Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven
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It is best not to tell Sirius, she thought and cast the charm to wash her glass and the other dishes in the sink. Hot water spilled from the tap and splashed against the plates, creating a green foam. Remus is right; it is better to leave things unsaid. Sirius couldn’t handle it now. She would lose her ally in complicity soon. Remus was to leave to find work and the couple would be alone. She swallowed at the thought. She had contemplated leaving as well, but she knew Sirius would follow.
“Must you go?” she asked and narrowed her eyes in concentration to bring the brush to the dishes.
“I don’t have a choice,” he sighed as he leaned against the kitchen worktop. He glanced toward the sink and turned her hand slightly clockwise.
She mustered a smile. “Precisely why I need you,” she said as the brush gently scrubbed a dish patterned with delicate blue flowers. “I would’ve broken it.”
“You’re brilliant at Repair Charms,” he said and flicked at the soap bubbles. “I have to find work.”
“We might kill one another—”
“You’ve had loads of chances,” he said and Althea frowned at him as she leaned against the worktop next to him. “It’s true,” he said and cracked a wry smile. “Admit it, you enjoy his company.”
“Likely,” she muttered, folding her arms as she looked out into her vegetable garden.
“I catch you laughing at his jokes,” he said and leaned close. “I wasn’t fooled by your hardened exterior at fifteen and I’m not fooled now—”
Sirius approached up the walk, cradling something in his arms, which caught her attention.
“What is—oh, the poor thing,” she said and lifted herself from the worktop.
She walked quickly to meet Sirius at the door. He unfolded his arms, and presented her with the small, brown owl. A large package, wrapped in purple paper, was tied neatly to its legs. An owl such as that was inappropriate to carry such a large package across great distances. By its tiny stature, it was meant for local post only.
“He fell out of the sky,” he explained, scratching the top of the owl’s head. “I’m surprised he didn’t fall sooner with such a large package tied to him.”
“Here,” she said, pulling out the chair for him to sit. “Untie the package and I’ll bring some water.”
“Right, thanks,” he murmured, cradling the owl as he sat in the chair.
“Did you enjoy your walk then?” she asked as she opened the cupboard.
“Yeah,” he breathed, “until this poor owl fell from the sky.”
Althea looked over her shoulder at the owl and to Sirius, who had untied the package from it. Sirius affectionately scratched the owl under its beak.
“He is so very small,” she replied, smiling sweetly at the pitiful owl. “Where did he come from?”
Sirius looked at the address. “England,” he answered and laughed. “You used to do this,” he remarked as Althea took a small, green bowl from the cupboard.
“Charm the scenes you drew on envelopes and packages,” he replied and chuckled, “except it’s written in pink ink and not purple.”
What had Afina sent her from England? In her last owl, Afina—after lamenting at her stay with Gran—promised she would send Althea something more suitable for her younger, hipper image. It was such a small box. Althea’s lips upturned into a mischievous smile. What could be so small?
“Must be Afina, then,” she replied, filling the bowl with water. “She’s very creative.”
“No,” he said slowly, “it’s from Miss Prudence R. Parker of Durbeyfield.”
The bowl slipped from Althea’s hands and she quickly caught it—the water spilling onto her forearms. Panic filled her insides. She cursed her daughter’s cleverness. Remus hastily handed her a towel and she nervously dried her arms. Aren’t you having a good laugh, she thought, looking up toward the ceiling. Why not ruin everything? Send all of my ex-lovers here on flying carpets! Remus gently nudged her forward. With great reluctance, she stepped toward the table and Sirius. Her trembling hands placed the bowl before the exhausted owl, and he hooted in appreciation. She anxiously peered at the package and bit her bottom lip. If he easily recognized my handwriting, he’ll recognize the similarity of Prudence’s handwriting, she thought as Sirius smiled back—his one hand grasped the package, and the other hand, scratched the owl.
“Parker…Parker,” he murmured, narrowing his eyes in thought. “I don’t recognize the name. A student, right?”
