15 rue de Montmorency
October 17, 1975
“What’s all this shouting for? Ah, tears.” Nicolas Flamel emerged from the depths of the house and wandered over to peer into Ophelia’s face. “Poor girl. You look wretched when you cry — redheads always do.” When she laughed, he gave her a trickster’s smirk. “Better, much better. Now, what’s all this? Haven’t had your heart broken, have you? You had that glow this summer during your visit. I told Nella: that child has a lover’s glow.”
His wife of six centuries rolled her eyes. “I told you she was glowing, foolish man. I also said that someone had touched her heart and hopefully she would not notice until it was too late for our fairy to put up her walls. And my wish is come true because she has gone and got married, Nicolas.”
“Oh? Our little Phee? Who swore she’d never wed at all?” Nicolas Flamel was a small man, barely taller than his wife and Ophelia. He too had an ageless quality but where Nella had an air timelessness, Nick’s youthful playfulness had left countless people wondering if he had ever been acquainted with Shakespeare. He was every inch the Puck now, lips quirked and eyes alight with humour.
“Was she ten, or twelve, my dear, when our Phee declared that boys were very stupid and she’d never marry one? And now she has — seduced you into marriage, did he?”
“He plays dirty,” Phee grumbled.
“Excellent, excellent. Why play fairly when the game of life is rigged? And he didn’t give you time to talk yourself out of it — long engagements aren’t good for one, dear.”
“Aunt Nella, make him stop.”
“I’ve not managed it you, little one. Nicolas, stop teasing her; her husband is ill.”
“Cursed,” she explained, “by his great uncle.”
“Family is far more deadly than war or politics.” Nick nodded, a bit of his normal humour fading. “It is serious, then?”
“The healer. . .” She scrubbed away a tear, tired of crying. She preferred anger. “He thinks less than two days.”
Nella slid an arm around her waist and squeezed. “Oh, my little fairy.”
“Then you have come for what I once promised you.”
“I know you offered the use of the Elixir to your Ophelia, not me —”
“Non.” He cut her off firmly, laughing eyes solemn. “We have discussed this, when you first came back to speak to us. You are Ophelia; you have her memories. You remember the time you and I insisted on trying every single ice cream flavour available in Glace Magique —”
“I remember the stomache ache we both suffered.”
“Pleasure must be bought, sometimes with pain. You remember Patrick — his jokes, his laugh, his lessons —”
“Which came far too soon, yes — though I often say so of my friends, I have never meant it so much as when I say my last student was taken too soon.” He touched his fingertips to his lips. “And you remember, and grieve for him. If you were not Ophelia — why would you do this? But you do, so you are. I leave thoughts of the soul and consciousness for philosophers and those who seek the gods and divine, little fairy —”
“May they be less boring if they find the answers they seek,” she finished his oft spoken statement in unison with him, “for they cannot be more so.”
“Yes, this is true,” he laughed. “Regardless of this, what makes a person is their experiences — their memories. You have the memories of Ophelia Manus. . . ”
“Black,” she supplied.
“ — Ophelia Manus Black’s memories, so you are she. You are more that Ophelia, yes; but you are still her.”
“I suppose —”
“I suppose, and I and older and wiser —”
“You are older, I am wiser,” Nella interjected.
“ — this is so, and we say it is so, and so it is. We will not discuss it again, for even I do not have time or patience to have the same argument over and over. Yes?”
Ophelia had known Nicolas Flamel since she six-and-a-half years old and her Uncle Paddy brought his newly acquired ward to stay with his old master; she knew a cue when he gave one. “Yes, Uncle Nick.”
“Good. Then, I promised you and Patrick the Elixir — one time or long term — and though he died too swiftly to benefit, your husband has not.” Saying this, he wandered back down the hall.
Ophelia let Nella push her into a seat — and she knew she was in France because a glass of wine, not a tea cup, was pressed on her.
“Drink, you are pale. Nicolas will retrieve the Elixir and you will tell me about your husband. Handsome?”
