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Below are the 16 most recent journal entries recorded in It takes two to write a letter's InsaneJournal:

    Sunday, April 5th, 2009
    12:57 pm
    6 April 1982
    Cassie, dearest Cassie,

    I'm so glad to get your letter, I was starting to think I would have to come to London to check on you and make sure you weren't dying, no matter what your terrible Sydney had to say about it. I suppose he did tell me everything of importance in the end, and I think I only offended him a tiny bit, but it's so hard to tell. I promise you, I have no idea how you manage to understand a word he says some of the time, he does seem confused or possibly simply confusing. It can be so hard to tell the difference between the two.

    But it is a great relief to hear from you, especially that you've gone back to your salon, and are walking there no less -- you simply can't be ill anymore if you're working, and walking back and forth, but you will be careful and not overdo it, won't you? But I suppose your Syd will take care of that, although if you start sounding ill again I could come and check on you now, since everything here has resolved itself in the most tidy manner imaginable.

    No, not everything. But the whole business with Sam and Acantha and everyone disappearing, and possibly the ghost although there really wasn't anything to resolve so it's rather strange that it ended up resolved anyway. But that's really neither here nor there, the important thing is that enough of the really worrying stuff has been resolved that I really feel quite comfortable with inviting people to dinner again and not spending all my time fussing about Sam. It's the strangest feeling.

    Even though I must admit that all the problems with being here in the first place and the horrors being dreadful haven't quite resolved themselves. Do you think that's the sort of thing that one quits noticing? Or could it have gotten better? Even Acantha and Dardanos spending all their time talking in low voices and glaring at me -- it almost seems friendly, or at least familiar, and it's not as dangerous as falling downstairs, which reminds me -- I think my ankle is getting better. Finally!

    But about Sam: it's the most surprising thing! After Acantha disappeared a few days ago and Jasper practically exploded when she didn't show up for lunch (which I thought was entirely understandable -- not showing up, I mean -- since it was leftovers in a casserole, and not the house elf's best effort by any stretch of the imagination), but Jasper didn't see it that way and made even more of a fuss than I ever did over Sam, insisting that she could be in danger and buzzing around Dardanos trying to get him to worry too and sending me off to interview the house elf (which I only did because I'm actually starting to rather like Acantha some of the time -- at least, she's by far the most tolerable of the three, and I'd much rather have her here than not if only because she keeps Jasper from going mad and Dardanos from brooding too much.

    So we spent the afternoon sending owls (me) and flooing about (Jasper) and stating crossly that she'd probably just gone for a walk (Dardanos), and then around sunset Jasper checked in with Dardanos's fiancee's family, and she was missing too, and they'd all thought she was here, and then Dardanos went completely mad, really I had no idea he had it in him.

    So we were up all night fretting and planning, and after this I really think if either of them try to pretend I'm not a full part of the family I will hit them and then dump a pitcher of cold water over their heads, because what could be more a part of the family than all panicking at the same time?

    And then in the morning Acantha walked into breakfast as perfectly cool and composed as she always is, and we all screamed at her and I thought Dardanos was going to shake her but she ducked away and got some porridge and he calmed down. And she explained that she'd had to go into town (after being dreadfully confused by how that could take so long, I finally realized she didn't mean the town that's right down the road, but a bigger and further away town, but I never did figure out where this town is exactly or what it's called) and she and Dardanos's fiancee (whose name is May! I knew it wasn't Mary, although I wouldn't have thought it was May either if Acantha hadn't said it about fifty times that morning -- there's really no way I could have mistaken it.)

    Oh, so she and May made a day of it and stayed overnight. I think she took May along because she wanted to get something for her in the city, but that part of the explanation was quite muddled, so I'm not sure. Really it was quite annoying, the whole time she was explaining, she was exchanging meaningful looks with Dardanos, you know the sort, where it means that you mean something that's not exactly what you're saying. Dardanos seemed to understand exactly what she was saying but I don't think Jasper did, which serves him right. Maybe he'll understand how I feel most of the time. But I suppose really it's unfair of me to expect them to not have any secrets, though if I stay here much longer I may be able to figure them out. I already have some ideas about Acantha, though I wouldn't dare bring it up with her. Perhaps I ought to corner Jasper some time and we can talk. Wouldn't that be fun?

    But then when we'd all scolded Acantha for disappearing, and she'd explained that she'd left a note, and we went into the hall to look for it (she said she'd left it on the table where the owl post is generally left for people to pick up, if it comes at a bad time -- I mean, whatever Hogwarts may do, you wouldn't expect them to allow owls at the breakfast table, would you? It's simply not done, my dear (in Acantha's best looking down her nose at you tone, mind).

    So we went to prove to Acantha that it wasn't there -- and it wasn't, of course! -- and we asked the house elf, and we looked all over, and finally Acantha said accio and it came flying out of a crack behind the table where it had slid or blown or something, and what's more there were other things there and one of them was Sam's letter.

    It was a couple of days old and it had apologies for the short notice and an explanation that he'd run into an old friend from the continent and they'd decided spur of the moment to spend a few days together, so he was going to beg off visiting me, and I supposed it made a sort of sense, but really!

    So I went into town and asked the solicitor to look after the house for me -- he seemed bewildered, poor dear, but his mother nodded sharply and I knew it was in good hands, not that I think the horrors would burn it down or anything, but still, it's always better to have someone with your own interests in mind who you trust (and I do think I trust the solicitor's mother, at least to keep an eye on things, she's obviously the perfect person for that) -- and then I headed out of town on the first train.

    I suppose I could have written, but after all that, and not being able to track him down at all... and the note had an address on it, and I just wanted to be sure.

    The truly vexing thing is I'm still not sure. I found Sam, no friend from the continent in sight, but I suppose she might have left before him since he was going to leave that night. The staff person I talked to wouldn't tell me anything, even when I begged and explained everything, it just made her stiffer and more determined to snub me for being an excitable nitwit who wasn't even staying at her hotel. I thought about checking in and then trying again with the status of a guest, but it didn't seem quite worth it.

    Anyway, Sam! He was there, and he was fine, which is the important thing, but I do think something seemed off when I talked to him. It may have just been that he thought I was overreacting in coming to find him, though he did seem to understand when I told him about people disappearing, but I don't know.

    But he's coming to visit next week now, and he absolutely promised that he would be there early this time to make up for all the worry, and that if he wasn't he would tell someone where he was going to be.

    So that's everything settled, and I came back by the next train. I do so love the muggle world, especially their trains. I know it's not nearly as convenient as the floo or apparating, for you lucky people who can do those things, but I don't think either of those could be nearly as fun as a train, where you can sit and look out the window and watch the whole world going by. And relax, because you're on your way and there's nothing to do until you get there. It is so relaxing, there's really nothing else like it. And you never know who will sit near you so you can talk to them.

    I talked about embroidery with the dearest woman, and I don't think she guessed that I don't know a thing about embroidery. But she was happy to talk to someone who was interested and listening, and only worried about her granddaughter who seemed to be having some sort of trouble at school, I didn't quite catch the whole story. I kept being distracted thinking about how nice it is that muggles don't know about the war, since you mentioned that in your letter it was at the top of my mind just waiting to be thought about, and I think it's wonderful.

    But that reminds me, you're not overworked, are you? You seemed, oh, I know, now I'm thinking everyone seems off, but I don't want you to think that you can't tell me everything, because I would hate it if you were shielding me and I know sometimes I don't like to think about things, but that's a dreadful habit and I don't really mean it. And if you ever want to tell me anything you should tell me and I'll think about it no matter what. You know that, don't you? Like muggles. I suppose you think of them as them, since you're a witch with magic and went to Hogwarts and all that, so you can. It'd be hard for you not to, but really, they're all the nicest people imaginable, except the ones that aren't, but then, wizards are like that too. And it's splendid that they have a whole world that's too big for us to mess up with our wars, and so comforting when I'm worried to think that it'll always be there if I need to get away.

    But you were talking about being insignificant, and what I think (I have thought about it a little, but not very much, it's so hard to think about and it doesn't really matter, does it? Would you stop doing what you do because it's insignificant? I wouldn't, I'm really quite sure I wouldn't, because then what would I do?) But what I think is that everyone is insignificant, but not to the people who love them. And not to the people they talk to randomly on a train either, and so that's the only way of being significant, by touching other people's lives and caring. Or not caring and being horrible to people, but that's the wrong way round and if horrible people would just realize that, everything would be much better.

    And I know that's simplistic, especially after the war, but if everyone believes that the war was more real than hope it'll keep making everything horrible. It's much better to think of little things that are worthwhile than big things that fall apart. Oh, I wish I could say that so it sounded right, but you know what I mean, don't you?

    And speaking of personal and very important things, you're still coming to visit, aren't you? I've completely lost track, when were you coming? You're not going to put it off because you've been ill, are you? Don't let Syd tell you you should, because it's really very restful here, and you can sit down by the ocean and pretend you're really on holiday instead of just visiting my rundown castle (you're confusing Syd by calling it that, did you know? It's really quite amusing, though I suppose it's not very nice of me to think it's very satisfying that he's the one who's confused for once.)

    Oh! And the horrors are going to be in London for I think a couple of weeks, so if you come while they're gone, that would be perfect. I don't know if it's anything to do with Gunther or anything to do with something else, they won't talk.

    And ironically, as soon as I wrote that Acantha came in and wants to talk to me about something (but not that, you can be sure!), and I think that's everything important anyway, so I'll go now.

    Be well, and take care of yourself, you will be careful, won't you? Don't let people bother you.

    Yours as always,
    Monday, March 16th, 2009
    10:43 pm
    4 April 1982
    Viv, darling!

    I'm so sorry it's been a few days. I've pined for you terribly, and told Syd twenty times how silly he was being but he said the world could get along without me for a couple days. I'm not sure I like the implication there, that I'm not the absolute most important person in the world. Aren't I supposed to be, to him at the very least? I very nearly attempted escape, but he was always about and I was a bit well, it doesn't hurt to give a man his way every once in a while. I suppose. Just so long as he doesn't start getting used to it, that is. That wouldn't do at all.

    I'm not sure all that rest was restful, to be honest. There were so many things to do that just lying there thinking about them was dreadfully tiring. But it was that or risk being sat on. I'm fairly certain he would have sat on me, too, and he's not exactly light as a feather.

    He said to give his apologies, by the way, for being a bit brusque. He wouldn't say why - he's keen on privacy these days, it seems. Why, he actually told me you sent him two owls while I was "bedridden" and then refused to show them to me! He claimed they were his correspondence. His correspondence, and reading it behind his back was against the law and rude besides, and anyway, it wasn't as if I ever told him what my correspondence said. I think he's a bit sulky from turning away visitors. No one as important as you, my love - I wouldn't let him turn you away for the world if you'd come - but a few people did come by to chat or to pick something up from me, and he was a bit annoyed when he came back. The poor man. He doesn't do well with company, and I gather there were quite a few people the first day. It died down a bit after that, I suppose everyone spread the word that I was out for the count, or down, or whatever the phrase is.

