The Effects of War
[Wednesday, January 22]
Rai was in his quarters, sipping his nightly drink—bourbon this night—and reviewing the latest reports from Aegis. He checked the time, nearly 11. Caroline ought to be around somewhere by now. Lately she seemed to be quite busy, however.
‘Aes, have you spoken with Caroline today?’
‘Not yet. Do you wish me to inquire?’
‘No, I suppose not. I’m sure she has plenty to do.’
‘Perhaps…’ Aes said, uncharacteristically trailing off.
‘I have taken notice of a new pattern over the last week, which I hesitate to bring to your attention, as she has not done so.’
After a slight pause, Aes continued. ‘Since the events a week or so ago in which Mr. Kerrick took hostages and threatened the world, Mistress Caroline has taken to asking whether his is aboard before coming up.’
‘She has? And if he is?’
‘She will usually say she has other things to do, and will come up later.’
‘I know she dislikes Simon, but that does seem odd.’
‘You are aware of her orders concerning the proximity of Master Viir and Mr. Kerrick?’
‘No, I was not.’
‘It is similar to a restraining order against Mr. Kerrick. After Mr. Jameson was kidnapped, she thought it best to protect Viir.’
‘Well, that seems reasonable, as he’s never in this part of the ship.’
‘I do not think that that fact matters to her.’
‘Hm. She’s normally reasonable.’
‘It seems to me, sir, that she is trying to deal with something she does not like in a way that does not impact you, or your relationship with Mr. Kerrick. Perhaps she has not told you how she truly feels about it.’
‘Hmm…Thank you, Aes. I’ll have to think on it before discussing it with her.’
Caroline was working on her plans for the next training session with the new AMRS recruits. They’d covered most of the material already, and were now beginning to hone in on some of the more advanced magic they sometimes did on the squad. While the training itself usually went okay, setting up the situation usually took some work and quite a bit of materials, and sometimes potions or other such things. Beatrice had delivered the potion for tomorrow’s training the day before, and Dermott was picking up the last few things in Diagon Alley over lunch the next day.
When everything seemed to be in order, she got everything organized in her folder and packed for the next day before getting a snack from the kitchen. She was heating a bowl of Silla’s potato soup when Rai came in the back door.
‘Hallo. Aes said you were busy when I spoke to him earlier.’
‘I wouldn’t have minded, unless you had something else.’
‘I’ve been working on all these training plans, it’s been taking up a lot of my time. At least it’s going well.’
‘That’s good to hear. How are you otherwise?’ he had crossed the kitchen, and gave her a hug from behind.
‘Alright, I think. You want a bowl?’
‘Sure. Silla made it?’
‘Yes, its tons better than what you get at the store.’
‘Her food usually is.’
She got up another bowl, giving him the hot one, and waited for hers. ‘Broma was over here last week. You’d think I was the only witch to have a microwave.’
‘Maybe you are?’
‘I doubt it. They’re so convenient. Besides, if I touch the stove for more than boiling water, bad things happen.’
‘True…’ He thought of the one time she had cooked for Sunday morning—Esperanza had said it couldn’t be that bad, just stir the eggs occasionally. One bite, and she was now permanently relegated to setting the table. It was no wonder she’d looked so resigned.
Sitting at the kitchen island, they ate in mostly companionable silence. The soup was delicious, warm and filling, and when their bowls were empty, she leaned against him.
‘I’m afraid there’s something we need to discuss.’
She sat up, naturally concerned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘What’s he done now?’
‘Nothing, as far as I know. However, Aes inadvertently brought it to my attention that you no longer seem comfortable having him on board.’
‘I know you don’t like him, but you two must be able to come to some compromise.’
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t seem to remember making a big fuss about your alliance with him.’
He stopped, taking a breath. ‘That’s true, you haven’t. But if you won’t come aboard just because he is…you do understand he’s further away from you there than France is to here?’
‘Yes, as you all keep telling me. And no, that’s not the point. If I don’t want to come aboard, what does anyone else care? You can always come here, and you’re welcome to. But he did just threaten to destroy the world, let me forget about it first.’
‘While I’ll admit I’m no fan of some of his actions, he didn’t go through with it. And he can still be steered in the right direction.’
