Floo Network

Summer of 69
No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.

Started by Rose Pemberton, February 14, 2021, 01:30:28 pm

Rose Pemberton

Rose had been fairly upset following the cup of tea she had shared with Harold Prendergast. Her initial misgivings about the man had somewhat dissipated, but their conversation had ended on a somewhat awkward note. Things had gotten a little too personal and it made Rose acutely aware that she didn't have any friends among the Hogwarts staff. She got along perfectly fine with all her colleagues, but a lot of the staff were older and had known each other for years. It was hard to break into such a tightly knit group. She was also worried that she would be judged harshly for her circumstances. Single parents seemed to be somewhat of a taboo topic both in muggle and wizarding society.

The only small mercy had been that Grace wasn't home yet, having taken out the dog for the afternoon. That way, at least her daughter didn't have to see her upset and flustered. Yet, there was a small part of her that wished Grace were around. Things would change soon, and she would no longer spend her afternoons with her daughter. Grace was about to start first year and that meant she would move out during the term time and sleep in of the dormitories with the other students of her year. It made sense to give her as normal an experience of starting first year at Hogwarts as possible. Still, Rose couldn't deny being worried how this would change their relationship.

She decided the best thing to do was to take out her frustrations on a batch of short crust pastry that she would need to prepare tonight's dinner of butter pie. She didn't care if the dough ended up being slightly overworked, she had some steam to let off. Rose poured flour and butter into a mixing bowl and kneaded the dough vigorously. Once the ingredients had combined, she took it out of the bowl and slapped it onto the worktop, before covering it with a towel and putting a chilling charm on it to leave it to rest. Her next task would be to peal some potatoes for the pie filling.

It was then that she heard Grace at the door, yelling if she could bring a friend. "Yes of course," Rose called back from the kitchen. "But I'm afraid it's only a butter pie tonight. And it might be another half hour until dinner. You girls can play in your room. Or you could help me with the potatoes, and we could all have dinner faster."

Rose was glad that her daughter had made some friends among the few children that lived in Hogsmeade. It seemed to have become routine that Mrs Finlay's girl Sarah would be over once a week. Rose liked her. She was a sensible girl with a good head on her shoulders. It was nice that Grace was finally setting in and having a bit more of a social life. Being the librarian's daughter probably didn't make things all that easy for grace.

Rose turned away from the counter to have another look in the pantry. She still had some mushrooms and spinach that she could get ready alongside the butter pie to make the meal a little bit more exciting and suitable for guests. She could hear Easton whimpering. Was everything alright? "Easton, come here, my boy!" she called to the dog. "I have some potato peels for you." Easton, like most dogs, enjoyed food in general, but potato peels were always a favourite.  

Harold Prendergast

Harold stood outside, awkwardly, not wanting to be invited in under false pretences.

He had had a moment exchanging views - and looks - with the dog, Easton, on the nature of staying still and being a very good boy, without so much as raising a voice, perhaps just an eyebrow. And Grace seemed prepared to vouch for him.

But the awkwardness of the moment was getting to him.

He presupposed that Rose was rather expecting someone else; preferably more her daughter's age, more likely someone she already knew, perhaps from Hogsmeade, and he was fairly sure that what was about to happen would be awkward in any fashion, but every moment that ticked by where he hoped Grace would explain what was going on, and failed to materialise an explanation, was a moment where he felt his internal concerns rising.

After leaving it more than a few awkward moments - while still holding Easton's lead - he looked down at Easton, muttering some kind of very mildly envious remark about the simplicity of a dog's life, before doing what that muggle playwright Shakespeare had written so many years before: "Once more unto the breach." Though in a nod to his typical mental escapades, he found himself wondering for a fraction of a second if Shakespeare really were a muggle after all.

