(1939-12-26) Belated Christmas
Details for Belated Christmas
Summary: Rena takes herself to Perry Evans' cottage in Hogsmead to visit the man and his niece for some belated Christmas giving and receiving.
Date: 1939/12/26
Location: Perry Evans' Cottage

It's after Christmas, and Madeline has come to spend the night at her uncle's. Adam would be visiting the next day, so the kids could explore Hogsmeade on their own, and fly their respective brooms. Maddie's 'new' broom is propped up near the door (Perry bought her a used broom, but it was still in excellent shape). At the moment, Madeline was stretched out on the floor in an unlady-like fashion, reading an adventure story one of her aunts bought for her, her feet kicking idly in the air, while Perry is working on a model airplane and idly pondering if he could enchant it. Technically illegal… but harmless. Right?

Christmas hasn't been easy for Rena to endure, this year. There has been very little in her personal life behind closed doors to be happy about. Things are falling apart at an alarming rate; but, that's what happens when you build a foundation on sand. However, that being said, she's doing her very best to put on a good face, smile and keep a Christmas-like attitude as she approaches Perry's cottage gate.
Snow crunches beneath the young woman's feet all the way up to the door, and she kicks them a little to knock the excess away. Shifting an armload of gaily wrapped packages a bit, Rena taps the knocker and waits. They got a white Christmas this year. If only she were able to feel the joy of it.

"I got it!" Maddie answers promptly, setting down her book and popping to her feet while Perry's still lowering a paint brush. He pushes aside the tray he's working on while Madeline opens the door - and happy throws herself at Rena the moment she spots the woman. "Rena! Happy Christmas!" She certainly doesn't seem to notice the tension masked behind Rena's eyes. "We're letting all the cold in!" she adds almost instantly, starting to pull back so Rena can come in and close the door behind her.

"'Eavens, Maddie!" Rena exclaims laughingly, trying to balance the gifts and prevent them from falling. Somehow, she manages and gives the girl a one-armed hug before following her into the cottage. "'Appy Christmas - Evanses, one and all." She says, craining her neck a bit to flash a smile at Perry from over the packages. "Sorry about being a day late - but what's the difference, eh? Just makes the 'oliday last a bit longer, sure as sure."
Finding a place to set down her load, Rena does so, gingerly. Then, she removes her gloves and begins to unbutton her coat: "Didn't know you made model aeroplanes, Perry," she remarks. "That's marvelous, that is."

"Oh, I don't mind! Did you know if you're Jewish then Christmas is eight days long? Only it's not Christmas, they call it Hanukkah, but it's just marvelous!" Madeline says eagerly. "I went to Elspeth's house with Asher and Saul and Miriam and we all celebrated it a bit late on account of it was over by the time we got out of school - we had fried potato pancakes and donuts with jam!"
Perry waits until Madeline is done enthusing, before he answers Rena's comment. "Not often - but sometimes. Just got this one as a Christmas gift," he remarks easily, rising to his feet. "Let me take your coat - I've got a kettle on, I can pour us each a cuppa?"
"I want a cocoa!"

"Thanks awfully," Rena replies with a quiet smile, allowing Perry to take her things for her. Lady that she is, she listens to Maddie gush about the holiday fun she had with Asher, Saul and Miriam and takes the time to quickly straighten all of her clothing with a few quick tugs. Then, smoothing back her hair, she says: "Cor, they know 'ow to stretch the 'olidays out, don't they? I'm glad they 'ad a good time. I do 'ope they didn't suffer from homesickness at all." Poor little things.
"Please. It's quite sharp out there," Rena answers the offer for tea. Then, turning her attention back to Madeline, she says: "I 'ope you've got room for a couple more presents. Your parents might think I'm ruining you with spoiling."

After hanging the coat, and anything else Rena passes off to him, Perry disappears into the kitchen to fill a tea pot and put together a tray. One that doesn't have paint, glue, and aeroplane pieces.
"Well, I think they were a little, but they had fun anyways," Madeline answers. "And we learned a lot about Hanukkah and other holidays too so I bet they'll like that!" The girl stoops to pick up the book she'd left on the floor, and sets it on one of the book shelves. "I've got your gift, too! It's in my room. I bet you'll love it! Mum loved hers, and so did Professor Pettigrew."

