Author's Note: I haven't written any Chrestomanci stories in a while, but I'm rereading Charmed Life right now, and just finished rereading The Lives of Christopher Chant, and it started me thinking, so…here you go. I could potentially see writing some more short pieces between Christopher and Millie if there is interest. Right now I'm trying to finish a long Draco/Hermione story I've been working on.
Christopher was sitting on the Goddess's bed, his legs swinging over the edge. He was idly bouncing a ball of light in his hands—it was a new spell he'd gotten Tacroy to teach him, though Gabriel was keeping him pretty busy these days. Miss Rosalie had taken the Goddess out and had her fitted for dresses and school uniforms and everything else she would be needing. Wearing Christopher's Norfolk breeches hadn't exactly been considered socially acceptable, so Miss Rosalie and some of the other ladies had loaned the Goddess some dresses in the meantime. But now, her things had arrived, and Millie was looking at them with both appreciation and apprehension while Proudfoot walked circles around her vanity.
"It's hard to imagine wearing all these layers of petticoats and bloomers and all that. I'm so used to just wearing a robe." Still, she ran her hand over the fabric as she admired the colors.
Christopher bounced the ball of light a little higher as he noticed that he had Proudfoot's attention. The kitten's tail lashed as she watched from across the room. "You'll be grateful in winter. And probably fall, spring, and summer too. It's a lot cooler here than you're used to."
"I know. And the food is so bland. I don't see why I can't just wear breeches like you do." She hung her dress up in the wardrobe, resisting the urge to pack it away in her shiny new trunk. It'd be some weeks before she'd actually be leaving for school. She couldn't wait—school, with other girls her own age! Not being the only young woman in a temple full of adults. She looked at her stocking and couldn't help but think they weren't thick enough to do any good against the cold, and were sure to get torn up. But the only part of her new clothes she really didn't like were the patent leather shoes. They felt so…constraining. She'd taken them off as soon as she'd gotten to her room. She looked over at Christopher and saw that he'd propped his feet up on the bed. "Either take your shoes off your feet, or take your feet off my bed." Letting out a huff of air, Christopher dropped his feet back over the side of the bed again. "Your room is nice. Better than all the boring brown in my room. They must actually like you." He tried to ignore the fact that up until the incident with his Uncle he'd given the Castle staff little reason to like him. He was trying to do better now.
Millie was quite fond of the yellow flowers on her coverlet. It was already in the room when they'd moved her here (Gabriel hadn't thought the tower an appropriate abode for her), and she hadn't felt any strong desire to change it. "Have you asked them to fix it?"
"They said I could pick out my bedding and so forth when I went with Miss Rosalie to get some clothes. I can't imagine that if you told them you didn't like your room there isn't something they can do about it. Honestly, Christopher. If you want something to change, all you have to do is tell them. They're really not as beastly here as you used to make them out to be."
Christopher turned his light ball over in his hands, and then put it out. He thought she be right, but he didn't say it. It was something think about. He changed the subject. "You're not really going to have them call you Millie when you go off to school, are you?"
The Goddess looked quite startled. "Of course I am. Everyone here except you has already gotten used to calling me Millie. I'm not the living embodiment of you-know-who any more. Millie is a perfectly good name."
Sitting up on his elbows, Christopher looked at her. He still generally slipped up and called her Goddess if he was talking to her. Millie. He wrinkled his nose. "Millie. It's a bit boring. Why not use your real name? You must have had a name before Goddess."
"I'm just not going to," she said curtly.
Something about the sharpness of her tone caught Christopher's attention. He watched as she hastily put away the last few items and went to pick up Proudfoot, stroking her behind the ears. "Even if you don't want to use it at least tell me what it is." He'd wondered before what he real name was, but while she was being the Living Asheth didn't exactly seem like a good time to ask.
"No. Stop it. Don't ask. I'm Millie now," she said firmly. "And when the other young enchanters get here, don't you dare tell them otherwise. I've put being the Living One behind me."
"Come on," wheedled Christopher.
"No, just drop it." She looked at one of the dresses she hadn't put away yet. A little name cloth with M. De Witt was sewn in at the back for when she went off to school. Gabriel was such a darling. He'd consented to letting her use his last name.
