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‘Let me warm you up, Septima. Come to bed.’

Charity’s voice echoes in her ears, but Charity isn’t there.

Sighing, Septima sets aside her quill. Her fingers are cramped and ink-stained from frantic scribbling. Usually she is immaculate, with robes neatly pressed and not a hair out of place.

Tonight she is not. Neither is her office, the floor covered in crumpled balls of parchment and broken quills.

Cold, she jabs her wand at the fireplace, but the sudden flare of warmth is not what she wants. She wants her lover’s arms around her, but that will never happen again.

Flicking her wand once more, she sends her latest attempt sailing into the fireplace. The parchment catches fire instantly, erasing her painstaking work.

The numbers aren’t adding up. They never do on the most important night of the year, when the veil is thinnest and she has her only chance.

It’s as if the fates are mocking her. Septima has always preferred the certainty of numbers over the flimsiness of Divination, but sometimes numbers are too cold.

Charity used to say that, too.

Septima is an intelligent woman. She knows she needs to move on, but she cannot quit trying for a three: for communication, for completeness.