“Give her three drops of this potion, twice a day, for three weeks,” Rowena said, pulling a small vial filled with a shiny blue liquid out of her cloak pocket. “Your daughter’s pox should be cleared in a month.”

The grimy woman before her smiled gratefully and nearly snatched the tiny vial out of Rowena’s hand. “Dear lady,” she whispered roughly, “I cannot thank you nearly enough, nor can I ever repay what this potion must cost.”

Rowena pulled the hood of her plain brown cloak over her dark hair, took the woman’s hand, and patted it comfortingly. “’Tis a gift, my dear. I do not expect any compensation. But if little Anna needs anything else, owl me immediately.”

The woman nodded her head and then left, disappearing in the shadows of the dark and dirty alley. Rowena made sure her sapphire gown was well covered by the commoner’s cloak before emerging onto the rundown street the alley branched off of. Looking around to make sure that no one had noticed her sudden appearance, she began walking down the street once she was certain that no one had given her a second glance.

As she made her way around the dirty carts selling muggle repelling jewelry and faulty wizard games for children, Rowena suddenly felt a hand on her arm. She looked up in surprise to see a familiar face.

“This is a lovely wedding,” Gryfindor said, his face stony and devoid of emotion. “Is that why you miss so many council meetings? You’re busy making yourself feel better by helping the poor?”

Rowena struggled to remove his hand, but Gryffindor’s grasp was both strong and gentle; she was unable to break the hold but it was not tight.

“What are you doing here?” she asked fiercely, looking up to glare at him.

“I think the better question, Lady Ravenclaw,” he said, refusing to make eye contact and choosing instead to keep his gaze strictly on the road, “is what are you doing here? A reputable young lady such as yourself has no business in this part of London.”

Rowena set her jaw and turned to face the grimy street as he was doing, resigned to walking and talking with the hulking structure of a man beside her. “I do business with the unfortunate. And it is not to make myself feel better about myself,” she spat, clenching her small hands into fists. “I believe every person has the right to proper medicine.”

“Well then, I guess the entitled little Lady has morals,” Gryffindor chuckled. “And how did you come across that in your privileged upbringing?”

“Your Duke Slytherin may have been born into his title, Gryffindor, but my mother was not. She married into it and she has never forgotten the hardships of an untitled life. Perhaps you can relate. Now, I’ll ask you again: what are you doing here?”

“Protecting you.”

Rowena blanched and stumbled, but Gryffindor’s steady hand rebalanced her quickly. “Protecting me? I don’t need protection.”

“Have you noticed the man following you?” Gryffindor asked. “The man in the black cloak and the uneven gait?”

Rowena sighed. “Does he have a sword under that cloak?”

“I wouldn’t know. Should I check?”

“That’s Francis. He’s the guard my mother hired to protect me,” Rowena quipped, finally pulling her arm away from the knight beside her. “I don’t need protection. Francis is equipped to deal with anything that may harm me and I am more than capable myself anyways.”

“That’s what I told Duke Slytherin, but he seems to have developed an interest in you and hopes for your wellbeing,” Gryffindor hissed, suddenly pulling Rowena to the right side of the street as a group of truants burst out of a rundown shop followed by the angry store owner, a burly man brandishing a wand and swearing to high heavens. “And obviously the places you frequent are not the safest.”

Rowena stopped walking and placed her hand on Gryffindor’s shoulder, smiling politely. “Thank you, Gryffindor, for your protection, but I must bid you farewell. I cannot work with someone beside me; my clients will not trust me if a man with a sharp weapon is at my side.”

“And Francis?” Gryffindor inquired, crossing his arms.

“Francis keeps his distance,” Rowena explained, tucking a stray strand of inky black hair behind her left ear. “And besides, I can keep myself out of harm.”

“If you are certain,” Gryffindor began uncertainly.

Rowena smiled sweetly and nodded. “I am. Now please leave me to my business.”

Gryffindor nodded and turned, his dark cloak sweeping across the dirty stones. Rowena watched him as he stalked away, his tall form making those he approached shrink back in fear. There was something to be admired about a man so intimidating even the scariest man on the block remained in the shadows instead of pouncing like he normally did. Rowena watched as Robert Knockturn surveyed the man leaving the dark alleyway, his figure shrunken as though Robert wished to stay hidden from view. Rowena kept her gaze locked on the dark man as he stood up from leaning against the dark wall of the apothecary and began to walk down the street towards her. A small smirk was just visible under the hood of the dark cloak that hid his lean muscular form.

As Robert made his way towards her, Rowena felt the ends of her mouth rise up, completely out of her control. He finally reached her and she just managed not to throw herself at him as she wrapped him in an embrace. Robert’s arms snaked around Rowena’s waist and pulled her closer, the muscles in his arms contracting tight as he held her close, almost to the point of hurting her. When Rowena finally pulled away, she smiled and took off Robert’s hood, caressing his face with her small and gentle fingers.

“My dear friend,” she said quietly, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek, “it has been too long.”

Robert smiled and cupped her cheek in his large hand. “I know. But you are here now. Tell me, darling, what of that man in your company today?”

“Gryffindor?” Rowena asked innocently, adding a bat of her eyelashes for good measure. “Now Robert, there’s no need to be getting jealous. He’s… ah… hired protection from a mutual acquaintance. I’ve begun business transactions other than what I do here, and it seems that my fellows are not accustomed to the ways of your alley.”

