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The Highlander and the Witch

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“Well, it looks like you and Dougal got on the wrong foot, you made quite the impression,” said Claire.

“Either that, or he made the impression,” added Jamie. Alice laughed.

“I think it was both,” she said. The four of them were sitting outside, enjoying the cool fall day, while Angus tended the horses.

“I’m surprised the two of you became friends,” said Claire, taking a sip of apple cider.

“So am I,” said Alice. “Rupert, along with Angus, however, were another matter. Rupert had, and still has, a natural charm, which makes it hard to not like him, while Angus has a strong loyal streak about him. I found that out about both of them the next day.” Akicita grew silent, a faraway look on her face.

“What is it?” Claire asked, noticing the look.

“Nothing,” Akicita replied with a sigh. “I just miss my husband.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Claire. “Your husband is right here.”

“I have two husbands; my Lakota husband is back home.”

“Why dinna ye think ta tell us this before?” Jamie asked. “Does yer first husband ken? Ye ken well it is a sin ta lay with more than one man? God created Adam and Eve, not Eve, and two husbands, I ken yer tribe is different, but I dinna ken they were heathens as well. I suppose that men are allowed to rut with more than one wife too?” Akicita crumpled at Jamie’s lecture. She hunched forward; head bowed as tears sprang to her eyes.
Jamie was one of her friends. She knew that he had some racism against Indians, but she thought that he was working on that front, especially after being named Bear Killer by the Cherokee. The Frasers had been living peacefully with the Cherokee sense then. Was he lying all this time? It seemed so to her.

“You will apologize,” Rupert snarled, getting to his feet. He wasn’t the only one who had spoken these words, everyone turned towards the yard at the second voice.

“ENAPAY,” said Alice in complete shock. Rupert turned to see a fierce looking Lakota elder walking towards them, silent as a shadow. He moved onto the porch, stopping to stand beside him.

“How do you know what we were talking about?” Rupert asked him in Lakota.

“It was Angus,” he explained. “He arranged it so that I could come and surprise you. Warriors are camped with me, they wanted to come as my guard, and celebrate with us. Your friend was quite loud as well.” He clearly disapproved of anyone yelling at his wife. “Now then.” He fixed Jamie with a hateful glare as he continued to speak, his tenor voice turning fierce with rage. Rupert translated for a speechless Jamie and Claire.

“You have no right speaking your poison against my wife and tribe. I was told that I would be welcomed in your home, I have been proven wrong. Takota and Akicita have told me that you were a man of honor, and a dear friend. I find you to be a man with a forked tongue!” Jamie turned to his friend in disbelief.

“Dinna tell me you have become one of them, a part of their tribe, yer a good Catholic man, how could ye turn yer back on yer faith for savagery?” Rupert gave Jamie a look of disgust as he translated for ENAPAY, who looked angrier if that was possible.
Rupert saw Claire take a step back at the look on the elder’s face. Without another word, the two men turned, and made their way to where their wife was seated. Rupert watched as Jamie’s eyes flashed with anger, and he knew that his temper was about to be unleashed at what Enapay had said to him.

“If ye dinna like my ways, ye can leave my land,” he growled at Enapay.

“Go on Enapay, take Akicita to the lodge, I need to have some words with Jamie,” said Rupert as Enapay’s hand went to a war club. The elder nodded reluctantly, and took Akicita’s hand with gentle words that contrasted with his unfriendly gaze at Jamie.
Once they had left, Rupert turned to Jamie.

“First things first,” he began, stepping into Jamie’s space. “This is not your land, this land belongs to the Cherokee,—”

“I signed the paper claiming otherwise and built—”

“Do not interrupt me when I am speaking!” Rupert shouted, drawing himself to his full height.

‘Don’t give me orders in my own home,” Jamie barked.

‘Shut up Jamie!” Claire snapped, glaring at her husband.

“Sassenach, let me deal with this,’ growled Jamie.

“I will not,” replied Claire. “Takota is my friend, so no, I will not stay out of it. Please continue Takota.” Rupert nodded.

“As I was saying, this is their land upon which you are living, the idea that it can be divided like a piece of pie is laughable, the animals do not do so, and neither do the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. We live in harmony with Mother Earth, the land belongs to all.” He took a drink of water and continued. “Secondly, you are a hypocrite of the highest, lecturing me about family dynamics. As I recall, Claire wrote to us about your second wife Leog heir, and the fact that you didn’t even tell her. You could have done far better than the likes of her, and you could have told Claire about it. That is the difference, the three of us made the decision as a team when we decided to marry, the Lakota actually respects our women, it seems that you dinna respect or trust Claire enough to tell her this important information.
Thirdly, you dinna just hurt Akicita and I with your words, you hurt all three of us. We are not savages and heathens, and it is none of your concern about what I believe in. Finally, if Enapay is not welcome in your home, nor are we. I am disappointed in you Jamie, I thought you knew better, but I see that jealousy is still your best friend. Perhaps I should pay a wee visit to the Cherokee so they can learn what their so-called neighbor thinks of them. Do you realize that it is a high honor when a tribe gives you one of their names? Perhaps you should think on that the next time you want to insult an Indian. “I have spoken.”

“You are a Scot, not a Lakota,” said Jamie. Rupert turned back to him.

“The Lakota adopted me as one of their own, so I became a part of their tribe. I am both Sioux and Scot” With that, Rupert marched towards the small circle of tipis that were set up not too far from the house. He easily found their lodge and entered. Akicita and Enapay were fast asleep, wrapped around one another under the buffalo hide blanket. He was dismayed to find tear tracks on their cheeks.
Rupert knew quite well that they felt things deeply, once you entered their hearts, you never left. They loved one another and their tribe fiercely, you hurt one, you hurt the other. He leaned down, watching them sleep for a second, their chests rising and falling in tandem, their hair mingling together on the pillow they shared. He bent down, kissing her on the lips, and him on the brow before burrowing under the blanket to the right of his wife, a nap sounded like heaven at the moment. He smiled as he drifted off.
He had his wife and brother beside him, what more could a man want?

