Disclaimer: I do not own the
characters created by J.K. Rowling, nor am I making any money off of her
wonderful creations. It’s her universe;
I’m just visiting. All original characters
are of my own invention and may not be used without permission of the author.
A/N: Thank you to the women in
workshop for their comments and advice.
The title of this chapter comes from the Sarah McLachlan song Trust.
A/N: This chapter is dedicated
to mdelaur for being such a committed reader and for helping me get my
butt in gear to finish this story. We
could have really used her during the “three year summer”! Thank you to everyone who has taken the time
to read and review.
I Lay my Trust in Others,
Where it Lies the Ground is Thin
For the rest of the week Max
didn’t say anything about the mystery voice on his answerphone—and Rosmerta
didn’t ask. It was easy to let the
matter slide when they only saw each other a few hours in the evening and
Rosmerta could barely muster the energy to kick off her shoes and change, let
alone start a line of questioning she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the
answers to. She had a feeling that
those people who insisted on a hundred percent honesty in a relationship had
found an even better form of torture than the Cruciatus Curse.
Still, Rosmerta knew the odor of
guilt; the way someone smelled when lies leaked out through their skin,
covering a person in thin sheen of eau de deception. Max smelled the way he always did, of fresh
air, soap, cloves, and a touch of sweat, but there was an air hovering about
him that was the slightest bit off, like a bottle of milk left out too long and
beginning to sour.
Rosmerta couldn’t dwell on the
matter for any sufficient length of time thanks to her usual grueling schedule
at the Three Broomsticks. True, there
was no Tri-Wizard Tournament keeping her hopping, but Rosmerta was amazed at
how much time she had to put in to the tavern just to keep it functioning. And the late nights were killing her.
Saturday night was one such night. At half past eight a party of several
members of the Hogwarts staff came through the door of the tavern consisting of
Madam Pomfrey, Ivy Sprout, Izzy Vector and a short, squat woman who looked
vaguely familiar. A tight-lipped
Minerva McGonagall led the group of women to a table in the corner.
That was odd, Rosmerta
observed. Other than Hagrid, who,
Rosmerta thought with a frown, was still missing, the professors normally
didn’t come to the tavern during the semester unless it was for a special occasion
or if it was right before holiday.
Whatever the reason for them being there that night, Rosmerta was
certain of one thing: Never had there been a person more in need of a drink
than Minerva McGonagall.
“Evening, ladies,” Rosmerta
said, coming over to their table. “Term
off to a rough start?” She smiled at
them but was met with grimaces.
“Oh no,” the squat woman said in
a high-pitched, fluttery voice. She
giggled and out of the corner of her eye Rosmerta saw Professor McGonagall
close her eyes as if taking a moment to offer up a silent plea to a higher
“I thought a little girls night
out would be a wonderful way to get to know my fellow professors! Although,” the squat woman said with a long,
drawn out sigh. “I have had to supervise detention all week, so
it is lovely to finally have a night off.”
Her mouth stretched into a huge grin but her eyes darted to Professor
McGonagall before focusing again on Rosmerta.
Professor McGonagall’s already
thin lips seemed to disappear and behind her spectacles Rosmerta could see her
left eye twitching. Izzy Vector made a
face and slumped down in her seat like a child being punished at the dinner
table. Madam Pomfrey and Professor
Sprout exchanged raised eyebrows.
“So you’re the new defense professor?”
“Yes. I’m Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the
Minister of Magic and soon to be announced High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. And you are…?” She looked at Rosmerta with a slightly amused expression.
Rosmerta watched as the other
professors exchanged confused, worried looks.
They appeared to want to ask questions, but were holding back. “I’m Madam Rosmerta. I own the Broomsticks now.”
“Oh. I remember there was this sweet elderly couple who used to own
this place when I was a student at Hogwarts.
Such charming people. Whatever
happened to them?”
“Well, the Pucks have been
retired for a long time now. Did you
say you were High Inquisitor of Hogwarts?”
Professor Umbridge nodded with a smug grin on her face. “Why on earth would Hogwarts need a High
Inquisitor? They have Albus
Dumbledore.” Rosmerta looked around the table and apparently the professors
shared the same opinion, although they seemed reluctant to voice it aloud.
“Well, Cornelius, I mean…the Minister,”
Professor Umbridge gave a false, fluttery giggle, “decided that there needed to
be some standards at Hogwarts. What
with all that’s happened there these past few years—and the death of that poor
boy at the Tournament—it was high time for an independent evaluation. The Ministry, as do I, feels it is in the
best interest of the children, present and future, that a full inspection be
made. The official legislation should
be passed tomorrow night. I expect
there’ll be a full write-up in Monday’s edition of the Daily Prophet,”
she said, as if that settled the matter.
“I don’t read the Prophet anymore,”
Rosmerta said, turning up her nose.
“The quality of it has gone completely down hill these past few
months. And I thought You-Know-Who was
the one who killed Cedric Diggory. If
you want my opinion, the Ministry ought to spend its time investigating that.”
Professor Umbridge gritted her
rather square teeth and tried to smile, but she wasn’t very good at hiding her
annoyance. “Well, we didn’t ask for
your opinion,” she said in that same high-pitched, sickeningly sweet tone. “Those who don’t know any better really
shouldn’t listen to rumor mongering.
And I think the Ministry knows what’s it’s doing in regards to
educational reform. When it needs an
opinion on Butterbeer standards, you’ll be the first to know.”
Rosmerta thought the top of her
head was going to explode. Before she
could hex that little worm that passed for a human, Professor McGonagall
cleared her throat. “Yes, well…Rosmerta
about those drinks. I’ll have a small
“A small sherry,” Madam Pomfrey
chimed in. Ivy Sprout nodded to
indicate the same for her.
“Goblin gin and tonic for me,”
Professor Vector said. “Small,” she
hastened to add.
“Oooh, let’s see,” Professor
Umbridge stalled. Rosmerta waited one
hand on her hip, quill poised over her pad of parchment while Professor
Umbridge took her time deliberating.
“I’ll have a large Fairy Fizz, extra cherries and pineapples. And does anyone want any snacks?” She looked around the table.
“I’m quite full from dinner,”
Professor McGonagall replied. The
others nodded in agreement.
“And I can’t be away from the
infirmary for too long,” Madam Pomfrey added.
“Now, now ladies,” Professor
Umbridge wagged her finger at the group. “This is our night out.
We’ll see a menu,” she instructed Rosmerta.
