The Sugar Quill
Author: Rachael DuBois (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Hint of Shadow  Chapter: Default
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Anna drew back the thick curtains, and daylight filled the room

A Hint of Shadow

 

The sun was hot in the little streets of Granada.  Even the vendors felt the heat, fanning themselves listlessly as they sat on their stools in the shade, too hot to pester the occasional buyer who wandered by.  Brilliantly colored scarves and hats fluttered in an occasional, half-hearted breeze, and the creak of a rocking chair sounded in time to the footsteps of passerbys.  One dark-haired little girl alone called out, “Muñecas?” and waved little yarn animals at the woman who passed.

 

No, gracias,” Rachael replied, and moved on.  She carried a hodgepodge of sea lavender, honeysuckle, bishops weed, and crown daisy in one arm.  By all rights they should never have been combined, but under the florist’s masterful hands they had come together elegantly.  She had noted it, and would make sure to return to the little shop the next time she came that way.  In her other hand she carried a stack of books in a twine sling.  They had been a lucky find in an antique shop she had chanced across.  One was an original first edition, while the others were merely old enough that she was happy to find them intact.  It would be easy to find them appreciative homes, she was sure.

 

Shifting the set of books to the other hand, she tucked an auburn lock of hair behind her ear and peeked around the nearest corner.  More hot little streets stretched away from her.  It was certainly around here somewhere . . .

 

She finally spotted the dark café to the left.  Set inconspicuously between a fruit vendor and a dress store, it seemed to want to disappear completely for embarrassment of its drab exterior.  The dress shop certainly wanted to take over the space, Rachael noted, as its display of skirts stretched to the front stoop of the café.  The shutters hung askew and it looked as though someone had tried to kick their way through the door.  A sign declaring it to be under renovation hung in a cracked window pane.  Rachael smiled, glad to have found it, and pulled the door open with a creak.

 

Closing the door behind her, she was greeted with shade and breezes from fans magically charmed to move the air.  The café was a covered porch that wrapped in a semi-circle around a sunny garden filled with dark green plants and bubbling fountains.  A peacock strolled along a path that wound around a statue of a pretty witch cradling a baby.

 

The café held only a few patrons, all clustered around small tables.  Murmurs of conversation carried on the fan-propelled breeze and a server hurried up to escort her to a table.  “No—“ Rachael began, to explain that she didn’t plan to stop and eat, when a woman’s voice interrupted her.

 

“Rachael DuBois?  Is that you?”

 

Rachael turned around and saw a witch with long dark hair leaning over from a nearby table.  She laughed with surprise.  “Anna!  I forgot you live here now!”

 

Anna leaped up and ran to embrace her.  “Rachael!  It’s so good to see you after all this time!  I was just thinking about you this week.  What brings you to Granada?”

 

Delighted to see her childhood friend, Rachael gestured to the books she was carrying.  “Book buying, of course.  And I have an appointment with the apothecary.”

 

“That would be Giralde.  Oh, Rachael, you must come by my house afterwards and have dinner with us.”

 

“That sounds wonderful.”  She glanced around the café.  “I know Calle Chispeante’s around here somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure where.”

 

“I’ll show you!”  Anna tossed a few coins to the server.  “It will give us a chance to catch up.   The gate is on the other side of the garden.”  She took the bouquet in her own hand and linked arms with Rachael, as they used to do in school.  She led the way through the stone path as it wound through the bushes.  “Just how long has it been since we’ve seen each other?”

 

“What has it been . . . four years?  Since your wedding, right after graduation.”

 

“Time really does fly, doesn’t it?  It seems just like yesterday we were planning adventures in the Ravenclaw Common Room.”  She giggled with happiness.  “How have you been doing?”

 

“Wonderfully.  I’m still working in the family business, so I keep busy traveling all over the place, buying and selling.  And how about you?  Where’s your daughter today?”

 

“Ilicia takes her nap in the afternoon, and I have the house elves watch her for a while so I can slip out to run some errands.  It was so hot today I decided to duck into the café.”  Anna pointed to the tall, white gate.  “It’s right behind there.  It’s like a little taste of home, really.  At least, when it’s not so hot!”  She tapped her wand on the latch to the gate, which swung open, and Rachael stepped onto the cobbled street of Calle Chispeante.

 

The rows of stores were reminiscent of Diagon Alley on a particularly hot day Rachael decided, although she had never seen Diagon Alley as empty as Calle Chispeante was today.  Beyond the gate, the street stretched as empty as the Muggle road on the other side of the café.  Doors and windows of the shops had been flung open in the hopes of catching a breeze.  Banners proclaiming the shops to sell wands, brooms, cauldrons, ices, and robes hung limp in the steamy air. 

