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Chapter 66 : New York, Late June 1994
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However, as she was about to ascend the staircase, she heard what sounded like a skipping record from behind the door to her right. Removing her wand from her purse, she cautiously opened the door and peered inside. What the hell is this about, she thought, frowning as she entered her father’s study. She removed the needle from the record and tapped the record player with her wand, turning it off. Maybe it’s the housekeeper, she thought, examining the record player. Yeah, it must be her—it’s plugged in, but why didn’t she use the CD player over there? Awkwardly laughing at her apprehension, she placed her wand back into her purse, left her father’s study, and walked up the lengthy staircase. I’ll have to tell her it’s all right to use the CD player, she thought as she reached the top of the staircase. She’s probably still here since the record player was on; I’ll have to find her before she leaves. Althea walked toward her bedroom, but immediately stopped when she heard rustling from the guest room at the end of the hall. Good, she’s still here, she thought, walking toward the guest room door.
“Beatrice, I’m here,” she said as she opened the door, but immediately stopped and screamed from surprise.
The hippogriff screeched and flapped its wings as Althea hurriedly left the room and shut the door. Her hand tightly grasping the doorknob, she rested the back of her head against the white-painted, wooden door.
“A hippogriff in my guest room,” she said aloud and took a deep breath. Suddenly, her eyes bulged as she realized why a hippogriff was in her guest room. “He’s here!” she breathed excitedly. “Oh God!”
She had to leave. Frantically, Althea attempted to pry her hand from the door, but her fingers refused to release the doorknob. She would Apparate then, but her body refused to budge and prepare itself for the movement.
Suddenly, the door to her bedroom burst open and out rushed Sirius—emaciated, disheveled, and dirty. “Oh Buckbeak, what’s the matter?” he asked with exasperation as he walked toward her.
Adrenaline coursed through Althea’s body—shocking her system—and her knuckles whitened as she steadied herself with the doorknob. She did not want to meet him; she never wanted to meet him. Damn it, she thought as her hand slipped on the doorknob, why must he be here? Did Remus tell him? Did Dumbledore? Damn it, I never wanted to see him! Sirius looked up and stopped—his eyes transfixed upon her. Althea caught her breath and remained motionless, her eyes refusing to leave his skeletal face. He doesn’t look like Sirius, she thought as she pressed her back against the guest room door. His face…it’s so different. Her eyes searched his face for something to remind her that it was indeed Sirius standing before her. His eyes, she thought, looking into the sunken, darkened sockets. Those are his eyes—it is Sirius.
Immediately, Althea felt an upsurge of emotions, emotions she had no control over—emotions she wished would have stayed away. I—I can’t leave…I want to leave but I can’t, she thought, horrified, as he took a step forward and she pressed herself further into the guest room door. Why won’t my body move! Move, you stupid girl! Move! Don’t let him touch you! Don’t let him near you! You know what will happen, as soon as he touches you, you’ll start sobbing and throw yourself into his arms. He doesn’t deserve you, so move!
However, her body betrayed her and she began to tremble as Sirius furrowed his eyebrows.
“Althea?” he asked quietly.
Althea nodded—not removing her gaze from his.
Sirius inhaled a deep, ragged breath and attempted to run his fingers through his filthy, matted hair that hung to his elbows. “God, I…” he began shakily, but turned his face away from her.
Disregarding all sensible thought and the slight piece of dignity that remained, she walked forward and stood within inches of him. He stood before her pathetic and broken, and she could not help but feel guilt and pity for him. What am I doing, she thought as her trembling fingertips touched the side of his face. Lightly, she glided her fingertips along his cheek, his tears trickling down her fingertips and onto her hand. He’s crying, my God, he’s crying…I’ve never known him to cry, she thought as he attempted to sniff back his tears. My God, what has happened to you? She did not know what to say to him, or if she could speak at all. Slowly, she turned his face to meet hers, and Sirius attempted to sniff back tears.
“I love you so much,” she managed to say and buried her face into his boney shoulder.
