Chapter 8

Monsieur Savu Revealed

Summer in Paris came and went, and Charity could hardly believe it when Natalie had brought in a plate of delicate petit fours to celebrate the witch's one year anniversary at Ma Jolie Petite. By then Deanna had perfected the art of crawling, and by mid-September she began experimenting with pulling herself up to standing, necessitating a baby-proofing of the shop. Glass bottles were relegated to higher shelves, electrical outlets were covered, and all unsteady furniture was replaced with sturdier pieces that the baby couldn't topple.

Quidditch had kept Oliver Wood busy, but after his visit he and Charity resumed a regular correspondence via fowl-post, and now that the Quidditch season had ended, he and Penny were planning a visit to Paris soon. Meanwhile, another face from Charity's past had resurfaced—Lenny Henderson, the reporter who'd set her up with the job. He'd called on Natalie fairly regularly over the warm summer months, and his appetite for the Frenchwoman only seemed to increase, so Charity wasn't surprised to see him walk past the big front window that October morning.

What did surprise her was the sound of Natalie gasping and dropping to her knees behind the counter. She looked up at Charity as the bell over the door rang and mouthed I'm not here.

"Hey there, poppet," Lenny said. "I've brought you some arugula." He held a few green leaves up to the bars of Bnickel's cage, and the black and white rabbit greedily pulled them through the bars and munched away.

"That was very nice, Lenny," Charity said, hoping that a little extra sweetness would make up for the lie she was about to tell him.

The rumpled Scottsman flashed her a lopsided grin and replied, "What can I say? I've got a thing for brunettes. Speaking of which, is Nat around?"

"Not right now," Charity lied and gave her partner a subtle kick.

"Oh. When do you expect her back?"

"Eh," Charity glanced down, and Natalie shook her head. "N—not any time soon, I'm afraid."

"Ah well, I'll wait for her at her place then. Nice seeing you. Glad this shop gig's worked out so well for you."

As he backed toward the door, Natalie yanked vigorously on Charity's long, broomstick skirt and mouthed No, no, no!

"Um…she….she's out of town, actually. Prague. There's a big lotions tradeshow there, and she's keeping up on Muggle trends, so…looks like you won't be able to catch her this trip."

Natalie gratefully patted Charity, who shot her a dirty look. She was slightly disturbed by how easily the lying had come to her.

Even still, Lenny persisted. "She must've just left; I could swear her perfume is still in the air."

He approached the counter as he said this, and Charity squeaked when she felt Natalie scurry under her skirt and nestle between her legs.

"Are you all right?" Lenny asked.

"Fine. Fine. Yes, I'm fine."

"I told her I'd be in town this week—didn't she say anything?"

"No. I'm sorry. She must've forgotten." That time she was telling the truth.

Lenny's forehead pinched, and his eyes dropped. They seemed to gaze through the glass countertop and fix on the unnatural bulge in Charity's skirt.

She shifted her weight as much as she could and asked a little too quickly, "Is there any sort of message you'd like to leave for her?"

He pulled a small, thin box out of his pocket and fingered it. Charity noticed the imprint of a well known jewelry shop. After a few moments of silent contemplation, he slid the box back into his pocket and said, "Just tell her…tell her I said I'll see her around." His eyes flicked again toward Charity's skirt before he gave the witch a small, sad smile and turned to leave. As he walked across the shop, he added, "I hope she has fun in Prague. I hear it's a great place to hide."

The second the door shut, Charity backed away from her partner, pulling away her hiding spot, and glared at her.

Natalie, in return, beamed. "Excellent. He seems to have gotten the hint."

"Hint? More like a blasting curse straight to his gut. If you could've seen his face…he's heartbroken."

"Is his own fault," Natalie said, getting up and straightening her blouse. "I never asked for his heart."

"But why did you have to do it the way you did? Poor guy. And he brought you a gift. Don't you ever ask me to do something like that again!"

"Shh. You'll wake the bébé."

Charity scowled, but lowered her tone. "Well, why didn't you just talk to him instead of hiding like a rat?"

"Bah. Talking." The shop owner waved a dismissive hand and walked out among the sundries.

"What went wrong, anyhow? Lenny might not be my favourite person in the world, but I thought you liked him."

"Liked him? I suppose so. I was amused by him. I was entertained and gratified by him. But he wanted more than I was willing to give. There is only one boy I can commit to." She'd reached the rabbit's cage and opened it to lift the monochromatic ball of fur to her face. "How are you, mon amour?"

Natalie giggled lightly as the bunny licked her chin, and despite herself, Charity smiled. She was glad her partner had warmed to her pet and filled the gaps in attentions to the bunny now that Charity'd been understandably diverted. Natalie gave him a nuzzle and a kiss on the head before putting him back in the cage.

"I have work to do in Section M," she announced and stepped through the armour to the magical section where she wouldn't have to listen to Charity's lecture anymore.

The shop was now empty, so Charity went in back to check on Deanna and then rifle through the storage shelves for autumn powders to fill in the gaps on the displays. Once she had an armful of small glass pots, she returned to the shop and set them around, admiring the way the burnt reds and rich oranges gave the shop a more festive air.