‘Only because he got what he wanted. Do you seriously think he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t?’
‘I don’t believe so.’
‘Well a lot of people didn’t believe Voldemort would either, and look what that got them.’
‘Caroline! You can’t think that he’d—he’s not Voldemort!’
‘Not yet. People like him convince you with words and half truths until it’s too late. He’s a Dark Wizard, and he’s already done enough the Aurors would send him to Azkaban, where he belongs.’
‘Perhaps, but this is outside the world you grew up in. I realize you’ve come a long way in broadening your horizons, but this is different.’
‘I know that.’
‘That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know how you feel.’
‘It’s my problem, I know that, and I’m prepared to deal with that until he hurts someone in the family. Then we’ll both hunt him down.’
He still wasn’t getting much from her thoughts; she was usually straight forward and sometimes he forgot she was British. Some things weren’t spoken of in a straight forward manner in favour of not disturbing others. He’d better be careful about this, as it wasn’t something she was likely to simply share with him, he thought as he took her hand.
‘I don’t think it should be just your problem. Tell me, and I’ll see what we can do to sort it. Do you really think of him like Voldemort?’
‘Voldemort had plenty of followers. He wasn’t the only one who did terrible things to people, like Simon will if you get in his way.’
What exactly had she experienced during the war? The entire Wizarding world had been traumatized by it…She must not like thinking about it, and if she saw Simon like that, with this last incident, creating situations and then saying it was your fault if he didn’t get what he wanted and went through with his threats. Yes, that was definitely her thought.
‘You’ve seen a lot of people hurt or destroyed by…’
‘People like Simon, yes. Don’t—!’
But he had already caught the chilling collection of images, quickly followed by the resolve that it was over and no one would allow a third war. It was safe now.
‘Don’t do that!’
‘I’m sorry, dear. I know it’s not an excuse, but I was having a hard time understanding.’
‘You didn’t even ask!’
‘I know...Be mad at me, we’ll work it out later. But I am sorry, and I’ll take care of things with Simon,’ he assured her. ‘Shall I go?’
‘I think you’d better,’ was all she seemed to be able to say, getting up to wash out the bowls and utensils they’d used. So he quietly got up and made his way out, after which he returned to the ship.
‘May I inquire as to how your conversation with Miss Caroline went?’ Aes asked when Raihosha had been back on board a few minutes. Long enough for a stiff drink, at least.
‘I got to the bottom of it, but she’s not too happy with me right now.’
‘Her displeasure is not too much with me, I hope?’
‘Not that I know of, but we didn’t discuss it. I’m afraid I have some making up to do with her, and a possibly explosive conversation to have with Simon the next time he’s around.’
‘I see. Will we be ceasing to aid him altogether?’
‘No, I don’t think so. I believe he’s learned enough to continue in his own laboratory, and any interaction you have with him is at your own discretion. I think this is more about his visibility to her than our interaction, which can take place elsewhere when necessary.’
‘Very well. I shall leave you to your thoughts, then.’
‘Thank you, Aes.’
Staring into the crackling, holographic fire for a while, he let the things he’d seen in her mind come up to the surface in turn. The first was school, overshadowed by two professors. The Carrows, he guessed, siblings. He remembered what she’d said about them, the way they bullied students and the torture they inflicted. It hadn’t been just the boys that they’d beat up when they refused, and not everyone was strong enough to refuse. But as he regarded it, it wasn’t the image that was so very uncomfortable—it was the screaming.
Next was a large group students in a make-shift kind of place, sitting around a radio with grim faces. The endless lists of names, and the days when students heard the names of friends and family. The day Carrs were on the list, and there was no way to contact anyone.
Then there was a conglomeration of images and feelings, from hurried evacuation, the invasion of minds, the inability to do anything but watch from afar while friends and parents and teachers fought and died, the castle in ruins; the great hall, used for feasts and festivals, laid out with countless bodies.
No, the current arrangement wouldn’t do at all. She wouldn’t be finished thinking about that war for a long time, and he didn’t want to exacerbate the problem. Simon could easily study elsewhere, and he could let Aes handle it as he wished.
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