade, that book world can no longer be a sanctuary.

3.) I’ve heard people to whom I’ve recommended favourite books refer to them by The Wrong Title, repeatedly, – consistently, even -, even when they’ve read and raved about them. And I feel I ought to be amused, but it really bothers me. I can only assume they did not understand a word of the book. And then I worry that perhaps I missed something, and I am the one who does not understand it. 

4.) It is difficult when a sequel comes out. Because I am a slow reader. And sometimes I am in the middle of a different book or am simply not in the right mindset to read the sequel. And sometimes it is very hard to not hear about the new book. And sometimes well meaning people tell me they won’t say a word about it, EXCEPT > > > > > > [Enter Disappointing Section Here]. Even if all they say is that the flow was off, or the end was unfinished, I am crushed and feel like the book has been stolen from me before I’ve even gotten my hands on it. Because those little tidbits tell me more than I wanted to know. Because I wanted to come to that book fresh. And I’m no longer allowed to do that. 


So, sometimes I will speak very very freely about a book I love. And sometimes, I might not say a word about it. Which makes me sad. Because I simultaneously want to proclaim my adoration from the treetops. 

Also, I’d be over the moon with joy if Barnes & Noble opened a store in Jamestown, NY. OVER THE FREAKING MOON. Also, also, you’d only see me ever again if you came to the bookstore to find me: hiding in the shelves or eating scones and drinking tea in the cafe with my nose stuffed into the latest Mieville, Riggs, or Nix.

And this is my kind of lame ending to the story. I love books. And am bad at sharing.


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