"I'm sure I'll love any gift from you, Maddie. You know that already." Rena replies lightly, still doing a very good job of keeping a brave face on. If she can just manage not to crack through this visit, she'll be doing well. "I'm terribly curious to see what it is, though! I can't even guess."
As Perry has removed himself from the room temporarily, Rena sidles over to look at the contents of the tray and carefully glance over the tiny aeroplane he's been piecing together with painstaking precision. "You go and get your present, and when your uncle returns with tea, we can 'ave fun exchanging gifts, yea?" She offers the idea to Maddie.

The plane is a bi-plane - a model of a fighter from the Great War. He's taking great pains to paint it accurately, and even has a magazine with a few photos and sketches of the plane in question.
"Alright!" Madeline agrees cheerfully, bouncing her way out of the room. She's back in mere moments - carrying a round package with a flat top and bottom, wrapped in brightly colored tissue papers and tied with a string. She sets it down next to Rena's gifts. When she comes back, she has Sally on her heels, the dog happily snuffling at Rena while wagging her tail cheerfully.

"The plane looks absolutely smashing," Rena calls out to Perry, complimenting him once more on the hard work he has put into it. "I know a couple gents in the RAF who would probably wind up bending your poor ear off, telling you stories about the great war when they flew things like that." She adds with a chuckle.
When Maddie returns with Sally at heel, the young woman doesn't seem to be put off by the idea of dropping down on her knees to get on the floor with the happy dog. Force of habit, she left her shoes at the door, and the pose no problem for her, now. Fondly, she roughs up Sally with playful petting and then hugs her warmly. Who doesn't feel better being able to love on a non-judgmental animal when they're in a bad place?

"I'd love to buy them a round," Perry answers when he comes back with a tray - including Maddie's requested cocoa. It seems Rena isn't the only one spoiling the little witch. "It'd be the very least I could do, after all. I really did admire the men in the Royal Flying Corps," he remarks, setting the tray onto a small table, and handing Madeline her cocoa. She settles into one of the overstuffed chairs, sipping it, and scooting over so there's enough room for Rena to join her. "Sugar, cream?" he asks, glancing at Rena on the floor as he adds, "Not only spoiling Maddie - but her dog too. You're going to be a bad influence around here, I can tell."

Now Sally has flopped onto the floor and begun rolling around like a hyper, manic puppy. This doesn't stop Rena from playing with her, though. She just laughs - able to not think about the heaviness in her heart for the moment. "Would you 'ate me if I told you one of them sneaked me onto the airfield and took me up for a joyride in a plane? I even controlled it for a little while." She says, looking up at Perry.
Finally rising to her feet (before Sally gets too worked up and starts biting) Rena moves over to join Maddie. "And - one sugar, please." She replies with regard to the tea, a mischievous glint showing in her eyes.

"Hate you? Yes. Entirely," Perry answers, prompting a protesting, "HEY!" and a giggle from his niece. He doses Rena's tea with the sugar then offers it over, before preparing his own. And of course, there's plenty of biscuits on the tray, so soon after Christmas. "That sounds like it must have been amazing. Much better than brooms, I'd imagine."
"I'd looooove to go up in Dai's spitfire," Madeline agrees. "But he says he can't. Not even if we said 'please.'"

"Thanks," Rena smiles, accepting the tea and taking a sip before replying to Maddie: "Probably because the Spitfire only really 'as room for one person, as a general rule." Look at who's starting to sound like some sort of airplane expert. "And lor' I've never gone so bloody fast in my life, Perry!" She exclaims, going a bit wide-eyed at the memory of. "Nor so high. It was madness. Then, Lieutenant Faulkner took the thing down into a nose-dive and I thought we were going to 'it the ground, but 'e went and pulled up just in time. It was… Amazing."
Realizing that she's going on a bit much, Rena's cheeks tinge a bit and she sips her tea again before saying: "Well, now - we really shouldn't keep Christmas waiting any longer, should we?" Setting the cup aside, she reaches over and retrieves a small book-shaped package for Maddie. "First of two gifts for you, love."

