That summer I did not go crazy
but I wore
to the bone.
“Torture hasn’t broken her. She won’t give up the Trio’s location.” Bellatrix’s voice is stretched thin with displeasure and a thread of fear. She has failed the Dark Lord; death is a distinct possibility.
“She is of no use to us.” Fear slithers up the captive’s spine. Voldemort bends close, his breath blowing against her face. He smells like dust and ashes and decay. He pushes against her mind, but she slams up a wall against him. She’s physically weak and in pain, but she won’t stomach the further indignity of him breaking into her mind.
He pulls back angrily, his robes billowing at his agitated movement. “Kill her.”
Her heart drops. It’s the end. No one is coming to save her.
She doesn’t beg or cower in the face of her executioners, but her insides shake and her mind keeps going back to three faces. A wand is pointed at her; the face behind the extended arm is pulled in an ugly sneer. Her mind fixes on a single moment of happiness; if she’s to die, it will be holding on to the people she loves.
The green bolt erupts out of Bellatrix’s wand and she wonders for a moment how something so pretty can be so deadly. Blinding pain sears through her. Her blood is boiling in her veins and her heart is straining against the sudden build up in pressure. She’s dying. She distantly hears a scream bounce off the brick walls of her prison. She belatedly registers that it’s coming from her deflating lungs, before darkness overtakes her.
The respite is temporary, and she comes back to consciousness slowly but doggedly. She can’t stop the tremors wracking her frame, can’t breathe, can’t even open her eyes. And, she wishes—just for a second—that she were dead.
Her captors approach on heavy feet. A booted foot turns her face up. Blood drips from her ears, eyes, mouth, and nose from bursting capillaries; she’s a mess. There’s quiet shock. The Killing Curse has never left physical marks before; except once. When she can finally take a ragged breath, there’s fear. The Killing Curse has never left any alive; except once.
Voldemort breaks through the wall of Death Eaters surrounding her. He’s livid, his red eyes flashing.
The second Killing Curse physically slams her against the wall with its force and intensity; it originates from Voldemort’s wand. A third manages to knock her unconscious but she regains her senses. She can feel the hatred aimed at her through the magic that keeps hitting her straight in the chest, but she continues breathing. The pain is like her nerve endings are being exposed to open flame; it is excruciating. But she endures.
She does not die.
“If she cannot be killed,” Voldemort’s breathing is labored, the exertion taxing. “If she won’t give up what she knows, she’ll forget everything and everyone dear to her.” The rabid pleasure in the words makes her skin crawl.
She tries to put up mental walls but she’s only just regained consciousness and the spell isn’t the careful perusal of legilimency, which searches but keeps intact, it is a bulldozer obliterating everything in its path. She doesn’t have the fortitude to resist it when she can barely take in a breath.
Nonetheless, she fights the insidious pull at her memories, at her being. She clings to the pictures in her head. But, ultimately, her memories slip through her futile struggle like sand through a sieve.
She hears the susurrus sounds of more spells being cast but the reality of it is suddenly far away; it is little more than leaves being swept away gently by a breeze.
“God,” the sigh that follows the exhalation is long. She closes her eyes and presses a tall, cool glass of water against her throbbing forehead. “What a weird day.”
She puts down the water and rests her head in her hands her elbows precariously placed against the flat surface of the island that’s the centerpiece of the kitchen. Her eyes open and she looks down at an innocuous photograph with a striking figure dominating the frame.
“I have the oddest feeling this is somehow all your fault,” she’s whispering to a picture, her eyes fixed on the two-dimensional representation of the most vibrant blue eyes she’s ever seen. She drops a hand to trace the woman’s nose, lips, chin, and the striking, white hair. “You seem to have caused some funky dreams and an odd day, which is saying something considering where I work.”
Andy had woken up that morning from a nightmare—that felt like a memory—with a pounding in the back of her skull that she couldn’t even attribute to alcohol because she’d had none in ages; life was too busy reporting from the White House for trivial things like having an actual life. The day had gone downhill and taken a turn at the bizarre from there.
She’d been running extremely late and missed her train to the Mall. She had been sure she’d missed her train, anyway, until she’d closed her eyes and turned in consternation only to open her eyes and find herself in front of the Capitol. Andy had attributed the whole thing to the pounding in her head and walked, a little dazedly, toward the White House.
She’d arrived on time and been briefed with the gaggle of reporters at the Press Secretary’s office. She hadn’t been able to help but notice the woman’s feints and obfuscation. It seemed so obvious, almost like Andy could read the direction and intent of the Press Secretary’s thoughts. How no one else noticed was beyond her; the woman was hiding something, or at least hiding more than usual.
At the official press briefing, Andy had wanted some answers to the questions niggling her mind since the quick brief in the office. Shockingly, she had been called on repeatedly. The fact that she had willed it so didn’t even cross her mind. That had been the highlight of her day. Junior White House reporters rarely got the time of day.
Quickly after, she had found herself temporarily thrown out of the White House because some quack from the Post had accused her of perusing his files for information. He had also accused her of dumping water on him and setting his pants on fire, not necessarily in that order. That, of course, was impossible since Andy wasn’t close enough to do either of those things. The fact that she would have loved to do both those things escaped her. She had evacuated the premises incensed but also slightly relieved. Her head had been killing her.
The headache had stayed with her throughout the morning only increasing in intensity. She hadn’t had a headache that bad since beginning at Northwestern. It felt almost as if something were trying to get out of her mind. It was insistent as it pushed against her skull, the pressure increasing with the continued attempts to just ignore it. None of the many painkillers she’d taken since she woke that morning were touching it.
Mentally shaking herself, Andy releases another sigh while doing her best to stay still and silent. But, her mind wonders to the diner where she stopped for lunch. It had been packed and loud with the lunch crowd from the Hill. She had been starving since she had skipped breakfast due to her lateness, or almost lateness...she wasn’t sure; she couldn’t think straight. But the diner’s loudness had made her headache excruciating, and she’d willed it silent. And, silence had fallen, immediately and absolutely. People had admittedly panicked, herself included, when they’d opened their mouths to speak and nothing came out. So, she’d willed it loud again and fled the diner.
So, here she is in the quietness of her own home, hungry and confused with a pounding head staring at the picture of a stranger like the glossy paper has all the answers for her.
“Who are you?”
Andy feels the minute shift in atmosphere before three bodies appear out of thin air in her kitchen. Adrenaline floods her system and she’s moving before she’s given it conscious thought. Her arms swing out to the body closest to her and the man slams against the wall behind him by some invisible force.
The other figures sidestep Andy and advance in tandem, pointing what looks to the reporter like sticks. She’s not sure what they’re planning but she feels something familiar burn in her veins. Her mind races and she lifts her hands to try something, anything. But, before she can manage to lift a hand in attack, three shouts break the silence and lights erupt from the robed figures.
“No! Don’t hurt her!”
Andy feels her arms and legs snap and lock to her body as red lightning barrels into her and leads her into darkness. She doesn’t register the arms that encircle and catch her before she hits the floor.
Andy Sachs is having a terrible, no good day and it’s only just past noon.
“Perhaps if we showed them a modicum of respect we could avoid another great war that exploits the incredibly ridiculous notion that we are better than they are because of some nonexistent premise of inherent disparity between those born to Muggles as opposed to those born to magical families.” The British ambassador is fierce in her ideals; she’s as fiery as her red hair.
“What would you have us do with the pesky little Secrecy Statute?” The Undersecretary of International Relations asks blandly, her accented voice practiced in political diffusion.
“Abolish it,” the redhead deftly replies, theirs is an old argument propagated by respect and long friendship. “It’s rubbish, anyway. I would think you could appreciate the sentiment considering your country of origin and its lack of secrecy concerning magic.”
“How would you put it, Ambassador,” there’s a smile in the blonde’s voice, “Not bloody likely.”
“Ladies,” the quiet, stern voice immediately squashes what is quickly becoming a real argument of something she isn’t ready to discuss, yet, “we seem to be getting away from ourselves.”
The undersecretary smiles apologetically and shifts minutely under the Secretary’s blue stare.
“Right,” the ambassador clears her throat, “apologies, Madame Secretary.”
A wave of slender fingers dismisses the words; there are more important things to attend. “Were you able to acquire the documents I requested, Emily?”
“Yes, of course,” Emily pulls a leather bound notebook from an inner pocket of her robes. She places the book in front of the Secretary. “The Minister sends his warm regards and hopes you will finally find what you are searching for.”
A white head nods, but blue eyes are fixed on the small leather book on her desk. “Give him my thanks.”
“Of course,” Emily’s been dismissed, “Thank you, Madame Secretary.”
“Escort the ambassador to her quarters, Serena,” the command is said as dismissal.
The undersecretary nods joining the ambassador at the door. “Just one thing, the book is protected by a charm we weren’t able to break. It’s harmless but it’s impenetrable.”
“Yes,” Serena nods diffidently, “thank you, Madame Secretary.”
The door clicks shut and the Secretary of Magic is left to contemplate the leather bound journal. Clouded eyes stare down for several seconds. She can hear the tic-toc of the second hand moving along the face of the grandfather clock against the far wall.
Summoning up courage from her depleting stores, she raises her hand. She places her fingers on the book and instantly feels it, the resonance of familiar magic. The longing that blossoms across her chest feels like a physical malady: intense and debilitating.
The energy of the charm locking the book bounces along the pads of her fingers. It's warm, not rebuffing in the least. A wan smile touches tired lips. Of course it wouldn't be repellent. Its strength lies not in being off putting but in being indomitable, much like the woman who cast the charm.
