Chapter 3AN: Sorry for the long break, too much work and stuff. Thankfully, I’ve got a proper flu last week, so that I’ve been confined to bed and to my laptop since then and managed at least this short update. Not very eventful, though introducing one new character, on which I think I have to work some more, not very convincing yet.
As the grey haired innkeeper was toddling towards Helen she narrowed her eyes even more and looked him up and down, and gradually with each of his approaching steps her heart would beat faster and faster. It couldn’t be
... she thought. She got up to her feet, excited and feeling too many things at once she made a step towards him, sensing her knees getting foamy and her hands sweaty and shaking as she was looking into his face with wide opened eyes. It wasn’t possible... and yet it was... but it wasn’t... and yet...
It took him a little longer to recognize her, but the instance he did he stopped abruptly and Helen noticed the clear jerk of his body and heard the loud sound that his feet made on the pebble stone when he came to the sudden halt. A few of the guests raised their eyes towards him, probably worrying if the old man was alright or about to have a seizure. After few seconds however, he moved again and the short moment when his face showed surprise was gone, he looked exactly as tired and as unfazed as before, so that Helen almost thought he hadn’t actually realized who she was. But when he was only a few feet away he turned around and threw a stolen glance towards the nearest group of his guests, simply to estimate the distance between him and them and how quiet he would have to speak so that they wouldn’t hear him.
Helen was staring at him, almost swallowing, absorbing every detail of his appearance, still not quite believing that it could be him.
He hasn’t changed much though, there were few more wrinkles around his eyes, his hair was longer, but his peculiar grey eyes were still sparkling the way she remembered when he addressed her in a hushed whisper: “Helen, what are you doing here?” He did not wait for an answer, but turned around once more, and this time took a few seconds to observe each of his customers more carefully. Something about the way he asked it made Helen feel as if she had merely interrupted him in work, not at all suggesting that they haven’t seen each other for over six years, during most of which she and everyone else had believed him dead.
She slowly opened her mouth, but didn’t manage to utter any words yet, while she shook her head slightly, still utterly amazed. He finally reached her and placing one hand at her back with the other he indicated towards a spot a few yards away from them, where among a small group of trees stood a wooden bench.
“How do you come to be here?” He repeated his question, still in a damped voice.
Helen stopped, “Ah... duh?” and looked at him incredulously. “Me?!
What are you
doing here?” She demanded in an angry whisper.
He shook his head: “No, no, I mean – what are you doing here
?” He asked. He was born in Greece, but then spent most of his life in Wales which led to the very peculiar accent he spoke in and which, especially in the first weeks of their acquaintance had been making it difficult for Helen to take him too seriously, but was rather adding to the overall impression he was giving – of an old, benevolent grandpa. But she had learned soon enough that he could be the most strict, demanding, even unpleasant teacher.
She was now looking at him confused. “What do you mean here
“How did you get here? Did you aparate?”
“No,” she replied, a little irritated that he was deviating from the obviously much more outrageous subject – him being alive. “I walked. I was doing the Via Valtellina and came off the route at some point... I got lost.”
He frowned: “I do not understand... I have spells around here, I cast at least dozens of incantations to keep everyone out...,” he was murmuring, and he noticed Helen turned questioningly towards the inn and the groups of his guests. “Anti-wizard
spells. Those are all muggles. No witches, no wizards, except for me and Martha,” he added. “She’s my other innkeeper,” he answered yet another unspoken question.
Helen merely shrugged. “Maybe you’ve got your own hellmouth beneath too,” she said dryly.
“Nothing,” she waved with a hand to let it go. “Apparently there’s something wrong with your spells then.”
He didn’t reply for a moment, but gave her a piercing look. “Or... there is something wrong with you,” he said slowly.
Likewise she took a few seconds before speaking, and decided to ignore his allusion and rather turn it against him: “With me? I
didn’t disappear from the face of the earth, letting everyone believe I was dead for over four years,” she hissed.
He stayed calmed. There was a loud whistle coming from the direction of the inn and as they turned around they saw an old, yet vivacious looking grey haired woman, wearing the local garb and an apron on top of it, with her hands raised into a questioning gesture. It had to be Martha. Márkos merely gave her a short wave towards the customers to beckon her to take care of them. Then he turned back at Helen.
“I read what you did, after the battle, after Severus had died,” he again chose to dodge her attacks.
She looked at him in disbelief, as he shook his head and went on, being his usual, very straightforward self, often lacking any sense of tact: “I’ve never been so disappointed in anyone before,” he stated.
“Oh, god, please tell me you too did not believe I did that because of him?!” She said louder, in an indignant tone, that was also showing how weary she was of the subject. “What I did had nothing to do with Severus. Not the way that awful Rita Skeeter had implied anyway.” She paused to look at him intently as if she wanted to make sure that he understood and acknowledged what she had said, then she dropped her eyes on the ground, speaking in a more defensive tone this time: “There... was the wandlore between us, and Dumbledore-“, yet her voice broke at this point and she made an odd sigh.
