Alexandra made it into the hallway, then sagged against the wall. She closed her eyes and didn't say anything as Claudia and Livia stood next to her.
"Are you sure that's what you wanted to do, Alexandra?" Livia asked.
Alexandra opened her eyes and turned to face her. "No, I've changed my mind. Let's go back in there so I can tell them I take it all back."
Livia pursed her lips. "Oh, are you being sarcastic? I just want to be sure before I rearrange my schedule and spend an entire day putting myself through a wizarding inquest again on your behalf."
Alexandra slumped. "I'm sorry, Livia. But they were never going to grant my appeal. It was turning into an inquisition directed at Claudia, not me. You see that, don't you? They'd probably have gone after you next. This is all about punishing the daughters of Abraham Thorn."
"She's right," Claudia said.
The doors behind them opened. Richard Raspire stepped into the hallway. His languid smile remained in place. Conversation echoed past him — Larry talking to his father, and heated eruptions from Franklin Percival Brown.
"Hello, Miss Quick," he said. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Not long enough." Alexandra stepped between him and Claudia. She gave Livia a warning look. "This is Richard Raspire. He's the Governor-General's flunky."
"Oh, why not 'lackey' or 'toady'?" said Raspire. "Really, you're a young woman now, not a child. Too old to be saying childish things and expecting to be dealt with like a child."
"What do you want?" Alexandra asked.
"I want all three of you to return to Milwaukee and Larkin Mills and stay there," the wizard replied. "Mrs. Green, Dr. Pruett, you had already withdrawn from the wizarding world when your sister dragged you back in." He turned his cold, flat smile on Alexandra. "And you, Miss Quick, are without a wand and not enrolled in any wizarding school. Take my advice — stay Wandless. The Governor-General himself will approve the removal of your name from the Confederation Census. Go back to your life among the Muggles, and you need never again be dragged into the affairs of wizards."
Alexandra didn't want to take her eyes off the man, but she couldn't help looking over her shoulder to check on Claudia. Claudia was just glaring at him, tight-lipped. The wrinkles around the corners of her eyes made her look years older than she was, but the initial response she'd had to seeing him in the hearing room was gone. If Raspire still struck terror into her heart, she was hiding it well.
Livia was just angry and confused. She didn't know, Alexandra realized. Even if she knew what had happened to Claudia, she didn't know about Raspire's role.
"I don't see how this is any of your business, or the Governor-General's," said Livia. "Nor why he should be concerned about whether or not we choose to carry wands. But I don't appreciate your attempt to intimidate us, Mr. Raspire. And threatening a teenage girl? You ought to be ashamed."
"You've spent too long among Muggles, Dr. Pruett," said Raspire. "You've forgotten that the rules are different in the Confederation. Of course the Governor-General is concerned about enemies of the Confederation."
"We're not enemies of the Confederation," Alexandra said.
Raspire sized Alexandra up, as if measuring her for a shroud. He inched closer and spoke in a low voice that caused Alexandra to lean in before she realized she was doing it.
"Aren't you? By reentering public life you're announcing your involvement in the conflict between the Enemy and the Governor-General. The only question is which side you've taken. And that's not really much of a question, is it?"
"We aren't responsible for our father's actions," said Livia. "We aren't involved in his activities."
"So you say." Raspire's eyes never left Alexandra. "Prove it, and remain Wandless."
"I've got a right to a wand," Alexandra said. "I'm a witch. I'll be a witch whether I have a wand or not."
"Indeed." The doors opened behind him, and Raspire gave the three of them a courteous nod before turning and striding down the hallway, black cloak fluttering smartly behind him.
Lilith and Diana Grimm were the next to exit the hearing room. The Albos and the Duprees were immediately behind them, so the Grimms stepped out of the way and allowed them to pass. Larry turned his head to stare at Alexandra as he and his father marched away after Mr. Raspire. He didn't smile or nod or wave, and neither did Alexandra. Then Cleopatra Dupree and her parents went past. Cleopatra lifted her hand and waved with her fingers. "Bye, Alexandra," she said.
Alexandra raised her hand. "Bye, Cleo," she said, a little sadly.
Mrs. Dupree grabbed her daughter's hand and hauled the girl off after the Albos, who had now entered the elevator.