"Whoa," Madeline responds, sounding awed by the tale of Rena's flight. "That sounds like so much fun! I hope I get to try flying in a plane someday, too!"
"What, so I can hate both of you at the same time? Alright," Perry counters.
"Uncle Perry!" Madeline squeals in protest, before giggling. She takes a sip of her cocoa - but she's happy to set it aside and accept the gift instead. She feels around the edges, asking Rena curiously, "A book?" before she starts to tear the package open.

"Well, I know 'ow much you love to read, and it's sort of the first part to a two-part gift, as you might say." Rena replies with a nod. Truth be told, she now has one of those cat-ate-the-canary grins. With the wrapping paper removed and the ribbon tossed aside, Madeline finds herself in possession of a brand new copy of "The Book of Dragons - Tales and Legends from Many Lands" by O. Muiriel Fuller. It's not a large tome, but it promises to be full of marvelous stories about dragons, wyrms and their ilk.

"Ooo!" Madeline says eagerly when she spies the cover, and starts flipping through the pages, looking for illustrations. If they have good illustrations, she can try copying them! "This look like fun!" she says brightly. "Is it a Muggle one, or a wizarding one?" she wonders.
She scarcely gives Rena time to answer, before she's shoving her package into the woman's lap. "Mine next!" she announces. Through the tissue - the gift feels hard and smooth. Opening it would reveal a circular, wooden jewelry box. Carved into the top is a flower - and on the inside of the lid is a heart, and Maddie's name. Madeline bounces eagerly in her seat as she watches Rena with the gift. "I learned the inscribing spell - you know, that they use for writing runes. Anthony taught it to me."

"It's Muggle, believe it or not. And they think only Wizards can tell good stories about dragons…" Rena remarks with a tiny smirk. Wizarding culture - it's all so utterly stuck on itself. What she wouldn't give for a changing wind to blow through and sweep away the arrogance and ignorance. But, that is neither here nor there.
Turning her full attention to the gift dropped into her lap, Rena's expression softens a good deal. Carefully, she unwraps the thing and reveals the jewelry box. Of course it isn't perfect by adult standards - but, that doesn't matter. To her, it's absolutely perfect. Slightly overwhelmed, she struggles against the tears welling in her eyes as she reaches her arm around Maddie and pulls her into a warm hug: "Thank you, Maddie! I think it's absolutely beautiful. The most marvelous jewelry box I ever did see, and that's a fact. I'll always treasure it."

Madeline is happy to return the hug, beaming all the while. "It was great fun to make!" she announces. "But now I don't know how I'll out-do myself next year! Maybe I can carve something else," she muses. But what else could Rena possibly use?! "I've got all year to figure it out." Sally decides to interject herself into the hug at this point, by shoving her wet nose into Maddie and Rena.

Still somewhat flustered and trying hard to stifle her emotions, Rena is grateful for the distraction of Sally butting into the gift giving. She pauses, ducking her head down long enough to blink away the tears and let the heat slip away from her features whilst petting the dog. Once she has recovered, she reaches over and presents Maddie with a far more mysterious box. One containing something that she knows the girl has been wanting for a rather long-ish time, now… "Go on then, see what you think of this, 'ere." She urges her.

Madeline nods eagerly - easily redirected by the thought of another gift, and after a moment to scratch Sally's ears, starts tearing the gift open. When it reveals a fierce, vicious, firebreathing dragon in miniature, she lets out a delighted squeal. "That's where he went!" She scoops the 'creature' up into her hands, while it snaps at her fingers with a painless bite - and then scurries up her arm to her shoulder, while Sally barks at it threateningly. "Oh, Sally, hush! It's not a real dragon!" she laughs.
Perry remains quiet in his seat, sipping at his tea and watching the gift exchange. The tears don't go past his notice, though he makes no comment on them. "Sally, sit," he chastizes the dog sternly. "If she doesn't settle down, we may have to take her back to your bedroom."

