Author's note: This story starts with an outtake from my long story, The Greatest Enemy Ever Faced on fanfiction.net. However, you don't need to know that story in order to understand this one, you only need to know the following things: Minerva married Aberforth Dumbledore about 10 years ago, and Aberforth has a great-granddaughter called Julie (he had been married once before he married Minerva).
1st April, 2012
"I hope Minerva is feeling better," I told my brother as we walked out of the staff room. Minerva was having a bad case of the flu.
"Well, she is feeling a bit better… but she'll continue having this sickness for a while, I fear, Albus," Aberforth said with a dramatic sigh.
"Why? Cannot Poppy just cure her with some Pepperup Potion?" I asked, taking a sip of hot chocolate.
"I fear Pepperup Potion cannot do anything against morning sicknesses," Aberforth replied, looking devastated.
"What?" I spat out the mouthful of hot chocolate I was just about to swallow. "Arrrgh, my beautiful beard!" I cursed, trying to wipe the warm brown goo off it. In my surprise, I even forgot that I could have performed a simple cleaning charm. "Minerva… pregnant?!"
"Well… yeah," Aberforth seemed to be thoroughly embarrassed.
"But… at her age?!?!"
* * * * *
Minerva was walking upstairs from the library, carrying several huge books.
"Ah, Minerva, already out of the infirmary?" I joined her with a jovial smile.
"Yes, Albus. Why, should I have wasted my whole day there?" she replied indignantly. "I've got to prepare for tomorrow."
"I… I think you should have stayed a bit longer in the hospital wing, Minerva, just to make sure that you're okay. And why on Earth are you carrying such heavy books? You shouldn't!"
I reached out and took the pile of tomes out of her arms. "I'll carry them for you."
Minerva shrugged. "If you think so. Would you please take them up to my study and place them on my desk? I still have to go and discuss the plan of work with the Prefects for the next week and for the duration of the Easter holidays as well. Oh, and of course I've got to arrange a staff-conference about the tournament…"
"No, no, no, dear Minerva, I insist that you leave these things to another time and have some rest. Go up into your room and lie down a bit."
"But, Albus, these things have to be done! And who else would do them? It's always been my task to arrange things like these! What would become of Hogwarts if I started neglecting my duties?"
"I'm not concerned about Hogwarts, Minerva, but I'm concerned about you. Your health. You have to rest a lot, in your condition."
She rolled her eyes. "Madame Pomfrey said I could continue working without any problem. And that I will do."
"But… Minerva! How can you be so selfish?" I shouted, scandalised.
"Selfish? Albus!" she hissed, ripping the books out of my hands. "I'm having the school's best interests at heart, and you call me selfish!"
"Yes, because you don't care for that child at all!"
"Which child?" she blinked.
I blinked, too. "Wow… twins?"
"What?" she knitted her eyebrows.
"Your child, Minerva!"
"You mean, Julie? She's like a granddaughter to me, Albus, and I have no idea why you think that I don't care for her…"
"I'm not talking about Julie, I'm talking about the baby you are carrying!"
She dropped the books. "What… what are you talking about?"
Suddenly Peeves appeared through a wall, wearing a pink-orange striped jester's hat, howling at the top of his lungs: "Happy April Fool's Day to everyone!"
For a couple of seconds I was only standing there, dumbfounded, understanding dawning on me. In the next instant:
* * * * *
Five minutes and a black-eye-to-Aberforth later I was trying to calm myself, taking deep breaths.
"I can't believe that you've done it again," I growled at my brother who was nursing the black eye on his right eye.
"Again?" Aberforth look at me.
"The April Fool's Day's joke," I murmured. "You've had me on again, while at your wedding you promised that you'd never play another trick on me!"
"Correction, bro, I said I'd try to refrain from it," Aberforth replied.
I gave him a contemptuous look. "You know, you're loosing your touch…"
"Am I?" my brother frowned.
"Yeah… this joke didn't even come close to your other one."
"But you still believed it," Aberforth grinned painfully (his black eye must have hurt a lot).
