Chapter Twenty-Eight, In Which I am Visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present
There is a moment, one not special or unique until you look back on it and see how it was the fulcrum upon which everything that followed the rest of your life turned and without which the rest of your life would never, ever have happened. For me, there were several fulcra – my parents' death, coming to Hogwarts, kissing Severus that day – without which my life would not be recognizable as itself.
I could not tell, not from this close, if I had come across another. Proxy Minister, what did that mean when I'd practically no power? From Louis Alphonse to Franz Joseph II to Akihito to Ptolemy IC Pierius and Arisnoë XXV Thaumantias, every wizarding world leader expressed condolences, heartbreak, outrage, but none offered help beyond a shipment or two of medical supplies. They were content to sit in their palaces and parliaments, refusing to see that, if Voldemort succeeded in Britain, he'd not rest until he'd crossed the channel and taken France too. And from France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian, the Ottoman, the New Egyptian, the Sino-Japanese; the sultanates of the Indian subcontinent… Voldemort wanted immortality and would suffer no power that could challenge him. He'd destroy the Muggles in every place his shadow lingered in the name of the father who wouldn't stay with his mother for his sake and, when there were no more Muggles, he'd find another group to go after. Perhaps the religious, perhaps the sick and disabled, perhaps a specific race or peoples, but he would choose one and destroy it, and another, and another, until all that's left in the world is him and the charred ruins of the world. And when he stands upon them, crushing the ashes of those that fought him too late with the heel of his book, he will look for another enemy, making one up if he cannot find one, and never rest through all his immortal days.
But how did you tell that to men so secure in their magic that they thought nothing could touch them, forgetting that their enemies had magic too and, in this, at least, was by far the stronger? These wizards, most ruling only over shadows of former glory, were weary of anything that might cost them the rest.
No matter, I told my people – they called themselves my "KoRT," an acronym for Knights of the Round Table they pronounced like "court," just to annoy me. It'd been "Ely's Expats" for a week before I managed to point out to them that, technically, they weren't expatriates – that it was better this way. Foreign armies and PMCs running around rarely did any good for the governments that invited them over. I told them we could handle it without them and be better for it. I think some of them actually believed me too.
But the fact was that I didn't know how long we could hold this up. After the hits we'd taken with Voldemort's takeover, the total of capable fighters at our – my – command came to just under forty and though this could be inflated a bit with drafts from my NEWT level classes, the fact remained that we were weaker and more poorly equipped then Voldemort's forces, which now included in addition to the Death Eaters the regular wizarding citizens who didn't care who lead them so long as they could go about their lives. My contingent only included those who actively disliked him before he'd taken over and recruiting was hard seeing as how none of us were really considered appropriate dinner guests anymore.
Surprisingly, though, the real problem of leading my KoRT was not the issue of what on Merlin's green earth we were to do, but of how it was to survive. Nobility and riches were as rare amongst wizards as they were with Muggles, and thus it should come as no surprise to anyone that while the combined Black-Potter-Snape fortunes lingered around the one point five billion range, the most rest had relied upon the Ministry for the greater part of their incomes.
Which was why there was a tent city between the far side of the lake and the Forbidden Forrest and I am now currently sitting in the Hogwarts kitchens once again, this time surrounded by fancy French pastries and a number of account ledgers that made no sense with ma comptable, Fleur. "…the main issues, 'owever, are going to be deciding primarily 'ow you wish to pay your chevaliers, which is a nightmare naturally, and 'ow you're going to get the money back after le gouvernement approprié is reinstated."
"How rich am I, Fleur?"
"In your own name? The Potier fortune comes to about a 'undred thirty thousand galleons worth of coins, jewels, and other liquidités, another 'undred thousand in proprieties, and roughly two 'hundred twenty thousand in stocks, bonds, and securities. But, weekly, if you assume the same pay scale, you are looking at eight thousand two 'undred thirty-four galleons, three sickles, and eleven knuts a week, or four months before you've run through your liquid assets paying your chevaliers alone, not counting on supplying, maintaining, and rebuilding as necessary St. Mungo's 'Ospital."