Robert laughed then, a loud guffaw echoing around the dingy street. Vendors who normally never looked anyone in the eye began to crack a smile. Such was the power of Robert Knockturn; he was intimidating to most with his jet black hair and dark eyes, but a smile from him was infectious. Rowena could not remember the last time the alley was in such good hands. Robert ran the alley as if it were an unwanted legitimate child: he would let it run itself until it got too unruly in which case he would take the time to visit those causing the problem and personally deal with them.

To Rowena, her analogy was quite humorous, considering Robert was a bastard, born out of wedlock to a witch not unlike the ones that patrolled this street in search of a few coins to buy food, and a wizard who was already wed to another. His name derived from the keeper of the orphanage stationed at the end of the alley, a Mr. Samuel Knockturn, a man grouchy and horrid to anyone whom he didn’t like, but positively a delight to the children in his care.

Robert had always been fond of Mr. Knockturn and the orphanage, and as Robert pulled away from her she noticed that another small silver coin had been laced onto the iron chain around his neck. A young boy at the orphanage, Sebastian, had taken a liking to Robert, and he to him. Sebastian adored Robert and always managed to find small coins that he believed Robert would like. In turn, the tall man would keep them on a chain that was always at his neck, and Rowena could not count the times she had seen his hand flinch up towards the bauble as if he was somehow afraid of losing it.

“I see that you’re eying my chain, dear Rowena,” Robert suddenly muttered, jerking the young lady out of her reverie.

Rowena blushed fiercely and looked up to meet Robert’s sharp eyes. “You grow very fond of the boy. I fear that soon it shall cloud your judgement.”

Robert smiled again, a long line of crooked teeth making up something that couldn’t possibly be so amazing. “And I suppose my affection towards you shall do the same?”

“I fear that it shall, my dear friend. Now I must go, darling Robert. Should your cough come back when the weather grows cold again,” Rowena said, staring pointedly at the man in front of her, “do not hesitate to tell me. Heavens knows we do not want a repeat of last time.”

“Would that be the time I spent a moon in bed, being nursed by your kindly self and your mother, or the time I was raving mad for a fortnight, consumed by the fever of the cold cough?”

Rowena laughed. “Neither. It was the time you were violently sick after contracting that nearly deadly stomach virus. I just thank my blessings that your utterly ridiculous coughing may tell us when you may be excessively ill.”

“And I thank my blessings every day for you, Lady Rowena,” Robert said as he mimed a tip of a hat. “I shall let you carry about your business, dear friend, and remind me not to hurt your mutual friend’s acquaintance should he ever come back. I may forget.”

“And perhaps I shall let you,” Rowena mused, a twinkle in her eye. “Good day, Robert. Fare well and I hope to see you before the next moon.”

“As do I, Lady Rowena.”

As Robert walked away, his steady gait making the cobbled stones of the street beneath his feet click incessantly, Rowena could not help but smile. Through these horrible times, at least she had Robert if no one else. She sighed and turned to look at the other end of the alley. She still had quite a day’s work to continue.


Rowena stalked through the alley, her footsteps quick and precise. She only had enough time to drop off a vial of medicine with Mr. Knockturn before leaving to meet with Duke Slytherin and talk about the potential of a school in Scotland. As she saw the old man, hunched over as if a sack of potatoes was resting on his back, she quickened her pace and nearly tripped on her skirts as she reached him.

“The medicine for the children,” she gasped, all but throwing it at the poor man. Then, rummaging through her bag, she let out a breathy, “And something for you too.” Rowena pulled a small jar of salve from the small wristlet she carried (a handy charm had expanded it on the inside thankfully), and handed it to Mr. Knockturn, smiling as she did so. “Rub that on your back daily until the salve runs out. Hopefully it should soothe the pain.”

The old man smiled his crooked smile, so like Robert that it made Rowena question Robert’s parentage, even though she knew exactly who his father was. It was just the fact that Robert had grown up with old man, and thus carried some of his traits.

“Darling little Rowena,” Mr. Knockturn said, slowly reaching forward with a trembling and wrinkled hand to pat her on the cheek, “whatever would I do without you?”

Rowena smiled and put her hand on his. “Well, we won’t ever think about it because I’ll always be here for you and the children.”

Mr. Knockturn coughed and nodded. “You are much too kind to an old man such as myself. Go on now, I know you have more interesting things to do than to exchange pleasantries with me.”

“More productive things, perhaps,” Rowena stated quickly, wrapping her cloak around her a little tighter as a blast of cold wind made its way through the alley, “but never more interesting than you, Mr. Knockturn.”

“Oh, don’t flatter me, girl,” Mr. Knockturn chided, though his easy smile and twinkling eyes held none of the harshness his tone expressed. “Now go on. I won’t tell you again.”

Rowena smiled and turned, dashing down the street and around vendors every few feet. She had promised to meet Duke Slytherin at this time, forgetting that the Knockturn children needed medicine as a harsh cough was circulating around the orphanage. Just as she was about to apparate out of the alley though, a large hand grabbed her by the upper arm and dragged her into a darker and smaller alley off of the main one.

At first she thought it was Robert, but even with his large hands, he had never grabbed her that hard. Her next thought was of Gryffindor, but again, his grasp, though firm, was never that tight. She began to struggle with her assailant, but the brute strength of a man his size would be able to overpower her slight stature any day. Yet as she attempted escape, she brought his face closer to the only light, as dim as it was. When his features were finally defined in the yellow gaze of the flickering lamp, she felt her stomach drop.

It was Lord Bennett.

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