A knock interrupts her thoughts. The door swings open and the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement walks in, a wild energy contained in every step. There's something about his eyes and gait that makes her sit a little straighter.
The air whispers with gravitas.
“Madam Secretary,” he’s stopped at her desk, his round glasses reflect daylight, “we’ve got something.”
I’ve found her.
Hope explodes in her. It saturates her blood, its wash across her system narcotic. She feels her magic pulse against the matching resonance of the leather book clutched in her hand.
They walk silently but an unnamable tension increases with each step.
“What is it, Nigel?” She's excited and terrified and can't stand another added stressor to her already burdened mind.
He halts their progress with a gentle hand on her forearm. The gravity in his eyes makes her stomach drop. “Miranda,” his use of her given name is telling; he’s apologizing, and he’s tired, and he’s sad, “she didn't recognize me.”
She stares at him blankly, understanding eluding her.
“She plowed me into a wall,” he's speaking but Miranda's not hearing, “with magic she had no idea how to control.”
She pulls out of Nigel’s grasp and stares at him through narrowed eyes. The bald man sighs heavily, dreading the words that are about to leave his mouth. “The Healer said…”
Miranda whirls around her eyes ablaze, voice lowering in her ire, “Nigel, why was there need of a Healer?”
“Because she attacked the United States Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement with wandless, wordless magic powerful enough to effortlessly break through my barriers,” he snaps. He stops and reins himself in, now is not the time to lose control. His voice softens, “She didn’t recognize us, Miranda. She didn’t know magic.” He watches as realization begins to dawn on the woman before him. “The Healer said an incredibly powerful spell has been cast on her. Voldemort…”
The withering glare blue eyes pierce him with makes him stop.
Miranda turns away. She is frozen to the spot attempting to hold herself together.
“I just want you to be prepared,” Nigel heaves another heavy sigh and unconsciously runs a hand across a smooth scalp, “she may not be the person you remember.”
She stands on the edge of cliff, unsure whether to jump or retreat.
“But, she did have this.”
Miranda feels Nigel press a glossy sheet of paper into her hand. She looks down, and she jumps off her cliff.
“Take me to her.”
Andy wakes slowly, her mind wading through a thick fog. She’s sitting up before she realizes the bed she’s in isn’t hers. Panic sweeps through her when she remembers the three figures in her home. She rushes to jump out of bed, tangles herself in the sheets, and ends up in heap on the floor.
“Uggghhh,” Andy pushes the sheets off, “so panicking won’t help.” She takes a deep breath and stands. She’s grateful for the lack of pain in her skull, at least the forced nap helped that.
“You all right there, love?”
Andy spins around looking for the source of the voice. “Who said that?”
“Well, I suppose I did.” The figure is bent at the waist looking down at her through narrowed eyes.
Andy gapes. “How are you talking, and, you know, moving?”
“With my mouth and my legs,” now he’s looking at Andy like she’s slow, “Did you hit your head on the way down?”
“Jed, leave the poor girl alone, can’t you see she’s in shock,” a woman walks into the portrait the man is occupying above the mantle.
“I’m dreaming,” Andy turns away from the fireplace, eyes closed and head shaking, “this is all just one trippy dream. I’ll wake up in just a minute. Oh god, I hope I wake up in just a minute.”
She cracks an eye open and glances back. The man and woman are still talking and staring at her like she’s the one that’s alive in a painting. “Okay, maybe I’ve just gone crazy,” she whispers to herself, “or, I’m high on some really good stuff.”
Her eyes dart around the opulent room. Her kidnappers have apparently spared no expense. She looks for a window or door to escape through, but finds none. The room is completely escape proof.
How the hell did they even get me in here? Andy is walking around, touching the walls in consternation and awe. She’s circled back around to the fireplace, intently ignoring the pointed comments from the figures in the portrait, when she hears the swish of air enter the room. She grabs the closest thing to her and whirls around.
“Who are you?” Andy’s pointing a fire poker at the approaching figures. “What do you want?” She immediately recognizes the man that was in her apartment, but the sight of the woman makes Andy waver. It’s her. The white hair, the blue eyes, the regal bearing. It’s Andy’s photograph come to life. She’s more beautiful in person. Her heart pounds against her chest.
The duo steps closer and Andy feels a surge of something hum in her blood. “Stay back.” She grips the poker tightly.
Andy’s eyes don’t leave the woman’s face, so she doesn’t miss the subtle flinch and displeasure her words cause. She doesn’t understand the stab of guilt that reaction causes in her.
“Please, calm down. We simply wish to talk.” Slender hands are raised to show they hold no hidden weapon. The man follows suit but remains silent.
Andy glances at the bespectacled, bald man and sees his raised eyebrows. She has a strong sense that this woman doesn’t plead with very many people. It’s the softness in blue eyes, however, that makes her acquiesce to the simple request. She stares at the depth of those blue eyes as she lowers the poker, she can’t seem to look away.
There is a long, quiet pause in which Andy swears she sees longing in blue eyes. But, the moment passes, and Andy can’t be sure what she saw, or even if she saw it. She doesn’t know this woman.
“Let’s sit,” the woman indicates the settee and chairs next to Andy. “Would you like something to drink or eat?”
“Uh,” Andy wants to ask for alcohol, “tea? Yes, tea would be good. Thanks.” She cringes internally. I’m a mess. And why am I being polite to my kidnappers? Beautiful, sad, blue eyes aside.
Her train of thought derails when a small creature with floppy ears appears out of nowhere holding a tray with a steaming teapot, cups, saucers and what looks like cookies. She’s so stunned she misses the man adding a few drops of clear liquid to her tea.
Andy takes the cup handed to her without question; she knows her eyes are wide. “So,” she stares at the people across from her blankly, “who, or what, are you? And, why did you kidnap me?”
“I’m Miranda Priestly,” sadness tinges the voice, “the United States Secretary of Magic. And this,” Miranda gestures to the man beside her, “is Nigel Kipling, the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
Andy wants to scream at them that there’s no such thing as magic but she can’t explain so many things, and she’s not dreaming. She drinks her tea and says the only thing that comes to mind, “The US doesn’t have a Department of Magic.” A raised eyebrow makes her sink a little in her seat. “That I know of.”
“And, you are not kidnapped,” Miranda’s looking at Andy hard, ignoring her previous statement, “you are detained for questioning.”
“For what?” Andy sputters into her cup, vaguely wondering why Miranda seems so pissed. And completely ignoring the fact that she finds the woman so attractive.
“Improper use of magic,” Nigel breaks in pulling Andy’s attention from Miranda, “breaking the Secrecy Statute.”
Miranda slips the picture Nigel found in Andy’s apartment onto the coffee table between them. “Stalking.”
Andy’s indignant. “I wasn’t stalking you!” Anger is an easier emotion to deal with than whatever is swirling within her at the proximity of this woman. “I was taking pictures for a story I was writing. I didn’t even know you were in the damn frame until I got home that night.”
“So you zoomed in and cropped everyone else out of the shot?” Miranda’s voice is low as if daring her to argue.
“I…just…” Andy bites her lip and averts her eyes, she feels compelled to tell the truth, “thought you were…are…beautiful.” Her cheeks are burning and she can’t look Miranda in the eye. She misses the dusting of pink bloom across Miranda’s cheekbones.
“What is your name?” The question makes her look up at Nigel.
“Andrea Sachs,” she fidgets in her chair, she wanted to say something other than that, “shouldn’t you already know that?”
“What is your occupation?” It’s starting to feel like an interrogation.
“White House Junior Reporter,” brown eyes shift back to blue.
“How many years?” Miranda’s face is stone, her tone mirroring it.
“What were you doing eight years ago?” Miranda has leaned her body forward.
“I was graduating in journalism from Northwestern,” Andy can’t seem to stop herself from being completely honest.
“Where did you go from there?” The secretary’s tone hasn’t changed, but she seems to be looming closer and closer to Andy.
“New York City,” Andy’s head is beginning to pound like someone is hammering against her skull.
“How long were you there? What did you do there?”
“Six years, I worked odd jobs for my first year before I got hired on at the Mirror,” she shifts uncomfortably, the pain getting sharper.
“And what was the impetus for all those moves and relocations?”
The question echoes loudly in Andy’s mind, she drops her head into her hand and tries to clutch the pain away. “I don’t know.”
“Not a satisfactory answer, Miss Sachs.” Miranda’s voice is pitched low, soothing almost, but her words are loud in Andy’s head.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Andy can’t concentrate, she presses both hands against her head, “I just felt like it was the right time to move, to shake things up, to live my life.”
“Why?” The question is simple but it reverberates inside her ears, sharp and jagged like it’s slicing across her brain.
“Stop!” Andy can’t take anymore. She’s bent over, her hands trying to hold her head together. She distantly tastes the coppery tang of blood and realizes her nose is bleeding. “God, please, please…stop…whatever you’re doing…please…stop...”
The excruciating pressure and pain subsides immediately.
Andy’s breathing is labored. She wipes ineffectually at her nose. She opens eyes she didn’t realize were closed to see Nigel standing over her, looking very worried for someone who barely knows her. Brown eyes slip past him to see a stricken and pale Miranda.
Andy sees her raise a hand and wave. She feels the blood disappear under her fingertips. Nigel places a hand on her shoulder and squeezes reassuringly; she’s oddly comforted.
“Are you all right, Andy?” His voice is warm and somehow familiar.