As soon as her spirits started to lift, they sunk again at the though of Lenny. She supposed the nonchalant playboy had broken plenty of hearts himself, and had probably deserved it, but she still felt guilty for the roll she'd played in tricking him. His departure had been so pathetic. When she glanced at the door, she noticed that the sign was switched around—the portion facing inward read Ouvert, meaning passing customers would think the shop was closed.

"No wonder nobody's come in," she said aloud, feeling a bit less guilty as she considered that Lenny must've purposely turned the sign on his way out. She shook her head at her rabbit, joking, "I hope that treat he gave you wasn't poiso—"

She stopped mid-word when she saw the bunny lying flat on the hutch floor with his eyes bulging wide open. He wasn't moving. At all.

"Bnickel," Charity whimpered, and then with unsteady hands struggled to open the door of the cage.

Her pet was getting older, and she'd known he couldn't live forever, but this hardly looked like a natural death. More like he'd been tortured. Lenny didn't do this. She was sure of it. A prank like turning the door sign was one thing, murder quite another. Besides, he'd given the rabbit the treat before he knew Natalie was breaking it off. But if it wasn't Lenny, then—who? Charity's heart jumped as she realized someone else might've slipped into the shop while she was in back.

Her eyes flicked to the pink curtain that led to the back room. She let the cage door fall open and took two giant, hurried steps toward her baby, but she stopped dead when a dark hooded figure appeared in the drape's opening. Holding Deanna. Charity's mouth went dry.

The vacant black hole in the hood turned toward her.

"Monsieur Savu," Charity said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "I wish you would've asked permission before picking up my child. I'm sure Natalie will be returning at any moment with your prescription. So please—" She took a step forward and held her arms out, desperately hoping she was wrong about what had transpired with her rabbit.

Savu gripped the child even closer to him, cradling her in one arm. He brought his free hand up to trace a scarred fingertip over her angelic features. "She is sleeping so peacefully. Surely you don't vant to disturb her." There was no hint in his voice of the course whisper. The words rolled out of him as smoothly as a snake slithers toward its prey.

Charity felt oddly calmed by his voice, but she kept her back rigid. The sole focus of her mind was on getting her baby back. "She'll be waking at any moment, so I should take her," she said. Taking a step forward. But Savu swiped his hand sideways and held it up as a sign for her to stop. Her body unwillingly complied.

"This child vill not be waking any time soon. I've seen to that."

Charity's insides raged, and she wanted to lunge at him, but it was as if a cubic ton of sand had been poured into her feet, and she couldn't move. Her next instinct was to scream, but she could see that her baby was still breathing and didn't want to startle the child awake. She didn't want Deanna to ever realize she was being held by that…that monster. Whatever Mr. Savu was, he was not human, and he was obviously exerting his supernatural powers on both her and her child. She glanced to the right at Natalie—did she know what Mr. Savu was; would she know how to deal with him?

"Natalie! Natalie! Hurry!" She'd have to risk waking the baby. She didn't see any other way. Her voice would carry through the armoire's opening into the Magical section, and Natalie would come.

Savu chuckled. "You take me for a simpleton, do you? You may have tricked me once. But not again. I have closed the door to the cabinet. She cannot hear you. No, I'm afraid this time you vill not get away."

Charity turned all her attention back to him. "Wh—who are you?"

"You hurt my feelings. Do you not remember the vonderful day we two had together? Two springs ago in Paris?"

He pulled back his hood, and Charity's stomach lurched with nausea. Half the man's hair was gone, revealing a red and mottled scalp between tufts of jet black hair. Ropey flesh ran from one jaw, up over his cheekbone and nose, twisting at his brow. These mutated features had once been elegant, as evidenced by the side of his face that was untouched. His black eyes were still clear and nearly as mesmerizing as Charity had found them the day they'd met.

"Alin," was all she said.

"Ah, see, you do remember. You have no idea how elated I was to see you again. Fate it would seem brought us back together. But to find you with child…well, this was better than I could have imagined. Almost worth the pain, near starvation, and loneliness I endured these many months. But I vill not be alone anymore." He bent his head and laid a scarred kiss on Deanna's forehead.

Charity contracted her throat to keep down the bile.

"To receive a magical child as my retribution for what you've done to me…it is beyond anything I could have hoped. You did not tell me you were a witch at our first meeting."

"She hasn't shown any signs of magical ability—she's too young. She could be a squib." It was the only out Charity saw right now.

"That is a possiblility. But I do not intend to carry her around for the rest of my existence, so I vill not change her now. She'll grow to be a child of, oh, ten or so, and when she shows her abilities, but before she has mastered them, that is when I vill make her like me, immortal.

"No," Charity hissed.

He smiled ever-so-pleasantly. "By then my looks will have been restored, thanks to your friend's creams, and there vill be no telling what the duo of handsome father and darling, multi-talented daughter might accomplish."

"Do you really think Natalie's going to continue to help you after you kidnap my daughter?" Charity spat, grasping for hope, anything that might change his mind and keep him from leaving.

One side of his lip raised in a sneer. "And who do you suppose vill tell her of this tragedy? You surely don't think I'll leave you behind…I do not plan on changing diapers myself."

