A/N: A huge thanks to my readers. You're amazing. Here's the deal: you keep reviewing, I'll keep writing! Promise.
This chapter provides a bit of a breather and some long desired backstory (swngnblues ;). I'd like to thank tante in hp for finding Auror Savage in canon and allowing me to "flesh" her out, and fritz42 for inventing Bastet the cat. Also, in this chapter I use the term 'close.' It is a Scottish term for 'a narrow entry or alley terminating in a dead end.'
As always, I humbly thank my lovely beta Iviolinist, who manages to make me feel like I'm her only writer while balancing a huge workload, many other writers and Christmas decorating. They come no better – she is wonderful.
B/N: All you readers are lucky this week that our update schedule comes at the same time as Thanksgiving. In order to not have desperate "Coven" fans chasing me through town with pitchforks and flaming torches, I'm posting early. Enjoy!
"I can't believe he did it." Tonks sidled into the booth where Ron sat, her hands full with two glasses of firewhiskey neat. Good, thought Ron, the last thing we need is ice to soften the blow. "Great. Sworn enemies before they've even been formally introduced. I'm going to go spare worrying about them killing each other on top of everything else. Ouch!"
Ron steadied Tonks' glass as it slipped sideways, her elbow having crashed into the edge of the table.
The pub at the Sword and the Rose looked like an even shabbier version of the Leaky Cauldron if that was possible. Everything smelled smoky and felt sticky. Bottles of an unknown vintage of wine and a green mason jar that actually appeared to be smoking sat nestled to their right on an iron trivet next to the blackened wall. Menus, dark and greasy, were shoved behind them. Something that looked like a drunken pixie lay snoring in the ashtray.
Grimacing, Tonks rubbed her elbow then tossed her maroon hair over her face. "See this?" She grabbed a lock and held it out for Ron to see. "It's going to be gray or gone by the time this case is done. How the hell did Harry get past the downstairs guard? I gave him specific directions to stay in the bloody lobby. This is turning into a firestorm already. What was I thinking? I should have left him to do research in London. Wait till the Ministry hears we've assaulted an American. So much for diplomatic relations."
"I seriously doubt that's the first time that bloke's been jinxed."
Ron sipped the firewhiskey,letting the smooth burning sensation coat his throat for a moment. Despite his dislike of the American, he understood Tonks' trepidation. Harry's presence in Edinburgh only complicated an already delicate situation. Both he and Tonks had found themselves barely able to restrain their urge to jinx Areids into the middle of next week well before his horrible treatment of Ginny. And now? Merlin if they didn't all end up dead in some alley. But having Harry here? A recipe for disaster if Ron had ever seen it. God help them if the press got wind of it.
He didn't question Tonks; there always seemed to be a method to her madness. The fact was, now that Death Eaters were involved, Harry would have been brought in anyway. Despite his age, he was the most accomplished Auror the force had, almost single-handedly rounding up the last of the Dark wizards. Both he and Ron. But Harry, especially, seemed intent on clearing them out once and for all, as if he couldn't really begin to enjoy his life until they all were either dead or in Azkaban.
After what they had lived through during the past years, though, it was small change, really.
The war had lasted so long, with so many losses. Whenall six Horcruxes were finally destroyed, Ron remembered how Harry stood in the Great Hall of Hogwarts locked in deadly combat with Voldemort. How Harry whipped around and threw the remnants of Voldemort's soul at the twisted wizard's feet and said in a hushed but triumphant voice, "Missing something?"
And then there was blackness.
The explosion was deafening; those outside on the grounds felt the earth shake. By the time Ron and Hermione reached Harry's side, he had collapsed to his knees in sheer and utter exhaustion. Afterwards they stumbled toward the door, arms draped over each other, as if they needed to feel life, fresh and whole. There they stood, trembling, heads down, fighting back sobs of happiness and fatigue. Looking back into the still and deserted Great Hall, nothing remained of Voldemort save the chilled air swirling his ashes across the flagstones.
Their arrival on the steps outside the school was greeted with a hero's welcome. Life would never be the same.
For Ron and Hermione their paths were fairly clear. Hermione wanted to teach. After all the life-risking adventure and misery,she wanted a quiet life --Harry reminded her things were never quiet at Hogwarts for long. She said she'd take the risk. Ron, having served as a defacto Auror all those years in search of the Horcruxes, flew through real Auror training in record time as did Harry, both content to police the peace.
