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Stick Stone and Bone

Chapter Text

“Good morning.”

        Luca looked up from her plate, her neck sore. She squinted as Amos came into the room, giving her a little wave.

        “Morning,” she croaked.

        As Amos went to the kitchen cabinets, pulling down a bowl for himself, he did a double take, looking her up and down over his shoulder.

        “You sound tired,” he commented, pulling a box of Cocoa Puffs down from one of the higher shelves over the sink. Their apartment had a tiny galley kitchen, cramped into one small corner of the living room.  Luca was sitting at the coffee table, cross-legged, a cup of coffee cradled in her lap, and a plate of scrambled eggs practically in front of her nose. She hadn’t even noticed how hunched over the table she was until Amos had come into the room. She was practically falling asleep sitting up.

        “Yeah, well…,” she said dryly, shrugging. She picked up her fork and pushed the eggs around on her plate. She had been sitting there, staring at them, completely zoned out, and now they had gone cold. Her eyes roved over them unappetizingly.

        Luca didn’t really want to talk about it. Not with Amos.They hadn’t been living with each other very long, but already she understood that he was the sort of person that listened to people’s troubles only so long as he could do something to resolve them. And she didn’t want to argue over this with him.

        She had been plagued by insomnia these past few nights, in a worse way than she ever had before. Luca normally didn’t get much sleep. Ever since being bitten - ever since waking up in Saint Mungos that first night - she had been having a reoccuring dream of the night of the incident. It remained mostly the same, with little variation. What was worse, sometimes the dream would reach the end of its run and everything would go black, before starting over again. Those nights were an endless loop of blood and rehashed pain, leaving her entirely drained and burned out by the time she managed to wake herself.

The full moon was tomorrow. And Luca knew that reliving the original incident - over and over and over again, potentially - was probably the worst thing she could do to herself right now. So she had been pulling all-nighters for the past three days, keeping herself occupied at night with getting through the stack of used books she had purchased last week at the Strand.

Now more than before, she missed her dad’s telly.  She had never had a case of insomnia this bad before, when she had lived with her parents, but in those few cases, Luca had found the best way to spend a sleepless night was by marathoning Doctor Who reruns until the wee hours of the morning.

Amos didn’t have a television. Or a VCR. Or a cassette player. Luca was kind of surprised that he owned a microwave oven. When she had asked after where the air conditioning unit was, he had given her a look of unbridled bewilderment, bordering on abject terror as she tried to explain what AC was. All of these were, apparently, “No-Maj” or “Muggle” inventions that simply weren’t commonplace for people like Amos. She understood that magic was pretty much the answer to everything for him and his kind, but Luca wasn’t entirely onboard. Sure, there seemed to be spells to manage the temperature of the apartment, and most of the dishes tended to “wash” themselves in the sink by that same, self-propelled magic.  But one radio, tuned into a couple of whacky underground wizarding stations, just didn’t compare to twenty-four/seven access to shameless television soap operas and horrible decade-old sitcoms - or whatever it was that Americans watched here in the States.

“Um…”

Luca looked up again, realizing that she had been drifting off. Amos stood in the kitchen, his back to her, and he slowly turned around.  He had the coffee tin in his hand, which he began to pour into his mug. A few measly grounds fell out of it. Luca flinched.

“Sorry.”

Amos crooked an eyebrow at her.

“I got this tin, like… at the beginning of this week.”

Luca shrugged, not offering up any explanation. She could feel his gaze searching her.

“Do… you want the rest of my eggs?” she volunteered, her voice rising with guilt.

Amos put the coffee tin back down on the counter.

“Luca.”

“Nevermind, I can just reheat them.”

“Are you…”

Amos stopped, coughing to clear his throat. Luca stood, picking up her dish, and carried it over to the microwave. She could feel him staring at her turned back.

“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Luca said, forcing a chipper ring into the word that she did not feel.  She tossed the plate into the microwave and mashed a couple buttons. She turned around to face him.  His arms were folded uncomfortably over his chest. He was wearing boxer shorts and a bleach-stained t-shirt with a band name called 142 Staircases, which Luca presumed was one of his “wizard rock” groups.  Sometimes Luca forgot that Amos was only twenty-seven.