I groaned and reached for another turnover. It was mid-November now and I'd been Proxy Minister for two-and-a-half months. I was also trying to deal with being five months pregnant, the mother of an eight-month-old who had discovered the twin joys of crawling and repeatedly dropping toys, and thirteen months married to the man whose NEWT Potions class I attended for an hour-and-a-half every Friday morning before leaving to teach Third Year DADA. Today was a Tuesday morning, however, and instead of half a double Potions to attend, I'd only my NEWT-level DADA to worry about after I somehow figured out what I was going to do so my self-proclaimed KoRT could buy things like food without relying on the generosity of Hogwarts (with its thankfully untouchable Gringotts accounts) and its kitchens. "Do I even want to know how much it takes to keep a hospital like St. Mungo's going?"
"No – though since it is operating more as une antenne chirurgicale then an actual 'ospital at the moment, it is not as expensive as it could be." And field hospital it was indeed, the small remaining staff treating more battle injuries then boils these days – which by lucky chance meant that its stockpile of potions and other medical paraphernalia, which would not have lasted as long as it had at full operational capacity, meant that St. Mungo's was still mostly well-stocked. It had also turned into a shelter of sorts, where those my Knights rescued ended up sleeping in empty wards until such time as they would be safe again or found family to stay with. There was even a contingent of twenty or twenty-five Muggles who'd been brought to the hospital for patching up after they were attacked by Death Eaters who'd asked to remain in the hospital, un-obliviated, and help out with the long-term patients. People still had to be fed and clothed, though, and housing people indefinably in St. Mungo's or HQ or magically-expanded tents on school grounds was not practical.
I closed my eyes, tightly, as a spasm kicked about my insides. Severus knew I was having them still, as did Madam Pomprey, but neither could figure out a reason why I might be having such pains for all these months without it harming the baby. Stress was the best guess they had, though there'd been a theory floating about for a while that had something to do with Claudia being Rh positive and me being Rh negative even thought I'd been given some sort of potion I couldn't remember taking. Personally, I saw it as the baby's way of punishing me for resenting it as I still couldn't help but doing, especially now that Quidditch was starting again. Not that I could have found time to play anyway, but still. Perhaps because I was afraid of February coming, and, with it, the baby I carried with such hate, I'd already picked out names. I didn't know if it was a boy or girl, only that I was going to call it Henri-Auguste or Julia-Hélène. "That's a lot of money," I answered causally, doodling idly on a page of calculations.
Fleur snatched it from me, flipped it over, and pointed with a long, Bastille Red nail at the final sum at the bottom. "I 'ave spent many 'ours running the numbers, Alexandrie-Margaux, and this is what I've come up with."
"Twenty galleons a week?"
"Once you factor out living expenses – taxes, utilités – and the fact that, for practical reasons, the majority of purchases until the end of the war are going to be made at Muggle markets, if at all – twenty galleons a week is a very decent pay. It is just over four 'undred pounds a month."
"Sounds good," I told her tiredly, quill moving to doodle on this page instead.
The Frenchwoman snatched the paper and the quill from me this time. "Avez-vous dormi?" she asked me, her voice laced with concern. "Il y a des sacs sous vos yeux. Vous semblez que vous ayez eu des cauchemars."
"I have no idea what you're saying, but I'll tell you now I resent the implication."
"I merely was asking you if you 'ave been sleeping, Alexandrie-Margaux. If you're going to insist on being la douze Baronne de Calais, you really should learn français. It's embarrassing."
"Of course I've been sleeping," I failed to mention how poorly, or how all the dreams I could remember having of late were either of the analogue Harry or the Elder Wand, neither of which I particularly wanted to share with anyone, let alone Fleur, who'd probably think I was crazy for such things. What kind of well-adjusted girl dreams of being a boy anyway? Well, at least I think I'm well adjusted… "And I can't do anything about the whole baronne thing. Zacharie-Richard gave Calais years ago. As far as the French know – the Muggle French – there is no baron de Calais. Besides, Nord-Pas-de-Calais is British as far as the wizarding world is concerned, so can't we all use English like good, sane people?"
"English is une langue barbare, and you don't look like you've been sleeping."
"No, you're right," I said sarcastically, "I've not. I'm really a pregnant, sun-loving vampire, who doesn't need to sleep at all, and have taken over the British government in attempt to subvert the humans and gain mastery over them."
Her glare shot daggers at me. "It is your fault, madam Ministre, that I'm missing the fall showing of Louis Vuitton and Guy Laroche, so kindly do not laugh at me."