Rena smiles indulgently. Christmas is about the joy of giving joy to other people. One could argue the merit of giving material things to bring happiness to another, but one can't argue with the delight of a child getting their wish. At least, that's how Rena feels about it.
"I'm glad you like 'im, Maddie. I saw 'im in the shop and 'e looked like 'e needed a home. And I knew just the girl who could give 'im the home that 'e wanted and needed most. Happy Christmas, love." She says, giving Maddie another fond squeeze.
"I didn't forget Uncle Perry, either." Rena adds, taking another package from the table and holding it out to Perry. Inside, he will find a selection of absolutely decadent looking chocolates. "Strictly for grown-ups, though," She admonishes Maddie, giving the girl a look. "They're filled with an assortment of Liquors." She explains to Perry with a grin.

"Rena… you didn't have to get me anything," Perry remarks with just a little surprise as he opens the gift. "Thank you, I'll enjoy these." Despite his words, though, he gets up and retrieves a wrapped gift he'd left in a cupboard - on hand in case Rena wanted to exchange gifts, but hidden in case she didn't. "I did run across this, however, and thought it might come in handy," he remarks as he offers it to the woman.
Madeline watches Perry and Rena exchange gifts with a curious look on her features, one hand reaching up towards her shoulder, as she dragon snaps at her fingers. Sally has reluctantly settled down - but still has both eyes fixed on the dragon.

"Nonsense. You've been awfully kind to me since I started work at the Ministry," Rena replies, waving off his remark about not needing to buy him anything. "Besides, it was a rough year for everybody. We almos…" The young woman stops herself short of saying We almost lost you. Best not to bring up that awful day, again. "It's just a good time to celebrate everyone with us and be thankful, yea?"
Smiling, she accepts the gift from Perry and gives him a quizzical look as she quickly unwraps it. Inside is a marvelous hatpin with a very mugglish depiction of a witch riding her broom. Naturally, Rena bursts into delighted laughter: "Oh, lor! That's the grandest 'at pin I've seen in a good long while. Thank you, Perry! I love it!"

"Soon as I saw it, I thought of you," Perry remarks, giving Rena a smile. "I'm glad you like it."
"What. What is it?" Madeline asks, craning her neck as she tries to see. "What'd you get her?"
Perry leaves Rena to answer that question, though he does give her a friendly peck on the cheek as he adds, "And I'm glad for everyone with us, as well." He hopes the next Christmas will be as merry. But who's to tell, with the war on and all.

Blushing a little, Rena smiles and shows Maddie the hat pin. "Hold it for me a moment, will you?" She asks, handing it over to the girl for her to inspect momentarily. "I'll swap it out with the one I've got right away."
Pulling the pin from her own prim little hat, she removes it from her head. Smoothing her hair back a little with her hand, she then swaps pins with the girl and places the hat back onto her head at a jaunty angle before slipping the witch pin into place. Tilting her head playfully so that the sterling catches the light and gleams a little, she smirks: "What do you think of it?"

"Ohhhhh… oh!" Madeline responds, and then giggles as she gets a good look at the hat pin. "Oh, that is good! I like it!" she declares. "What fun!"
"Ah, well, if both ladies approve," he gives an exaggerated bow towards Madeline, "then I know I've chosen well. Can't promise I'll stumble on anything quite so perfect in the future, however."

"Oh, you never can tell," Rena responds lightly. "The oddest things turn up in the oddest places." And, that may be more true in the months to come as war continues.
Reaching over to her tea, the young woman quickly finishes the last of it from her cup before it becomes cold. "I do mean it, though - thanks awfully for letting me share a little of your family's Christmas this year, both of you." She says sincerely, setting the cup aside once more. They don't know it, but the holiday would have been utterly unbearable for her if she hadn't had a little brightness to look forward to. "It means such a lot to me."

"Rena, you're always welcome here," Perry says warmly - and Madeline concurs, nodding her head emphatically.
"Besides," the girl adds. "It's, umm, like…" She shifts in her seat. "Well, it's odd isn't it, me being just 12 and having a friend who's an adult." Realizing that may have been a bit forward she adds hastily, "If you think it's okay having a friend who's an adult. But, umm, anyways, I thought it more like, well, more like that you're almost like an auntie, almost. I mean, not really, obviously, but it's almost like that anyways, isn't it?" She looks between Perry and Rena uncertainly.