“Just tired.”

He dumped the unused coffee grinds into the kitchen sink.  The sink lever popped up, startling Luca, as it began to run water of its own accord to wash the residue down the pipe.  Amos peered at her skeptically.

“Luca…”

DING !

They both turned around.  The microwave was beeping obnoxiously, and Luca yanked open the door. A swell of steam came billowing out, breaking over both of them with a stench of burnt plastic. She waved it away, peeking through the cloud. The scrambled eggs were sizzling with distress. She picked up her fork and poked them experimentally. There were as tough as rubber.

“I can… not have eggs.”

“I was about to make something myself,” Amos interjected, moving around her to get a glimpse at the mess she had made.  “You could - ”

DING!

They both looked at one another. It wasn’t the microwave this time. It was the doorbell to the shop downstairs. Luca hit the “clear” button on the microwave. The time was half an hour past eleven.  They opened in another thirty minutes.

“I got it,” Luca said, walking over to the coffee table and picking up her mug.

Amos shook his head hastily.

“No, you don’t have to open the shop, I can -”

“No you can’t,” Luca interrupted him. He narrowed his eyes at her in confusion.  She sent him a pointed look as she downed the rest of her coffee. He followed her gaze down to his boxer shorts.

“No, I can’t,” he agreed. With a lazy swipe of his hand, and a mumbled word under his breath, he levitated the scrambled egg plate, still steaming, from the microwave and dropped it into the sink. “I’ll be down in a second,” he said, running quickly into his bedroom.

“Yup,” Luca called after him.  She heard the door close after him.  It was a such a tiny apartment, with hardly any barriers or privacy: there were three rooms, one room that served as both living room and kitchen, and two bedrooms. And Luca had a sneaking suspicion that her room had been hastily “added on” after Amos discovered he was going to be adopting her.  From the outside of the shop, she couldn’t see where the room was. Though from her bed she could see the street, from the ground outside she could not see her window. It was as though it didn’t exist.

She flung open the front door and went bouncing down the narrow concrete steps. She hopped down onto the landing, putting a hand against the employee restroom door to steady herself.  She realized, only now, as her feet stung from the landing, that she was only wearing a pair of mismatched socks.

Luca pushed aside the curtain that walled off the back of the shop.  She hesitated before flipping on the lights. The shelves of knick knacks and trinkets were blanketed in shadows, and she squinted through the dark as she strode forward, her feet padding softly on the carpeted ground.  The blinds on the display windows were still drawn, admitting only the barest rays of sunlight through the cracks. She walked behind the counter and pulled down on of the panels, peering through.

She saw a couple making their way leisurely past the rows of shops outside, their necks craned upwards to take in all the signs.  Luca pulled the panel down sharply, trying to get a sideways look at the shop’s front door.

She released the panel quickly, causing the entire blind to shudder.  The doorbell rang again. Her face slowly folded into scowl.

“Bloody fucking-tastic,” she swore under her breath, making her way quickly from around the counter.  She went to the door and began yanking off all the bolts and turning all the locks. Leaving only one chain bolted, she wrenched the door open.

“We open at twelve,” Luca snapped, and then came up short. Sol Syres’ face was hovering only a few inches away from hers through the crack in the door.

They both took an involuntary step back.  Luca watched his face blush from the roots of his stupid blond head down to the crook of his neck.

“Yeah,” he said hastily, rubbing at his forehead, his brows creased with embarrassment.  “I know, I just thought - ”

“Are you going to open the door or not?”

Luca frowned at Sol. His face had gone from pink to cherry red. The voice had come from behind him. A second later, a small, thinning young woman with wild white blonde hair barrelled him aside. She stepped forward, closing up the space between herself and Luca, practically pressing her face into the crack of the ajar door.

“Well?”

Luca felt spit fly across her face. She took another step back, reeling.

“Is this how you treat your own kind? I won’t stand for this sort of discrimination!”

“Mom, please...”

“Mrs. Syres!”

