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Chapter 4

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Althea’s fingers found Sirius’s hand and she grasped his hand tightly—unaware if she caused him discomfort—for her attention was directed at Prudence. Prudence, pale and shaken, slowly descended the steps with Afina’s hand upon her middle back. Prudence did not look at Althea. Instead, her eyes, reddened from crying, looked to her feet upon the stairs.

“What is going on?” Althea asked, her throat painfully tight.

Gran shifted from one foot to the other. Afina sniffed, stroking Prudence’s back.

Althea felt a peculiar numbness in the tips of her fingers and realized Sirius was squeezing her hand with the same ferocity. Ghostly pale, and with his mouth open, Sirius’s attention could not be swayed from Prudence’s form. Althea wiggled and yanked her hand free and tenderly rubbed his lower back.

“I—I should go,” he muttered, small tears welling in his eyes.

Althea shook her head. “No, no, something happened.”

Sirius shook his head. “Really, I should—”

“No,” she said, her stare steadfast. “I want you here.”

Sirius looked from Althea to the staircase and inhaled a sharp breath.

She took Sirius’s hand in hers. “Come,” she said, stroking the back of his hand. “I want to introduce you.”

Althea slowly guided Sirius toward the bottom of the staircase where Prudence stood. Prudence, still wearing her clothes from the World Cup, continued to stare at the floor. She had never seen Prudence so despondent and it frightened her. God, what happened to you, Althea wondered, feeling a terrible, anxious ache in her chest.

Althea inhaled deeply. “Prudence?”

Prudence slowly looked up—her lips quivering into a frown.

Althea fought every urge to touch her, to cradle her in her arms. “Prudence, what happened?”

Prudence glanced at Gran. Gran clasped her trembling hands tightly before her. Prudence did not answer.

Althea’s heart filled with dread as Gran’s trembling became more violent. Did she tell Prudence the truth of her parentage? Was that little girl before them so crestfallen because she had learned the truth of her origins, and had she concluded that her mother refused to acknowledge the daughter of a supposed murderer? Was that shame? She opened her mouth to speak, but only a quiet, sharp gasp left Althea’s lips.

“It’s best if we talk in your quarters, Auntie,” Afina said, smoothing the curls of Prudence’s long black hair. “It’s more comfortable, I think.”

“Afina,” Althea said, placing her hand upon Afina’s arm, “please, tell me what is wrong. What happened?”

Afina closed her eyes and sighed. “We’re all fine, but there was an incident at the World Cup—”

“The World Cup?” she repeated. “What could’ve happened?” Althea gasped. “A spell backfired, and the tents—it’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

Afina shifted uncomfortably—avoiding Althea’s gaze. “I think we’d all be more comfortable if we talked upstairs.”

“Yes,” Gran muttered, nodding, “it would be best.”

Althea swallowed as she nodded. An incident at the World Cup, she thought, as the group walked along the corridor filled with mirrors and gilded chandeliers that illuminated eighteenth century landscape art. Her mind mulled over the possibilities, and each scenario was more dreadful than the last. Prudence had returned to Northfield under dubious circumstances. They were a somber quintet, and a backfired spell would not produce such distress. I haven’t seen Gran this upset—this terrified—since she told me of George. Althea placed her shaky hand upon her abdomen. What did you do old woman? Sirius numbly followed at her side—his hands in his pockets—his eyes downcast. The corridor seemed to lengthen with each step, the sense of dread tightened in her chest. She felt as though she were on the boat to Azkaban. What Prudence must think of me, she thought as the group entered her sitting room. She’ll think me a coward and all those awful things that she should think. She has a right to them.

Althea’s quarters were very different—very modern in sensibility—from the rest of her house. It was a tranquil place where Althea—in fulfilling her duties to her grandmother—could escape. Black and white photographs of her friends, family, and favorite places hung in large and small frames upon the moss green walls. A large abstract nude painting—painted by Althea—hung above the mantel, intricately carved with roses and bees into the fine wood. Althea gestured for all to sit upon the overstuffed cream-colored sofas.

Prudence, quiet, chipped at her green nail polish.

Althea was the first to speak, “I apologize for my rudeness, Prudence. I’d like you to meet my friend, Stephen.”

Prudence looked at Sirius without response. Sirius—his eyes unblinking—sat in silence. Althea gently nudged him.

“Hello,” he muttered.

Prudence shrugged and nervously chipped at the nail polish upon her thumb.

Althea turned to Gran, who sat slumped in the chair—her face in her hands. “What happened?” she asked. “You were to spend the night in Northfield Tent?”