Sobbing, she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, and her sobbing intensified as Sirius held her close to him—nuzzling her neck with his tear stained face. At this moment, it did not matter that he smelled like a hippogriff or probably had not bathed in twelve years. I don’t believe this, she thought, holding him tighter. I don’t believe I’m doing this.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, stroking her back. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too,” she whispered and attempted to stop her crying and her body from shaking.
In the process, she snorted, which caused Sirius to snicker.
“Stop laughing at me,” she murmured, not lifting her head from his shoulder.
Sirius continued to shake with laughter and secretly she smiled, enjoying the sound of his laughter as he held her in his arms.
“This is supposed to be our big romantic moment, and I snorted,” she said, attempting to hide a smile as she lifted her head from his shoulder.
Sirius smiled and wiped the tear soaked hair from her face. “Oh, I think it’s very romantic,” he replied warmly, caressing her face with his thin hand. “Bloody hell,” he sighed appreciatively, “I would never have imagined holding you again, but here I am.”
New tears trickled down Sirius’s cheeks and Althea raised her fingers to wipe them away. He closed his eyes, his grin broadening as she continued to touch his face. Gradually, he opened his eyes and rested his forehead against hers.
“I want you to meet my fellow fugitive,” he whispered.
Althea shook her head as she stood. “I think I frightened your hippogriff,” she replied, looking toward the guestroom door as Sirius took her hand. “I doubt he’ll want to see me after I screamed at him.”
“Oh come on,” he replied, tugging her hand as he walked toward the guest room.
Althea followed Sirius into her guest room and bowed as she entered. The hippogriff lowered his front legs, which allowed her to walk toward him.
She gently stroked the feathers on his neck as she spoke, “I’m sorry I screamed earlier. I wasn’t expecting a hippogriff in my guestroom.”
“So Buckbeak can stay in the guest room, then?” Sirius asked as he slid his arm around her waist.
Althea pursed her lips and furrowed her eyebrows.
“Oh, come on,” he urged, pulling her close to him. “I owe him my life.”
“I suppose so,” she sighed, looking at Buckbeak. “Thankfully, Beatrice only comes round to care for the house when I’m not here; otherwise, Buckbeak would stay in the carriage house.”
“Thanks,” he murmured happily and kissed the top of her head, causing her to frown. “What’s the matter?” he asked, stroking a curl that had fallen in her eyes behind her ear.
“Twelve years and you kiss me on the top of the head?” she remarked, smiling wryly.
Sirius laughed loudly. “You never would let me near you if I had garlic or onions.”
“Twelve years,” she murmured as she slid her arms around his neck.
“You know,” he whispered, gently running his fingertips up and down her sides. “The last thing I ate was big, fat rat,” he added and laughed as Althea sneered. “I’ll clean up because honestly, I really want to take a bath,” he finished and pinched her nose.
“I’ll draw you a bath, then,” she replied, tugging at his collar.
“I’d love that,” he smiled. “Unfortunately, these filthy things are all I have,” he added, looking at his clothes.
Althea shivered uncomfortably as she looked at the Azkaban prison robes, but refused to exhibit her uneasiness as she spoke, “Oh, I think I have some of your clothes somewhere.”
Sirius laughed. “You’ve kept my clothes all these years?” he asked, shutting the guestroom door.
“I don’t have a shrine to you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she remarked as they walked toward her bedroom. “They’re probably up in the attic.”
“Oh, yeah,” he muttered sadly, and Althea knew he was remembering when he had moved some of their things to Bermuda in preparation of their hiding.
“I’ll go out later and buy you some new clothes,” she replied as they reached the bedroom door. “Are you keeping your hair that long?” she asked, attempting to change the subject as they entered the bedroom.
Sirius smiled. “You don’t like my long hair?” he asked as they walked toward the bathroom.
“Not particularly,” she replied, stopping at the linen closet. “I’ll cut most of it off for you before your bath,” she added, taking towels from the linen closet.