Luca leapt back.  Amos had suddenly appeared from behind her, fully-clothed, and wearing an all too familiar forced smile.  He brushed Luca gently aside and began to unlatch the front door hurriedly.

“How good to see you!”

“It’s about time, sir.”

“You’re looking lovely, as always.”

“Do I detect a hint of sarcasm?” Mrs. Syres seethed as Amos swung open the front door.

“Not at all.”

“I better not, you half-blooded tit.”

She plowed past him, bumping Luca as she stormed into the shop, leaving her son standing awkwardly on the front stoop. Amos began tailing behind her, attempting to maintain an ounce of control as he directed her towards the back of the shop.

“Just that door on the left, Mrs. Syres.”

“I know where the door is, you idiot, I’ve been here before.”

Luca watched them disappear into the employee restroom, their voices fading. The front door fell shut with an unapologetic clang .

She turned. Sol stood on the doormat, his hand still on the knob, staring at his shoes.  The restroom door slammed shut too.

Luca cleared her throat.

“Do you need me to… open it for you?”

Sol glanced up at her. His eyes were narrowed with a combination of shame and contempt. She felt her throat clam up. He gave his head a small shake.

Silently, Sol shuffled over to one of the nearest tables of healing crystals, picking up a piece of rose quartz. Luca gawked only a moment longer before dragging her attention away. She padded awkwardly back behind the counter, conscience again that she wasn’t wearing shoes, and began to draw open the blinds.

“I’m sorry.”

Luca glanced over at Sol. He was standing stiffly beside a rack of pendants and charms, pretending to study them intensely.

“For my mom.”

“It’s not a problem,” Luca offered, trying her best to sound earnest. From the way that Sol shrugged his shoulders, turning away from her, he didn’t agree.

She watched his back for a moment, crouching over some of the displays towards the back. She sighed through her nose, leaning over the counter to try and tug on the cord to the blinds on the door.

“Here.”

Luca heard a strange word muttered from behind her, and then suddenly the blind was shooting up, the cord nearly whipping her in the face as the window was whisked wide open.

“Jesus fuck,” she hissed, leaping back. She threw a contemptuous look over at Sol. He had his wand out and raised, a puzzled look settling over his face. He lowered his wand slowly.

“Sorry,” he said, his tone more questioning than apologetic.

“It’s fine,” Luca snapped. Now she could feel her face beginning to flush. She ran her fingers through the voluminous nest that was her hair, twining her fingers around the gnarly roots. She moved from around the counter and went to the last blind left closed, trying to make herself look busy.

“Why don’t you just…”

Luca turned to look at him. Sol was motioning towards the window again with his wand, his face creased with confusion.

“It’s fine .”

Luca yanked the blind open, turning her face away so he couldn’t see her blush.

“Amos says you’re not supposed to use magic in the front of the shop.”

“Alright,” Sol said defensively. Over her shoulder, she could see him putting his wand into his back pocket.

It had been months. Months since this whole thing had been explained to her. Nothing could have been more of a shock than, firstly, being told that she was now a werewolf; and secondly, that there was a whole community of people out there that knew that werewolves were totally a thing. Because they themselves were magic. Or, you know, practiced it. On a daily basis.

It had taken her weeks to even be able to say the word aloud with any seriousness, and yet here she was, ages later, working in a wizarding wholesale supply shop, and she still couldn’t stand near a little charm without shrieking.

“I didn’t mean to…”

Luca turned around, finding Sol scratching at the back of his neck awkwardly. She shook her head.

“Just don’t sweat it,” she said bluntly, plopping down on the stool behind the counter.  “I’m just… kinda skittish or whatever.”

“You don’t really seem like the kind of person to scare easily,” Sol remarked, smirking slyly.

Luca felt herself flinch. In her mind’s eye, she could see the massive hulk of a wolf’s head, turning a corner, could see the blood and gore clinging to its short snout, and felt her pulse quicken.

She had once thought so too.

“That’s not a bad thing.”

Luca blinked at Sol blankly, coming back to herself. He was staring at her with a measure of concern.