Rosmerta nodded and headed
toward the bar, fuming. A few minutes
later she returned with the drinks and several menus. She turned to attend to other patrons, but Professor Umbridge made
her stand at attention while she perused the menu and then spent time deciding
whether to order a strawberry tart or a toffee trifle. Rosmerta bit back a comment that from the
looks of things, Professor Umbridge could do without either one. She caught Professor McGonagall’s eye and it
seemed as if she was thinking the same thing.
In the end, Professor Umbridge went with both and requested extra forks,
“So everyone can share,” she said as if offering a great treat to the
table. Rosmerta thought this was a
waste since it was highly doubtful that any of the faculty would eat from the
same plate as her.
Rosmerta kept an eye on the
group while she worked off her anger, making her laps around the tavern,
collecting empty tankards and replacing them with full ones. Sometimes, she sighed to herself as
she levitated a tray of glasses while setting down a plate of chips, I can
really sympathize with that Sisyphus fellow—except Sisyphus didn’t have a bunch
of warlocks trying to give his bum a squeeze while he was rolling that boulder
up the hill.
When she saw Professor
McGonagall place her empty glass on the table and excuse herself, Rosmerta
intercepted her while she was putting on her cloak.
“Excuse me, Professor—”
Professor McGonagall shook her
head. “I apologize for Professor
Umbridge’s behavior. It was dreadful of
her to speak to you like that.”
“Oh,” Rosmerta waved aside the
comment to show that no harm had been done.
“I was going to ask about Hagrid.
Will he be back soon? The first
week of the term is already over. I
know I asked you about him last week, but I thought he might be back by now.”
Professor McGonagall pressed her
lips together, her brow furrowed slightly.
She did the buttons up on her cloak, stalling for time. When she slipped the last button through its
loop, she fixed her sharp black eyes on Rosmerta.
“Hagrid is still delayed,
Rosmerta. I don’t know when he will
return. Have people been talking about
his absence?” She narrowed her eyes at Rosmerta.
Rosmerta had a sudden flash of
profound admiration for the Weasley twins; anyone who could get up to as much
mischief as they did under the eye of someone like Professor McGonagall
deserved a modicum of respect. Sweat
was prickling Rosmerta’s armpits under Professor McGonagall’s gaze, even though
Rosmerta knew on some level that there wasn’t anything Professor McGonagall
could do to her.
“No, no one’s said anything
about Hagrid not being around. They
know he’s a professor, so they assume he’s likely to be busy at the start of
term. It’s just that I’m taking care of
Fang and…well, I don’t mind looking after Fang but I haven’t heard anything
from Hagrid since the beginning of the summer.
You’d think he’d at least send an owl and tell me that he needs to
extend his visit. It’s not like Hagrid
and I’m starting to get worried.”
“Well,” Professor McGonagall
said, looking mollified with Rosmerta’s answer. “I’m sure we would have heard if there was anything to worry
about. If Fang is becoming a burden,
I’m sure we could find someone on staff to look after him. I believe Filius is fond of dogs.”
Rosmerta tried to picture tiny
Professor Flitwick taking Fang for a walk and a smile broke out on her
face. “That’s all right,
Professor. Max and I love having Fang
around. I just miss Hagrid. I suppose this means he and Madam Maxime are
getting along splendidly.”
A thin smile graced Professor
McGonagall’s lips. “I suppose so. Good night, Rosmerta.”
“Good night, Professor. And,” Rosmerta glanced over at Professor
Umbridge, “take care,” she added in a low voice.
A grim look came over Professor
McGonagall’s face. She nodded and then
disappeared into the cool September night.
“I’m working late tonight,” Max
said to Rosmerta’s bedroom mirror that Monday morning as he buttoned his shirt.
“You’re working today?” Rosmerta
hoisted herself upon her elbows, struggling against the pillows. She glanced over at him from the bed where
she had been half dozing.
“But you’ve stopped working
Mondays; it’s our only day off together.” Rosmerta rubbed her hands over her
eyes, trying to wake up. Max looked
particularly nice today and that sent a stab of worry through her heart.
“You didn’t say anything last
night about working today. I thought we
could go on a hike, enjoy the last of the warm weather. I brought some of the left over roast beef
home to make sandwiches…we could have ourselves a nice little picnic.” She hugged her knees to her chest, clasping
her hands around the comforter covering her lower half.
“I’m sorry, Ros. We’re just incredibly swamped.”
“Yes. We want to get the new line out in time for Halloween.”
“That’s almost a whole two
“True,” Max replied, looping the
ends of his tie one around the other, forming it into a knot.
“But if the Fantastical Beast
Brews are successful, we might be able to pay off our loan to Gringotts by the
beginning of the year. And since the
deal with the Kestrel’s stadium fell through, we’ve had to make it up another
“I’m sorry,” Rosmerta said in a
quiet voice. She knew she was to blame
for the Kestrel deal not going through.
It had been a disaster last June; everything had come out about her past
and it had caused quite the scene.
“It’s not your fault,” Max said
over his shoulder as if he could read her thoughts. “Our profit margin wouldn’t have been that great with them
anyway. We need to work on attracting a
big client. We have that restaurant
chain in the States lined up but we’re still waiting for the importing license
to go through.”
“But you are doing well. So you pay off your loan a few months later
than planned. Why the rush?”
“Yes, but the sooner we pay it
off, the sooner things will change for us.
And for the better. I won’t have
to travel so much, we can hire more employees.
The Dragon’s Breath line keeps us up and running but the new line will
be the warts on the toad. It’s all part
of my master plan. You know all this;
we’ve talked about it several times.”
He checked his appearance one last time in the mirror before turning to
“Off you go, handsome!” the
Rosmerta glared at the
mirror. Ever since Max came along, her
mirror’s compliments to her had begun dwindling and now it didn’t give her more
than a perfunctionary, “You look fine, dear.
Step aside.” Worse was that
lately her mirror had taken to voicing vaguely insulting remarks, such as, “You
don’t look nearly so tired after you put on a little eye makeup,” or “Blue
really is your color; it makes you look young!” Meanwhile it practically recited epic poetry in honor of Max’s
I cannot possibly be jealous
of a mirror, Rosmerta told herself.
That’s ridiculous. It’s
probably grown bored after staring at me for so long. Perhaps she should move that one to a
different location. Like the rubbish
“Don’t sulk,” Max cajoled,
coming over to the side of the bed. He
sat down and moved a lock of hair behind her ear. He thumb trailed down her cheek and he ran it lightly over her
lips. “Your mouth is too pretty to be
all frowny like that.” He leaned in for
“It’s my mouth. I’ll frown and sulk all I want to,” Rosmerta
said in a rather petulant manner before consenting to a kiss. She had glimpsed Max’s wrist. He was wearing the cufflinks she had given
him for his birthday last May. Maybe he
really did have to work late.
