Chapter 1: The Wedding and the Woman.

Brutus Martingale sighed as he slid the knot of his tie towards his throat. He hated ties, especially on hot days. He hated them so much so that the particular one he was wearing that day was very old and crusted with gravy. It was dark red so he hoped the stains didn't show much. He guessed that this was probably his only tie, so it would have to do. He pulled at his collar and squared his shoulders in the charcoal coloured suit he had slipped on.

The man who looked back at him was slim and just short of being tall. It had never bothered him, being an average height. He was just glad he had beaten his brother, who was short and conscious of it. He had sandy hair that fell onto his forehead no matter how many times he brushed it away, and deep hazel eyes. As uncomfortable as he felt on a sweltering August day, he thought he looked quite charming in his suit. He carefully pinned a white gardenia to his lapel and grabbed his keys. Checking his watch he hurried out of his flat and clambered into his car. He was running late. He had a wedding to go to.

Dolpha Greenstitch sighed as she slipped her feet into a pair of aquamarine heels and wobbled unsteadily to the mirror. She hated heels. She hated them so much that she rarely wore them and knew she'd be in great pain by the end of the day. She made a mental note to look up a charm that might protect her feet and fixed a white gardenia to her dress. She stepped back to admire her handiwork. Not bad. She grabbed her wand from her dressing table and ran it over her head, mumbling an incantation. Instantly stray hairs flattened and took on a more sleek appearance. Smiling, she did a twirl, wobbling a little as she did so.

She wasn't very tall but she had lovely long legs all the same, and showed them off in her dress which was cut far too short for her mother's liking, which pleased her. She had her hair in a delicate chignon, with the odd strand curling down to her shoulders in twisting tendrils. It was the colour of treacle and extremely glossy. She had a wide, full mouth, but the rest of her features were a little on the small side. She picked up a sequined handbag, gave herself one last semi-satisfied look up and down and decided she would do. She hadn't time to change anything, she was running late. She had a wedding to go to.

As far as Brutus could remember, this was the worst wedding he had ever been to. He sat with his head bowed listening to the vicar droning on and on, trying not to doze off. He was incredibly thirsty, and kept licking his lips in an attempt to stop the parched feeling in his throat. He was sitting in a pew three rows from the front, wondering again why he had come. When the invitation had appeared unexpectedly on his doorstep last December, he had struggled to recall the couple whose names were on the ivory and gold paper. He knew for sure he didn't know the man, so assumed he was some ex work colleague of the woman's, or perhaps even some distant relative. Cousin forty two times removed or something. Her name did look more familiar than the man's. He had put the invitation on his sideboard at home and forgotten all about it until a week before the wedding date. It was only when he was unexpectedly and unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend had he found himself at a loose end. He had decided to go to the wedding in order to stop himself moping and to hopefully satisfy his curiosity about who this mystery bride was. He was deeply regretting that decision now.

Brutus was jolted out of his reverie by a loud clapping from the gathering and a rusty old organ, which had played better days, bursting into life again. He hastily began clapping too. The distant cousin whose face he did indeed recall from childhood [he remembered stealing her rag doll and burying it in her sand pit had finished marrying a dark haired man. They were called Clementine and Richard. They were looking very flushed and happy, and were smiling adoringly into each others eyes and then waving to their families and friends as they made their way out of the church for the photographs.

As Brutus clapped along with the others and turned to watch them leave, he caught sight of a woman looking directly at him on the other side of the aisle, paying no attention to the bride and groom. He looked straight back at her, out of surprise more than anything. After a moment he took in her glossy, dark hair and striking aqua dress with a plunging neckline. A shaft of sunlight fell on her head from a high church window and dust swirled around her in motes and whirls. She looked almost ethereal. She smiled in a secretive way and mouthed "I saw you dozing off." He felt colour flush into his face, making him match his hated tie. He was about to say something back – he didn't know what – but everyone began to rise to follow the couple out into the daylight. His heart suddenly beating like a drum Brutus rose hastily and was shepherded out of the church, in the throng, to the sound of the very sick organ.

As far as weddings went, it had been pleasant enough, Dolpha supposed, but quite traditional and unremarkable. She guessed that muggles just didn't make such a celebration as magical folk did. The reception afterwards was much more to her liking. The local village hall had been hired out and a marquee had been erected around the back. There was a live swing band, which she loved, and a dance floor. She had been asked to dance several times since she had got to the hall, but had refused each time, thinking wistfully of her poor feet and how much they would protest. She helped herself to a long flute of champagne and sat at a table, sunning herself and trying to catch any small breeze that might flutter.

The marquee was cream and had deep red roses and lanterns wound around the edge of the roof and down the support beams. She supposed they would be lit in the evening. There were tables dotted about, scattered with more rose petals and cream ribbon. All in all it was very pretty, but it was the jaunty music she loved. It pumped through her veins in her blood and travelled from her head to her heeled feet, which tapped away merrily. There were 60 or so guests and, as far as she could tell, everyone was having a good time. A small red haired boy was being helped to dance by his mother and father, who each held a chubby hand and laughed as he tried to wiggle his hips in a baby imitation of dance. There were a few couples dancing too, but most guests were sat at the tables, drinking and gossiping.