Sirius took the towels from her as they entered the bathroom. “I like my long hair though,” he replied, placing the towels on the small table next to the bathtub. “It makes me look menacing.”
“It makes you look like your mother,” she muttered as she searched the cupboard under the sink for shampoo and soap.
“Cut it off straight away,” he replied quickly. “Cut it off.”
“I’m not going to cut it off just yet,” she explained, placing shampoo and soap on the sink counter. Althea grunted as she stood. “Here,” she continued, handing Sirius a spare toothbrush and toothpaste. “You’ll need this as well.”
“Thanks,” he muttered, looking at the toothbrush and toothpaste. “I think I’ll brush my teeth first. I looked at them in the mirror—they’re awful,” he explained as he squeezed copious amounts of the blue gel onto the toothbrush. “I think I’ll need to learn a few Dental Charms.”
“I believe I have an old book here,” she replied, hopping up onto the sink counter.
“Great,” he said and placed the toothbrush in his mouth.
Dental Charms are only the first step, she thought, as Sirius vigorously brushed his teeth. You’ll need a bath as well. Althea wondered the last time Sirius had a bath, or at least, a shower. The last proper bath was the night James and Lily died…no, probably bathed in streams since his escape, she thought, frowning that Sirius smelled of earth and hippogriff.
Sirius spat into the sink, rinsed with water, and looked at his teeth in the mirror. He frowned, placed more toothpaste onto the toothbrush, and furiously brushed his teeth. He might keep this up for an hour, she thought, smiling at Sirius. Sirius winked at her and she sighed happily. I wouldn’t be surprised either. I remained in the bath for two hours for my first bath out of Azkaban…of course, Allegra wouldn’t let me out.
Sirius took the toothbrush from his mouth and spat into the sink. “Will you watch as I bathe, too?” he asked and went back to brushing his teeth.
Althea smiled as she swung her legs against the cupboard. “Probably,” she answered, gently stroking her foot up and down his calf.
Sirius laughed as he shifted the toothbrush to the other side of his mouth.
“However, I am finding this very boring,” she continued and Sirius raised an eyebrow. “I think you’re stalling.”
Sirius spat once more into the sink. “Stalling?” he repeated as Althea handed him a cup of water.
“Yes,” she replied, slipping her foot between his legs, “stalling.”
“Stalling from what?”
“From kissing me,” she answered and Sirius laughed as he placed the empty cup onto the sink. “Do that again.”
“Laugh?” he asked and Althea nodded. Sirius laughed quietly as he pulled Althea close to him. Resting his thin hand against her cheek, he spoke, “I’ve changed—physically, I mean…I’m not as young or handsome—”
“It doesn’t matter—”
“No,” he interrupted, cupping her face with his hand. “I’ll understand if you’re repulsed by me. I’m not who I used to be.”
“Neither am I,” she replied, slowly slipping her hands around his neck.
“No, you are,” he replied, smiling. “You haven’t changed at all.”
“Stop stalling,” she teased, tugging at his frayed collar.
“Yes, you are,” she murmured, smoothing out his wrinkled, frayed collar. “You’ve probably forgotten how to kiss a girl,” she explained and smiled mischievously. “Probably forgotten other things as well.”
Sirius laughed quietly. “I can assure you, I haven’t,” he whispered, resting his forehead against hers.
Althea mockingly frowned. “What, have you been snogging girls while on the run?” she teased and giggled as Sirius tickled her side.
“It’s not something you forget,” he murmured, closing his eyes.
Althea caught her breath as his lips touched hers. No, it isn’t, she thought, wrapping her legs around his waist….
Althea gasped as she opened her eyes. Bloody hell, at least I awoke sooner this time, she thought as a muscular arm tightened around her waist. Althea looked to her left as the young man with messy brown hair continued to sleep face down into his pillow. He’s twenty-two, she thought, smiling to herself. A twenty-two-year-old is sleeping in your bed…a twenty-two-year-old bassist.