"I… well, I…" Rena's cheeks flush with colour after a moment's struggle with what to say to that. Swallowing, she chuckles and saves herself: "I never thought much about age, love. After all, two of my best friends are quite a lot older than I am. There's Mister Grosvenor - 'e's forty-six, as you know. And Mister Faulkner, who's… well, I don't actually know 'ow old 'e is, but 'e must be at least forty! You can be friends with anyone, no matter what their age is." Pausing, a furtive look travels between Maddie and her uncle before Rena adds with a smile: "Not that I'd mind being adopted by the Evans family. I can't think of nicer people to belong to. You're all such good folk - you really are."

"Well, yeah, but, you're both adults!" Madeline protests. "I haven't even done OWLs yet. That makes a difference, don't it?" She looks between the two adults uncertainly. "I said something wrong, didn't I?"
"No, love, not wrong. You're just speaking from your heart, and I don't think either of us fault you that," Perry answers reassuringly. He seems a bit amused by the exchange, really.
"So, umm, I shouldn't think of you as sorta like an Auntie, then? It's just - that seemed to make more sense… Somehow." r

Rena gives Maddie a reassuring hug and chuckles softly: "Nonsense, you didn't say anything wrong. And, if you want to think of me as an Aunt, I certainly don't mind. Family things are all a bit new to me." She tries to explain away her reaction before - and, she isn't being deceptive, really. "Growing up, I never 'ad anyone but my dad. No brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents… No mother, even." Here, her expression falters and drops slightly.
Looking up again with a smile, Rena shrugs off the sad feelings and says: "I'd like it if you did think of me that way, truth be told."

"Well, gosh, then you should definitely be an Evans!" Madeline asserts. "Of the Hogsmeade Evanses!" she adds, with a quiet giggle. "And then uncle Perry can be like your brother! It's perfect!"
Perry sips his tea, carefully keeping his own thoughts to himself. He simply sounds, "Well, it sounds like she's made up her mind," he remarks with amusement.

Rena laughs and hugs Maddie again: "Evans and Lee, rather go together like sugar and tea, yea? Hoi, that rhymed, didn't it?" She then asks with a chuckle. Releasing the girl finally, she takes her old hat pin and places the little cap over the end of the sharp needle. Lifting the lid of the jewelry box Maddie made for her, she tucks it away inside. "Perfect!" She exclaims, quite pleased to find that she can get away with fitting it in.
Glancing over at Perry with a bemused expression, the young woman asks teasingly: "What about you, Perry? You want to get saddled with an Auror for a sister?"

"As I said, Rena, there's always room for you here, and that door is always open," Perry answers. Even if it's not quite what he would have wanted. Besides, Madeline's just beaming at him. How can he say no? Damned kid. "Though finding myself unexpectedly saddled with the task of big brothering, I think I'm obligated to add an, 'And be careful out there,' in there somewhere."
The smile Madeline beams at Rena says, 'seeeeeeee?' She certainly didn't notice any reluctance on her uncle's part. Possibly because she wasn't looking for it.

For a flicker of an instant, perhaps Rena caught something in Perry's look or tone. But, she decides that it's best to simply smile in an expression of gratitude before making things any more awkward. Looking at Maddie, she shakes her head: "I've gone and done it again, 'aven't I? I come over 'ere, spoil you and get you all wound up before it's time for you to get to bed. Only this time, I've done it to Sally as well."
Sighing at herself, the redhead chuckles and casts a regretful look in Perry's direction, saying: "I'm awfully sorry. I always cause a bit of a bother."

"It's alright. She comes here to be spoiled, and then I send her back. It's my perogative, as an uncle. Apparently yours as an aunt now, too," Perry answers.
"Does that mean I can stay up all night eating biscuits?" Madeline asks.
"…don't push your luck, young lady."

Rena laughs: "Oh, go on with you. If you're a good girl about getting to bed on time, I can come and tuck you in again - just like last time." She offers this with a warm smile. Being able to do that the last time she was at Perry's cottage was a rare moment of sublime peace and enjoyment for her. If the girl hasn't somehow outgrown that sort of thing in the interim, she would certainly love to do it again.