The committee members were either still in the room or had left by another exit. Alexandra and her sisters were alone with the Grimms for the moment.
"Well, that was unexpected," said Dean Grimm.
"What was?" Alexandra asked. "Cleo not hating me? Or the appeals committee railroading me? Or do you mean Mr. Raspire showing up?"
"I expected all of that — except perhaps Mr. Raspire." The Dean glanced at her sister, who said nothing. "I didn't expect you to recognize the futility of your efforts. Surely you knew they wouldn't overturn your expulsion, Alexandra?"
"They might, if you asked them to reconsider," said Claudia. "You're the one who expelled her."
"I really didn't have a choice, Mrs. Green."
"Yes, you did," Alexandra said. "Not about expelling me. I understand why you had to do that. But I really believed you didn't want to. I thought… I thought you were on my side." She was surprised at how hurt she felt. "But you're not, are you, Aunt Lilith? You really don't want me back at Charmbridge."
Lilith Grimm studied her niece for several long moments. Diana Grimm watched, saying nothing. Finally, Lilith said, "I do have a responsibility to other students, not just you, Alexandra."
"So, I'm too dangerous to be allowed back at school." Alexandra glanced at Claudia, who frowned and shook her head, but Alexandra continued before her sister could speak. "That's fine. I'll figure something out. I don't need you, or Charmbridge Academy. I'm a witch and you can't take my magic away. Not you, not Mr. Raspire, no one." She let the hurt on her face slide off, replaced with defiance.
"Oh, child," Lilith Grimm said. "I have always had your best interests at heart. Please believe that."
Alexandra turned to her other aunt. "Do you also have my best interests at heart, Aunt Diana?"
"What I have at heart is immaterial," said Diana Grimm. "My duty is to the Confederation. But I've also protected you, Alexandra, and I'll continue to do so. And please don't call me 'Aunt Diana.'"
"Okay, Diana," Alexandra said. "Good-bye, Diana, Lilith."
Her aunts' withering stares might have reduced her to a small rodent or amphibian if they had voiced incantations to match. Lilith Grimm turned on her heel and strode away down the corridor.
Diana Grimm glanced after her sister, then leaned toward Alexandra and grabbed her shoulder.
"Lilith is one of the few friends you have left," she said. "If she doesn't want you at Charmbridge Academy, believe me, it's as much for your own good as that of your classmates. You should really learn to recognize who's on your side."
"That's gotten a lot harder lately," Alexandra said.
Diana Grimm shook her head, then followed her sister down the hallway, disappearing as everyone else had into the elevator.
"Well," Livia said, "is there anyone else you'd like to antagonize, Alex?"
Alexandra turned back to her sisters, and her true feelings seeped into her voice. "What am I supposed to do, Livia? Cower, grovel, say, 'Yes, Ms. Grimm, thank you, Ms. Grimm?' While they keep reminding me of everything they can take from me?"
The realization that she wasn't going back to Charmbridge — really wasn't going back — hit her then. She turned away and crossed her arms, fighting her anger. "Yes sir, Mr. Greenwich. Thank you, Mr. Brown," she said, her voice still mocking. "You're right, I am a dangerous Mudblood who shouldn't even be allowed to go to school with decent people. I know this is all for my own good." She blinked rapidly. "What am I going to do? What am I supposed to do?"
"First," Livia said, "we're going to go shopping and get you a wand. And then, Claudia and I are going to talk about schooling for you."
"What, a day school?" Alexandra said. "Or were you planning to send me somewhere else?"
"You could always stay home, and go to Larkin Mills High School," Claudia said. "But you can't learn magic there, can you?"
Alexandra shrugged, still not looking at her sisters. "How can I go to a day school when there aren't any near Larkin Mills?"
"As I said, Claudia and I are going to talk about that," Livia said.
"I don't want to send you away, Alex," Claudia said. "So don't start pitying yourself again."
Alexandra jerked her head up at that.
"But there are options," Livia said. "Most Territories, including Central, are required to provide a magical education, even if it means busing you to day school."
Alexandra wrinkled her nose. She thought of Payton Smith, her first boyfriend, a Muggle-born who attended a day school in Roanoke Territory. She had not been impressed by how much magic he'd learned.