He coughed politely. "Well, uh, actually, you see, the friend to which Grace is referring... is me. I took a walk around the grounds, and rather, Grace and Easton here found me traipsing along the lakeside. Grace, being a superbly polite young woman, was most insistent that I should return with her to take supper with the both of you, though of course I could see how that could be awk--"

He was interrupted by Easton finally giving in to his desires, springing forward for those potato peelings - almost pulling Harold over, but he managed to right himself just before he took a tumble.

Grace Pemberton

Grace was quite impressed by the new professor's ability to handle Easton. Had he cast a non-verbal spell she didn't know about? She'd never seen her dog being so well-behaving with a stranger before. She'd have to ask how he did that. Though Easton mostly listened to her, she never managed to make him sit still for any length of time. Maybe him being an arithmancer explained that.

"It's not a girl!" Grace informed briefly, after her mother's suggestion that she and her guest could play in her room. She turned to Professor Prendergast giving him a searching glance as to what she should say. Help with the cooking or play back in her room? To Grace, this was a question with an obvious answer, but she wasn't sure what her new friend would prefer out of these two things. If he picked anything other than playing though, she'd be confused. Who liked volunteering for housework they didn't have to do?

Instead of receiving an immediate response to her implied question, she got a front row seat to Professor Prendergast making a fool of himself in front of her mom. He seemed so awkward that Grace was rather concerned. She reached out to take the professor's hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

"Honestly," she whispered to Prendergast, "my mom's quite..."

Grace didn't get to finish her sentence as Easton had caught the scent of the potato peels and was making a swift escape towards the kitchen. As the professor stumbled and had to steady himself she was forced to let go of him for a moment.

"Nice. She's nice." Grace asserted while Easton was barking happily. She reached for Prendergast again, this time holding onto the sleeve of his jacket. "Come on in already," she said impatiently trying to pull him over the threshold. Was he really that afraid of her mom? He seemed to have grown roots and she found herself surprised with how difficult it was to get him to move.

"Do you want to play gobstones? Or I could show you my new wand. It's really impressive." She'd made a snap decision that keeping him busy and out of her mother's way would help with things not being awkward. Grown-ups always made things a whole lot more complicated than they had any business being.

Rose Pemberton

Not a girl? Rose suddenly felt just a tiny bit alarmed. They had Sarah's bother Ben over a couple of times as well, but not usually on his own. And where was Easton? She stepped out of the kitchen with the potato she had been peeling still in one hand and kitchen knife in the other. The scene in front of her eyes was confusing. Why was Harold here? Where was Grace's friend? What was going on? She was just about to say something when Easton made a run for her and jumped up on her.

"Oooof!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Down. Down!" Her brain was only belatedly professing what Professor Prendergast was saying. He was Grace's friend? She situation was so absurd that Rose couldn't help but double over laughing. The potato was dropped onto the floor. Easton was chasing after it immediately trying to bite into it. The potato slid across the floor and Easton chased after it with happy barks.

Eventually, Rose managed to steady herself against the doorframe of the kitchen.

"Oh Harold, I am so sorry.  My Grace is a rather spirited one." He burst out giggling again. Had her 11-year-old daughter just bullied prim and proper Prendergast into eating dinner with them and playing gobstones with her? She could only imagine how miserable he had to be in this moment. She bit her lower lip quite hard to stop herself from laughing more and took a moment to compose herself.

"Harold," she attempted again quiet softly. "Please accept my apology. She's eleven and summers here at Hogwarts are quite boring." She hoped he wouldn't think ill of her and Grace for what had happened. It was inappropriate and really Grace ought to treat a new professor more respectfully. They would have a serious conversation about this later. Rose was sure that she had raised her daughter better than this.

"Thank you so much for seeing her back home safely. Of course, you're welcome to eat with us, but I am sure you have much more important things to do than spending time with us. So Grace would understand if you had other duties to attend to." She was addressing the latter part of the statement to Grace trying to make it clear what she thought of her antics without spelling it out in front of her colleague. She also hoped that her statement had provided Harold with an easy way out of accepting her daughter's invitation.