Madeline sighs melodramatically. "I had to try. Right?" She jumps up to her feet - the dragon on her shoulder flapping its wings to maintain its balance. "I love my presents. Thank you," she adds, leaning down to give Rena another hug. "Sally - stay!" she adds, before bouncing towards the bathroom to start getting ready for bed.
"…the girl can blindside you, can't she?" Perry remarks once he hears the water running. "Cor."

The hug is returned with enthusiasm, and Rena lets the girl go bouncing away to prepare for bed. She's such a whirlwind. It's quite enough to leave a person's head spinning - but, in a good way. Dropping her gaze to the jewelry box in her lap once more, she runs her fingers thoughtfully over the carving with a wistful smile.
Perry's question causes her to raise her head and focus on him. Smirking, she can't help but give a little laugh: "Cor, indeed. She's good at overwhelming you and taking you off guard, and that's a fact." Rena admits. "But, she never means any 'arm. I really do wish I'd been born into a nice family like this. Of course, I would've never wound up on stage and all - nor lived in Wapping. It would've been so very different."

"No, she generally means to do quite the opposite, I think. Madeline's a good kid." Perry glances down the hall with a fond smile, before looking back to Rena. "I imagine it would be very different," he agrees. "And I mean it, Rena, you are always welcome. But I hope you'll forgive if I admit - I don't quite think of you as a sister."

Rena smiles, perhaps somewhat abashed: "No, that's alright. I'm not very much the sisterly type, I'm afraid. I don't know 'ow to be one." She might say something more about how she never really seems to fit in anywhere, no matter what she tries to do… but, she would rather not dampen the situation. Still softly fingering the flower carved atop the jewelry box, she adds: "Thanks for always being so kind to me, though. And for making me welcome 'ere. Lately, I feel as though I'm slipping away and getting lost…" Her voice trails off.
Realizing that she's taken a darker tone, Rena shakes it off and perks up with a light laugh: "Don't pay me any mind. It's just odd with everything being so quiet at work. I don't 'ave any direction right now." Sure, that's what's wrong…

"If you've something on your mind, you're welcome to speak it," Perry invites. "Maybe best after you get Maddie tucked in, though. Or, we could just have a cuppa, and a few of those chocolates, and leave it there." Wouldn't be gentlemanly to pry, after all. Gently he adds, "I don't know that I'd be acting as a very good friend if I didn't pay you any mind, though."

The young woman's gaze flicks downward instinctively. Something is on her mind - very much so - a good many things, in fact. All Rena ever seems to do is make one mistake after another; stacking them one by one to build a very unsteady tower. One of these days, it's going to topple over.
"I-" she begins, faltering. A furtive glance goes in the direction of the bathroom, and her voice lowers: "Things just… nothing's ever really that simple, is it? Nobody's life is free of troubles. I've just got an uncommon talent for making mine worse than they 'ave to be. I've got to find some way to work things out with my…husband. I can't be right about everything, can I? But, such a rift lies between us, now. I just don't even know."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Perry answers sincerely. "And I do hope you can sort it out. I know things aren't always as harmonious between Cecil and Gladys as they like to put on - but they usually find a way to work through it in the end." He scratches at his head a bit sheepishly before he adds, "Gladys was pretty cross with us for a while - for keeping all the sorcery and witchcraft a secret from her all those years Maddie was growing up - but what were we to do?"

Rena smirks a bit wryly. Poor woman. She can't even begin to express how deep and painfully twisted the mess between herself and Takeshi has become. She senses a breaking point in the near future if they cannot somehow pull it together and make amends for one last try.
"That must've been a bit of a strain," Rena says quietly. "I can imagine how she felt when things came to a head…" Pausing, her brow furrows and one hand balls into a fist. Hitting it lightly on the arm of the chair in frustration, the redhead says: "This is why Unity 'as got to pass - it's just GOT to. No more slinking around in the shadows, no more hiding and living in constant fear of being discovered. No more walking a bloody tightrope between two worlds while the one goes on in ignorance and misery, as the other enjoys blissful solitude and isolation from having to be… to be human beings!"

"It would be nice," Perry agrees. "To be honest with the entire family. To really be able to help them when they need your help. Our two worlds learning to cooperate as one - who could ask for anything better than that?" But will it happen that way?
"And Maddie will be happy to tell the truth to the Bronnes."