"Yes… I believed it," I sighed. I believed it just like I had believed my dear brother's first, really nasty joke 115 years earlier…
I remember that day as though it had been yesterday. It had been a particularly beautiful day with clear blue sky, bright sunshine and enchanting birdsong. It had been the first really warm day that spring… the spring of 1897. I had just turned fifty (for a wizard fifty years is no age, I looked like a Muggle in his mid-twenties) and my brother Aberforth had turned thirty-five (and behaved like a fifteen-year-old). This story is the result of something that this totally childish brother of mine did on that beautiful spring day in 1897…
At that time, I was courting a girl called Rebecca Dawson. She wasn't exactly pretty, but she was very witty and quite nosy – she was interested in everything from the mating habits of red ants to the mating habits of our poor Minister for Magic. She was eager to spread gossip about everyone – especially the family of the Minister. Who knows where she inherited this nosy nature of hers? Well, the point is that I liked her, together with all her bad traits. I wouldn't say I was in love with her, but I liked her cleverness and readiness to make a witty remark on everything and everyone. At that time I didn't suspect that later on I would hate this kind of behaviour.
Some weeks before that fateful spring day, I proposed to Becky and she gladly accepted. We wanted to get married over the summer and she started organising the wedding with great ardour, having no idea that something would occur – or rather someone would occur.
And this someone was Amelia.
One day before that fateful spring day I was to accompany my Becky to the Hogsmeade railway station, for she was about to leave for Paris to visit her Aunt Genevieve who would help her pick a nice wedding dress (Becky insisted on wearing a dress after the latest Parisian fashion).
On the railway station we said goodbyes to each other – Rebecca didn't look sad and neither was she tearful like a young fiancée should be when leaving her husband-to-be for a whole month. She said she'd miss me, and I said I'd miss her, but somehow I felt that neither one of us spoke from our hearts. We liked each other and regarded our engagement as something 'rational', as something that our families expected from us, but I don't think she was in love with me, and I for one definitely wasn't in love with her. She was someone to respect for her cleverness, but not someone to feel boundless love for.
She complained about the long journey to Paris: train from London to Dover, ship from Dover to Calais, then again train from Calais to Paris. "I'll be bored to death!" she sighed with a painful expression, but I knew that her main problem would be the lack of gossip to spread, or the lack of people to spread gossip to.
"You know what, sweetie?" I said. "The best cure against boredom is reading. Here, take this book, I have just finished reading it for the fifteenth time, I'm sure you'll also like it." When I was just about to hand her my favourite book, a familiar voice called out to me:
"Hey, brother, is that the good old Notre Dame again?"
I looked up to see Aberforth approaching with a wide smile. "What if it is?" I crossed my arms. My fiancée was just about to leave me alone for a whole month, so I wasn't in any mood to listen to my dear brother's teasing.
"I just never thought you'd let anyone touch that book beside you," he shrugged. "You know," he turned to Rebecca, "Albus here has never been as protective of anything as he is of this book."
"Really? Not even of me?" Becky raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, don't even listen to him," I waved indignantly and gave my brother a 'sod-off' stare. But he just wasn't about to leave us alone.
"Come on, Albus, don't pretend that you haven't read this book forty times!"
"Just fifteen!" I snapped.
"Anyway, Becky, you should have seen good old Albus when he used to read bedtime stories for me! He kept reading me this stupid book!"
"It – isn't – a – stupid – book!" I growled.
"Not stupid?" Aberforth grinned. "That Esmeralda got hung and she actually died! She was said to be a witch and sentenced to death! Now come on, Muggles used to burn supposed witches at the stake, not hang them! And you know, Becky, who his favourite character of the whole Notre Dame of Paris was?"
I sent my brother a 'shut-up' stare. Rebecca shook her head.
"Well, it was Djali, the goat! Esmeralda's goat!" Aberforth laughed. "Albus kept gushing how terrible it was for that poor little goat to lose her owner after Esmeralda got hung! He kept making up theories about what had happened to Djali after Esmeralda died! And when I told him that she probably got fried and eaten by Claude Frollo, he yelled at me 'Frollo is also dead, you idiot, and don't you dare insult poor Djali!'"
"I said enough of this, Aberforth," I grunted through gritted teeth, my fists clenched. If the train's funnel hadn't started whistling and sending puffs of smoke into the air, indicating that it was about to leave the station, I think I would have punched my dear brother. This way, however, I just helped Becky jump up the stairs and heave her luggage into the train.
* * * * *
Next day – that fateful spring day - I had one class in the morning to teach. After that class I decided to go for a nice walk in Hogsmeade and buy some 'welcome-back' presents for my Becky, although I knew she wouldn't return for a whole month. Strange, that even if I wasn't in love with her, I was starting to miss her only one day after she had left.