There was a small part of her that hoped he wouldn't decline. She'd decided that he seemed nice - even if confused and awkward and she could use a new friend here at Hogwarts. However, she didn't dare voice that opinion as she was too afraid of what speaking the words out loud would do. Making friends as an adult was so much harder than making friends at age 11. She secretly envied Grace for seemingly getting away with grabbing Harold by the sleeve of his jacket and pulling him inside. Why was being an adult so much harder?

"Can I maybe offer you a glass of wine?" she asked. "Afraid I don't have anything special, just a bottle of white that's been on my counter unopened since Christmas. I never have anybody around I could be drinking it with."

Harold Prendergast

"Well, um, actually a glass of wine would be rather restorative about now. This was... well, a shade unexpected." Except for how it was entirely expected, entirely awkward and inwardly he was wondering just how brazen Grace could be. It was rather sweet on some completely innocent level, though, and part of him wished adults would be so trusting and open with each other without reservation or implication.

"But strictly only if you were already opening it; I truly would not want to impose upon you." He paused, "Even if Grace is keen on having someone around the castle to play gobstones with. It can't be easy being in the castle over the summer without the other students."

Awkward. Inwardly Harold wondered if Rose was doing a better job of containing her inner awkward than he was - but that some was definitely leaking out the edges, if that made sense. Secretly he envied Grace's ease with other people, and her apparent lack of concern about making new friends. He couldn't remember being that open and amiable aged eleven himself, but that was so long ago and so many things had happened since. Growing up, unfortunately being one of them.

"Truth be told, I hadn't actually prepared any food myself yet, and was, um, going to see if anyone was still in the kitchen on my way back from strolling the grounds." It wasn't entirely true; he had a sandwich on his desk, wrapped up to keep it fresh, but a hot meal with company was far preferable to a cold cut in his office alone. But sandwiches rarely earn much of a designation of 'preparedness'. After all, that was how they'd gotten their name; the Earl of Sandwich was too busy playing cards to do something as humdrum as stopping for food. But that was a story for another day.

"If there is anything I can do to help, please do be so kind as to let me know."

Grace Pemberton

Grace was rather unimpressed that her mother seemed to have commandeered all of Professor Prendergast's attention. Suddenly, the adults were talking as if she weren't even present in the room and couldn't hear what they were saying. She sighed, as she found both of their behaviour rather disappointing. And this was why adults were so frustrating. They clearly thought she was stupid and didn't know what was going on.

Feeling there was no other choice she redirected her attention to Easton. The beagle had finally managed to bite into the potato Rose had dropped and it was now stuck in his jaw. Grace dropped to her knees next to the dog and carefully trying to help Easton with his predicament. Not for the first time she wished the already knew how to do magic. A simple shrinking charm seemed perfect for the situation, but unfortunately, she didn't know how to cast one. 

"A little help here," she called out to both adults in the room. However, they seemed to be lost in their conversation about wine. Grace wondered what was so special about it. Her mom had some occasionally, but Grace hadn't been allowed to try it. Apparently, it was only for grown-ups. From the way it smelled, she supposed, that might be a good thing. It didn't seem like it would be nearly as tasty as pumpkin juice. Still, she'd have liked to try it to know for certain.

At least, it seemed like Professor Prendergast was staying. However, the mood didn't seem as fun anymore as it had been a few minutes ago. She looked from her mother to the professor and back to her mom. She'd called him Harold. Clearly, they had met before. Was there something going on there that she didn't know about. Grace wanted to ask but wasn't sure how to phrase her question. Her mom would probably be quite upset if she asked it while the professor was here. She filed the thought for later.

"What about our gobstones match?" She interjected when the professor offered to help her mother around the kitchen. Surely, he didn't mean to imply that he preferred pealing potatoes over having some fun. "Do you want the green ones or the blue ones to play with."