“Still,” she said when they
broke apart, “it’s a wrench the both of us having to work so much.”
“Hazard of getting involved with
a Slytherin,” Max gave her a crooked grin.
“You know, I bet you would have been a Slytherin if you’d gone to
Hogwarts,” he said, surveying her.
“Ha. Right now my only ambition is to get another hour of sleep.” She slumped back against the pillows.
“All right, maybe a Hufflepuff
then. You’re hard-working, loyal—”
“If you’re calling me a duffer,
I’m going back to bed.” Rosmerta tugged at the bedspread.
“You really aren’t a morning
person.” Max tickled her ribs.
“No, I’m not,” Rosmerta
half-heartedly tussled with him until she was smiling, if not exactly
laughing. If it had been a few weeks
ago, her nightdress would be in a crumpled heap on the floor by now. Instead, Max was standing up and was
smoothing out the creases in his trousers.
Ever since that call on his answerphone, Max had been acting peculiar,
all over her one minute, distracted the next.
Tomorrow, she told herself, I’ll ask him about it tomorrow.
“Come on,” Max said, dragging
her out of bed. “Let’s at least have
breakfast together. I’ll even
cook.” He took her hand and led her to
“So that means we’ll be having
cornflakes?” Rosmerta said as she followed along at arm’s length.
“Better,” Max said over his
shoulder. “Quaffle Crunch!”
While Max got water for Fang and
filled his food bowl, Rosmerta mixed an envelope of her daily contraception
potion. Not like I’ve needed this
week, she thought at she gulped the grassy flavored potion down as quickly
as possible. Rosmerta washed out her
goblet and went to the cabinet to get the bird food.
“Paper’s here,” Max said as the
post owl tapped on the window. “Looks
like there’ve been some changes up at the school,” he said after glancing at
“Mmmhmm,” Rosmerta said
noncommittally from the living room as she scooped food into Queenie’s and
Rosenkrantz’s trays. “Yes, that new
defense professor is doing some sort of inquiry into the educational standards
at Hogwarts. I met her Saturday
night. Pompous little gargoyle.” Rosmerta wrinkled her nose as she came back
into the kitchen where Max was pouring cereal into two bowls
“Yeah, Umbridge…I think I might
have gone to school with her. Breakfast
is served,” he said with a flourish, placing the bowl in front of her and
handing her a spoon as if it were a bouquet of flowers.
“Thank you,” Rosmerta tilted her
head up for a kiss. “Pass me the Life
and Leisure section, would you?” The
two of them settled behind their sections of the paper.
“‘Wizengamot elders Griselda
Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden have resigned in protest at the introduction of
the post of Inquisitor to Hogwart’,” Max read aloud after a few minutes. “Ogden…any relation to you?”
Rosmerta put the paper down and
looked up, Max now having her full attention.
“That’s my uncle. My
great-uncle, actually. He quit the Wizengamot?”
“That’s what it says here.”
“Uncle Ty’s been on the
Wizengamot for ages. I can’t believe he
“Do you want to read it?” Max
held the paper out to her and she took it.
While he ate his cereal and buried himself in the business section, she
read the brief article about Professor Umbridge before turning to the article
about Madam Marchbanks and her secret liaisons with the leaders of the last
“I wonder what he’s going to do
now,” Rosmerta mused as she set down the paper. “He was a barrister for years.
I know he has a house in the Bahamas; he spends a lot of time
there. Maybe he’s going to be
completely retired now.”
“Why don’t we have him round for
dinner? I still haven’t met your
family. At least, not officially.”
“We’ll see,” Rosmerta said
Max shrugged and Banished his
bowl to the sink. “What are you going
to do today?”
Rosmerta sighed. “I don’t know. I might try to catch the last day of that sale at Madame
Malkin’s. How about I pop by for
lunch?” She smiled over at him.
“Can’t. We have a meeting set during lunch.” He
stood up and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “I’ll see you later tonight.” He rubbed Fang behind the ears and
headed out. Rosmerta stared at the door
for a long time after he left.
“Max is working late tonight,” Rosmerta
said while she and Maddie picked at custard tarts in Thyme and Honey, the
teashop they frequented after their weekly banking trip to Gringotts. “Do you want to come over for dinner? I’ll make roast chicken and apple crumble
and we can listen to The Warty and the Wicked on the WWN.”
“Oh…” Maddie lifted her cup of
tea, stalling for time. “I’m sorry,
love. I have plans for tonight.”
“That’s all right,” Rosmerta
said with a smile, masking her disappointment.
Had she grown so used to the company of others that she didn’t know how
to be alone anymore? “New fellow?”
Rosmerta asked with a grin.
“You could say that,” Maddie
Rosmerta paused and glanced at
Maddie over the rim of her teacup.
Usually when Maddie took up with a fellow she passed along the graphic
details whether or not Rosmerta wanted to hear them. She also hadn’t eaten more than two bites of her custard
tart. From all the years she had known
Maddie, few things were able to interfere with her friend’s appetite and a new
trysting partner wasn’t one of them.
Come to think of it, Maddie had been acting odd for the past month or
so, as if she was afraid of being caught in some sort of compromising position. Rosmerta knew Maddie had her secrets, but
she couldn’t help but feel left out. It
seemed as if the two of them never spent any time together anymore and she
wondered if Maddie was being obtuse on purpose as a way of getting back at her
for spending so much time with Max.
“Well, whoever he is, I hope you
have a good time tonight.” Rosmerta smiled brightly. “Perhaps we can all go out some time. Maybe brunch next Sunday or something.”
Maddie gave her a tight
smile. “Or something.”
After she and Rosmerta parted
ways, Maddie stood in the parlor of Lorelei’s Layer at exactly quarter to
seven. Her posture was erect and she
restrained herself from tapping a foot as she waited for the others to join
her. Smoothing down the skirts of her
dark green velvet robes, she wondered for the hundredth time if she was overdressed. She checked her appearance one last time in
her compact’s mirror, wishing her lipstick didn’t look so red. She took a deep breath and tried to gather
her confidence as she blotted her make-up with a handkerchief.
You know most of the folks that
are going to be there, she told herself.
It’s not as if you’re off to meet the queen or Louis B. Mayer. Not a reason in the world why you need to
get yourself all fussed up over a little meeting.
“About time,” she said, snapping
the compact shut and tucking her handkerchief in her sleeve, as Isis, Selena,
and Rose descended the staircase.
Isis inclined her head in an
apology but Rose barely contained a snort.
Selena’s vaguely aloof expression didn’t change much.