"There's also…" Claudia hesitated. "I told Thalia we shouldn't mention it to you until it's more than just an idea. But…"
"What?" Alexandra's eyes widened. "You've been talking to Ms. King?"
Thalia King, their sister Julia's mother, had been almost a surrogate mother to Alexandra on her trips to Croatoa. But she never imagined Claudia would initiate dialog with anyone in the wizarding world, not even Ms. King.
Claudia nodded. "She said she's going to see if she might be able to get you admitted to the Salem Witches' Institute. Not an official application, not yet — she just thought she could talk to the… whatever they call the witches in charge there, a coven or something."
Alexandra's mouth opened. The idea was surprising, exciting, and unexpected enough to make her nervous. She didn't know how she felt about going to a whole new wizarding school across the country, and an all-girls school to boot. But she'd get to go to school with Julia! That would be something, at least. Julia was the sister closest to her in age and the one who was most fond of her, and Alexandra loved visiting the Kings at their Croatoa island estate.
"It's just an idea, Alex," Claudia said. "We don't know if it's feasible. Thalia said the Salem Witches' Institute is pretty strict about admissions —"
"My SPAWN scores are really good," Alexandra said.
"They don't usually accept transfer students," Claudia said. "And keep in mind, they'll know about your… record."
Alexandra frowned, then nodded. Yeah. Kicked out of Charmbridge for being a disciplinary problem, and worse. Still, the Salem Witches' Institute already had one daughter of the Enemy as a student; would two be so objectionable? For Julia's sake (and her own), she would be good — really, really good. She would behave herself, stay out of trouble, attend to her studies…
"As an alumna with a daughter who's a student there now, Thalia may have some influence," Claudia said. "So she says. But she warned me not to count Hippogriffs before they've hatched." Claudia snorted. "That's why I didn't want to mention it to you yet."
Alexandra nodded. "Okay, Claudia. We'll wait to hear from Ms. King." Already, she was thinking about seeing Julia again. Of course, that would mean not seeing Anna or David or Constance and Forbearance during the school year, and that made her heart ache. Still, it was better than being stuck in Larkin Mills. That thought made her feel guilty, and she quickly checked Claudia's expression as if her older sister might be reading her mind. Claudia was composed.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Livia said. "Claudia, we'll walk you out, and then Alexandra and I will return to the Goblin Market."
Claudia nodded. "All right." The three of them took the elevator down to the lobby. They changed out of their robes in the bathroom, and Claudia could not hide her sigh of relief as they stepped out of the Central Territory Headquarters Building and back onto the streets of Muggle Chicago.
Livia and Alexandra walked into Grobnowski's Old World Deli, a delicatessen that sat on the border between Muggle Chicago and the Goblin Market. The dim interior, with its smoke-stained rafters, iron stove, and ancient wooden tables covered with old-fashioned newspapers, mostly occupied by wrinkled old wizards playing wizard chess or card games Alexandra didn't recognize, had always seemed to her to be a place out of time. She imagined it predating Chicago, perhaps an establishment that had been magically transported from the Old World when the Goblin Market came into existence.
Charmbridge students always passed through the deli quickly and never stopped to buy anything. But now Livia paused in front of a case of pastries and said, "Oh, shark pie!" She fumbled in her purse.
Alexandra looked at the small, round pies. They looked like ordinary meat pies.
"Two, please," Livia said, handing an eagle to the old man behind the counter. He took the coin and wordlessly shoveled two of the pies into a paper bag and handed it along with some change back to Livia.
"Thank you, Mr. Grobnowski," Livia said. She reached into the bag and handed a pie to Alexandra. "I haven't been here in years. It's been that long since I've had shark pie."
Alexandra eyed the little pie skeptically. "Who the heck makes pie out of sharks?"
"It's something of a local specialty." Livia bit into her pie and smiled as they headed for the rear entrance.
Alexandra nibbled the crust and sniffed the inside of the pie. "Doesn't smell fishy. How can shark pie be a local specialty? I don't think Lake Michigan has sharks."
"Land sharks, silly."
Alexandra stared at her sister. "Land sharks? I've never heard of land sharks."
"They were hunted almost to extinction. I think they're farmed now." Livia finished the rest of her pie in two bites.
Cautiously, Alexandra bit into hers. The flavor was like loam and dried fish, with the consistency of shoe leather. She made a face and grabbed the empty bag in Livia's hand.