As I was heading for Honeydukes, I spotted my brother coming out of the Hogsmeade railway station with a woman. Seeing my brother twice in such a short time was unusual, and the way he was grinning should have made me suspicious.
"Hello, Albus," Aberforth waved at me, beckoning me to him and his companion. "May I introduce to you Michelle's second-cousin Amelia?" Michelle was Aberforth's wife.
I looked at the girl standing next to him, and I felt my knees buckle. She was beautiful, and she was smiling! I had never really seen Rebecca smile at me like this, although we were engaged, and this woman… this goddess was smiling at me with those cherry-coloured lips, her sky blue eyes sparkling in the morning sunshine. Her blond hair came in curls down onto her bare shoulders (mind you, wearing a dress that showed your shoulders at the end of the 19th century required a great deal of courage – or stupidity?). She was wearing a blood red dress and a sexy little lopsided hat also in deep red colour.
"Er… nice to meet you, Amelia," I said (damn, my voice was quivering – something that hadn't happened to me since I had been a first year student at Hogwarts and got detention from a Potions teacher whose manners strongly resembled that of our Severus). Why on Earth was my voice quivering? I felt like kicking myself and shouting at myself 'Get a grip, Dumbledore!' but I knew it wouldn't help… I was in love. It was love at first sight and it assaulted me like a sudden thunderstorm in the middle of a prairie where I couldn't hide from it… I got soaked from this storm of love.
She didn't reply, just giggled into her hands. Interesting, I thought, that her giggle reminded me a bit of a goat's bleating… but then again, everyone laughed differently - one of my grandmothers, for example, sounded like a hissing cat when she sneezed… if people could sneeze like cats, then they also could chuckle like goats, couldn't they? Er… chuckle like goats? Could goats chuckle at all? I meant giggle like the bleating of goats… or what? I was getting seriously confused.
"Er…" I finally found my voice again, "I had no idea that Michelle had a second-cousin… and such a charming one!"
Amelia chuckled again, her blue eyes glinting joyfully.
"Um… where does she come from?" I asked.
"From, er… Liechtenstein," my brother replied.
"Liechtenstein?" I blinked. I had never met anyone from Liechtenstein. "Is it nice there, Amelia?"
She cocked her head in a strange way, trying to convey some message that I didn't understand.
"Er, she cannot answer, Albus," my brother said. "She's mute, the poor thing."
"Oh…" I breathed. What a pity, I thought, that such a charming girl couldn't express herself with words – I was sure that if she could speak, her voice would be mellifluous… it didn't even occur to me that if she could giggle (and she had giggled twice before) then she wasn't supposed to be mute… or perhaps she could only produce a bleating-like sound, because her vocal cords didn't allow her to produce any other sound, let alone form sensible words… well, I didn't really care for making up theories about mute people being able to produce any kind of a sound - I had somehow lost my common sense and ability to suspect deceit… I was blinded by love.
"But she understands English, doesn't she?" I asked.
"Well, yes, of course she does," Aberforth nodded his head. "Most children are taught to speak English in the town she comes from…"
"And what is that town called…?"
"Er… Walter von der Vogelweide," replied my brother.
I wanted to remark that it was a funny name for a town, but then I thought that there were even funnier German names for places, Oberschenkenritt being my favourite.
Amelia, hearing the name of her town, smiled sweetly (she must have been a patriot). When I saw her smile, I felt like Apparating to Paris to tell Becky that the wedding was cancelled, because I had just met the true love of my life. But then Aberforth spoke up:
"You know, Albus, Amelia came to visit Michelle, but she hadn't suspected that Michelle wouldn't be here." (Michelle was in America, also visiting relatives). "And you know, I cannot put Amelia up for the duration of her visit… our house is just being renovated, and it wouldn't be a proper place for a lady like her, don't you think, bro?"
I had to agree with Aberforth: Amelia The Beautiful Angel couldn't live in a house where she could get smudged by painting trickling down the walls, or where she couldn't take a nice nap in the afternoon because of the carpenter wizards hammering on the roof all the time…
"But… where could she live, then?" I asked hesitantly. Hogsmeade didn't have a pension back at those days and we didn't have other relatives with whom she could lodge…
"Well, then… only one chance is left, old boy," Aberforth said with a mischievous grin, "she'll have to live at Hogwarts until my house is ready and Michelle returns from The States."