Maddie bit her tongue as she
checked over their outfits. Isis looked
appropriate in plain brown robes but Rose and Selena had either ignored her
instructions to dress modestly or they just didn’t have anything fitting the
description. Rose was in violet robes
with a plunging neckline, showing off her impressive cleavage. Selena wore robes in shades of green, blue
and white, artfully torn so that the sleeves and hem fluttered, giving the
impression that she was rising from the ocean’s surf. It was too late to send them back upstairs to change so Maddie
resigned herself to the fact that there was no use fretting about it.
Maddie reached into her pouch
and pulled out the piece of paper with Dumbledore’s loopy script. She glanced at the instructions before
folding it in half. She looked over the
small group, her expression dead serious.
“I just want to remind you one last time of the commitment you’re making
by agreeing to go to this meeting.
Isis, Rose, you know how it was in the old days.” Both women nodded, their mouths set in grim
lines of remembrance of unpleasantries past.
“But,” Maddie continued, “the
stakes are even higher now that we’ve been asked to be full members. Once we do this, there’s no backing out,”
Maddie said in a low voice. “And we
must keep it absolutely secret. I know
that’s not easy to do around here but our lives and the lives of others are on
the line. Are we perfectly clear?”
Rose and Isis both answered with
a determined, “Yes,” but there was a glint of excitement in Selena’s eyes as
she concurred with the others.
“All right, ladies. Take a look at this and memorize it. We’ll Apparate to these coordinates in
London and then…well, I guess we’ll see.”
“I don’t understand—” Rose began
but Maddie cut her off.
“Think about the address and
when we get outside, it’ll make sense.
I’ll go first.”
Rose gave her a doubtful look,
but then she shrugged and returned her gaze to the parchment. She stared at it so hard her eyes were
The four of them managed to
Apparate into an alley and after a few minutes of searching they found
Grimmauld Place. They walked down the
street, peering at numbers on the run down houses.
“Eight…ten… that should be it
there,” Rose said, walking past number eleven where music was issuing at a loud
volume. “I don’t see it. The next house is thirteen. We’re lost, aren’t we? Should we go ask someone?”
“No. Let’s see,” Maddie said, fumbling for the parchment with the
directions on it. She called the others
over to it. They peered over her
shoulder. Maddie scanned the parchment
and when she reached the part about number twelve Grimmauld Place, the space
between numbers eleven and thirteen began to swell until a house stood
“Well I’ll be a horny toad. How ‘bout that?” Rose whistled.
“Let’s go.” Maddie marched up to
the front door as the other three followed her. She ignored the knocker in the shape of a silver serpent and
tapped on the door with her wand. They
waited; the only sound was the thumping and booming of the music from number
eleven. There was a shout and then a
glass beer bottle shattered on the street.
All four of them jumped and backed away from the door, which was now
issuing a series of clicks.
“Come in, come in,” a young,
gray haired man whispered urgently, waving them inside. Maddie recognized him as the Defense
professor from two years ago, but she couldn’t remember his name.
It was as if a bouquet of
flowers had been brought into a funeral parlor as the four of them scurried
into the house. Maddie squinted, her
eyes adjusting to the gloom. Rose was
looking around when she bumped into an umbrella stand, knocking it over.
“Smut! Filthy whores! Foul
demons of lust and sin! Be gone from
this house! How dare you pollute the
halls of my illustrious ancestors?
Maddie looked wildly around the
hall until she saw a portrait of a mad-looking old woman, pointing an accusing
finger at the group.
“Madam,” Rose snarled, marching
right up to the painting. “With all due
respect to you an’ all your illustrated ancestors. Up. Yours.”
She held up two fingers directly in front of the portrait’s face.
For the first time in her life,
Vega Black was silenced. She sat there
with her mouth open, staring at Rose.
The man took advantage of the silence by seizing one end of the heavy
drapes and trying to close them shut before the portrait regained her
From the top of the stairs,
Sirius Black burst out laughing.
“I think you’re the first person
in the history of the world to get my mother to shut up. You’re my type of girl,” Sirius said,
bounding down the stairs and giving Remus a hand with the drapes.
“Sirius Black!” Rose wheeled
around her wand pointed at Sirius. “It’s a trap! Expellus…Expelmus”
replied in a bored voice, sounding like a teacher supplying the right answer
for a struggling pupil who really ought to know the answer. He caught her wand as Rose continued to
stare open-mouthed at him. “You really
ought to practice your disarming spells if you’re going to be a member of the
Order of the Phoenix.” He handed Rose back her wand while she gaped at him.
“I must apologize for Rose’s
outburst,” Maddie said, a sinking feeling in her stomach that her first
impression on the Order was going less than stellar. “She shouldn’t have insulted your mother’s portrait like
that.” Maddie glanced over at Rose who
was too busy eyeing Sirius. “Rose,”
Maddie urged in a low voice. Rose
continued to stare at Sirius, her wand pointed in a less than friendly
manner. “Apologize,” Maddie hissed.
“What? No! That dried up old
harpy called us…” Rose trailed off when she saw that the expression on Maddie’s
face was fiercer than a dragon with a bad case of scale rot.
“Um, sorry,” Rose muttered.
“’S’alright. Mum goes off every time someone comes
in. It’s like having the world’s most
annoying guard dog.” He shrugged and
righted the overturned umbrella stand.
“Did’ya know ‘bout him?” Rose
jerked her head in Sirius’s direction.
“Yes, Professor Dumbledore
briefly explained Mr. Black’s case to me.
I wasn’t sure if he was going to be here, but I would have told you if
you had given me a minute instead of insulting portraits and throwing spells
“I’m always here,” Sirius
replied with a twisted smile. “I guess
I don’t have to introduce myself,” he drawled.
Isis stepped closer to Maddie, her hand on the butt of her wand. Selena was more interested in the man
standing next to Sirius.
“I’m Remus Lupin. I believe I’ve met most of you before,”
Remus held out his hand.
“Oooh! Yes!” Rose exclaimed. “I
“Oh really?” Sirius muttered out
the side of his mouth, smirk on his face.
“Regular customer at Lorelei’s Lair, are you Moony?” Remus ignored
Sirius and smiled at Rose.
“You’re that professors that
gave us them lessons when all the Dementors were in the village. You were with that short, cheerful
fella. Watch! I can still do it!” Rose squeezed her face into a form of intense
She swore and screwed up her face.
“Ummmm—don’t tell me!” she snapped at Remus, who had started to open his
mouth. “Expecto Patronus!” A small cloud of silver vapor formed.
“That’s very good,” Remus said,
but Rose interrupted him.
“That was crap. Hold your hippogriffs. I can do it.” She repeated the words a few more times and on the fourth try, a
silver tarantula came out of her wand.
“Well done!” Remus enthused.
