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Shaping The Present (With a black and silver stare)

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Gellert found Vinda on the roof of a dilapidated theatre in a dress that looked almost comically out of place, the finery smeared with greasepaint that had stained the fine green brocade badly. Vinda wore her fragile smile like a suit of armour and jumped when she heard his footsteps, her wand already out in a defensive position as she turned to him. “What happened to you?” they said after a tense silence, synchronised, and Gellert offered a broken smile as he walked slowly towards her.
“There was an incident, Albus chose his family over me and so here I am.” He said, hollow eyed as the admission tore its way up his throat. “Alone.” As he said the last word something inside him cracked and he felt a tear dribble down his face, disconnected from anything he could tangibly feel. Some days he woke sure that everything that had happened was a terrible dream, only to open his eyes to discover that he was wrapped in a blanket rather than a pair of arms, and that the only blue in sight was the sky. He had spent a few days wandering through muggle London and sleeping on the sun baked cobblestones of the grey metropolis before he had suddenly remembered that he wasn’t quite alone, and as he stood looking at the last person he had left in the world he let out a shuddering breath as his chest twinged again, the bond that he had forged so confidently stinging as Albus felt a stab of guilt. Though he hadn’t felt himself begin to weaken, Gellert found himself grasped in a tight embrace as his knees buckled beneath him, and as he began to explain Vinda flung an arm around him comfortingly, the solid weight of it easy and affectionate.

Vinda smiled sadly at him as Gellert finished his tale hours later, red eyed and jittery as he recounted the final battle, lighting her cigarette with a click of her fingers and turning towards the sky to exhale a contemplative cloud of grey. The stars were obscured by Paris’ cloud of smog and dirt, and Gellert felt his muscles morph, a twisted little smile cracking the tear tracked frozen exterior that he had worn since the fight, the expression feeling painfully wrong on his face after the last few days. Breathing in the toxic fumes of the city and lighting the cigarette Vinda held out to him with a flick of his fingers, he began to laugh. There were countless stars in Godrick’s Hollow and he felt that it was only right that he’d left them behind too.

He curled up to sleep beside Vinda in the dingy cupboard that passed for her current accommodation, trying not to listen to the drunken sex that was all too audible through the thin walls. Vinda slammed her hand into the wall and yelled for quiet, to no avail, and they shared a deeply irritated look before Gellert flicked his fingers and silencing wards sprang up around them. “I knew I missed you for a reason.” Said Vinda, her laughter quiet and subdued, a shadow of the cackle he remembered, and Gellert felt the frost of rage descend on him again, wondering who had damaged his last friend, and how he would extract his revenge. He ignored the pull of the bond that distorted his vision as he closed his red-rimmed eyes at last, tricking him with a phantom pair of blue eyes and painting the flicker of candle-light a bright copper that could almost have been Albus’ hair in the sun. Vinda’s familiar Lamellar curled up between them where it was warmest and Gellert fell asleep thinking about curses as the cat’s purring grew louder in his ears. As he slept his hands clenched around the blood pact, the sharp edges of the metal digging into his skin, and blood seeped from between his clenched fingers as if the pact itself was injured. Vinda was the one who carefully prised his fingers off the metal and cleaned his cuts with a muttered spell before scowling good-naturedly at his still sleeping form and turning over to sleep herself, her pale smile reaching her eyes for the first time in months.

