Beautiful chapter image by Magpie @ TDA
Author’s Note: Just to avoid confusion--remember, this chapter takes place two years after the previous. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.
Chapter Two Pater Familias
Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain-John Locke
There was something about the rhythmic swaying of the coach that made Artemisia sleepy. She pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes and blinked hard against them.
Awake! Stay awake!
It was no easy task. The day was sumptuously warm, a great reprieve after the cold of winter. With the window open, welcome breezes drifted into the interior, rendering the conveyance comfortable, not stuffy. Being the sole occupant, Artemisia dared to stretch her legs out and let her boots fall on the opposite seat.
The trip from London to Bath had been taxing, more so because of what she was on her mind rather than the rutted state of the roads. Artemisia had specifically asked Papa to send his coach for her. She hated flying and she needed time to ruminate, time that Apparation scarcely provided.
But here she was, so many days later and she hadn’t solved her quandary.
And damn it all, Ambassador Honorius expected her answer by owl tomorrow.
Artemisia leaned her head against the frame of the window and watched the road take on the familiar features she knew so well. Mrs. Birdy’s farm. The Muggle church. Then two luscious miles of unblemished countryside.
She sighed. Well, it was good to be home.
Months had past since she’d seen Papa for Christmas, although she had intended to come to Bath sometime in March. Her plans were dashed, however, when the Department for International Magical Cooperation became harried with activity. Relations with France were slowly being repaired a decade after the Seven Years War. It had been a Muggle conflict mostly, though a noticeable frostiness had developed between both the British and French Ministries. In fact, an official ambassador had not been stationed in France for six years.
The coach rumbled around a long bend and Artemisia listened to the soft jangle of harness. Aging willow trees lined the narrowing road. She stuck her head out the window to catch a glimpse of the Lufkin estate.
The family was relatively new to the land. Their ancestral home had been in London and they were a city-dwelling people, until young Markham Lufkin married Ophelia Autumn, the daughter of a Hogwarts professor. With his tidy Ministry salary, Mr. Lufkin purchased his bride a house in Bath and the family became country gentry.
When the willows thinned, Artemisia spied the first of the outer gardens, great sweeping lawns with prim hedges and a statue of a nymph Papa had bought Mother after the birth of his son. Papa was an amateur botanist himself and kept greenhouses in the back by the stables where he tended to his flora and fauna.
The road widened as it climbed up a low hill, and then curved around into a long drive in front of the house.
Artemisia heard the driver hop off his seat as a groom came running to take the horses. She took a moment to snatch her hat off the seat beside her and fix it atop her head. The door to the coach jerked open, a small head with bulbous eyes peeking inside.
“Mistress Artemisia!” a house elf cried, bobbing on the balls of her tiny feet.
“Hullo, Sissy,” she replied, climbing out onto the dirt drive. The house, three storeys high and constructed of elegant red brick, loomed above her.
“Sissy has missed Mistress Artemisia,” Sissy bleated, hugging Artemisia’s knees. “Sissy wishes yous wasn’t always in London.”
“That makes two of us.” Gently, she plied the house elf off her legs and brushed the wrinkles from her jacket.
More house elves trotted from around the back of the house and helped the coachman with her luggage.
Artemisia hesitated before heading up the short set of stairs into the foyer.
She wanted to see Papa, but what would he think when he heard about France?
Never mind. She wouldn’t worry about the matter until after dinner, until after-
“I can scarce believe it!” A voice boomed from the foyer. “Is that my little daughter?”
Markham Lufkin paused on the top of the steps and studied her with the benign eyes of a lenient parent. “You’ve grown another inch, I swear!”
“Since Christmas?” Artemisia asked, letting herself fall into his ready embrace.
He was in his shirtsleeves and wearing a dirt-stained waistcoat. Artemisia smelled lilacs in his hair.
“In the gardens,” she sighed, letting him take her arm and lead her inside. “Papa, you’re a right mess, you are.”
“Insolent child,” Mr. Lufkin sniffed, his lips twitching.
Markham was a amiable man, a gentleman nearing fifty with his share of creases and discreet wrinkles about his blue eyes. His skin was unfashionably tan, his hands rough from weeding and he had the bearing of a tenant farmer, built well in the upper body with short, powerful legs.
“You were supposed to come in March,” he said, patting her hand once and then giving it a hard squeeze. “What kept you?”
Artemisia detected the undertone of sadness in his voice although he strove to disguise it. Papa, a seemingly strong man, had never done well on his own. And that worried her.
“Haven’t you read my letters? The Department has been occupied. France, you know,” she said vaguely, waving a hand. “We shall talk about it later. Is Tarquin here?”