Althea looked at the clock—it was nine o’clock in the morning and at noon she would leave for Bermuda. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she carefully sat up as not to wake to Leif. Leif, she mused, slipping her right arm through the silk robe sleeve. He’s twenty-two, Althea…but Afina did introduce you and wanted you to know him. Althea took one last look at him as she slipped her left arm through her silk robe sleeve. However, I don’t believe a week ago she had this in mind.
“God, you’re gorgeous,” she whispered as she walked toward the door.
Althea walked to the kitchen and opened the freezer, taking out a pint of chocolate ice cream. Sitting at the kitchen table, she took a large spoonful of chocolate ice cream into her mouth. At least I didn’t dream about Sirius and I having sex on the bathroom floor, she thought, swallowing the large spoonful, like last time. Since the revelation of Sirius’s innocence, Althea’s nightly dreams have been consumed with their meeting—with admissions of feelings never lost and rekindling of a relationship. She was confused and ashamed at her feelings for him—feelings she had fought to suppress to keep her sanity, to keep her alive. Now it’s all right to love him, she thought, swallowing another large spoonful. No.
“I’ll never write to him, Remus,” she whispered, placing the spoon into the ice cream. “I never want to see him.”
Althea quickly took another spoonful as she heard footsteps enter the kitchen. It was Afina’s boyfriend, Bacchus T. Fox, the lead guitarist for the American Wizarding band, Pan…and Leif’s best friend. He entered the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, rubbing the back of his black, spiky hair as he looked inside. Taking out a carton of orange juice, he opened it and took a large gulp as he closed the refrigerator door. Althea cringed and wished that she never drank from that orange juice carton.
“Oh, hey,” he said and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Hello,” she replied, looking at the orange juice carton in his hand.
He looked to his hand and laughed. “Yeah, forgot,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders. He placed the carton back into the refrigerator and leaned against the kitchen worktop. “Did you like New York?”
“Somewhat,” she answered, placing the spoon into the pint of ice cream. “I prefer the countryside really. I loathe London actually.”
“Oh yeah?” he murmured and frowned. “You probably didn’t enjoy the concert either.”
Althea leaned forward and shook her head. “Oh, no,” she replied emphatically, “I enjoyed the concert very much.”
“Of course,” she answered and smiled wryly. “I’m a schoolteacher, not a cloistered nun. I don’t know what Afina told you—”
“I told him you were my older, schoolteacher aunt from England,” Afina finished, leaning against the doorway.
Afina was tall and thin, and her thick brown hair was artfully tousled. She pulled the vibrant kimono tighter around her naked frame.
“Brilliant, Afina, make me sound like I’m seventy,” she murmured, leaning back in her chair.
“Until this week you dressed it,” she replied and smiled as she sat across from her aunt.
“Thank you for my wardrobe,” Althea replied, staring at the pint of ice cream. “I’m sure I’ll be at the height of fashion when I return to Hogwarts for the upcoming school year.”
“It’s only your summer wardrobe, Auntie,” she replied, charming a spoon across the kitchen. “Your fall wardrobe will arrive in September,” she continued, taking a spoonful of ice cream.
“I’ll have new clothes every season, then?” she asked and Afina nodded. “Do I have to pay for this?” she asked and laughed.
“No, but you have to promise me you won’t dress matronly ever again—”
“I don’t think she dresses matronly,” Bacchus interrupted and smiled as Afina frowned at him.
An owl flew through the window and dropped an American Wizarding paper, The Wizarding Post, into his hands.
“Cool, they’ll have the review of last night’s show in here,” he continued, unrolling the thick paper. “Their music critic was at the show.”
“Don’t believe anything awful he says,” Afina said, turning toward Bacchus, who had found the article. “How is it?” she asked, furrowing her eyebrows.
“He loved it,” he replied, smiling. “He said that we’ve topped our last tour and he feels sorry for those that don’t have tickets to our tour.”
“Brilliant!” Afina squealed, clasping her hands together. Afina excitedly turned toward Althea. “He’s the top music critic in this country, Auntie. He hated the Famous Dead Wizards tour—this is brilliant!” she said and sighed happily. “Did he mention the costumes?” she asked, waiting for his answer.