“I think so,” she smiles tiredly at him, the headache draining her of energy, “Sorry about that. I’m not sure what happened.”
“Miss Sachs,” Miranda’s voice sounds hollow and her eyes look empty, “someone powerful has bound your magic. I will teach you how to unbind, to use and to control it.”
Nigel turns to look at Miranda, shock evident in the slant of his shoulders. Something passes between the two. Andy watches through tired eyes, intrigued.
Miranda stands. “Rest.” Andy finds herself in the bed once again. “I’ll retrieve you in a few hours.”
Despite whatever just happened, Andy doesn’t want to see Miranda leave. She opens her mouth to say so, but two figures, robes flowing behind them, are already walking through a wall that has opened up for them.
It slams closed behind them, but the impression of a door is now clearly present against the wall.
Questions plague Andy’s mind until exhaustion claims her; the most insistent follows her into her sleep.
Who are you to me, Miranda Priestly?
“With all due respect,” the door slams closed behind Nigel.
“Nobody ever means ‘with all due respect’ when they say it,” Miranda says it to herself as she moves to her desk.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I believe you mean, ‘what the hell are you doing, ma’am?’” She puts her glasses on and starts reading a memo, pointedly ignoring the director.
“Miranda…” he tries again.
“Madame Secretary,” she interrupts icily, her eyes not leaving the memo.
Nigel takes a calming breath, “Madame Secretary…”
“Nigel,” she’s mocking him, her voice low. But, her hands tremble and she hasn’t read a single line in the memo.
“The Veritaserum confirmed she didn’t know you…”
Miranda is on her feet in one swift motion, hand slamming the unread memo against her desk. “You think I somehow missed the poker raised at us? That I somehow didn’t see the vacant, blank look in her eyes when she saw me? That I didn’t hear her ask who we were? Who I was? That I didn’t notice that she not only didn’t know me, but she didn’t recognize my magic? I didn’t need any truth serum to tell me what I could clearly see!”
Her eyes burn the color of a blue giant: hot and bright. And, what the director mistook for insouciance is tenuously held composure concealing anger and sadness and vulnerability.
Miranda clenches her hands into fists to keep the tremor in them from showing.
“What happened in there?” It’s slanted as accusation because Nigel is as lost and unsure as the woman before him.
“I don't know,” Miranda blinks, momentarily off kilter, “Her memories aren't there. Or at least, not anywhere I could sense. And, she has an entire construct in her head that is hiding something.”
She takes off her glasses and collects herself. “I’ve been searching for her for eight years, Nigel. Eight long, interminable years. And, she’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. She’s been within reach this whole time.” She feels cheated and robbed and it shines through. “And now, now that she’s here, not only within my reach but within my grasp, you would have me let her go.”
He blows out a long breath. “Of course not.”
They stare at each other for a moment. “Of course not.” Nigel smiles and the tension breaks. Miranda shrugs and shakes her head.
“As for what I’m doing,” her eyes soften with her voice, “I have no idea, old friend.”
“Scourgify,” Miranda waves a wand that she’s produced from her robes and their clothes and the area around the chimney instantly clears of soot.
Neat trick. Andy tears her eyes away from Miranda. Her inexplicable attraction to the woman is disconcerting. Miranda’s picture was entrancing enough, but the flesh and blood woman makes Andy lose her concentration, among other things. So she steadfastly attempts to ignore the magnetic pull of the older woman. She instead looks around and the opulence, the sheer grandiosity of the room—she ventures to guess the whole house, as well—staggers her. The fact that she walked in to the room through a lit chimney is also high on the list of things of why she’s speechless.
“Come along, Miss Sachs,” a soft voice pulls Andy out of her stupor. And the reporter is pulled once again into focusing on Miranda. It’s the eyes, she thinks, so blue, so sad.
“Andy,” she speaks for the first time since Miranda came to her quarters a second time that day. At the slightly raised eyebrow directed her way, she tries not to fidget and explains, “Call me Andy. Everyone does.”
Andy feels the inspection and measure of a blue gaze. It makes her shiver. She mentally stops herself, the woman is married for god’s sake. She’d noticed the gold band shining on a slender digit when Miranda had collected her in the quarters at whatever other place they’d been before coming to Miranda’s home. Andy didn’t…doesn’t…dwell on the inexplicable jealousy she felt on realizing that Miranda belonged to somebody. The emotion is irrational and wholly unlike her.
Miranda purses her lips but she neither refuses nor acquiesces to the request; she simply turns and continues out of the room.
Andy blows a breath of air on her bangs and considers walking out. Her gaze lands on the burning fire and she can’t imagine walking into that without Miranda, so she follows the silent trail out of the room.
The nickel tour is beyond impressive and by the time Miranda has finished showing her the first floor Andy has a revelation of the woman’s actual importance. She may not understand—or quite frankly believe—in magic but she does understand power and authority. She understands politics. And this white-haired, blue-eyed force of nature that is casually walking her around a luxurious home is most definitely someone of import.
“You’re the most important person in the magical community, aren’t you?” It’s out of Andy’s mouth before she can think better of it. Her curiosity is piqued and getting the best of her. Whether she likes it or not, she’s attracted to Miranda.
“Some would think so, yes,” the response is a statement of fact, neither self-aggrandizing nor haughty.
“In comparison to uumm…what did you call us?” They’re climbing the stairs and Andy can’t think beyond the curve of Miranda’s hips. How is it possible that robes are so fitted that every step accentuates the curves hidden beneath? What am I looking at? I’m not even gay. Andy tries to look anywhere else, but her eyes inevitably return to appreciate the sight before her. Maybe I am a little bit for this woman.
“Muggles.” Miranda’s hand slides smoothly along the banister her ring catching the daylight streaming through tall windows. The brunette bites her lip and concentrates on ignoring whatever crisis of identity she’s having where it concerns the secretary.
Andy nods, shaking her brain into cooperation. “In comparison to a Muggle system, what position would you hold?”
Miranda pauses and turns her head, her body fluidly shifting with her as she angles her body to Andy. Her eyebrows lift in surprise and her cool gaze cuts into the brunette. Andy thinks that this woman could have an entire conversation without ever speaking a word because her face and eyes are so expressive. But Miranda speaks, “Why would it matter?”
I can’t remember…why exactly does anything matter… She’s drowning in unfathomable blue and something like excitement is slithering pleasantly down her spine. “I’m just wondering,” she kick starts her brain, “why you would personally take the time to teach me anything when you could have somebody—anybody—else do it?” They’ve reached the landing and Miranda waits for Andy to reach her side before leading them through an ornately arched threshold.
The silence between them stretches and intensifies what was a benign question.
Brown eyes sweep the room; it’s magnificent. And, it’s much bigger than it appears from the outside. Floor to ceiling bookshelves decorate the walls with what appears to be every type of book. The fireplace is lit with a lively fire and the seating near it looks inviting and comfortable. The room smells of leather and paper and memory and magic.
Andy only has a moment to appreciate the splendor of the library they’ve walking into because Miranda has subtly invaded her personal space; and all Andy can concentrate on is Miranda’s proximity. The secretary is suddenly before Andy, larger than life. The young woman knows she’s taller than Miranda, but it still feels as if the older woman is looming over her, looking into her and through her.
“What if there is no ulterior motive than that I simply wish to be the one to teach you?” Miranda raises her hand but doesn’t touch Andy. She hovers.
“Why?” Andy is asking a million questions. Her skin burns even without Miranda’s physical touch. Isn’t she married? What is she doing? What am I doing? She unconsciously leans forward into the waiting palm. Her stomach flips like when she was ten and got on her first rollercoaster and nerves and fear knotted her stomach and adrenaline released it in a rush of heady excitement.
“Just because I want to.” Miranda answers the obvious question but her eyes are lit with want that has nothing to do with benevolence but everything to do with desire and something more.
Andy shivers. She can almost hear what Miranda isn’t saying but she can’t be sure. Her own thoughts are muddled by the desire to be near the secretary. What’s happening?
“Andrea,” Miranda says it softly with the stress on the a at the end, elongating and beautifying it. Nothing has ever felt more intimate than this woman saying her name like she loves her.
Andy suddenly has the feeling this undertaking is much more dangerous than she originally anticipated but for an entirely different reason: Andy’s fallen a little bit in love. To a married woman. She can deal with the woman part, but the married part is a deal breaker. At least, rationally speaking it is. She’s not sure she’s thinking very logically at the moment. The air between them feels charged with something that seems much too intimate and familiar to be new.
The moment is broken by the exuberant entrance of two small redheads. The alacrity with which Andy steps back from Miranda would be comical if it didn’t leave Miranda looking so hurt. She tamps down on the guilt; there’s no reason for it. If anything, Miranda should be the one feeling guilty.
The girls don’t notice the adults immediately, too entranced with whatever they’re discussing. There are smiles and laughter and motion all whirling in a mass of little bodies with boundless energy, and Andy’s heart lurches in her chest at the sight of them. Two sets of blue eyes find her and she feels the very molecules in the air stand still at the girls’ sudden stop. The shift of emotion across twin faces causes Andy’s heart to feel like it’s beating out of her chest and her knees to feel as if they’re giving out on her. She’s faint and blood pumps so quickly through her veins that she can hear the rush of it in her ears, so she doesn’t hear the girls say mommy but she sees their lips pronounce the word. Twin wide blue stares are fixed on her, she’s sure of it. The world snaps back into place and the air rushes in its freed motion as the girls bolt toward Andy.