Gran nodded slowly. “Yes, we were,” she said, “but the riot—”

“Riot?” she repeated and felt a momentary relief that her secret was safe. “The winning fans get a bit out of hand?”

“No, Auntie,” Afina said and licked her lips. “It wasn’t like that.”

Althea looked to Sirius—he shrugged.

“We were celebrating the victory in the Ministry of Ireland’s tent,” Afina began to explain—her face ashen. “We heard screams over the music—I thought a few fans were getting out of hand, but when they became louder, and we heard…we went outside…the smell….” Afina roughly wiped her eyes. “The tents were destroyed and it was total chaos,” she continued and sniffed. “It was like—”

Althea nodded solemnly. “Who did this?” she asked, looking from Afina to Gran.

“Death Eaters,” Gran said, shielding her face with her trembling hand. “Death Eaters attacked—”

Sirius immediately stood—his hands balled into fists. “You’re joking?” he said, breathless—his eyes wide. “You can’t just say—”

Gran violently shook her head. “No!”

“Old woman—”

“Sit down,” Althea said, pulling at Sirius’s jacket sleeve.

Sirius shook off Althea’s hand and, smoothing his hair from his face, walked toward the fireplace.

“Are you sure?” she asked, wary of a violent outburst from Sirius.

“They tortured a Muggle family for all to see!” Gran said, letting her hand fall.

“Children,” whispered Prudence.

Althea quickly covered her mouth, and Sirius growled mournfully.

“I’m so sorry,” Althea said, the tears painfully accumulating in the corners of her eyes. “I’m so sorry you had to witness that. We never—”

His back turned to them—his hands bracing himself upon the mantel—Sirius asked, “What is being done? Did they capture them?”

“We don’t know,” Afina said, “but the Ministry was just as scared.”

“Like always,” Sirius muttered. He quickly turned and sighed resolutely when he looked upon Althea.

No,” Althea said, standing. “You’re not going out there—”

“Althea, look,” he said,” I know—”

“I think the Aurors are capable,” she said, stepping forward.

“Do you?” he remarked, raising an eyebrow.

Don’t,” she said through gritted teeth. She gestured with her eyes toward Prudence and took his arm. “Let’s not further upset our guest,” she whispered, and attempted to coerce him back to the sofa.

Sirius relented and followed Althea to the sofa. Death Eaters. Althea remembered the conversation with Sirius in the entrance hall—Voldemort’s supporters were eager for his return. Her stomach twisted upon itself. She, too, had heard—what she thought were outlandish—rumors that Voldemort’s demise was not complete, but that he was weakened and waiting for his time to return…for those most loyal to help him. Was this their first message? The most loyal? They’re dead or in Azkaban. Althea frowned. Peter. She knew Sirius thought so as well. He will leave, and he will find him, she thought and felt the hair upon her arms stand on end from Sirius’s rage.

Prudence was white.

“Prudence, what is wrong?” Althea asked.

Prudence looked ahead of her as she spoke, “I saw it—this—this skull in the sky…with a snake.”

Althea caught her breath.

“Someone cast the Dark Mark?” he said, his expression one of anguish, as Althea placatingly stroked his arm. A tiny electrical shock to her fingertips caused her to wince.

Gran nodded.

Sirius trembled with fury. Please, my love, she thought and pleaded with her eyes for him to calm down, you’ll frighten our Prudence. Sirius, unnaturally pale and his jaw clenched, looked away.

“Mind your anger,” she whispered and gently squeezed his hand. “You’ll upset her more.”

Sirius reluctantly nodded, took a deep breath, and exhaled. Small sobs could be heard across from them and Althea, heartbroken, forcefully swallowed her tears. Sirius reached into the interior breast pocket of his jacket, took out his handkerchief, and handed it to Prudence.

“Thank you,” she whispered and wiped her eye.

“Yeah,” he murmured absently.

“Gran,” Althea began to ask, and discretely sniffed, “how did Prudence come to Northfield, then?”

“In the commotion, our dear Afina, spotted Prudence, alone. The Rourkes were nowhere to be found at that moment—”

“And you just took her?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Someone could be looking for her—”

“I did what needed to be done,” Gran interrupted and frowned at Prudence. “The poor girl shouldn’t have witnessed it at all…. I have taken the liberty to notify the family Prudence was staying with; they were panicked when Prudence was separated from them at the celebration—”

You went to look at the winged horses again, she thought as Gran tenderly patted Prudence’s hand.