“Yeah,” Rose said noncommittally
as her Patronus crawled across the floor and then vanished. “I just don’t understand why it has to be a
great big ugly spider. I’ve half a mind
to try and flatten it with a newspaper.”
She put her hands on her hips and glared at the spot where her Patronus
had been before tossing off a short laugh.
“How come you don’t teach at Hogwarts anymore?”
“It’s a long story,” Remus said
in a tone that indicated he was in no mood to start telling the tale.
“Wait a minute,” Rose said,
ignoring the warning look from Maddie.
“Were you the—”
“Thank you, Rose,” Maddie
interjected. “That’ll do.”
“Yes, he’s the werewolf that got
fired.” Everyone turned to looks at
Selena, who had spoken for the first time, a slightly amused expression on her
face. Sirius glared at her and gripped
“That is correct.” Remus gave a restrained nod while
maintaining an air of cool dignity.
“Pity,” Selena continued, her
bemused expression strained as if she was trying to stay cheerful while
fighting off a headache. “You were
obviously a good teacher if you got Rose to produce a Patronus.”
“Hey! Watch your mouth you waterlogged slut!”
“Rose!” Maddie hissed. “Language!
Gentlemen, I’m terribly sorry for all this.”
“What she means is that I’m a
lorelei,” Selena continued, ignoring Rose’s insult and Maddie’s apology. “We get all sorts at the Lair—and I don’t
mean just the employees. So you see,
your being a werewolf is not something that will shock us. And now that we’ve all been introduced to
one another, may I have a word with Professor Lupin in private?”
Sirius looked like he was about
to protest, but Remus nodded. “We can
talk in here,” he said, indicating a small room off of the entranceway.
Maddie and Sirius watched them
go, neither one looking particularly happy.
“Come on,” Sirius said gruffly
after a minute, shoving his hair out of his eyes. “I’ll show you where the meeting is going to be held.” He turned
on his heel and stalked down the hallway.
Maddie, Rose and Isis followed.
“Look,” Selena said, dropping
her blasé attitude when she and Remus were out of earshot. Her voice was like waves crashing over rocks. She looked as if she was restraining herself
from committing either an act of violence or an act of passion. “From what I’ve heard from Miss Maddie,
we’re going to be working together but for right now I can barely stand to be
in the same room with you.”
“Understood,” Remus said in a
low voice. “I suppose over time we’ll
get used to each other. Just like cats
and dogs manage to get along, like Crookshanks and Padfoot. It’s probably bad now because we’re close to
a full moon.”
“That must be it. I hear one of the Order members is a part
veela,” she said, changing the subject.
“Yes, Fleur Delacor. She’s from France, Beauxbatons. Nice girl, talented.
Works for Gringotts now.”
“How lovely,” Selena cooed. “I bet the two of us will get on famously.”
“Just stay away from Bill
Weasley and I’m sure you and Fleur will become fast friends.” Remus gave her a half-grin.
Selena smiled, showing teeth
that were slightly smaller and more pointed than the average human’s. “I’ll head your advice. What are you going to do when the vampires
start meeting with us?”
Remus shrugged and held up his
hands. “Work it out somehow. Besides, it’s really only the very old
vampires whose blood boils—pardon the expression—when they’re around werewolves. One doesn’t encounter lorelei too often, at
least not one who is nearly a full blood.”
“Yes,” she replied. “Most of us have had several generations of
dilution before we go out in the world.
It’s funny,” she mused, “so many of the girls at Miss Maddie’s have magical
being or beast blood in them, and yet we all manage to get along. No werewolves though, but I heard there used
to be one a long time ago.”
“Really?” Remus asked with
“Yes. She hung herself, though.
Pity,” Selena replied, not sounding particularly sympathetic.
Remus shifted uncomfortably, at
a loss for words.
“It’s fascinating, isn’t it?”
Selena mused. “Werewolves are
completely cast out by wizarding society and yet they’re one of the most
powerful of the magical beasts in their transformed state. Why, if I was bathing in a lake on the full
moon, you’re the only one I’d be no match for.
You’d rip out my throat without a second thought.” She gave Remus one of
her predatory smiles, as if she found the idea of being mauled by a werewolf
Remus stood rooted in place, the
blood draining from his face. “I don’t
think this is an appropriate conversation.
We really ought to get seats for the meeting.” He glanced toward the door, but appeared unable to move.
“There’s a room at the Lair with
a giant tub,” Selena continued, inching closer, her voice lowering, the words
tumbling out at an urgent pace. “It’s
not used very often but once in a while there’s a customer who wants the illicit
thrill of going for a little swim with me.
Sometimes when I feel the water all cool and lovely on my skin, I just
want to drag them under the surface, wrap my fingers around their necks and
feel the muscles writhe and thrash under my hands until they are completely
Remus stared at her as if he was
about to be sick. “Why are you telling
me this?” he whispered.
“No offence or anything. I just want you to understand my nature—and
I want you to know that I understand yours.”
Selena placed her hand on Remus’s arm but he shook it off immediately.
“You know nothing about
me or my nature.” Remus bristled with
anger, his whole body like branch bent to a point where it was about to snap.
“You’ve never killed anyone, I
can tell. I haven’t either but I bet
you know how it feels, that urge. That
itch that’s just begging to be scratched.
It’s very tempting to act on it, isn’t it? Although, I hear you can drink something that crushes that
compulsion. Lucky you, eh? It’s interesting how some of use can’t stop
until we’ve made a kill. I suppose it
makes sense. Can you imagine a vampire
troll or a werewolf-goblin hybrid?
Wouldn’t that be peculiar?”
Selena laughed. Remus stared at
her as if she was quite mad. She eased
herself back so that there was some distance between them.
“You did very well,” Selena
cooed. “Much better than I would
have. I really thought you were going
to strike me, but you have a lot of self-control. I admire that. If I’m
going to work with you, I had to know how far I could push you. I had to see if you’d be able to concentrate
around me. I bet I could have gone a
little further, couldn’t I have?”
Remus rounded on her, no longer
looking tired and haggard but full of righteous anger. “Your behavior is deplorable. I can tolerate a lot of rubbish, but I will
not stand for these childish mind games.
There are too many things at stake, so if you are incapable of behaving
like an adult or if you do something to jeopardize this assignment, I will not
hesitate to take you out of commission.” He stared at her, unflinchingly.
Selena looked unconcerned. “You’ll forgive me.” She rubbed her temples
and grimaced, “I’d better move. See you
in the living room.” She took a deep, shuddering breath and then glided away,
leaving Remus limp as a wrung out rag and as tense as a canary in a house full
Meanwhile, Sirius had started to
usher Maddie, Isis and Rose into the living room when a tapping came on the
door. Sirius undid the series of
complicated locks and Alastor Moody limped into the hallway. Before Mrs. Black could start ranting, Moody
Stunned the portrait and continued to limp along as if nothing had happened.