“Survivor’s guilt?” Márkos asked, sounding a little more appeasing
She looked at him sharply, and for a while none of them spoke. Helen’s initial joy of finding her former master disappeared entirely and a bitterness replaced it, annoyance even that she was having a conversation about things she thought she would never have to explain to anyone ever again.
However, Márkos, instead of letting go, kept rubbing salt into the re-opened wound: “When I heard what happened – I even thought I’d come over and really tell you off...”
“Well, you didn’t,” she said defiantly. “No one came...,” she murmured, but almost immediately smirked at her own self-pity.
“What would your father say?” Márkos yet managed to top his previous reprehensions.
“How on Earth would I know that?” She retorted glumly, turning just a shade paler than she already was. “What kind of a question is that?” She sensed that she was trembling a little, this whole encounter seemed almost like a very vivid scene from one of her nightmares. Only it wasn’t.
“What have you become, Helen? What happened to you?” He said, but Helen would not notice the more soothing tone of his voice as he stepped closer to her to lay a hand on her arm.
A bulge was beginning to form in her throat, the talk was taking the wrong direction, and when Márkos, always a bit clumsy with words that he intended for comfort, said: “I’d never have expected you to do such a stupid thing... you were the best apprentice I’ve ever had and now...”
Helen was already pursing her lips and groping for her wand.
“... what have you been doing since then? You can’t fool me, you know that... don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see you... in a way...”Pop
. Helen had raised her wand and turned on her spot, only one thought on her mind – to put a proper distance between her and him, between her and this conversation.
She landed on her knees and hands, and managed to crawl towards the sofa in her London apartment, and leaned with her back against it before passing out. When she came back to herself, she threw her wand in one corner of her living room in a mixture of frustration about and defiance of her remaining magic. During the next couple of days her nose was in a constant on- and off-bleeding mode, as the long-distance aparition claimed its prize, and she was forced to stay in, spending most of the time lying on the sofa, with Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance filling the room as loudly as possible, so that she wouldn’t hear the droning of her head or the reproachful voice of Márkos that despite her efforts to turn it off kept returning to her tirelessly. She would only get up to pick the delivery – food or books she ordered – or to pour herself a glass of wine.
She was still in her horizontal position, lying spread on the sofa and hence barely appreciating the fact that her physical state was back to normal, when on the fifth day there was a loud knock at her door. Knowing she hadn’t ordered anything to eat – yet, as it was only an early afternoon – she frowned and then cried loudly and in a tone that was clearly suggesting the person, whoever it was, should sod off: “Who is it?!”
“Emrys,” George Weasley replied in a deep voice, joking.
Helen was unimpressed as she shouted back: “Well go back to Camelot then! Nothing to see here.”
It did not surprise her when she heard him unlock the door, and then his slow footsteps echoing in the half empty apartment, as he was looking for her. He shouted “Silencio”
and the record playing March No. 4 instantly fell silent.
“What part of go away
did you not understand?” She asked quietly, without raising her eyes from some boulevard magazine she pretended to be reading.
George came to stand in front of the sofa, his hands in his pockets, his look swept across the room. There were several half empty Chinese meal boxes scattered on the floor along with dozens of blood-soaked tissues, a few phials with what looked like some of the most unpalatable potions he had seen at Madame Pompfrey’s laid on the coffee table along with a couple of wine bottles and piles of apparently new, still untouched and wrapped books.
“Nice,” George said, nodding his head and mocking admiration.
“Thanks,” she replied. “I’d offer you something, but... I won’t. Partly because I don’t have anything left in my fridge, and partly,” she paused for a moment, before continuing more poignantly, “because I’m still sort of hoping you’ll get the hint... and leave
“Well, what can I say,” George sighed and threw himself into the leathern armchair next to her, “I never was one for taking hints.”
Only now she let the magazine fall onto her lap and turned her head towards him, and had to close her eyes briefly as if the look at him caused her pain. She expected him to start a new assault, and after the encounters of the past few weeks since her return she really thought she couldn’t take any more. Yet George didn’t seem to be out for a fight. His next question indicated that he did not wish to give her another harangue and made Helen hope that he had simply accepted that she was back and would not poke in her reasons anymore.
“So, how have you been? Trekking again I assume? Upon England’s mountains’ green?
” He asked brightly.
“Switzerland,” she murmured.
“Ah... Switzerland then,” he raised his brows and gave a pointed look at all the bloody handkerchiefs that told him she must have cast some major spells. He was guessing: “ ... where you decided... to... do what? .... exterminate all the yodel-clubs with a single curse?”