“They were grateful—very grateful, indeed—and I’ve given an open invitation to stay at Northfield for as long as she would like,” she said, her eyes meeting Althea. “I didn’t think you would mind…we do enjoy her company.”

Afina nodded. “Very much so.”

“And her parents?”

“I didn’t think they would mind,” she said. “I believe they would thank me.”

Althea shifted uneasily upon the sofa, annoyed that Gran could make her uncomfortable upon a very comfortable sofa.

Afina yawned. “It’s a little after three,” she said, looking at her watch. She forced a tired smile and leaned close to Prudence. “Have you ever stayed up this late?”

Prudence shook her head.

“Not even,” she asked, darting her eyes from side to side, “at Hogwarts?”

Prudence bit her bottom lip and shook her head.

“Come on,” Afina said and stood. “I’ll show you to your room.”

“My old bedroom,” Althea offered and went to stand. “It has a lovely view. I’ll—”

Gran held up her hand. “Althea Rosemary, I would like to speak to you.”

Prudence hesitated briefly before she stood.

Althea roughly sat upon the sofa and folded her arms. “Right,” she sighed and smiled weakly at Prudence. “I’ll be there shortly.”

Prudence nodded and followed Afina toward the door. Afina let Prudence exit first and as she stood at the door, she winked at Althea.

“Don’t worry, Auntie,” she said, closing the door, “we’ll be all right.”

Our Prudence staying here, she thought and nodded to Afina. Despite the horrific events of that evening, it was very difficult for Althea not to feel some hope and happiness that her daughter would spend the night and probably a good part of the morning and afternoon with them. We’ll have this one day, she thought, hearing the click of the door.

She took Sirius’s hand. “I’m so sorry,” she said, stroking his long, thin fingers.

“Don’t,” he said, taking his hand from her. He folded his arms. “Don’t touch me.”

Althea let out a small sob. She felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach at the reminder that for Prudence, Sirius Black was Dark Wizard and murderer, and that he would probably be nothing more. She bent forward and covered her face with her hands, and allowed her tears to fall freely. I knew—I knew he would never truly forgive me, she thought as she shook. What I’ve done to him…what I’ve done to her!

“London!” Gran said over Althea’s sobs. “How irresponsible can you be, Althea Rosemary? And you—you who are wanted by the Ministry! You are not children anymore—”

Sirius sighed loudly. “Old woman, you are not my mother, and even then, I didn’t listen to her.”

“Grow up,” Gran replied. “Neither of you are fit to be Prudence’s—”

“Shut it!” Althea demanded, lowering her hands. She sniffed and wiped her face with the palm of her hand. “I will not have this bickering while Prudence is here, right?” She ran her fingers through her hair and gently tugged at the roots as she groaned. “God, that she saw that!”

Sirius leaned forward. “You have to know who cast it.”

Gran shook her head. “We left almost immediately,” she explained and pursed her lips. “We’ve waited for you, Althea Rosemary, ever since, but you decided to indulge in recklessness at a London nightclub…such a wonderful example to set for your daughter—”

“Next time, I’ll owl the Death Eaters to make bloody well sure that I’m home for the next attack,” she said and felt sick to her stomach. “Next attack?”

Sirius nodded to himself. “I’m going out,” he said with resolve. “I’ll discover—”

“You certainly will not!” Althea said, her voice slightly higher. “Your daughter is here—”

“All the more reason to,” he said and frowned deeply. “I shouldn’t stay.”

“Bollocks!” Althea said, standing. “Your disguise is intact, and if you’re so afraid of discovery, why don’t you transform, then?” she added, stepping over his feet. “I’m sure she’d be very pleased with your Animagus shape.”

Sirius scratched his chin. “That would be exhausting,”

“I reckon you can manage,” she said as she walked toward the door. “You’re not a weak wizard, are you?”

Sirius muttered under his breath.

“Althea Rosemary, I am not finished—”

“And I don’t care what you have to say on the matter, Gran,” she said as she turned the doorknob. “As her father, he has just as much a right to be here…and never forget that.”

Althea did not wait for a reply and exited her quarters, where she was met in the corridor to a beaming Afina.

“I want to cast Memory Charms on them,” Afina whispered as the two walked toward Althea’s adolescent bedroom. “She’s brilliant!”

Althea grinned with pride as she continued to fix herself for Prudence. “She is,” she said at the door to her old bedroom, “but mind yourself.”

Afina nodded. “I’ll figure out a way to keep her until the end of holidays,” she said, her eyes scheming.