In the morning Vinda dragged him out of bed at a disgustingly early hour, threatening him with grievous bodily harm, and he felt a little more of his blood thaw out as he realised how much he had missed her. He felt something inside the hollow of his frozen heart click back into place, ignored the twisting pain of the bond and changed his clothes for fresh ones as Cixi screeched from her perch on the window ledge and Vinda applied a thin line of black kohl to her eyelids in front of the mirror. Gellert noticed the tell tale smudges of a glamour under Vinda’s eyes and wondered again what had damaged his friend so badly. Out of the corner of his eye Gellert spotted the remains of a letter scrunched into the bottom of an ashtray, and the Rosier family seal was unmistakable on what was left of the envelope. Vinda followed his gaze and flinched, setting her jaw as Gellert watched a mask of indifference slide down behind her eyes until he was faced with a haughty stare from his best friend. Wordless, he pulled her into a tight hug and when they broke apart he smiled, careful to keep an edge of cruelty in the expression that he wore for Vinda’s sake. She had always been brittle when she was upset like this, ready to lash out if anyone showed sympathy, and he contented himself with muttering promises of vengeance into their hug as he combed the knots out of her hair gently. She managed a smile and Gellert linked their arms as they clambered over his trunk and reached the doorway. Before Vinda could unlock the door Gellert met her eye and offered a more genuine smile, less cruel and more an offer of solidarity. “You’ve always been my family Vinda.” He said, and Vinda smiled properly, her eyes shining as she opened the door.
“I know.” She said, and Gellert smiled, glad to be back where he belonged.

They walked through narrow corridors lit at irregular intervals by pools of candlelight that served only to confuse an unwary traveler. Vinda turned the handle of a door that Gellert hadn't noticed and he blinked in the strong light of a summer morning. Gellert followed Vinda down a set of stairs that clung to the building they had come out of by only the crumbling plaster of the walls and some weak spell that Gellert could feel creaking underneath them. “Don’t trust this one.” Vinda called out from a few steps below him, and soon they were down on solid ground, Gellert’s boots shielding him from the worst of the filth that smeared the back alleys of paris as Vinda cast a protective spell at her shoes. They were fancy boots of patent leather that was dyed a soft green, but an enchantment shimmered around them and as Gellert looked more closely he began to see the faint outline of the roughly made clogs beneath the spell. He frowned at yet another reminder of his closest friend’s abrupt change in circumstances, wondering how she would be able to attend her last year at Durmstrang without her parent’s money for school fees. Deciding to bring up the delicate topic at a later date, Gellert offered her his arm and Vinda laughed, commenting on his gallantry. “Your stint in England has turned you into quite the gentleman.” She said, and Gellert bit the inside of his cheek at the casual reminder of everything he had lost.
“You wound me madam,” he said, slurring the french they were speaking with a bad english accent, “I have always been the very pink of courtesy.” Vinda cracked up laughing, the double-entendre in the reference not lost on her.
“All right Mercutio, I’ve got a plan.” she said, and Gellert felt himself smiling, unable to disguise his glee at being able to put a smile on her face despite everything that had happened.
“Come on, we can talk it through over breakfast.” he said, and Vinda protested, pointing out that they weren’t in any position to be spending extravagantly, but Gellert clinked his last few galleons together and told her not to worry about the cost.

Every draft of the excellent coffee they were sipping seemed to rejuvenate Vinda a little more, and as Gellert calculated how much he could buy with the last of his money she began to reveal her grand plan. “We need money.” she began bluntly, “And I don’t think either of us is desperate enough to sell your book collection.” Here Gellert nodded. There were many things he would do for money, but that was not even a possibility. Knowledge was power, and he wouldn’t sell his main source of strength for all the gold in Gringotts. “But I need money for school. I need my BÄZTs Gellert.”
“I’ll do anything I can to help, but Vinda what can we do? I’ve no galleons left to scam a muggle with.” He said, and Vinda began to smirk.
“You can duel.”
“What?” he asked, wondering if he had misheard her.
“You can fight. You can fight better than anyone I know. But no one else in paris knows that.” she said, eyes dancing with mirth as Gellert sat there, not connecting the dots until Vinda had opened her mouth again, probably to say something scathing.
“You want to bet on me in a duel.”Said Gellert, the beginnings of a smile playing around his mouth. She nodded and after a moment Gellert began to frown. “Vinda, the next big duelling competition isn’t till after Samhain. You won’t be able to go back to school for the start of term.” He said, worried. Vinda looked around, almost nervous, and lowered her voice to a whisper despite the empty tables all around them.
“I know a guy who can get us into the blood-wraith fight pits.” said Vinda, and Gellert felt his eyes widen. He had heard of the blood-wraiths in the news last winter, who hadn’t? A group of French mercenary wizards who sold their services to the highest bidder and ran an underground duelling circuit with the highest death count in the modern world, they had made the news when the french ministry had tried to remove them from Paris last November but they had simply vanished into the night, the bar they operated from exploding just as the aurors reached the scene. Gellert returned Vinda’s devious smirk, silently worried about the kinds of people she was involving herself with, before he pushed away the thought, trusting her judgement. He drained the last of his coffee and stood, the two of them walking back out of the café and into the sunlight as Vinda began to explain her plan in greater detail.