Althea nodded tensely as the feeling of ice water pouring over her chest and abdomen returned. “May I?” she asked, holding out her hand for the package.
Sirius shook his head abruptly as she caught him in thought. “Oh, right,” he replied with a small laugh and handed her the package.
Althea quickly grabbed the package and held it close to her abdomen. “Thank you.”
What would you have said if he wanted to know who she was, she thought and her grip tightened upon the package. ‘Oh, Sirius, this is from your daughter. Yes, Prudence never died…surprise!’ Yeah, and then you’d be hexed across this bloody kitchen.
Sirius smiled as she scratched the top of the owl’s head. “You could open it here, if you like,” he offered. “We won’t bother you.”
Althea looked from Sirius to Remus, who was very pale—his hands behind him, tightly grasping the kitchen worktop edge. He faintly shook his head. Althea’s tongue moistened her bottom lip. She would oblige Remus.
“I’d rather open this upstairs,” she replied and smiled weakly at Sirius—her stomach sick. “Sort of,” she began and swallowed her throat dry, “private, you know.”
“I see,” he replied and winked. “Important.”
“Right,” she breathed and swallowed the bile that had risen in her throat.
The caustic liquid burned the back of her throat and she fought not to make a face as she slowly backed out of her kitchen. Quickly turning on her heel, she entered the entrance hall, ran up the stairs, and rushed into her bedroom. You’re going to hell, she thought as she locked her door with multiple locking charms. How could you keep this from him? How long? She thought of Sirius uncovering the truth of Prudence’s survival, and the reckless lengths he went through in attempt to catch Peter Pettigrew. Would he be just as reckless? As violent? He would let a dementor suck out a man’s soul for you…for your daughter. She looked at the package and caressed the charmed picture of the butterflies fluttering though a small field of flowers. She touched this and he touched this…you aren’t worthy to touch this, she thought, painfully suppressing tears. Althea sat on her bed with the package in her lap. He didn’t know. He was so close to his daughter and he didn’t know.
“If he knew, he’d kill me,” she said, her fingers sliding underneath the tape on the sides of the package.
I didn’t think she would’ve finished my father’s book so quickly, she thought, carefully unwrapping the purple paper. On the afternoon of Remus’s resignation from Hogwarts, Prudence entered Althea’s office with a gift for the former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor that she and her friends had made. So eager to make a connection with her daughter, she lent Prudence one of her father’s books—a book on how Muggles perceived magic around the world. To her surprise, Prudence finished the book quickly, and the mother and daughter spent an afternoon in lively discussion over the various topics proposed in the book. Althea was very excited at Prudence’s enthusiasm over her grandfather’s work, and she allowed Prudence to borrow another book for some holiday reading. It was assumed, however, that Prudence would return the book at the start of school. I never thought she would write me, she thought, carefully removing the paper. She’ll never know how much this means to me. Althea suppressed the growing lump in her throat. Would it have been better to ignore her daughter? To stay away? Each interaction held so much meaning for Althea and so very little for Prudence. It would always be that way.
Althea placed the paper next to her, opened the box, and removed two pink envelopes and her father’s book. Prudence was the last to touch the book. Her skin tingled at the thought of Prudence’s fingers upon the book and she holding it close to her, intently reading every word of her grandfather. She placed the book at her side, and she opened the letter addressed to her: Professor Morrigan.
“As it will always be,” she sighed and held the opened letter before her.
…Thank you very much for delivering our gift to Professor Lupin. The girls and I were very pleased with our letters from him. Genevieve actually blushed! We had a great laugh until her parents discovered her letter and incinerated it before all of us. My parents weren’t concerned at all! Of course, they’re Muggles and thought werewolves only existed in films and books. Is it all right that I let them read your book?
“Now they won’t let you return to Hogwarts,” she murmured, her stomach in a great knot. “There’s no way they would want you around me.”