“Isis, Rose, go with Mr. Black
and take your seats for the meeting.”
Maddie nudged them along and they trailed after Sirius. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
“You can sit anywhere,” Sirius
said, waving his hand around the room while the women glanced around. He didn’t bother introducing them to anyone.
“Well, look who’s here,” Moody
thumped over to Maddie. He halted a few
feet from her. “How lovely to see a
gentle lady of your fair disposition joining us.” His magical eye whizzed up and down her body as his right hand
inched toward his wand.
Maddie rolled her eyes and put
her hands on her hips. “Alastor, drop
the inquisition. You know I’m no
lady…but it is sweet of you to say so.
And stop trying to get a glimpse of my knickers with that thing.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely you,”
Moody nodded approvingly. “And don’t
worry—I won’t tell anyone about those great big bloomers you’re wearing.”
Maddie laughed as Moody thumped
a few steps closer. He took her hand
and clasped it briefly before he drew back and gave her an appraising
look. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? What’s it been, Maddie, fourteen years? You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Oh, go on, Alastor,” Maddie
purred. “You’re the one who gets more
handsome every time I see you.”
Moody let out a snort of
laughter. “Liar,” he muttered, his
mouth twisting into what passed for a grin.
“How are you, really?” Maddie asked in a low voice, placing her
hand on Moody’s arm. “I heard about
what happened last year. I could hex
myself for not saying anything to Dumbledore.
I should have known something was wrong when you didn’t come for a drink
at the Lair. I thought it was because
you were a professor and didn’t think it was appropriate to be seen there. I’m so sorry, Alastor.”
“Don’t mention it,” Moody
growled. “Bastard even fooled
Dumbledore.” Moody’s face darkened before it softened slightly. “And I’m never too good for a visit at the Lair,”
he added. “‘Course I bring my own
drink,” he patted the flask at his hip.
“Well, from the frequency of
your visits I wouldn’t know it.”
“One can’t be too careful going
out in public. Besides, I’ve been
enjoying a quiet retirement. Been doing
a bit of bird watching.”
“Really?” Maddie linked her arm
through Moody’s arm that wasn’t on his cane.
“Do tell. Have you spotted a
Jabbernoll yet?” she asked as the two of them entered the living room where a
pile of old clothes was emitting a stream of smoke.
“Mundungas Fletcher,” Maddie
drawled, putting her free hand on her hip.
“Is the Order so hard up for member that they let the likes of you in
it?” she teased.
“Miss Maddie!” Dung cried
out. He got to his feet and shuffled
over, arms outstretched.
“It’s good ter see ya!” Dung
cried, seizing her hand between his two and pumping it as if he was trying to
get water out of a well. “And may I add
how lovely yer lookin’ this evenin’?”
Moody rolled his eyes.
“You can try charming me all you
want, Dung, but until you make a dent in that tab of yours, you’re still
banned. And for the love of Merlin,
stop selling Gloria’s hair. At the rate
she’s going she’ll be bald soon. And by
the way, she’s not really part banshee, so you can stop scamming whoever you’re
selling it to.”
“Well that is brand new
information!” Dung cried. “I thought
she was pure banshee an’ I was jus’ helpin’ out a friend who dabbles a bit in
potions, jus’ a hobby o’his...but never mind that. We’re both members of the Order now! Partners, you would say.
What’s a little gold between friends when we’re working for the greater
good of wizarding kind? Besides, I know
of a shipment of fine silk robes that I’d sell to your girls for a hefty
Moody fixed his eyes at Dung, his
stare boring into him. “And just where
would you be getting these ‘fine silk robes’, eh?” His magical eye whizzed back and forth between Dung and Maddie.
“Dung!” Maddie exclaimed in a
scandalized tone. “How many times do I
have to tell you that neither myself nor my employees are interested in your
ill-gotten goods? You ought to be
ashamed of yourself.” Maddie turned to
Moody and placed a hand on his arm.
“Would you excuse us, Alastor?”
“So you can discuss stolen
robes? I think I’d rather stay here and
listen to that conversation, maybe see if Tonks and Shacklebolt want to join
us,” Moody growled.
“We’re not discussing anything
of the sort, Alastor,” Maddie purred.
“I need to have a word with Dung about some payment that is long
overdue. I don’t know if an Auror would
be interested in hearing about the boring details of outstanding debts, but if
you are, please stick around. I could
use a witness. Or some help turning him
upside down and shaking the gold out of him.”
“No, I’ll leave you to it then,”
Moody said, although he looked reluctant to go.
“Be a love and save me a seat
next to you.” Maddie smiled at him and fluttered her eyelashes at him enough to
give him pause but not enough to make Moody suspicious of why anyone would
blatantly flirt with him.
Moody eyed them sternly one last
time before he nodded and thumped off, throwing looks over his shoulder at Dung
until he was on the other side of the room.
“I believe you owe me
twenty-five Galleons.” Maddie crossed her arms over her ample bosom and cocked
her head, the ostrich feathers on her hat fluttering.
“Aw, come on now, Miss
Maddie.” Dung gave her his best attempt
to look bereft and puffed on his pipe like he was an infant sucking at a
“If you don’t like it, you can
drink somewhere else.”
“You know Aberforth is still
steamin’ after our disagreement. An’
the Leaky Cauldron is no good for conducting business.”
“Why don’t you go to the Three
“‘Cause Madam Rosmerta makes me
pay after each round,” Dung responded glumly.
“Worse than a goblin she is.”
Maddie laughed. “Smart woman.” She continued to stare at Dung.
“Fine,” Dung grumbled, pulling
out a grubby little pouch and counting out five Galleons. “Lucky I just had me a business deal go
through. Can’ believe you’d snatch the
bread outta an old friend’s mouth.” He
cast his hangdog eyes at her.
Maddie snorted. “By the looks of things, you’ve been eating
just fine,” she said, poking his belly.
“And if you outfit my girls for free, I’ll forgive the rest of your
tab,” she added in a hurried whisper.
“Thank you, Dung,” Maddie said a bit more loudly, dropping the coins
into her pouch. “You’re allowed back on
the premises, but I suggest you settle your account in full with me as soon as
possible.” She nodded at him and then sashayed off to a seat beside Moody. A few people eyed her but made no motion to
When every seat and spot on the
sofa and loveseats had been occupied Dumbledore strode into the living room at
the stroke of seven. “Is everyone
here?” he asked.