    But whatever the reason, he said to give you his best, and no hard feelings about... whatever. I do think it's unreasonable of him to not tell me what my dearest friend said, or if you fought. The only thing he did let slip was something about Acantha, and I'm sure he must be mistaken about that - I told him, no Syd, it's not Acantha that's missing, you're thinking of Sam, and he said, I'm not stupid you know, Sam doesn't sound anything like Acantha what sort of silly mistake would that be to confuse the two? And he looked like he was going to say something else besides but he shut his mouth in time and I'd be quite mad to know what it was if it weren't for the fact that, well, I am pretty sure he was confusing them.

    I went back to the salon today, and everyone was very nice. I walked again, too - no sign of Madamoiselle of the Cafe, sadly. And it wasn't raining, so I shan't take ill again, even as briefly and unimpairably as I was this time.

    But enough about me, my love. How are you? How is your house? How is your ankle? How is your ghost? How are your neighbours, and have you met them yet? And of course I ask this, I'd hardly be a friend if I didn't, how is your John? I've been wild to hear from you since April played its little trick on me, and nearly snuck a bit of parchment to bed with me while Syd wasn't looking, but I do like my sheets and I've never been good at removing stains so I refrained in the end.

    I feel like I'm forgetting something, but I'm not sure if it's something I'm supposed to do or something I'm supposed to ask you. But if it's for you I'll just write you again and if it's something I must do I guess it will just have to wait! (Peaches? Something about peaches? I have no idea, really.)

    I am, Madam,
    Your Moste Humble Servante,
    5:12 pm
    1 April 1982
    Dear Sydney (not in the least bit beastly anymore),

    How was I to know that you'd mind so very much being called a beast? Why it's practically a term of endearment (for Cassie's sake, I do think you're a dear, truly I do). Really, if I'd wanted to be rude I could do so much better than that, but I hardly ever do want to be rude, and even then I usually refrain, so I apologize most sincerely for the misunderstanding.

    And thank you for telling me about Cassie. I'm sure you're taking absolutely splendid care of her, and no doubt I should have seen that from the first letter but I was too too worried to read straight. I do think you ought to understand, just pretend you're off somewhere and awful things keep happening and then you hear that Cassie is ill. See, I do know she's your Cassie too (at least, as much as she's anyone's Cassie but her own, but since she likes feeding you and such I suppose that makes her yours so long as you're hers too).

    As for Jake, I'm sure it's nice of you to think of it (actually, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm assuming the best, truly, and I don't think you can ask for more than that, all things considered), but I have such a hard time not making silly mistakes with you, so I do wonder if your friends would be just as difficult to get on with. And I've had enough of people who are hard to get on with lately, I promise you, but I am trying. I suppose you'll just have to tell me if I've said anything that turns out to be dreadfully offensive, though you might consider the fact that the world is not made up entirely of blokes, which I would have thought was completely obvious but I can't make any sense of judging Cassie and I by the standard of two blokes if you don't think something of the sort. Really, can't you see how terribly silly that is?

    (Oh! And don't tell Cassie I said that (about Jake, I mean, and your friends), I wouldn't want her to think I was doubting her judgment, and I'm not, I'm sure your friend is a perfectly splendid fellow but -- oh, there's a very big but, but on further reflection I don't think it's any of your business what I think about men and happiness and how Markus still pops right into my mind when I.

    I was thinking about answering all your questions, but on rereading your letter I don't think I must write any more, and you could always ask Cassie. And I have quite enough to do what with Sam and now Acantha too (though I don't think she's really missing, that would be absurd, and it hasn't even been a day, and that's what I told Jasper, but he didn't pay any attention to me until Dardanos came in on my side, which was such a pleasant surprise you simply can't imagine).

    Anyway, do take care of Cassie.

    Yours sincerely,
    Sunday, March 15th, 2009
    1:11 pm
    April 1, 1982

    God's sake, I don't know what's so beastly about me writing to tell you she's ill. Especially not so you have to be rude about it. Would you prefer I didn't write at all? Not that it'd make any great difference if I hadn't, she'll be all well in a day or two with no ill effects but she was all stubborn about apologizing to you for whatever awfulness she wrote the day before. Was it all that bad? She kept going on like it was, all "darling Viv" this and "my poor love" that and so on, but she does that. At least she does the exaggeration. Does she always pet-name people to death or is it just you? Fancy a couple of men doing that back and forth, I know you're good old friends but really.

    And I don't see what so terrible of me telling you about Jake either, especially since I didn't go on and on. I wrote maybe two sentences about him and they were very to the point. No reason to go on and on, it's Cassie that wants to set you up not me. I just thought I'd mention it since I was writing already. I'm very sorry if that offended you so much, I'll let Jake know not to get his hopes up.

    But if you absolutely must have details this minute, so badly you have to send my owl back gasping for breath, here you go. She's sick but it's not life threatening by any stretch, she's got a bit of fever and some chills, nothing like those burnups you women think are so romantic, it's not like she's delusional or babbling or anything. She's been mooning about in the damp apparently, said something about walking to work the other day, and just caught a touch of something. I'm not a doctor or one of your healers, but she'll be right as rain again in a couple days as long as no one harasses her with questions about how poorly she feels or tries to make her go into the salon, like they don't have plenty of other women to cut hair. She insisted on the dictation because I insisted she stay in bed and sleep, and I insisted that because I knew she'd just be up and about running errands in the rain if I didn't practically tie her down. And I didn't tie her down, in case you're wondering. But it was a near thing, she kept saying she was perfectly fine and needed to do something for her aunt and uncle, like she doesn't do more than her share already. And if I hadn't stayed home from work that day she probably would've just gone on and downplayed it as not sleeping well the night before and overworked herself. So you see you don't need to come back to nurse her back to health or prove your love or anything, she's my Cassie too and I've got it perfectly under control.

    What's all this about disappearances anyway? Is that Sam you're talking about the dancey one Cassie mentions sometimes? I think I met him once? Doesn't seem like the sort of bloke who'd go missing, he's probably off in a pub somewhere, drunk off his arse on sherry. He seemed the light-drinking-hard-drinking type. If it's the bloke I remember. Might not be.

    I don't know about castles being dreary, Hogwarts was nice enough even in winter. But I guess they had all kind of charms and things up to help it, yours probably doesn't. When'd you get that, anyway? I thought you were dirt poor. Oh wait, I think she said something about an inheritance once, but I'm never sure what she's being serious about so if it sounds outlandish or romantic I write it off as a joke. It sounds like a joke.

    And I'm not jealous, though yes, I did notice you don't like me very much thanks and I still don't see why. But there's no real reason to be jealous when I'm here and you're there, is there? Even if you are always fawning like that.

    Write again if you must, but don't expect to hear from Cassie again for a couple days. She could be just fine tomorrow, but I'd still make her sleep to get her strength back after, for all I know she's been feeling tired for a week and just never thought to mention it. None of that on my watch, thanks.

    Sydney Shepherd,
    most assuredly not a beast
    6:20 pm
    1 April 1982
    Dear Sydney (you beast!)

    Have you ever wondered why sometimes I don't like you? You must have noticed, and if you haven't Cassie may have pointed it out to you, because Cassie is so good at noticing things, especially when it's among people she cares about. And it does no good to pretend these sorts of things don't happen, does it? One can sometimes rather dislike the man in the life of one's dearest friend and relative, while still noticing that that they somehow, quite mysteriously manage to rub along rather well together, can't one?

    But that's neither here nor there. The question is whether you've noticed, and even if you haven't, I think you've probably got the point by now that it is in fact the case that sometimes I rather dislike you. (But don't worry, it's not all the time. Only sometimes. Like now!) And if you're wondering why, this is it. That letter! What kind of a letter is that? First you say Cassie is ill, and then you don't say anything about how ill she is or what kind of illness it is or anything at all except that she's staying in bed and resting and can't even dictate a full letter, which I wouldn't think would take any effort at all really, and I wish I had someone to dictate my letters to, though I suppose I could try the house elf. I hesitate to think what would happen to my correspondence if I did, but I suppose I could try.

    But I can't tell if it's you or Cassie telling me not to come (not that I'd listen to either of you if it wasn't for Sam still being missing and I feel it's my duty to track him down no matter how long it takes). But if this lasts any longer than a day or two, of course I'll come. As if I'd let my dearest friend and relative be seriously ill in London and stay here, no matter what was going on here. (And not that it matters (you are rather easily distracted, aren't you?), but I happen to own a country house. It may possibly qualify as a stately home, but only if you stretch things a little. It's definitely not a castle. That would be quite dreary, don't you think? All that stone, so cold.)

    But returning to the subject at hand, which is your excessively dreadful letter, after failing to tell me anything pertinent about Cassie, you then write on and on about a friend of yours, as if I care about men when my dearest Cassie is ill.

    Oh dear. I suppose if you think it's a bad idea (and you're there and I'm not, more's the pity) I won't write her (are you jealous? please don't be so silly, I swear, men) But I do expect you to write back with more details. Please? I won't come right away, but you can't think how awful it is being stuck here with people disappearing all round me and then getting ill in London and I can't believe Cassie is ill. She's never ill. Not even when I had mono for months when we were young and she was right there in the same house and never got a thing except for a fever for one evening. And she's so strong, and she always knows what to do. She can't really be ill, can she?

    Please write. I'm terribly worried.

    Yours sincerely,
    Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
    6:21 pm
    1 April 1982

    I’m writing today to apologize about the awful letter I sent you last night. It was just so dreary and unpleasant and I don’t know where it came from. Except that apparently I’m sick if how I feel today is any indication so that’s that at least. And actually I’m having Syd write since he refuses to let me get out of bed, so I’m dictating even though I swear it’s not as bad as that makes it sound. She’s lying. So that explains the change in handwriting. I hope you don’t worry when you see it’s from Syd and think I’m on my deathbed or something, because I’m really fine and Syd is just being a completely reasonable man. Don’t worry about me my love and don’t leave your castle? on my account.

    I’m dying to see the skirt you bought, and I want to hear all about the wizard neighbours when you meet them. I must say it’s very inconsiderate of them not to have welcomed you by now as long as its been. And do let me know if I can do anything to help you find or get a hold of Sam, I’m not too sick to do that in a few days when she looks better.

    I’m making her rest now. Have you been making her morbid? She said something about ghosts. Although your lot gets to see them pretty often I guess, so maybe that’s not that morbid after all. Where are you, anyway? I never hear a thing about you or what you’re doing with yourself but she rushes to the owl as soon as he gets back because she hopes you’ve written her. I wish she was that excited to see me every day.

    You’re in a castle? Really? Or was that one of Cassie’s jokes?

    Oh that reminds me, she said something about my friend Jake and how we should set you two up. Said she’d already mentioned him to you and wanted to know if he did crossword puzzles for some reason. He doesn’t, but I don’t see why that matters. I don’t do them either and she likes me just fine. Plays the piano a bit, if that makes any difference. Good bloke.

    Don’t write her back for a few days if you can stand to wait, if you get back to her right away she’ll want to go through the whole dictation thing again and I’d rather she just rested up really.