My dad and mum enjoyed the book and thought I should write to thank you. I didn’t know your address, but I hope this reached you….
Althea laughed from surprise and raised the palm of her hand to her cheek. “They wanted you to write me?” she asked in disbelief. “Who are these people?”
People who are better apt to raise a child, she thought, her eyes returning to the letter. People who wouldn’t abandon her.
…Mum thought you would enjoy the photograph in the other envelope. Do you remember? I believe I look awful in it, but you look lovely….
Althea opened the envelope and smiled as she held the photograph in her hand. You’re wrong, she thought as Prudence winked. You’re absolutely beautiful. She examined the photograph taken in her office on a sunny late afternoon. As Althea sat marking exams, a job she despised, she wished for something that would take her away from her boredom. Soon, she heard the sound of a camera, girls giggling, and Prudence’s distinct laughter from the corridor. One of the girls noticed that Althea’s door was open and the girls quieted, obviously nervous that Althea would scold them, or worse, give them detentions. Instead, Althea invited the girls into her office, fed them chocolates, and offered to take photographs of the four. Prudence insisted that she have her picture taken with Althea, and Althea—not wanting to disappoint her daughter—reluctantly agreed.
“Mrs. Parker wanted me to have this…unbelievable,” she murmured as she looked at herself in the photograph. She had not smiled that genuine of a smile in years. “I could never….”
Althea frowned as her fingertips stroked the side of Prudence’s face. I’d be afraid that I’d want you back, she thought as Prudence winked again. Looking to her nightstand, she thought the silver picture frame would be suitable to house their photograph until she could buy the perfect frame. She slipped the photograph of Afina and Gran out of the picture frame, and tenderly placed the photograph of Althea and Prudence inside.
“There,” she whispered approvingly and looked to the rest of the unread letter, “perfect.”
…Genevieve’s brother taught us how to develop photographs. I developed our photograph myself! I thank you again for not scolding us that afternoon. Genevieve would have died if she received a detention. She has never received one, but I told her detentions weren’t that terrible.
I enjoyed this book on werewolves very much. I remember you said that I could keep the book for the entire holiday, but I was so afraid that I’d lose it, I had to send it back to you. Will we discuss the book again? I hope so, for I have many questions.
Althea folded the letter and placed it in the envelope. Look at us, she thought as Prudence and Althea looked at one another and grinned. Would you be as happy if you knew I was your mother?
“I love you,” she whispered, her fingertip touching Prudence’s waving hand.
Sirius’s loud, bark-like laughter from the hallway startled her, and she juggled the picture frame in her hands. His deliberate footsteps grew closer. She hastily collected the envelope, the wrapping paper, and the picture frame and rushed toward her bath. She crouched before the sink and flung open the cupboard door. There, she thought as she placed them behind bottles and jars of hair and bath goods.
“Althea!” Sirius laughed from outside her door.
Althea slammed the cupboard door shut and quickly walked to her bedroom door. She ran her wand along the door, hearing the quiet click of multiple charms unlocking. She hastily stuffed her wand into her pocket, smoothed her skirt, and opened the door to a smiling Sirius.
Sirius, his expression thoughtful, rested his hands on her bare shoulders. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Althea’s eyes widened slightly. “Tell you what?” she asked, breathless, feeling the color drain from her cheeks.
Oh, God, Prudence, she thought, growing dizzy.
“About her,” he replied, his lips curving into a small smile, “your niece.”
“Oh,” she breathed, her body relaxing, “Afina.”
“Yeah,” he laughed, shaking her slightly, teasingly, “what d’you think I meant?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said dismissively, rubbing her temple soothingly. “I was thinking about something else…the letter I just read.”
“Ah, I see,” he said, and Althea slipped herself from his grip. He frowned. “Good news in the letter, though?”
“Very good,” she murmured, avoiding his gaze. “Very good, indeed.”
Thank you so much for reading this chapter. Thank you for all the comments and reviews. What is in store for Althea? A duel.
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