Andy’s response doesn’t even filter through her conscious mind, it is automatic. Her arms open to take the girls in, to hug them, to respond to their enthusiasm. But Miranda catches each girl under one arm and lifts them. She holds them close and whispers to them.
Disappointment washes through Andy so fast she has to support herself against the nearest piece of furniture. She doesn’t understand her reaction. Of course the girls meant Miranda. Miranda must be their mother; the similarities are obvious. And, they don’t even know her. But Andy can’t appreciate the strength of the white haired woman lifting two lanky adolescents because she can still taste the bitterness of her disappointment. Her white-knuckled grip on the couch doesn’t loosen until Miranda turns and sets the girls on the ground facing her.
Andy pulls herself together when three sets of blue eyes focus on her. The girls’ eyes are bright with inquisitiveness and curiosity and Andy’s arms physically ache at with longing to hold them. She doesn’t understand the deep ache the children are causing in her; she’s lost and overwhelmed.
“Girls, this is…”Miranda looks pained when Andy’s eyes rise to meet hers. There’s a hardness around blue eyes and red lips are tightened in displeasure.
“Andy,” the brunette supplies around the aching in her throat, “they can call me Andy.”
Their red hair swishes in the air around them as twin heads move in unconscious synchronicity. Miranda gives a small nod of assent and takes her hands off their shoulders, giving them permission to introduce themselves.
The girls approach Andy much more tentatively a second time. They stop a few feet from the brunette and stare up at her for a moment. Andy folds her lanky frame to meet them at eye level, her knees sinking into soft carpet. Her palms are sweaty. She swallows and smiles softly at them even though she can feel the sting of tears.
“Hi,” brown eyes swivel to Miranda’s seeking guidance. But, Miranda is unreadable and her scrutiny is more disconcerting than her girls’ measuring silence.
“Hi, Andy,” the voice is soft and high like a bell ringing in the quietness of the room, “I’m Cassidy.” She steps forward and Andy sees her eyes are warm, gentle, and accepting like Andy has passed some test.
“And I’m Caroline,” the same voice, from a different set of lips, quickly follows but more haughty, more aggressive. Caroline steps forward, too, but Andy can see the wariness still present in her blue eyes.
The hug that Cassidy surrounds her with is completely unexpected. Caroline follows suit simply because she refuses to be left behind. So, Andy has two armfuls of children before she can register what is happening. Two sets of wiry, adolescent arms hold her tightly and the brunette holds them to her possessively and fiercely, like it’s her right, like it’s her place.
The tears she’s valiantly holding back burn her eyes. The ache in her increases but it’s not necessarily excruciating, it’s like the weight of a memory she can’t quite recall: heavy and insistent but diaphanous and just out of reach.
“It’s good to finally meet you.” Andy knows that voice is Cassidy because it’s gentle. Though for all her hesitance, Caroline burrows her face into her neck and breathes her in. The brunette, knelt in lush carpets, with two children clinging to her, can’t help but acquiesce to the inexorable pull of love that washes over her for these two little girls she doesn’t know.
“I don’t know why I’m crying,” Andy says when hands that have released her neck wipe away at the falling drops of salty water.
“It’s because you missed us as much as we missed you.” Andy doesn’t understand that statement.
“Girls, go wash up for dinner. We will join you shortly,” Miranda interrupts any further conversation.
Andy rises and wipes her face. Miranda watches her with an inscrutable face.
“They’re beautiful.” Andy supplies after a moment. It’s only an extension of a very weird day, she’s learning to be flexible with her responses.
“And a handful,” Miranda volunteers without thought. “Cassidy is the, how shall I put this…”
“The more empathetic of the two.”
Blue eyes narrow but a white head nods in the affirmative. “And Caroline is…”
“The tough little soldier.” Andy doesn’t know how she knows that, but she doesn’t question the knowledge. She knows.
Miranda says nothing for a moment. “They’re out of school until September, I’ll make sure they are attended while I’m at work and that they stay out of your way while we work together.”
“No,” Andy says quickly. The thought of being away from Caroline and Cassidy makes her chest hurt. She hastens to clarify, however, when a pointed, questioning look is aimed at her, “I mean, I can’t possibly afford whatever the going rate is for Secretaries of Magic to teach me magic, so the least I can do is watch your children while you’re at work.” She looks at Miranda. “If you wouldn’t be opposed, that is.” Andy grimaces. I probably sound like a weird creep.
The secretary hides her surprise well. “I’m not opposed,” the words are slow and measured.
Andy breathes a sigh of relief.
“Let me show you to your room.”
The silence that follows them isn’t awkward but it’s not really comfortable either. There’s a tension that rests between them. An unspoken, unacknowledged truth.
Miranda stops in front of a closed door. She opens it but stays on the outside of it. “Dinner is in a few minutes if you’d like to join us.”
The brunette nods and walks through the threshold. “Thank you.”
Miranda starts to say something but stops herself and shakes her head. She gives Andy a slight nod and turns to leave.
Andy reaches out, unsure what she wants to do, but she stops short of touching Miranda. She lets her go and slumps against the door frame.
Andy’s not exactly sure what she feels for Miranda beyond the fact that whatever it is she’s feeling a lot of it; but as impossible as it seems, she loves the secretary’s daughters with boundless affection.
She steps back into her room and closes the door.
The first month passes in relative quiet. Most of Andy’s time has been spent reading because Miranda refuses to teach her anything without a sound foundation in the basic theories. Miranda has also insisted on probing Andy’s mind to inspect the extent of her magical binding. Andy is inclined to believe there is something else Miranda is searching for, but she never voices her opinion. She enjoys their time together regardless of their endeavor.
And though Andy has learned, and enjoyed, a great deal from her reading, she has, admittedly, learned more practical information from Caroline and Cassidy than from the books she’s read. They’re inquisitive, smart and quick witted. That makes Andy unduly proud, but she loves the twins so she doesn’t question her emotions regarding them.
It’s natural, Andy thinks. Of course they’ve become close, she spends all her time with the girls.
Andy and the Priestly women have fallen into an easy routine. It’s as if she fits into an existing niche that has been specifically preserved for her. It’s an odd thought and it makes Andy pause as she waits for the coffee to percolate through an ancient coffee maker Miranda produced from a cupboard on her second day. It doesn’t really fit into the décor of the kitchen and Andy isn’t exactly sure how it operates because it has no plug that she can see and no power outlet to which it can be plugged into.
At this point, she’s accepted that this whole thing isn’t some intricate dream and that magic is real. She couldn’t dream up someone as elaborate as Miranda Priestly. Andy smiles and pours two cups of steaming coffee.
“Good morning, Miss Andy,” the tone is the same gentle one that she’s heard every day for the last month.
Andy turns to the small creature that’s popped into the kitchen and her smile widens. “Good morning, Beyla.” These little creatures, house elves Miranda had explained, are fascinating to the brunette. So extremely powerful and proficient but always serving.
“I’ll have breakfast out momentarily,” the tenor is deeper but the elf sounds so much like Miranda.
“We’ll be out on the patio,” Andy’s already walking out the double doors, “thank you, Beyla.”
Andy walks carefully out to where Miranda is already seated. “Madame Secretary,” she knows her smile is coming out in her voice; she places the cup in front of the older woman. There’s an intimacy between them that makes conversation easy; Andy doesn’t understand it but she appreciates it.
Miranda folds the newspaper she’s reading and looks up through her reading glasses at the brunette. She’s smiling; Andy feels butterflies in her stomach. “Good morning, Andrea.” She picks up her coffee and takes a long sip.
“Good morning, Miranda.”
And there it is the living thing that’s always between them. It breathes with each of their breaths and holds them to each other.
Andy seats herself across from Miranda and drinks the woman in like she’s drinking her coffee: slowly and decadently.
Slipping her glasses off and placing them on top of the newspaper, Miranda leans back and returns the pointed regard. She’s still smiling, but it’s sad and faraway as if she’s remembering something long past. The attention makes Andy blush, nonetheless.
“If I may ask,” Andy clears her throat, these moments can’t continue, at least not without some explanation, “where is Mr. Priestly?”
It takes Miranda a moment to respond. “Who?”
“Your husband,” Andy’s eyes veer to the gold band on Miranda’s hand. “I’ve been here for several weeks and I’ve yet to see the girls’ father.”
Miranda makes a noncommittal sound and takes another long sip of her coffee. “I’ve missed having such good coffee in the mornings.”
Andy’s brow furrows at the non sequitur.
“How has the library served you these last few weeks?”
“Uhhh…” the blatant back-off makes Andy mentally stutter. “It’s been very informative…”
An awkwardness that hasn’t previously been present between them descends, blanketing them in uncomfortable silence. Beyla appears with breakfast and they eat in increasingly awkward silence.
“Listen,” Andy starts but she's silenced by Miranda's rise from the table.
“Come with me, Andrea, we are ready to begin some proper training.”
Andy rises slowly, her mind flying in a million different directions. She's much more bewildered than hurt at Miranda’s rebuff. Up to this point, nothing has really been out of the realm of conversation.
The silence walks with them, a living thing between them now.
Miranda leads them to a wide room that's sparsely furnished so that it's mostly empty space. Sunlight filters in through floor to ceiling windows that face the beautiful grounds on which Miranda's home sits.
A small table sits in the middle of the room with a long wooden box sitting atop it. Andy approaches the table without thought, there's something important in that box.
Andy’s periphery catches Miranda merely observing as she takes the box in her hands and opens it. It's an odd thing to experience this moment with someone watching her. Andy’s not exactly sure why it feels so…intimate.