Rose Pemberton

Awkward. Rose briefly allowed her gaze to linger on Professor Prendergast, Harold. He seemed so uncomfortable in his skin she was at a loss what to do to correct the situation. He agreed to wine and to dinner as well a little later. She wasn't sure exactly what was happening. Did he pity her and her daughter? Did he stay out of a misplaced sense of obligation? Did he really want to spend time with them? Rose had no idea which of these options was the case. Yes, she'd wanted him to stay. Her eyes met his and she was looking at him intensely as if an answer would reveal itself in his green eyes.

"Why don't you ask Professor Prendergast for a match after dinner," Rose suggested to Grace, sincerely hoping that she would have forgotten about her intention to play by then. She had a feeling she somehow needed to rescue Harold from being steamrolled by her 11-year-old daughter. He was probably too polite to say no, but she couldn't imagine that he would genuinely want to play. "And whenever you've sorted out Easton you could set the table for us. Be a darling and use the good china." Normally the nice porcelain plates only came out on a Sunday but seeing how they had a guest it seemed appropriate to use the nicer set that they owned.

Looking at Harold again she gave him a soft smile. "Come on," she said gently, slipping back into the kitchen to open the aforementioned bottle of wine for them.  Of course, she wouldn't have opened it if it were just her, but she preferred this over its continued gathering dust. Using a muggle-style bottle opener she was struggling with the cork and eventually set it back down on the counter with a sigh. "I think I'll have to go and get my wand for this," she told Harold. "Unless you're any better at this than I am?" She had a feeling that giving him something to do would help with easing his nerves.

Assuming he was happy to help with the bottle, she put two glasses on the counter and continued to peel the potatoes. It was only now that Harold was here, she felt rather self-conscious about it. Would he judge her for doing most of her cooking the muggle way? It wasn't that she didn't know how to do things with magic, but she was convinced her food tasted better if she prepared it lovingly in the same way her mother and grandmother had. Cooking was something that kept her true to her muggleborn heritage. Having Harold in the room to see this was strangely more intimate than she'd been prepared to be with him. 

"So, how are you settling in, Harold?" she asked to distract the man from asking any questions. She was painfully reminded of their chat in the library and how quickly the arithmancy professor had found a way of getting under her skin. She'd make sure to keep the conversation focused on him this time as to afford him with another opportunity to fluster her like that again. "I don't think I asked earlier, but did they assign you Professor Meredyth's old quarters? I always thought they had a rather nice view of the lake. Your wife must really like them."

Was it too forward to ask about his living arrangements? She was curious if Mrs Prendergast had moved to Hogwarts with him, but from everything she'd seen so far it didn't seem like it. Maybe, she would arrive in a while once Harold had established himself at the school. That or they were one of these strange couples who didn't mind being apart for months at a time. She supposed that was one way to deal with a potentially awkward marriage.

Harold Prendergast

Harold paused, "Well, this is a little awkward." Truth be told it was more awkward - while never exactly 'studly', he seemed to have both of the Pemberton ladies wanting his attention. If it weren't so awkward on so many levels it be flattering.

"Um, yes, I'll open the bottle in a moment - though I think first..." He crossed over to where Grace was kneeling beside Easton, trying to wrestle with the potato. "I believe you asked for a little help?"

Before Grace could react, Harold looked down at Easton, "Easy there, easy," and to his own surprise, Easton started to relax and not be quite so frustrated with the potato lodged in his jaw. "Open up?"

Somehow Easton managed to open his mouth just a fraction so Harold could see the piece of potato wedged in pretty well. He pointed a single index finger at the potato and muttered "Reducio" under his breath, and Easton began to relax as the piece of potato shrunk to a slightly more manageable size. Harold repeated it, and the potato shrank again to a size that Easton could actually now chew, and the beagle showed his appreciation with as excitable a wag of tail as he could muster.