“He is!” Her brother called from the parlor, rounding the door into the hall with a glass of sherry in hand. “Sister, there you are.” He leaned in for a kiss. “Look at you, a fair Londoner now, junior undersecretary to the French Ambassador.”
“Enough of your flattery,” she snorted. “I’m not accustomed to courtesy any more.”
Mr. Lufkin frowned. “Which is why I left London with your mother in the first place. Come into the parlor, both of you. I need to have a good look at my children.”
He positioned them both before the mantelpiece and remarked on how grown-up they seemed, Tarquin a lawyer and Artemisia employed by the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
Artemisia experienced a twinge of regret when he mentioned her career. It wasn’t her position of choice and although she had been with the Department for two years, she still lamented losing her chance as an Auror.
“Is there any dinner to be had yet?” she asked, hoping to turn the talk away from the uncomfortable subject.
“I should hope so.” Mr. Lufkin looked casually over his shoulder into the adjoining dining room. “Sissy, is the first course ready to be served?”
While he was distracted, Artemisia tugged on her brother’s sleeve.
“I must speak with you,” she mouthed.
Concern flitted across Tarquin’s face. “Later,” he whispered. “Not another duel, I hope?”
She jabbed him in the ribs just as Mr. Lufkin returned his gaze to them.
“Children, children!” He threw up his broad hands in protest. “Please, do be good to one another. I simply cannot countenance quarrels.”
After dinner, a pleasant warmth still lingered in the air, allowing the family to retire outside to the terrace for a last drink. Mr. Lufkin had excused himself just as the meal was ending as he wanted to check the greenhouses one last time before the day was out. Artemisia was left alone with her older brother and she was glad for the privacy. If anyone knew how to solve her quandary, it was Tarquin.
The kitchen elves brought them a platter of fresh fruit to nibble on. Artemisia watched as Tarquin reclined in his chair, slender legs genteelly crossed. She couldn’t think of her brother as attractive, simply because he was her brother. However, she knew he had many female admirers and was never in want of a partner at dances.
Tall, lithe and agile, Tarquin had a graceful, if not roguish face. His eyes were their mother’s hazel, his hair their father’s youthful auburn. He sat sipping his port with exquisite refinement.
“I am beginning to think Papa loves you best,” he said. “Before you came he went on and on about your visit, about how much he misses you.”
Artemisia suffered through a pang of guilt. “That’s because your practice is in Bath and he sees you often enough.”
Tarquin scoffed as Sissy appeared on the terrace with a tray bearing two clay pipes and Virginia’s finest tobacco. He took one for himself and scowled when Artemisia reached for the second.
“Oh hush, darling. It’s common in London.”
They passed a moment in silence. Artemisia stirred fitfully, wanting to seek his advice straightaway. But Tarquin was an intricate man, a true lawyer. He had to be cajoled in all things.
“You wrote to me of your practice,” she said, drawing her brows together in mock offense. “And yet you’ve asked me nothing of my work.”
Tarquin exhaled a silky stream of smoke. “You’re employed and my curiosity is limited.” He rolled his eyes at her. “I could never countenance Ministry bureaucrats.”
Artemisia laughed loudly, startling a lark in a nearby hydrangea bush. “Poor Papa, he needed to sire a daughter to follow in his footsteps.”
“Oh, I did have hope for you,” Tarquin replied. “After that duel with the man from the Auror’s office.”
Artemisia reached over the table and pinched his arm. “Villain!”
Tarquin jerked away, a droplet of port falling from his glass. “The Ministry hasn’t matured you yet.”
“Tarquin!” Artemisia employed a pout. “Damn your law books, they’ve made you a bore.”
“Better than a lackey,” he said.
She glared in the face of his jester’s smile. “I need to talk to you.”
“Chatty little thing. How many letters have you sent me over the past month?”
“This is different.” Artemisia puffed on her pipe, glancing once over her shoulder to make sure they were alone. Out on the lawn, a young doe nosed amongst the clover, silhouetted by the dying sun. “Well, it is about the Ministry. I just don’t want Papa to hear.”
For the first time, Tarquin’s face darkened. “Artemisia.”
“There’s no trouble.” She held up a hand. “Quite the opposite. You see, I’ve had an invitation from Ambassador Honorius. All that business with France…he’s been stationed at the Beauxbatons Palace in Marseilles as the English Ambassador and he’s asked me to come with him as his personal secretary.”
Tarquin’s eyes widened, his fingers slipping on the stem of his glass. “Merlin’s bones!”