"I don't know why you need so many dresses. They'll make you wear a uniform when you're at school anyway." No one had asked him he wanted or needed new clothes. Little did he know, Flavian had already been instructed to get him to a tailor sometime in the next two weeks, as the arms and legs on Christopher's clothes were getting short. He was going through another growth spurt.
As excited as Millie was about school, she didn't really want to think of it right now. She was nervous. Going would be different from reading about it. She hadn't spent any time with people her own age ever really. Except Christopher. "Do you think I'll be okay school?"
Christopher found himself wanting to roll his eyes. "You've built up pretty high expectations, so don't expect it to be perfect. But, I liked it. I wish I could have stayed longer, but Gabriel won't send me back. He wants me where he can keep an eye on me—I asked him last week if I could go back off to school instead of having lessons with the other enchanters he's bringing in."
"Well, at least you won't be completely alone." "I wish you weren't leaving."
"I know." There was a bit of a silence. "Are you going to see your parents at all this summer?" She sounded almost wistful.
Christopher shook his head. This was a road he didn't really want to go down. "No. I think it's best that I don't. I don't think Gabriel would be too keen on me seeing either of them. The day I met him he told me neither of them was a fit guardian for me."
"He doesn't mince words, does he?" she was still absently stroking Proudfoot.
While he was on better terms with a lot of folks in the Castle, Throgmorton was still discouraged from visiting inside, and Christopher found himself wishing he had the cat by his side. It would probably help his case if he didn't smell so foul. "What about you? We could go back to series ten and see your parents before you go off to school." To his surprise, the Goddess's face flushed and she looked on the verge of tears.
"Don't you understand, Christopher? I have to stay dead to them. I stopped being their daughter the day I became the Living Asheth. I was only a small girl then. A very small girl. The priestesses have raised me since. My parents…they knew they were giving me up when the priestesses took me away. That I was going to become something else that wasn't their daughter. I can't see them again. Ever."
Even if girls were mostly a Complete Mystery, Christopher knew that these tears were not the sort of happy tears the Goddess had cried when reading the Millie books. He was at a loss. He got off the bed, feeling helpless and moving towards her, "G—Millie," he said, trying not to make it worse.
She threw her arms around him, still clutching her kitten in one hand. "You're all the family I have, Christopher."
"It's okay, Millie. I'm not going anywhere, I promise." After another moment of not knowing what to do with his arms, he hugged her back. There hadn't been many hugs in his life. Not with the nursery maids and governesses changing every other month, and hardly seeing his Mama or Papa. Aunt Alice had hugged him when he visited last Christmas.
Millie took a big gulp of air and tried to calm herself, but the tears kept coming for a little while as she leaned heavily on him. With some work, Christopher managed to get them both sitting on her bed. He dug a handkerchief out of his pocket that was reasonably clean, and Millie wiped her face. It was still red and blotchy, but she wasn't crying anymore. She'd let go of Proudfoot, who was trying to soothe her ruffled fur by giving herself a bath. "I want to tell you something. But please…don't tell anyone."
"Of course." He was glad she'd stopped crying. It made him uncomfortable.
"I don't know what my name was…before I became the Living One. I was so young…I hardly remember my parents' faces. I don't remember my name at all. I asked Mother Proudfoot once. She said not to worry about it, and that as the Living One I was reborn and that was all I ever needed to be."
Christopher was outraged. "She wouldn't tell you? You deserve to know." Not that he thought too much of the Chants or the Argents at this point. But still…
"I don't even know if she knows. From the time a Living One is chosen, that's all she is, until she's not the Living One anymore. If I think about it too much…I get angry at my parents for giving me up. But I don't know if they had a choice. The Priestesses have to find someone with the holy sign to be the Living One, just as Gabriel had to have a nine-lived enchanter to succeed him. Maybe my parents gave me up. Maybe they didn't have a choice. I don't know. I try not to think about it. But I don't have a choice now. This is the only life I have. I can't be the Living One again, and I can't be whoever I was before that, even if I wanted to. I'm Millie now."
"Millie." He could get used to it. He felt like he should say something nice. "I like the sound of it. It's friendly. Like you."
She hugged him again.