    Sydney Shepherd
    and Cassie at the beginning

    PS, just realized the day but no, this isn't a prank. Stupid prank if it was anyway.
    Friday, February 6th, 2009
    9:59 pm
    31 March 1982
    Viv, I miss my hair. I never thought I'd say it because it's not like I appreciated it when I had it or anything like that, but I miss it. Do you want to know why? I'll tell you anyway. I was heading to work today (I've been walking, it's such good exercise and it's not very far) and I saw a girl with my colour hair and the texture and everything at a cafe sitting outside. I don't know why she was sitting outside, I think she must have been mad personally because it was drizzly and unpleasant, but. But. But! She had her hair half up in the exact style I used to do it, except I think she actually had something holding the braid in instead of just letting it unravel lazily at the end, which was very commendable of her I'm sure. She was sitting with her head slightly away from the awning with a book safely under it at arms length, and she was reading it and the droplets in her curls were just so pretty that I had a pang. And I wanted to chop her locks off and make them into a nice little wig for my personal use, but I refrained because I think that's against the law. Or if it isn't it should be. I am a demented maniac sometimes, and should be locked up, as opposed to all the charming, friendly undemented maniacs you meet who aren't a danger to society, or at least society's coiffure. Which is rather hilarious, all things considering.

    I didn't attack her, so you know. In case you were wondering. I did gaze at her a teensy bit too long, though. Why is it our society doesn't allow us to look at people? Even people who aren't perfect strangers! It's not fair that my favourite past-time is considered creepy by the vast majority of our culture. It would be perfectly all right if I were artistic and they were paying me to make a likeness of them, but if I'm painting the portrait in my head that's not acceptable because it's liable to disturb people.

    Anyway, she looked up and I went along and I'm still shorn and torn about it. It's stupid because I could have it again, and I wouldn't even have to wait. It's easy enough to charm your hair out. It's not very healthy to do it too often, but it's a very simple charm and you only have to do it the once (although you have to make sure you stop it properly). But I wouldn't take care of it. I didn't before, and I know a good deal more about taking care of it now, it's true, but I'm so abominably lazy when it comes to my personal appearance that it's best to keep things as out of the way as possible (Yes, I know that's silly and hypocritical of me, but I never claimed to practice what I preach. Or did I?). And that includes hair, unfortunately, much as I miss the curls sometimes.

    Please don't tell Syd I thought about growing/charming it out again. He's only just getting used to this still, and I think he misses my femininity even if he won't admit it to my face.

    And Sam. I hate to say it because he'd gloat if he knew, but I'm worried too. I know it's only Sam and he's not likely to be a target like the Longbottoms were, because really, what could he possibly know? And it's been months since anything like that happened. But it had been a month and a bit then too, and it... well. I didn't really know them, just of them, but it was still awful. I don't think that's likely to happen again though, is it? I can't think it would. It's been longer this time, and surely anything that's likely to happen would have happened by now. Any repercussions or what have you, anyway.

    I saw Janet the other day, but she never said a word about you. I wonder why? It's not close enough to your birthday to be planning a party, and even if it was I'm sure they'd tell me so I could ruin everything.

    I'm sorry. Am I being too flip? You know how Auntie always accuses me of being so. It's difficult to turn off. I am worried, you know I am. I just can't hold the expression for long, at least not after doing it all through the war. And London. All right, it hasn't changed. Not much, anyway. But if it changed too much it wouldn't be London, would it? At least, not the London I'm used to. I think it will someday. Muggle London is lovely already, I take walks around it just to see how normal everyone is. Can you believe most of them didn't have a clue about the war? Except for the ones with wizards in the family, they just thought all the attacks were random and unconnected. That must have been nice to not dread anything except perhaps the sudden insane crime rate. Or was it worse to not know what was going on? Did not knowing what to fear make them fear everything? It doesn't seem that way. It seems like we could have all killed ourselves without them hardly noticing. Do you think we're really that unimportant in the great scheme of things, Viv? I know they outnumber us by a ridiculous amount, but do you think that if we all died they'd just think we were some strange cult and then move on with their lives as if nothing ever happened? We're so disconnected, really. I never realized until Syd, but we really don't mingle. And we ought to do.

    Morbid. Sorry again. It's been a bad day, I have to admit. People rushing in and out of the salon all day today making silly demands of me, and then who should appear near the end of my shift but that horrible Jeanne Hopkins. I hated her in school and I hate her still, and so of course she had to come and harass me at work where I can't even slit her throat with a pair of scissors without getting fired. Customer service my appendix. She has it coming to her. She's dating a boy (not a man, a boy, he's a complete imbecile which makes them a charming couple of course) who's a clerk in the Wizengamot so naturally she knows all about poor Gunther and naturally she only bothers to talk about the things that make him look guilty.

    I won't go into detail. My hands are still shaking too hard and I'd rip the parchment and end up having to write everything all over again and probably shatter my inkwell against the wall. Wouldn't it make a lovely smash? And the stain would be horrific too. But suffice to say I've had three cups of tea since I got home and I'm strongly inclined to buy a pack of fags. Why did I ever quit smoking?

    The worst part is that Hopkins is such a horrible gossip. I don't want everyone to know what happened. I suppose it might'nt be such a great deal - there are so many cases like his that maybe he'd get lost in the whole disgusting mess. I think he'd prefer that, and I'm sure Auntie and Uncle would as well. I think I would too. They don't need this. None of us do. Especially as Gunther is not guilty.

    I'm sorry, that was longer than I expected. Don't worry about borrowing Rupert, especially to help in the search for Sam. Is there anything I can do? I'm a little more able to move around, you know, that makes me an excellent resource. And it will give me an excuse to avoid relatives for awhile. I'd feel sorry for leaving Syd to fend them off, but he's fine, he never even answers the door if I'm not home unless he's ordered takeaway. That's the nice thing about being in love with a muggleborn and he with you, they know how to work things like telephones.

    Not-Mary sounds like a nice little thing, and I wonder how Dardanos managed to get her. He's certainly not nice. I hope he doesn't browbeat her. He wouldn't lay a hand on a woman, at least not if he's still the Dardanos I know and know, but unintentional emotional bullying would be very like him.I hope I can meet her when I come visit.

    I don't like the sound of "Gorgeous in that restrained way". I like the name Albert, but not the description (although I'm sure it's apt). Ghosts have no business being attractive, especially ones on your property. Are you sure you didn't imagine him? Not that your boathouse (Was it a boathouse? I can't find your earlier letter to check.) isn't capable of housing ghosts, but he could have some kind of awful tragic story and then you'd have to go fall in love with him, and that could be rather awkward at family get-togethers. Although that would make my choice in a love look more reputable, which is a point in Albert's favour.

    Merlin, this is a dull letter. I'd tear it up and rewrite, but I haven't the energy to-day. Good night, my love, and may flights of angels sing you to your sleep or something along those lines. I told you I'm not meant to be an actress.

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008
    9:48 pm
    30 March 1982
    Dear Cassie,

    I know you won't mind (you won't mind, will you? I'm afraid it's an emergency, but if you do mind I promise I'll never do it again), but I've borrowed Rupert to deliver some very important messages. I'd send them from the owl office in the village, but I've already done that and I haven't heard anything back, and there's something about common village owls that seems so unreliable. And it's so hard to know which one to pick. I usually like to pick the one that looks the cleverest, but when I'm sending important messages (not that all my messages aren't important, but you know), I wondered if that was truly the best idea, or if I ought to pick the strongest. And then I decided to pick both, and send two messages, but since I haven't heard back from anyone I wonder if I should have picked the fastest. And no matter which I pick, with strange owls it's so hard to be absolutely confident that it'll be able to find the people you need to owl, much less do it quickly and wait for replies and so on.

    But I have no doubts about Rupert, which is why I've borrowed him without leave. Don't be angry! When he gets back I'll give him extra treats and let him rest before I send him back to you, which means that I have plenty of time to explain what's gone wrong.

    Though you can probably guess: it's Sam. He's still not here, and I'm dreadfully worried. It's not at all like Sam to be three days late; it's not much like Sam to be one day late, but I was willing to forgive him for that, and settle for throwing china at him when he got here (someone has to do something about all the dreadful china in this place) and then making him help Dardanos in the garden for a day or two (which would be punishment enough for anything), but after three days one starts to think there must be something wrong. And to worry that maybe the war isn't quite so tidily over as everyone thought, but why would anyone start with Sam? I'm sure it would make sense to somebody, but I'm far too bewildered to work it out. And too busy, writing letters here and there, to Sam (returned undelivered) and then to Janet and Pat, who haven't written me back, the wretches. I really can't believe that they've disappeared too. That would be too much.

    I even got Acantha to try to get hold of some of Sam's friends by floo, but the only one she got to was Robert, and after she talked to him she had such a look on her face! Lips together and eyes bulging -- I don't think she appreciated him at all. I would have laughed, but I was too worried. (Oh very well, I lie. I did laugh, but only after she stormed out, and I only laughed a little tiny bit. See, I do have tact.)

    And then Rupert arrived just in time for me to appropriate him, so I dashed off a couple more notes and dispatched them forthwith. And then I started writing to you before even reading your letter, so now I shall, because I simply cannot think of another thing to do on the matter of Sam, and it's making my head hurt. And my ankle, though I don't know why because it's not as if I've been tearing around after him, I only went in to town several dozen times to go to the owl office, and I took a cab every time (which reminds me, I really must do something especially nice for my neighbors with the phone, they've been absurdly patient with me, and they're such dear people in any case. Do you think they'd like a crate of ancient firewhiskey? I found out I have some in the cellar, it's probably been there for decades, but I'm convinced that makes it better. But I don't know a thing about firewhiskey.)

    Cassie! Has it really been three weeks? It can't have been. I know it seems like forever, but I thought that was just because the horrors are such bad company and the house is so horrid and the town is so dull. Even a day was forever. But if you say so it must be true, and I didn't even realize I was almost free!

    Though to be fair (I don't know why I should be fair, they're never fair to me, but to be fair), I will admit that Acantha has been positively bearable ever since I told her she could do whatever she wants about the neighborhood social events (and I do wonder if the spring picnic she mentioned is going to be soon -- I don't suppose she could neglect to invite me, since I do happen to own the place, and while the wizarding neighbors are probably all horrors too, I am just a smidgen curious. After all, the solicitor and his mother are complete dears. No, I take that back. The solicitor is, and his mother is just the sort of woman you want on your side.

    But the real and important question is, is London truly any better? I know, it's not so dull and even if people are horrible, there are more of them, but even you would have to admit that it's not very pleasant lately. Please don't tell me it's changed, because you know I hate to doubt you on anything, but if you were to say that, I'm afraid I wouldn't believe you. It may have been forever, but it hasn't been that long. (Speaking of which, how is London lately? And ... everything. Don't tell me unless you want, but don't not tell me if you do want.)

    Which is my excuse for not flying the moment I can. Though truly, I don't think I could afford it. It would be too much to expect that the house would sell the moment I put it on the market, and I couldn't possibly go away and leave the horrors alone here while I'm trying to sell it. Merlin knows what they'd do!

    Besides which, the more I think about it the more I think I deserve a summer by the sea. If I can just get a few more things settled to my liking, and the horrors a bit more resigned to me, it will be perfect here. And restful, which I desperately need. Though I'm probably being overly optimistic, as it certainly hasn't been restful so far, with having to deal with the horrors, and John, and especially with Sam disappearing. At least some of that is surely not my fault.