They woke up an hour or so later at the smell of food and a knock at the door.

“Come in,” Rupert called. Claire entered, carrying a large picnic basket.

“I made a celebration dinner for the three of you,” she said. “May I join you? I want to get to know this fine gentleman, and hear more of your story.”

“Aye, come on in,” Rupert replied.

“This is homey,” she said as they sat up and made room for her. Alice flicked her wand at the firepit, causing a roaring fire to come to life, warming the3 tipi.
Claire opened the basket, revealing a large amount of chicken and roasted potatoes, along with a bottle of wine which she poured into four glasses.

“Happy anniversary you three,” she said, toasting to them. Enapay smiled at her. He looked far friendlier than the last time she saw him. Claire watched as Alice filled her plate, the men followed suet after making sure she had plenty. She and Enapay both laughed as Rupert snuck her an extra potato.

“He has always made sure I had plenty of food, even at the beginning he did this,” Akicita said, taking a bite of chicken. “I noticed this the very morning after I came through the stones.”

 

“Lass, it’s time to wake up, I have breakfast for ye.” Alice slowly opened her eyes at the voice. For a second, she couldn’t remember where she was. She sat up, wincing at the hard floor under her back, it was nothing like sleeping outside. Why wasn’t she in her bed at home? The memories came rushing back at the sound of men murmuring to one another in the corner, the strange stones, the sickening sensation of falling, and the hazy recollection of being taken to this cottage, and the shouting match with the man Dougal. She listened hard for any cars or trucks outside, but none were to be heard. Did she fall through time? It seemed plausible, none of these men ever mentioned cell phones or any modern technology, and they all sounded like they were from Scotland, which is far from America, plus, Dougal called America the Colonies, and had no idea what she had spoken of last night during her questioning. It all made sense put together like that.
Fighting back fear and panic, she yawned and got to her feet, ready for a good meal. The man, Rupert was his name, guided her to a table, where a piping bowl of porridge was waiting for her. It was hot and thick with a stream of milk, just the way she liked it, though, it wasn’t as sweet as she kept it.
Well, the only thing missing is a plate of eggs and bacon, she thought in longing. Her Father loved to cook that for her after a long absence from home, knowing it was her favorite breakfast dish.
A lump appeared in her throat as she thought of her family, the cornerstone of Lakota life. Would she ever see them again? She had no idea. First thing first, she had to find out where she was. She hadn’t heard a car all morning so far, which was quite odd.
She shook her head, applying herself to her meal.

The delightful scent of bacon and eggs filled her nose.

“Here ye go lass, more food for ye,” said Rupert, plunking himself across from her, and setting a plate by her porridge bowl.

“It looked like ye needed more food, you scarfed that down.”

“I do like food,” Alice replied, digging into the meal.

“Aye, that is what I like to hear, a lassie who isna afraid to enjoy the pleasures of life,” said Rupert, beginning to laugh. Alice couldn’t help but join in, his laugh was infectious.
Once th3e meal was ended, Dougal and the rest of the men went about their business. Dougal wouldn’t tell her of course, only barking at Rupert to mind her, and keep her out of trouble, as if she was a fucking child.
Sighing, she headed outside, Rupert walking beside her. Like her hero Crazy Horse, there were times in her life when she needed solitude to sort through her thoughts and troubles.

She shook her head at herself as Rupert brought her out of her thoughts with a canteen of water. She took a drink as they continued to walk.

“I’m sorry that I am keeping you from your business,’ she said to him.

“Dougal’s orders are to keep an eye on you,’ Rupert replied. “So, that is what Angus and I’ll do until he says otherwise.” Alice didn’t understand the reasoning of this idea, but she nodded, not wanting to press the issue.
She could hear another set of feet walking behind them, and assumed that it was Angus, her second guard.

“So, tell me lass, what is a Lakota?” Rupert asked. “You were talking about its last night when you were screaming at Dougal.”

“Lakota is one of the tribes of the Colonies,” Alice replied. She went on to tell him about the story of Buffalo Calf woman, along with the seven rights of the Lakota, and about the seven council fires.

“I am part of the Hunkpapa, who live in the black hills, our home and a sacred place to our people.”

“What is the language you were speaking in last night?” Rupert asked, leading her around a large rock. The sound of running water was in the distance.

“It is the Lakota language,” she replied.

“It is pretty,” said Rupert. “Do you have a Lakota name?”

“It is Akicita,” she replied. “It means warrior. My childhood name means dancing maiden.”

“Ye dinna look like ye can fight,” Angus scoffed from behind them.

“I was in a war,” Alice said sharply. “I do not like to speak of it, so do not ask me to.” She grimaced, remembering her own screaming as she was subjected to the cruciatous curse. She still got trimmers and pain in her muscles because of the curse.

“Akicita,” Rupert said slowly. “May I call you that name?” she nodded with a pleased smile. “Did I say it right?”

“Yes, you did,” she replied.

“You have too many names,” grunted Angus.

“Well, I didn’t ask for your opinion now did I?” Alice shot back, sending a glare behind her. Rupert laughed.

“Ye glared at a tree, try to yer right.” Alice did so while Angus snorted in annoyance.

The three of them spent most of the day at the river, waiting for the rest of the group to return. Angus expressed his annoyance at having to guard her. Rupert sighed.

“GO back to the cottage then,” he snapped, tired of his friends’ attitude.