He looked over at Grace and winked, "A little trick from my Arithmancy class - wandless magic. Of course, it will not work on anything of size, and as you see I had to do it twice for what was otherwise an ordinary size of potato, but it can work with a little practice. As to Gobstones, oh my, it has been many years since I played. Perhaps after dinner we can give it a try and see how rusty I have become."

Harold wasn't entirely sure in his own mind why he was agreeing to the possibility of foul-smelling liquids being sprayed around but there was some realisation that being friends with Rose implied being friends with Grace, and vice versa. They had, clearly, been through a lot together. "But first I really must help your mother with dinner."

He returned to the kitchen, and examined the bottle, and the corkscrew. With an uncharacteristically deft motion, he turned the bottle so that the neck was pointing almost directly downward. "Wetting the cork, you see, rather useful trick to prevent the cork disintegrating on opening." While gently tilting the bottle from side to side, he looked over at what Rose was doing. "Oh, I say; cooking the Muggle way, there is nothing quite like it. Magic can do rather many things but sometimes there is nothing quite like not using magic."

Satisfied that the cork wasn't going to disintegrate when opening, Harold turned the bottle right way up again, inserted the corkscrew with all the grace of a trained sommelier, popped the cork and poured them both a glass. "Chin-chin."

Having sipped it, and finding it quite pleasant - with some notes of vanilla in there somewhere - Harold felt like he could tackle the questions Rose had asked. "The quarters are just behind the Arithmancy office up on the seventh floor - perfectly practical and comfortable, and has a rather picturesque view over the Hogwarts grounds, which is what persuaded me to take a stroll this evening. As for my wife, no, she didn't come to stay here at Hogwarts. In some respects, she's rather the reason I'm here, but it's a long story and, if you wouldn't mind, one I'd prefer not to talk about this evening."

"Besides," he added wistfully, "we have a lovely wine to drink, and I've promised Grace a game of gobstones after dinner. If nothing else, we can all laugh about how rusty I am at it, not having played since my own school days."

Rose Pemberton

"You don't owe me any explanation, Harold. I was just trying to work out if I should invite Mrs Prendergast to join us for dinner. It would have been rude of me to not invite her, but I now understand that she is temporarily indisposed."

She gave him a reassuring smile, hoping he wouldn't fret and worry too much. Despite whatever friendly connection she felt towards him, it couldn't be said that they fell into conversation easily. As had been the case earlier in the afternoon, she wished she could just disappear. Here she'd thought she picked an innocuous topic of conversation, and instead she had put her foot in her mouth again. What was it about them and any attempt at casual civility being doomed to fail?

Rose caught herself thinking that if she had husband, she wouldn't be best pleased to hear that said husband was having dinner with another woman and her daughter. Even if this was just a dinner between friends - women had been at each other's throats for lesser things. Truth be told, she wasn't even sure they were friends. Acquaintances probably summarised it more accurately. Really, there was nothing wrong with that they were doing and yet she worried about the propriety of it all. The last thing she needed in her life were accusations of her behaving unprofessionally in the workplace. Why couldn't he have been a woman? Being friends would have been so much easier in that case.

She grabbed the wine glass Harold had filled for her and took a rather unladylike gulp from it. As she glanced over him again, she couldn't help but feel a little spooked. Rose couldn't put her finger on it at all, but there was something about Professor Prendergast that wasn't quite right. "Harold, would it okay with you if I asked you about the research you're working on?" Maybe if she vetted potential topics of conversation before attempting them, the outcomes would be less awkward and unpredictable.

Rose looked away again quickly and busied herself with peeling another potato. Who had she just invited into her home? It occurred to her that she still knew next to nothing about the man. He was likeable for sure, but then again Rose had been wrong about that before. Her thoughts got stuck on the topic of Marlowe Winterbourne, Grace's father. It had been the same. She'd liked him. She'd tried to be friends and she'd even made a tentative first step. And then her world had fallen apart and crumbled. Marlowe had turned out to be anything but a gentleman. Maybe, there was no Mrs Prendergast because...

