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Chapter Three




Instantly, Greta's head was a whirlpool of thoughts, images, possibilities. How could he be alive? How was that even possible? She had seen him walk to his death, or near enough.

But she had not seen him die. Her eyes flicked over Tristan’s face, searching for any deception. It was at that point that Tristan’s voice filtered through her numb mind.

“So tell me, what do you know of Gellert Grindelwald?”

She blinked. “Sorry, who?”

“Gellert Grindelwald,” Tristan repeated in the mysterious air Greta had fast come to dislike immensely.

She took another sip of her drink, letting the sharp tang of whiskey burn her inner cheeks as she swirled it around her mouth. Swallowing, she looked away. “I’ve never heard of him.”

“You will. Soon.”

“What?” Greta snapped, slamming her drink down on the arm of her chair and standing up. Her head was hurting; cryptic words and sly smiles were not helping. She headed for the door. “I don’t need this right now. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to…”

“You seem to be forgetting something important,” Tristan said, also standing. Greta turned, and the empty cup fell off her chair. The tinkle of breaking glass filled in the tense silence. Tristan’s eyes were dark, and a flickering shadow covered his face. “You have a life debt to pay, Greta Maur. If you’d prefer that I took it the old fashioned way, then by all means…” He reached for his wand.

Frozen on the spot, Greta shook her head, eyes wide. Tristan relaxed, his hand sliding off his wand. He beckoned for her to come closer and she obeyed, hating him.

“This cumbersome thing must come off,” he said softly when she was stood directly in front of him. Greta frowned, taken aback by his forthrightness, but he merely gestured to her mask. Reaching behind her head, he gently loosened the ties binding it to her face and let it drop to the floor. The ribbons fluttered as the mask fell and it landed on the ground between them. Greta watched it fall, and then dragged her eyes back up to his face, taking in his entire body as she went.

She could feel the heart beating painfully through the tight bindings of her gown. She also felt terribly vulnerable; her identity was now laid bare, yet Tristan was still masked. Resolved, she reached up to his face, feeling her way behind his head until her trembling fingers reached the ribbons tying his mask on. With one tug, the knot was undone and Tristan’s mask joined hers on the floor, black and red mingling in the firelight.

They stood, facing each other, eyes roving over fully exposed faces. Tristan leaned forward, further and further until they were so close…too close. Greta closed her eyes, heart beat now throbbing from the tips of her toes up to the top of her head. Then she heard his whisper.

“I should take you to your room.”

Her eyes flew open, the sickly sweet feeling that had been spreading through her transforming into coarse, spiky fury. Cursing herself for being so affected, she followed Tristan out of the room, keeping her eyes resolutely on the floor.

They took several turns down dimly lit corridors before they reached a door, which was almost entirely camouflaged against the dark panelled walls. Tristan pulled out his wand, muttered an incantation and pushed the door open. He stood back, gesturing for Greta to go in. She did so, keeping her head high and her eyes off his face.

The room was completely bare, apart from a small, cheap looking bed in the corner, with a little table and lamp next to it. Greta almost laughed at how ridiculous it was.

“You’re not expecting me to sleep here!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t entertain very often.” He sounded almost apologetic.

“No, I can see that.”

“I’ll get something done with it tomorrow, but I’m afraid it is all I have to offer tonight.”

“Well,” Greta replied coldly, “It will just have to do.” She turned bodily away from him, fixing her eyes on the bed. “Good night.”

Amazingly, her tactics worked. Tristan left the room, closing the door with a snap. As soon as he was gone, Greta let out a long sigh. Going over to the bed, she sat down on it, shifting uncomfortably as springs stuck into her thighs. As she sat thinking about what she was going to do, she noticed a faint glow around the lock on her door. It stayed no more than two seconds, and then flared out of existence. Tilting her head to the side, Greta stared a little longer at the lock, confused. And then it hit her.

Bounding over to the door, she rattled the handle, trying to open it. But it would not budge.

Bastard,” she exclaimed, kicking the door. He had locked her in.

What followed was a shamelessly childish tantrum. Greta pulled all the blankets from the bed, ripping them into strips and throwing them about the room. She threw the lamp off the bedside table, and then threw the bedside table at the remains of the lamp for good measure. She even bit the mattress, twisting the springs even further out of line.

After she had exhausted herself, she finally had a rational thought. Pulling her wand out of the folds of her gown, she went over to the door and performed the counter charm. But it didn’t work; of course it wouldn’t. She knew he would have confiscated her wand if any magic she knew would have worked on it.

Still hot with anger, Greta threw herself on the ruined mattress and lay, face down, thinking. Tristan obviously needed her for something. If she was useless then he would have either let her go free or claimed the life debt in the traditional manner; by killing her. He had already given her a titbit of information concerning how useful he could be to her. So perhaps, she realised, lifting her head a little, temporary imprisonment meant little compared to her overall gains. She had been told Theodore was alive; what could be better than helping the one who had given her such a wonderful bit of news? She would simply have to get through tonight and face tomorrow when it came.

Pushing herself off the bed, Greta reached behind and began to undo the clasps of her dress. As her fingers brushed over the undone clasps, she felt a jolt go through her but pushed any thoughts of the Minister as far back as her mind would allow. Undoing the rest of the clasps, she pulled the dress off her, revealing a thin white undergarment.

She slept in her underclothes, shivering on the bare bed and wishing she had not ripped all of the blankets.

~


After he had locked Greta in her room, Tristan went back to the room he had first taken her to. His face was impassive as he took the bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet and carried it over to the chair he had been sitting in. Falling onto the cushions, he took up his glass and poured it up to the top, throwing it to the back of his throat almost instantly. He then poured another, and another, before slumping back into his chair and staring blankly ahead.

It was that moment just before dawn lit the sky when the fire suddenly spit emerald flames. Tristan, still awake and with heavy bags under his eyes, turned his head an inch so he could see the fire. It spurted flame for a moment longer, and then a head burst into life amongst the embers.

The man’s dark hair cascaded down into the fire, bizarrely refusing to burn up. He had a dark stare which transfixed Tristan in his seat, and when he spoke it was with a commanding tone.

“I take it you were responsible for hexing me.”

Tristan inclined his head at the comment, a smile playing on his lips. The face in the fire narrowed its eyes.

“What the hell were you doing, Gaillard? I was dealing with her.”

“Forgive me, Minister,” Tristan replied, getting up so he was closer to the face. “I couldn’t let you be responsible for her death. What if it had gotten out to the papers?”

Henry Lowe pursed his lips, a rogue spark flying in front of his eyes as he considered what Tristan had said. Finally, he spoke. “Well, I hope you’ve damn well dealt with her, now.”

“As good as, sir.”

“As good as isn’t bloody good enough!” Lowe exclaimed. A hand appeared out of nowhere and wiped his brow before turning to point threateningly at Tristan. “I’m going to come over tomorrow, and you’d better have a pretty little corpse to show me, or you’re going to wish you’d never even heard of me, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

The face suddenly smiled wryly. “Of course you understand. You’d be a fool not to.” And then it was gone, with a rather satisfying pop.

Tristan dropped back into his chair reaching down to pick the whiskey bottle back up. This time, he didn’t bother to pour it into a glass, instead choosing to drink directly from the neck. Swilling the strong substance over his teeth, he stared back at the fire, eyes narrowed and lips pursed.

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