"At… at Hogwarts?" I stammered. "I doubt that Headmaster Snape would be overjoyed by the idea of me taking a foreign lady to the castle… you know how utterly paranoid and hostile he is towards foreigners since he got seduced by that vampire witch from Transylvania…"
"You mean that charming black-haired lady?" Aberforth chuckled. "I still don't understand what that pretty vampire woman saw in Snape… but it was really nasty of her to seduce him then disappear, and nine months later send little Sylvester back to his daddy to bring him up…"
"Oh, yeah, that was really mean of her," I agreed. Poor Severus never got to know that his grandmother was a vampire who had left her son – Severus's father - because she didn't feel like bringing him up. I'm not even sure whether Severus is aware that his grandfather had once been headmaster here at Hogwarts… even less does he know that in my childhood I pretty much got the creeps from his granddad. No wonder that he turned out the way he did… with such an ancestry, he couldn't have turned out any other way.
But, let's get back to our story with Amelia, the charming mute witch from Liechtenstein.
"Well, bro, you know… that old bat of a headmaster doesn't need to know that Amelia's at Hogwarts…" Aberforth winked at me. "You don't need to give her an own apartment, she'd be all right in yours, it's quite roomy, isn't it?"
"But… but… having a lady in my… apartment? She surely wouldn't want to…" I stuttered, casting a sideways glance at Amelia. She cocked her head again (she looked extremely sweet that way) and smiled at me.
I took that as a yes.
Becky, sitting on the train and travelling to her Aunt Genevieve to discuss the details of the wedding got forgotten, and no one else existed, but Amelia…
"Er… I think you forgot to tell me her family name," I turned to Aberforth.
"What?" he blinked.
"I mean, she is Amelia… Who?"
"Er… that's right, brother, she's Amelia Who," Aberforth nodded. "I never knew you could guess names so brilliantly!"
Aberforth calling me brilliant should have been suspicious enough, for he has never done such a thing before, but in that hazy-and-clouded-with-pink-mist state of mind I didn't suspect anything. I should have found it suspicious that someone in a German-speaking country would have an English name, or that someone who was supposedly mute could giggle, but at that moment it really didn't matter – all that mattered was that I was head over heels in love with Miss Amelia Who from Walter von der Vogelweide.
So, I offered Miss Who my arm and she willingly took it. I was supposed to 'smuggle' her into the castle, but on our way up to the winged-boars sitting on the gate, I wanted to show her the sights of Hogsmeade. Then I caught myself not showing her the sights, but looking at the sights myself: Amelia's eyes, Amelia's hair, Amelia's hands, Amelia's cleavage, Amelia's cleavage, Amelia's cleavage… whew, did she have a nice cleavage!
But, she didn't seem to notice how unabashedly I was staring at her half-exposed chest, she seemed to be enjoying the walk across the lawn from the village to the gate.
* * * * *
Luckily all students and teachers were at classes and no one was strolling on the corridors when I led Amelia up to my room. I felt a bit awkward about taking a woman to my quarters, but she didn't seem to mind. As we walked along the corridors, up the moving staircases, she seemed to be gawping at everything, as though she had never seen coats of arms, suits of armour and torches in brackets in her whole life. Funny… did people in Liechtenstein not have medieval castles at all? – I wondered.
Suddenly I heard some caterwauling from a near corner – it was getting louder and louder. Peeves, damn him, was approaching, holding some sack and singing a very rude song that made me blush – however, the woman next to me seemed to be enjoying it, as though she had never heard anyone sing before. Strange…
I yanked Amelia behind a suit of armour to prevent the poltergeist from seeing us. I didn't want him to go to Headmaster Snape and tell on me hiding a woman in my room, or I'd find myself out of Hogwarts before I could say Spediteurübernahmebescheinigung (my other favourite German word). I thought that perhaps I could sometimes mention German words in order to dazzle Amelia with my German knowledge (that consisted of about five or six mile-long words that I found so funny I just had to learn them). However, neither the time nor the place was appropriate for dazzling Amelia with my knowledge of her language, because Peeves was still around, spilling a sack of peas on the floor, so that people would slip on them.
After the poltergeist departed with the empty sack, I tentatively rose from behind the suit of armour, placing my leg on a small spot that wasn't covered with peas. I was just about to turn around to warn my companion to be careful about where she would step, but I was a second late, and she had already stepped on a pea and slipped. Thanks to my Quidditch-trained reflexes, I managed to catch her before she fell. For some moments I just held her, she was clinging to me, and we were gazing at each other's eyes. Holy chocolate frogs, did I feel like kissing her then!