She couldn't bring herself to finish the thought and put her potato down again to rest her forearms on the worktop. She felt just a tiny bit panicky now. She needed to get some air and calm down. It was probably nothing. She was just feeling a little overwhelmed.

"Harold," she said softly. "If you'd excuse me for a minute. I'd like to freshen up in the bathroom." And with that she fled the kitchen.

Grace Pemberton

Grace watched with fascination a Professor Prendergast cast a wandless spell. She hadn't seen very many spells close-up, as her mother wasn't particularly good with charms or transfiguration. Usually, when magic was being worked in their home it had something to do with Ancient Runes. But here was Prendergast just using a slight wave of his hand to solve the problem. It was quite impressive. When Rose had been younger, she'd tried to make magic happen in the same way. She'd just close her eyes and thought about what she wanted to happen. Naturally, it hadn't worked. Maybe, all she needed were a few Arithmancy lessons.

"We better do as she says," Grace commented. "I need to wash my hands before setting the table and I guess mum could really use some help in the kitchen."

Easton followed her to the bathroom and then back again. It still amused Grace that she couldn't go anywhere without the beagle following her. A couple of weeks ago, when she had taken a bath, Easton had even tried to drink her bathwater. She couldn't imagine that it would be very good for dogs to drink that, but he had done it anyway.

As she re-entered the living and dining area, Professor Prendergast had disappeared into the kitchen. He was talking with her mum and from the sound of it the conversation wasn't going amazingly. She didn't really understand much, but even just the tone of their voices was enough to put Grace on alert. Easton seemed to feel it too as his ears were suddenly standing up and he his tail was no longer wagging.

Grace dutifully put placemats, plates, cutlery, drinking glasses and napkins on the table. Then, quite unexpectedly, she saw her mum rushing past her seeming quite unwell. Easton stayed with Grace but was now growling.

"Shush," Grace tried to calm. "It's all good. I'm sure mum will be back shortly." Truth be told though, she was starting to be a little suspicious of Prendergast. Her mom wasn't the dramatic type and she hadn't seen her run to the bathroom like that in quite some time.  Normally, she only got this upset when Grace asked her mum about her father. Surely, Prendergast hadn't done that? Oh, Merlin help the man if he had.

She carefully peered into the kitchen to see if the professor was okay. "I can help as well," she offered awkwardly. "Is it just the potatoes that need done?"

Harold Prendergast

Harold stood awkwardly to one side, watching all of the happenings - Grace's fascination with wandless spells, Rose's questions regarding Sylvia, and he was just about to answer when Rose excused herself. He just stared slightly awkwardly as she left the room, mouth slightly open, wine glass at an awkward tilt, though not enough to spill anything.

Had it been something he'd said? Worse, something he'd not said? He had pondered how much of his research he would be safe to talk about - it was always said that Hogwarts was one of the safest places if you wanted to keep something safe, up there with Gringotts in terms of sanctity.

As he patiently waited for Rose's return, he noted the alertness that both Grace and Easton were showing. Clearly whatever had upset Rose was a personal matter that they were all familiar with on some level. Or perhaps not, and he was simply overthinking things. Sylvia had warned him about that.

Perhaps Rose had some impression of him as a lothario, a 'man about town' with loose morals - after all, who would be visiting a single mother while otherwise to all intents and purposes being married? Of course they were friends - well, acquaintances really - and Grace, or fate, had conspired to bring them together this evening, it hadn't been planned and certainly hadn't been intimated for untoward reasons, but as someone with a faint passing familiarity with society, it quietly occurred to him that this was a turn of events that, without proper explanation, looked, well, rather potentially sordid.

What would a gentleman do in this situation? What should a gentleman do? Wait it out and hope for a chance to explain, or politely leave and perhaps follow it up with a letter or similar method of keeping one's distance until whatever offence caused was passed?