    I think your angelic Alice sounds restful too, which may be a sign that my judgment is shot. Anything but disappearing friends sounds restful. (Oh, I don't like to say it, but I am worried. I'm in my room with the door locked, and I still jump a foot whenever the house creaks, which it does constantly because it's old.)

    The ghost was more of an Albert than a Charleston. Respectable, but lacking something in the animation department. But also gorgeous in that restrained way. That, you must know, is why I was staring like such a ninny.

    If anyone is going to hex the ministry fellow, it's me, and since I can't, we'll just have to be sensible and not do a thing about it. It wasn't the poor bloke's fault, really. You know some people can't help being unbearably stupid, and the best thing to do is to leave them alone lest it rub off. (No, I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not.)

    If I'm picky (and I don't admit it, not even a little bit, because really, one must have standards, as our dear Aunt would say, though of course I mean it in an entirely different sense), it's because I know exactly what I don't want, and I don't think that's a flaw. Perhaps I shall die an old maid, but I won't be unhappy, because I have you, and I have friends, and you can bring Jacob with you when you come to visit me over the summer if you'd like.

    I will look into the hiring of donkeys the next time I'm in town.

    Cassie, you are the most admirable person I know, but modesty does not become you. You know you're wonderful. Admit it!

    What else? I haven't seen John. Oh, now Rupert is back, the dear, looking as eager as ever, but I think I should let him rest before I send him back to you. I have a funny story to tell you, but it won't take long.

    Yesterday when I was going to the owl office -- it's behind a somewhat muggle shop at the edge of the wizarding part of town (the proprietor is a witch, but she sells muggle stuff and lets muggles in, but they all look a bit bemused and leave again quickly -- but even so, it's an odd place) -- I saw Dardanos's fiancée, whose name escapes me at the moment but I'm fairly sure it's not Mary. She was looking at the robes in the window with such a wistful expression on her face. So I said hello and pulled her in to try things on. I thought it would be a lovely distraction, and it was.

    After an couple of hours, I'd got her to try on most everything in the shop in her size, and most of it didn't suit her at all, but there was one jacket, the perfect weight for spring, and it fit her like it was bespoke, so of course I told her she had to buy it. And she looked nervous and said that she didn't think she could, because it was a muggle style.

    I laughed and said no one would know, but she just shook her head. We were quite friends by that point (not friends, but friends, you know), so it didn't feel wrong at all for me to ask her why she'd been looking then, because the whole shop was filled with muggle clothing. And she looked around to make sure no one could hear, and then told me in a lower voice that it was so cheap, and it was hard to find anything comparable in the wizarding shops.

    So I told her that in that case, she should buy the jacket and a blouse too, but she shook her head and said she should be going and scurried out. After all that, she didn't buy a thing. So I bought some a lovely blue skirt because someone had to buy something. It is a lovely skirt.

    And now Rupert is looking at me, quizzical and quite energetic, so I'll quit writing and let him take this back to you.

    As always,
    Sunday, November 9th, 2008
    1:43 pm
    30 March 1982

    Darling, do you realize you've really been out there for three weeks? And do you know how depressing it is to my soul to contemplate that fact? I am happy to know that your probationary month is all but up, though, and I hope you can get the whole business taken care of quickly enough. Maybe you can sell it to someone who'll still let you have your summer by the sea, or let you rent out a room or two for the occasion. A summer by the sea does sound nice now I think about it, so if you manage one of those I will certainly become the house guest that never went away. But still, you being there that long I really don't wonder that you're bored. You brought it upon yourself, my love. Three weeks in such a teeny tiny town! All right, maybe it's not so teeny, but compared with London... Granted, everywhere seems small compared with London, except for Constantinople. Is Constantinople smaller than London? It sounds like it is.

    But no matter. As long as the ceiling doesn't collapse (and it had better not, at least on you... I prefer my darlings whole and unharmed), you'll have to find ways to amuse yourself or draft people to do it for you.

    Speaking of which, has Sam showed up yet? Will I be forced to comb the hills looking for him? I hope not, this is such a depressing time of year to be outdoors. I hope he's appeared and been politely tortured by the horrors long enough to chasten him and that you're now rambling about the place making John the Nicknameless horribly jealous. Even if it is just Sam, I'm sure he can manage to inspire jealousy in somebody.

    It's not as if I don't feel for you, by the way, in your boredom and what-all. I know it's irritating to have nothing to do, but with how busy I've been lately I'd probably not kill, but certainly do a variety of things I don't like very much (and you know how I am about doing things I don't like very much) for a spare afternoon or so to laze around in. I'm as sympathetic as I can be, but I'm still oozing envy all over this parchment. It will probably be olive green by the time I'm done.

    You know, if the ceiling did collapse you could probably get John to fix it. Maybe you could stuff Acantha's face through a wall or something, I'm sure it could only improve her hair and hardly anything could worsen her disposition. Two birds with one stone, yes? Isn't it clever of me to fix all your problems for you? I'm sure I don't understand John's attitude, though when I told Syd about it he sighed at you. Really, he is such a man sometimes. And he didn't even explain what you'd done, just acted like it was utterly obvious which of course it wasn't because men never make sense unless you're telling them what to do. And they have the nerve to say we're confusing. But I don't at all understand why he'd refuse help, I mean I can see that he wouldn't want charity or what have you because some people do have their pride (like Kitty, as we all know!) and it can be a very low feeling to have people just hand you the basic essentials of life, but there's such a difference between that and giving them a chance to earn things themselves. And besides, you're a darling and everyone should just accept everything you give them, because it's always invariably right.

    And I hope you dented Jasper's head.

    I'm sure little Alice would be perfectly delightful coming from such a heavenly couple as me and Syd, but Mum would probably say it'd serve me right if I got a little monster (because I may be an angel with Syd, but I know I'm not even close to by myself). But she'd at least look sweet, because Syd's adorable and I'm quite pretty (It's not vain to say it and I won't believe it if Aunt Philippa says so in a voice like the trump of God, we're just a good-looking family! Even Auntie's very handsome for her age.) and I think our looks would distill pretty nicely into a little girl. Especially if she got his eyelashes, I've never thought it fair how lovely eyelashes are so often wasted on men who don't appreciate them. But you may as well start learning to crochet now, especially if you are so bored, because from what Leslie told me it takes forever to learn to make anything that doesn't look ridiculous. Of course this is Leslie, who is something of a disaster when it comes to these things.

    Are you sure the ghost was a he, though? And what do you think of the name Charleston for him? Too reputable? Should we go with Dirty Pete instead? I don't really like the thought of you having a male ghost, Viv, for some reason they seem so much more malicious than the females. Even if they can't do much of anything, being, well. All misty and such, and not having bodies. Maybe I'm not sure it's a ghost and not just some hobo come in off the street. That does happen, and it rarely ever ends well. I don't want you all to be murdered in your beds, that's all. Or at least not you, it can have Jasper and Acantha. I'm still trying to decide on Dardanos, if he does have a nice, silly little fiancee it would be a shame to hurt her and an even bigger shame to break them up. Dardanos of all people needs a little silliness in his home life.

    My headache is better, I followed Auntie's expertly Victorian advice and it was gone by the end of the day. Syd seemed to like the break too, I'm afraid I have too many people over for the poor thing to handle sometimes.

    I know I've said it before, but I don't think you behaved that dreadfully, whatever the rest say. Maybe it was a teeny bit dreadful, but not nearly as bad as they make it out to be. And especially after the way you'd been treated and the way things were going for the family in general. I'm really just grateful you were alright in the end. Well, actually that's not all I am, I'm also very much in favour of hexing that Ministry fellow with something that lasts for days, but I don't like being arrested and I've never been good at making spells stick for long. It would be very satisfying, though. Would you like me to hex him for you after all? I could do it in a small crowd so there's no telling where it came from. Or I could wear a wig, I have just the hair for stuffing into long wigs now and there's a lovely muggle shop opened two blocks over that sells them.

    I don't know if Jacob does crosswords. I think perhaps he could make you laugh? It's so hard to be certain when I haven't seen the two of you together, but he is a very nice boy and it would be lovely to see you happy with someone again. And he's got a great deal of conviction about these blood and magic and squib issues, which is very important these days... so much of that got turned on its head during the war, and if he wasn't ruined that shows he has principles. And he's a very good speaker too, he explained his ideas so clearly I understood his meaning perfectly. Perhaps it could work? At least if you try not to be so picky as I know you can be. You are a darling, and that is probably your only fault but it's there you know.

    I can do the red sparkles, and they're very red and sparkly. Though they might not work well if it does rain, but I'm not letting you out if it's pouring anyway so that shouldn't matter. It would probably be good for you to get the flare anyway, in case you're wandering around alone. And the donkey too, if you can hire one for the day.

    I don't think I'm all that admirable, to be honest. I'm such a silly thing a lot of the time, and I feel I should like being responsible. I wish you c And you're too hard on yourself, Viv. I'm not nearly as good at staying in motion as you, you have so much more energy and life. You were named well, my love - or maybe your name made you the way you are? There are both schools of thought in naming, and I'm never sure which to believe in, but very well. I've got some things to finish u, so I'll hurry and send this along so you can (hopefully!) enjoy it and send another back and we can continue the lovely cycle and thereby enrich both our lives. I hope Sam comes quickly and relieves you from your boredom as you desire and deserve, and I'll see you myself in a fortnight.

    Sunday, October 19th, 2008
    9:17 pm
    28 March 1982
    Dear Cassie,

    I am loath to admit to such a shocking occurrence, but there's simply no help for it. I must tell you: I am so bored.

    How did that happen? I'm never bored. I'm not made to be bored, I'm made to be in motion, and yet here I am sitting down to write to you without a single thought in my head about what to tell you about except that I am so bored.

    Let me tell you about being bored: at this lovely but unfortunately dull moment in time, I have nothing to do, no where to go, no one annoying me (the horrors are out visiting the neighbors, and they did ask me if I wanted to go with them, but I would rather be here and bored than out with them so I don't regret telling them no, not even a little), and I am not in pain in any way. I'm slightly worried that something annoying is about to happen (because it would at a moment like this, you know it would), but only slightly because the horrors are out and I saw the house elf polishing the silver, it looked positively engrossed in making sure every little bit of tarnish was eliminated -- and I can't think how anyone else could even get to this room to annoy me.

    So unless the ceiling collapses on me, I think I'm safe.

    But did I mention I am bored?

    I wish you were here (not because I wish you were bored too, but because if you were here, of course I wouldn't be bored.) Or Sam! It's very inconvenient of him, he was supposed to be here yesterday at 3:00 (three o'clock precisely, he said), but he must have got lost or changed his mind or forgot he was coming to visit me or truly I don't know what, but something, because I waited for him all afternoon and he didn't come. So just before dinner I went down to the train station to make sure he wasn't there expecting me to pick him up, and when I'd finished chatting with the bloke in the window about the unfortunate scarcity of trains, and then admired pictures of his granddaughter (don't ask me how it got to that point, because I simply couldn't tell you) I decided to skip dinner at home (I'd been planning on having Sam around for comfort and I couldn't face the horrors without him).