Bacchus scanned the rest of the article and nodded. “Yeah,” he answered—his grin widening. “According to him, you’re, ‘the fresh new look of American Wizard fashion.’”
Afina covered her mouth as she giggled.
“Bloody fantastic!” Althea exclaimed. “It’s just the sort of publicity you need before you open that boutique in Salem.”
Afina sighed appreciatively and turned her face toward Bacchus. “What’s the matter?” she asked, frowning slightly.
“Famous Dead Wizards,” he muttered and rolled his eyes. “Capitalizing on that weird English psycho’s escape, trying to turn him into some folk hero.”
Althea caught her breath and took an absurdly large spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. Afina turned toward Althea—a small frown line between her eyebrows had appeared. Weird English psycho?
Obviously unaware of Althea and Afina’s apprehensions, Bacchus continued, “They were inspired by that article in The 45 about his American witch groupies—”
“Groupies?” Althea murmured in a distant voice.
“Yeah, sick right?” he remarked and folded the newspaper.
Althea swallowed a large amount of chocolate ice cream. She winced at the sharp headache.
“They’ve written, ‘Baby’s with Black,’—’”
Afina snorted and Althea fiercely kicked her under the table.
Bacchus tossed the paper upon the table. “A parody? Can’t even write their own music.”
“Just awful and tasteless,” Afina remarked, shaking her head.
Althea inhaled a deep breath. “What is the song about?”
Bacchus shrugged his shoulders. “It didn’t say much. It’s about this girl that runs off with him, I guess.”
“Oh,” Althea whispered, looking at the melting ice cream. “What time is it?”
“Nine-thirty, Auntie,” Afina replied quietly. “You’re still leaving at noon, right?”
“Right,” she replied, poking the ice cream with her spoon, “at noon.”
Bacchus sighed and scratched his stomach. “I think I’ll owl the rest of the band,” he said and kissed Afina on the cheek. “Have any of you seen Leif?” he asked as he walked toward the door. “No, never mind. He’s probably rehearsing somewhere…the moody bastard,” he continued and laughed to himself.
As soon as Bacchus left, a small smile spread across Althea’s face. “I have,” she whispered—attempting not to giggle—as she took a spoonful of ice cream, “check my bedroom.”
“Auntie!” Afina gasped and laughed as she looked at Althea with surprise.
“What?” she replied, shrugging her shoulders. “He liked my accent and I liked…everything.”
Afina furrowed her eyebrows as she leaned forward. “He’s in your bed, at this moment?” she asked, tapping her index finger on the table for emphasis.
“Yeah,” she answered, smiling smugly to herself. “He is.”
“What are you doing here? Go back!” she said emphatically, attempting to take away the pint of ice cream.
Althea protectively held onto the pint. “I want to finish my ice cream,” she replied and scooped up another large scoop of ice cream with her spoon.
“Honestly, Auntie, I will never understand you,” she remarked and sighed, resting her chin on her hand as she observed Althea with what seemed to be mild bemusement.
Althea swallowed the large spoonful. “What about you?” she asked, pointing her spoon at Afina. “You should be in bed with your boyfriend. Not here with me and he looking for the rest of his mates.”
“You’re thinking about that letter,” she replied thoughtfully and took a spoonful for herself.
“I am not,” she replied defensively. “I was hungry.”
And trying to forget my dream of Sirius, she thought, placing her spoon on the table. No, I wasn’t thinking of that letter telling me the sham marriage to Sirius to save us from Azkaban was, indeed, a sham…that the justice of the peace wasn’t licensed and illegally performed that marriage. Early the day before, Althea had received a letter from her solicitor, detailing that the final preparations for divorce were unnecessary for the marriage certificate was invalid. The justice of the peace had performed over three hundred such illegal marriages in his twenty-year career. Overcome with excitement at the news and that a younger man fancied her (and pursued her like a reckless puppy), after the concert, she snuck away with Leif to her bedroom.