“No, Dougal’s orders are to watch her, and that is what I’ll do,” Angus grumbled. Rupert shook his head. “I think we had best be heading back, Dougal and the others will be ready to leave soon.”

“Angus nodded.

The cottage was humming with activity when they got back. Alice was led towards the small table near the fire where food was waiting.
After sitting down, Rupert dished up a bowl of food and handed it to her.

“Beef stew, nice and hot,” he said. Alice took a careful bite. She was rather picky when it came to stew, her Dad made the best stew she ever had. He slow cooked it for a few hours with just the right amount of spices. The broth was perfectly seasoned while the meat was tender.

“It is pretty good,” she said.

“Aye, Mrs. Fitz is an excellent cook, I ken ye will like her, sense ye enjoy food,” said Rupert. She heard the scrape of a chair as he sat down across from her, Angus joining them a few seconds later.

“Is Mrs. Fitz at the place we are going to next?” asked Alice.

“Aye, she is the house keeper,” replied Rupert. “Here, have some bread.” He tossed her a large dinner roll, which she promptly began to tear into. The thing was heavenly, soft and dripping with melted butter.

“Sooo good,” she said, licking butter off her fingers. The door opened as she spoke. A grunt of pain was heard, along with a soothing voice and the scraping of a chair in the corner.

“Who is that?” Alice asked.

“Jamie,” said Rupert. “Which reminds me, we need to introduce ye to the rest of us, but that will have to wait for later. For now, we need to see what is wrong.” He and Angus got to their feet, and made their way to the corner.
The door opened again, bringing in the evening breeze. Rupert spoke in his language, and another man responded.
Alice blocked everything out as she concentrated on eating her cooling stew. She was brought back to earth by a sharp voice.

“Don’t you dare!” The voice was female and English. The conversation continued as the woman instructed the men on how to set a broken shoulder. Angus made a smart-ass comment as she asked him to part with his belt, but was quickly corrected by Dougal’s no-nonsense tone.
Jamie grunted once more as the woman began to work. Alice fingered the wand in her pocket, but knew that she wouldn’t be able to help. For one, the men would see that she was a witch, and she would be burned at the stake or hung. She also didn’t know any healing spells.
She felt weirdly out of place as she grabbed up her empty bowl.

“Um, where do I put this?” she asked awkwardly, knowing that the men were watching the woman’s skills as a nurse.

“Give it,” Dougal grunted, grabbing the bowl from her hands, and taking it to the next room. “Right, can you ride Jamie? We need to leave.”

“Aye, I can ride,” the young man replied.

“Good, you are riding with me,” he grunted, grabbing Alice’s arm and pulling her towards the door.

“You need to let her hold your arm,” said the woman from behind them. “That is how blind people prefer to be led.”

“Don’t tell me what to do woman,” he growled, yanking Alice through the door, causing her to stumble and bang her knee against the door.

“See, she got hurt,” the woman said angrily.

“I need my cane,” said Alice.

“I see it by the fireplace,” the woman said to her.

“I have it,” said Rupert, handing it to her. “I will hold yer broom for ye.” Alice nodded, wincing in pain as her knee throbbed. She knew there would be quite the bruise by morning.

“What’s your name?” Alice asked the woman.

“I am Claire,” she replied.

“I’m Alice.”

“Enough of this,” Dougal barked, grabbing her arm once more, ignoring her protests about her cane. “If you try anything funny, I will slit yer throat,” he said to Claire as he placed Alice on his horse and helped Claire.

They rode hard that night, the men talking quietly to themselves. It was a nice Spring evening with the wind sounding around them. Alice would have enjoyed it if she wasn’t so scared about where they were going. Once they couldn’t ride anymore, they stopped for a rest.

“Here Alice, let me look at that knee,” said Claire. “I am a nurse.” Claire pulled up her pants leg to take a look.

“How is it?” Alice asked.

“It is quite the bruise, the idiot had no right to hurt you like that, honestly. It is unfortunate we don’t have ice to bring down the swelling. Try and get some sleep if you can.”

“Right, we’re leaving,” Dougal barked. ‘I want to get to Leoch as quick as we can, red coats may be about.”

“Or not,” said Claire angrily, helping Alice onto Dougal’s horse.

“I want to ride with Rupert,” said Alice.

“Yer riding with me,” Dougal growled.

“For Christ’s sake, let her ride with him, what is the harm?” Claire snapped glaring at Dougal.

“She’ll be doing what I say,” Dougal snapped at her.
Alice was really wanting to take out her wand and curse him, possibly the jelly legs jinx. She smiled to herself at the thought as they rode. She eventually found herself drifting off, in spite of her desire to stay awake. She didn’t trust Dougal to leave her off somewhere to starve or get eaten by some animal.
She jerked awake at a rough hand, yanking her from the saddle.
She immediately tensed, thinking that death eaters were going to get her. She kicked and struggled, trying to get away.

“Stop yer struggling woman,” Dougal hissed.

“Don’t ever wake me like that again,’ Alice hissed, yanking herself away from him. She breathed deeply, relieved that there weren’t death eaters about, though she still knew that she was in danger. She hated not being able to use magic, she felt vulnerable without being able to rely on her wand for protection.
She stood, still as a statue and shaking like a leaf as screams and high cold laughter filled her head. A hand landed on her shoulder, the screams growing.

“Where did you get your wand Miss Cross?” the sugary sweet voice asked. She struggled against her restraints, needing to get out of the ministry, she had to protect her Father, they had to flee to American and to their tribe where they would be safe.

“Lass.”

“I will ask you once more, which witch or wizard did you steal that wand from?”

“Lass, stop yer struggling, your safe.”