“Yes,” Remus said. “Hestia has a late meeting at St. Mungo’s
but just about everyone else is here, except—”
“Minerva and Severus will not be
joining us tonight. I will inform them
of the goings on of this meeting later.
Given the new changes at the school, it is not prudent to have too many
staff members absent at one time. And
now I would like to welcome several new members of the Order. This is Tiberius Ogden. Some of you may have heard of him through
his many years on the Wizengamot or through his reputation as a champion
gobstone player.” Dumbledore nodded to
a man seated to his left.
Ogden, Maddie thought, wonder
if he’s related to Rosmerta? Maddie
leaned over a bit to get a better look at the man.
Tiberius Ogden looked as if he
was vying for Witch Weekly’s Best Dressed Wizard Award now that Gilderoy
Lockhart was out of contention. He wore
a gray pinstriped suit with a pink handkerchief in his breast pocket and matching
pink socks. The pink was bright enough
to be shocking but screeched short of garish.
Draped around his shoulders like an exquisite Persian cat was a thick
gray cloak that looked as if it was begging to be stroked. His bowler hat was trimmed with a band of
lavender around the middle that somehow complimented the pink in his
handkerchief. He had a neatly trimmed
white moustache and thick white hair that tumbled to his shoulders. His skin was the healthy tanned color of the
sort of person who used the words ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ as verbs.
“Delighted to meet everyone’s
acquaintance,” Tiberius said in a pleasant tone as if they had all gathered for
brandies and cigars.
“And may I also introduce Miss
Madeline Harrison, proprietress of Lorelei’s Layer in Hogsmeade, and her
employees, Rose, Isis and Selena.”
Dumbledore nodded to each woman in turn. Maddie took a deep breath in through her nostrils and plastered a
smile on her face. There was a buzz
around the living room. A woman about
her age with red hair similar to hers (although Maddie suspected the woman’s
hair color was natural) scowled at her from across the room. Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued
“Miss Maddie, her employees and
Remus, along with a colleague who will be arriving from the United States next
week, will be working on recruiting vampires.
We’ll have a more detailed report in the weeks to come. And,” Dumbledore said with a heavy sigh,
“I’m sure we’ve all heard the sad news regarding Sturgis Podmore.”
“How did it happen?” someone
“Lucius Malfoy was at the
Ministry and put Sturgis under Imperius.
When the night guard discovered them, Lucius hid under the Invisibility
Cloak and Sturgis was left to take the fall.
Rather than betray the Order, Sturgis agreed to take the six months in
“Death Eater scum,” Moody
interrupted with a growl. Mattie
glanced out of the corner of her eye to see Moody was gripping his cane so hard
that his knuckles had turned white. She
also noticed that a dark look settled over Sirius as well.
Maddie felt as if her stomach
had turned inside out. Six months in
Azkaban for trespassing at the Ministry of Magic? Even though she knew that she was getting into something dangerous,
it hadn’t seemed real until that very moment.
As if reading her thoughts, Dumbledore continued to speak.
“I want to impress on you all
again the dangers we face and that our mission is not one to be entered into
lightly. At some time, all of you will
be called upon to make great sacrifices for our cause.” Dumbledore’s gaze traveled over the room as
if he was seeing into the hearts and minds of everyone there.
The rest of the meeting
continued with a report from Bill Weasley about the goblins, details from the
surveillances on the activities of known Death Eaters, and some debate about
what to do now that they were down one Invisibility Cloak (Tiberius Ogden
volunteered to buy one, so that matter was settled rather quickly). By the time they got to a report written by
Charlie Weasley about an update on the whereabouts of someone named Karkaroff,
Maddie’s head was spinning. She also
noticed that most everyone was making notes on parchment, but she hadn’t
brought any. She made a mental note to
bring some for the next time.
After nearly an hour and a half,
Dumbledore called the meeting to a close.
“Anyone who wishes to stay for tea is welcome to do so and I highly
encourage it. From what I hear, Molly
has made a splendid sponge cake,” Dumbledore smiled at the red-haired woman who
gave him a tight smile in return and nodded.
“Those of you who are unable to stay, please stagger your exits so as
not to arouse suspicion of the Muggles in the neighborhood, although I think
those at number eleven are rather preoccupied with their music.” Dumbledore
chuckled and then went over to speak to Tiberius Ogden.
Maddie watched Molly and a young
girl with bright green hair head down to the hall, presumably to the
kitchen. “Excuse me, Alastor,” Maddie
said, getting to her feet. Moody nodded
and turned to converse with Bill Weasley.
“Ladies,” Maddie said briskly,
crossing over to where the girls were sitting.
“Why don’t we go help Mrs. Weasley and introduce ourselves?”
“Do we hafta?” Rose whined.
“Yes. Mr. Black,” Maddie said, touching Sirius on the sleeve of his
“Please, call me Sirius.”
“Sirius, dear, could you please
point me in the direction of the kitchen?”
“Down the hall and to your
left. Follow the stairs to the
basement.” Sirius turned and continued
his conversation with Remus.
“Thank you. Come on.” Maddie marched down the hallway
and headed down the stairs, the girls reluctantly following. Loud, angry voices rang up from the kitchen
and Maddie listened at the foot of the stairs.
“I don’t know what Dumbledore is
thinking,” Molly fumed, hacking at the cake and plopping pieces onto dessert
plates. “I don’t understand why he let
that—that woman and her “girls” into the Order! This is not a rest home for trollops!”
“I dunno. She helped out the Order last time
You-Know-Who was around. I heard from
Mad-Eye that she’s quite brilliant at getting information,” the girl added.
“Oh, he would think so, wouldn’t
he?” There was some muttering Maddie
couldn’t understand but she caught the words “men”, “wands” and “thinking” and
then there was a loud clatter as the cake pan crashed into the sink. “We don’t need those—those harlots in
the Order. I mean…convicts, Dung and
his stolen cauldrons, giants, vampires, Sturgis going to Azkaban—it’s too
much! And now those hanky-panky girls? It’s a disgrace.”
“The hanky-panky girls? That sounds like a good name for a
band. I’ll have to run it by my piano
player, but I do think it’s quite fitting.
I came to see if you need any help.”
Molly turned around to find
Maddie in the kitchen’s doorway, her voice cool and her arms crossed over her
chest. Selena, Rose and Isis surrounded
her, wearing their defiant expressions as if they were the finest strands of
“I think we can manage,” Molly
replied, the faintest kiss of red coloring her cheeks that indicated that she was
embarrassed at having her comment overheard, but not embarrassed for having
said what she did.
“As you wish.” Maddie nodded and the four of them turned to
mount the staircase.