The rush of magic starts at Andy’s fingertips and quickly courses through her. She feels the immediate response of her entire system as she carefully opens the box. And, she feels an immediate and absolute connection to the thin, mahogany length of wood gently lain against the dark velvet of the inside of the box.
“That is your wand,” Miranda says as she approaches the young woman. “The affinity and connection you feel to it is important in focusing and controlling the magic I'll teach you.”
Andy picks up the wand and feels the sudden focusing of the ambiguous, diaphanous magic she's felt for the last month. Its shape and weight is familiar and it centers her somehow.
“We'll start with a few simple spells,” Miranda is beside Andy.
And, Andy feels an echo, a resonance of magic when Miranda touches her hand to show her how to properly hold the wand. She knows the secretary feels it too by the small intake of breath. Andy’s skin burns where Miranda touches it.
“Pronunciation and wand motion is of utmost importance,” Miranda steps back and her voice is factual, instructional. Any indication of feeling wiped away. “Pay close attention, and do as I do.”
Andy listens and imitates spells of increasing difficulty for the better part of the morning. Miranda is relentless and demanding, but she seems infinitely patient—which seems completely incongruous to the professional persona of the woman before Andy.
Her mind goes blank as a hand slides down her arm and grabs her wrist. Miranda moves her hand into a specific motion. Andy swallows and attempts to follows the motion without showing the tremor that suddenly grips her hand. She’s mentally exhausted and Miranda’s proximity and touching isn’t helping matters.
Andy feels Miranda move in behind her and press herself against her back.
“Magic is more than mechanics,” warm breath washes over Andy’s earlobe, “it’s fluidity and grace.” Miranda takes Andy’s hands between her own and moves them through the motion of a spell, her back pressing and bending Andy’s in similar movement. “You must feel it flow into you, through you, and out of you.” They’ve stopped moving but Miranda hasn’t stepped back. “You are not its master; you are its dance partner.” Miranda has turned her head slightly; Andy can feel hot breath behind her ear and the shape of lips barely moving over the spot. “You move to the ebb and flow it offers. You are part of it.”
Miranda’s heat buffets Andy and she feels short of breath; she’s feeling something move through her but it’s definitely not magic. It’s hot and think and it’s coiling just south of her naval. She bites her lip and turns her head.
Blue eyes have darkened to the color of a stormy sea. Andy wants to drown in them but she feels the cool press of Miranda’s wedding band against her skin. It burns into her skin with a cold bite of reality.
“Miranda, we can’t do this.”
The words don’t dissuade Miranda like Andy thought they would. The older woman hasn’t stepped back or otherwise removed herself, instead she’s closing the distance between their faces.
Andy presses her cheek to Miranda’s and avoids the kiss she wanted as much as Miranda. But, she has to know first. “Where’s your husband?”
Miranda huffs in disapproval and frustration.
That makes Andy smile against an alabaster cheek. “Come on,” amusement curbs her own frustration, “you tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine.”
Miranda whole body stiffens at the words. She’s released Andy before the young woman can completely gather her wits.
Andy watches in confusion and apprehension. Miranda is so pale she’s ashen; she looks as if she’s been physically stricken. Andy reaches for her in slight panic thinking the secretary has had a heart attack or a stroke. But the panic turns into pain when Miranda steps back, flinching from her touch.
“That’s enough for today,” there’s a hollowness in Miranda’s voice that makes Andy physically ache.
“Wait…” It’s a plea.
Miranda’s retreating footsteps echo loudly against the walls of the room.
Miranda doesn’t acknowledge the man that sits next to her. She catches the bartender’s attention and downs the shot he pours her.
“Madame Secretary,” Nigel waves the bartender away. Miranda’s had more than enough to drink.
“I can’t do this, Nigel,” Miranda’s voice cracks on the words. “She’s taken on lovers.”
He nods, takes off his glasses, and rubs at his face; it’s been a long few years.
“She’s curious about my husband,” Miranda turns her head to regard Nigel, lifting her left hand and tapping her ring with her thumb. Her eyes are dry but the director can see they’re red rimmed; the pain makes her seem more beautiful. “She’s never been so close yet so far away.” She turns away. “It’s unsettling.”
Her friend and confidant sighs. “There are other ways to get her memory back. We could…”
“No!” Miranda cuts him off sharply. “No. That is not an option.”
“We could try to cast a counter spell,” he supplies.
“Not without knowing what spells were cast in the first place,” Miranda sighs and tries to get the bartender to come back and refill her glass.
“We can discuss this tomorrow,” Nigel stands, ready to remove the secretary from the bar. “Let’s get you home.”
He steadies a wobbling Miranda, he certain the alcohol has little to do with her state.
“I need you to do something for me,” she grabs his arm in a strong grip, her eyes a little wild.
“Come on,” he walks her out. She allows him to lead her.
“Teach Andrea for the next few days,” it’s a request, even though it’s veiled in command.
He nods and feels her relax marginally next to him. Miranda steps away from him.
“Are you okay to get home on your own?”
“Yes.” His concern has always been touching. “Thank you.” She doesn’t say it often enough.
Miranda apparates into her private quarters and falls fully clothed onto her bed. She does her best to shrink the ball of pain constricting her torso, but she’s not nearly drunk enough to drown that pain.
“Did I do something that I need to apologize for?” Andy executes the spells with deftness.
The question makes Nigel pause. His gaze is measured, much like Miranda’s. “She’s just been busy with foreign ministers.”
“I’m not unsympathetic to her hectic work schedule, Nigel. I worked at the White House.” It seems like a lifetime ago now. “I know the pace of this type of environment,” she resumes her casting, the spells more forceful with the surge of her emotions, “but, Miranda isn’t busy for two weeks straight because of some scheduling overload. She’s avoiding me.”
Nigel corrects an errant hand movement but says nothing.
“I’d just like to know what I did, or said, so I can apologize and we can move on.” Andy stops and her brown eyes dig into the director. “I don’t particularly enjoy this silent treatment. It’s unsettling.”
Nigel raises an eyebrow at that.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Andy exhales loudly “Be all sage and Yoda-like?”
“Excuse me,” the director sounds amused.
“Nothing, never mind, Muggle thing.”
They resume the lesson without further distraction. But, Andy’s mind mulls over the distance Miranda has put between them. There are no coffees, no breakfasts, not talks, no comfortable silences, no accidental meetings in halls or empty rooms, no anything. It’s confusing and distressing. And, it makes Andy hurt like she never hurt when Nate left and Christian disappeared. She’s never even kissed Miranda and Andy feels more gutted at their separation than any separation from lovers she’s had.
Nigel stops the lesson when Andy explodes an unsuspecting feather.
“Sorry,” Andy shrugs, giving him a lopsided smile.
He shakes his head at her and puts his wand away. “I don’t think you’re in the right mind set for this today.”
Andy makes a displeased sound, “Guess not.” She puts her wand away and follows Nigel out of the room that’s too tall and too wide without Miranda’s presence in it. They take a walk around the grounds of the Secretary of Magic’s estate, as has become their custom.
They walk several minutes in companionable silence. Just when Andy thinks they’re going to complete their daily walk without discussing anything, Nigel starts speaking.
“She’s married,” he says it casually, “but, her wife was lost toward the end of the Second Wizarding War.”
“Her wife…” Andy’s heart jumps.
Nigel nods, “The girls’ mother.”
“Lost?” Andy stops Nigel and looks at him with furrowed brow. “Miranda is widowed? Wait…Miranda isn’t the girls’ mother?”
“No,” his eyes are shadowed, “her wife isn’t dead…just sort of.”
“What?” She’s asking his back, he’s started walking again. “Nigel,” she quickly matches his long strides, “what do you mean? How can someone be sort of dead? And, what do you mean Miranda isn’t the girl’s mother?”
“All good questions, my dear,” he pats her hand absently rounding the final turn for home, “Fine mysteries for another day.”
“No, no, no,” she grabs his shoulder and turns him to face her, “why would you tell me any of that? Is Miranda upset because I asked after her husband when it’s a wife I should’ve inquired about?”
“Not quite,” he removes her hand from his shoulder, her grip becoming uncomfortably firm.
“Nigel,” she whines, but she can see he’s not going to budge, “fine. But, give me a hint at least, I’m completely lost.”
“You’re telling me.”
She raises her eyebrows at him, bewildered.
He sighs. “Miranda will come around; right now she’s just unsure. Give her some time.”
“I don’t seem to have much choice.” Andy looks up at the feel of eyes on her. She sees Miranda staring at her through the window of the second floor landing. I wonder how long she’s been looking.
“Mum’s acting weird,” Caroline says to no one in particular.
Cassidy looks up from where she’s reading and Andy snaps out of her Miranda-induced stupor.
“And why don’t you guys sleep in the same room?” Now she’s got her curious blue eyes aimed at Andy. “Everybody else’s parents sleep together.”
“What?” The question catches Andy completely by surprise. Cassidy’s looking at her curiously now, too. Andy has no idea how to reply. Parents?
“You know,” Caroline is using her hands to emphasize her words, completely focusing on Andy, “why don’t you guys do the stuff married people do? Act like married people act?”
“Well…” Andy cocks her slightly trying to understand where the questions are coming from. Miranda’s been distant for seventeen long days, but to Andy’s knowledge she hasn’t been acting any differently with her daughters. “We aren’t married, sweetheart.”