“Scaring easily,” he went on. Luca shook her head again. She didn’t seem able to survive a conversation with this kid without making him think he’d offended her.

“I don’t,” she snorted. “Usually. I used to stay up all night rewatching Return of the Living Dead.”

“Pshhhhh.” Sol waved her off with a blithe smile. “That’s not even kinda scary. You gotta step up your game, girl. None of that weak 80’s shit.”

“Well, I haven’t exactly been to the cinema lately,” Luca said defensively.

“Well maybe you oughta.” Sol cocked his head at her thoughtfully. “What are you doing tomorrow night?”

Luca felt herself pale. All at once, the edges of her vision were going dark, narrowing before her eyes like a vignette. She grabbed onto the edge of the counter for support, forcing herself to breathe thickly through her nose, to count backwards from ten as calmly as she could.  But she could see Sol there, through the tunnel vision, frowning at her in utter confusion, waiting for an answer, while her heart had begun to feel as though an elephant was sitting on it.

“No,” she gasped, the word punching out of her before she could stop herself. She shook her head, berating herself, watching him gawk at her. “Not tomorrow. I’m working.”

“Okay.”  Sol cracked his knuckles, sounding put out. He put down the piece of rose quartz and began looking through the spirit stones. Luca tried to blink the shadows away from her eyes, leaning heavily against the counter. She wasn’t normally the type to faint. The last time this had happened, right after they’d diagnosed her, she’d passed out. But a hospital - albeit a wizard hospital - was the proper sort of place to pass out. Not in front of a boy she’d only just met and apparently wanted to take her to the cinema.

“Maybe the next night,” Luca said quickly, making an effort not to wobble in her seat. Or keel over.

Sol glanced up at her hopefully.

“Actually, I have a family thing Sunday,” he said, scratching his arm awkwardly. “But, um, what about tomorrow morning? How long is your shift?”

Luca chomped down on the inside of her cheek.

“Ummm…”

“‘Cause me and my friends were gonna hang out tomorrow morning, and you could totally come. And hang out with us.  They’re kind of jerks, but, I mean…” Sol shrugged. “I could give you a sorta tour. You said you haven’t been outside of Greenwich?”

“Well, I mean… I’ve been outside of it…”

“Just haven’t seen much of it.”

Luca nodded. The motion caused sparks to fly in front of her eyes.

“Well, I could show you around.” He smirked at her. “Maybe we could even make it up to Broadway.”

Luca inhaled deeply through her nose. The more she focused on the panic, the worse it got. Her fingers had begun to numb, and she could barely see Sol through the smog over her vision.

“I’d have to see if I could get the time off.”

Sol furrowed his brows at her, a shade of disappointment beginning to settle over his face.

“I’m sure I can,” she added quickly. Luca jerked her head towards the employee restroom. “He’s my uncle.”
His brows flew up. “Ohhhh.” He nodded slowly, looking around the shop as though he had some sort of newfound appreciation for it. “Cool. Cool. So… should we just swing by here tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah, sure,” Luca said.  “Anytime. I should probably get back by five though.”

“Cool.” His smile was almost as bright as his hair.

The door to the employee restroom went flying open, hitting the wall behind it with a slam .  Plaster dust rained down from the ceiling.

“SOL!”

Just as quickly, the grin was gone. Even through the black that was creeping at the edges of her line of sight, she could feel the gloom that bled from him like dusk, leeching all the humor from the crinkles around his eyes and mouth. He sent a dark look towards the back of the shop.

“See you tomorrow,” Luca said quickly.

Sol glanced up at her. The corner of his lip pulled up, as though the rest of him was weighed down. He gave a small wave.

“Tomorrow,” he said, making it sound like a promise. He walked through the shop, jamming his hands into his pockets. He hovered on the threshold of the back door, his shoulders suddenly stooped.

“SOL!” his mother shrieked, her voice echoing around the vast confines of the supply shop.

“I’m right here!” he hollered, grabbing the knob and closing the door behind him.

“I’m not going to pick out your robes for you, you miserable - ”

The door click ed closed.