“And clever, manipulative, and cunning.”
“Good, I like him already. Polite? Well spoken?”
“He could sell coal to a dragon.”
The immortal witch nodded. “And, most importantly —” she leaned closer “ — a talented lover?”
Phee grinned into her wine. “He rocks my world.”
“Good! I forgive you for marrying without telling me —”
“I was going to send a letter!”
“ — and for not telling me about this man earlier —”
“You would have been exactly like this!”
“ — and, I even forgive you for marrying an Englishman.”
“Thank you, Aunt Nella, for your forgiveness.”
She ignored Ophelia’s dry-as-dust tone and waved a hand. “You are welcome. I am a forgiving woman.”
“Well, you have practice — look at who you’re married to.”
“This is true. I should be a saint, I think, except the Church would burn me instead of laud me.”
“Saint Perenelle, patron saint of the long-suffering wives of scholars.” Ophelia’s laughed. Here at the ancient wooden table in the Flamel’s Paris house, she felt safe and warm despite the knot of fear in her belly. This was her first real home — as Ophelia, at least. When Patrick Grimm had sought custody of his goddaughter — no longer able to tolerate that her aunt and uncle considered her a minor inconvenience in the path of their access to her money — and found himself the guardian of a young girl, he had brought her here. Though his apprenticeship had been long over, the Flamels had been family to a bastard son unacknowledged by his father’s kin, whose mother had died during the war. The feeling had been mutual; Nick and Nella had countless friends and students over the centuries, but not all of them had been offered access to the Elixir of Life.
When she had first emerged from seclusion in the Goblin caverns she’d sought sanctuary in, Ophelia had come here. Her sense of self had been so shaky — Ophelia and Ianthe were, by no means, identical people. Even breakfast had been a minefield; Ophelia had loved espresso while Ianthe had loathed coffee, and one day she might enjoy what he’d despised the day before. Seeking an anchor, she had sought out a place that had made one of them happy and secure.
“It will be well, little one.”
She huffed. “Just in case it is not, do you know any necromancers?”
“My dear girl; I know two.”
She was laughing when Nicolas returned. “Ah, much better. You are not meant to cry.”
“Because it makes me ugly.”
“This is why women must wish for men who are good lovers, little one. All men irritate, a woman must have some reason to put up with one.”
“You have tolerated me for six hundred years; does that mean I am the best lover in the world?”
“Perhaps it means my expectations are low.”
“Stop; please stop.” Phee dropped her head into her hands. “I don’t have enough time — or wine — for the two of you to put on one of your shows.”
“Perhaps so.” Nicolas offered his hand. “Here, little one.”
In the palm of his hand was the smallest vial she’d ever seen; it couldn’t have held more than two or three drops of fluid. Within the delicate cut crystal, a swirl of blue-white light shifted and glowed.
“Is that. . .?”
“It is heath, time, and life.” He dropped the little vial — containing what might well be the most valuable liquid on earth — casually into her hand. “The Elixir of Life.”
Her hand snapped closed around the glass — gently. “Thank you, Uncle Nicolas.”
“Bah.” He waved that off with a gallic shrug. “It is nothing.” His hand covered her. “This contains exactly as much as needed — not one drop more or less. Your remember your lessons in alchemy, little one?”
She met his serious gaze steadily. “Yes, Uncle Nick.”
“Good.” Humor returned to his face, animating it once more. “Run along and save your husband, dear child. We’ll be right behind you.”
Ophelia rose and flung arms around the old alchemist, inhaling the familiar scent of chemicals and magic. He squawked and flailed for a moment, then patted her back awkwardly. “Yes, yes, you are very grateful. Also, you are wasting time.”
Ophelia grinned at Nella over his shoulder. Nick never seemed to know what to do with outpourings of physical affection — which was why it was so fun to offer it. “Thank you.”
He flapped his hands, waving her off, and Ophelia stepped back, spun on her heel, and Apparated.