Caroline gives a disgruntled groan, throws her hands up, and falls dramatically onto her back. “We’re still playing this game?” She blows out a long breath. “I’m bored of this game,” her voice is petulant now, like any eleven-year-old who is tired of something, “I want to be a family.”
“What game?” Andy looks to Cassidy for help, but the little girl’s face is as inscrutable as Miranda’s. No one that young should look so stern.
“The one where we pretend you’re just some random stranger,” Caroline says in exasperation, rolling her eyes at the ceiling, “and not our mom.”
Andy’s mind screeches to a halt and her heart stops in her chest. “What?”
Something must have changed in the tone of her voice because both girls are looking at her strangely now. Andy feels cold and there’s a sliver of pain shooting behind her temples.
Cassidy’s moved to where her sister is sitting.
“What are you girls talking about?” Andy tries to keep the desperation out of her voice. They know whatever Miranda’s been hiding from her; they know the reason for the older woman’s distance.
“You’re married to Mum,” Cassidy answers slowly, not entirely sure she should be divulging the information. “You’re our mother.”
The statement makes Andy’s brain buzz. “That’s not possible.”
The girls look at each other then back at Andy like they’re not sure if she’s okay. “Come on,” Caroline is pulling Andy from her seat, “we’ll show you.”
Each twin holds one of her hands; their little hands are warm in her clammy palms. They lead Andy to Miranda’s bedroom door and push through the threshold before the brunette can protest the invasion of the secretary’s privacy.
The room is dark so Andy doesn’t see much of it, but she can smell Miranda everywhere and it makes her dizzy.
Caroline and Cassidy lead Andy through the room to a doorway with a gargoyle sitting atop it.
“We aren’t breaking into your mom’s private study,” Andy is adamant.
“We aren’t breaking in,” Caroline tugs her forward, “Mum set the gargoyle to recognize our family’s magical signature. We can go in whenever we want.”
“So, it’s not going to let me through.”
“Of course it will.” It’s said with the absolute conviction of an elever-year-old.
The girls pull Andy through the doorway, and nothing stops them. The interior of the study lights up automatically at their presence. And, Andy is completely floored. Her heart starts racing like she’s run several miles. She sits and puts her head between knees trying to breathe enough so she doesn’t faint. Her head feels leaden.
She looks up to make sure she saw what she thought she saw. The room is full of photographs and portraits of the Priestly family…and her. Andy’s smiling face greets Caroline and Cassidy from several of the pictures.
Her likeness and Miranda’s wave at the girls happily from frames all over the room.
Some pictures are just of her and Miranda. Some have her and Miranda and two identical infants. Andy looks at Caroline and Cassidy and knows the infants and toddlers in the pictures are the twins. My twins.
One picture catches her attention. She stands on shaky legs and makes her way to the desk holding the picture. She picks it up and traces the glass covering the picture. The two figures in the picture only glance at her before losing themselves in each other. They are so happy.
It’s our wedding day. Andy is certain, though she doesn’t understand. At all.
“Here,” Cassidy hands her a small velvet box. “Mum kept that in her desk but I think it belongs to you.”
Andy opens it and finds a simple gold band almost identical to the one Miranda wears. She lifts the ring out of the box. Brown eyes sweep across the room. She must be sure. She slips the ring onto her finger.
Searing pain shoots through her skull, she grits her teeth against the cry that wants to escape her throat.
“Told you,” Caroline sounds unsure even though she was obviously right.
“You were right, sweetheart,” Andy swallows her pain. The girls probably understand what’s happening less than she does. She grabs small hands and squeezes gently. “You both were.”
“Can you we call you Mom again?” Cassidy’s so hopeful that it breaks Andy’s heart a little bit.
Andy nods; she can do little else.
“Good,” Caroline smiles widely like everything is right again in her world, “it was weird calling you Andy.”
Andy waits for Miranda in the study.
It’s late, past midnight. But, she’s not dissuaded. Miranda has a lot to answer for.
“Girls,” Miranda sounds displeased on the other side of the study, “you should be in bed.”
“They are.” Andy sees the color drain out of Miranda’s face as she realizes who exactly is in the study.
“Andrea,” Miranda’s voice betrays nothing.
“Miranda,” Andy hates the fact that her heart flutters at seeing the older woman. She’s beautiful. Andy wishes she weren’t so in love with her.
“How are your lessons with Nigel going?” Miranda takes a seat across from the brunette.
“No,” Andy spits the word out, straightening in her chair, “you don’t get to do this. You’re going to answer every goddam question I have. Directly. Without obfuscating.”
Miranda’s still looks pale but she waves her fingers at Andy in a get-on-with-it gesture.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Andy pushes the frame photograph and ring toward Miranda.
The older woman says nothing but carefully handles both items handed to her.
Andy is up and pacing, needing to move, needing to expend the nervous energy bouncing from every muscle in her body. “How could you do this?” She’s not shouting because the twins aren’t sleeping too far from Miranda’s room, but she really wants to.
“I couldn’t tell you. It causes you physical pain when your brain tries to remember anything. I’m not sure it won’t cause irreparable damage if you’re forced to remember without first casting the counter spell to whatever was cast on you.” Miranda looks completely sincere. It makes Andy hesitate, but only for a moment.
“You insist on continuing this farce,” Andy’s accusation is bitter, pained, “how could you create this whole fiction? Doing all of this?” She motions frantically to the pictures in the room. “Putting false memories in your daughters’ heads? Giving me some sort of magic?” Andy turns away not able to look at Miranda. “What was the purpose of all this? Are you that lonely that you couldn’t court me normally? You had to create this whole world?”
There’s absolute silence for the space of several heartbeats. Then, Miranda rises slowly and Andy can tell she’s incensed. The brunette swallows nervously, Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe I was wrong.
“I would never, ever involve my children in something so petty,” Miranda isn’t shouting but the room seems to be vibrating with her anger, “Nor would I ever do something so dishonorable as pursue anyone with lies and deceit.” The secretary moves to place the photograph back on the spot where it belongs. She clutches the ring in her hand before pocketing it.
“You’re not a Muggle,” Miranda’s frustrated and terrified and so very angry, “I didn’t give you any sort of magic to make you fall into some sort of twisted fantasy. You’re a witch. An Unspeakable. You were one of the foremost researchers for the Department of Mysteries.”
“I’m Andrea Sachs,” Andy shakes her head, feeling a migraine starting at the back of her skull. Feeling sick over everything. She doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Her head is telling her one thing, and her heart is insisting on another.
“You are Andrea,” Miranda agrees grabbing thin shoulders and shaking, “but it has been many years since you’ve been Sachs.” She moves away like her proximity to Andy is painful, unbearable almost. “You’re a Priestly,” she’s vehement, “you’re my wife. Those aren’t just my children out there, they’re our children. You gave birth to them.”
Andy says the only thing that pops into her mind through the fog of pain and uncertainty, “They look nothing like me.”
“That’s because I fathered them and they happen to take more after me.”
And Andy doesn’t have anything to say to that. Her mind gets stuck momentarily on the image of how exactly Miranda fathered children but it’s quickly occupied with the scope and magnitude of what Miranda is saying.
The pronounced silence stretches from beyond uncomfortable to unbearable and neither woman knows how to ease the tension.
All Andy can think to do is take a walk and clear her head. There’s so much that she needs to straighten out. There’s so much she doesn’t understand. And, Miranda confuses everything; she muddles Andy’s thoughts and emotions. So, she turns away from the older woman and starts making her way out of the study.
A strong grip halts her escape, the grasp gentle yet unyielding.
“You can’t just leave,” and it’s the tears in the voice that stop Andy. “You can’t run away from this. Please don’t leave me again. I won’t push you.” The sound of breathing fills the room. “Whatever you want, I’ll do. I won’t push you.”
The words drop from Miranda’s lips softly, almost apologetically. And of all the scenarios she’d imagined, Andy never thought she would see Miranda like this, shoulders bowed and shaking, praying for an absolution she obviously thinks will never come. Pleading with her to stay.
“I’m not going anywhere.” It’s out of Andy’s mouth before she consciously makes the decision to stay.
Beyla doesn’t comment on the tension in the kitchen, she places their breakfast in front of them and disappears. Neither woman touches her food.
The twins race into the kitchen full of energy and life. Not noticing the quiet in the room.
“Good morning, Mum.” Each girl kisses one of Miranda’s cheeks. The action puts a small smile on the secretary’s face.
“Good morning, Bobbseys.” Miranda kisses each girl back.
“Good morning, Mom.” The girls bounce over to Andy giving her the same treatment.
“Good morning, sweethearts.” The brunette returns the kisses jovially; she really does love the girls. They’re mine.
Miranda’s blue eyes don’t widen but the shock in them is evident anyway. Andy really has nothing to say.
“When do grandma and grandpa get here?”…“How long can we stay with them?”…“Are you going to visit with us?”…“What are you going to do with us gone?”
“Bobbseys, breathe,” Miranda takes each girls’ face into her hands. “Your grandparents should be here momentarily. You’re staying with them over the weekend. We aren’t going with you, but I think your mother and I can manage to entertain ourselves in your absence.”
Miranda silences another tirade of questions with her index finger across small lips. “I do believe your grandparents have arrived.”
Excited squeals follow the girls out of the kitchen and through the house to the front sitting room. The adults move at a much more leisurely pace.
“You called me their mother,” Andy’s chest expands with happiness. It’s a small thing that she’s completely sure of amidst the confusion plaguing her mind.
“You are their mother,” Miranda’s voice is subdued, quieter than usual.