"That's disgusting," she said, after spitting the mouthful of shark pie into the bag. "I think you're putting me on about land sharks."
Livia sighed and shook her head, as they opened the door and stepped out onto the street beyond.
The Goblin Market was more lively in the summer than the winter. Usually, this was the time when Alexandra would be visiting with her fellow students from Charmbridge Academy. But the Charmbridge bus would not be picking her up in Larkin Mills to take her shopping for school supplies anymore, she thought sadly.
"Oh my," Livia said, pausing as robed witches and wizards wearing a hundred varieties of accouterments swished and jingled and trotted past on horses. "It's been so long since I was here. It seems more chaotic than I remember."
Alexandra shrugged. How could she know what the Goblin Market had been like before she was born? She did notice the presence of more Aurors than last summer. There was always at least one walking nearby, wearing a red vest beneath a black cloak, while others swept past regularly on brooms.
Livia and Alexandra walked past the central fountain plaza and directly past the Goody Pruett's, named for Livia's ancestor. As they passed the Owl Post Office, Alexandra noticed there were no hags loitering around the alleys and shadier street corners, perhaps because there were so many Aurors about.
Two blocks from the plaza, between a brand new Tockmagi ® Clockworks shop and a dingy cafe, was a small storefront with HOARGRIM'S WANDS AND ALCHEMICAL SUPPLIES engraved in brass above the window. The window was smudged and grimy, but Alexandra could see wands lying in velvet cases on the other side of it.
She could get a new wand, at last! For the past two months she had been without one, and was barely able to cast the simplest spell. No doubt Mr. Greenwich and Mr. Brown and Raspire and all those other angry old men were pleased at the thought of her being left defenseless.
Of course, she wasn't entirely without magic. But she wasn't going to tell Livia what she'd been doing at the Regal Royalty Sweets and Confections Warehouse, even if Livia was the owner.
"What a day for memories," Livia said, gazing at Hoargrim's sign.
"Did you get your first wand here, too?" Alexandra asked.
"Yes. Eleven inches. Rowan, wrapped around unicorn hair." Livia smiled sadly. "I wonder what happened to it when I turned it in. They destroyed it, I suppose."
"You could get a new wand today too," Alexandra said, "instead of keeping that cheap department store wand."
"Maybe another time." Livia pushed open the door. "I've actually become rather attached to my Grundy's wand. I guess it's true what they say, the wand really does choose its owner."
Livia had been Wandless for years, and technically wasn't supposed to have had any wand at all. But Alexandra knew from experience that Livia was no less skilled a Healer despite the cheap wand she kept hidden. She shrugged and followed her sister inside.
The interior of Hoargrim's had remained unchanged in all the years Alexandra had come here for Alchemical supplies the week before school started. It was a small shop with jars and barrels full of interesting things lining the counters and filling all the shelves that packed the front of the store. A little room in the back — really no more than a carpeted alcove — held cabinets carved with tiny drawers, each one housing a wand. Alexandra was already looking in that direction when an old man with a beaked nose and stiff bristly hair thrusting out from around his ears emerged from behind the counter. He wore a black woolen suit that looked scratchy and uncomfortable.
"Hello, Mr. Finsterholz," said Livia. After all these years, she obviously still recognized the proprietor and wandsmith. "My sister needs a new wand. We'd like you to match her to one, please."
Mr. Finsterholz looked back at Livia, his lips compressed together and his face etched in lines of age and disapproval. His head barely moved as his dark, beady eyes fixed on Alexandra.
"Nein," he said.
"Excuse me?" said Livia, while Alexandra stared at him.
"Nein," he repeated. "I cannot help you."
"I don't understand," Livia said.
"What is not to understand? I am unable to match Miss Quick with a wand. I wish you luck in finding another establishment which can cater to you." He held a hand out in a curt, unmistakable gesture at the door.
"You remember me," Alexandra said, gaze still fixed on him.
"Ja, of course I remember you," Mr. Finsterholz said. "Troublesome. Knew you'd be troublesome the moment I laid eyes on you."
"But you matched me with a wand," Alexandra said. "Carya illinoinensis, ten and a half inches, chimaera hair core."
"Ja. I remember. What happened to it? Never mind, I don't want to know. I cannot give you another wand, Miss Quick."