Gellert had to sneak back into her room as Vinda was worried that if the theatre owner found out about him she’d be charged extra for her cupboard, and he frowned, wondering why exactly Vinda had chosen to rent a pokey little dressing room in the attic of a theatre. “It’s the cheapest place in the city, and I don’t even have to walk the boards for it.” She replied when he asked, and Gellert couldn’t help but laugh a little at the thought of Vinda dancing on a stage. She was graceful enough to do it, but she would never allow herself to be sexualised the way so many dancers were, and the first lewd commenter would likely find himself leaving the dance hall without his tongue. Vinda had sent a floo message to a man called Laurie and his reply suggested that they could meet him at midnight by the Arc de Triomphe, but she was restless and cagey afterwards. Pacing back and forth before flinging open the door, Vinda beckoned him out into the dimly lit corridor once more.

“Where are we headed?” asked Gellert, but Vinda pressed on, silent, and he was left to his own thoughts. Vinda planned to let him loose on a pack of bloodthirsty mercenary wizards, winning the money they needed from the betting pool at every fight. He was less sure that their plan would work, wondering how these fighters would take it when he was better than their best. It seemed risky, winning their respect the only hope he had of living past his first fight, yet there was a smile on his face that he couldn’t dim. He was so angry, so cold, so helplessly alone that it seemed perfect. He could do with letting off some steam, relished the thought of the hot sweet taste of victory and the red that descended with every battle. Resolutely refusing to remember how his last duel had ended, Gellert let himself cling to the cold within him as he followed Vinda back out into the street. The sun was warm, the late morning lending the streets a golden sheen that melted away the dirt of the city and left behind a beautiful glossy version of Paris that shimmered in the heat, the most picturesque of lies.

Vinda ducked into muggle Paris and pulled Gellert after her, the muggles lining the street oblivious to their arrival. Gellert tapped Vinda’s cloak and it transformed into a stylishly cut jacket in a pale beige that contrasted her dark hair delightfully, not worried about his own shirt, as it was sufficiently plain to pass as a muggle garment. They walked through a loud market towards The Seine, the river a flat looking glass that reflected the golden day they were walking through, and Gellert pocketed two apples, a block of cheese and two baguettes that he had shrunk down before being spotted trying to make off with a large pastry. He stood there while the muggle yelled abuse and then smiled, imposing his will over the muggle’s thoughts and walked away with a pocket full of floury francs from the baker’s stall and the large pastry in a paper bag under his arm. Vinda was shaking her head at him but smiled when he produced the stolen lunch from his pockets, and had no objection to digging in on it as they sat down by the river.