 

Anna fluttered her hand in front of her face.  “It’s the terrible heat that keeps the tourists away in the afternoon.  In the early mornings, and after the sun goes down, this is a very popular place.  Really, you should come back at a more hospitable time of day.”

 

“I ought to have thought of that.  No wonder Mr. Giralde’s afternoon appointments were completely free.”  Rachael shifted the books so she could wipe a drop of sweat from her forehead. 

 

Anna made a face.  “Giralde’s shut up with his potions all day.  I don’t think he even realizes it gets hot after lunch.”

 

“Do you know him well?” Rachael asked, stopping briefly to peek into the bookstore window.  The proprietor, a bespectacled wizard with a long beard, leaned out the door hopefully to gland at them but then quickly ducked inside.  Rachael guessed the shade of the store made it much more pleasant to be inside, and considered stepping in for a moment.

 

“Of course I know him.  There aren’t many wizards in the area, really.  Only about seven other families live in Granada, and a few institutions such as Giralde who wouldn’t leave for the world.  His shop has been here nearly one-hundred years, and I’m convinced he’ll be here for another hundred.”

 

“So few people live here?”  Rachael was surprised.  She supposed the heat might drive some away during the summer months, but Calle Chispeante was renowned for its quality shops.  It seemed as though it ought to be more of an attractive place to live.

 

“We used to have a few more families, but they moved on a few months ago.  Most of the shop owners come from the country everyday.  It’s a very quiet wizarding community here, but we’re very close.  The wives have a social group for throwing parties and such things.  They took me in as soon as I got here.”

 

“You did always make friends easily,” Rachael remembered, and tore herself away from the bookstore window so they could move on.  “Remember Elise?  And Jenny?”

 

“And Marian?”  Anna laughed.  “Those were such good times in school!  I haven’t heard from any of them in years, though.”  She sighed.  “How are they doing?  I am quite starved for news from England these days.”

 

“Elise is working at St. Mungo’s now, Marian is married and has two children if you can believe that, and,” she said, ticking them off on her fingers,  “Jenny is working for the Ministry.”

 

“Marian has two children?”  Anna feigned a look of horror.  “She couldn’t keep track of her rat, or even keep her plants alive!”  She stopped to glance at some of the new summer fashions hanging in another window, but, mindful of the appointment, did not stop.  “It would be nice to see them again, just for an afternoon.  I suppose everyone has been very busy in the last while.”

 

“You could certainly say that.  It’s been a rough time in England.”  Rachael grimaced.  “You moved before the worst of it began.  We keep looking over our shoulders because we never know who we can trust.  I don’t know if you’ve followed the news, but Inferi have been coming into the cities.” 

 

Anna shook her head in sympathy.  “But surely you and your family aren’t in trouble?  The DuBois name is pure.”

 

Rachael shifted uncomfortably.  It was true her family was pureblooded, and as a result they were in much less danger of Death Eater attacks than those with Muggle-heritage.   It didn’t, however, protect them from the pervasive atmosphere of fear and it didn’t protect their friends.  “More or less,” she answered. 

 

“The violence is appalling.  I am so glad Juan wanted to live here after we were married.  We haven’t had anything like that in Granada.  Everyone knows everyone else.  I feel completely safe here, and safe to have a family.” 

 

They finally arrived at the Apothecary’s, which was labeled with a plain sign nailed to the front door.  It was windowless, which seemed odd for a building where thick fumes were an occupational hazard.  Rachael mentioned this to Anna, who agreed.

 

“I don’t know how he airs the place out.  Several of the women have tried to get him to improve the shop, as we’re sure he’s going to mix up a bad batch of something someday.  But he refuses—says he hasn’t needed to change a thing in a hundred years, and he’s not going to start now.”  Anna shrugged, unconcerned. 

 

“From what I hear he knows what he’s doing,” Rachael told her.  “My potions consultant has requested his products specifically.  He told me that if I was going to purchase any erumpet fluid for him, it had better be from Mr. Giralde.  I take it he’s a genius at this.”

 

“Quite.”  Anna paused as Rachael reached for the handle.  “I have to say I really hate this shop.  It stinks and it’s really creepy.”

 

Rachael smiled.  “Come on, let’s get through this so I’ll have time to stop by your house.”  She pushed the door open and stepped inside. 