She stood up shakily on her heels when the bride and groom walked through and applauded. The band stopped playing warm up music and the floor cleared to prepare for them to take their place and share their first dance as man and wife. Dolpha smiled as a slow song started and watched them sway in a self conscious way, aware of all the guests staring.

As far as Dolpha was aware, she was the only witch at the wedding. She lived in the same village as Clementine and Richard and had been asked to come. She had loved the idea of seeing an actual muggle wedding and had agreed to attend. She was glad she had, even though her mother had sniffed at the prospect and told her it was too hot to have a nice ceremony. It was true that the guests looked a bit pink and sticky, but the marquee provided shade and once the drinks flowed people didn't seem to notice. Dolpha was just about to catch the attention of a passing waiter for another glass of champagne, when a man's chest appeared in front of her face.

She craned her neck up and closed one eye against the sun which lit the man from behind in a blaze of gold. He appeared as a silhouette, but stooped down to offer his hand, which she took. It was then that she saw it was the man from the church. The man she had smiled seductively at and mouthed to. He was smiling seductively now, and kissed her hand, which she thought was a bit cheesy. He sat without asking and regarded her, pressing the tips of his fingers together in his lap. She eyed his sandy hair and handsome eyes and waited for him to speak.

"Guilty." -Is what he came up with. She tilted her head.

"How so?"

"I was dozing off." He smiled again, but she realised he was nervous.

"In the church. You caught me out. But can you blame me? I mean, it was a pretty..." he cast around for the right word "…regular service. But then I guess you're friends with Clem and Rich aren't you?" He blushed. Dolpha laughed.

"You clearly aren't. Nobody calls them Clem and Rich."

"Guilty again. I'm some distant cousin. Don't know them, really. How do you know them?"

"I had an affair with Richard, which made Clementine very cross, so she came after me with a crossbow and Richard stopped her. It made Clementine see Richard in a different light and I suppose I helped rekindle their relationship and it's what caused them to marry, instead of just date."

The man just looked at her, almost blankly, for a second. Again Dolpha laughed. He smiled again too then, slightly more nervous than before.

"Oh. You're joking."

"Yeah, I know Clementine from the village fete committee."

"Oh right." He trailed off. Dolpha sat and waited. And waited.

"You're not that great at small talk are you?" She smiled her easy smile again.

"Nope. Never been good at it."

"You could ask my name?"

"Yes. I'm sorry." He gulped the rest of his drink. "What's your name?"

"Dolpha Greenstitch."

"You're kidding again."

She smiled and got up. "No, Brutus, This time I'm not."

She came back from the loo to find him still sitting at her table looking a little dazed. He didn't see her approaching so she took the time to look him up and down. She noticed that he wasn't wearing a tie and had the first two buttons of his shirt undone. He had two hopeful looking glasses of champagne in his hands, which she thought were very fine, with neat square thumbs. She decided he wasn't usually what she went for, but she liked his eyes and hands. He would do. He looked up as she reached him.

"I didn't tell you my name." Dolpha let her brow dip into a neat crease.

"Yes you did. You're Brutus. Brutus Martingale."

"Um, oh. Yes, I am." He stopped and looked up at her. She smiled inside at the effect she had on him. She reached down and took a glass without him offering.

"Thank you Brutus."

"No Problem. Listen, Dolpha," He said the name tentatively, "Would you like to dance?"

"No Thanks." She sat down, and smiled at the man looking dejected. It wasn't a callous smile. Just free and easy and she didn't really realise she was doing it. Her wide mouth was born to wear a smile and she saw it relaxed him a little.

"So, Brutus, tell me about you."

Several hours, dances and drinks later, Brutus stumbled away from the village hall, giggling madly with the woman who said her name was Dolpha Greenstitch. He had his arm around her waist and was helping her along on her rickety heels.

"…Do you think Clementine minded that I spilled some red wine down her dress?" She was giggling. He laughed in return and stopped walking.

"The fact that she stormed to the loos for half an hour kinda suggests she did." He managed.

"Well, serves her right for having a boring wedding. Needed a bit of drama." Dolpha hiccoughed and looked about her.

"Hey – why've we stopped?" She slurred the last part a little and swayed.

"Because we are going to your house." He grinned.


"So, I don't know where your house is. You're leading me."

She took in a deep breath of air.

"Quite right. Quite right… This way, Brutal." She giggled and swung him in the other direction, heading towards a lane called Sheepshead Row. He was about to chuckle at her use of his name when she spun on her heel and planted her mouth on his.

"Mmmph." He said, startled. He had been watching her mouth all night, the way it moved when she spoke or sang. She sang often, very loudly, and bit her lip when she was listening. Her mouth felt as good as it looked. He placed his hands into her dark hair and pressed himself closer to her, returning the kiss.

She ran her hands up his back onto his shoulder blades and broke off to kiss his neck. In between kisses she murmured "When we get to my house we have to be quiet. My mother will be asleep."

He grunted in response and took her hand. "How far is it?" She smiled her easy smile and shrugged. "Not far."