They whiled away the afternoon and as they walked out of the fancy muggle restaurant later in the evening Gellert decided that nothing tasted as good if you had to pay for it. There was something in the act of stealing, he thought, that made food taste better, every delicate flavour more pronounced with the heady knowledge that it was forbidden to the thief. Vinda looked at him, fondly exasperated, when he voiced his theory, but couldn’t object to the truth of his statement. They had been enjoying a bottle of very fine champagne on the twilit grassy slopes of Parc Monceau when the clock of a nearby church had struck midnight, bells tolling out and Gellert leapt up. Vinda took his hand and apperated, the two of them appearing in front of the monument to muggle ego with a loud crack. Vinda smiled winningly at a short man with curling dark hair who was looking back and forth across the plaza with restless eyes, introducing Gellert as the man relaxed, sure he wasn’t being led into a trap. “Gellert this is Laurie,” she said, and Gellert smiled politely, not missing the way the older man’s eyes never left Vinda. Three more cracks rent the air in quick succession and Gellert found himself surrounded. The young men that had just appeared all stood close to his hight, their close cropped dark hair giving them a military look which Gellert assumed was supposed to be intimidating. “Good evening boys.” he said, and Vinda coughed, barely concealing her laughter at the confused expression he had managed to induce in all four of the blood-wraiths that had come to escort them to the fight pits.

Gellert looked around at the place they had been apperated to, the sheer stone walls and tiered arena much more professional in appearance than what he’d expected. Mistaking his expression for awe, one of the three fighters who’d greeted them so tersely smiled cruelly at him. Gellert pulled an expression of fear onto his face and bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself laughing at how pleased the man looked. After looking him over a burly man smiled and called out a name. “Merrick. We’ve a newbie that’ll be good for you.” he said, to the laughter of a few of the other people there. Gellert bristled at their laughter, then let it go, his irritation flowing away down a river of ice that ran through his cold veins. He waited for a few minutes, Vinda standing by his side as the stone benches filled rapidly, the news of a new-blood fight spreading through whatever communication network the wraiths used. As the betting table was set up Vinda smirked and moved away from him. Gellert would be hiding his strength completely unless the opponent was vastly better than he was currently predicting, and he smiled at the thought. Maybe he’d stick to defence completely for the first half to lengthen the odds on his victory, he thought with a smile.

As he steeped into the duelling ring the crowd broke out into jeers and shouts. He heard a few muggle slurs thrown at him and smiled, wondering how much the hecklers would like to eat their own tongues salted on toast. Something in his expression must have reached his opponent because he saw the man’s easy smile fall from his face as they stepped forwards. There would be no bows here, no formal duelling stance, and Gellert found his heart racing in anticipation, ready for the explosion of violence hanging palpably across the sand floor of the immediate future. The other man sent a tentative bone breaking curse at him which he neatly sidestepped and then the volley of curses began. Gellert wove his way between the red of stunners and sickly yellow of more bone breaking curses, ducked underneath a purple jet of light that moved too quickly to identify, and flicked his wand at the floor to the left of the other man. The jeering of the crowd echoed around the cavern and his opponent, Merrick the other man had called him, smiled, sharklike as he increased the pace of his casting. Gellert threw up a standard shield charm and began to back away, feigning fatigue as his opponent pressed in for the final victory. Making sure to look like it took the last of his strength, Gellert send a disarming charm at the man, who laughed and sidestepped. Gellert laughed then, he couldn’t help it, the mirth came bubbling up through his throat and echoed around the hall, dark and gleeful. The crowd stilled, silenced by his sudden change in posture, and the man in the ring looked at him, uncertain, then tried to move. Gellert’s spell took effect, the sand that the man was standing in rushing upwards and locking him in place. Gellert sent a blasting hex at the man to see what he would do about it, not expecting it to actually reach him unblocked, but a spray of arterial blood arced over the sand and when Gellert had blinked away his surprise Merrick’s left arm was smeared across the grey stone wall of the fight pit they were standing in and he was slumped over, the sand forcing his legs to remain upright as his unconscious torso twisted grotesquely in pain, the sand on the floor caking the bloody stump of his left arm. Medi-wizards rushed in, the crowd erupted into noise, his name was screamed by hundreds in the echoing chamber below Paris, and through it all he stood silent, allowing himself to taste the dark joy that always came in the aftermath of a fight.