There would be no peace for Harry. Everyone wanted him. Everyone. "The Boy Who Lived" had become "The Man Who Lived Again," or worse yet, "The Hero Who Killed." He bore it stoically and obliged the press's desires: posing for photos or giving the rare interview. Life for Harry would have been bearable at least had it not been for Tamsyn.
Tamsyn Savage was the young French Auror who had been stationed at Hogwarts with Tonks during Ron and Harry's sixth year. She had been instrumental during the war: one of the best minds for developing new curses. She began helping the Order after Dumbledore's death and had proved invaluable,a fierce ally. Unfortunately, the sophisticated and gorgeous Auror developed more than a passing interest in Harry which he tolerated if only to continue the fight. It proved far too much for the press after the war, though. Bombshell Auror and The Chosen One. Her flaming red nails were implanted in his arm at every occasion.
Then Romilda Vane took on the job of editor and chief of Witch Weekly and Harry's life became a living hell, she saw to that. Finallyhe slapped an injunction on the magazine. It was impossible for him to continue his job being followed day and night. They abated, but the damage was already done.
The whole of witch kind wanted Harry by then, but Harry only wanted Ginny. When news of their love affair broke, the press descended like a blood-sucking bugbear on a rooster, not giving Ginny a moment's peace. In addition she was vilified at the quills of Rita Skeeter and Romilda Vane, leaving not a scrap of her personal life untouched.
Then one horrible day she was gone. Perhaps it was the godawful strain of living under a magnifying glass. Who knew? All they knew was she had taken a post at St. Dymphna's leaving her family and friends in shock and Harry devastated.
Harry didn't speak a word of it. Instead, he threw himself into his work even more exhaustedly than before. While the whole Auror squad valued his dedication, Ron wanted his old friend back: the one who knew how to laughor at least the one who could cry. Harry had done neither in the past year. Sometimes Ron just wanted to haul back and punch him just to get a reaction, something.
After so many months of nothing, within mereseconds of Ginny's presence and Harry exploded. It was as if he'd channeled months of pent up rage and heartache into that one jinx. It was a miracle Areids survived.
Of course the end result was not what Harry would have wanted,what with Ginny having to rush Areids back to Trauma. The look she leveled at both of them was enough to melt paint. Thank Merlin, Harry just stood there, staring out the window with his back to her, forcing disinterest. Ron,however, knew his best friend and partner too well. He could see his fist clenched at his side,curled tightly about his wand. Harry was always a lousy poker player.
They had vacated the hospital minutes later and planned to meet in the inn's pub for dinner. Harry was late. It was unlike him.
"Woo, hoo, what are you thinking?" asked Tonks, waving her hand in front of Ron's face.
"Wha? Well…Well, we're all in it together now," he answered, breaking away from his reverie and looking at Tonks, smirked slightly. "Good luck trying to get Harry to stay on the sidelines now. After what happened up at St. Dymphna's this evening, it's not bloody likely. Plus, we could use the extra manpower here instead of back in London — you were right to call him in. Things are a lot worse than I thought. At least if half of what Areids says is true."
"So you don't believe him?"
Ron swirled his drink a moment before knocking back another sip. Ack. This stuff was poison. "There's something about him I don't like." He laughed at Tonks' mock surprise. "Yeah, other than the bloody obvious. He's hiding something. I just don't know what. It's like it's personal with him. And I don't trust his temper. If today was any indication of the way he treats innocent witnesses, how the hell is he going to be with Death Eaters or this Coven of --what was it called again?"
"Echoes. The Coven of Echoes. I owled Remus and asked if he could do some investigating at the Ministry for us, maybe talk with a few Unspeakables to see if they've ever heard of it."
"But aren't they forbidden to discuss what they're working on?"
"Not what they're working on, but they're totally at liberty to discuss what other wizards are working on in other countries or rumors and the such. Could you imagine living with one of those people, never able to talk about what they do all day?" Tonks waggled her eyebrows at this last statement.
"You are living with one of those people."
"Indeed." She smiled mischievously and ran her finger along the rim of her glass. Remus had shown such dedication and fought so courageously during the war that the Minister himself had specially appointed him to an unnamed department within the Ministry. Ronhad long believed it had something to do with lycanthropy and its potential cure.