    So I went to the tea shoppe and picked up John and we went out to dinner. He found us a funny little restaurant down by the beach to eat at. He said it's an absolute zoo in summer, but it's not summer yet and we were the only ones in the little room where they put us -- us and three empty tables and a view of the surf, the waves coming in and the waves going out, fovever and ever amen. Of course, it was dark so we couldn't actually see them coming in, but we could still hear them when the wind was low. And there was a fire in the corner, so it was a cozy and very intimate and I enjoyed it very much, right up until the bill came.

    I'd remembered half way though eating that I'd forgotten to bring any muggle money with me (the cab driver made a bit of a fuss but agreed I could pay him next time, and then I forgot about it again). But I thought I could get John to pay -- truly I thought he'd probably want to pay. He's such a delightfully in-charge sort of bloke, and in-charge sorts of blokes so often like to pay for things, and fix things, and generally make everything easy for me. That's why I like them so much.

    But unfortunately, when the bill came it turned out that he didn't have enough money to pay for both of us, and I wasn't about to try to pay with gold coins (though really, you'd think they'd take them. Galleons are so much more like money than muggle pieces of paper, though I will admit that the paper is easier to fold up and tuck away somewhere.) So John went off to talk to the proprietor and I sat there feeling absolutely mortified, you simply can't imagine. He made some sort of arrangement, I don't know what, and when he came back he was angry. I could tell because he hardly said anything after that and his back was stiff and he almost wouldn't look at me while we were drinking our coffee, even though he was perfectly polite otherwise.

    So when we were done, I steered him down to the beach and I coaxed him until he told me the real problem, which is that he doesn't have a job, and he's living with his sister and helping out at her tea shoppe a bit, and doing odd jobs around town, but she doesn't need that much help and no one needs many odd jobs, so he doesn't have much money. And he doesn't even have his own flat, he's sleeping on her couch. Poor bloke! I could tell he felt terrible about not having a job, because he's the sort that needs to do things.

    And once he'd got over being angry, he seemed so defeated. So then of course I felt even worse than I had about the whole muddle about paying the bill, and I told him I was so sorry (which I was!) and that of course I'd pay for everything in the future, and that I needed a bunch of stuff done to my house (which I don't, at least not by a muggle, but he wasn't to know that).

    And then he got angry again, I'm not at all sure why, and stormed off before I could coax him into being reasonable again. He said he wasn't a charity case, and he wouldn't have me feeling sorry for him. And I tried to tell him that I was only trying to help, but he wouldn't listen.

    So then I was cross with him and I sat down and watched the ocean until he came back all stiff and proper and got me into the cab he'd brought so I wouldn't hurt my ankle more. But he still wouldn't talk to me. I told him we should have dinner again tomorrow and I would pay for everything, and he said NO in such a horrible way that I didn't dare say anything more at all. So I just let him help me into the cab and I came home. And Sam still wasn't there and Jasper wanted me to talk to him about money or something, I wasn't really listening, and I couldn't think so I threw a bunch of galleons at him (the ones I couldn't spend at the muggle restaurant) and escaped while he was ducking.

    (Sooo satisfying, but I really can't afford to do that ever again.)

    And then today I've been waiting for Sam and talking to some of the portraits and being bored and writing to you. I'm going to be extremely mad with Sam when he gets here, making me wait for him like this. If he doesn't show up soon, and with a good excuse, I shall go visit the solicitor's mother, and it will serve him right if I'm not here when he gets here and he has to make polite conversation with the horrors -- for hours!

    If it was last year, I'd think something must have happened, and it would be horrible, but at least we don't have to worry about things like that any more. Or at least we're not supposed to have to worry about things like that any more, but I still wish Sam would show up soon.

    Other than that...I'm sorry I messed up the parentheses in my last letter (and now I've gone back and made sure I didn't do it again, but if I missed any you'll just have to ignore it because I keep getting distracted when I try to count parentheses, I don't know how you do it). And I have been very careful about my ankle lately, although it's horribly tempting to think of hiring a mute Oriental instead of being careful -- but not a eunuch, I'd be forever feeling sorry for the poor thing! Oh dear, and I don't think they have them any more, at least I certainly hope not.

    But if we do decide to go hiking in werewolf infested waters territory, I shall insist that you leave Syd behind with strict instructions to watch constantly to make sure you're not sending up a distress flare. I think you could learn to do that, if you don't know already. With the red sparkles? If not I'll bring a muggle one, I saw one in a shop once and it was dead cheap, so if I could only find that shop again, I'll be quite prepared! Or perhaps we can bring along a little donkey to carry things instead. I do think that would be fun.

    As for what I can ask for from a man? (Yes, I know that was rhetorical, but that doesn't mean I can't answer, because I have the perfect answer.) He must make me laugh. And cry, but only a little, and only sometimes. And good tears. And he must know how to do crosswords, so that we can sit by the fire on a winter's night and I can do crosswords and ask him when I get stuck, and he'll always be able to tell me the answer. So domestic! But I can teach him everything else he'd need to know, if I thought he was worth it.

    And... I know you don't blame me. Sometimes I blame myself. I'd like to be the good daughter, and I know you aren't exactly, but look at you and then look at me and tell me which of us actually belongs somewhere. With responsibilities and everything! Sometimes I admire you so much, Cassie, I could never do it, not if I had half a million years to work up to it. (So that's why I'm not writing Syd to tell him that you need a vacation. Because if I couldn't admire you, then who could I admire? (Only if you see something in my handwriting address to Syd, don't read it! It's very very secret! (But wait, you'd listen to Syd and you won't listen to me! Cassie!

    I shall expect you in two weeks, it will probably be raining but I won't accept that as an excuse.

    When you come we can go hunting for ghosts, but we can't name her Alice because actually the ghost was a disreputable looking he, if I didn't imagine him completely. I think perhaps I did, unless it's Dardanos getting to me. But I can't really remember it properly anymore, I've tried so much to prove myself right that now my mind is nothing but a blur on the subject.

    But you know little Alice would win her grandparents' hearts immediately with her winning ways, if she were to exist. I can imagine her, I think she'd have blue eyes and such a sweet smile. I think I would crochet her little booties, so you must tell me in plenty of time so I can learn to crochet.

    Cassie! Don't tease. You know Markus wouldn't have me any more. He says I behaved dreadfully, and I'm not in the least sorry. And even if he would have me, I'm not sure it was anything but...things were in such a pother during the war, weren't they? I don't know, I do like Markus, I think, but... (Though it is a lowering reflection to think of how many men there are in the world who want nothing to do with me. So I won't think about it. Moving on...!

    Oh! That's all, except to say that I hope your headache has flown, and I hope everything is still bearable in London, and no one has been taxing you too much.

    And Sam still isn't here. Bother that bloke!

    As always,

    P.S. If he ever gets here, No I shall not bring up the pasta incident, thank you very much (though I'm giggling just thinking of it, and thank you for that, I needed a good giggle).
    Sunday, September 7th, 2008
    6:40 pm
    25 March 1982

    The parentheses in your last letter gave me an awful headache, I kept wanting to count them to see if they matched up even though I knew they wouldn't. I did count that one long string, 14 in a row my love! You're lucky I hadn't seen Auntie Philippa today or I'd have probably reamed you for the excess, as if punctuation costs a sickle a pop. But darling! You really do need to be careful, it's not as if you have to hire a mute Oriental eunuch to carry you around at all times but you must be careful of your ankle! You want to be able to do things again someday don't you? Well I certainly do, and I want to do them together and not have to worry about it you can keep up or if we'll have to call for help, which would be absolutely dreadful as I haven't an owl small enough to carry in my pocket and I'm not talented enough to cast a patronus and send word that way. I'd have to leave you for the wolves, my love, the wolves, or werewolves if we happened to be out during a full moon as I'm sure we would with our combined luck, or I'd have to carry you the whole way until I managed to break my ankle in the process. Unless you want Syd or your cousins to be around all the time, but I'm sure you don't.

    I wish I could cast a patronus. I don't suppose it would be all that useful, but it would be fun. Do you remember when we were little and used to guess what our patronuses would look like one day? I think I've changed my mind, I'd rather have a seal than a parrot. Not that either are particularly menacing, but you know.

    It's absolute rubbish their being worried about the risk of you, well, breeding you know. I asked one of Syd's friends who knows about that sort of thing, this very nice boy named Jacob, I do think you should meet him someday, and he said that squibs are rare for a reason, the magic gene is very dominant and there should be no risk at all to anyone with any sense, or even those without. And there was something about female squibs being magic carriers and oh I don't know, it was all very technical and I was tired. But he is a very nice young man, as Aunt Philippa would say but without the horribly boring connotations of being a nice young man in Aunt Philippa's books. He would do a very good job of keeping you fed, and wouldn't need much reminding himself, and what more can you ask from a man who isn't my Syd?

    I don't really blame you for leaving, Viv, you know that don't you? Except for you not being here to entertain me, I do sometimes wish you didn't have control of your own destiny and all that rot. And I'm jealous of Sam, so jealous, though I'm glad you'll have someone there to amuse you. I want to come so badly, really I do, but I always think about it and then I think about all that's going on here and Auntie and Uncle and everyone and I feel like I can't possibly just yet, which is silly because it's not like I'm doing anything that important here. I don't think it's even my ridiculous sense of responsibility, it's just me not wanting to feel guilty if anything catastrophic happens. Maybe you should write Syd in secret and tell him I need a holiday.

    I also envy you your ghost. You should call her Alice, it's such a nice name. That's what I'd name a daughter if I had one, which no, I'm not, nor a son either because I'm not pregnant, alas. I'd rather like to be, you know? Me and Syd would make such adorable little children. And it would utterly horrify the parents, more even than the thought of the theatre or my disgraceful shorn hair, which is always lovely. But no, I'm not, though I'll tell you if that changes.

    Poor Kitty. She really is capable of being nice, so I hear, and even if she's not it's so taxing to have to worry about money. That can make a crab out of even the sweetest people, I daresay even you snapped at people on once or twice before your windfall. You know what I think? I think you should save Markus from her - you've money now, you can make him your kept man or something. It's a brilliant idea, admit it. (As a sidenote, I'm sure not everyone everywhere knows about their state - there's probably someone in Timbucktu who has absolutely no idea they exist, lucky thing!)

    And I've actually got the dreadfulest headache, so I'm going to just wrap up and send this along. I'm glad the horrors are more bearable lately, and I hope that keeps up - especially since I've come to find that the money actually is there and their threats and wheedlings aren't entirely without basis... though I don't think they have as much as they claim, though I of course don't know how much that is. Maybe you could give Markus to Acantha if you don't want him yourself.

    Yours in every adorable thing,

    PS - Do give Sam my love when you write to or see him next, but not all of it as I haven't quite forgiven him for the pasta incident.
    Sunday, August 10th, 2008
    10:46 pm
    23 March 1982
    Dear Cassie,

    Well, this is a right turn-up for the books, and no mistake.

