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Night and Nature

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Skarrow loved the light spell best of all. Hermia would cast it, and he would watch the patterns as the glowing spheres floated through the room and splashed themselves on the walls. Not like the wide-eyed child he so often appeared to be, but the opposite, like one who knew their every secret meaning.

She loved watching his eyes then. It was one of the few times she admitted it to herself.

He interested himself little in her darker, more dangerous spells. She wondered at that at first, as who knew more magic than the night things? The whole purpose for most witches in taking in such creatures was their aid in the workshop. But the truth was he did not wish to deal with human corruption, and she had long forgotten any other reason for his joining her besides companionship.

It had never occurred to her to question that he had a soul. His soul was more evident than that of anyone she had ever seen, especially the elders in the Coven of Mystics. It was a pure and untainted soul indeed, and it struck her sometimes as ancient, though she knew his true age.

As time went on she herself was less interested in darkness. She spent more time thinking up amusements and treats for Skarrow. He would kiss her in gratitude, and after a time she appreciated the gratitude the most. At times they would sit together, she is his arms or he in hers. She would tell herself it meant only comfort. And he for himself never needed to pretend anything.

When she received yet another note from Marshal Hector Hughes, she laughed it off at first and invited him over for tea. She put on a somber dress and told Skarrow to keep to the back room.

Hughes was not precisely capable of charm, but he did start out with small talk. When it became clear that Hermia had little to say of recent magical research, he began asking her more pointed questions.

When he finally revealed his plan to marry her, she was stunned. She knew better than to laugh at him but she considered the idea insane. She told him she had no interest in marriage, and he laughed at her, saying she would have to make a good alliance or be destroyed by those in the order who envied her.

She insisted she wanted to live peacefully and regretted ever reaching a position of power but that didn't seem to be an idea his mind could comprehend. He ended by accusing her of not only preferring but actually consorting with all the Coven members, male and female, and everyone else he could think of. There was an absolute gleam in his eye when he hit upon Skarrow and began with those implications.

She screamed then and threw a full crystal decanter at him. He was affected by drink but knew perhaps he had gone too far. When she threatened him with hexes she was still sober enough to cast, he left with a final aspersion on her character.

She later understood how horrible her reaction had looked, when it was too late, but even then she couldn't afford to analyze it.

That night she lay down with Skarrow and held him, again trying not to think too much. She spoke to him for a while, looking into his eyes. She told him there was nothing wrong with affection and caring, but she knew that had never been his question. She told him there was nothing wrong with being a night creature, but he had never wondered at his nature either.

Finally she told him she would always protect him and that was when he looked shattered and turned his back to her. She continued to lie there with one arm around his waist, wondering why magic was only for the night and any love held so much pain.