Tonks'swirling finger began to make a high piercing sound along the lip of the glass and quickly drew glares from a bunch of hags sitting in the corner. Licking her finger, she eyed a menu and pulled one toward her. "Although he's seriously considering a career change, you know. Professor McGonagall asked him if he'd be interested in returning to Hogwarts, get his old job back."
"That's brilliant. Is he going to accept?"
"Well, we're thinking it over. Problem's the distance. I just got the promotion, so we don't need the money and I'm away from home so much that I could live as easily at Hogwarts as London. I miss him though. This living on the road is getting pretty old." Then she began to hum something Ron didn't recognize. "Oh, let's order. I'm starving. Harry'll have to fight with the kitchen to stay open."
"Oh, they'll stay open for him." Ron chuckled, taking a look at the waitress. A young pretty woman with long blonde braids kept eyeing their table in excitement, her quill twitching behind her ear. "She saw us walk in with him."
Tonks laughed wryly, but added, "It's got to get old."
"Oh, it got old a long time ago." Ron tossed back the last of his drink, his face twisting in disgust.
"Let's see," mumbled Tonks, eyes darting down the menu. "Fried Haggis? How the hell do you fry sheep stomach? I mean isn't the pink quivering stuff bad enough? Ugh."
"We should have gone into town."
"I'm too beat. I don't want to risk freaking the Muggles with my hair." It had now shifted into a curly mass of blue.
"How does Remus deal with it? I mean,it changing all the time?"
"Oh, he loves it. A new woman everyday. I'm stuck with tweed and pipe tobacco; he gets magenta, silver and chartreuse. What more could he ask for? I keep him young. Plus, at least I don't get fleas."
"True. Yeah, you're right though, I've forgotten how 'quain' Kilgraith could be."
Glancing out the window, Ron's eyes took in the bustling wizarding town of Kilgraith. In addition to Hogsmeade, it was one of the oldest hidden wizarding communities in Scotland. The main thoroughfare of Kilgraith, MacDoohan Strete, was only accessible through a few closes off of Edinburgh's High Street, much like the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron opened onto Diagon Alley. A hodgepodge of shops, pubs and restaurants lined the bustling avenue. Like Hogsmeade, Kilgraith maintained its own train station through which the Hogwarts Express passed.
Off of MacDoohan Strete lay the vast collection of townhouses in which the majority of Edinburgh's witches and wizards lived. Built on top of each other,they looked as though their creator had used the Burrow as his main inspiration.
The loveliest of the residencesin Ron's opinion lay on the Crescent, a much smaller version of the Muggle Royal Crescent in Bath. It was said that the designer, John Wood the Younger, lived among the Muggles,but was indeed a wizard,though not embracing his true heritage until later in life when he retired here and built the Crescent.
Ginny lived there,yet Ron hadn't seen her flat. He'd only visit when invited, but he wouldn't let Ginny hide forever. Hermione wouldn't stand for it.
She wasn't completely alone -- her friend from Healer school was her flatmate. This fact kept their mother placated. Grandchildren could assuage the pain a bit, but she was the only daughter, after all.
Finally, the waitress, apparently crestfallen at Harry's nonappearance, trudged over to their table, quill bobbing sadly in her wake.
"What'll ya have?"
"What do you recommend?"
"Well, those hags over there, they just love the fried haggis, they do. So should I just--"
"Fish and chips," cried Ron and Tonks simultaneously, "and another round."
He stood silently in the lamplight, the fog swirling in from the sea. He was freezing and he placed his hands under his arms,shifting on his feet. Why weren't invisibility cloaks warm? Nothing was going to keep him warm: it was nearly November in Edinburgh.
The doors parted and his heart instantly tightened as he saw the telltale flash of red hair. She gathered her heavy wool cloak about her and glanced at the avenue before crossing the street. Merlin, why hadn't she Apparated? Then he remembered: she lived in the Crescent. Kilgraith was still under war wards. She'd have to enter through the closes. It made sense. They'd at least be able to trace the wands.
She moved quickly,being so lithe,and he had to rush to keep up with her. She had been forced to learn to move quickly. How many times had he shielded her with one arm while warding off the incessant photographers with the other? How many times had she found the hidden way out of a crowd in a style more befitting an Auror than a Healer only to smile at him proudly before drawing him into a darkened alley to kiss him thoroughly? He swallowed and tried to shake the image out of his head.