“I wish we could,” she whispered and sighed sadly. “The Parkers won’t let us have more than a day,” she added and furrowed her eyebrows. “They’ll probably think we planned this—that it isn’t real.”

“No,” Sirius said and Althea startled.

“No Apparating inside!” she said, resting her hand upon her chest.

Sirius shrugged. “I’ll owl a copy of tomorrow’s Prophet to them,” he said and placed his hand upon the small of her back. “Well, aren’t we going to welcome her?”

Althea raised an eyebrow.

Sirius smiled as he knocked upon the door. “Call me a ‘weak wizard’? Likely,” he said and waited for Prudence’s reply.

Althea was the first to enter the room and smiled warmly at Prudence who sat upon the large cherry four-poster bed.

“Ah, memories,” Sirius whispered, looking around the room.

Indeed, she thought, herself enjoying the memories that very lavender room evoked. At sixteen, her boredom and angst at her confinement quickly vanished at Sirius’s visits upon his broom outside her windows—his smiling face looking up at her—eager to rescue her from Gran’s oppression. Althea sighed wistfully as she remembered the low hum of Sirius’s motorbike of one particular April evening. How many times did I sneak out those windows, she thought as the couple stood before Prudence. We’re so very lucky no Death Eater followed us.

“May I?” Althea asked, motioning toward the bed.

Prudence nodded and curled her knees to her chest.

“I wanted to welcome you properly to my home,” she said, as the couple sat upon the cream-colored duvet with tiny embroidered lavender flowers. “I would’ve liked you here under more happy circumstances,” she added and looked around the room. She frowned faintly at the plain lavender walls (Gran never let her decorate with inappropriate music groups—Althea saved that for Hogwarts). “It’s been ages since I’ve been in this room.”

“It’s lovely,” Prudence said, resting her chin against her knees.

“Thank you,” she said and picked at an embroidered flower. “I did buy this with my schoolteacher’s salary…Hogwarts pays handsomely, you know.”

Prudence let out a little laugh. “Likely,” she murmured and frowned pensively.

Althea looked upon Prudence sympathetically. “You don’t know what to make of it, do you?”

Prudence nodded. “What was that—that thing?” she asked, wrinkling her brow. “You said it was—oh I forget.”

The couple shared a hesitant look.

“The Dark Mark,” Sirius finally answered.

Prudence murmured the answer as if committing it to memory. “But why cast it?”

Althea’s stomach tightened at Prudence’s question. How much would they tell her? She was a girl—until this school year—naïve in magic, and now she was exposed—much to Althea’s chagrin—to its darker elements. Before her, a gloomy twelve-year-old girl sat, and the one answer that would satisfy her would cause her distress. Did Sirius share her hesitation? It was strange to think of them as a unified front—that for one brief night, they would look after Prudence.

Sirius rubbed his hands together. “If Althea will let me, I’ll explain,” he said, and paused—carefully considering his words, “she should know these things.”

Althea shook her head. “You’ll give her nightmares.”

“I’ll have nightmares about it, anyway,” Prudence replied, sitting up.

“I don’t think it wise—”

“I want to know—”

“I think it best,” Sirius interrupted and whispered to Althea, “instead of looking for those answers elsewhere.”

Althea understood. “Right,” she sighed, giving Sirius a warning look, “just the basics.”

Sirius lightly chewed his bottom lip. “It was used by Voldemort’s supporters,” he explained, leaning forward. “Do you know who he is?”

Prudence nodded—her eyes widened slightly. “You say his name,” she breathed. “I’ve never heard anyone say his name.”

Sirius shrugged—a faint, confident smile upon his lips. “Why wouldn’t I?” he remarked and his expression returned to a grim state. “It was meant to scare—just like tonight. It meant something terrible had happened.”

“Like someone dying?”

An odd shiver passed across Sirius’s face. “Yes, it could be used for that,” he answered, “and by what happened at the World Cup, it served its purpose. It was to scare everyone.”

“Probably whoever cast it, didn’t like the Ministry using Muggle land,” Althea said.

“That is possible,” Sirius said, nodding.

Her bottom lip quivered. “Does that mean he’s coming back?”

“It seems to be an isolated incident,” he answered, resting his hand behind Althea. “You’d agree?”

“Yes,” Althea said and noticed that Prudence wore the ring Sirius had given Althea on her sixteenth birthday. The modest amethyst sparkled in the dim light. “It hasn’t happened in almost thirteen years.”