 

The air in the apothecary was quite cool, and Rachael suspected this was in part due to the lack of windows.  As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she breathed in the strong scents of potions brewing in the back and ingredients stored in bins around the room.  She wandered past a barrel of ginger roots and ducked to avoid hitting a string of dried bat wings.  Anna followed, her nose wrinkled in distaste at the smells.  Coming round a sack of fluxweed, Rachael spotted the front counter were a young apprentice was sorting through a jar of rat livers.  She walked up to him.

 

“I have an appointment with Mr. Giralde for this afternoon.” 

 

The young man looked up, happy to be distracted from his task.  Wiping his hands quickly on his apron, he flipped through a black book.  “Yes, Ms. DuBois,” he managed in good English.  “Wait one moment.”  He dashed to the back and Rachael took the opportunity to look around the shop again.  It was well organized chaos, she decided finally.  Anna was frowning as she looked around.

 

“I never liked this sort of thing, even in school,” she whispered.  “All the parts stuck in jars—it’s just disgusting!”   

 

“Good thing I’m not here to buy frog brains today then, isn’t it?” Rachael teased.  Anna turned a rather sickly shade of green, and Rachael decided she had probably pushed the issue as far as she ought to.  “Never mind, Anna,” she said quickly, to change the subject.  “How old is your daughter now?  She must be, what, one?”

 

“Two, actually,” Anna said, recovering.  “We had her birthday party just three weeks ago.”  She became more animated as her thoughts turned from brains in jars to her daughter.  “She is talking a mile a minute right now.  We’re teaching her both Spanish and English, and she understands so much in both languages!” 

 

“Are there many children her age here?”

 

“Several.  This is a very family oriented community.  Just yesterday Ilicia was playing with a little friend—“

 

Rachael was sure Anna could have continued for hours, but Giralde stepped up to the counter, and with a grunt announced his presence.  Rachael turned around to greet him.  “It’s a pleasure—“ she began.

 

“Erumpet fluid.  20 galleons.”  He set the small vial on the counter brusquely. 

 

“20 galleons?  For that?”  Rachael looked at the jar of clear fluid skeptically. 

 

Giralde eyed her suspiciously.  Rachael could tell he did not appreciate her doubt of his product’s worth.  “Who did you say you wanted this for?”

 

“Oh, don’t mind that, Giralde,” Anna interjected pleasantly, leaning in on the counter.  “I’ll vouch for her.”  Giralde frowned, but extended his hand for the coins Rachael counted out for him.

 

“Drop that vial, open it carelessly, or spill it, and you’ll learn why mine is the best,” he warned as he carefully wrapped the vial in wool before slipping it into a velvet bag.  He glared at Anna with an air of fury, although Rachael couldn’t think why that was necessary.  She accepted the bag.

 

“Thank you very much, Mr. Giralde,” she said as politely as she could manage.  “I assure you I will be very careful with it.”  He snorted, as though he very much doubted she would make it home in one piece and disappeared to the back to tend his cauldrons. 

 

Anna tugged at her elbow.  “Come on, Rachael.  You must see my house.  I haven’t had anyone new over in ages—the house elves won’t know what to do with themselves!”

 

Rachael let herself be pulled from the shop, and they stepped, blinking, into the sunlight.  “Let’s not bother with walking,” Anna said.  “Just Side-Along Apparate with me.  It will be much faster.” 

 

Rachael juggled her packages so she could take Anna’s hand.  With a pop, the hot streets were replaced with lush grass and full, bushy trees that rustled in a breeze that washed over them from the lake beyond the house.  Anna led the way up the shady path as Rachael took in the manicured landscape appreciatively.  She glimpsed swans at the water’s edge as they climbed the steps to the expansive front porch.

 

Anna beckoned Rachael to come inside the house.  “It’s much nicer in here—we use cooling spells to keep it comfortable.”  The entry way was airy and tastefully furnished.  A curving stairway led to the informal living areas, but Anna directed her further into the house.

 

“Let me get the elves to put your flowers in water so they don’t wilt.”

 

A little house elf, wearing a crisp, white handkerchief scurried up and dashed off with the bouquet.  “We’ll have drinks in the library.”  Anna told another, who hurried away as well, her oven mitt flapping furiously.

 

“This is a lovely house, Anna,” she told her friend as they made their way through the wood-paneled halls lined with portraits of the Villa and Hampton ancestors.

 

“Thank you.  My mother-in-law wanted to take over the decorating when we first moved here, but I made Juan put his foot down about that.  She would have done the place in horribly somber and morose colors, and I wanted to have a very friendly, welcoming home.”