“Miranda…” A raised hand stops Andy.
“Let’s wait until your parents have gone.”
“My parents?” Andy’s abrupt stop makes Miranda turn to look at her.
“Yes, your parents, Andrea,” the secretary is already turning back to see her children off, “Letting them pop over to Britain to visit my parents is a little much if we aren’t going with them.”
“Miranda, my parents are dead.”
Miranda turns back and presses calming hands on stiff shoulders without thinking or taking into account the very many things they have yet to discuss. “No, Andrea,” her voice soothes, “your parents are alive. And they are taking our children for the weekend.”
Andy doesn’t budge, she’s not sure what to feel. She’s numb with emotional overload. “Do they know?”
“I explained what I understand,” Miranda’s eyes are hard and soft all at once, “I didn’t know they’d been stripped from your mind, too. You don’t have to meet them.”
Andy is hesitant, but the girls are calling for her so she walks the last few steps with Miranda’s hand clasped tightly in her own, a familiar lifeline. “I think I’ll be okay.”
She spots them immediately. And they spot her immediately.
The man looks nothing like her, but his smile is hers. He beams at her and Andy has to close her eyes against the blinding happiness directed at her. I wish I remembered you.
The woman though…looking at her is like staring in the mirror for Andy. She’s much more reserved in her outward expression. It’s like she’s having as much trouble processing as Andy, almost like can’t believe what’s before her.
Distantly Andy hears Miranda address them. Margaret…Richard…these are my parents…
They cross the distance between them in a few short strides. And Andy is engulfed between two exuberant adults. It’s odd to be hugged by strangers, but it makes warmth spread through her. They feel familiar. She hugs back fiercely. They’re alive. My parents.
“My darling girl, it’s so good to see you. It’s so good you’re well.” The Sachs’ let her go and wipe discreetly at their tears.
Andy smiles not knowing what to say and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Caroline and Cassidy prevent any awkwardness with their excitement and it’s only moments before the girls and their grandparents are bidding everyone goodbye.
“Please come visit when you can.” It’s sincere and heartfelt.
“We will,” Andy promises. I want to know you.
She stares at the fireplace long after her parents and children have disappeared through it.
Miranda excuses herself to let Andy assimilate some of the information that is bombarding her brain.
The brunette sits quietly until the sun dies away on the western horizon and the moon awakens in the night sky.
Andy approaches Miranda quietly. She sits on a patio chair beside the secretary and allows herself to relax against the soft cushions beneath her. The night air is pleasantly cool around them.
They sit still, apart but together, neither wanting to break the heavy silence between them.
“I’m sorry about last night,” Miranda doesn’t look at Andy, “it wasn’t my place to…” She trails off; it used to be her place. It seems like another life now. The silence is interminable.
“I’m scared,” Andy admits, the darkness blankets them and makes it easy to confess the things that stubbornness withholds in the light of day. “Everything in my head is a lie. Do you know how terrifying that is? It’s enough to make someone go crazy.” She sees the edges of darkness creeping across her mind. “I said so many things last night that I shouldn’t have…and I’m sorry about that…it’s just I wanted to believe so badly that I am who I thought I was…” She trails off, pulling her wand out and feeling the surge of magic underneath her fingertips. “But you and the girls…I feel…my heart feels like it’s come home.” Her brown eyes stare at Miranda’s profile. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
Miranda finally turns to look at Andy with pained eyes, wetness shining brightly in the moonlight. Despite how powerful she is, there’s so little the secretary can do for the young woman.
“I may never remember,” Andy says eventually.
“I know.” A sigh. A withdrawal. Sad acceptance.
Their silences speak louder than their words.
“You love me?” Andy asks unexpectedly.
“Yes.” It’s immediate and natural. Singular. Truth.
“Even as I am now?” Andy has to know even though her heart is beating out of her chest from the simple yes already given her query.
“You are remarkably similar to what I remember,” Miranda turns her head toward Andy and smiles, but her eyes are sad, “I have managed to fall in love with you twice in one lifetime.”
“That saddens you?”
“Only insomuch that you don’t get the same experience.”
“That’s not true,” Andy can’t help the flip her heart makes, this woman is her heart, “Even straight me has managed to fall in love with you.”
Miranda’s smile tightens across her face like she’s pleased but it hurts to be so.
Andy grimaces when realization dawns on her. She finally understands Miranda’s reaction to learning of any sort of lovers she’s had. From Miranda’s perspective, Andy’s been unfaithful. Even not having all the memories of their marriage, Andy feels ashamed. Her heart twists painfully.
“Oh god…” Andy’s aghast. “I’m so sorry…”
Miranda takes a long breath and tentatively takes Andy’s hand, bridging the physical distance between them. She holds it like a lifeline.
“You didn’t know,” Miranda’s voice is strained but she absolves Andy without hesitation, “It doesn’t matter.”
Andy expels a long breath gathering her courage, “What happened to me?”
“You’ve read about the Second Wizarding War?” Miranda’s eyes go back to the night sky as she remembers the awful events of that war. She doesn’t let go of Andy’s hand.
“Yes,” Andy’s eyes stay glued to Miranda.
“America never officially joined the war, but we and several others did. It was all covert; if any of us were caught, we were not under the political protection of the United States. Though, it would have mattered very little had we been officially dispatched. The Ministry was already corrupt by the time we got there. Voldemort was pulling all the strings and Umbridge was already on a warpath. Despicable woman.” Miranda shudders at even the remembrance of the woman.
“You and I transferred to the British Ministry just before its fall. At the time, we’d been married for six years; the girls were two. Before the transfer, I was Head Auror and you were an Unspeakable working in the Department of Mysteries. I kept pushing the Secretary of Magic to join the fight against Voldemort. But, politics prevented him from acting because Voldemort hadn’t revealed himself even though it was evident he was working behind the scenes at the Ministry.
However, I couldn’t sit back and be a spectator to everything that was happening. Voldemort was taking over my country and it would only be a matter of time before he tried to subjugate every people and country. So, I pressed the Secretary to find some way to send me over there. I was considering joining the Order of the Phoenix when you made a breakthrough in your research and asked for a transfer to the British Ministry. That’s how we got in.”
Miranda rubs her thumb absently across Andy’s skin. “Had I known the cost of my involvement then, I don’t think I would have pressed so hard to join that war.”
“Did you save lives?” Andy interjects softly her eyes still fixed on Miranda’s face.
Miranda’s eyes swing to hers. “Yes.”
“Then the cost was worth it.” Andy feels a gentle squeeze to her hand.
Miranda shakes her, unsure. “I never wanted you involved. Not even at the beginning. But, you would have none of my brave martyrdom.” Miranda smiles wanly at the memory of their heated arguments followed by their heated encounters. “I brought up the girls and you succinctly and effectively truncated my argument: we both had more chance of making it back alive if we went together. So we took the girls to your parents and infiltrated the Ministry.
After the Ministry’s fall, I had to flee. But you stayed. You insisted that you could do more good continuing your research than openly joining the resistance. I gave you the same argument you gave me before we’d left the States, but you just smiled and said you were on the brink of a breakthrough. I hated leaving you in the den of snakes but your information on Voldemort’s movements was invaluable. The arrangement worked for several months before an assistant turned you over for conspiring with the Order.” Miranda’s eyes narrow in anger at some unknown stranger even now, years later.
“They took you to Malfoy Manor,” Miranda’s voice trembles as she recounts these events, “I didn’t find out until later, when the Trio escaped along with the others imprisoned there. They said you knew Dobby was coming, and you provided adequate distraction for the success of their escape.” Miranda wipes at her face with her free hand.
“I guess I had a thing about brave martyrdom, too,” Andy moves closer to Miranda rubbing her hand in an attempt at comfort for old hurts.
The secretary lets out what’s supposed to be an amused huff but comes out more like a pained hiccup. “I dropped everything the moment I knew you were taken. It felt like my soul had been sucked out of my body.” Miranda clears her throat. “I apparated directly to Malfoy Manor without plan or back up, but it was empty. I ransacked the place but you were nowhere. All I found was your wand and ring left neatly on a table.
That summer, I looked for you everywhere. I extended the limits of my magical abilities trying to find you, your magical signature, a trace, anything. I expended all my energies searching until I was little more than an ambling skeleton. I couldn’t think, couldn’t eat, couldn’t function. I nearly went mad and nearly wore to the bone.” Miranda quiets to the point of inaudibility. “I was so lost without you.”
“Oh Miranda…” Andy’s heart breaks for the older woman. She’s moving to sit beside Miranda and wrapping her in a strong embrace without thought or hesitation. It’s in her nature to comfort.
Miranda falls into the embrace like she’s starved for the contact. Given the opportunity she takes it wholeheartedly. She clutches Andy to her like she never wants to let her go. And, she breathes the young woman in, luxuriating in her familiar scent and feel.
“I think I would’ve withered away and died in search for you,” Miranda is confessing into the soft skin of Andy’s neck, “if Nigel hadn’t shaken me out of my stupor. He told me that I had daughters that needed me, especially since you were gone.
So, I came home. Because, he was right. They needed me. And, they were all of you I had left. But, I never stopped looking. Ever. I knew you weren’t dead. I could feel you, in my blood, with every heart beat.”
Andy holds Miranda tightly. The desperation surrounding the secretary is tangible and she worries that that depth of frantic love is dangerous. But, it pleases the young woman that the love and desperation is for her. She’s not sure if that’s not more dangerous.