“It’s my wand! I bought it when I turned eleven!” She screamed, jerking against the restraints that held her in the chair.

“Get the rope Rupert.” The voice was distant, sounding as if heard from the bottom of a whale.

“I will not!” No, they had to run, get away, they were in danger too. She tried to scream but her voice wouldn’t work.

“She might be possessed; I will call Father Bain.”

“You will not Dougal!” The voices were distant as the cold increased. A terrible bone chilling cold entered the room, along with the sound of cold rattling breath.

“Lass, yer safe.” The voice again, terrified. “It isna real.
A hand took hers, rough but gentle. The cold slowly began to ease, along with the screams.

“Aye, yer safe, nobody will harm ye.”

“It’s my wand,” she sobbed. “I bought it when I was eleven.”

“Aye, it’s yer wand,” a familiar voice repeated.

“It’s my… Ru-Rupert?” The cold room disappeared at the sound of the voice. She became aware of the sound of a crackling fire.

“Aye, it is Rupert,” he said. Clammy sweat was on her brow, and she continued to shake.

“Aye, I am here as well, Angus if ye remember,” said a second voice.
Slowly, her shaking began to stop.

“Did I say something?” she croaked.

“Aye, something about wands, and dementors and witches,” said Rupert. Alice gasped, fear coming back in full force. This was it. She was about to be arrested and charged.

“Are ye a witch?” Rupert asked. She sat in silence, too terrified to answer. “I grew up on stories of the fairies lass. I willna tell anyone, nor will Angus. Besides, if you are a witch, you could easily escape a burning by casting a spell.”
She could hear wariness in his tone. What option did she had? She couldn’t explain these things away. If she was burned, she could place a freeze flame charm on herself like Windalin the weird.

“Yes, I am a witch,” she whispered, taking her wand out of her pocket. “This is my wand.”

“Can ye show us some of yer magic then?” Rupert asked, still with that tone of disbelief, though, her parents and grandparents hadn’t believed it either.

“All right.” She flicked her wand, placing a silencing charm on the room, before she took off her shoe, and transformed it into a cute fluffy bunny rabbit.

“That is impressive, but why would you want to do that?” asked Rupert.

“I don’t know,” Alice said with a shrug. “Maybe I might get lonely one day and want a pet rabbit.”

“Aye, but can ye do anything useful?” Angus asked.

“Yes, I can, what do you want to see?”

“Can ye start a fire?” Rupert asked. “This one is about done.”
Alice pointed her wand at the fireplace, and soon a warm fire was roaring, filling the room with warmth.

“Can ye fill my flask with more whiskey?” Angus asked. Alice rolled her eyes. Angus gave a yelp of surprise as she caused it to zoom into her hand. She soon had it full to the brim with his drink. He too, it from her and took a long drink.

“You said you were in a war,” said Rupert. “Can you fight with magic?”

“Yes,” Alice replied. “I am quite good at defense, defense against the dark arts was one of my best subjects in school.”

“You mean you can’t just wave a wand?” Angus asked.

“No, magic takes concentration, you have to go to school to learn how to control it, and do it properly. Some spells are quite difficult to master, especially defense spells, you have to know the theory and everything.”

“Can anyone hear us?” Rupert asked.

“No, I placed a silencing charm on the room.”

“Can ye show us some of these defense charms?” Rupert asked, sounding rather interested.

“All right,” Alice replied. “I can show you a couple, and then I need to get some sleep, it was a long ride.”

“Aye, us as well. What do you want to show us first?” Angus asked.

“I am going to show you the shield charm. Angus, I want you to com at Rupert like you’re going to attack him.”

“Aye.” With a battle cry, Angus flew at Rupert.

“Protago!” Alice yelled, pointing her wand at them.

“I canna get to him,” said Angus in wonder.

“I don’t know if I want to use this next one on you,” said Alice.

“Why not?” asked Rupert.

“It knocks you out,” said Alice.

“Is there a spell to wake us up?” asked Rupert.

“Yes but—”

‘I want to see it,” Rupert interrupted. “It is a dangerous time that we live in, and I will feel better knowing that you can defend yerself when we are not here. Do it on me.” His voice was more serious this time instead of his usual light and playful tone.

“You’re a brave man Rupert,” said Alice. She placed a cushioning charm on the walls and floor, and got up to face Rupert.

“Stupify,” she said. There was a soft thud as Rupert fell on the cushioned ground.

“Aye, ye knocked him out cold,” said Angus in disbelief. “Please wake him up now.” Alice flicked her wand.

“Well lass, I’m impressed,” said Rupert. “I am sure there is more things, and I hope to see more. This is a lot to take in.”

“I can imagine,” said Alice.” She flicked her wand at the door, removing the silencing charm.

“Good night to ye lass,” said Rupert. “Try and sleep now, I expect that the Laird will wish to see ye and ask ye some questions.” She seriously doubted she could sleep after hearing that.
She climbed onto the bed, casting a cushioning charm on the lumpy mattress before laying down, quickly falling asleep, wand clutched in her hand.

Rupert stared at the closed door of Akicita’s bed chamber. A witch. He could hardly believe what he had seen and experienced. It was clear to him that Father Bain had magic all wrong. This made him think of other things about witches he had heard, like the fact they couldn’t bleed, so examiners used the pricker to test if they were witches or not. He snorted. That was obviously a way for them to cheat and prove to themselves that the victim was a witch.
The most ridiculous one was that witches couldn’t drown, and the sight of a rosary would burn the magic out of them. Just superstitious nonsense brought on by fear and hysteria, and entertainment of course, what better way for the citizens of a town to see some blood shed on a Saturday night, enjoyment for the whole family.
What else was a lie?