 

They arrived at a set of white double doors.  “I usually take guests in the parlor,” Anna explained, “but I think you’ll prefer it in here.”

 

Anna swept open the doors just as the house elves pulled back curtains from the massive windows, flooding the huge room with light.  The room was circular, with floor to ceiling books all around it.  A second floor wrapped around the room to provide access to more bookshelves.  In the center were desks for study, with a huge astronomy globe that glinted in the sunlight.  “We’ll have drinks in here,” Anna said.  “So, what do you think?”

 

Rachael looked around.  Leather bound, wood bound, and cloth bound books filled the shelves.  The scent of paper, glue, and ink was subtle and intoxicating.  A private library like this was rare indeed.  “You’ve never mentioned such a collection,” she chided her friend.

 

Anna laughed.  “We haven’t spoken in so long!  And besides, Juan never wants to sell anything.”

 

“All the same . . . “ Rachael was drawn to the shelves and ran a hand gently over the spines.  She spotted a title that had been on her buy list for years but had never found.  And another shelf over she found a second.  “Anna, seriously, this is amazing.” 

 

A broad staircase led to the second floor, and Anna gestured they should go up it.  “There’s a sitting area on the second floor.  Ever had gespacho before?”  Rachael hadn’t.  “I think you’ll like it.  It’s a nice treat on a hot day like this.

 

At the landing they found squishy couches arranged around a low table.  A pitcher with red liquid was waiting on the table, next to two tall glasses.  Anna flung herself onto one of the couches, sighing happily.  “I’m so glad you could stop by for a little bit.  It can get quiet around here.”

 

Rachael sat across from her, arranging herself comfortably.  For a moment, the casual intimacy of old friends made it feel as though they were back in the Ravenclaw Common Room again.  Anna had tucked a knee under her chin, so Rachael poured herself a glass of the cool, thick liquid.  Smelling it, she asked warily, “What is it?”

 

“Oh, tomatoes, onions, peppers, some other things.  Try it!”  She laughed at Rachael’s hesitation.  “Don’t you still try to learn one new thing a day?”  Rachael shrugged and took a sip.  It was cool, spicy, and sharp, but good.

 

“I’ll have to get your recipe,” she murmured, and Anna laughed again.

 

“I thought I would miss England so much when we moved here, but the food is so good I didn’t even notice.”

 

Rachael settled deeper into the couch, cradling her glass.  “Last I heard you were teaching out here.  Are you still doing that?”

 

“I did the first two years after we moved.  At Empanza, the wizarding school near Toledo.  It’s a beautiful little school, not nearly as big as Hogwarts, although quite a long history.  I taught Charms to all levels and I loved it.  I hope to go back to it someday, but I haven’t worked since Ilicia was born.”

 

“Not at all?  I can’t imagine you staying still.”

 

“Never had a two year old, I see!” Anna giggled.  “But there’s been other things.  There’s the women’s group here.  We do a lot of charity work.  And,” she added, “I’ve been writing a book.”

 

A smile spread across Rachael’s face.  “Anna!  You’re really doing it?”

 

She blushed a little.  “It’s nothing much, really.  Just a side project.”

 

“You always said you’d write books.  What’s this one about?”

 

“It’s a history project,” Anna replied enthusiastically.  “There is such a rich story here in the south of Spain, dating back to the Arab rule.  The wizarding community was so different then, I knew I would have to explore it as soon as I learned about it.” 

 

Anna had excelled in nearly every subject at Hogwarts, and was one of the rare students who saw past Binn’s dry presentations to the richness of historical study.  A book of history was perfect.  “How far along are you?”

 

“Maybe halfway.  There aren’t many records left of the earlier times, as there was a purge of some sort, so it’s been slow going.”  She absently rubbed her arm.  “Not that it’s been bad, of course.  Just a lot of work I wasn’t expecting.”

 

“I have to admit some envy,” Rachael replied, taking another sip.  “Digging around in ancient parchments and all must be fascinating.  Juan has been supportive, I assume?”

 

“Oh, he doesn’t mind.  When I’m away doing research he loves to be Ilicia’s daddy.  And besides, he’s been busy himself since he took over the governorship of Empanza.”

 

“He did?  When did that happen?  I thought he was still in banking.”

 

“But surely you heard about this?  After the new legislation everything got turned upside down, and Juan stepped in to clear things up.”

 

“New legislation?”

 

“I thought you kept up with the times, Rachael!  I know the news got to England because I got a message from Lucius Malfoy congratulating us on pushing it through.”  Rachael suddenly remembered.