Luca remained in her seat a moment, letting the silence swoop back in, filling up her ears with a ringing. She leaned forward, pressing her forehead against the old wood, closing her eyes tightly, giving into the pull of gravity. A low moan escaped her throat. She felt her stomach flip.

She lurched to her feet, nearly losing her knees out from under her as she swayed. She held onto the edges of the glass shelves, staggering through the shop, her vision nearly entirely obscured. She tipped over a display as she hurried past. She sucked in a deep breath and it caught in her throat, making her gag.

Just as she was coming onto the restroom door, it was flung open.

“Luca, could -”

She nearly fell into Amos as he began to squeeze himself through.

He stopped short, his eyes widening at the sight of her.

“What…?”

Wordlessly, Luca grabbed onto his sleeve and dragged him forward, forcing him to close the door behind him. Then, as he scrambled to get out of her way, she wrenched it open again, onto the scummy public city restroom, and heaved herself inside.

She crashed onto the floor beside the toilet, throwing open the lid and sticking her head inside. She held onto her hair as she retched, feeling the back of her throat light on fire.

Between the puking and the hyperventilation, Luca could feel her insides scalding, her lungs blooming with an inferno of torment. She tried to suck in a deep breath and hold it inside of her, to get control of herself again, but bile caught at the back of her throat and she gagged. Tears were springing freely and with a painful warmth from her eyes.

Luca felt a hand brush against the small of her back. She reeled.

Amos was kneeling just behind her, his arm held at a distance, as though he was afraid to touch her.

“Are you okay?”

Luca shot a derisive look over at him. She spat into the toilet bowl, her tongue curling up at the taste sitting on her palate.

“Okay,” Amos said quietly. She felt his hand retract. “Right.  Are you feeling better now?”

Luca squinched her eyes closed tightly.

“Yeah,” she croaked. She sputtered into the toilet again.

“If you let me go back into the shop, I can get you a vial of Pepperup Potion - ”

“It’s fine,” Luca wheezed, leaning back onto her haunches, wiping the dribble from her lips. Her chest radiated heat and pain like a rising hearth.

“Or Draught of Peace, I know I have a dose lying around, or Calming - ”

“I SAID IT’S FINE.”

Her voice echoed harshly around the small concrete space, making her ears ring hollowly. She sat that way for a moment, her shoulders bent at an uncomfortable angle, before turning to face Amos.

“For fuck’s sake,” she seethed, taking in the blank and wounded expression settling across his face. “Can’t you just be normal for once and offer me a fucking aspirin ?”

Grabbing the seat of the toilet, Luca began to pull herself back onto her feet. Amos stepped forward as though he meant to help, but she waved him away. She latched onto the rim of the sink and held herself there, breathing shallowly, staring down at the rusted old drain, unable to meet his eye. The room still swayed and wobbled slightly around her.

“I can…”  Amos cleared his throat. “I can take care of the shop for today.”

“No.”

“You can go and have breakfast - ”

“I think I already vomited enough of it up, thank you very little.”

Out of the corner of her eye, as she tugged the faucet of the sink on, she could see him biting on his bottom lip, his face hardening.

“Well,” he quipped, watching as she cupped the running water in her hand,  tipping it back into her mouth and swishing it around. “If you’re going to work, you could at least get some shoes on.”

As Luca spat, she looked down at the ground again. At her cold, stocking feet on the grey concrete.

“Make sure you turn around the sign on the door.”

With that, Amos closed the bathroom door.  She stood there, leaning against the edge of the sink, listening to his footsteps recede up the stairs to the second floor, each footfall landing a little bit heavier.  She let her head drop, inhaling thickly, her breath scraping against the back of her raw throat.

Luca turned the faucet again, dipping her hands under the lukewarm water. As she raised her head, she caught a look at herself in the old tarnished mirror. There was only one ancient fluorescent lighting up the room, but in its glare, she looked hollow. Her cheekbones protruded sharply from her face. There were dark bruises under her eyes. Her olive-toned skin had taken on an ashen cast. She looked as though she were one week into a hard case of the flu.

She supposed, in a way, she was.

She leaned her forehead against the mirror and felt it give underneath the pressure, causing her image to warp.