“I am alive,” Andy pulls back slightly to look Miranda in the eyes. “I am alive. I am here. And as much as I’ve tried to keep you out and tried to fight against this attraction and love that makes no sense because I can’t remember us, I can’t fight it anymore. You’re deeper than a memory. You’re all the way down deep in my heart.”
Andy’s head screams in painful protest when their lips meet. She ignores the pain and opens her mouth to taste lips she’s been dying to taste since Miranda was little more than a two dimensional photograph lying on her kitchen table.
Miranda is ravenous with eight years of pent up waiting and wanting. She consumes Andy, until the young woman falls limp in her arms.
“Andrea,” Miranda sounds frustratingly amused. She doesn’t panic when she notices the blood dripping from Andy’s nose, but her amusement dissipates into worry. “Beyla,” the elf pops immediately before her, “summon a Healer.”
Relief floods Miranda when brown eyes open.
“Don’t tell me I fainted?” Andy groans and throws and hand over her face.
“I’ve always had that effect on you.” Miranda’s lips twitch upward at the aggrieved sigh that escapes the young woman.
“Liar.” Andy sits up and rolls her neck.
“How are you feeling?” Miranda is still worried.
“Better. My head doesn’t feel like it’s going to crack open.” Andy pushes herself to the edge of the bed so she’s next to the secretary. “Any idea what’s going on with me?”
“The healer didn’t find anything physically wrong,” Miranda gently touches Andy’s temples, “But, when I’ve looked in here, I see an emptiness that shouldn’t be there.”
“Partly,” Miranda turns the puzzle in her mind, “but the false memories should fill up the void…they don’t.”
“But, why does it hurt to remember, especially anything concerning you?” Frustration laces the question.
“I don’t know.” Miranda hates that answer, hates the helplessness of her position, but she’s never seen anything quite like this before.
Andy stands, “You said I was an Unspeakable.”
The secretary nods wondering where the brunette’s thoughts are running.
“From what I’ve read, Unspeakables work on top tier classified projects,” brown eyes flick to blue for confirmation, “Maybe there is some sort of failsafe to ensure the information stays secret.”
“It’s possible,” Miranda concedes.
“What else could I do? I mean besides being a top secret government researcher.” Andy is excited. It’s evident in how she’s gesticulating and moving around the room. “Could I see things? Detect things?”
She is so much the woman Miranda remembers, it makes her ache with a loss she can’t describe. “On occasion you were a touch clairvoyant.”
“Could I see things in the present?” Andy stops moving and stares at Miranda intently.
“You were a talented Legilimens,” at the blank look directed her way she expounds obliquely, “An excellent judge of character.” The pointed and unwavering gaze is making Miranda uncomfortable. “Why do you ask?”
“Because,” Andy furrows her brows in concentration, disbelief coloring her features, “I can see us.”
Miranda’s heart lurches painfully in her chest; hope is torturous.
“Old Voldy may have taken you from me, but he didn’t take me from you,” she sounds fascinated, “I see us,” her hand points to Miranda’s heart, “burning in your chest.” Their eyes connect. “And, you know how to get me back.”
“I don’t,” the finality in her voice surprises them both. At an arched eyebrow, she expounds, “I don’t know of a plausible solution.”
“But you know of a way,” Andy’s insistent.
“Torture,” Miranda is succinct, “so extreme it could kill you.”
“Definitely not an option then.”
“No.” Miranda stands and pulls the young woman to her. Andy goes willingly. Miranda rises on tiptoes to kiss Andy’s forehead. “Definitely not.”
"What did I study in the Department of Mysteries?" Andy asks, an idea forming in her head.
"Love." Miranda pretends that word matters little. "You had a particular journal of information that nobody can read because you wrote it in some indecipherable shorthand."
"Can I take a look at it?" Andy can feel the answer at her fingertips and it excites her. Research isn’t so different than chasing a story and being at the edge of breaking it wide open: exhilarating, terrifying, wonderful.
"It’s protected by a charm that you seem to have invented for its particular obfuscation if you weren't around to open it," Miranda isn’t put off in the least by that particular impediment. She’s impressed and proud, in fact.
"I'll figure something out, I just have to see it. I think there may be something in it that could help us."
Andy bounces excitedly on the balls of her feet. In that moment, Miranda sees Caroline and Cassidy in the brunette. The girls may take after her in looks but they take after Andy in everything else. The young woman exudes energy and life, making Miranda ache with need to have her wife back whole and her family complete.
Miranda summons the journal to her, its magic bouncing off her fingers as she offers it to its rightful owner.
Andy can hear Miranda’s light and even breathing in the spot next to her in the bed. She pulls her head out of the journal and admires the relaxed, sleeping form beside her; Miranda gave in to exhaustion a few hours ago.
She leans her head back onto the headboard and puts the journal in her lap. Andy scoured the journal for the better part of the night but found nothing connecting to her current condition. She rubs her tired eyes and looks back at Miranda’s gently rising and falling chest. I want to give you everything, but you may have to settle for just me, just this.
Andy sighs and flips to the last few pages of the journal. Scrawled hastily are two sentences that make little sense even considering the content of the journal.
In my heart there’s a memory, and there you’ll always be. Andy traces the lines of the words and feels a connection to the phrase. She may have said those words to someone once. Brown eyes veer back to Miranda.
That which yields is not always weak. Andy reads and rereads the phrase but can’t make much sense of it. I guess I liked cryptic… She sighs and puts the book aside, extinguishing her wand and curling next to the secretary.
She’s determined to get some rest before the sun rises.
Andy wakes to blue eyes staring down at her and light streaming into the room.
“Finally called it a night?” Miranda tucks her hair behind an ear, out of her face.
“Mmmhhhmmm,” Andy buries her face into Miranda’s chest and out of the sunlight, “I found a whole lot of nothing.”
“You couldn’t have known at the time what they were planning on doing to you,” Miranda sounds disappointed, “It was unlikely you would’ve found something helpful in the journal.”
“Miranda,” Andy stops the secretary from leaving the bed, “you know that I may never get my memory back right?”
Miranda’s blue eyes stare at Andy unseeingly.
“I mean like never, for the rest of my life,” Andy emphasizes her point. “But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want you, and this, and us. I love you and I don’t remember why, but I accept it. Completely. And, I want to know you and I want you to know me. Is this enough for you? Am I enough for you?”
The seconds it takes Miranda to respond are a small eternity to Andy. “Yes. You, Andrea, are enough.”
“Prove it.” She caresses the skin under her hand.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Miranda’s concern is touching.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“If a kiss made you faint,” Miranda moves closer but doesn’t make any overt gestures, “I’m afraid anything more may cause a hemorrhage”
“A valid concern,” Andy supplies blithely.
“It isn’t a joke, Andrea,” Miranda’s voice is sharp.
“I know,” it’s said appealingly. Andy cups Miranda’s cheek and leans forward. “But I can’t live like this forever. I know you want to touch me; I knew it the first time you laid eyes on me. And, I want you to touch me. Everywhere. However you want. And, I want to touch you. I want to love you and know you in this way. Consequences be damned.”
“Andrea.” It’s submission and absolution and permission.
Andy pulls Miranda down to her, hands slipping into white locks. Pain explodes behind her eyes but the excitement coursing like electricity up and down her nerves mitigates it. She hears Miranda whisper some words and feels the slide of naked skin against naked skin.
The gasp that escapes Andy is both of pleasure and of pain. The bloom of pain that grips her skull is nothing in comparison to Miranda’s hands and mouth and skin. Andy almost bits clean through her lip when Miranda’s mouth and hands find her breasts. The pleasure is nearly unbearable…or is it the pain?
But color explodes out of it. Andy sees green, white, and blue. Central Park. Miranda’s white hair blowing gently in the breeze, her blue eyes shining dangerously as she introduces her as a babysitter to her parents.
When Miranda’s head nestles firmly between her legs, Andy doesn’t feel anything remotely like pain. She’s flying. High and higher.
Her eyes open and she looks down to see the light in Miranda’s heart envelop them.
“There we are.” The light filters into Andy’s eyes. And she sees. She sees them. She sees their love. And, Andy remembers.
And, she’s tightening. Coiling and tightening…tightening…tightening…to the point of pain…her hands grab the sheets in white-knuckled grip…her eyes and mind are lit. Then, Miranda releases her with tongue and fingers.
Andy soars on Miranda’s name.
Miranda wakes famished. She hasn’t exerted herself in that manner for eight years. Her hands reach for the brunette but she finds cold sheets.
Bleary eyes open slowly to find an empty bed to accompany the cold sheets. Miranda tamps on the immediate disappointment and displeasure that blooms across her chest. She searches beyond the bed and doesn’t tamp down on the happiness that dispels any disappointment or displeasure.
Andy stands gloriously naked against the window, looking out at something in the distance. Miranda simply stares and appreciates the sight, her eyes roaming and rememorizing the contours of a body she was once very well acquainted with.
Miranda’s eyes stick on a simple gold band on Andy’s finger. Hope shakes viciously against her chest.
“I can feel you staring.” Andy turns to the secretary.
Miranda loses her words, her ability to form coherent thought, when she looks at deep brown eyes that are looking at her knowingly. She sees something she thought she was lost: recognition.
“My god…” The tears are unexpected but inevitable. They are of both grief and happiness.
“Andrea will do.” Andy’s smiling widely, her eyes bright with everything she feels for Miranda. She saunters back to the secretary and straddles the speechless woman. The kiss that follows is wonderfully familiar: like coming home.
“You found me.”