Upon reaching High Street, she turned left and stopped abruptly. He drew his wand on instinct. Her chin lifted, the reflection of an illuminated Edinburgh castle glowed in her eyes. A white puff of breath rose about her. Yes, she would love it, wouldn't she? She always believed in fairy tales. But what of the princess that disappeared at midnight, never to return? It should be standard reading for all wizards in love, thought Harry bitterly.
Pulling her collar tightly about her, Ginny continued down the road. Harry swirled the invisibility cloak around him.
Reaching Owl's Close, she glanced about her then hurried down the alley and tapped the sequence of bricks; the wall parted. Harry waited until the last moment and cast a Muffliato spell lest she hear his footsteps.
MacDoohan Strete was hopping in anticipation, flamboyantly decorated for Halloween, yet Ginny took no notice of it as she shouldered her way between the vast sea of revelers. A mound of jack-o'-lanterns sat outside the shops on bales of hay, some faces carved into jigsaw smiles while others were carved into ghoulish maws. Spiderwebs had been strewn across signs that hung above doors, creaking as they swung in the cold evening breeze. Old broomsticks leaned beside doorsand black cats seemed visible at every corner.
He remembered a time when she would be bounding ahead, dragging him by the hand, while he playfully rolled his eyes. Ginny had always been mesmerized by this time of year. Halloween, however, had never been kind to Harry. It didn't look like this year would be any different.
She stopped suddenly in front of a small shop vibrantly decorated in streamers of orange and black. Nose crunched to the window, she gazed at the displays of rainbow colored candies flying in spirals. A gaggle of children next to her giggled in delight and she smiled softly down at them.
She's hungry, thought Harry and bit his lower lip. And they're lemon drops. He tore his gaze away for a moment and looked inside the shop. Lanterns hung from a beamed ceiling, the counter swamped in jubilant children. Moments later, she exited the shop bearing a small bag tied with a red sting.The make-believe display witch cackled after her as she popped a candy into her mouth.
The street ahead was crowded with witches and wizards, most of them younger, getting ready for a night on the town. Ginny sidestepped what appeared to be a group of rowdy local wizards. She tossed her hair back defiantly over her shoulders as they whistled and catcalled at her retreating form.
"Ooooo. What a looker that one is. Darlin', yer breakin' me heart. Aw, come on back!"
Harry felt for his wand,but instead knocked hard into one of them in passing.
"Hey, why the hell you'd do that?" a chubby, butterbeersmelling wizard shouted at the man standing next to him. Seconds later,they all started punching each other.
Serves them right, Harry thought and deposited his wand into his back pocket, fighting the urge to smirk. Catching sight of Ginny ahead, he hurried to catch up to her. She's looking for a place to throw it out, he told himself, stepping between the crowds.
Sure enough, she tossed the half eaten lemon drop in a wooden barrel by Frangin's Flower Shop. She paused and her head turned as if she had sensed his presence. Harry held his breath and drew swiftly back into the shadows. She had,however, merely stepped closer to the window display, transfixed by the hundreds of orange roses pouring from emerald vases. The roses and vases created the illusion of a vast sea of upside down pumpkins. A black cat slinked between the vases,careful not to disturb them.
"And now another," he whispered as he watched her gaze at the flowers, her head tilted in thought. He took a step closer. Close enough to see her face. Fascinated more than he wanted to be, he watched her tongue brush across her bottom lip, her thin fingers part the bag and reach in then unpeel the twisted wrapper. He saw the yellow candy pass her teeth, her mouth and tongue swirl about it, her eyes close. He felt the tang of pleasure passing through her for the briefest of moments. She raised her face into the glow from the window shop.
Christ, she looked like an angel.
An angel who tasted of lemon.
Standing there in the cold night air, Harry forced his gaze away, fixing his stare on the rising moon. Backing away from her, his heart pounding, he swore in silence.
He would not fall back in love with this woman. He would not.
Ginny ran her wand down the doorjamb,releasing the spells. She had told Susan it wasn't necessary anymore,but part of her was glad her friend kept this habit. Especially after the last twenty-four hours.
The flat looked as it always did: elegant anarchy, a beautiful high ceiling two bedroom, inhabited by two disorganized women. There seemed to be an inherent madness in the way the bookshelves were shoved to the bursting point with leather bound Healers' books and the vast sea of newspapersand magazines that seemed to cover every surface. This, coupled with the pale yellow walls and the floor to ceiling patio windows that opened to the garden, lent the space the air of living in a cross between Covent Gardens and a library.