Vinda made her way down into the fight pit, a smile stretching from ear to ear as she rattled a sack bulging with galleons. “We did it, you did it. There’s enough here to pay for Durmstrang.” she said, and he smiled, a thread of genuine warmth cracking some of the ice within him as he realised that he had done what they needed to do. “No one wanted to bet on you, I won more than a hundred Galleons more than what we needed. Apparently that Merrick guy was something of a prize fighter.” she said, breathlessly happy.
“That wasn’t very thoughtful of them.” he said, a smirk crawling across his face as a man walked towards him. “You’d think they’d give m a beginner, you know, just to keep things fair.”
“A duel well fought. Would you be interested in fighting here again?” said the man, offering Gellert a hand to shake as h walked up to the two of them. The tiger tattooed on his palm stretched, opened its jaws in a yawn and stalked off up his arm, growing to match the size of the skin it was on as Gellert watched in awe. He took the hand and shook it, agreeing to another fight absentmindedly as he wondered if it would be rude to ask the man about his tattoos. Gellert shook himself, looking around at the crowd and smiling as he realised that he was favoured here for something as simple as winning a fight.

Gellert was losing the warmth of the fight, losing the warmth of Vinda’s happy smile, shuddering as the ice of despair set back in as he and Vinda sat on the roof of the theatre. Vinda was too relieved about having money again to notice his sudden drop in mood, but he didn’t want to ruin the evening for her, so he forced a smile back onto his face as she turned around, two glasses of some drink he’d never tried in her hand. “To us.” she said, pushing a glass into his hand and clinking her own against it. Gellert downed his first glass of absinthe under the grey-black roof of Paris’s smoggy sky, blinking as the alcohol rushed through him and the magical wormwood’s highly potent flavour filled his mouth. As he looked up at the clouds above them flowers bloomed at his fingertips. He looked down in shock at the jasmine flowers that had grown between his hands and began to cry. He breathed in the heady scent they gave out, flooded his mouth with more of the green alcohol and laughed strangely, still crying as the jasmine turned blue around him. The blue of Albus’ eyes.

Vinda was nowhere to be found, the rooftop empty as the sky greyed into dawn and the flowers made of sapphires shattered into nothingness. He looked around, suddenly needing to see that blue again, but his magic refused to comply. The empty bottle of absinthe mocked him, the ginning fairy depicted on the side of the glass bottle asking snidely if he had even made the flowers at all or merely seen them in some strange green-drunk dream. Gellert looked over the edge of the roof and suddenly there was a bridge made of cobwebs and wreathed in blue jasmine flowers leading out into space. Albus stood at the other end of the bridge, a smile in his eyes as he offered his hand to Gellert. He stood at the edge of the bridge and blinked, ready to walk into Albus’ waiting embrace, but when he opened his eyes he there was nothing there. He glanced down at his hands and watched as they stained red and blood began to drip from them. Arianna was lying inside the empty bottle at his feet and before he could do anything about it she had drowned in his blood, the bottle filling with red that began to look greener by the second as he watched. Albus was holding him now, saying something that he couldn't hear and crying. Gellert looked on, confused, as Albus kissed him softly on the forehead before melting into a pool of liquid lapis lazuli that burnt his skin when it touched him.

The next thing Gellert remembered was waking up, his face pressed into the rough roof slates as Vinda shook him into wakefulness and prized his fingers off the blood pact that he had clutching. His right hand was lacerated with cuts, the blood coming off in flakes as he stretched his fingers. “Gellert what happened?” asked Vinda, the sound echoing in his head like a cascade of glass. He explained very clearly what had happened, describing everything in minute detail only to find Vinda looking at him expectantly. “Well? What happened?” She said, and Gellert frowned.
“I just told you. In detail.” He said, confused and wondered if Vinda was feeling all right after their drunken evening. Vinda caught sight of the empty bottle of absinthe and sighed, muttering something he didn’t catch and hauling him back to the room that they shared. Gellert protested, complaining that he liked the view, but she would have none of it.

