RP: A package arrives Who: Daani Johal, others TBC What: An escalation of behaviour When: 30th July 2028 Where: Mostly Daani's cottage in Saltdean Warnings: The end takes a Stalker twist that scares Daani. Completion Status: Ongoing
7 am, 13 Hours Before
The last few weeks of preparation before the Quidditch World Cup were busy all around the ICW, which had meant a lot of time Daani was coming home mentally exhausted and putting off most of her tasks for the weekends. She was still a woman who enjoyed a level of routine, even on her days off and she woke at the same hour as usual. The only difference was she allowed herself some time to laze in bed reading and checking winstagram on her phone for a bit rather than jumping right into her day.
When she got up she went through her usual routine and rolled a dice. It was a newer addition to the routine, but it was a concession to Riz’s tips to make her a little safer from whoever was obsessed with her. She had taken a bit of convincing, but the bangles that she had received for her birthday were enough of a worry that she had put some things in place. It meant the location of her daily swim changed regularly, and the book of UK wild and outdoor swimming spots that her brother had gifted her was coming in far handier than either of them had expected.
She had been hoping for somewhere close by, but it had thrown up an outdoor pool in Cheshire. On the upside it was heated, which was a fun change to the chilly sea temperatures she had got used to even in summer. On the downside she actually enjoyed the cool water now and would probably miss it, plus the sea was a free swim. Pulling her wetsuit out of her swim bag she made quick work of tea and a snack before apparating to the new location.
9am, 10 Hours Before
After swimming there had been breakfast and the all important chai which had been followed by a surprise call from one of her cousins in India who was working late but wanting to talk about her upcoming trip. So many of her family had taken to contacting her to encourage her to plan all sorts of different activities. Or even meeting new people (mostly attractive men, which made her roll her eyes). Or suggesting shops she would enjoy. It had been a fun conversation kept thankfully short by the length of Sundarveer’s break.
She kept up the tradition of doing a lot of her food prep for the week and after a quick trip to one of the good asian supermarkets she knew in London and a nearby market for fresh fruit and veg she was soon back in Saltdean cooking up a storm. She did usually cook up something fresh every day to add to her weekly prep, but it was easy to cook up a big batch of daal and some other essentials that wouldn’t suffer too much from reheating but would take longer than she wanted to spend messing around with on the average evening. She danced and sang along to the radio as she worked, sometimes stopping conducting her wand doing the chopping to spin. She was streaming a show from India that included western music too, so she didn’t know what language she’d be singing from one minute to the next. Not that anyone listening would be impressed regardless, she knew her singing voice wasn’t great. Especially when she tried to sing along to languages she didn’t actually speak.
By the time lunch rolled around she had plenty of food to eat fresh, and a few of the sweets she’d picked up to indulge in.
1pm, 6 hours before
After lunch and some nifty magic to pack away her prepped food there was more cooking, only this time in a much bigger kitchen.
It had been a few weeks since she had visited the temple her family frequented, and as much as she was happy practicing her faith at home for the most part, giving back to the community was much easier at the temple. As she arrived she followed the equally barefoot crowd and spent a little time listening to the Guru Granth Sahib being read aloud and praying before putting her shoes back on (one of the few places in the Gurdwara where it was permitted), and going to the kitchens. Most of the faces were familiar to her and the conversations were happening in any number of different languages. She greeted the group of mostly female worshippers and was quickly put to work chopping veg and rolling chapati. It was far more time consuming to do it by hand since she usually used her wand for the chopping, but she was competent enough. It was a pleasant few hours of chatter and laughter, which rounded out with serving a meal to everyone in the temple. It was a little early for her to eat, but she shared langar with thanks.
5pm, 2 hours before
A different group of volunteers had rolled in to clean up the items which hadn’t been cleaned up during the cooking process. She had tucked her sandals back on and tucked herself into a safe apparition point, appearing in one of the tiny back alleys in the muggle shopping area around Oxford and Regent Street.
She enjoyed sporadic looking through the home decor sections of various department stores, and taking pictures of items to try and find similar ones for cheaper, debating if she really needed the little knick knacks and doodads. She kept feeling the presence of assistants who hovered despite her brushing off their offers of help. She had a nasty feeling that her presence as a single asian woman in a relatively simple sari wasn’t doing her any favours and after this happened in two different department stores and an antique shop she sighed and found herself a spot to apparate to more familiar territory.
30 minutes before
She hadn’t planned to drop into Diagon Alley or Victory Road so she didn’t have the scrap she’d been writing random notes for items to pick up with her. But she did poke around in Bazaar’s Curiosities for five seconds before remembering who it belonged to and hurrying out and across to the much safer harbour of The Creative Collection. There were several items she almost bought, but then a flower-bedecked brooch reminded her of the small gifts that had still been making an irregular appearance at her desk and she left in a hurry. Feeling like she wanted to do something positive for herself she hurried along several shops and ducked into Sapphire Springs, booking herself some grooming treatments for just before she headed away for the World Cup. It would give her something to look forward to amongst all of the stress of the prep.
5 minutes before
She came home via the public Floo at the Leaky Cauldron and immediately headed for the kitchen to make herself some chai. She replied to a few messages from her family group chat about friends from the Gurdwara. She jabbed her wand impatiently at the heating milk and abandoned her phone on the counter as she had to jump up and stop it from boiling over.
“Serves me right for rushing the process,” she muttered to herself. Magic definitely made the tea faster, but scalding the milk would only ruin the flavour.
2 minutes before
Deciding it was time to get back into lounging clothes she left the chai steeping and was heading for her bedroom when she spotted an unfamiliar package on one of the window seats.