With a great effort I reminded myself of being engaged to Becky Dawson, as well as being entrusted to take care of this wonderful, fragile beauty in my arms… I wasn't supposed to 'damage' her in any sense, now was I? And I was perfectly aware that if I started to kiss her, I'd very likely not be able to stop – something that I couldn't say about Rebecca. Kissing Becky was okay, but nothing too special.
So I just drew back and guided her towards our destination.
"Well… Miss Who, this is my room that will be placed at your disposal until my brother's house is fully built," I told her five minutes later. "I know it's not much, but I'll do everything in my power to make your stay as comfortable as possible."
However, Amelia didn't seem to be listening to me: she seemed to be occupied with posing in front of a mirror hanging on the wall and giggling in her usual bleating manner. Come to think of it, I started to like the way she laughed, it was strange, but funny. Pity that she couldn't form sensible words with those beautiful lips of hers…
When she saw in the mirror that I came closer, her eyes widened, and she turned around to look at me, then look back at the mirror, then back at me again. Suddenly a huge smile spread on her face and pointed at me, then at the mirror, then at herself and the mirror again.
"Yes, you can see yourself in it, as well as me," I nodded, amused by her fascination at something as common as a mirror. Did people in Liechtenstein have no mirrors at all? I didn't dare ask, perhaps I'd hurt her feelings.
Then she spotted my bed. Her face lit up with joy and ran up to it, flinging herself into it. In the next instant she was thrown back into my arms.
"I wanted to warn you, Miss Who: I've magically boosted the bed's springs so that they dump me out of bed every morning at six o'clock. This is a good method against oversleeping, you know," I winked at her. "With your bouncing you have activated the magic springs. Next time try and lie on the bed more gently."
Amelia, however, was laughing – bleating – again: she must have found this 'getting-kicked-out-by-the-bed' experience very funny. I realised that I was holding her again, very close to boot. Damn, if this continued like this, I would have bedded her by sunset. Not that the idea wasn't alluring, but she didn't seem the type of girl who'd appreciate being 'attacked' by a sex-deprived male like that… or would she? She didn't seem too eager to disentangle herself from my embrace, so it had to be me again who stepped back.
Then it struck me: if she was about to sleep in my bed, then where on Earth would I sleep? The other thing that struck me was: if I married Becky and we got to do… um… things in the bed, would we activate its magical springs? I just didn't feel like finding myself and my new bride flying out of the bed in our wedding night… oh well, that was something to deal with later on. Now my number one concern was Amelia, not Becky.
* * * * *
Shortly after we arrived at my room, it was lunchtime and I got pretty hungry. I supposed that my charming guest must have been hungry too, but I knew that I couldn't just take her down to the Great Hall to have lunch, because anyone could have seen her there (Headmaster Snape included). Smuggling her down to the kitchen to ask the elves to serve her would also have been risky in broad daylight. If only I had an Invisibility Cloak! But no, I hadn't. At that time I hadn't even learnt how to become invisible without a cloak…
But luckily I had learnt how to conjure food out of thin air, so I decided to give Amelia the most wondrous feast she had ever had. I led her to my small table, conjured crockery, glasses and two plates. "Have a seat, please," I motioned her to sit down. She tentatively took place on a chair (carefully examining it before sitting down, as though trying to make sure that it wouldn't bite her if she took place on it) and her glance fell on the crockery. With a joyous expression she snatched up the shining silver spoon, turned it around and inspected her mirror image in it. Her eyes widened as she saw her distorted image hanging upside down in it. She hopped up, ran over to me and showed me the spoon, as though it were the greatest miracle in the universe.
"Ehm… I look good," I grinned at her as I examined my overturned image reflected in the concave side of the spoon. "Though my goatee looks quite silly this way, as though it were standing on end, don't you think?"
She bent her head over my shoulder, pressing her face close to mine, peering into my new 'mirror' and let out a bleat-like giggle.
"Yeah, funny things, spoons, aren't they?" I asked. Did people in Liechtenstein never use spoons? – I wondered and motioned Amelia to sit back down on her chair.
When she finally took her place (still clutching her new 'mirror' and enjoying herself terribly by looking at her distorted little figure), I held up my wand again and filled our plates with roast beef and potatoes.