“Fuck.”

 

***

 

Luca sat against a pile of pillows, her knees pulled up towards her chest, and a book leaned against them.  She was slouched down in her bed, her quilt tugged up to her chin. She had the bedside lamp turned on. Outside her window, the city streets were dark, or as dark as they ever got. A warm glare of streetlights and the white cast from a million different windows in a dozen different buildings, still lit up like Christmas, shone into her bedroom. Even with the lamp turned off, she could still make her way around her room, her vision unimpaired.

It wasn’t much of a room. It didn’t seem like her room, at any rate. She had flown from London with only a suitcase of clothes and toiletries, none of which were really hers. She had left all of her possessions back in Linton. Not that she’d had much of a choice. Everything that she’d owned was back at her parent’s house. And the fellow from the Office of Misinformation had informed her that she was never to be allowed to go back there.

The day before her flight to JFK, a Healer from Saint Mungo's had taken her shopping around London in order to buy her a week’s worth of “Muggle” clothing. Whatever that was supposed to mean. Luca had been so apathetic at the time, that she had neglected to purchase a set of pajamas. She was sitting in bed now in nothing but a large t-shirt and a pair of undies.  The sheets that Amos had made up her bed with were old and starchy. The quilt still smelled of mothballs. There was a dresser across from the foot of her bed. All of her belongings fit into the top drawer.

She had been reading the same sentence of Les Mis for the past twenty minutes.  Her attention kept straying out her window, staring out at the buildings across the street, and across their roofs to the purpling night sky.

As if she expected to see the moon in the middle of New York City.

A knock fell on her bedroom door.

She dropped her legs onto the bed, sliding up to her full height. She stared at the splayed pages of her book a moment, drawing a breath through her nose.

“Come in.”

The door creaked open. Amos peeked his head through, looking at her a moment before pushing it all the way open. He was carrying something in his hand.

Luca slammed her book closed.

“I told you, I don’t want - ”

“It’s not,” he interjected sharply, stepping into the room, leaning against the doorjamb.  “It’s the Wolfsbane.”

Luca stared at him, feeling her heart drop into her stomach.

“Oh.”

As Amos approached, she felt herself gawking at the silver goblet that he held in his hand, a blue fog smoking faintly from its surface. He placed it on her bedside table, brushing aside the stack of paperbacks that she had piled there. A whiff of the smoke blew in her direction, and she felt her stomach roil. She put a hand on her gut.

“I don’t think… it’s such a good idea.”

Amos looked down at her crossly. Luca shrugged her shoulders. It was true, she had been ingesting this Potion since the first of August, before going to “bed” every night, almost exactly a week ago now. She’d had to do the same thing during her first transformation at Saint Mungo’s. She knew what Wolfsbane tasted like by now. But in the first place, she didn’t think there was ever going to be any getting used to the revolting, acrid flavor. And secondly, she could still feel, very acutely, her sore and emptied stomach devouring itself from the day’s earlier trauma.

“It has to be every day, Luca,” Amos said, almost lecturing. “Or else…”

“I know what else,” she snapped quietly. Hesitating a moment, she reached forward and grabbed the goblet by its stem. She couldn’t help but reveal the slight tremor in her fingers as she brought it towards her. She paused, cradling it in her lap.

“I found a place.”

Luca’s head jerked up to look at him. His arms were folded across his chest, and he shifted his weight from side to side uncomfortably.

“Where?”

“It’s upstate.”

Luca felt herself blanche.

“How far?”

Amos shook his head hurriedly.

“No, don’t worry about that,” he said, walking around her bed and leaning back against her dresser. “We’re using a portkey to get there.”

Luca stared at him wordlessly, her brows knitting together in confusion. He glanced up, taking in her expression.

“It’s…” He faltered. “It’s like, um… oh, I don’t know, what’s that telly thing you talked about?”

Luca gawked at him.

“Ummm….”

“You know.” Amos waved his hands around helplessly. “With… the doctor. And the flying box thing?”

“Doctor Who?”

“Sure.” Amos shrugged carelessly. “It’s like that.”