“But—”

“I’m sure the Ministry will sort it out,” Althea said and was thankful Sirius did not display his derision.

“There was a crowd—a large crowd,” she said, looking ahead of her. “They laughed at that family…it could’ve been my family.”

Althea refused to look at Sirius.

Prudence, tears streaming down her cheeks, asked, “Who would do that to children? They were so small!”

The Parkers be damned, she thought and did what her body was aching for her to do—she placed a hand upon Prudence’s cheek to wipe away her tears. Prudence, heaving great sobs, quickly collapsed into Althea’s arms. Althea let out a little gasp as she felt Prudence’s arms around her neck, and she wrapped her arms around her daughter, holding her closely. How I’ve wanted to hold you, she thought, swallowing her tears. Althea closed her eyes and sought to remember every minute detail about this moment with her: the feeling of her frame against her—the way it perfectly huddled into her arms—her warm tears splashing against her skin and trickling along the contour of Althea’s collarbone, and that at that moment, the only person who could comfort her and ease her fears was her true mother.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, gently rocking Prudence. “I’ll never forgive who did this to you,” she murmured as Prudence violently shook against her. “Come on, get it out, my darling. I won’t stop you.”

Sirius inhaled sharply. “Friends fought…I fought—almost died—so this wouldn’t happen,” he said and Althea felt him stand from the bed. “Now, they’ve gone and scared our little girl?” he spat and Althea prayed Prudence’s sobbing kept her from hearing.

“Stephen, please,” she warned, inhaling deeply the smell of Prudence’s shampoo—she smelled faintly of strawberries.

Althea winced at the sound of the bedroom door slamming. Prudence pulled away and sniffed loudly. Althea tenderly wiped the tears from her cheeks and resisted the urge to kiss her forehead.

“Sometimes handkerchiefs have served their noble purpose long ago,” she said, handing Prudence a box of tissues.

“Thank you,” she said and blew her nose.

“Would you like me to draw you a bath?” she asked, wiping the wet curls from Prudence’s face. “Whenever I was upset, Marie would draw me a bath to calm me.”

Prudence hiccoughed. “It’s late.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, smoothing a curl behind Prudence’s ear. “It will help you sleep, I think.”

Prudence nodded.

Sirius has probably left, she thought as she adjusted the temperature of the water. Satisfied, she sat upon the edge of the pink claw-footed tub and watched it slowly fill. He’ll search for whoever did this, no doubt…and God help him. He’s upset our Prudence. Althea frowned—could it have been Pettigrew? The Kiss is too good for him, she thought, as a large lavender scented bubble popped. Voldemort help him, for what I would do to him for old time’s sake. He has no idea of the horrors I would inflict upon him…and if Sirius were there…that son of a bitch would beg for the Kiss.

“I think this will do nicely,” she said, appreciating her work.

As Prudence bathed, Althea prepared Prudence’s bedclothes for the night. As she fluffed one of the down pillows, she wondered if Mrs. Parker would do such a thing. She assumed a mother would do such a thing, but she could barely remember her own mother and Gran never truly expressed maternal feelings toward Althea (she had reasoned Gran’s protective nature came from her ego and not from some sense of familial fidelity). No, her idea of what a mother should do came from those few years she had with Marie and Mrs. Evans. It was something and her imagination filled in the rest. She lightly chewed her bottom lip—was she being too motherly? She paused as she smoothed duvet—she could not deny that unsettling feeling. If I were Mrs. Parker, I’d be at the door of Northfield by now to see my daughter.

“You can’t fault them,” she whispered, laying out the pajamas Afina picked. “They are Muggles, after all.”

Still, she thought, as she arranged the comb and brush on the dressing table, it was a riot. Althea caught sight of herself in the mirror—to the small tattoo on her wrist. She allowed her forefinger to glide lightly over the bird. We do make it a habit of doing just about anything to protect those we love.

“Would you be happy?” she asked, staring at the closed bathroom door.

No time for tears, she thought and sniffed. She needs you to make her feel safe again. Althea remembered the first time she witnessed the Dark Mark. She had read news articles and listened to Lily and James description of it, but as much as she believed herself acquainted with and prepared for the image, those false comforts did not prepare her for the truly terrifying image in person. I was eighteen, she thought as she walked the lonely, darkened Northfield corridor. After a brutal day at St. Mungo’s (she spent the day and early night in triage after the attack on a dance hall), a tired and weak Althea managed to make her way to the Leaky Cauldron for needed drinks with her colleagues when she saw the glittering, green skull and serpent. Terrified, and yet mesmerized, she stood in the street, staring up at it until she felt the arm of James Potter around her waist and the distinct feeling of Side-Along Apparition. We were so young, she thought, the door to her quarters ajar. Too young to understand what we were fighting and how much it would cost us.