Somehow, that only made me feel worse.
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"There are five – well, six if you want to be technical," I told my Seventh Year NEWT class, sitting on the banister of the landing outside my office, legs dangling no more then six feet from the floor. I don't know why I'd chosen to sit there, only that it'd seemed like a good idea at the time. I was having lots of ideas that seemed like a good idea at the time. I went up to the astronomy tower last week on one of them and ending up sitting there, staring at the spot where Dumbledore had tried to convince Draco not to kill me for over an hour before I realized it was freezing outside and had started to rain. Not long before that I'd gone into Myrtle's bathroom and sat, staring at the broken tap that would lead me to the Chamber of Secrets, for ages before going to find Claudia and look up ways to destroy pieces of the soul, "- types of DADA magic: physical or augmentative; sensory; hostile or aggressive; movement; and protective, also known as defensive. The sixth, transmogritive, is usually not classified as such, largely because the magic it describes comprises of parts of each of the others… Lecquetus the Monk wrote in one of his diaries of a wizard he knew who transfigured his ears into those of a giant fruit bat for a duel and was stuck with them for a year before he could undo them…" The mental image that caused made me giggle a bit, which struck me a second later as not the sanest thing to do in front of a classroom of students I'd classes with for the better part of seven years and wouldn't be uncurious at such an unusual reaction to such a boring book. Quickly, I cut the small laugh off and continued with the opening of my lecture. "You guys covered sensory, protective, and, to some degree, movement with Severus. We finished up with movement last week – three cheers us – and today we get to dive right into the aggressive." I clapped my hands together, doing my best to ignore the pain in my belly. "And you are all very lucky, because aggressive magic is my spes-e-al-ity, and a lot less boring then the augmentative the 'recommended course schedule' wants me to cover until the Christmas hols."
Several of my classmates/students looked at me like I was going off the deep end in front of them. Maybe I was – not many people got excited over teaching Seventh Years these sorts of charms. I felt my eyes glaze over, and remembered briefly a dream I'd had the night before, wherein Ron had been screaming at the analogue-Harry, "We thought you knew what you were doing! We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!" I shook it away quickly, not wanting to think on it and charged forward, perhaps a bit too excitedly for the topic at hand. Swinging my legs over the banister, I took the stairs down (though I would have loved nothing more to jump, a spell softening the ground where my feet would have landed so it would have done me no harm at all, I chose not to, even thought it sounded like one of those good ideas. I was beginning to distrust them, my ideas, though instincts had kept me alive a lot longer then one would have thought with my luck. Still…
"Anyone want to take a stab," I swallowed a laugh before it could escape, "at naming the classes of aggressive magic?"
Hermione's hand was the first and only to jump into the air.
"Oh, come on now. I know Hermione can't be the only one who did the reading. Padma?"
The Ravenclaw answered after only a moment's hesitation, voice quiet in the hush. I'd quickly learned that there were few reasons why my students might be so quiet, especially a group that, knowing their teacher so well, was naturally inclined towards boisterousness. One reason was fear, and, while the subject was a tad gruesome, I could sense none of that. No, I felt they were driven to silence because they were uncomfortable, perhaps having caught the black laughter I'd tried so hard to hold back, perhaps because they were discussing a subject that they knew I was more then just talented in. Some of them had seen me in the entrance hall last spring, throwing Unforgivables and borderline Dark curses like candy at my enemies. One of their number had murdered the late headmaster. Or maybe it was that these students of mine, these classmates, were all inherently good witches and wizards, not caring for the nastier, Darker aspects of life, dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good… They saw Voldemort as evil, yes, but that's all they saw him as. They didn't see the unwanted orphan he once was. They didn't see the girl from the cupboard I'd once been. "Blunt, sharp, hot, cold, and loud."
"Five points to Ravenclaw," I said, and pulled my wand from my pocket, where Paracelsus was napping, and pointed it at what appeared to be nothing more then a padded dressmaker's dummy in the middle of the room. "We'll start with blunt." I made a quick, backwards "J"-like flick with my wand and cast, "Frendo." A black-and-blue mark appeared along side of the dummy's chest, marking where bruised rib bones would be had it been a person.