The young woman's fist slowly unclenches, and she raises her hand to her forehead. Leaning against the arm of the chair, she stays that way for a moment. In her heart of hearts, she is terrified. Her mind tells her that Cassius Malfoy's plan for Unity is going to be the best thing that ever happened to the Wizarding or Muggle world. But her heart tells her that something absolutely horrific might happen instead.
"I don't know the answer. I want to believe that it will be that way… I MUST believe it will be that way. Inasmuch as I've thrown my lot in with the Unity party once and for all… I either stand with them or sink." Nothing like facing the consequences of ones choices, no matter which way you turn.

"All we can ever do is work for the best, with the best intentions in our hearts," Perry agrees. "Though, if Unity passes - I'm out of a job," he remarks in dry amusement. "They'll probably just shuffle us around inside the ministry, though. Opening things up to Muggles will surely cause job openings in the ministry where Muggleborns are needed."

Lifting her head and looking over to Perry sympathetically, Rena replies: "I wouldn't be too sure about that. If anything, your job may become more specialized. Even Muggle Governments 'ave specialists on 'and to make people 'forget' things they shouldn't 'ave seen. Also, to alter records and so forth. You get my meaning?" Yes, she means the top secret, secret agent sort of stuff one only hears about in noir films and shady novels. A particular old gentleman at the Ministry (also named Perry, coincidentally) is largely at fault for the fact that Rena has taken more than a passing interest in such things. "So, don't worry. You'll still 'ave work to do, I'm sure."

"Oh, I couldn't make people 'forget' if my life depended on it. No real talent for mind spells. I'm better at misdirection. Or - misinformation, as the office quite directly puts it. I suppose that may be the case. I'm not too worried - I'm sure they'll be a place for me in the ministry no matter how the cards fall. Be selfish of me to worry about it over the wellbeing of the world at large, anyways," Perry remarks - though his final words are somewhat covered up by Madeline calling, "I'm ready!" from down the hall.

Before Rena can really offer much of a reply, Maddie calls for her, and she flashes a wry smile at Perry. Pushing herself up out of the chair, she lays her hand on the man's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze as she moves past him. "Thanks for listening to me." She murmurs, quietly.
"Alright then, Maddie - what'll it be tonight?" Rena asks upon entering the room. Nearly closing the door behind her, she goes on: "Last time, I 'ad extra gifts for you, and a brand new song. I'm afraid I 'aven't got either, this time." However, the girl gets to call the shots and ask for whatever she wants - within reason.

"Anytime," Perry answers reassuringly, content to stay right where he is and let the girls have their time. He can just work on his aeroplane some more!
"I still like the staying up all night and eating biscuits idea!" Madeline answers from where she's sitting on the edge of the bed - her dragon placed up on a shelf high overhead, where it can stalk and be territorial to is little heart's content. "Ummm. Maybe you could tell me one of the stories from the book on dragons?" she suggests. "Or tell me an exciting Auroring story! There's gotta be one you'd be able to tell me."

Rena laughs and turns down the blankets of Maddie's bed. She really doesn't know what she's doing exactly - but she does whatever feels right… and this seems right. "No biscuits and no Auroring stories," she chides. "Staying up all night isn't as much fun as it seems. Sometimes, I go days without a decent night's sleep because of being an Auror. You finally 'it a point where you either 'ave to sleep, or you start seeing and 'earing things that aren't even there. Bugs, mostly."
Moving aside so that Maddie can crawl under the blankets and get comfortable, the young woman picks up the new book about dragons and begins flipping through the pages smoothly. "Here is my favorite one - also, the longest in the book," She says at length. "The Green Dragon" - which is more about a lady under a curse than the dragon, actually."

"I… had some nights where it was hard to sleep on account of Auroring," Madeline admits. "And that wasn't even proper Auroring - just Junior Auroring." She slips under the covers, letting Rena pull them back up again for her, and snuggles into her pillow, with her stuffed dragon Smaug in her arms. If her stuffed dragon is Smaug, what is she going to name her animated dragon, she muses silently?
"A lady under a curse? How'd she get curse?" she asks.