Althea entered her bedroom to find Sirius, sitting on the floor against her bed—his knees to his chest and his arms at his sides. He darkly stared ahead of him. She sat upon the bed, but Sirius did not recognize her presence.

“I’m so sorry, Sirius,” she said, her fingertips gliding through the thick black hair and tracing small circles against his scalp. “If I had known—”

“Prudence isn’t returning to the Parkers,” he said and sniffed.

“Ridiculous,” she said and stopped stroking his hair. “Maybe I should give you some of Prudence’s Sleeping Potion.”

“Where are they, Althea?” he asked and bit the inside of his cheek. “Where are her mum and dad?”

Althea shrugged. “I thought the same, but Gran could’ve lied,” she said, kicking her heel against the plush rug. “Maybe she hasn’t told the Parkers.”

Sirius shook his head. “That other family would’ve contacted them,” he said and rested his head against her knee. “At least I’d hope so.”

“As would I.”

Sirius placed his palm upon her calf. “She’s beautiful,” he sighed. “My daughter…my Prudence.” She could feel him inhale a breath.

Althea recognized the tone of longing in his voice—the expression of regret. His daughter, once an empty grave and then a worn box of photographs, was now flesh. He could not hold her or touch her, for he was nothing more than a stranger—a bystander, really. He did not have the cruel luxury of familiarity in the setting of Hogwarts.

Althea stopped tracing small circles against his scalp. “Would you’ve gone about it differently if you knew she lived?”

Sirius did not answer, but continued to stroke her slender calf.

“Right,” she breathed and stood. She held out her hands for Sirius.

Sirius looked at her strangely.

“She needs you,” she said, beckoning for Sirius to stand. “She’s frightened, and she needs a large dog that is ready to growl at any attacker.”

Sirius stood. “You understand it reverses my disguise?”

Althea nodded. “So? You have another one,” she said and smiled. “I believe some would find your canine form more pleasing than the other. It didn’t take you that long to transform into your present state—”

“It would take another five hours—”

“Well, I don’t believe having Stephen hang about at night is a good thing,” she said. “I reckon we should set some example.”

Sirius smiled wryly. “It’s thirteen years too late for that, my love.”

Sirius transformed and trailed behind Althea as she entered her childhood bedroom. I wish my Animagus form was so bloody convenient, she thought. Prudence sat upon the bed underneath plush bedclothes. The bedclothes pulled to her chest, she weakly smiled at Althea.

“Thank you,” Prudence said, tucking a thick black curl behind her ear. “The bath did help.”

“You’re welcome,” Althea replied as Sirius’s tail hit her leg. “I also thought you’d like some company.”

Prudence looked over the edge of the bed and smiled.

“He’s a good sort of dog,” she explained, scratching him behind the ears. “Very tame. I’ve had him for ages.”

“What’s his name?” she asked, not taking her eyes off the dog.

Althea frowned, but soon laughed lowly. “Snuffles,” she said and Sirius whimpered. “It’s a silly name for him, don’t you think?”

Prudence nodded. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the glass in Althea’s hand.

“Oh,” she said and held up the glass. “A very mild Sleeping Potion,” she explained, handing the glass to Prudence. “It ensures only happy dreams.”

“It can do that?” she asked, wrinkling her nose at the purple potion that sparkled with flecks of gold and silver.

Althea nodded. “I wouldn’t give you something awful,” she said as Sirius made himself comfortable upon the floor at the foot of the bed. “Go on.”

Prudence with some hesitation sipped the purple sparkling liquid, but as the potion passed her lips, her hesitation subsided and she quickly downed the drink.

“There you are,” Althea said taking the cup as Prudence yawned. “Now,” she added, folding the bedclothes under Prudence’s chin, “sleep well.”

Prudence nodded as she closed her eyes. Althea’s head jerked forward to give her a goodnight kiss. Instead, she smoothed a wrinkle from the bedclothes.

“Goodnight, my love,” she whispered and kissed Sirius’ snout.

Althea smiled as she looked upon the two people she loved most of all, asleep. What an odd sort of family we are, she thought as she closed the door.









Thank you so much for reading! Thank you for all the comments, critiques, and reviews. I've enjoyed it very much. Please, do not hesitate to leave a comment or review.

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