There was a man coming down the staircase when she reappeared in the entrance of the Black House of Fara. Ophelia didn’t recognize him, but he had the Black looks — dark hair, light eyes, and a handsome face. He was older than Orion, but by no means elderly.
“I’m Marius,” he explained before she could ask. “Arcturus’ cousin, Alphard’s uncle — and Cygnus’ son, unfortunately.”
“My sympathies.” She glanced up the stairs he’d descended. “Orion?”
“Still alive, if not wholly well. Though he’s hale enough to pass out directives and orders like a general.”
She didn’t doubt he was trying to inject some lightheartedness for her sake, so Ophelia obliged him with a smile. “I haven’t had a chance to break him of his autocratic tendencies yet.”
“You’re doomed to failure there, dear; it’s bred to the bone in we Blacks.”
“I suppose that explains things.” She eyed the papers he held. “Is that —?”
“Just some details to be seen to. Orion wants papers drawn up for regent power over his affairs should Healer Vervain’s plan become necessary.”
“It won’t be.”
“Hopefully not,” he said gently, “But Orion prefers to plan for eventualities.”
“Plot and scheme, you mean.” Ophelia stalked up the stairs. “The man always has a plan for something in mind.”
Behind her, Marius chuckled his way to the Floo.
On the first floor landing, a pale-faced and frightened young man nearly plowed Ophelia over. “Careful, man!”
“Where are you off in such a hurry?” The wizard was about Ophelia’s age, and wore pale green robes banded with marking that denoted an apprentice healer. “Where is the fire?”
“Master Vervain wants these taken to London immediately,” he stammered, clutching the scrolls he held to his chest even tighter. “And I must hurry because he’s very angry!”
She considered her impression of Vervain — experienced, calm, and nearly unflappable — and wondered if this apprentice was making a mountain out of niffler mound. “Angry about what, precisely?”
“He had a little time to spare while a diagnostic was running on the injured lord, so the Master asked asked a number of questions about a Healer Drake. Then he ran diagnostic spells on Lord Arcturus and Lady Melania. Then he lost his temper.” The boy shifted impatiently on his feet. “Can I go now?”
She stepped aside so he could dart away — hopefully without hurting himself — while she considered this new information. The Blacks had begun to develop the unfortunate habit of dying young; by the time Sirius had graduated Hogwarts in the previous timeline, Orion, Alphard and Melania had all been gone, followed shortly after by Arcturus. Even Walburga had died while her godfather was in Azkaban, despite being only in her seventies. Wix in good health could live well into their thirteenth decade; the more powerful ones well past a century and a half. Albus Dumbledore was 120 years old, and had only recently gone white-headed. The repeated deaths of members of the House of Black who had barely reached middle-aged had given rise to rumours of curses or Magic punishing Dark practitioners — which was stupid, because it was the lighter family members who died with the greatest regularity — but it seemed that an incompetent healer might be to blame.
Currently, though, there was only one Black who’s health concerned her.
Vervain was with her in-laws — she would have judged his expression as irritated and displeased, rather than furious. Arcturus, on the other hand, looked like he was considering his options for body disposal.
Her husband was tucked into a chaise, blanket over his legs, and his waistcoat and robes removed. The white lawn shirt he wore was open to expose his chest, but the sight of something that normally gave her a great deal of pleasure was marred by the glowing runestones on his skin. Presumably they were part of a monitoring ward of some kind. There were also two children and three kneazles draped, curled, or pressed against him.
Reggie saw her first. “Phee!” He slid off the chaise with a small thud and ran over to wrap his sturdy little body around her legs, pressing his face against her robe. He was trembling slightly. Sirius clung to Orion’s good arm, looking both brave and frightened; over the heads of his sons, Orion met her gaze.
“It’s alright, Reggie.” Ophelia lifted him to her hip, stroking his back when he clung on, and headed over to the rest of her little family.
“Phee, Father’s sick.” Sirius’ lip trembled and he clung more tightly to his father and his familiar, Loki, while the kneazle purred fit to stir the dead.