    What? What is? you ask eagerly. (That is, you do in my mind, since you aren't here to actually do it, and when are you coming to visit? (If you bring Syd, he can go do manly things with Dardanos and Jasper and keep them out of our hair. Is that cruel? But maybe Jasper and Dardanos would get along well with Syd, what do you think? (But perhaps you don't have to bring Syd for the whole time. (Though of course he's invited for as long as he wants you want him. (Also, no need to make fun of me! Syd's yours, I wish I was irresistible, and the last thing I want is the responsibility of getting some bloke to eat, we'd both starve!))))))))))))))

    (Oh! And just because I want you to visit doesn't mean I'm going to keep the place once my month is up, but I might keep it long enough to get a summer by the sea out of the deal, because who wouldn't want a summer by the sea? And don't scold, but I hurt my ankle again, I am so stupid sometimes, and if only I could figure out how to quit walking so much and I was going to be so optimistic in this letter because everything is lovely, truly it is, and then I remembered I hurt my ankle and it's like all the lovely things disappeared in a cloud of smoke and all I can think about is--

    (That's why I'm such a flibbertijibbet about the war, you know. If I don't take it seriously, or admit that I want them to hang anyone who was I don't want to talk about it. It's so serious. So dreary. So grim. And even though it's over, it's not over.

    And even if anyone wanted me around, I couldn't do what you're doing, and support the family, or even get some bloke to eat. I know you think I'm letting the side down, not properly keeping up appearances, off Viv goes to live in some rustic village by the seaside, isn't that just typical? But at least she's irresistibly irresponsible, and doesn't have to worry about-- But it's not like I have even a Syd to depend on (I know, I'm saying something positive about Syd, don't worry it won't happen again) but whatever I might think about him he has been dependable enough, hasn't he?

    Anyway, the point was the damn family doesn't want me around, I'm the family disgrace, and I refuse to be the poor relation. You know, poor Viviana, she doesn't have any magic so she didn't have much of a chance of getting properly married -- she might be pure but the risk, darling, and think of the children -- so she sits around knitting socks and doing all the dirty work and you can always count on her to be properly grateful and not to impose. Can you imagine?)))

    (I didn't mean to say any of that. I didn't mean to write any of that, I want to talk to you. But I'm not going to start over writing, who knows what might come out next time I put quill to paper. It's like opening a present from great-uncle Aloysius, you never know what might jump out, so dangerous, I had no idea. So you'll just have to -- Oh, Cassie! You understand, don't you?)

    But what I really wanted to tell you was that yesterday I had a civil conversation with Acantha. She scolded me quite politely for having muggles to dinner without giving notice or taking proper precautions (the house elf had to hide in the sideboard, and it fell asleep half way through dinner and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing every time it snored. My neighbors (the ones with the phone I use to call a cab about twice a day -- they think I'm mad, but I think they like the plants I gave them. At least, the first few. What else is a good thing to give people you hardly know?) they politely ignored the noise, but John from the cake shoppe decided it must be the heating system acting up, and offered to have a look at it for me. It was quite a job discouraging him without ever implying that I doubted his ability to fix anything and everything (and if I lived in a muggle house, I'd have let him go at it then and there, I do love competence. And I know if it had been the heating system, he'd have had the thing apart in a trice, and fixed in two shakes of a spanner.

    But Acantha was quite right, of course I should have warned someone about the muggles before showing up with them (though the look on their faces when I came in with my muggle guests was worth it!), and she didn't even imply that having muggles to dine is just not done, though I could see her thinking it. (Next time, I'm going to invite John and his sister, and talk about the muggle economy the whole time. What do you think the horrors will think of that?) And I kept thinking of the poor house elf snoring, so I didn't say anything awful to Acantha because I was far too busy trying not to laugh in her face.

    And then, since I was being so cooperative, Acantha brought up something that, she said, had been worrying her quite incessantly about me owning the house. It turns out they (all the local witches and wizards) play quidditch in the field to the side of the house in the summer. And they have picnics there in the spring, and some sort of animal show in the fall, and a ball in December in my ballroom (I didn't even know there was a ballroom), and Acantha wanted to explain to me that it was my duty to host these things.

    Which is to say, to let her host these things. And she'd be happy to keep on managing the rest of the household as well, taking care of ordering the food and so on and so forth and by the time she'd explained everything that had to be done I was so bored just thinking about it that I told her to do whatever she wanted.

    She was so smug at dinner, and Jasper was surly. Dardanos, as usual, was above it all. Which reminds me, I met his fiancée! She's adorable, in a laughable sort of way, and she'll make him a horrible wife, which is just what he deserves.

    But did I mention how nice Jasper was after I twisted my ankle? Like a real gentleman. He must have seen it from the window because I was lying there deciding whether I was going to die right away or whether I could stand to wait five minutes first and then gracefully expire from the pain, he rushed down and picked me up and carried me back to the house. I will love him forever, or until the next time he offers me money to go away. But I think they've given up on that. Maybe they're getting used to me.

    Oh! And I think the house is haunted after all. Not really the house, the boat shed, where my lovely sailboat is kept. I saw someone walking through the wall, that's why I fell, I was so busy staring that I tripped. So stupid, to be distracted by something so mundane as a simple ghost. But the horrors insist I must have imagined it. The ghost, not the hurt ankle. They took that seriously enough; oddly, Dardanos went off and brought back a real mediwitch from heavens knows where, there isn't one in the village. Anyway, despite what I said before, you don't need to worry, because the mediwitch healed it back to how it was before I fell, which isn't perfect but I'm no worse off. Except for feeling so dreadfully discouraged about it if I stop to think, so I don't. It also hurts more than it did, but I might be imagining that.

    And Jasper promised not to turn the stairs into a chute ever again. Which didn't hurt my ankle at all, and I didn't even think of how it might have done until you said that.

    But then he turned my necklace into a snake at dinner. Just for old times sake, I'm sure, or because he couldn't stand the thought of me thinking of him as a gentleman. Acantha turned it back into my second best pearl necklace, and there weren't even any guests to notice. Sometimes I feel like there are currents in this household I can't even begin to understand, but this wasn't one of those times. Acantha and Jasper have been arguing with each other for days, and I've been reaping the benefits.

    In other good news, I wrote Sam and asked him to stay (and make me a new dance, but now I really don't want to dance, which is silly and I'll get over it), and he said he would come! So soon I shall have someone here I can rely on not to imply I must be raving mad at the slightest sign that I might believe them and go away. Not that John (he resists nicknames) isn't a darling, but unfortunately muggle. Sam, I can tell everything. No, not everything, not like I tell you, but everything like an actual friend instead of a muggle friend I have to lie to, or people who hate me except when they want to make a point. I can't wait for him to get here.

    I feel like I've forgotten to tell you something important, but I simply can't think what it is. If I remember, I'll tell you next time.

    As always,

    P.S. Now that we've established that I'm not pregnant... You're not pregnant, are you?

    P.P.S. You don't think Kitty would throw things in a shop, do you? She might have to buy it, and you know that she and Markus are economizing. But don't tell anyone, that's a secret! You know, the sort of secret that everyone everywhere knows? What did Markus
    Sunday, August 3rd, 2008
    7:05 pm
    20 March 1982

    It was unspeakably lovely to get a letter back so soon, darling! I wish that I could have returned the favour, but I had to have Rupert deliver a few more notes, and then the landlady came by, and then twenty other things happened that kept me from getting back to you immediately, you know how it is. But thank you very much for giving my poor little boy a rest and a treat, even with the long flight home he'd perked up considerably, I could tell.

    You must really miss me horribly if you're willing to have Syd along for weeks! It's all right, lovey, I do want all my people to adore each other and I wish you liked him a teensy bit better, but you being so irresistably lovely you'd have the whole of mankind at your feet if you wanted it, and I know you'd never try to take him from me even if you did want him, you're too sweet for that, but still. Still. Anyway, if you do keep the place you can rest assured we'll come for a visit of epic proportions, or at least as long as Syd can get off work, especially if you don't wreck the sailboat by then.

    I don't want to be in London, by the way, at least not particularly. It's too close to the centre of things, which is nice for shopping when I've the time and money but not much fun for anything else, especially with the war just over and everything still a bit unheaval-y. Yes, there was great celebration and stupid amounts of fireworks and such right after, and I do prefer what it's like now to how it was before, but there's still an awful lot of distrust. Why, have you heard about the accusations about poor Ludo Bagman? Thankfully they’ve died down for the most part, but still, that poor man. And I was talking to my friend Gemma the other day and she said her uncle Tertius, who's a healer, was put under the Imperius Curse for months and made to do things and now, no one believes him. The authorities accepted the explanation as he's got no real priors since he was a teenager and those were minor, and anyway they don't have the time to check out everything. But his friends and neighbours… Not that I can really blame them - it's a bit terrifying to think of the people who could be getting away scot-free with the same excuse or similar when really they meant every bit of it and were possessed of as many faculties as they ever have at the time it happened.

    I suppose that's pretty close to what Auntie and Uncle are going through, though. Poor things. They have always been tiresome, but they still don't deserve this... especially considering how much they used to praise Gunther. We're not hearing much of that these days, obviously.

    Anyway. The point of all that is that although I don't like London much, I unfortunately need to be here, to make sure Syd eats well and to support the family in times of need and all that rot. I must say the only part of it I enjoy is keeping Syd alive, and if not for him I'd probably have run mad long ago. But I can't very well leave my dearest love, can I? (My dearest male love, that is - you, as always, are my dearest friendly female love, forever and ever, and no less dear because I'm not with you.) And I can’t very well leave the family either, Merlin alone knows why.

    Dardanos engaged! DO tell! I hope you’ve worked out who the girl is by your next letter, as I doubt I’d be able to find the answer here. Extended-family gossip is severely limited on the interesting relationship matter, alas. And then, it’s Dardanos. It’s hard to imagine him interested in anyone, even if someone had claimed they saw it happen no one would believe them.

    Along those lines, I’m sorry to say I haven’t been able to discover anything about their finances – yet, that is. I will be visiting Great-Aunt Millie next week, and she has the news on just about everyone so I’ll update you after that.

    Oh, but I did happen across Kitty in a shop this morning, and I told her about the pin. It was a little disappointing, though, she just pursed her lips and glanced at Markus and said that it was your decision what you did with your things but that she herself would never consider giving away something that had been a gift. I’d rather hoped she’d throw things. Oh well.

    Let’s see, what else? I’m growing some lovely tulips… I wish I could send you one, but they’re terribly fragile and anyways I don’t entirely trust Rupert not to drop packages still. He’s very good with letters, but anything larger… anyways, they’re the scarlet-and-gold kind and very nice. The daffodils aren’t working nearly as well and I can’t for the life of me imagine why but it’s quite vexing.

    All right, all right – for the sake of our invisible audience, Viviana is not pregnant, which is good because if either of us becomes pregnant soon I’d rather it was me. Merlin, can you imagine? Daddy’s head would explode. It would be even worse than the theatre – which yes, I know isn’t all that bad these days but Mummy and Daddy have some very peculiar and old-fashioned ideas about women who go into the arts, love. Men are fine, but women must be brazenly masculine hussies, and try as I might I can’t convince them that it’s more likely to be the other way around these days.

    I always thought the idea of trusting someone as far as you could throw them was strange. It’s fine for untrustworthy large people, but with house-elves and the like you really can throw them quite far if you try (and I think it might be a good idea with that one).