After Gellert had downed what felt like his weight in water and three very strong cups of coffee he began to feel a headache throbbing at his temples but he could once more separate reality from his absinthe induced dreams. “Vinda I enjoyed that drink immensely. Where can we buy more of it?” He said, dispelling his headache with a nifty healing charm that he’d only just remembered.
“I’m never letting you near that stuff again. You were completely insensible.” Replied Vinda, and Gellert frowned.
“You’re no fun.” he said, and Vinda laughed.
“And neither are you when you’re babbling about jasmine plants of all things and arguing with glass bottles. I want you to relax today, while I go and spend some of my winnings on school supplies, and then I want you to meet some of my friends.

Gellert had only tried to get up at around lunch time, but the floor flew up to meet him and he found himself lying down between the bed and his case of books, so he crawled back into bed and gave it up for a lost cause, summoning bread and butter and deciding that he’d rather eat now and have to deal with Vinda’s complaints of crumbs later than starve because he couldn’t in good sense get up. By the evening, when Vinda returned, he was feeling much more himself and apologised for his strange behaviour that had probably ruined her morning. She brushed it off, smiling until she caught sight of the plate on the floor next to the bed, and then threw an absolute fit about the bread crumbs in her bed but Gellert vanished them with a wave of his wand and soon the two o them were dressed once more.

They made their way through a maze of twisting little corridors that seemed to double back on themselves and lead ever downwards once more. Gellert lit the way with a silent flick of his wand that conjured glowing lights, flickering a deep burnt orange for a split second before flaring up into the white light that he’d always produced previously and he flinched, trying not to react to the stark reminder of how much the blood pact hanging around his neck had changed him. Vinda had politely ignored his sudden hurt and Gellert smiled gratefully at her as they made their way into the back rooms of the dance-hall proper. People rushed past with armfuls of costumes and panicked expressions. Somewhere nearby a loud male voice swore viciously and a dwarf elbowed past Gellert without even stopping to apologise. Vinda threaded her way through the ever moving throng of people, Gellert hurrying to keep up with her, and knocked on the door of a dressing room. She used a complicated pattern of taps and thuds which was too fast for him to remember, and the door swung open on creaking hinges. 
Two of the most stunningly beautiful girls Gellert had ever seen were stood on the other side of the door, one with dark skin and a cloud of tightly curling hair who was half way through dressing, and the other her opposite, with pale skin and silvery hair that seemed to glow. As soon as they spotted him something changed, their features sharpening into something almost bestial before they rounded on Vinda as one. “How could you bring that here? You know what happened to Nuuamaca.” Said the pale girl, the green of her eyes flashing a catlike yellow as she defended the other woman. Gellert was thoroughly confused by now, wondering what exactly was going on, and Vinda was only making things worse. He found himself longing for Albus’ comforting touch, his hand going to the blood pact and tracing the sharp edges before he realised what he had ben thinking and felt the ice descend once more upon his soul. 
“Look at him, does he look enthralled to you?” Vinda was yelling, gesturing towards him impatiently, and though he was still very much in the dark, the two strange women seemed to give it some thought. 
“No,” said the dark skinned one, Nuuamaca, her voice filled with a sad kind of wonder, “He looks broken.” 
Gellert was still more than a bit put out by the comment when introductions had been made properly, but he bit back his sharp retort, trusting Vinda’s good judge of character. Nuuamaca had dark eyes that stared out at him with an expression torn between suspicion and fear, half hidden by a lock of the tightly spiralling hair that hung down in a cloud around her shoulders, the dark curls pulled downwards by their own weight. He held her gaze for a moment and then shifted in his seat, not expecting the flinch his movement would cause. He was quick to apologise and she seemed mollified, but Gellert was left wondering what had happened to these people. The pale girl, who had introduced herself as Soluna, seemed very defensive of her friend but as he continued to talk normally the girls began to relax. 
Vinda was smiling as Soluna began to smile at him strangely, eyes glittering with intent, and Gellert felt magic wash over him, some strange kind of inhuman force that echoed around his head before dissipating, leaving behind the mental image of Albus lying on his back in their cottage as dappled light fell through the window to caress his skin. Gellert frowned, his cold eyes glistening with tears for a heartbeat before he shut himself off, pushing away the image with gritted teeth and opening his eyes to see the two women staring at him, then at Vinda with twin looks of incredulity. “How could he resist it, that was a full allúre?” asked Soluna, and Gellert realised what had happened with a start. They were Veela. 
“I prefer the company of Al— of men.” he said, voice hitching as he tried to say Albus’ name, and tried to smile as the two Veela relaxed, politely ignoring his sudden melancholy. Vinda muttered something about being right, yet again, and Gellert laughed as Nuuamaca pushed her hair back under a vibrant yellow cloth and smiled brightly as she sat down next to him, her wariness evaporating in an instant. 