She dropped off her purse and cloak on the counter that separated the kitchen from the rest of the living space. Asshe rummaged about the kitchen looking for something to eat, ducking the copper pots that hung from the ceiling, Susan rounded the corner.
"Aahh!" Ginny screamed. "You scared me to death. Merlin, Susan, you've got to be part cat. I can never hear you at all."
With that, a ginger tabby jumped up onto a counter stool and began purring loudly. "Oh, there you are,old girl. I was wondering why no one greeted me when I came in."
Bastet,or Tet as she was more often called, had adopted Ginny the moment she had moved into the flat. Ginny named her after finding her chewing on the corner of a book of Egyptian curses hidden in a closet without the slightest sign of remorse. Plus, despite her portly tabbiness, she had the most piercing blue eyes Ginny had ever seen in the face of a feline, as though a Siamese was stuck in there somewhere. Susan, never a cat person, tolerated her—barely.Tet clearly showed her nothing but disdainand choseGinny as her human.
"I think the beast wants to be fed," Susan remarked. "I cooked for us, not her." Tet held up her nose and rubbed her head into Ginny's side while she sneaked a quick wink at her. "How was the fort when you left?" Susan asked as she pulled out a platter from the oven. "I made you some fresh pumpkin juice; it's in the icebox."
Thank God for Susan, Ginny thought, watching her go to all this trouble. What would she have done without her? She had literally been her lifeline during the darkest moments. They had met at Healer school, after Ginny knocked over Susan's cauldron and set fire to her robes. Susan had merely laughed until tears fell down her face. They had been friends ever since that day. It also didn't hurt that Susan was an excellent cook, something Ginny didn't have the fortitude to continue.
After Susan brought the rest of the supper to the table, Ginny helped her with the bowls and plates. "Well it was quiet for one thing. Thank Merlin. The young girl is still unconscious. She's in a fairly deep coma which worries me even though it's probably saving what's left of her. I Healed what I could, but who knows what she saw? And I can't do anything for those scars."
"What about the Death Eaters? What's been done with the bodies?"
"Well…" She went on to relate most of the story of Marc Areids.
"Bloody hell, what a jerk. You should have jinxed him when you had the chance. What a cow. What gives him the nerve--"
"The Ministry, allegedly. He informed me of that after I got him situated in his own hospital bed."
"What? Why's he in a hospital bed?"
How was she going to explain this to Susan? Susan hated Harry--vehemently. It hadn't been like this forever. Back in London they had been friendlyor at least civil. Now it had exploded into full warfare. It was only to be expected from two very protective people.
"Harry jinxed him with a Blasting Curse. Broke two ribs and nearly obliterated his femur."
"What? Harry? What the hell is Harry doing here?" Her eyes narrowed in disbelief. "Oh, don't tell me he's here with the Aurors? Don't they have enough of them already? I mean, no offense, I'm sure your brother is fine, but Tonks and this Arieds person,too?"
Ginny regretted telling her, her friend's mood souring so.
"Have they said how long they're staying?" she asked, filling Ginny's glass.
"Until they solve this case, so who knows. All I know is if that American pulls any of that crap like he did today, I'll hex his smug little face right off and put it on backwards. Then he can see what an arse he really is."
"Ginny, are you all right with this? I mean you came here to get away from all that."
"I came here to do my proper job. I'm not about to stop just because he has to do his."
"But the press. If they see the two of you together--"
"Why would they? I've given my statement. There isn't anything else I can do."
"Aren't you worried about the Death Eater, what he said? What happens if--"
"Nothing is going to happen," Ginny shouted, instantly regretting the sharpness of her voice. She hated having to battle problems before they arose. What had Charlie always said? Worry isn't a remedy. She swallowed. She missed him so.
They finished the rest of the meal in uncomfortable silence.
"Look, I think I'm going to sit out in the garden for awhile before I go through the bills. I'll clean up – don't bother," said Ginny finally, reaching for Susan's glass and plate.
Susan mumbled something incoherent, apparently still upset. Ginny stalked off toward the kitchen, too aggravated to pursue what would most assuredly turn into a fight. Harry's name never left a calming influence in their flat. Although Ginny could tend her own fires of rage toward the black haired wizard, she would not tolerate anyone else doing so. It was her battle and her battle alone.