    And with that I really should be off to bed, so I’ll close and let Rupert have a nice fly – he’s been shut up inside most of the evening, so I’m sure he’ll enjoy it. Oh! But first, you didn’t hurt your ankle more on that dreadful stair-slide, did you? I assume you didn’t since you didn’t mention it, but really, that was horribly inconsiderate even for Jasper. I should like to give him a very stern, almost motherly talking-to, or possibly just to make his hair stand on end for a week.

    All right, love, I really am exhausted so I’ll leave you here. Do tell me what you decide to call the boring-named cake fellow, will you?

    All my love,
    Sunday, July 27th, 2008
    4:56 pm
    16 March 1982
    Dear Cassie,

    I have a room! With a window that overlooks the sea! And a lock! It's a muggle lock with a little iron key, so I can use it, but it's completely magic resistant, so the horrors can't do anything to it. And the structure of the house can't be changed by magic (except by the owner, but that's, oh yes, me), and there are wards in all the walls and floors and ceiling. And all that adds up to one beautiful thing: I'm safe! Merlin bless paranoid ancestors, even if they did have dreadfully Gothic taste in decor.

    Also, the house isn't haunted after all. Oh, but I don't think I've told you about the house being haunted in the first place. So here goes:

    The very first night, after I straggled back from having tea (I took another cab, but that didn't help with getting in past those exhausting wards, I really must do something about that next) and got the house elf to take my case to my room (mistake!) and made more tea (you can never have too much tea)...and after I snuck upstairs to my room, past all the portraits of ancestors (I didn't know if they were the type to hate squibs, but they looked like they would, dozing in their frames, all ancient and respectable, so I tiptoed past without making a sound)...and then after I'd tracked down the house elf again to find out which room was mine, so I wouldn't walk in on Jasper dressing or anything dreadful like that --

    After I'd made it safely to what I fondly imagined was my room, and drunk my tea, and unpacked a bit, and nibbled on a packet of biscuits from the train that I'd completely forgotten I'd put in my pocket until I hung up my coat and the wrapper crackled, and after I'd decided I was far too tired to explore, and far too tired to even go down to dinner, not to mention far too tired to deal with the horrors--

    And after I'd wrapped my ankle to try to stop it throbbing (sadly, that didn't work), and after I'd changed into my nightgown, and after I'd realized I really ought to clean my teeth, and got the house elf to show me where the loo was, and after I'd got lost coming back and had an amazingly pleasant conversation with a portrait of Christiana Melancholipolotti (not her real name, I've forgotten what it was, but something that sounded Italian), who probably didn't realize I'm a squib--

    After I got back, and spend about five minutes staring at the wall trying to remember what it was I was supposed to do next--

    I climbed into bed and barely had time to think what a nice soft bed it was before I was asleep.

    When I woke up the bed was moving like it was alive and hated me. And I was so tired I just held on until it settled down. But then I'd barely fallen asleep when it did it again! So I got out of bed -- in the dark, I couldn't see anything, so I had to feel my way -- and dragged the covers onto the floor, because obviously I couldn't sleep on the bed, but then I realized that if I slept on the floor I'd get trampled, so I got back in bed. But of course I couldn't sleep in the bed, because as soon as I got in, the bed started bucking around. If I hadn't been so dull and stupid and half asleep I would have figured out quicker the obvious thing to do was take the covers and go sleep in the bathtub, but I did eventually and it was horribly uncomfortable.

    In the morning, I went down to breakfast and Acantha looked at me ever so smugly and asked if I'd slept well, so I knew something was up. And I finally got it out of Jasper that the poltergeist liked to hang out in the room I'd been staying in, but he was only talking to me to offer me money to go away, and then it turned out he was lying anyway, the deceitful beast, so I think next time it looks like he's willing to talk to me I ought to slap him instead.

    Anyway, by the time Acantha'd had her say at breakfast and Jasper'd caught me after and offered me 5,000 galleons to just go away and leave them in peace (which is a shockingly bad deal for letting them have a rambling mansion, it's clearly worth loads more than that, but I'm sorry to say I was tempted), and I don't know what Acantha was eating but my breakfast was greasy and congealed so I was starting to feel ill -- yes, I fled to town again. I was going to ask the solicitor for advice about discouraging poltergeists without doing magic -- things are so much easier when there's someone around to ask to do magic -- but the cab went right down the high street and I saw a coat in a shop window that was absolutely divine and the next thing I knew it was mid-afternoon and I was starving. And then I met a lovely bloke at the tea shoppe, he's the owner's brother. And I got him to take me to dinner, and then he showed me all the best places to go out in the evening, so I completely forgot about having to go back until I did, and it was a horrible shock after such a lovely evening.

    But I found a different room, and dragged all my stuff over myself because I couldn't find the house elf, and the exact same thing happened all over again, except this time I knew to go sleep in the bathtub.

    Do you remember how Aunt Philippa used to moralize when we were young and had to be polite and listen to her? And how I told you that someone that dull could never possibly be right about anything, and we played games with seeing how long it would take her to notice you'd turned all the curtains behind her blue and were making them bob and nod exactly in time with her speeches? I'm sorry to say she was right after all. Never put off to tomorrow what you could do today, because otherwise you might never get any sleep ever again. So I went into town again, only this time I didn't go shopping at all, I went directly to the solicitor's. (I had the cab driver go down side streets to avoid temptation.)

    I told you the solicitor was a dear, didn't I? Because he is. He told me that there wasn't a poltergeist in my house, and advised me on picking a room and not trusting the house elf any further than I can throw it, and so on and so forth. Though I do wonder why he didn't tell me that before, but perhaps he thought I would figure it out on my own. Or maybe he didn't realize the depth to which the horror cousins would stoop.

    He was so nice I invited him and his mother back to dinner, which made the meal quite bearable (I don't think even Dardanos would dare be too unpleasant with the solicitor's gimlet-eyed mother watching). Actually, they were all quiet charming with guests around, I shall have to invite more, as often as I can, although regretfully I doubt muggles would have the same effect, so I can't invite the bloke from the tea shoppe (his name is John, but that's such a dull name, I wonder if he would mind if I gave him a nickname? I mean a nickname in addition to calling him the bloke from he tea shoppe, of course.)


    And then I set this aside for just a moment to shout at the house elf for putting the ugliest china ornaments back in the sitting room (I know Acantha put it up to it), and now it's days later and I just got your letter. You sound just the same as ever and you can't imagine how comforting it is to hear from you. The worst of being here is you're so far away when I want to talk to you, which is about once a second, or maybe a tiny bit more often than that.

    Cassie! Did you really think I'd let Rupert leave without a treat? Especially with him looking looking so peaked, poor thing. And if I write quickly, I can send this letter back with him, instead of posting it like a muggle. You don't mind if I monopolize your owl, do you? Do you? Well, let's see how quickly I can cover the remaining points (though really, it'll do Rupert good to have a rest, so I won't try to be too brief).

    1) It's been days, and the horrors (as I not-so-fondly call my ghastly cousins) have barely been horrible at all. I think Jasper made the stairs collapse into a slide when I was walking on them, but that was almost fun, except that I dropped the china ornaments I was carrying (the only tolerable ones in the house) and broke them. Acantha was upset, which was so satisfying, since it was her own brother's fault, not mine.

    2) That should be good, but it's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. If I stay away enough during the day, maybe it will drop when I'm not here.

    3) You're so right, the house is just like a gothic romance. If there's a secret wife, it's probably Dardanos's. He's just the sort to lock someone up, and there could quite easily be anything up on the third floor where they live, because I haven't dared explore there.

    3) If someone was intercepting our mail (though I can't think of why they would be, but if they were), they'd probably think I was pregnant. My condition! It's only a broken ankle that ought to heal better than it has. (Drat! All this walking around pushing against wards and up and down stairs isn't exactly giving it a bunch of rest if you ever want to dance again, is it?)

    4) Attackers! I don't think it will come to that. The war's over, you know, and really, even under the worst of circumstances it ought to be perfectly safe for me to come to live in my very own house that my very own grandmother left me. Flinging a man over my shoulder, though -- what fun! I shall have to ask a muggle how one goes about that, and what one does next.

    5) I still haven't found out who was playing silly buggers with the furniture at night. I suspect Acantha, if only because she's been trying to blame Jasper for it, and why would she bother unless it was her? But it could be Dardanos; his grim and serious no nonsense expression could be all a facade, and I think he hates me the worst. I'm almost certain he was behind Jasper offering me money to leave, because he showed up out of nowhere yesterday to ask me about my finances and hint that he could help if I'd only leave, but asking about my finances is nosy as hell and I completely ignored all his questions while asking him about his love life until he gave up. I didn't even get any juicy details, though he did tell me that he's engaged to some local girl before he realized I wasn't going to be cooperative.

    6) Do you know, I'm glad to be out of London and away from Markus the family, entirely excluding you of course especially Aunt Phillippa and Uncle Louis, too tragic all that after the war we must have endless trials business, especially the part that insists only the very cleverest will escape without being tarred and feathered at the very least. It's almost worth being here to not be there. And did you know I own a sailboat? When it's warmer I'm going to have to learn to sail it. If I haven't sold the damn place by then, that is.

    7) Don't tell Kitty! About the pin. I mean, you can if you want to, and it would be funny, but then she'd tell him, you know she would, and... No, I don't care. Tell her, do, and then tell me exactly what she said.

    8) Oh! And this is actually very important, I need to ask you a favor: Could you please ask around and see if the horrors really have any money? Because from the way they were sponging off my grandmother (and now me!) you wouldn't think they did, but I want to know if they can really pay me to go away. Just to know.

    9) Cassie, Cassie, Cassie, come to visit! Whenever you want. You can even bring Syd. You can stay for weeks. But I thought you wanted to stay in London, or I'd have dragged you along in the first place. You'd be dreadfully bored here, there's nothing to do, and no company worth mentioning. And even eating cake in the tea shoppe gets dull after a while. But come anyway!

    And if I don't stop soon Rupert is going to eat my quill. He's watching it wave back and forth, turning his head, you know how owls do. I think that means he's eager to be flying back to you, bearing all my news. Write soon!

    As always,

    P.S. I do so swear, so help me Morgana. Upon reflection, I would make a lovely mermaid. It's the hair. Long hair and mermaids go well together. Do you think I could get Sam to choreograph me a mermaid dance? I could leave my hair down and get someone to do a charm to make it float all around me. If you see Sam, you might mention -- no, no, I'll write him myself. Damn this ankle.

    P.P.S. You know better than me just how much you can string along your parents without being so outrageous they actually go through with their threats, but Cassie. The theatre? Why, (as long as you don't go muggle like me) that's practically respectable, these days. And I know you underestimate your sense of timing, which, as I have told you before, is simply perfection.
    Monday, July 21st, 2008
    12:41 am
    16 March 1982
    Dearest Viv,

    Of course I worry, darling! You going off all of a sudden to Merlin knows where, all by yourself and in your condition! All right, so we know vaguely where, and you know where you are precisely (or at least I hope you do), but without any friends out there or anything! I know magic isn’t the only way of defending yourself, but even in the best condition I can’t imagine you flinging a man over your shoulder or whatever it is muggle women do to fend off attackers. So I hope you forgive me if I think you’re a bit of a goose for tromping out there all by your lonesome.