“So Vinda, how long have you been hiding Gellert from Monsieur Sunelle?”  asked Nuuamaca, her smirk reminding Gellert of Kaz from Durmstrang, and as Vinda replied he wondered how the older boy was doing. He’d forgotten to keep in contact with all of his friends from school save Vinda, swept up by the whirlwind that was Albus Dumbledore, and Gellert felt his shoulders slump, teetering on the edge of losing himself in memories once more before part of the conversation of the three women drew his attention. 
“Remember when you’d just met us and we were worried about accidentally stealing your lovers?” cackled Nuuamaca, and Gellert laughed as Vinda smiled fondly at the memory. 
“How does one accidentally steal a lover?” he asked, and then winced internally when Nuuamaca hunched in on herself. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” he said, but Soluna put a hand on Nuuamaca’s shoulder comfortingly and began to explain. 
“The allúre can be turned up or down but we can’t turn it off completely. Men don’t tend to stay faithful with us around.” She said, and played it off with a laugh, but Gellert could hear real hurt in her voice, and he couldn’t help but feel for these two strangely sad Veela. 
“I’m so sorry. It must be terrible for you.” He said, and Nuuamaca laughed harshly.
“Oh that makes it all better. You’re sorry that it’s hard for us.” She spat, and Vinda winced as Gellert reached out for her hand. To the surprise of the other two girls in the room, Gellert still had fingers a second later, Nuuamaca letting him offer the comforting contact. 
“I didn’t mean to sound like I’d solved your problems. I’d like to, but nothing has ever changed with meaningless platitudes and a simple charm.” He said, his voice as soft as he could make it, and he thought he caught a glimpse of a smile behind the guarded look Nuuamaca fixed him with.
Back in Vinda’s room, Gellert slumped onto a chair that he had transfigured as Vinda sat down on the bed, careful to move the lumpy mattress as little as possible so as to leave Lamellar undisturbed. Cixi had made herself comfortable on the bare curtain rail earlier but was nowhere to be found, the small window’s shutters flung wide by her escape, and Gellert smiled fondly at the cat curled up on the bed for a moment before remembering what had made him so angry. “How can the ministry be so cruel?” he said, his voice cold with a rage that was beginning to taste like home in his mouth. 
“Gel, changing things would require effort. Of course the ministries around the world won’t do anything about it.” replied Vinda, her voice tired, and Gellert glowered at the wall. 
“We need to take over. I wouldn’t allow that kind of thing if I were in charge.” he said, marvelling at how unsurprised Vinda seemed. Soluna had just told the two of them that Veela were classified by wizards as ‘Beast’ rather than ‘Being’ and Vinda hadn’t even looked vaguely shocked. Gellert was outraged, his magic crackling angrily as he discovered quite how twisted the French Ministry of magic was. Veela couldn’t get justice for sexual assault by wizards, couldn’t even carry wands to defend themselves, and when Soluna had threatened to kill Nuuamaca’s assailant she’d only narrowly escaped being put down like some kind of animal. He wouldn’t stand for it, these were people who had nowhere else to turn, no one who would speak out on their behalf, and he would make this right. 
“When we rule the world,” said Vinda, expression a mirror of Gellert’s determined scowl, “Thing’s will be different.”