“I know, sweetheart.” She sat beside him, shifting Reggie to her lap, and stroked Sirius’ hair. “That’s why the healer is here.” Sekhmet, one of her own three kneazles, rose from where she was draped over the back of the chaise and Orion’s shoulder, and inserted herself into Reggie’s own lap. The three-year-old eased his grip on Ophelia in favour of cuddling the purring feline.
There was another kneazle, Bastet, stretched out along Orion’s injured arm, her head resting in the crook of his elbow. The third of the kneazles dubbed the Goddesses, Neith, was perched on a nearby bookshelf, keeping guard. Neith was the eldest of the animals, and the first of them to come to Ophelia’s care; she was also fairly aloof with everyone but Ophelia, though she seemed to like Orion and the boys well enough to acknowledge their presence and respond when they spoke.
“Orion? Are you comfortable? How do you feel?”
He flexed his injured hand. “Cold and numb, mostly, which Bastet is helping with.” The orange and black feline flicked her tail and purred smugly. “But no pain.” He squeezed Sirius’ hand in reassurance. “Vervain is taking good care of me.”
“Great-grandfather hurt him, Phee.” Watery grey eyes lifted to hers, and a trembling bottom lip firmed into a fierce and adorable scowl. “I hate him; he’s mean and stupid and he smells funny.”
Don’t laugh, she told herself. Don’t laugh. Then her husband — pale and drawn and with a grey cast to his skin — grinned at her, and Ophelia started giggling.
Sirius frowned, which looked more like a pout than anything, and huffed. “Phee, it’s not funny; he does smell funny. Like a wet wool jumper that you pushed into the cupboard instead of giving to the elves to clean.” When she giggled harder, he turned to his father. “He does.”
“I’ve always thought so, too, though it’s usually not polite to say that sort of thing aloud, or to someone’s face.”
“It’s not polite to hurt people, either,” Sirius grumbled. Ophelia hid another giggle in Reggie’s hair. “‘Sides, if you don’t tell people stuff like that —”
“Things like that, Sirius. ‘Stuff’ is a weak word.”
“ — things like that, how do they know? Maybe he can’t tell he smells funny, and since no one told him, he just keeps going like that.”
Orion gave a half-sigh, half-laugh. “Are you asking for permission to tell people if their scent is strange — for their own good?”
“Um. . . yes?”
Her husband looked to her, clearly asking for help, but she shock her head with a grin. “Sorry, love, you’re on your own. Manners for their own sake are hardly my forte.”
“We’ll revisit this conversation later. In the meantime,” Orion grinned, looking brighter and healthier for a moment, “if you come across anyone who ‘smells funny’, tell me and we’ll find a polite way of correcting the situation.”
“The polite way means the long way.”
“Sometimes, but as an adult, the polite way is sometimes the shortest method.” At his son’s baffled expression, he explained, “It’s quicker to spend a few moments on manners than to prepare for a duel.”
“If you say so, Father,” Sirius stated, obviously not convinced.
Reggie tugged on Ophelia’s arm until she leaned closer, then whispered in her ear, “Grandfather Cygnus does smell funny.” As he was three years old, his whisper was almost louder than his speaking tone. Orion nearly laughed again.
“I believe you, sweetheart.”
“Well, this is cheerful,” Alphard said brightly, dropping into a nearby chair. “Care to clue me in on the joke?”
“No,” Orion said firmly, before the boys could do just that. Alphard pouted then leaned back, ankles crossed. He looked the very picture of affable privilege, but Ophelia knew him well enough to recognize the tension and stress in his frame. Alphard was a man who would always conceal his concerns, who protected his feelings with humour and disassembling charm — but he did feel a great deal, and he loved Orion more than his own brother.
Still, there was more temper in the room than seemed warranted — Ophelia was furious, but it was banked under concern. The adult Black’s all seemed quietly angry in a way that was unlike their reputation for ice-cold rage. “What’s going on? I noticed that Vervain is with Lady Melania, and I ran into his apprentice on the stairs. He seemed convinced the healer was a moment from violence.”