    Markus’s sister is going to positively have kittens when she finds out you gave away that pin, it makes me want to hunt her down and tell her myself, but I’d be pants at saying it right. I’d try to break it to her all sly and casual, and it would come out like, “Oh, what a lovely blouse that is, wouldn’t be complemented perfectly by that pin Markus gave Viv? By the way, she passed it off to some random elderly witch in a little village somewhere,” which is a bit lacking in proper dramatic flair. I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t attempt theatre after all, and not just because dad would’ve thrown a tantrum. He’s had a hard enough time dealing with me moving in with Syd.

    Speaking of moving in (and wasn’t that a nice little segue, aren’t you proud of me? I can learn, you see?), that house sounds like something from an old romance. Are you sure there isn’t a secret wife hidden in the attic, gone mad from loneliness? No, I suppose it’d have to be a husband if your grandmother owned it last. Speaking of which, love, I have to say I don’t think much of the poor dead thing, leaving you something that takes you away from me a whole month. It really wasn’t fair of her at all, especially if she left her affairs in such a state that Cousins could hang about and make things even less pleasant. It couldn’t have been that hard to break out the will and throw in a eensy weensy little no-Jasper clause. Although maybe it’s a test of character and you pass if you don’t murder them all in their beds. Or maybe you’re supposed to do that, if so I take back all I said about your gran. I’m sure you could manage it, they’d never expect it from you to come after them, and even if they did they’d probably think they could fight you off. Little do they know.

    Oh well. Jasper can be almost fun, like you said. Or used to be, at least. The other two are much worse from what I remember, they very nearly deserve their names.

    But we’ll leave that for now. The village does sound like a quaint little place, or maybe I’m remembering more than you’ve actually said again? Oh, I suppose I did, you’ve only said it’s miniscule and by the sea. Well, at least that’s in its favour. When you’ve defeated the invading hordes and secured the castle, you will see fit to arrange for one good day of weather and invite me to stay, won’t you? You don’t even have to ask Syd if you don’t like, I can leave him behind for that long, I promise. And then we can enjoy cake together, like we’re supposed to, and all will be well in the world.

    London! LONDON! It’s ghastly, my love. I pine for the rolling moors of my native soil, even if they weren’t all that rolling, or even that moory – more fields than anything else. And it’s not exactly native since I only lived there a few years after we left Cambridge. Whatever, I at least miss the grass. There’s the park, yes, but it’s a little too cultivated for my tastes, and lately it’s muddy anyway. And far too full of people, I like people a lot but I just need to get away from them from time to time, and that place is just packed. Although I admit it’s rather fun to go out of a weekend and watch the muggles tear each other to bits with religion. The whiskers on some of these soapboxers are positively sidesplitting.

    So basically, the main problem is I’m spoiled rotten, but that was pretty well known already.

    I haven’t seen much of the family, unfortunately, just Aunt Phillippa and Uncle Louis. They’re doing as well as can be expected, considering it’s their son this is all about, which means not very good at all. They’re thinking of moving, or at least going abroad until things die down a bit. I think that might be the best option, whatever the others stay about standing their ground and not showing fear or weakness or whatever it was. The aurors (or what passes for them these days) have to let them go, don’t they? It’s not like they’re going to run away for good, and they aren’t really good for much investigationwise.

    I guess we’ll see.

    ANYway, Syd is just home and demanding my attention in his adorable way, so I’ve got to go. Do let me know asap how the trial by fire is going, will you? And if any of them keep bullying you, tell me and I’ll send them a full-grown Bengal tiger, I’ve no idea how but I’ll manage one way or another.


    PS – If your cousins do murder you and throw you into the sea, do you solemnly swear to do your best to turn into a mermaid? If so, I promise to do whatever you say in the revenge matter. Not that I wouldn’t anyway, of course.


    PPS, or is that PSS? – If you could be a dear and give Rupert a treat before you send him back, I'd really appreciate it. The poor thing's been looking awfully peaky lately, I'm afraid he may be coming down with something but I have a lot of correspondence and I can't just go buying new owls willy-nilly. Hopefully things will calm down soon and he can have a proper rest, but in the meantime, a little snack would be very sweet of you.
    Sunday, July 13th, 2008
    9:04 pm
    10 March 1982
    Dear Cassie,

    I'm here, so you don't need to worry (if you do worry -- do you worry?) I've been to the solicitors and then to the house, and that was so depressing I came back to the village to get something warm to drink and now I'm sitting in the most adorable little tea shoppe drinking tea and eating cake and writing to you. It's too bad you don't have a phone. I know, witches use the floo, but I can't and you're not here to do it for me and anyway if you were here I wouldn't want to use the floo, would I?

    Oh dear, I'm not very used to writing letters. That wasn't where I should have started at all. Blame it on my ankle, it's aching from all the walking I've done today, even though I took a cab whenever I could. The people here think I'm dreadfully extravagant (by people I mean the solicitor and his mother), but if I've just come into money, I might as well be a little extravagant, don't you think? Not that there's much money, and I don't know about selling the house, it's rather dank. But surely someone would want it anyway? If it's cheap? Cheap for great rambling mansions is loads of money under any other circumstances.

    And if you were here you'd be telling me to calm down and start at the beginning, so I shall. I took the train down, of course, and spent practically the whole trip talking with the bloke next to me about politics. He had very strong opinions about the economy, and I do love talking to dishy blokes with strong opinions, especially when they're trying to convert me to something. This one, it was socialism. I listened very attentively and didn't even hint to him that he was outdated.

    After he got off, I spent the rest of the trip wondering what he'd have said about politics in the Wizarding World. I don't think he'd have approved. Muggles are comforting that way -- so complacent. I was imagining him spluttering about the corruption of power and maybe even uttering choice insults about fascist pigs (no, he wouldn't really, but I can pretend). When we finally got to the end of the line, I was so distracted I almost left my suitcase behind. Luckily an old woman who was sitting across the aisle pointed it out to me. She also told me how to get to the solicitor's office, which was sweet of her, but I wasn't really listening because I'd just realized that you can see the sea from the train station. Besides, it was raining, only drizzling really but I'd forgot my brolly. Of course I took a cab.

    This is amusing -- the cab driver was a muggle, and he spent the whole time complaining about how it always took far too long to get anywhere in town, when anyone could see the place about about the size of a postage stamp. Of course, it's much bigger when you add in all the hidden wizarding houses. If I knew who to tell, I'd make sure they knew that some of the spells are wearing thin and muggles are starting to notice, but I don't know who gets things done around here.

    Oh! Actually, maybe I do. It's probably the solicitor's mother. He (the solicitor) is a dear, about fifty, gray hair and glasses, and he blinks whenever he tells you something you might not like, like that the house you've inherited has a bunch of positively ancient anti-muggle spells on it that may keep you out of your own house, because you're a squib. And that your horrible cousins are still living in the top floor of your house, and you can probably throw them out if you're willing to do this and that, but they've said they're not leaving and you're not likely to get any official help until the aurors are done tracking down people from the war and so on.

    The solicitor's mother never blinks (or tells you anything), so she doesn't miss a thing. She runs the solicitor's office, and I'm sure she makes him wear galoshes when it's raining, because she loaned me a pair when I was leaving. She admired the pin I was wearing -- you know, the one Markus gave me -- and she seemed so sincere and sweet that I gave it to her. I could tell she would love it, and I don't any more because it's from Markus. She was delighted, and that makes me happy when I think about it, but even so, now I sort of wish I hadn't.

    Right. Now the house. I've been stalling, could you tell? The village is delightful, and everyone I met on the train and in the village were the nicest people you could imagine, but the house is dreadful and the relatives worse.

    The house: it looks like whoever built it modeled it on a gargoyle, not the hideously cute ones but the sort with the terrifying expressions that crouch on roofs spewing water out their mouth. The old wing of the house is the gargoyle's body with its arse stuck up, and the new wing is its head, down low so it doesn't have so far to go when it spews the contents of its stomach into the sea. But the sea is lovely, even in the rain.

    The cousins: Dardanos, Acantha, and Jasper. I remember Jasper from when we were all young, before it was completely obvious I was a squib. The others were older, and would have nothing to do with us, but Jasper was really quite fun some of the time. Do you remember when we all went on a expedition to find the source of the Nile? Do you remember how we called the stream near your house the Nile?

    But do you remember how Jasper used to turn all my favorite things into mud, and laugh when I cried and tell me it was my duty to try harder to get my magic to work?

    All three of them were there to watch me when I stumbled in. I'd had to walk from the gate, pushing the charm the solicitor gave me in front of me. It was like scaling a cliff or walking into a hurricane; that place didn't want to let me in. Then I was past the wards, and the gargoyle house popped up in front of me, complete with three baby gargoyles watching me struggle from the front window. I was soaked through and my ankle was throbbing, and they stared at me all the time I limped up the path and tried to get the front door open. It wouldn't open; I had to ring the bell of my own house, and they ignored it.

    I finally went around back and came in through the kitchen. I put the kettle on and dropped into the nearest chair, and that's where they found me five minutes later, still looking rather less presentable than something the cat dragged in. Acantha looked like the heir of Glamorie, perfect in every way, and the others looked comfortable and dry.

    "You know your grandmother hated you, and only left you the house because she knew you couldn't last out a month here," Jasper said unpleasantly.

    "And we're going to love watching you fail," Acantha said.

    Dardanos said, "And then it'll be our house, and squibs won't be welcome here. Squib."

    "Are you looking forward to your examination by the ministry over your conduct during the war?" I asked sweetly. I probably shouldn't have said that, but they made me so angry. Truly, I don't think they're Death Eaters or I wouldn't be here no matter how desperate I was.

    It didn't matter; they just ignored me. They'd said what they had to say, so they just used all my hot water to make their own tea, and left me in the kitchen.

    I couldn't stand it a moment longer. I left. Don't even ask how I got back to the village; I think my new neighbors (muggle) think I'm completely mad.

    Oh, Cassie! I have to live there a month before I can sell it. With my ankle still not very strong and no money and not being able to work, it's the only thing and I simply don't know what I would do if I didn't have the house to go to, and I am grateful to my grandmother and I don't really think Jasper was right. I don't think she ever hated me, she just loved the damn house and wanted to leave it to her only actual grandchild. And she wanted to make sure I gave it a chance before getting rid of it. But...

    I'm just so tired. I know it will look better in the morning. And I think I might love the sea. I've never lived near the sea, did you know you can smell it even from inside? And the village is lovely, and I really only have to sleep at the house, right?

    So that's all right. Truly.

    But if you don't hear from me regularly, send out the search parties, because my cousins have probably murdered me and thrown my body in the sea. I depend on you to revenge me, or at least keep me sane by letting me complain at you.

    And now that I've told you everything there is to tell (I hope it was at least a bit amusing), you must write and tell me all about you. How are you holding up? London isn't too dreadful, is it? Have you seen any of the rest of the family? Have you seen Markus? I hope nothing else has happened, but if it has, you must tell me all about it.

    As always,
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