“Was that there before?” she asked herself aloud, pulling her wand out and glancing around to see if anything else was out of place. She certainly hadn’t spotted it as she’d emerged from the floo a few minutes earlier, but she hadn’t so much as glanced in that direction. Her handbag was dropped on the sofa in the centre of the room, although she’d done it by rote, and without looking.
Nothing else seemed out of place that she could immediately see and cautiously she approached.
1 minute before
With a quiet wingardium leviosa she lifted the package into the air, not wanting to touch it. It was neatly wrapped, bore a tag, and upon a quick twist of her wand to show the back proved to have no other identifying features.
Floating the item back down she used a simple manipulation charm to flip over the tag. It was her name. Which was normal enough given that it had appeared in her home. But her stomach dropped as she recognised the font familiar to her from a mass of small gifts left at her desk at work.
Zero A few seconds after the tag was flipped the wrapping began to unwrap itself, apparently responding to the trigger and Daani stepped back in alarm.
Nothing more sinister happened.
If you didn’t count the revelation of the painting as sinister.
Plus 5 seconds The silence in the cottage was almost deafening to Daani. She was frozen, one hand gripping her wand, and her mouth slightly open in shock. If she had thought about it she would have recognised her pulse just starting to throb in her ears as adrenaline started to pump.
That it was a portrait of her was more than obvious to everyone. An alert part of her mind had even noted that it was quite a good portrait.Another part chimed in to be glad that it wasn’t an animated portrait. However, these observations were barely registering on her consciousness and would only be truly notable in retrospect.
The thing that was front and centre in Daani’s mind was the fear that the image instilled. She was immediately very scared and it took her several long seconds to realise why there was a leaden weight in her stomach.
The painting was clearly painted from a perspective inside her home. Not an angle that could be that could be captured through a window, although that would have been worrying enough. Not a photograph of herself she had ever seen.
Plus 1 minute
Someone had been in her home.
Someone had a camera in her home taking photos or video. They must have.
She started to look around, trying to work out where the camera might be hidden. It wasn’t a few seconds before abandoned that thought in sheer terror. Instead just backing across the room until her heel hit the table between the bathroom door and the short hall to her bedroom.
She jumped into the air. The combination of the pain and the surprise, drawing a little squeak of surprise from her, as she spun around, wand held aloft once more. All she could see was the wall and the open doorway next to it.
Her eyes weren’t still for long, unable to keep from darting around in a far more real variation of the long-ago DADA lessons and duelling practice. It had never felt like this.
Plus 3 minutes
She sucked in a deep breath, not looking over at the painting as she turned. Even though she could feel its presence boring a hole into the side of her skull.
She was terrified, tense, and needed to get out of here because she didn’t feel safe.
As soon as the thought fired through her mind she had something to focus on and it helped calm at least part of her mind. Underneath it she was still a gibbering mess, but she worked in a high stress situation and she could draw herself together if she needed to. She drew herself out of the fighting stance of a dropped centre of gravity that she had unknowingly settled into and put on her most passive translator’s face.
Smoothing down the front of her sari skirt she marched back into the kitchen and efficiently set to work. She removed the chai from the flame, poured the almost ready liquid down the sink, extinguished the light, and produced water to wash the pot. She picked up her phone, tucked it into her armpit and set the few dirty dishes from chai and lunch to washing with a spell.
Next she headed for her bedroom, back ramrod straight. She summoned her handbag on the way past, stuffing the quickly stowed phone into it. She ignored the scream building at the back of her mind. She could scream and wail once she was safely out of here.
In her bedroom she grabbed an overnight bag and set it on the bed. Quickly she opened drawers and wardrobes and tossed some essential changes of clothes onto the bed. She nearly ran to the bathroom as the clock that seemed to be running in her head ticked ever closer to an imaginary zero hour. She grabbed essential toiletries in a slightly haphazard fashion. She would only later realise that she had included toothpaste and a towel, items that anywhere she was likely to go would probably be able to provide, but missed her favourite moisturiser and a hairbrush.
She stopped by the little desk in the corner of the living room, pressing her wand to the lock which opened her emergency drawer. She scooped out the folder her essentials were always filed in thanks to growing up with parents who had lived in a country with monsoons as children, and headed back for the bedroom.
Dumping the new acquisitions on the bed she muttered the packing spell she had long known and everything started to flurry itself into the bag she had laid out. It was the messiest job she had done in years and she didn’t care in the slightest. Her awareness was of the slimy, greasy feeling that her home had been invaded and the symbol of that invasion was sitting on a chair in her living room looking towards her with the image of her own face.
Plus 6 minutes
Grasping both handbag and overnight bag Daani Kaur Johal swept back into the living room, as she slid her handbag over her shoulder. She was starting to fall apart again now her ability to hold onto the calm through a sense of purpose was beginning to wear out.
She looked around the space which she had built as a safe haven after her heart was broken and knew that she would never feel safe here again. Not that she knew it, but it was possible that she would not visit this house again without an additional person protecting her ever again.
She looked at the painting once again, sitting on a chair in front of the view of the sea that she loved, and her hands started to shake.
She needed to go.
Something pinged in her increasingly scattered brain and she dug out her phone, one handed and aimed it at the painting. The picture was a little blurry, but it captured the scene well enough.
With her phone away once more she pulled together every last frayed nerve and concentrated as she stepped forwards, twisting as she went.
She appeared in the back garden of the cottage that Daani knew Celestina now shared with Liam, not registering the louder than usual bang of her apparition.
It hadn’t been that long since she had been here sharing food and news with her friend. Reassuring her that the gifts weren’t a problem. How wrong had she been?
She stumbled her way forwards and knocked sharply on the back door. When two seconds produced no response she knocked again, knuckles smarting from how hard and fast she was knocking.
“Tina, Tina please?,” she called out as she started to shake, leaning slightly into the door.