"Well, help yourself," I told her. She diverted her glance from the 'magic mirror' and glared at her plate with a rather dubious expression, as though she didn't understand what was going on, or what she was supposed to do. "Tuck in," I said with a broad smile and started slicing my roast beef. I was already chewing the first mouthful when I looked up and saw that she still hadn't touched her food. She seemed to be eyeing me in a rather peculiar way, disbelief and disgust mingling on her features. What could be wrong?
"Er… doncha like this kind o' meal?" I asked with full mouth (in retrospective it was rather rude of me). She cocked her head, giving me an indescribable stare that I took as a 'no, I don't like it'. "All right, then, let's try something else," I shrugged, swished my wand and made her roast beef disappear, replacing it with a plate of warm broth.
Tentatively she bent over the plate, smelled it, and – to my utter horror – stuck out her pretty little pink tongue and tasted it. In the next instant she recoiled, clasping her hands over her mouth with a painful expression – the soup must have burnt her tongue.
"So, no soup, then," I sighed and replaced it with a jelly-tart. She made big eyes when seeing it, and reached out with her hand to touch it. The jelly started to quiver as soon as her fingertip made contact with it – this Amelia found rather amusing, because she started flicking it with her index finger. As the jelly tart 'wriggled' on her plate, she started giggling again.
Okay, Albus, try again – I thought and replaced the jelly with a nice heap of pumpkin pasties, only to get a 'you spoiled my game, you evil sorcerer' look from the lady. For the next five or so minutes I served 157 types of meals, but none of them seemed to win her approval. Then finally, when I had no sensible idea left, I conjured a plate of salad.
Suddenly Amelia's eyes lit up and she bent over the plate and started to graze. No, you didn't read it wrong, she started to graze. And she did it with pleasure, for the expression of delight and contentment spread on her pretty face.
These Liechtensteinians have a funny taste, I told myself.
Well, at least I got to know what kind of meal she preferred.
* * * * *
After lunch I had another class to teach (fifth year Slytherins, damn them… I have never liked Slytherins, but now that having to teach them meant that I had to leave my wonderful Amelia alone, I felt like kicking every single Slytherin in the castle, Headmaster Snape included – whew, lucky that he couldn't read minds or I'd be out of Hogwarts before I could say WaltervonderVogelweide).
Before I left for that Transfiguration class with the fifth year Slytherins, I walked up to my lady and pushed a book into her hand: Crime and Punishment. "Here, Miss Who, this will entertain you until I return."
She glanced at the heavy tome in her hands, then gave me a curious look which I interpreted as 'Why not give me War and Peace, it'd be longer'. But, as later I got to know, I had quite misinterpreted her silent message.
I suffered sixty minutes in the class with the Slytherins, then wanted to head back to my room to Amelia, but suddenly something came to my mind: soon it'd be dinner time, and I'd have to serve her something nice and vegetarian again. In the shop window of a Hogsmeade bookshop I had seen a book called '1001 Ways of Preparing Salad', and I thought that it'd be just the book for me!
At six p.m. I exited the bookshop with the huge cookery book, and spotted my brother Aberforth coming out of the newly built local pub, the Three Broomsticks.
"Hi there, Albus," he greeted me jovially – he was grinning in a stupid way, that I put down to his coming out of the pub – he might have drunk a tad more of the mulled mead than he should have. "Had a nice day, I trust?"
"Very," I nodded eagerly, thinking of the charming Amelia waiting for me in my room, surely reading Crime and Punishment… I let out a dreamy sigh.
"And how's Michelle's cousin?" asked Aberforth, still smirking in a rather disturbing way. However, I didn't care about him smirking… as soon as Amelia was mentioned, I was no more thinking sensibly, just blushed madly and hid a grin (note for the future: never blush in front of your own brother if you don't want to look a complete fool).
"So?" my brother raised an eyebrow. "How's she doing?"
"Fine, just fine," I replied. "But you know, Aberforth… she's a bit… um… strange."
"Strange?" blinked my brother innocently.
"Yes. She behaves a bit… funnily. Do you know that she has never seen a mirror in her life? Or never tasted jelly or roast beef? The only thing she seems to like is salad."
For some mysterious reason my brother started chortling uncontrollably.
"What's so funny?" I folded my arms, annoyed at his immatureness. I just couldn't understand what a sensible person like his wife Michelle could find in him…
"No… nothing," he replied between two chuckles. "So… she's a vegetarian, then? There's nothing special about that, is there? Many people are vegetarian, after all."