"Why not?" Alexandra asked.
Mr. Finsterholz's eyes slid right and left, as if looking for unseen companions who might have sneaked in with the two witches.
"You are not welcome here," he said. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "See that sign, ja?"
Posted above the counter, between an ancient, faded poster advertising Hung's Harmonious Healing Organs and a small iron goblin hanging by a chain from an engraved plaque warning that Muggle currency was not accepted, was a sign saying: "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
"But why?" Livia asked.
"Because we're daughters of Abraham Thorn," Alexandra said. Her suspicions were confirmed when Mr. Finsterholz twitched and looked everywhere but at them.
She took one step toward him, and he shuffled half a step back before stiffening and holding his nose up.
"You matched me for a wand before," she said. "I don't understand why you won't match me now. What did I ever do to you? What did my father ever do to you?"
Slowly, he leaned forward. He spoke in a low tone, his words barely escaping through his teeth.
"Your father," he said, "is not the only dangerous man in the Confederation."
They stared each other down, Mr. Finsterholz with renewed courage, Alexandra with dismay. Then Alexandra turned and walked to the door. "Come on, Livia."
"But…" Livia frowned, glared at Mr. Finsterholz, turned as if to stop Alexandra, then ended up following her out the door.
On the street outside, Alexandra breathed in and out quickly, trying to control her anger. Livia sighed. "What a horrible man. You know, there must be somewhere we can complain —"
Alexandra turned her head to look at her sister, who seven months ago had been half a head taller and now had barely two inches on her. "You really have been out of the wizarding world a long time, haven't you?"
Livia blinked slowly behind her glasses. "I remember what the wizarding world is like just fine," she said. "That's why I left it."
"So tell me where two daughters of Abraham Thorn can complain about being treated unfairly," Alexandra said. "'Cause I've got a lot of complaints."
Livia rolled her eyes. "All right, Alexandra, stop being sarcastic."
Alexandra bit back another response. An Auror rode past on an unwinged horse, giving her and Livia flat stares. Alexandra stared back.
"How about Grundy's?" Livia asked. "I know a Grundy's wand isn't like one made by Mr. Finsterholz or another wandsmith, but…"
"It's better than nothing," Alexandra said. "Sure."
The two of them walked past the Chicago Broom Megastore and Gringotts Bank, mingling with the crowds of witches and wizards out shopping. On several lampposts, Alexandra saw posters advertising the Wizarding Decathlon in New Amsterdam. Wizards gestured with their wands and spun complex animated runes across the posters. The runes became salamanders and roosters, which tried to devour each other until they all turned to stone, then bleached white until they became pillars of salt, which crumbled into dust, from which emerged large, gem-eyed spiders. As Alexandra watched each poster they passed, the patterns never repeated; it was a different sequence of images each time. Quite a complex set of charms to animate street posters. If it was to demonstrate the level of skill that would be in evidence at the Wizarding Decathlon, she was impressed.
The Junior Wizarding Decathlon would also be held in New Amsterdam, a week prior to the regular Decathlon. Once, she had dreamed of going as Charmbridge's champion. Another dream she had to put behind her. It was pointless to dwell on it.
Livia and Alexandra approached the large, dark brown brick building that was Grundy's Department Store. This was another stop on the annual Charmbridge shopping trip. Alexandra thought maybe she could talk Livia into stopping in the cafeteria after they bought a wand and a few other items she needed. She could have peppermeat sausage and Fizzy-Pop, just like she did when she went with her friends. A lump formed in her throat.
Two golden metal Clockwork golems opened the large glass doors for them. Alexandra and Livia walked in. Halfway across the entrance foyer, Alexandra ran into an invisible barrier and jumped back with a yelp, rubbing her nose. She stared at the air between her and the inner doors.
"Alexandra, what's wrong?" Livia asked.
Cautiously, Alexandra reached a hand out. It met resistance that became greater the harder she pushed, accompanied by an unpleasant sensation like pins and needles.
"I don't believe it," she said. "I've been Barred!"
In sixth grade, she'd been Barred from Grundy's after getting into a fight with Larry Albo and Benjamin and Mordecai Rash in the cafeteria. But the Bar had been lifted the following year. She hadn't done anything wrong in Grundy's since then — why was the Bar blocking her from entry again?