“Well,” said Angus, leading the way down the corridor. “That was unexpected.” It was unexpected, and dangerous. Not that she was dangerous to them, but the public would be dangerous if they got the slightest hint of a witch in Castle Leoch.
She would have to be careful with her magic, but he suspected that she knew this rather well. This didn’t stop him from wanting to learn more of what she could do, what her limits were. They would have to find places where she could do her magic without prying eyes watching. Her chamber was one safe place, as long as they looked out for Mrs. Fitz and other chamber maids. They would need to find more.
He was most interested in her defense spells, he wanted to see more of those, see how well she could fight. Of course, she would do quite well against a non-magical person, she could simply disarm a redcoat if she needed to, perhaps she could turn one into an ugly slug. Rupert grinned at the thought of a redcoat oozing on the ground like the dirty hearted man he was.

“Should we tell Dougal?” Angus continued when the silence stretched for a minute or more.

“I think we should leave that to her Angus, she is the one with the magic powers Afterall.” Angus looed reluctant, knowing they were ordered to tell Dougal any information about her, but he nodded to Rupert’s relief.

“Let’s get an ale,’{ he said, leading the way towards the kitchens.

Alice jerked awake as the door slammed open.

“You must wake up and get yerself ready to see himself.” It was a woman’s voice, urgent and rather too loud. Alice let out a startled yell, wand moving, ready to let loose a spell, then memory slammed into being. She was surrounded by muggles, she must not dare use magic, unless her life was in danger. Heart pounding in panic, she jumped to her feet, tripping over the blanket that somehow made its way onto the floor.
She righted herself, getting her breath under control.

“I’m sorry lass, but ye need to get ready.” Alice only nodded, too tired and overwhelmed to ask for her name. She stood stiffly, allowing the woman to dress her in whatever she wanted.

“You may call me Mrs. Fitz,” she said gently. “I don’t know if you remember me in the court yard, something upset you, and you started acting strange, Dougal, Angus, and Rupert got you up here, screaming and kicking all the while, so I thought I would re-introduce myself.” Alice nodded as Mrs. Fitz brushed her hair. “Rupert also informed me that you canna see.”
Alice waited for the pity she had gotten so often from strangers, but it didn’t come.

“If there is anything you need help with around the castle, please don’t hesitate to call on me.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Fitz,” said Alice. “Rupert and Angus have been nice to me so far. Well, more Rupert,” she amended. ‘I’m not sure about Angus quite yet. I don’t trust people easily.”

“Never mind that for now,” said Mrs. Fitz. “Ye will have time to get to know everyone better once the Laird judges ye. Colum is a good and fare man, but ye must tell him the Lord’s truth ye ken.” Yeah, like that would happen, Alice thought. Like she was going to tell him that she was a witch or that she fell through time without a time turner.

“I’ll do that,” she simply said as Mrs. Fitz finished braiding her hair.

“Aye, now yer ready.” Alice flinched at the knock, hand going to her wand, body tense and ready. She grimaced at herself, she had never been this jumpy sense the end of the war, though her Dad often reminded her that trauma never really went away, her Grandfather had told her of his experiences during world war two, and the fact that he was still troubled by it.

“Lassie, it is I, Rupert.” Alice was relieved at the sound of the voice. She relaxed her grip, opening the door. “Are ye ready? I am here to escort ye to the Laird.”

“Good luck lass,’ said Mrs. Fitz. “I will be in the kitchens if ye need anything, dinna hesitate if ye need something from the kitchens.” Alice nodded, walking from the room with Rupert.

They walked together in silence, their footsteps the only sound in the echoing corridor. Rupert placed his arm around her when she started to shiver.

“Are ye cold?” he asked.

“Yeah, I am. I don’t know why; it’s supposed to be Spring.”

“Aye, it is, but a draft will sometimes come in, and these walls are made of stone. Which reminds me, I will request for Mrs. Fitz to find ye a room with a window if you wish,” said Rupert.

“I would like that,” said Alice. “I don’t like feeling like I am in a tomb.” Alice slipped her hand into Rupert’s larger one. It was warm, feeling just right somehow in her own. She shrugged off the strange warm feeling blossoming in her chest as they walked, something to think about later.
They walked down several corridors and flights of stairs before they reached the Laird’s chambers.

“Constant vigilance,” she muttered.

“What was that?’ Rupert asked, taking her back down stairs and into a private alcove.

“Oh, something a good friend of mine always said, his name was Alastor Moody, everybody called him Mad-eye because of the magical eye he had. The war made him paranoid. He was in my opinion the best auror the ministry ever had.”

“Auror?’ Rupert asked.

“Dark wizard catchers,’ Alice replied. “People thought I would be an auror, but I prefer journalism instead.” Tears filled her eyes, spilling down her face. She tried to blink them away, but it was no use. “I thought I would be over his death by now, it’s been sixteen years sense the war.”

“Hey now, you should never be ashamed of missing yer friend.” They were whispering, afraid to be overheard by the Laird’s attendance. “Do they allow women to be journalists in the wizarding community? How about yer dark wizard catchers?”

“Yes, witches are able to do the same jobs as wizards,” Alice replied.

“Aye, we will talk about this after yer meeting,” said Rupert. “Ye canna be late to see the Laird, it displeases him when people are late. I should ken, Dougal is late all the time, I believe he does this on purpose.”

“I see,” said Alice, trying to fight back her nervousness.

“Best of luck to ye,’ said Rupert, leading her towards the door. “Keep yer head and stay calm.” Rupert watched as the door opened to reveal Mistress Claire.

“Oh,” she said in surprise. “Alice, Rupert MacKenzie, what are you doing out here?”

“It is her turn to speak with the Laird.” Claire nodded.