“Mother has a slight imbalance in her magical channels — it causes a small spillover that results in some weakening of the heart.” Just as laughter had, temper made Orion less pale and ill-looking. “Drake was treating the damage to her heart as it occurred, but never once in three years did he mention the available treatment for the cause.”
“There’s a cure.” Sometimes, wixen bigotry seemed like it couldn’t get any worse. Then it did. “Created by a muggleborn, I suppose.”
“Oh, dear me, no,” Alphard exclaimed cheerfully. His smile was sharp enough to draw blood. “Far worse than that — a pure-blood apostate. After all, muggleborns can’t help but being what they are, but a pure-blood who refuses to accept — or who comes to reject — the dogma of pure-blood supremacy? Well, they’re a kind of heretic, aren’t they? Or as some might say now — a ‘blood traitor’.”
“A healer who was quite famous for taking on muggleborn and half-blood apprentices, at a time when few would, and for advancing the rights of muggleborns in the healing professions,” Orion explained. “He was head of St Mungo’s several centuries ago, and the number of healers without pure blood nearly tripled during his oversight.”
“Archimedes Evermonde is credited with opening the healing professions to those without pure magical backgrounds,” Alphard continued, more calmly. “Ever since his tenure, St Mungo’s and healing have been among the most accessible magical arts for muggleborns, and that’s largely due to him and the generations of students he taught. He once magicked the Healer’s Oath on to the wall in the St Mungo’s staff room, and dared the staff to find the part that referenced purity of blood as a necessity in a healer, or in making one patient more worthy than another.”
“I like him already; pity more don’t learn from his example. So what you’re saying,” Ophelia mused, “is that Drake is an incompetent twit.”
“Half the family has been under his care in the last two decades,” Orion sighed. “Including my grandfather, who refused to be seen by another healer, not only when people questioned whether he’d been potioned —”
“Which he obviously had been,” Alphard muttered.
“ — but also when he grew ill. Cygnus was the one who recommended him, by the by,” he added.
“Hence my task of writing to the horde — family,” Alphard corrected under Orion’s glare, “to order them to find another healer for assessment or a second opinion on anything they’re being treated for.”
“How did Drake even have his license still?”
“Because there are some purebloods so fanatical, they’d rather die than receive treatments developed by a muggleborn — even one that’s already dead. They’re rare,” Alphard added, “as survival usually trumps ideology, but they do exist. Drake had a few supporters, and the general healer’s community basically decided a ‘better him than me’ policy on dealing with such patients. The problem is, that Drake was required to disclose his background and policy so patients could make an informed decision.”
“And I certainly never heard him do so.” Orion patted Sirius’ back absently. “Nor did he do so with my parents. I’d have never let him near Sirius and Regulus if I’d known.”
“Walburga would have,” his cousin murmured, quietly enough that Sirius didn’t react. “I never used the man myself — some things you shouldn’t share with your parents, siblings, cousins, and extended relations. Healers run a close second.”
“Do not elaborate,” Orion said sternly, making Alphard and Ophelia’s lips twitch. Obviously, lovers took first place in Alphard’s ranking.
“So, that’s what’s happened while you’ve been gone, dear cousin. Now, you find me in expectation; where did you take off to in such a hurry? And why? You weren’t gone very long.”
“Paris,” Ophelia explained. She kissed Reggie’s forehead and told him, “I need to put you down now, sweetheart, so I can help your father.”
“You can help him? Really?” Sirius demanded.
“Yes,” she answered, ignoring Orion’s inquiring look and Alphard’s straightening posture. “But I need you to both to sit over here, alright?” She deposited Reggie in his uncle’s lap — earning a wry, knowing smirk from Alphard, who was now trapped in place and out of the way — and settled Sirius and Loki on the ottoman nearby. Sekhmet followed, settling on the back of the chair; Bastet allowed herself to be shooed away from Orion, and joined Neith on her perch.