Livia said, "Wait here. I'll go find a manager." She left Alexandra to slouch indignantly in a corner of the foyer while other customers walked in and out.
A few minutes later, an elderly witch with steel-gray hair packed beneath a sagging witch's hat accompanied Livia back to the foyer. The older witch gave Alexandra a look that said she already knew who she was.
"I was hoping you could lift the Bar that's accidentally been reactivated," Alexandra said.
"Bars don't get 'reactivated,'" said the witch, whose name tag identified her as Permelia Parrish, Assistant Manager. "I'm sorry, Miss Quick, but you're not welcome at Grundy's Department Store."
"Why?" Alexandra asked, angered at this second rejection. "I haven't done anything to deserve being Barred! You can't just arbitrarily discriminate against me!"
They could, and she knew it. Livia looked angry as well.
Permelia Parrish said, "Grundy's has the right to refuse to —"
"Why?" Alexandra shouted. "What did I do?"
Taken aback, Ms. Parrish said, "If you don't leave, I'll have to summon a security troll."
Alexandra laughed. "A troll? For me? Oh, that's great. Grundy's will look great sending a troll to throw a teenage girl out." She narrowed her eyes at the Assistant Manager. "Aren't you afraid I'll curse you or something? Since I'm the daughter of Abraham Thorn."
Ms. Parrish blanched and backed away. She turned and pushed her way back into the store, with a fearful look over her shoulder.
"Never mind, we're leaving," Livia said. "She's just upset. We won't cause any trouble." Hurriedly, she grabbed Alexandra by the elbow and led her outside. Alexandra didn't resist.
Once they were on the street, Livia said, "That was very foolish. You can't reason with people by threatening them."
"Reason? Do you think we can reason with them?" Alexandra had been staring at the sidewalk, but when she lifted her head, revealing her miserable expression, some of the harsh lines around Livia's eyes and mouth disappeared.
"Well," Livia said. She folded her arms with her hands curled around her elbows. "If you wait here, and can manage not to get into trouble or threaten anyone else, I'll go back inside and buy that wand."
"I do hope you're not intending to buy a wand for your sister," said a familiar voice. Alexandra and Livia both turned to see Richard Raspire strolling up to them, with the smile of an iguana preparing to snatch a bug with its tongue.
"What are you doing, following us?" Alexandra asked.
Raspire ignored her. He gave Livia a stern look that did not completely wipe the smile off his face. "You've been out of the wizarding world for some years, Doctor Pruett," he said. "So you may not be aware of the penalties for providing wands to unregistered juveniles."
"I am registered," Alexandra said. "I'm in the Confederation Census, you —"
Livia held a hand up. "Alexandra will be going to school, Mr. Raspire. Surely you don't expect her to remain wandless between semesters. No other students do."
"I wish you luck finding a school that will enroll her," Raspire said. "You may have difficulty with that. I'm afraid that known associates and family members of the Enemy are persona non grata at any establishment that wishes not to be affiliated with the Enemy themselves."
"I wasn't Barred from Grundy's," Livia said.
"Yes. Well." Raspire shrugged. "I imagine since they are host to a Goody Pruett's franchise and you are still the Pruett heir, Barring you is problematic. Few other businesses here in the Goblin Market will serve you, though. As I told you back at the hearing, you'd do well to simply return to the Muggle world."
"That's not going to happen," Alexandra said, ignoring Livia's warning look.
"Nonetheless," Raspire said. "You can expect to be monitored much more closely now. And Central Territory prohibits sale or transfer of wands to unenrolled minors. So does Roanoke, and most other Territories. Just in case you thought you'd be clever." He smiled. "Until next time, Miss Quick, Doctor Pruett."
He walked away. Alexandra and Livia didn't say anything until he had disappeared down the street. His red sash parted the crowd before him.
"Well," Livia said, "I don't have to tell them who I'm buying the wand for at Grundy's —"
"No," Alexandra said. "Forget it."
"Alexandra, you need a wand —"
"Yeah. Don't worry, Livia, we'll get one for me once it's all legal. Don't risk getting in trouble for me."
Livia didn't seem convinced, despite Alexandra's unconcerned tone. Alexandra wondered if it even occurred to her sister that Raspire, or someone else, could be listening to them with Auror's Ears right now.