“Just stay calm, and stick to what you need to tell him, it will be fine.” Alice nodded once more and entered the study, closing the door behind her, leaving Rupert and Claire in the hall.
They stood in silence, regarding each other with miss trust as they listened to the murmur of voices, not being able to catch the words. Rupert wanted to step closer, but didn’t want Colum’s attendance to find him listening in.

“What are you still doing here?” Claire asked. “Don’t you want to go to the kitchens to have a drink?”

“I was ordered by Dougal to keep an eye on Mistress Alice and yerself.” Claire glared at him, eyes flashing.

“I am not an English spy,” she said loudly. Rupert grabbed her arm and pulled her to a more private corner near the stairs.

“SHH, not so loud,” he hissed. “It is up to Dougal to find out if yer a spy or no, my job is to follow orders. At least ye have me at the moment and not Angus, he is in his ci[s more than out of them.” Rupert could tell that Mistress Claire was going to give Dougal a piece of her mind. He shook his head. Between her and Akicita, Dougal wasn’t going to have a good night’s sleep anytime soon.

“What are ye still doing here?’ Rupert asked Claire.

“I thought I would walk Alice back.”

“I am going to walk her back,” Rupert replied.

“I am,” Claire replied. “You are welcome to join us sense you are so determined to spy on us.”

“Fine,” said Rupert.

“Fine,” said Claire.

“Fine.”

“Fine.” They glared at one another, and spent the next minute in a huffy silence. Rupert couldn’t help but send concerned glances at the closed door of Colum’s study as the meeting went on. It had only been about five minutes, but he wanted it to be done.

“Your concerned about her, do you like her?” asked Claire.

“I am merely concerned for a lost Lady,” replied Rupert.

“Don’t be daft,” hissed Claire. “I can see it in your face. You do like her.”

“What if I do? What are ye going to do about it?” he challenged, glaring at her.

“Nothing,” said Claire. “Just a simple observation. I remember you checking on her during our ride here, constantly checking to make sure she was well. I won’t tell the bloody castle if that is what you are worried about, I am glad you like her, it means you’re not a heartless bastard after all.” Despite himself, Rupert’s lips twitched. Despite her foul mouth, the woman seemed kind, but that wasn’t saying much, many English people had been kind, but had stabbed Lairds in the backs, he would have to wait and see if she would repeat the pattern.

Alice appeared around the corner with the Laird guiding her down the stairs.

“Rupert, Mistress Beauchamp,” he greeted. “I hope ye will join us in the hall for supper.”

“Aye, we shall do so,” Rupert replied, giving Akicita a once over.

“I will see you then, at eight,” said the Laird, heading back to his chambers.

“I think I will go for a walk,” said Alice.

“I need an ale,” Rupert replied. “I dinna think that Dougal shall mind, I will see ye at supper.” Rupert watched as the two women made their way down the corridor.

‘If you are going for a walk, I think we need to get your cane,” Claire whispered. Alice nodded in agreement. They managed to find her room without much trouble.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Claire asked. “Just to be sure, there aren’t any railings on these blasted stairs, how utterly stupid if you ask me, a bloody hazard if you ask me, though what do you expect in a bloody castle.”

“That will be helpful, I am going to take a walk in the grounds. You can at least take me to the doors if you want to.”

“All right then,” said Claire. I am definably back in time, Alice thought as they went down the corridor. There was no avoiding it now, the fact that there hadn’t been cars once sense she got here, and the fact she was in Scotland. The stones were not a portkey at all, there wasn’t the jerk behind the navel, and time turners only took you back a certain time. This had to be ancient magic, magic as old as the earth.
She fingered her wand in the sleeve of her dress, no pockets to be found on the thing.

‘What year is it?” Alice asked Claire. “I woke up the other day thinking it was 1742.”

“I do that sometimes,” said Claire. “It is 1743.” Alice nearly choked on her spit in surprise. Well I’ll be damned, she thought, not even the American Revolution. It had been a lame excuse to her own ears, but she didn’t know how else to explain her lack of knowledge on what the year was. Alice chuckled at what Claire said as she was helped down the stairs. She didn’t feel as confidant with the stairs without a railing to hang onto. The cane helped, but it was much safer to have the railing to hold onto. She nearly stumbled a couple of times, but Claire helped her before she went down the stairs.

“I’ll talk to Colum about getting you a room on the ground floor if you want,” said Claire. “I don’t’ like the thought of you walking these stairs without a rail. Not that I’m trying to coddle you, don’t get me wrong,” she added, afraid of hurting her feelings.

“No, I would like that actually, one with windows if that is available,” said Alice. She could hear voices issuing from the courtyard and smell fresh air. She smiled, ready to be outdoors.

“All right, this is where I leave you,” said Claire, helping her down the steps. “It is all clear, you won’t run into anything.
She heard the sound of children laughing and playing and decided to investigate. She hurried towards the yells and wood smacking against wood.

“I do hope yer feeling better lass,” said a low voice from behind her. She jumped, whirling to face the speaker.

“Dougal McKenzie, you startled me, but yes, I am better, bad memories is all.” She decided to let his rough treatment go for now, as long as he was decent to her, she would return the favor. She was not one for holding grudges, though she was still miffed at him for breaking her flute.
He was about to speak when he spotted the boys playing, and then proceeded to have a match with a boy named Hamish. Alice laughed with them as she listened to the cracks of wood as they volleyed back and forth.
Alice couldn’t help but smile at the softer side that Dougal was showing, a much different contrast to the hard man on the road. She could hear the boy’s laughter as he was swung through the air.
She heard Dougal set him down before shoeing him away.

‘It is almost time for supper lad, you had best get ready and looking presentable, or yer Mother will have yer hide.” Hamish grumbled a bit, but did as he was told.