“I know.” Artemisia settled back into her chair. “And I haven’t slept two nights in three.”
“Why? Are you not delighted?”
“Yes, but.” She drew her teeth over her bottom lip. “I’ve been thinking about Papa, Tarquin. He suffered so much when I moved to London. If I was to go to France--for an extended period of time--how should he react?”
Tarquin sighed and put out his pipe. “You cannot concern yourself with that, my dear.”
“But I have.”
He studied her for a moment, the ribbon that fastened his queue fluttering in the dusk breeze. “And now it’s settled into your mind like a boulder. Artemisia, what am I to do with you?”
“But you understand, don’t you?” Artemisia was insistent.
Tarquin uncrossed his legs and placed both feet firmly on the stone floor of the terrace. “In a manner. When we were both off at Hogwarts, our old governess, Mrs. Harris, used to tell me how forlorn Papa would get.”
“He is not a man to be left alone. He needs us.” And in saying so, Artemisia felt as though she would never leave home again. Ambassador Honorius could go to France on his own, that was just fine with her.
Poor Papa! He needed his family. He had only weathered the untimely death of his wife with his children’s fond and loyal presence.
Artemisia knew her brother was a good son and he had curbed his own ambitions to be closer to home. Therefore, what he said next shocked her deeply.
“My dear, you must go to France.”
Artemisia was so surprised that she reeled backwards, knocking the pipe from her hand. A house elf appeared from nowhere, snatched up the pipe and refilled it for her.
“How can I?” she asked, taking the fresh pipe.
Tarquin shrugged his narrow shoulders. “You are employed by the Department for International Magical Cooperation. If you ever wish to be a diplomat, you must go abroad.”
“Artemisia, you are much too accomplished to spend your days dusting Ambassador Honorius’ collection of pamphlets on Cornish pixies.”
“I don’t do that every day,” she said indignantly.
Tarquin raised a brow. “Papa would want you to go to France. He’s worked all these years to educate you and someone needs to carry on the family legacy. Merlin’s bones, it shan’t be me!” He leaned back in his chair with a laugh.
Artemisia wanted to reply, but Mr. Lufkin came out onto the terrace then, wiping his soil-stained hands on a handkerchief.
“My naughty children, you’ve started without me,” he said, noticing their half-empty glasses of port and pipes.
“Sir, you love your flowers more than your offspring,” Tarquin said, his lips crooked with a grin.
Mr. Lufkin waved a hand. “Bah!” He took a seat between them and plucked a ripe grape from the fruit platter.
Artemisia watched him chew slowly, her muscles tensing. She could contain herself no longer.
“Papa, I’ve had an offer to go to France.”
Mr. Lufkin’s jaw went slack, his throat contracting as he swallowed.
“Ambassador Honorius has been posted at the Beauxbatons Palace in Marseilles. He wants me to accompany him as his personal secretary.”
“In three weeks time. He expects my answer by tomorrow.”
Mr. Lufkin did not respond at once, but poured himself a glass of port. The sun slipped entirely beyond the horizon and for a brief moment, the trees hemming the estate were illuminated from behind.
Tarquin was the first to break the silence. “It is a generous invitation, Papa.”
“Indeed.” Mr. Lufkin smiled a bit too brightly. “You’ll make a diplomat yet, my jewel.” He reached over the table and patted her hand. “Won’t you accompany the Ambassador?”
Artemisia hesitated. “I will, Papa, but…to leave home, much less England, I…” She trailed off.
Mr. Lufkin’s face tightened. “Nonsense . You’re near twenty. It is time. Go now and send the good Ambassador an owl, but use mine, not one of your fat hens. They were never so speedy.”
“I will, but-”
“Go, Artemisia.” This was Tarquin, strangely serious.
She forced herself out of her chair. “Please excuse me.” Her retreating footsteps echoed along the terrace. Artemisia turned into the house, but stopped in the dining room. Some thrifty house elf had opened the windows overlooking the lawn and from outside, she heard the whispered voices of her family.
“She needs to go, Papa,” Tarquin said.
There was silence, then.
“I know, Tarquin,” Mr. Lufkin replied. “But I won’t pretend that it doesn’t pain me.”
Author’s Note: Whew! That’s another chapter finished. In the next installment, Artemisia finds herself bored and isolated in France as the secretary to the English ambassador. Restricted to the opulent and overly-extravagant Beauxbatons Palace, she makes the acquaintance of a strange, young philosopher/lawyer who will undoubtedly change her life. With any luck, chapter three should be posted on Tuesday, April 7th.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have the time, please leave a review. I cherish all feedback. Have a great week!
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