“I’m Tonks by the way,” the girl
blurted out. She took a few steps over
to them, banging her hip on a chair as she did so. “I’m an Auror. I work
with Kingsley.” She held out her hand. Maddie noticed that she was wearing bright
pink nail varnish.
“Madeline Harrison, but everyone
calls me Maddie. This is Isis, Rose and
Selena.” Hands were shook. They stood awkwardly in front of the
staircase until Molly cleared her throat in a rather impatient manner. She was levitating several trays.
“Tonks, please bring up the tray
with the silverware and cups. Excuse
me,” Molly said in an icy voice as she maneuvered past Maddie and up the
Tonks followed behind with the
tray. She started to say something that
might have been an apology, but instead she ducked her head as if embarrassed
and clumped up the stairs.
“Now can we go?” Rose asked.
“We’re not wanted here,” she said in a lower voice.
“We can leave,” Maddie replied
in a weary tone. “I suspect people will
warm up in their own time,” she said in a brighter tone.
Rose snorted. “Fat chance,” she muttered slinking up the
Maddie ducked into the living
room to give a brief wave of good-bye to Moody. Just as they were about to open the front door, they heard a
“Ah, Maddie. Just the person I wanted to talk to.”
“What can I do for you,
Professor Dumbledore?” Maddie lifted
her chin up and tried to smile.
“Thank you all for coming
tonight,” Dumbledore looked at the entire group. “I know you all were rather thrown into the middle of things and
there was not much time for social niceties.”
“We understand,” Maddie said
Dumbledore didn’t say anything
for a minute. It was as if he was
taking a moment to assess her. “Have
you had a chance to talk with Remus Lupin?”
“Yes, we all spoke with him
earlier. He’s a lovely man,” Maddie
“Good,” Dumbledore nodded
approvingly. “Diana Waxwaine will be
arriving from the States on Sunday.
Selena, you will be working closely with her and Remus. Diane’s a non-human rights barrister,
specializes in vampire law. Pioneered a
lot of legislature in the States. They
have a rather large vampire population and, unfortunately, relations between
vampires and wizards in the States are acrimonious at best.” Dumbledore shook his head, a sad expression
on his face.
“I understand,” Selena said with
the tone of someone who just wasn’t paying lip service but who spoke from
experience. “How am I to help her?”
“Your role will mostly be that
of a liaison, a representative if you will.
Your presence at talks will go a long way to ensuring our sincerity and
our message of co-operation with all magical beings who wish to stand against
Lord Voldemort.” Dumbledore ignored the
shudder that went through the group.
“Can you come again Sunday
evening around six? It’ll be a much
smaller meeting. We can begin mapping
out our strategy.”
“We’ll be there,” Maddie said,
fierce determination etched on her face.
After Flooing the Lair one last
time at eight to find that Maddie was still out for the evening, Rosmerta
settled herself on the couch with the latest issue of Witch Weekly and
the Wireless on in the background. She
was only half-listening to the plot of The Warty and the Wicked when she
heard a small pop! outside her front door. Instantly, muscles she didn’t know she had been clenching
relaxed. She set aside the magazine and
rose from the couch, making her way to the front door as Max was stepping
through it. Fang twined around their
knees, whining and competing with her for Max’s attention.
She embraced him as if he had
been gone for a week. He returned the
hug half heartedly, barely gripping her shoulder. He took off his cloak and hat and hung them up in the closet.
“Are you hungry?” Rosmerta asked
his back. “There’s some chicken and
mash. I can warm it up in a second.”
“I’m not that hungry. I think I’m just going to wash up.” Max ran a
hand through his hair and Rosmerta caught it.
The scent of dying flowers. He
sidestepped her and went into the bathroom, not meeting her eyes.
“How was work?” Rosmerta asked
from the couch when Max emerged from the bathroom, his hair still damp from the
shower. She observed the wet strands
plastered to his head. He needed a
He grunted like someone who had
just found out he had been very, very wrong after insisting earlier that he had
been right on some point of argument.
He stepped over the outstretched form of Fang on the floor and settled
on the couch, putting his arm around her, drawing her to his chest. His arm remained firmly across her torso,
like he was afraid she’d slip away if his arm weren’t there to prevent it.
After deliberating on it in
silence for nearly twenty minutes, he answered her question. “I wasn’t at work tonight.”
“I know.” Rosmerta was surprised at how calm she
was. She always thought that if she
found herself in this position again she would explode like a box of
fireworks. For the first time Rosmerta
understood why her mother put up with the things her father did. Faced with a choice between losing Max and
learning to compromise some part of herself, she was alarmed at how easily she
was willing to bargain a piece of her soul if it meant keeping a part of
him. Ares hadn’t been worth it nor had
Darren. She hadn’t even swallowed her
pride when faced with losing her family.
But now she was already rooting around in her heart, trying to find room
for forgiveness. Her head was shocked
at this reaction. It was as if she
learned she was capable of doing something she never thought she could do. And once she crossed that line she thought
she’d never cross, what other ones would she be able to trespass?
Rosmerta felt an uneasy kinship
with the sort of people who did awful things in the name of some ideal. Love, like pride, was just another abstract
ideal and just as stubborn pride could be someone’s ruin, so it seemed that
love would be her undoing. Those people
who used the Unforgivable Curses to achieve their ends—was this how it began,
with a series of small barters with the devil?
Was the road to hell paved not with good intentions, but with selfish
“You knew?” Max lifted his arm off of her. She tilted her head to see him brushing back
his wet hair with his hand. A few
droplets of water trickled down the side of his face.
“Mmmhmm. You’re a terrible liar. Smooth talker, yes. You could charm the gold from a goblin’s
hand. But a terrible liar
nonetheless.” Rosmerta sighed and
turned her gaze away from his, feeling the scratch of his cotton t-shirt
against her cheek. “So are you going to
tell me where you went, or am I better off not knowing?”
Max’s arm came down on her
again, hugging her. “I went to see
Alice. That was her on my answerphone
“I suspected as much.” Rosmerta
tried to keep her voice from cracking.
“How was it?”
Max leaned his head back staring
at the ceiling. “I don’t want to talk
about it.” He was silent for a long
time and looked deeply troubled.
Rosmerta wasn’t sure if Max’s
answer meant good news or bad. That
night in bed he reached for her but made no move other than to keep his arm
firmly around her waist, anchoring her in place. As the two of them lay quietly in the darkness, Rosmerta realized
that for the first time in months, Max hadn’t kissed her goodnight. With her free hand, Rosmerta gripped the
star charm that he had given her a few months ago for her birthday. A wishing star, he called it as he fastened
the clasp at the nape of her neck. She
held onto it for a long time as she stared at the ceiling, but it wasn’t sleep
that she wished for.