Beginning my lecture, knowing that students had to be induced into learning when there seemed to reason they would want to learn spells of bruising and breaking, cutting and slicing, I found not even the stereotypically expected Slytherin eyes lit with excitement, or even academic interest. I tried, I honestly did, but I couldn't control the fact that, yes, Severus had taught me spells and others like them back in Fourth Year, and I'd absorbed them greedily, as I had books of perilous and imperfect magic in my years of self-study. In my bag now, along with the expected law book and the expected book I've-been-reading-in-my-free-time-for-mo
Suddenly, halfway through explaining the legal ramifications of using these spells on a person without really good reason (ie, war) and how, if I caught them using any of these spells without said really good reason or practicing on dummies I thoughtfully would provide, I'd set the courts on them, just as soon as I had courts to set on them, I paused. I'd still half-hour left of class, during which I intended to finish my lecture so I could start straight into the theory and practice next week, and felt that familiar hate growing in me. It only happened with the Seventh Years and was coming more and more often, until I was not sure I'd be able to hide it for much longer. "Does anyone know why I am teaching you these spells?"
An awkward pause filled the already silent room. A few answers tumbled out of confused, uncomprehending mouths, each jumbled with the other, the nonsense they spoke growing no clearer in the tangle of words. "Because it's on the syllabus," came their answers; "Because we're at war," came others still.
When silenced reigned again, I gave my own answer. "I'm teaching them too you, yes, so you can fight, because I'm not such a fool to think that Hogwarts will remain impenetrable forever. Voldemort will not let such a prize as this remain in 'filthy, bloody-traitor' hands forever, and he is not as patient a 'man' as he thinks.
"But I'm not standing here, training you to be mes chevaliers personnelles or anything of that sort. No, I'm teaching you because you need to have the choice to fight if you want to, on whatever side you want to, because if I sit up here and teach you only the fluffy, happy magic that doesn't hurt anybody, if you choose to fight and stand up for what you believe in, freedom or democracy or purity of blood or, I dunno, conkers, you'll surely die. I want to give you the skills so that, no matter what you choose, you mightn't die. I've already buried too many people…"
I trailed off, lost in the memory of death and the dead, and tried to remember for a fleeting moment something about my parents that wasn't their dying words. I couldn't, and the sadness I felt over this momentarily erased the anger I felt at the children in front of me that would not fight, at the naïve wizards of the world who thought they needn't fight for what was right. I think it reached my eyes, for I caught a curious glance or two from those in my "audience" who were my friends. "I'm going to…" I started to say, but trailed off when I couldn't think of anything to add to that, and wandered out of my classroom, one hand on my five-month belly in hopeless attempt to quell the ache there, the other waving my wand so that my bag followed after me, bobbing carelessly a few inches above the floor.
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Normally, after my last class on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays – days when my last class was one I taught, not Charms (as it was on Mondays) or Transfiguration (per Wednesdays) – I would pop quickly down to my dungeon apartments, change out of the clothes, now uncomfortably greasy, as if I'd been sleeping in them, I'd taught in and into something fresher, looser. Then, making sure Winky had given Claudia a snack about tea time (she always did), I'd take my daughter and head back up to my office, dealing with whatever issues my students or my KoRT brought to me in the same, even-handed, don't-let-them-see-how-stressed-I-really-a
I felt hot, and sick, and my fingers ached, as if wanting to pick up a sponge or a broom and clean something. Maybe I'd feel better if I could do the compulsory scrubbing that eased my conscience, but there wasn't time, and I was too tired anyway. Normally, I could ignore it, get on with my day, and then go back to the apartment at some God-late hour and just crash, Severus understanding, having done similarly when he was still a spy, and move me to the bed if I fell asleep elsewhere.
Today, however, I felt hotter and sicker and the ache in fingers had moved to radiate up and down my belly, up into my chest, around my ribs… It wasn't a pregnancy pain, and I found myself half hoping that I was truly sick, in some incurable, cancerous way, just so I wouldn't have to deal with it or the impossible mental anguish that was this war and my place in it.
I stopped short at that thought, arms catching in the sleeves of the shirt I was trying to remove, and I overbalanced. With a tumble, I fell to the floor, landing on my already discarded robe and pants.