She was telling the truth and five minutes later they were stumbling through the door of her home in that particular way drunk people have, banging about despite trying to be quiet.

"Shhhhh." She giggled, and shrugged off his jacket, that he had draped around her in a way she found equally as cheesy as the hand-kissing. "I'll make us a strong coffee." She started towards the kitchen, so Brutus grabbed her hand.

"Don't." He pressed his mouth to hers and held her face passionately.

She kissed him back for a moment, before breaking apart from him and placing a finger over her lips. He grinned and followed her into the living room. A fire was just beginning to die in the grate and she quickly moved to stoke it, despite the august heat still clinging to the night.

"Is your mother likely to wake up?" He plonked himself down on her sofa and looked down at her on her hands and knees on the grate. She looked at him and saw the hunger in his eyes.

"Only if you keep talking that loud."

"Sorry." His voice dropped to a whisper immediately. She rose gracefully and sat next to him. He instantly turned to face her and put his arms around her. She held her face away from his to look deeply at him. Through her drunken fog she summed him up. He was just an average muggle with a strange name, she figured. She supposed she wasn't one to judge for names. His eyes were handsome but his face was not, his hair was a nice length, but a plain colour. His hands her fine but he didn't do anything with them. [She had asked him. He was not an artists or writer. He was a telemarketer in London. He wasn't short or tall; his suit didn't hang well, but didn't look ugly. His smile was nice, but he kissed like a young boy who was keen but not experienced. She supposed he was a nice enough guy, but nice was mostly boring. Then again, he had managed to make her laugh a few times after the drink had bolstered him and he was a wickedly good dancer. That much, she loved. It was a sticky August night in a little English village and she knew she wasn't going to do much better. She settled into his embrace and let him kiss her.

Brutus lay out full-length on the sofa and held Dolpha to his chest. There wasn't enough room for both of them, so he held her tightly. They had the blanket which was draped over the back of the sofa around them, and were laying quietly, contentedly wrapped up in each other. Dolpha was apparently drowsy. He kissed the top of her head and murmured her name.


"Yes, Brutus?" She whispered.

"I really didn't tell you my name."

"I know, darling. I asked someone at the wedding." She said quickly.

He missed the tone in her voice and smiled into the dark.

"Asked about me, did you?"

"Yes I did. I wanted to know who the man rude enough to sleep at a wedding ceremony was."

"Oh." His smile slipped.

"Oh, I'm only teasing." She rose on one elbow which nearly toppled them off the sofa and kissed him lightly. "I wanted to know, that's all."

He began kissing her again, feeling the fire in his belly which had been embers just a moment before spark and stir.

She mumbled something into his kiss and slipped sideways a small way. He grabbed her and pulled her close, not breaking the kiss. At first he felt her full lips moving against his and thought she was responding how he would like but after a few moments she seemed to squirm uncomfortably.

"Sorry." He blushed and ducked his head to kiss her throat instead, trying that tack. She put her head back and moaned. He smiled against her pulse and trailed his tongue along her neck.

She moaned again, but this time it was in a way that made every hair stand up on his arms, and not in a good way. He pulled his head back to look at her, but couldn't see anything. There was a moment of silence from Dolpha before a sudden choking noise filled the quiet dark room. Panic swept Brutus like an icy wave and his arms went slack, dropping her to the floor. That was no human noise. It was raspy and guttural. He leapt up like a salmon and stumbled to the light switch. It was only ten feet away but he took several moments to locate it. Scrabbling he flicked it on and turned in horror to Dolpha. The woman who had been fine moments before was lying on her back at the foot of the sofa with her legs held rigidly out and her arms held up as if to protect herself from something.

"Oh my God. Dolpha?! What the Hell is wrong?!" He stood frozen to the spot. Her face was hidden by the seat and he was too scared to move. He heard a thump from above and realised with added horror that Dolpha's mother had woken.

The hacking rasping sound started up again, to a higher note, and then a voice, which definitely didn't belong to Dolpha, spoke out clear as day into the room, as if a stranger was standing before Brutus. He clenched his fists and tried to simultaneously stuff one into his mouth and both into his ears. He was certain she was dying or possessed or something and all he could see were the spidery shapes of her hands as her fingers flexed and slackened in pulses.

The thump upstairs came again and a bright light like a torch beam shone down the stairs. "Dolpha?!"

Brutus, blocking out the hideous noise, stumbled towards Dolpha. He moved without being aware of it, more out of fear of being caught than anything, but then realised he had rounded the corner of the sofa and could see Dolpha's face. She was definitely dying or having a seizure. Her face was contorted and her eyes were rolling back into her skull. The voice was coming from her for certain, but was not human, or barely. It was deep and metallic, as though a gruff, terrible man was speaking through a megaphone down a badly connected telephone. The voice stopped, all of a sudden and Dolpha's pupils rolled back around to the front. She was now staring straight at him, but her body still held stiff and twisted. Brutus felt sickness rising up from his stomach at the same time as darkness rushed down from his brain. His legs buckled as a faint began to grip him.

On his way down, as blessed blackness swallowed him, his last glimpse was of a grey haired woman throwing herself through the door of the living room, screaming Dolpha's name over and over.