Harold did the only thing he could see to do in this situation. He pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose, cleared his throat very slightly, and ask Grace if she had any idea about what was going on with her mother. Even as he asked, he hoped Grace's forthright approach would give him an answer, but hoped her candour didn't extend into upsetting Rose further with, well, too much information.

Grace Pemberton

"I don't know," Grace said awkwardly. She wished she were able the answer the professor's question, but there was only a faint idea and she wasn't sure if she should tell. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other fidgeting nervously. Then she cast her eyes around hoping for something to happen that would remove the temptation to tell Professor Prendergast. Grace had decided that she liked him. He was smart and kind and she had a good feeling about him.

"Okay, I will tell you what I suspect, but you cannot, mustn't tell anyone else ever. Especially not my mum." She looked him straight into eye waiting for him to nod consent before making another move. This was risky and she was taking a leap of faith, that hopefully Professor Prendergast would not disappoint. "You must swear it stays between you and me."

Once she'd ascertained confirmation, Grace propped herself up to sit in the kitchen counter. Like this, the height difference to the professor wasn't as great. "You didn't ask about my father, did you?" Grace checked with a great deal of worry in her eyes. "She doesn't usually get like that. Unless, well, when I try to find out anything about him." Her tone made it clear that she didn't really understand and had many questions of her own about the matter. "Don't feel bad. She never tells me anything either, and I'm her daughter."

"I'm sure she will be back in a moment and pretend she's fine. That's usually what happens next." Grace had a few strange memories of awkward moments where her mum had struggled. She'd act as if Grace was completely oblivious and unable to understand. But the girl understood and noticed a whole lot more than her mother was comfortable with.

Harold Prendergast

"Well, I can vouch for the fact that I most definitely did not inquire about such things - such things are most definitely not my business - though we did get around to the subject of... oh. Yes, I could rather see how that might be awkward. You see... we did talk about my wife and, well, I rather fear the wrong end of the stick was taken."

Harold took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, replaced his glasses firmly on the bridge of his nose. "What a mess."

"I'm sure you're right and she'll be back shortly. Though I rather fear that any plans for dinner are spoiled at least as intended. Perhaps..." He shifted his weight from foot to foot, something he didn't do a lot of but somehow channelled when there was a decision looming and he was metaphorically - and literally, he supposed - weighing it over.

"Perhaps what I should do is stick the cork back in this bottle of wine and leave the two of you to it until your mother feels better. I have a feeling my presence - at least until this wretched confusion over my wife is dealt with - will merely be awkward."

Harold frowned. "Yes, I should go, I should go, and I should write a letter explaining it that should hopefully settle the matter. Yes. Tell your mother I am sorry for distressing her unnecessarily, and to expect a letter from my owl in the next day or so."

Grace Pemberton

No, no, no. She'd made the wrong decision. As soon as Professor Prendergast said he thought he should go Grace knew she had messed up. Exactly what had caused the professor to react in the way that he had. She bit her lower lip, trying to figure out how to fix what she'd done. Her mom would no doubt be angry with her for behaving inappropriately. The worst thing was that she'd known that she wasn't supposed to talk about that but had done it anyway.

"Professor Prendergast," she protested weakly. "I don't think my mother meant for you to leave at all. She's ..."

What could she possibly say to justify her mother's behaviour? Her mom was usually a strong woman who stood her ground. There was no logical reason for Prendergast to scare her. There had been new colleagues at Hogwarts before. Some had come around for dinner before as well. Usually, those dinners were rather boring. Unless Albus Dumbledore stopped by. He was Grace's favourite professor by far. Not only was he a rather good gobstones player, but he also often brought some sweets with him.

"Just stay, please? It'll be okay. I am sure of it."

Harold Prendergast

Harold sighed. "No, I really think I should go. Adults can... be rather complicated sometimes, and sometimes they just need space." He fiddled with the bottle of wine and stoppered it again with the cork.