“I thought that dinner was an hour away,” said Alice.

“Aye, it is,” said Dougal. “The lad needs to look presentable and get cleaned up.” Alice nodded. “Where are Angus and Rupert?” he asked.

“Rupert went to get an ale, while I don’t know where Angus is,” Alice replied. Dougal sighed and muttered something in Gaelic.

“Aye, I shall have to speak to them later then,” he added, switching to English.

Thirty minutes later, Dougal and Alice went inside, talking together as they went.

“You know that I know that you are using Angus and Rupert to spy on me,” she said.

“Aye, and what are ye accusing me of?” Dougal asked, and edge to his tone.

“Well, nothing,” replied Alice. “I can understand the need for it, I’m a stranger Afterall, and from what I have observed, your people are living through a dangerous time, so, it would be rather stupid of you to not spy on who in your view are suspicious people who just happened to show up in the woods randomly and without explanation. I would do the same to you if the roles were reversed. I could tell you that I am not a spy or suspicious person until I am blue in the face, but it wouldn’t make a difference until I proved otherwise.
I may not like it much, but I understand the need and reasoning.” They were silent for a bit until she spoke once more.

“There are secrets about me, but I need to know that I can trust you before I reveal them. I will tell you someday, but not at the moment. Will that do for you? Can we try and get along with one another and gain trust between us?” Alice was still displeased at Dougal’s rough treatment, but she could understand his hard nature. War did things to people overtime, made changes that would last a lifetime, Alaster Moody was an excellent example of that. She herself wasn’t that sweet innocent little girl she had once been herself, her temper was much quicker, and her trust slower to gain. “Can we start over?” She held out her hand for him to take. “My name is Alice Cross.”
She was slightly surprised when Dougal took her hand and kissed it. She giggled as his beard tickled her fingers.

“Dougal MacKenzie,” he replied. “I am sorry for breaking yer flute and losing my temper with you.” Alice chuckled.

“Well, it isn’t like I didn’t lose my own when we met, but I will accept your apology, I think we were both under strain that night and the following days on the road.” They walked on in a friendly silence towards the dining hall. Alice could hear the clink of dishes and people talking. Early arrivals, she thought, probably wanted to get some food before it all disappeared.
Silence fell as they entered, not a sound was to be heard. Alice stiffened at this, not wanting to be the center of attention. Dougal lead her to a seat, which he held out for her.
Once she was seated, he sat down to her left. He informed her that Claire was soon entering the hall. Alice realized that she was getting the same attention. There was a scraping of wood as Dougal pulled out a chair for her.
The laird soon introduced Alice and Claire to his wife Letitia.
The meal soon got under way; Claire being questioned by Colum. Alice had refused alcohol, not being fond of it.

“Ye dinna like wine?” Dougal asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Whiskey?” Dougal asked, sounding horrified.

“No.”

“Rum?”

“No.”

“Brandy?”

“No.” Alice was growing more amused. She was curious about how much he knew about alcohol.

“Beer?”

‘No.”

“Ale?”

“No.”

“Mead?”

“No.”

“Gen?”

“no.”

“Vodka?” Claire joined in.

“Never had it,” Alice replied. Dougal snorted.

“Then ye canna say ye dinna like alcohol, sense ye claim ta have nae tried it,” said Dougal. Alice rolled her eyes.

“Will ye shut yer gobs?” Colum hissed, clearly having enough of the pointless conversation. Alice wanted to tell him to suck it, but she doubted he would get the reference, and she was in a century where women were supposed to act like perfect ladies, pure as the fucking snow. Alice snorted at the thought as she applied herself to her food.
She took a sip of milk that a servant placed in front of her. It wasn’t as cold as she liked, but it would do, it was a drink at any rate.
The meal continued without incident. Alice gobbled down her food, while Claire gobbled down more alcohol while being questioned by Colum.
Footsteps hurried across the hall towards their table.

“Hello, my name is Claire,” said Claire.

“GO on and tell her yer name,” Letitia chided.

“I am Hamish.”

“It is nice to meet you Hamish, I saw you and your Father playing together in the courtyard.” She sounded quite drunk to Alice, her words slurring together.

“My Father?” the boy asked, clearly confused.

“Well yes, do you not remember Dougal? You were swinging him around.” A long silence followed this, one which non-verbal communication seemed to take place. Alice simply continued to eat her third helping of food, eager for dessert.

“I apologize,” said Claire. “It appears made an error of judgement.”

‘I am the son and heir of Colum Mackenzie,” said Hamish.

“Aye, ye are,” Letitia growled, patting the seat beside her. Claire fell silent for a minute.

“I think I will turn in for the night,” she said, getting up rather noisily. “These last few days have been rather tiring for me.”

“A good night to you then,” said Colum.

“Do you want to come Alice?” she asked.

“No, still eating,” Alice said. Claire placed a hand on her shoulder.

“How is your knee?”

“It seems to be feeling better,” Alice replied.

“I will take a look at it in the morning,” said Claire. Alice nodded as Claire walked away.

Dessert soon appeared; delicious smelling treats that made Alice nearly drool. Hobbits were her favorite Tolkien creatures for their love of food and plants. They were the definition of Hufflepuffs.

“oooh, give me give me give me,” said Alice, nearly jumping up and down in her seat in excitement.

‘By Christ woman,” said Dougal. She could detect a slight note of amusement in his tone. “Eat this and shut it.” Alice smelled cherry and cinnamon. She took a bite of the cake and grinned as pure heaven filled her mouth. It was perfectly moist and rich with flavor. Gordan Ramsey would be damn proud, she thought to herself as she attacked the cake.