The activity drew an audience; the elder Blacks and Healer Vervain approached. Melania, looking pale and resolute, settled on the arm of Alphard and Reggie’s chair.
“Lady Ravensmoor —”
“His magic is still unaffected?”
The healer glanced at the runestones Orion bore. “Yes. Your Grace, I understand your concern, but I cannot allow you to use whatever unknown potion or treatment you’ve retrieved on the Duke; certainly not in his condition.”
“It’s not unknown.” Ophelia sat beside her husband and took his hand; he kissed her own absently. “What do you know about alchemy, Orion?”
He blinked in surprise. “Only general knowledge; I haven’t had a chance to deepen my understanding yet.”
Now she was the one surprised. “Why would you?”
“Because my wife was raised by an alchemist, and she has more than a passing interest in the field,” he said dryly.
“I hope you don’t expect me to take up dueling for the same reason,” she told him pertly. “If I draw my wand on someone, I put them down like an enemy; I don’t dance with them.”
This wasn’t a new conversation; Orion was a duelist at heart, and would have likely gone professional if not for the rank he was born to. Ophelia didn’t duel, she fought, usually for her life, and considered the sport of dueling to be like children playing — amusing to watch, but not something she was interested in doing. Of course, Orion felt that way about Quidditch — interesting, but not a passion or obsession.
“I would never encourage you to dance with strangers, lovely.”
She glared at a chuckling Arcturus. “I’m absolutely certain that his sense of humour is your fault.”
“Oh, it is,” Melania said. “And he’s partially responsible for Alphard’s deplorable one, as well.”
“Now, dear, I’ll take the blame for Orion, but how is Alphard my fault? I didn’t father him.”
“No, but he spent enough time at Ravensmoor as a child to be influenced by you. He certainly learned more from you than he did Pollux.”
“Very true,” Alphard said, “though I didn’t learn everything from the old man here. I certainly learned to charm witches on my own.”
“Which is why I’ve never hexed Orion silent, unlike you,” Ophelia pointed a warning finger at her husband’s cousin. “And I’m perfectly willing to do so again; don’t think being the boys’ favorite uncle will save you.” Then she poked her husband. “Back to alchemy and your knowledge of it.”
He gave her a soft, amused look that, in other circumstances and lacking an audience, would have gotten him lucky or at least a good snog. “Alchemy is a magical field concerned with the understand of and transformation of matter by magical means. It’s closely related to, but separate from, potions and transfiguration. It’s also one of the oldest forms of magic, and one of the only ones that muggles have studied extensively. Alchemy is also an art which is as much about philosophy and metaphysical understanding as casting magic.”
Well, that was already more than most knew about the art of the philosophers. “Partly. The most basic, fundamental tenant of alchemy is understanding. Not merely knowledge, but understanding — of the elements, of magic, of physical matter. To get anywhere as an alchemist, you must overcome the most challenging task of all, which is to know and understand yourself.”
He hummed softly, and there were several interested noises from the other Blacks. Vervain, however, was staring at her with sharp, dark eyes; as a healer, he surely knew that one of the goals of alchemy was to seek a cure for all the illness of man and wix.
“And the transformative aspect?”
“That’s a result of the second and third vital aspect of alchemy. When you understand, you can you can create something — anything — new from base elements. And you can reduce anything to the most basic, fundamental components; purify it of everything that is extraneous.”
“Creating, purifying, and transforming — like reducing to elements to gold, or purifying the body of illness.”
“You’re smarter than you look, Alphard.”
“Creating gold from other base elements — like lead — is an old rumour that caught on in people’s minds; it was certainly a goal in muggle alchemy. But it isn’t possible to get gold from other, pure elements — though you can extract even the most trace particles of gold from impure ores, which is an old charlatan’s trick. However, stripping out all contaminants —” she grinned at their surprised faces, “well, one of the reasons that goblin craftsmanship is so valued is because they often work with alchemical metals — specifically gold, silver, platinum and mithril.”