"Mistress Éléonore Snape ma'am?" came a concerned squeak from the nursery next door. A moment later, the elf, her thin hair tucked beneath a white-edged bonnet, her pale blue dress clean and pressed, with a towel almost as large as she was over her shoulder, it alone showing signs of use and wear, appeared. "Mistress Éléonore, is you alright?" Before giving me a chance to answer, Winky pulled me to my feet, artfully plucked the shirt from my tangled limbs, and pushed me towards the bed. "Mistress Éléonore needs to be taking better care of herself. Mistress Éléonore will rest-"
"Winky," I tried to interrupt, sitting up with another protest from my stomach, and struggled to stand.
The house elf glared at me with such intensity, I unwittingly found myself sitting back down. "Mistress Éléonore should rest. Winky will take care of her. Winky a good elf." She said this last part like a challenge. When I said nothing more, "Lie down, Winky bring soup and makes sure friends of Mistress Éléonore leave her be."
With a look that said, "Move and you face my wrath," – a surprisingly frightening look from such a small, wrinkly creature – Winky snapped her fingers and disappeared, leaving me to scoot back until I was leaning against the headboard and try to get comfortable. Failing that, I accio-ed my book on charming weapons from my bag, figuring if I was going to be stuck on bed rest again, I was not going to spend it grading essays, so help me Merlin.
Half hour later, Severus entered the room, picked up a stack of papers he'd been grading in bed last night from his bedside table, and turned around, half out the door before he saw me, pouting as I turned the page of my text a little too violently for a bibliophile's liking. Blinking once, he took note of how I was wrapped in a sheet (because Winky had not thought to provide me with fresh clothing and I dared not get up and get some myself because Merlin knew that'd be the moment she returned, and asked me what was going on) and fuming at the mouth.
"Winky's grounded me," I glowered at him, crossing my arms over my rounded stomach, feeling every bit the petulant teenage I surely looked. "Will you kindly hand me some clothes?"
Lips curling imperceptibly upwards, he answered in the same, even, slightly over-patient tone he used in his classes, "If you were unwise enough to be caught up in house elf madness, I don't think I should." After a slight pause, in which I though he was daring himself to say what he did next, "Besides, I'm rather enjoying the current view."
I hissed a few Sus-learned epithets at my husband and went back to my book, reading on how magic clung to things. Magic liked organic things the best, and clung to them the longest, but was also the hardest to charm. Lead was the easiest, but things slipped easily from the dense, malleable metal. Gold, silver, and iron were comfortable middle ground. The book did mention, somewhat slyly, that blood, because it was both organic and ferrous, was a wonderful thing for holding certain spells, but that was Dark, Dark magic, not to be spoken of… I snorted at the prudishness of textbooks, and looked up, surprised to find Severus still standing there. "Y'know, Severus, this isn't a museum: you can touch the artwork if you want."
"And face the wrath of Winky? I think not."
I pouted some more and returned to my book. "You could at least bring Claudia to me." He gave me a look of raised eyebrows and, reluctantly, I promised him, "I'll read her fairytales if it makes you happy."
Nonetheless, he brought our daughter to me, whispering loud enough for me to hear, "Your mother won't be reading you any more of those kinds of books anymore."
"They're your books," I pointed out to him with a laugh, snuggling my girl and laughing as she said something that sounded almost, but not quite, like, "Mummy."
"Yes, but I'd like Claudia to be able count to ten before we start teaching her to maim."
"Firstly, I wasn't teaching her, I was reading aloud in her presence. Secondly, not all the spells would have maimed – some would only have only wounded."
Resolutely, I put Claudia beside me, adjusting the pillows so I could lean on my side as I read. She crawled a bit away, but only enough to be teasing, as if to say, "You've been away all day, Mummy, why should I want to play with you now?"
"I know, honey, I know," I told her as her father left to do work, "I hate to leave you so alone, but… Mummy has work and school." I knew that was no excuse, especially not for an eight-month-old, and tugged instead gently on one of her soft, black locks, already almost long enough to pull back. "Being home with Winky is more fun then being in classes with me all day – or Daddy. All sorts of stinky Potions, and Daddy's always so loud – no fun at all. You like it when I read to you, don't you? Mummy's bookworm."
Claudia gurgled, giving a high-pitched baby's laugh, and I laughed with her. "So, let's see if I can find something to read that Daddy won't claim gives you nightmares… Ah, I know," fixing my toga-esque sheet; I summoned another book and opened it to the first story. "High on a hill in an enchanted garden, enclosed by tall walls and protected by strong magic, flowed the Fountain of Fair Fortune…"
Time passed, and at one point Claudia fell asleep and I too, lying beside her, could soon no longer hold my leaden eyelids open and let the darkness that was my dreams take me.