For the first time she suppressed a smile, and found it a bit disturbing at once that George should know of the existence of such things as yodelers. “Not quite.” She sat up at last. She looked the usual shade of pale, with dark circles still remaining under her eyes, her hair was messed and she obviously hadn’t changed her clothes in a while. “Never mind,” she said tiredly. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
George rolled his eyes. “Oh, thank Merlin, I’m relieved to hear that,” he drawled, “I was almost afraid you were gonna lavish your whole story on me, the way you always share.”
“I was just doing some wanderings, to kill the time until I can talk to Professor McGonagall about the post, but... then I decided to return home earlier,” she said simply. She would not tell him about meeting Márkos, though not merely for selfish reasons, but also because she doubted that the old wizard would have wanted it. After all he had been on the missing list since four years by his own choice.
“What post?” George asked, puzzled.
“My former teaching post...”
“But isn’t Lucius Malfoy teaching history now?” George frowned.
For a moment Helen stared at him with an open mouth. “You knew about that?!”
George looked at her as if he did not understand her outrage.
know about that?!” She asked again and leaned towards him, looking daggers.
“Yes, I do, and so do hundreds of other people,” he said irritated.
She jumped to her feet. “I can’t believe you haven’t told me! Lucius Malfoy – getting my
post!” She was speaking very loudly now.
“Calm down! I did not think it was of any importance for you!” He said, his anger was raising now too. “Plus it just went under in the middle of everything else,” he added through pressed teeth, hoping she would remember that he had become a father about the same time, and had his worries focused far away from Hogwarts, or Lucius Malfoy. “I forgot all about it-“
She glanced at him incredulously. “How could you forget
– to mention something like that to me? Not important?!
” She shouted now. “What else-“
George had had it. He cut her short: “No, no, no, no, no! You
don’t get to be pissed, Helen, I
get to be pissed!” He was stabbing his finger against her, she had rarely known his voice sounding this mad – though he didn’t yell, it was the quiet kind of being really irate, but it was all the more effective, he underlined almost every single word: “After all I’ve done, after everything I went through to keep you in that place – checking on you every fortnight, visiting, bringing you stuff from London, hunting down blasted books for you only so that you’d bloody well stay there, you know – bond with him, be just... merry and fine, happy,... and you repay me like this – by leaving him because of a few silly nightmares!” He repeated, once again pointing out the absurdity of her behaviour, because that was how it appeared to him – absurd and ungrateful. And not only where he was concerned. He liked Giles.
She did not know what to say to that. She has never thought about that. And it confused her. That George, though nagging every single time, would go to all those lengths for the sole reason to push her closer to Giles. Somehow that was a lot to process for her at that moment.
“Helen?” George’s voice brought her back out of her musings. “Helen?”
“Hm?” She raised her dark, almost black eyes at him, looking a little paralyzed.
“Anyway, I haven’t come here to do this. I wanted to invite you to our late birthday party – Fred’s birthday party.”
“Your son,” she said.
“Yes,” he confirmed louder, piercing at her, as she appeared to be somewhat numb. “Glad you remembered. We’re having a little gathering at the Burrow on Sunday. I – we – would like you to come, since you’re here now.”God, that sounds like the last thing I’d wanna go to right now.
The words were on her tongue, but she stopped herself in time, when she saw his stern glance.
“Alright,” she said calmly and a trace of smile flitted across her face. “I’ll be there.”
“Good.” George crossed his arms, visibly enjoying this little victory.
“Anything else?” She asked.
“Oh, yes,” he eased again as he remembered. “We’re meeting Angelina in an hour in Diagon Alley. So I suggest you hurry, change your clothes, and for Merlin’s sake take a shower before you do.”
She opened her mouth to object.
“No,” George cut her off and stretched his arm to point a direction.
She frowned as her eyes followed his stabbed finger and George now turned to his right to see that he had been pointing towards the fireplace. He let his arm fall, murmuring. “Right. Wherever your bathroom is.”
Helen grinned and at leaving the room she heard him say to himself: “I hate this place of yours.”
“Do you mind if I clean here up a bit?” George shouted after a while as he bent down to pick one of the empty delivery meal boxes while Helen was still in her bathroom. Then he straightened up suddenly, frowning in disgust with himself: “There’s a question I’ve never thought I’d ask...”
“Depends on your concept of cleaning,” Helen shouted back through the closed bathroom door. “If it’s putting away the rubbish and washing the dishes – then yes, if it’s hiding dungbombs and fire spitting little toy-dragons underneath my sofa or placing screeching Umbridge-traps in my tap – then no, thanks!”
“Ahhh,” George paused and looked wistfully out of the window, remembering the former short-time Hogwarts headmistress . “I do miss her sometimes... the world without her seems so much less...” He paused, pondering over the right word.
“Pink?” Helen stepped out of her bathroom, fully dressed.AN: I know you miss Giles, me too, he’ll soon be back in the picture, promised :) Nevertheless, leave a review or a message, I’d like to know what you think, about the characters, dialogues etc.