“That’s very interesting, actually,” Arcturus said, “but what does that have to do with Orion’s condition?”
“As Orion said, my godfather was an alchemist. What he probably isn’t aware of is who trained Uncle Paddy.” From a hidden pocket in her robe, Ophelia withdrew the vial of Elixir.
“What’s that, Phee?” Sirius asked, oblivious to the shocked hiss of the healer and wide, hopeful eyes of his family.
“It has many names, actually. Some call it ambrosia, or Amrita; the Nectar of Life,” Orion’s hand tightened on hers and Alphard exhaled sharply. “Others call it the Dancing Water, the white drops, or the god’s blood. It’s the vaccine for death, the cure for the world’s illness, the panaceas; the Grand Elixir.”
“The Elixir of Life,” Orion laughed softly. “Uncle Nick and Aunt Nella — Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel. Patrick Grimm studied under the Flamels.”
Vervain was there in a heartbeat, unwrapping Orion’s bandages. “Oral or topical?”
“Topical — Orion.” She waited until his eyes met hers. “Alchemy isn’t like potions, and this isn’t Pepper Up. The Elixir doesn’t heal, it purifies. That’s how it bestows immortality; it purifies the body of the damage of age and illness.”
“This won’t —”
“No, love, you won’t be immortal. That takes a large dose, followed by a series of small ones, and it has to be repeated every decade. But it affects the body completely — and that includes your magic. It could affect, even change your magical channels; the last person to use even a small amount needed a new wand.”
“Ophelia, didn’t you tell me that giving up control was better than death?” He shook his head. “I can afford new wands, lovely; they’re less expensive than a sepulchre.”
“Funny man.” She bit her lip. “You’re sure?” She was desperate to see him well, but if his magic changed and he came to resent that . . .
He tugged her close and kissed her. “Yes; stop worrying.”
“It’s like you know me or something,” Ophelia mused as she stood, then frowned and shooed Vervain and Arcturus back. “A little room, please; yes, Healer, you can leave the monitoring ward in place.”
The wound was small; a jagged cut only two or three inches long. But the skin surrounding it was so pale as to be bloodless — and under the skin , creeping black lines crawled up Orion’s arm.
She held his wrist in one hand and uncapped the vial. Inside her chest, her magic stilled and then rose to hum beneath her skin.
A drop fell on the cut, and the black curse lines writhed. By the third drop, those lines were retracting to their source.
Black oozed from the wound like ichor, and Orion’s pale skin took on a golden glow. She could feel the draw on her magic; like channelling pure power through her wand, she could feel the flow of magical energy as it moved through her channels, passing into the vial from her hand.
This contains exactly as much as needed — not one drop more or less.
The vial still felt full, pulling on her magic and telling her she wasn’t done.
Six drops, then seven. Pressure built in her chest. Eight; her ears rang. Nine.
The weight in her chest vanished; her magic stopped as abruptly as a cancelled spell. The ringing in her ears became voices demanding, “Ophelia!”
Orion’s injury was gone.
He caught her as she collapsed.
October 17, 1975
To Whom It May Concern (Yes, Madam and Master Black, this does mean you);
Anyone of you who is currently being treated, or who has recently been seen by Healer Manfred Drake (henceforth referred to as That Murderous Bigot) is required to take their arses to a reputable healer for assessment. Apparently, it is possible to be so bigoted that you would let patients die rather than use methods developed by anyone of less than pure blood. If you are the kind of idiot who feels that this is a reasonable position — please, feel free to not see a proper healer; the world may well be better served if your lack of self-preservation is removed from the breeding population.
For the record, this is an order from Lord Arcturus and Lord Orion Black; if you think you are entitled to ignore a directive from our Patriarch and His Grace, please, make sure I have a good view when you tell them so.
Alphard Black, on behalf of
Lord Arcturus Black
Lord Orion Black, Duke of Ravensmoor
Perenelle Flamel, Nicolas Flamel, Marius Black