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But they were not the dreams of the analogue-Harry or Horcruces that came to me. Instead, I dreamt again as I had that day, over a year ago now, when Severus had preformed the quasi-occult ceremony I'd created and poured the potion that gave me my beautiful, keep-Voldemort-out-of-my-head tattoo of the panther, Niynhi, blazoned on my right thigh.
I saw that blue-tinged forest, the sky a near black wonder, littered with stars that shone as wildly and brightly as nothing else. The grass at my feet and the forest, endlessly stretched out before me, a thousand miles from anything, were dark as steel. A soft cushion of blue-grey needles softened my footfalls as I tried to walk into the deepness.
No sooner had I approached the edge of the small, circular glade I stood in then did I become aware of eyes – a thousand eyes, lidless and malignant, watching unceasingly, waiting for me to falter – following my every move from every conceivable direction. They frightened me, and I knew what Darkness it was, however jailed by the forest's edge. I could see none of the thousands of scarlet eyes that I felt, but I knew they were there, and while I mightn't be able to see them, they could certainly feel me.
I felt naked, exposed, and while the wind that blew from what I took to be the south was warm enough, I clutched my arms to me in desperate attempt to warm my shivering body. Or keep my insides in, as if every organ had suddenly decided it was time to take that nice vacation on the Rivera they'd been wanting. Rushing backwards without looking, wanting only to be as far from the forest edge as possible, I stumbled over something and fell backwards with a small scream.
My head and back landed on the soft, springy grass, forcing my eyes to the sky as my legs remained bent at an awkward angle around the warm, deeply breathing something that had caused me to fall. Above me, I could make out the constellation Orion above me, Betelgeuse its bright shoulder, Rigel its foot, and the belt – Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak. For a moment I was lost in the sidereal beauty, before I remembered the star that made up Orion's other shoulder.
The Amazon Star.
My stomach clenched in knots, eyes of their own accord following the line from Mintaka southwest, looking for Sirius, the Dog Star, as if to prove to myself that, though her star might still shine, so did Sirius's, and his was brighter many times over.
The tree tops blocked my line of sight, and it was this disappointment, or, at the very least, vague distraction, that I was still lying on the cool and, as I now noticed, slightly damp ground. I could feel the heat radiating from the thing beneath my legs, slowly rising and falling with each slow, steady breath. Cautiously, still weary of the eyes that watched me yet somehow more comfortable knowing that something was here with me, I reached my arm towards the thing. Eyes still on the heavens, my hand felt the silken fur, and, without looking, I knew what it was.
"Niynhi," I whispered.
"Éléonore," the panther growled softly, making each of the syllables of my name long and drawn, almost a sigh…
Slowly, with intent, I tried to sit, preparing myself to battle with my gravid, tired body to get where I wanted. But I moved with a fluid grace I did not normally process, and a quick glance told me what my body had already known: how, in this dream, no child grew in worn-out womb, and no spasms wracked my quickly weakening body. I pulled myself to Indian-style, and looked at the mountain lion, its amber eyes wide and deep as it stared unblinkingly at me, its coat darker then the night.
"Vous ne devriez pas être ici," the mountain lion purred. You should not be here, I somehow knew, just as I knew Paracelsus called me mère instead of mum, I knew what it said.
"Why not?" I asked, casting my eyes fearfully at the forest around me. While I, logically, knew I was safe so long as the spirit or whatever Niynhi was I'd summoned was with me, I could still feel the presence of The Other.
"Não é contudo seguro aqui." You are not safe yet here.
The presence in the woods. "What is it?"
"Sie wissendas, was es ist."You know what it is.
I shook my head. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"No sabe que sabe, pero hace."You don't know you know, but you do. "È stato poi con lei per più lungo lei può ricordare." It has been with you longer then you can remember.
"What-?" I began, desperate to know what it was talking about.
"Wake up," it purred, and I woke to the feel of long, calloused fingers brushing a lock of hair from my face. I leaned into the touch, not opening my eyes, and found myself tumbling into a deeper, true sleep.
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Part Two.