When she passed the bar,however, she froze, her eyes fixed onto the counter. A recent edition of Witch Weekly lay on top of a stack of bills, Harry's picture blazoned across the cover. The shot showed him exiting Blandings, a new custom jeweler in Diagon Alley, his hands shoved in his pocketsand his face stern. The headline read, "Will the Sexiest Wizard Alive Finally Propose? Friends of Tamsyn Savage Reveal the Truth."
"Oh," said Ginny faintly.
So it was true after all.
Susan scooped up the pile of papersand with a forced smile, muttered, "I'll clean up. It's just a bunch of junk anyway." She shoved the magazine into the rubbish bin. "You go out and relax. Go, go! I'll make you a cup of tea."She shooed Ginny out the patio doors, Tet at her heels.
The cool, crisp night air blanketed the garden in a low fog. Ginny vacantly cast a warming spell, the mist rising like smoke. Numbly, she pulled over a wooden lawn chair and sat hunched near her favorite flowers, the blue Veniams, while Tet nestled next to her. At midnight they would hum softly and open their bell shaped petals revealing tiny glowing faces. "Hurry," she whispered, "hurry."
Harry. Oh why did he have to come here,damn it? Why couldn't he have stayed away? Why come back now? Now, after all this time? Why couldn't he have stayed with that French witch in London, living the glamorous life, the life the public wanted for their hero: The Boy Who Lived the High Life.
Ginny had never believed it really. All through the war, the press would print an article about Harry and Tamsyn here and there. Throughoutall those years, she had only spoken to him once. After Charlie's death. Then she no longer heard from him. No owls came. Nothing. She told herself he was being noble, trying to protect her, but that was the last thing in the world she wanted. So she was left to read about him in the papers and how Tamsyn Savage, the glamorous Auror, was never seen far from his side.
Then there was the day he had been injured and was at St. Mungo's. She battled with herself for hours to muster enough courage to enter his room. When she finally stormed in, he was asleep and that woman was there sitting by his side reading a magazine. She merely smiled up at her as if to say, "He's mine, young girl, now go and play."
So even when he came home after the war and pursued her with unflagging passion, the doubt never left her mind completely. Then that night. She had seen them. Had heard them. Thank God for Susan. She was there outside of Harry's flat and stood between the two of them the next dayas Harry pleaded with her, begging her to explain why she was leaving.
"You're the one who needs to do the explaining, not Ginny!" Susan had shouted and dragged her off to the train without a word. Ginny remembered the pouring rain and how Harry had found her at the last minute, screaming and running after the train until it disappeared out of sight.
Now he was going to marry her. It was really over between them. Over. You stupid love-struck girl, he hadn't come back to you. He had never left her! From some wellspring of grief, all the pain and loss and fear of the past day, the past year, washed over her and she wept deep wrenching sobs.
Tet crawled up into her lap, rubbing her head against her chin, her fur getting wet from tears. She clung to the cat and wept harder, Tet nuzzling her in compassion.
A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped. Tet hissed in alarm.
"Here, drink this, Healer's orders." Susan handed her the mug,pulling her hand away from the lightening fast swipe of a paw.
"Tet! Now stop it. Go, shoo, shoo. Sorry." Ginny smiled feebly at Susan, wiping her tears away with her sleeve, looking down as to avoid her friend's questioning stare. "She'll get better, I promise. Oh! You haven't made me this since London." Ginny raised her face back up and smiled through her tears, sipping the sweetened tea.
"It's spiked, so drink it slowly. Listen, I'm off to bed. Don't stay out here too late. Okay?" Susan cast the cat one last raised eyebrow."She'll need to be fed. You have to do it; she hates my cooking. And here's a blanket if you get cold."
Ginny nodded in thanks. Susan returned into the house leaving her to sit back with the steaming mug, the blanket placed at her side while Tet had run off in search of a lawn gnome that had just surfaced.
She laid back her head and waited for the flowers to sing, sniffling the last of her tears. Tet began meowing happily, evidently on a successful hunt.
Ginny closed her eyes and whispered his name one last time to the night.
Then sleep found her.
When the bells tolled midnight,the faint strains of the Veniams rose from the darkness. She did not hear them. Nor did she feel the touch of a strong hand drape the blanket over her, its owner standing watch until the dawn.