"Yeah, but… d'you know that she has never in her life used a spoon, a fork or a knife? She just… bends over the plate and… er…" I was looking for the right word, not wanting to speak ill off Amelia, but there was simply no other word to describe her way of eating… "grazes."
"Grazes?" Aberforth's eyebrows rose so high that they almost disappeared into his hair. "Like… sheep? Or cows? Or…"
"…goats," I nodded. "I don't know… perhaps that's how people in Liechtenstein eat… I wanted to buy a book on Liechtensteinian customs but found none… however, I still badly need one, if I want to understand her and help her in the best way I can."
"Uh, and… why exactly do you want to… understand her and help her in the best way you can?" my brother asked in a peculiar tone. "Do you, by any chance, have… feelings for her?"
"Come on, how could I have feelings for her?" I snapped. "I don't even know her, for heaven's sake!"
"Bet you'd still gladly take her to bed," Aberforth winked at me and I felt my cheeks burning again. "Okay, I'm not asking anything," he added with a mischievous grin. "Just make sure Becky doesn't get to know."
With that he turned on his heels and walked back into the Three Broomsticks, surely to get even more drunk.
I headed back towards the castle.
* * * * *
The first thing I spotted when I entered my room was Amelia sitting on a chair, glaring at Crime and Punishment that was lying closed on her lap.
"Have you already finished it?" I asked, amazed. It was quite a long book to finish so quickly.
She furrowed her brow, giving me a stare that suggested she had no idea what I was talking about.
"The book… did you like it?" I said, pointing at the thick volume.
She made a grimace and pushed it back into my hands, shaking her head.
"Oh… you didn't like it," I breathed. "Pity… I used to like it."
However, she was still shaking her head, giving me and the book an odd glance… then it dawned on me: she couldn't read.
Foolish me, I had given her a book to entertain herself and she had been bored for hours! The poor thing! I felt ashamed – I had closed this unfortunate woman into my room with nothing to do but watch the cover of a closed book!
"I'm sorry," I whispered, dropped the book and took her hands. I didn't know how to apologise to her, how to make up for my stupidity… so I just held her, almost drowning in the infinite blue pools of her eyes… she also seemed to be drowning in my eyes… or at least that's what I wanted to believe. I inched closer, mesmerised by the beauty of this sweet, illiterate girl.
Then suddenly I recoiled: what if she didn't even know what a man and a woman usually did when they slept together in a room? What if she was totally… unknowing? I just couldn't use her like that, without her knowing what to expect… I couldn't expose this innocent little being to the ferocious lion I could turn into when my libido urged me! It just wasn't fair. So I stepped back, feeling sorry for those poor, poor uneducated Liechtensteinians: no books, no mirrors, no crockery… I felt downright grateful to Aberforth for having brought this wonderful young lady to me, so that I could teach her. Oh yes, I took on to educate her. I was a teacher, after all…
However, first things first, so I prepared her a wonderful meal of different shaped salads for dinner and showed her the use of the fork. Amelia seemed to learn quickly, though she liked using her fork more as a sling, aiming small chunks of food at me. When I was thoroughly covered with salad and sauce, my poor goatee drenched and sticking out in all directions, I decided to join in the fight and covered her with a nice layer of chopped-up tomatoes that I shot at her from my spoon-sling (note for the future: spoons can be used for eating, shooting things at each other and even as mirrors. Useful thing to know).
That evening was spent in a wonderful mood with Amelia. After having cleaned her and myself of the sauce and salad, we built castles of Exploding Snap. She enjoyed it thoroughly, since it was something that didn't require the knowledge of reading or the ability of talking. My poor goatee got singed a couple of times, and my lady was doubled up with laughter, her bleating-like 'voice' filling the room. I still wondered how she could laugh and not talk… but somehow, without realising, I had grown to like this particular sound.
It was already midnight when we got to bed. (Correction: when SHE got to bed, for I was to spend the night on the sofa).
As soon as her head touched the pillow, she fell asleep and for minutes I just sat on the sofa, watching as she slept. She looked angelic, really. I had never thought that I could feel like this for someone I had barely known… it was love at first sight, and it was magical.
My glance fell upon the calendar hanging on the wall. Stifling a yawn I stood up, walked up to it and turned it over to the next day: 2nd April.
Maybe because I was too tired, it hadn't even sunk in that this busy day with Amelia had been 1st April…