 

“Oh, right.  You don’t teach Muggle-born students at the school any more.  I hadn’t realized you supported that.”

 

Anna was surprised.  “Supported it?  I presented the proposal to the governors.  The women’s group drafted it, and they asked me to speak for all of us.”

 

“You always were a persuasive speaker,” Rachael said softly, then took another sip to avoid having to say more right away.  Many in the pureblood families agreed with ideas like these, but she hadn’t realized Anna did.  She certainly hadn’t said anything about it at Hogwarts.

 

“You really should keep up with this sort of thing,” Anna scolded gently.  “England is so slow to accept these changes because the purebloods aren’t unified in supporting them.”

 

Rachael made a non-committal sound in response.  “I’ve never really gotten into politics.”

 

“I hadn’t either, until recently,” Anna admitted.  “The women’s group here is very active, though.  We really have to make sure our children have the best future possible.  We focus on the educational system, of course, but we also want to see social changes.”

 

“Some people would say we weaken ourselves by refusing to study with those of . . . less  pure blood,” Rachael offered cautiously. 

 

Anna laughed.  “And who’s been telling you that?  Dumbledore?  Or better yet, mudbloods themselves?”  Rachael flinched at the casual obscenity, but Anna didn’t notice.  “In the year since school policy changed, there has been immense improvement.  Students are more focused now that the weak ones aren’t holding them back.  The German school has instituted a similar policy, and they see the same results.” 

 

“What happens to the students who never learn to focus their magic?” 

 

“What about them?” Anna said coldly.  “I won’t have my daughter being taught in the same room as those people.  They don’t have the natural ability, they don’t have the training from the cradle.  They can’t possibly understand what it means to be a true wizard!  Maybe they could start their own schools, who cares?  Personally, I think we might just be better off without them mucking things up.”

 

It wasn’t cold, but Rachael felt a chill down her arms.  Anna had been the leader at school but she had always been kind.  These harsh words seemed so strange coming from her.  “Does everyone around here agree with this?”

 

“Of course!  It’s really the only reasonable option these days.  I’ve studied a lot of the ideas coming out of England in the past two years, and we’ve had a lot of success implementing them.  These women really opened my eyes to a number of topics.  And they’ve been so supportive about my book.”

 

Rachael tried to smile, though it felt weak.  “What sorts of things do you do as a group, exactly?”

 

“Oh, you know,” she said vaguely.  “Fundraisers for the hospital, holding rallies for political candidates we support.  There are a few other things we do to get things to happen.  The mudbloods here put up a bit of a fuss, but we sent them packing and that was it.  Morale in the area has grown since then, of course.” 

 

“I never realized you felt this way,” Rachael said softly.

 

Anna smiled warmly.  “I’ve simply learned so much since becoming a mother.  I have to protect my daughter and give her the best life possible.  So what if I have to get my hands dirty along the way?  She’ll be better off for it.”

 

Rachael saw Anna massaging her left arm again, and something clicked into place.  She had seen that movement by someone else.  Someone with a good reason to hold his left arm like that . . .

 

Suddenly nauseous, she set her glass down.  “Anna, where’s your bathroom?”

 

She barely heard Anna’s directions through the buzzing in her own head.  As she trotted down the hallway her thoughts tumbled unpleasantly.  Anna couldn’t be . . . she just couldn’t be.  She was a wife—a mother!  She had been in Spain for years, far from the turmoil in England.  Yet, hadn’t she said that she was studying the ideas from England and implementing those ideas here?

 

Once in the bathroom Rachael locked the door behind her and splashed water on her face.  The Anna she had known was sweet and friendly.  She had tutored younger students on their homework and had been president of the Charms club.  She had a nice family in England and a future as a famous writer ahead of her.  People like that didn’t become people like them.

 

And yet, Rachael was sure it was true.  She could feel it in her gut.  The way Anna spoke about Muggle-borns and their departure from Granada was shocking.  This was rhetoric spewed in the streets of England, usually by men who wore masks.  It was not the sort of thing women tended to discuss in libraries with their children napping right down the hall.  Her willingness to “get her hands dirty” was terrifying.  Rachael should have picked up on it sooner.  Staring dazedly at herself in the mirror she forced herself to say it. 

 

“Anna Villa is a Death Eater.” 

 

She shuddered at the words.  Death Eaters were terrifying figures, anonymous in their destruction and torture.  The whole of England was drowning in fear of them and their Master.  To think her childhood friend could don their mask was sickening.