"Well," Livia said, "would you like to stop at Goody Pruett's? If they try to refuse you service there, I'll find out just how much influence the last Pruett has, and I swear I'll give them reason to fear it."
Alexandra stared at her, wondering if she meant it, but after a moment of shock at her own bold declaration, Livia tossed her head and looked down at Alexandra as if daring her to question it.
"No, thanks," Alexandra said. "But there is somewhere else I want to stop."
The Colonial Bank of the New World hadn't Barred Alexandra. The clerk behind the counter was polite and impersonal as Alexandra checked her account. It contained a considerable sum again, despite the fact that a few months ago she'd sent most of it to Henry Tsotsie, a Navajo Auror in Dinétah, to pay for a Muggle boy's car that she'd ruined. Evidently her father had kept his promise. Even though they weren't speaking, and she had refused any further help from him, he was still replenishing the account he'd given her.
After she withdrew some of the funds and paid the fee to have it converted to Muggle currency, she walked out of the bank, past the portrait of John Constantine Dearborn, II hanging in the lobby.
Alexandra paused by the fountain in front of the back entrance to Grobnowski's Old World Deli. She reached into her pocket, found a quarter, and tossed it into the water, where it sank to the bottom and joined the pigeons piled up there.
"Muggle money!" she said aloud, in defiance to no one in particular. A couple of wizards and a teenager she didn't recognize turned their heads in her direction, but her gesture garnered little attention otherwise.
She didn't say much on the ride back to Larkin Mills. Claudia and Livia had made plans to speak again the next day on the phone to figure out what to do with her. Alexandra was torn between resentment and gratitude that her two older sisters were suddenly so concerned and involved in planning her future.
That evening, she received a call that she had been waiting for eagerly. It came from a small pay phone in a little cafe in a tiny Muggle village on the island where Julia King and her mother lived. Once a week, Julia rode one of the Kings' Granians to the woods just outside the village, tied it to a tree, and walked into the village to use the phone in the cafe.
"Hello, Alexandra!" Julia said. "How did it go?"
Alexandra hated to deflate Julia's optimism, so she tried to hide her dejection and speak as if she were discussing an unexpected bit of rain. "Well, not really the way I hoped."
Julia wasn't fooled. She pressed for details until Alexandra had recounted the whole story. She hated how somber her sister sounded when she was done.
"Well," Julia said, "that's simply horrible."
"Yeah." There was a long pause. Alexandra cleared her throat. "Claudia told me that… well, there might be something your mother might be able to do…" She bit her lip.
There was a longer pause. Then Alexandra was horrified to hear Julia crying on the other end of the line.
"Julia? Julia! What's wrong?" She pictured Julia standing in the back of the cafe huddled over the phone and sobbing.
"Oh Alex," Julia said. "I'm so sorry. Mother is sorry too. They… they said no. Absolutely refused."
Alexandra closed her eyes. Disappointment welled up in her, but she said, "It's okay. I know I probably wouldn't have fit in at Salem. And I'm sure your mother did everything she could."
"Alexandra, they don't even want me at Salem any more," Julia said. "If this weren't going to be my last year — well, the headmistress hinted that I might find an apprenticeship or even homeschool, and Mother was angrier than I've ever seen her. So they retreated from that, but as frightening as Mother's wrath was, she still could not move them to admit another one of Father's daughters. I'm tempted to withdraw from Salem in protest. Fie on them! If they think either one of us isn't good enough —"
"Please don't do that, Julia," Alexandra said. "I know you want to finish your senior year. And withdrawing from school is just what they want."
"I don't even understand who 'they' are," Julia said. "Why now? We've mostly been left alone all these years, except for visits from that horrible Diana Grimm — oh, I'm sorry, Alexandra, she is your aunt."
"No, she's pretty horrible," Alexandra agreed. "And I don't know why Governor-General Hucksteen and his goons are suddenly trying to persecute us so much." She had assumed that the persecution was directed at her; now it was evident that the Confederation was trying to make all the daughters of Abraham Thorn feel like persona non grata. "But please take care of yourself, and don't worry about me."
"Hah," Julia said. "You are terrible at being noble, Alexandra."
"Yeah," Alexandra said, "I guess I am."