“Yes, you are,” Afina said knowingly as she swallowed the ice cream. “I’ve never seen you act so celebratory.”
“Celebratory?” Althea laughed, leaning back in her chair. “I have a twenty-two-year-old in my bed who fancies me…if anything, that’s why I’m celebratory.”
“Then go back to him.”
“I will, when I finish this ice cream,” she replied, taking the spoon in her hand.
“The whole pint?”
“Possibly,” she murmured, twirling the spoon around her fingers. “Anyway, he’s asleep.”
Afina threw herself back in the chair with disgust. “Go upstairs and wake him.”
“No, he needs his sleep,” she replied, frowning. “That would be awful to wake him—he’d think I’m mental.”
“You’re just afraid, Auntie. You’re thinking about that letter—”
“No, I am not,” she interrupted, her voice elevated.
“Yes, you are. As soon as you opened that letter, your whole demeanor changed,” Afina explained and attempted to take the ice cream away.
“What?” Althea remarked, roughly grabbing the ice cream. “Was I supposed to be depressed that the sham was a sham? I am bloody thrilled that there is nothing connecting me to him.”
“Then why did I hear you mumble, ‘Sirius, I love you,’ when you were asleep on the couch yesterday?” she asked, raising her eyebrow. “You murmur in your sleep.”
“I did not!” she replied, folding her arms. “I don’t talk in my sleep.”
“Yes, you do,” she laughed, shaking her head as she looked at Althea. “When I was younger, I’d have a bit of fun and ask you things. You told me the sequence of four charms to unlock Gran’s wine cellar.”
“Is that how a few of the bottles went missing? I’ll tell Gran.”
Afina rolled her eyes and laughed. “I’ll tell her about you at fifteen with Remus,” she threatened and winked. “Oh, was that a shock when I was sixteen over Christmas Holiday.”
“Is that why you went into a fit of laughter at the dinner table every time Remus spoke, and Gran had you confined to your room?” she asked, kicking her heel against the floor. She shook her head as Afina continued to laugh. “You’re horrible.”
“Not as horrible as you. The things Gran would tell me about you.”
Althea threw her head back, staring at the ceiling. “Yeah, Gran’s a bloody saint for keeping me.”
“Why do you torture yourself then?”
Althea lifted her head and sighed. “Because, in some odd way, I love that old woman. She’s done more for me than you’ll ever know,” she explained, looking thoughtfully into Afina’s eyes.
“She does try her best to marry you off. She was so angry that you did nothing to improve your chances with Remus.”
Althea smiled bitterly.
Afina’s expression changed and she opened and closed her mouth, frowning. “What? What is the matter?” she asked, furrowing her eyebrows. “Something did happen, didn’t it?”
“The night before the last full moon,” she replied, using her fingertip to trace invisible circles into the table. “I spent the night in his quarters.”
“And?” she asked eagerly, smiling slightly.
“And nothing,” she replied quickly and sighed with disappointment.
“Not the volcano of sexual repression I thought him to be?”
Althea let out a quiet laugh.
“What?” she asked, straightening. “So bloody mild-mannered and once a month he’s a blood thirsty beast. I just thought—I heard Sophie—”
Afina clamped her mouth shut.
“Out with it.”
Afina sighed and picked at the table. “She shagged him.”
Afina made a face. “Ages ago, Auntie, when you were in Malibu,” she answered. “Harrington made a joke, but Sophie cut him off by saying that he was boring in conversation but brilliant in bed.”
Althea’s lips quivered into a smile. “I reckon John hated that.”
Afina nodded. “So?”
Afina smiled mischievously.
“I enjoyed him very much,” she said and sighed. “I thought—well, we were together, but all was ruined.”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything,” she answered and shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “Sirius returned.”
Afina abruptly stood and furiously pointed her finger at Althea. “Tell me! Tell me you did not take him back! Of all the stupid things you’ve done—”
“Shut it, Gran, and sit down!” she replied heatedly, standing as well.