 

She wiped her face with a fluffy towel embroidered with Anna’s initials.  Rachael’s stomach twisted again.  Did she really believe she was doing it for her daughter, or was there some other malicious purpose?  Did Juan know?  For that matter, was Juan a Death Eater himself?

 

Returning to the library, she was surprised to find her hands were shaking.  After all, this was hardly the first time she had been in the home of a Death Eater.  She took a deep breath, then firmly grasped the handle and opened the door.

 

Anna was flipping through one of the books Rachael had purchased earlier, and looked up as Rachael resumed her position on the chair.  Anna looked up and took a breath.  “I was thinking that maybe you could help me with my research,” she announced, shutting the book with a snap.  “There are a few documents I haven’t been able to find.”

 

Rachael nodded, forcing herself to relax.  “Of course.  I’d be happy to assist you.  What do you have in mind?”

 

“Well . . .” Anna hesitated.  “They aren’t very . . . accessible records, really.”

 

“We do specialize in hard to find books, Anna.  Try me.”

 

Anna pulled out her wand and conjured a parchment and quill.  “There are several,” she explained.

 

“That’s good, actually,” Rachael replied.  “It gives me a better chance of finding something.”

 

Anna began to scribble out her list and Rachael leaned across the table to read the titles.  The first was Arabic Runes and Magics by Akrim Akil, which was old and out of print but available in decent condition if you knew the right places to look.  A few lines down she saw Purity of Olde Magics.  Rachael raised an eyebrow as Anna continued to write.  No wonder she hadn’t been able to fine it.  The Latin version Anna was requesting had been banned in Europe for 800 years on account of the powerful spells it contained.  She took a long drink from her glass, carefully schooling her expression as she read the last title Anna wanted, Blood Rites and Kin Wars.  She wondered if Anna realized how dangerous it was to even open that book, much less to be caught with it.  She wondered what on earth Anna was really writing about.

 

Anna sat back for a quick look over the list, then handed it to Rachael.  “When I wrote to Lucius Malfoy last week that I was having difficulty with my book, he recommended you as someone who could . . . handle this sort of thing,” Anna offered. 

 

“Mr. Malfoy is most generous in his assessment, and we certainly do our best to perform at our client’s expectations.  Which of course entails a certain discretion in the work,” Rachael told her and folded the list to tuck into a pocket.

 

Anna seemed somewhat relieved, as if she hadn’t been sure Rachael would agree to help.  “Of course.  It’s very fortunate for me that we ran into each other.”

 

“I assure you, the benefit is mutual,” Rachael said, forcing a little levity into her voice.  “These won’t be cheap.”  Anna laughed again.

 

“Of course I expect to pay well for services provided.”  She glanced at the large clock hanging on the far wall.  “Did you say you had to run, or could you stay for dinner?”

 

“I already have an appointment this evening, unfortunately.”  She rose and straightened her robes.  “It may take a little while to find these texts, you understand.  I’ll schedule a proper visit when I have something for you.”  Anna nodded and smiled.

 

Rachael reclaimed her book and redid the twine knots to hold the stack together.  Anna rose to lead her out.  “Next time you come I’ll be sure to have that recipe for you.”

 

“Thank you.  My mother will really enjoy it, I think.”  They went down the stairs and left the library, with its comforting aroma of paper and ink.  Anna called for a house elf.

 

“I don’t want you to forget your flowers, of course.  They’re so lovely.”

 

“You really must come to England sometime, Anna.  We’d all love to see you again.”  Rachael took the bouquet carefully to avoid jostling the potion vial.

 

Anna sighed.  “We really should go.  We’ve just been so busy.  I haven’t seen my parents in such a long time.  If you see my mother, please tell her hello for me.”

 

“Of course.”  She stopped in the door, halfway gone.  “Take care of yourself, Anna.”

 

Anna gave her a brilliant smile.  “Of course.  You too.”

 

Rachael hoped her smile was less doubtful than she felt.  “I’ll see you soon.”

 

Anna closed the door behind her and Rachael lingered on the front porch for a moment.  The air was still warm, but she felt very cold.  Simple chance had brought her to the home of yet another Death Eater.  And she would now have to report it to Dumbledore, and help keep watch over her.  Anna was not the first childhood friend to turn, drawn by whatever appealed to an unsatisfied soul, but her defection was certainly the most unsettling.

 

She set off down the shady path to where it emptied into the sunny street.  Appropriately away from the house, she spun on her foot, and in a blink the street was empty once again.

//
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