Once Maddie is tucked in, Rena begins to read…

As with so many tales, the story begins with once upon a time. It follows the story Uglinette, cruelly cursed by an angry fairy called Magotine as a baby to be as horrifically ugly as her twin sister was beautiful. Cast aside by her family and unloved, one day, while wandering by the sea, she finds a beautiful abandoned boat. Curious, she explores it, only to be swept out to sea. Reconciling herself to die, she waits for her fate to find her. However, she is rescued by a mysterious creature, who guides the boat gently. All the while, he tells her of the beauty she has within herself - and that her ugliness is meaningless. She falls asleep, listening to his words. When she awakes, she finds herself in a palace of marvelous beauty; and she is treated by the strange people of the land like a queen. At night, in the darkness, the creature or man to whom the kind voice belongs comes to her. She is not allowed to see him. And because of this, when her twin sister, La Belle comes to visit her, the other woman tells Uglinette that her "husband" is a monster. And she must bring a candle to the room that night to see the truth for herself…

Madeline is enthralled by the story instantly, protesting how unfair it was of her family to abandon her, and hugging her dragon tightly as she listens. When it comes time to sneak in the candle, though, Madeline asks eagerly, "He's the green dragon, isn't he? Does he love her? Wow! A girl and a dragon!"

Rena grins knowingly and continues on. Oh, yes indeed, the "man" is, in fact, the green dragon. However, a terrible thing happens. He is a man in the darkness of night, cursed to be a dragon by day. But, now that Uglinette has seen his face, he becomes a dragon permanently and must fly away. Mortified by what she has done, poor Ugliness watches the kingdom crumble away around her - for it was all held together by magic… and now the magic is gone.
Uglinette is a brave, resourceful girl, and determined to find her true love once more. She sets out on a journey that takes her through many lands, and she must endure many hardships in order to find the green dragon. She becomes enslaved to the wicked fairy, Magotine; willing to serve her for the sake of her love. Although he is cast into the very underworld, Uglinette finds aid from another magical being - a high fairy - who goes with her into the darkness to bring him back from the jaws of death. They defeat Magotine once and for all, and the dragon becomes the man he was meant to be; and his beautiful, magical kingdom is restored to its former beauty. And, what is more, they do truly live happily ever after.

"Wow. She'd be a good Auror," Madeline murmurs sleepily from the warmth of her bed. "Does she get pretty at the end - or does he love her anyways because she's so brave and strong?" She can't wait to tell that Muggle dragon story to her wizarding friends at school! She thinks they'll love it.

Uglinette has redemption from her own curse as well. One of the kindly, helpful spirits who guided her on her journey brings her to a magical well and fetches water from it for her. The clear water washes away the curse, and she becomes beautiful beyond compare. However, as Rena observes: "I don't think she needed to become beautiful on the outside, do you? The prince adored her for who she was inside. Even when she cursed him to being a dragon, perhaps forever, he forgave her because he loved her so."
Smiling, Rena adds softly, leaning in: "Now you know my favorite dragon story."

"No, I guess she didn't need to. But now maybe her parents'll be nicer to her - though they shouldda been at the start." Madeline yawns. "They're her parents." She nuzzles her face a little more tightly against her stuffed dragon. "I'll let you know what my favorite is after I read 'em all."

"Well, if the dragon could forgive Uglinette for what she did - I think Uglinette probably forgave her family and made things right with them in the end. Sometimes, we 'ave to forgive people, even when they do wrong and won't admit it. It's no good holding grudges."
Brushing a hand back through Maddie's hair, gently, Rena smiles in a warm, genuinely loving way: "Now, get to sleep. And 'ave wonderful dreams about all sorts of dragons. Go on an adventure with 'im over there, and find something marvelous at the end." Like Merlin's wand, perhaps?
Getting up from the side of the bed quietly, Rena goes to douse the light. Once she has done so, the cool, blue glow from a winter Moon shining on Christmas snow softly illuminates the room.

"'kay," Madeline agrees sleepily. "G'night," she adds, and with a quiet giggle, "Auntie Rena." No, she's not likely to call her that much - but she can call her that here!

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