The two women roughly sat in their chairs, and Althea folded her arms.
“I didn’t take him back. I almost killed him, if that’s any indication of where my feelings lie.”
“What does Sirius have to do with ruining everything, other than the obvious?”
Althea took a deep breath, picking up her spoon and dropping it into the pint of ice cream. She frowned as the spoon slipped—the ice cream coating the handle.
“Auntie?” Afina pressed.
Althea’s gaze locked upon Afina’s brown eyes. “He’s innocent,” she said quietly, the words seeming odd to say to another person.
Afina was speechless.
Slowly, Althea started to explain to Afina the circumstances of Sirius’s capture and escape from Azkaban. She spoke of the night of the full moon—how Sirius broke into Hogwarts once more, the revelation that Peter was the spy and traitor, and that the relationship with Remus could not continue.
“So, you see, Remus did it out of profound loyalty. As if Remus could say, ‘By the way, Sirius, Althea is not only alive, but I shagged her last night.’ He couldn’t betray his best friend,” she explained and bit her bottom lip. “He’s written me a few times.”
“No, Remus. He believes Sirius has a right to know,” she explained, resting her hands on the table. “To know that I’m alive.”
Afina tenderly placed her hand on Althea’s forearm. “He made your life hell, Auntie, don’t let him know,” she said and took a deep breath—seeming to look through the table. “I remember how you used to be…I remember Gran and I finding you drunk in the cottage.”
Althea retracted her arm and covered her face with her hands. “God, I’m so sorry,” she murmured, ashamed. “I threw that bottle at Gran and it almost hit you…I’m so sorry.”
“You lost yourself,” she replied and sighed sadly.
Althea heard her reach over the table and Afina gently lowered Althea’s hands.
“You took me in when I had no one,” she said softly, wiping the tears away from Althea’s cheeks. “You did the best you could.”
“I should have been—”
“A better mother, I know,” she murmured and smiled a bittersweet smile. “I know it was my mother who betrayed us, and you tried to protect me,” she continued and Althea whimpered. Afina pulled her chair around to Althea’s side of the table. “You gave me Gran, and she has been the best mother—don’t laugh—the best mother to me,” she said, stroking wet strands of hair away from Althea’s face. “But who taught me about boys—”
“I taught you what not to do—”
“—and sex, and snogging, and all those truly important things young girls need to know?”
“As if Gran could teach you about sex,” Althea muttered, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. “You don’t have to worry, I’ll never let Sirius know I’m alive. I won’t, ever. If it means I have to break my friendship with Remus, then I must.”
“Will you go back to Hogwarts?” she asked, resting a concerned hand on Althea’s shoulder.
“I don’t know,” she replied, frowning pensively. “I know he’d look there—he’s that stupid to go back. I reckon Bermuda is safe,” she explained and shook her head, dismissing her thoughts to leave Hogwarts. “Oh, but I should stay at Hogwarts. I need to protect her.”
“Do you think she’s in danger?”
Althea nodded solemnly. “If he discovers Prudence is alive, he will take back what is his—no matter the cost,” she answered, looking at her hands in her lap. I have no doubt of it.”
“He would kidnap her?”
“Oh yeah,” she replied and sniffed back her remaining tears. “She is his daughter and he absolutely hates it when he can’t have something. When the Fat Lady wouldn’t let him into Gryffindor Tower, he tore her portrait. I’d hate to think what he’d do to her parents,” she explained and shivered as she took a deep breath. “No, even if he discovered I was alive, he must never know she survived,” she added, looking into Afina’s eyes with urgency.
“Would Remus tell?”
“No, he knows what Sirius is capable of,” she replied, unsure if Remus’s loyalty rested more with Sirius than her. “He would never let anything happen to her.”
Afina rested her head upon Althea’s shoulder. “You know, you could always stay here,” she said as Althea slipped her arm around Afina. “I know Leif would enjoy it.”
Althea laughed quietly to herself. “I might do that.”
Thank you so much for reading! What is in store for Althea? A flight and a choice.
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