"What I think your mother needs is a bit of space - and if you could help her with dinner, I think that would help. As for me... well, please apologise to your mother."

With that, Harold was gone. In his haste to flee and return the Pembertons' abode to a state of sanctuary, he was already half way back to his quarters before realising he still had the glass of wine in his hand. It was a rather nice white wine and it would be a shame for it to go to waste. And, on some level, he supposed it gave him a reason to return to, well, return the glass.

He sat at his desk, a roll of parchment unrolled and ready, freshly inked quill at hand, and began to write. Harold had a very neat, precise copperplate handwriting.

I must apologise quite profusely for this evening, none of this was as I think either of us had planned.

Firstly, I must apologise for any miscommunication or misunderstanding on the nature of my marriage - but I shall get to that in due course.

Secondly I must also apologise for leaving - Grace was rather insistent that I didn't, but I rather thought it most prudent to retreat and leave your space to be your sanctuary without intrusion. It would give me the opportunity to explain my... situation... without some of the awkwardness, and give you the opportunity to consider your feelings on the matter at your own pace. Merlin knows it is a complex issue.

I never inquired as to where Grace's father was; it was, absolutely, none of my business - unless you felt sufficiently inclined to mention it, and it was evident from your manner that you did not wish to discuss the matter. And after all, why would you? You and Grace are largely inseparable, a formidable team in your own right, and whatever had happened, was in the past and no need to rake it over.

The matter of my wife, however... I am perfectly sure you have imagined some rather fantastical scenes by way of the air of mystery to which I have surrounded the circumstances. Some of it relates to our former employment with the Ministry.

We were, for want of a better term, researching specific magical artefacts due to our Arithmancy expertise. I came to my desk one lunchtime to find a note from my wife - also a researcher at the Ministry - noting that an experiment was in progress and that she should be "back in five minutes". That was some time ago and part of why I left the Ministry was, well, to conduct something of my own investigation into where she had gone. I have held out hope that I will still find her - and a good deal of my time already here at Hogwarts has been trying to make headway into finding something that may be of use to locate my wife, but so far, to no avail.

I can perfectly understand how this must look to you and that you have nothing but my word to speak to the veracity of any of this, but I assure you everything I am telling you is true.

If you are still willing to visit Hogsmeade with me as we had agreed, I might be able to give you a more practical demonstration, but it is something that I am hesitant to put into words. I should rather show you.

Of course, if not, I should understand.


He really hadn't been sure exactly how far to talk about his work, and even here was hesitant to explicitly talk about his work. Even in the here and now, where he was reasonably sure the Ministry was not watching, he didn't want to yet take that risk.


An odd chirrupy noise came from the vicinity of Harold's bedroom followed by some flapping, a vague thud, some tapping, some flapping and a smallish, bronze-coloured owl appeared.

"Bubo, whatever shall I do with you?" Harold smiled in spite of himself. He'd known, of course, that his owl didn't tend to sleep up in the Owlery with the rest of the school owls. But it was it too much of a stretch to expect him to correctly navigate from the bedroom to his desk without at least one incident?

Bubo arrived on Harold's desk and stared at Harold, then at the letter, then at Harold.

"Yes, Bubo, I need this delivered, do you think you can manage it?" He briefly outlined the directions to the Pembertons' quarters.

Bubo looked at the letter, experimentally lifted one wing and flapped it, observationally, then the other wing and flapped it. Then looked at the letter and did a motion that could only be described as 'bobbling' to indicate readiness.

"Are you sure?"

Bubo stared at Harold and chirruped again.

"Well, if you're sure." He rolled the scroll and held it for Bubo, who somehow awkwardly gripped it in his talons, hooking a hole through a corner and flapped away, narrowly missing the open doorway.

Harold looked at the rest of glass of wine and drank it in a swallow. "I probably should have delivered that by hand. But it is done now."