Luca lowered her eyes to him sardonically.

“It’s like the flying box thing?”

“Yeah.” Amos nodded emphatically, smiling, clearly proud of himself. Luca just shook her head to herself and decided not to question him any further.

“Where upstate?”

“Some small town. Out in the middle of nowhere. The location is an old school house. And there’s a room… in the basement.”

Luca nodded slowly, feigning understanding. Honestly, she had a lot of questions.  How exactly had Amos located an abandoned school, in the middle of nowhere, with a lockable basement, that they could apparently reach by flying box thing? But the more she thought about it - the more she thought about tomorrow night - the more her stomach upset. She felt a rod of pain beginning to wedge itself way between her eyes. She messaged her forehead roughly.

“When… do we have to leave?”

Amos shrugged.

“Sunset, I suppose.”

“You suppose ?”

“We’ll be there in an instant, Luca. That’s how portkey works.”

She breathed in deeply, holding the air in her belly.

“Okay,” she exhaled. She stared down at the foaming, periwinkle blue surface of the Wolfsbane Potion, feeling goosebumps form thickly on the surface of her skin.

“Luca…”

She didn’t look up. She could feel Amos’ concerned gaze focused on her.

“I know you don’t want me to be there… but I just thought - ”

“I need the day off tomorrow.”

Luca glanced up at him. His face had been shocked into a blank slate.

“Okay,” he murmured, regaining his composure. “Yeah. Sure. But, I just really think…”

“I’m going out with some friends.”

Amos gaped at her.

What ?”

“I’ve been invited to go… to Broadway.”

Tomorrow ?”

Luca nodded stiffly. Amos’ mouth hung wide open, aghast.

“With who ?”

Luca said nothing. She stared down at the book in her lap, gnawing gently on her lip. Comprehension dawned across his face.

“Those boys ?”

“Yeah.”

“Luca - ”

“I’ve never been anywhere since I got here.” She glared at him sternly. “I’ve been here every day, working for you.”

Amos stared at her silently, clearly startled out of words. He stammered, taking in a sharp breath.

“Yeah,” he said, averting his eyes, looking a little ashamed. “Okay. Yeah. But…” He gaped at her, incredulous. “ Tomorrow ?”

Luca scowled at him.

“It’s my bloody choice.”

“Okay.” Luca could feel the frustration tangibly in his voice. He clapped a hand to his forehead, struggling for words. “But I mean, you were the one who was…” He waved at her pointedly, but seeing the dirty look she was casting him, decided not to mention whatever he was about to say. “And you don’t know those boys, Luca. They’re - ”

“Oh, and you do?”

Amos huffed, scoffing.

Yes ,” he urged. “Those boys’ families have been shopping at this store since I was a kid.  They’re a lot of pureblood bigots, and there are even rumors that the Syres kid’s parents are descended from Scourers - ”

“You seem to forget that all of that means nothing to me,” Luca seethed.  “I don’t have any idea what a pureblood is, or a Syres - ”

“It’s just the family name - ”

I don’t care!

Quiet enveloped the room like a thick foam, swallowing up all the space between them, making it feel hot and claustrophobic. They glared at one another. Luca watched Amos’ jaw grind in irritation.

Picking up the goblet, she threw back her head and pushed it to her lips. She chugged it back, feeling her tongue writhe in protest, and squinched her eyes shut, the thick slop slugging down her throat. She was only halfway through it, wishing she’d thought to pinch her nose.

Luca finished the last few drops and came up gasping, her face puckering with distaste. As she slammed the goblet down on her bedside table, sticking out her tongue, Amos came around and took the goblet from her. He shook his head, almost to himself.

“I’ll get a glass of water,” he said glumly, walking to the door. He paused in the threshold, taking a deep breath as though to calm himself. “Curfew is six.”

Luca glanced up at him, her tongue pressed against the back of her hand, as if she expected the taste of her own skin to relieve her. His eyes were dark and folded, his shoulders hunched in defeat.

“I won’t be gone that long,” Luca promised.

Amos just shook his head. He closed the door behind him.

He didn’t believe her.