“Ye look like yer in love with that cake.” She turned towards the amused voice behind her. It was Rupert.

“I want to marry this cake,” said Alice dreamily. Colum merely gave a long-suffering sigh as Hamish laughed.

“I would sale my soul for a cup of coffee,” said Alice.

“I am afraid there isna any,” said Rupert.

“Oh well,” said Alice.

“Very unladylike,” muttered Letitia. Alice scoffed to herself. She didn’t care what other people thought of her.

“Hey Rupert,” said Alice. “Do you want to know why I have a broom?” The meal had ended and the two of them were walking back to her chambers. Angus stayed behind to have a couple of drinks.

“Aye, why do ye have a broom with ye?”

“For flying,” she replied with a grin. Rupert stared at her in amazement.

“Can we fly without being seen?”

“Yeah, if we are careful. I will have to dissolution you.”

“What will that do?”

“It will make it harder for you to be seen, like a human camelian,” Alice explained.

“Well, can we go flying?” Rupert asked.

“It will have to be somewhere where we won’t be seen by muggles, perhaps after everyone is in bed maybe.”

“Aye, that will work, and I ken a place in the forest that is safe.”

“Well, do you want to fly then?” she asked. “This is a top model racing broom, my friend Harry bought it for me as a birthday gift last year. His wife Ginny recommended it to him, they placed some spells on it that would help me fly.”

“I was wondering how ye could fly sense ye canna see,” said Rupert.

“It is charmed to correct my course if I am close to another flyer, or other objects. I can also give an address to my broom and it can take me to wherever I need to go, my other friends Ron and Hermione worked on that spell with one of my old Professors.”

“Aye, let us fly then.”

“Come here,” she said. Rupert stepped in front of her, and she wrapped him sharply on the top of his head. It felt as though an egg had been poured over his hair, cold trickles were running down his body from where she struck.
He gaped down at his body. It was the exact texture of the corridor, he blended in so well, that he couldn’t even tell.

‘Amazing, I canna recognize myself,” he said. They walked to her room where she grabbed her broom.
He hadn’t noticed it before, but small writing was in the wood. Firebolt 2003. Rupert led her outside, and deep into the forest where they wouldn’t be seen.
He watched as she placed her right leg over the broom, stratling it.
He quickly followed suet, sitting behind her.
She kicked off hard from the ground and they soared up into the sky, the ground quickly shrinking away. It was the most wonderful feeling he had ever experienced. They flew higher and higher, Rupert telling her where to fly so they couldn’t be seen. They were so high that the buildings began to look like tiny toy houses in a tiny toy village. He could see everything for miles.

‘Can ye go faster/” he asked.

“Sure, I just wanted you to get used to it is all.” Grinning, she sped up, and they were zooming past trees, and deeper into the forest. They were soon weaving and diving in complex spirals. Rupert was really enjoying himself, laughing as the wend roared in his ears and flew through his hair.
This was surely freedom, far better than riding on a damn horse. They rose higher and higher, circling until they landed in a high tree. Rupert whistled in appreciation. He could see the world below him like a big sprawling map. None of Colum’s guards would be able to spot them up here.

“Do you think that Dougal or Angus would enjoy this?” Alice asked.

“Dougal would, but I am very sure that Angus would hate it.” They stayed up in the tree for a bit longer until it began to get cold.

“I think we should head back now,” said Rupert in disappointment. Travel would not be the same for him now that he knew the wonders of the broomstick.

“All right,” said Alice. They flew from the tree, hovering in mid-air, not quite ready to leave just yet.

“Can we try that address feature of yer broom?” Rupert asked.

“Sure,” said Alice. She took out her wand, tapping the broom once.

“What is your destination?” a friendly male voice asked.

“Castle Leoch,” said Alice.

“In rout for Castle Leoch, 10 miles,” said the male voice as they began to fly.

“I am surprised the castle is in the database,” said Alice. “Hermione wasn’t kidding when she told me that they programmed every place they could think of.”

“Whose voice is that?” Rupert asked.

“It is Ron’s,” Alice replied. “He spent hours programing his voice to work on the thing, he had to say all sorts of words and phrases for the broom to learn.”

“That is amazing,” said Rupert. “You have wonderful friends.”

“Yeah, Ron and Hermione Weasley, along with Harry and Ginny Potter are all wonderful people,” Alice replied as they turned right, avoiding a tree.

“Muggle approaching,” said the broom as the broom rocketed up towards the clouds.

“Blimey, that was a close one,” said Ron’s voice from the broom. Rupert was amazed. The voice was speaking directly in their ears, Colum’s guards didn’t seem to have heard a word.

“He is gone,” Rupert whispered. The broom seemed to agree, for it resumed flight, diving towards the ground as they raced towards the castle. They were still quite high, the castle looked so small from up here, Rupert thought.

“Approaching Castle Leoch, starting the decent.” The broom dived downward, causing them to land safely near the gate.

“You are at your stop. Have a good evening, and happy flying,” said Ron’s voice. “Now, if you will excuse me, Hermione has a sandwich for me.” Rupert laughed quietly as they dismounted.

“Ron liked to put fun phrases in like that, in order to add some humor,” said Alice as they walked towards the castle.

“Can we do that again?” Rupert asked.

‘Yeah, we sure can,” Alice replied. “We have other, less fun travel methods, but they are excellent for if you are in a hurry or a tight spot. I will explain those later on.”

They walked back to her chamber in silence, enjoying the quiet of the castle. It would be quite late by now, and Angus would be wondering where he had got to. Rupert smiled as he wished her goodnight, before heading to his own bed.
He quickly changed into his night clothing and fell into bed, where he fell asleep, dreaming of flying through the clouds once more. Colum must not know, he thought as he drifted off.