Despite her still precarious circumstances, a wave of relieve washed through Charity. She was going to get to stay with Deanna.

"Yes, my dear, I vill take you with me—in a more obedient form."

Without Charity seeing any movement, he was immediately in front of her. "Do you accept my offer?" His breath tickled her face. She wanted to be revolted, but instead her senses were enticed by his spiced floral scent. "Take the child…or reject my offer and die right now."

Accepting meant she could stay with her daughter and possibly find a way to save her, assuming she kept any semblance of herself after the transformation. It also meant she'd never again join Snape; whereas rejecting the offer would bring her directly to him…

In the other realm, Natalie stepped over to a table a mere three feet from Charity. But the shop owner may as well have been in Siberia. She cleared the table and began a complete rearrangement. She wouldn't finish any time soon—not soon enough to save Charity from either of two terrible fates.

The invisible weight that had been immobilizing Charity's limbs lifted, allowing her just enough strength to reach for her child—which she did without hesitation. There had truthfully been no other choice to make. Yet her eyes stung with the understanding of the eternity with Snape she'd in effect given away.

The vampire licked his mutilated lips and brushed Charity's hair from her shoulder, baring her neck. The smug satisfaction in his disfigured countenance flashed to anger when the bells above the shop door jingled. He whipped Charity around and held her fast to him with one arm around her waist and the other kinked in a choke hold over her neck. She gripped Deanna tightly in both arms and stared at the unfortunate visitor. It was Lenny.

The Scottsman's eyes opened wide in shock for a brief second, but he immediately recovered and flicked out his wand, holding it in the air at the ready. But he hesitated.

"So you vill not sacrifice the mother and daughter to rid France of one more vampire, eh?" Savu taunted.

The reporter's eyes narrowed and he kept his wand tensed, but Savu was right—Lenny wouldn't risk harming Charity or the baby. Charity had to get away from Savu to give Lenny a clear shot, but the monster held her tight and still exerted a measure of psychological control.

"How did you get in here?" Lenny growled.
"The lady of the house invites me in, every month." Charity could hear the sneer in his voice. The lady of the house finished stacking the colorful wizard soaps and stepped toward them. It appeared they stood directly in her intended course. Savu took a step back to avoid a collision. Natalie would pass by without having any idea what was happening only inches away from her. The close call had distracted Savu just enough to ease up his control of Charity's legs, so she thrust her foot out, catching Natalie's pointed black heel. The slender woman stumbled and barely managed to catch herself on a table, sending two crystal jars crashing to the floor in the process. When she straightened herself up she cursed under her breath and took long, livid strides toward the armoire.

The moment she emerged from the magical realm, Savu hissed an incantation in a language Charity didn't understand.

A split second later, Lenny brandished his wand toward Natalie and shouted "Protego!" A thin line of bottles between Lenny and Natalie cracked and fragmented as the spell made its way to her. When it arrived, a slivery shield erupted around her, rippling at the center when the result of the vampire's incantation made contact. The shield popped back into formation, sending the spell back toward Savu and Charity.

Savu whipped his arm from around Charity's neck and held his palm out flat, rapidly muttering the indiscernible language. But he wasn't fast enough. His own curse crashed into his hand, causing his fingers to flex and crumple like a dying spider. Savu let out a low, hideous groan and slumped forward onto Charity. His arm around her waist went limp, and all his hold over her released so that she was able to step forward and let him thud to the ground.

Deanna woke immediately and started crying and squirming in Charity's deathgrip.

"Oh!" Charity sobbed, elated and relieved to hear her baby's voice. She turned Deanna upright to hug her, but didn't relax her grasp one iota.

Lenny tipped over a Louis XVI writing table, disregarding the bottles that smashed to the floor as a result, and snapped off a thin leg, leaving a sharp point at the raw end.

"Hey!" Natalie protested, still encased in the translucent silver shield.

Lenny ignored her and stepped over to Charity. "He'll be reviving any minute now. Care to do the honors?" He held the newly-created wooden stake out to Charity, who'd managed to calm her child's cries despite the shakiness of her own nerves.

"I…are we allowed? Isn't there something against that in the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part Humans?"

"Ugh, you British. Always so concerned with decorum," Natalie complained.

Savu shuddered with a labored gasp, and Charity shot a panicked look at Lenny. "Do it now. Kill the bloody wanker!" she shouted.

"As you wish, my love." He held the post up over his shoulder with one hand, javelin-style, and rushed the vampire, driving the stake deep into its heart and sending a fountain of blood out of its chest.

Natalie let out a soft moan when the thick crimson spilled over to stain her rich, grey carpeting. "One of my best customers too," she lamented.

Charity cradled her baby's head in the crook of her neck and peered at her partner. The woman had knowingly aided a vampire and invited him into the shop—and never once warned Charity. Even now, when it should be very obvious what he'd try to do, she was thinking about business first. Charity wasn't sure how she'd ever come to align herself with such a person. And that's not to mention how dismally Natalie had treated Lenny. And dragged Charity into it.

Charity turned cautiously to Lenny, who stood breathing heavily over the re-corpsified cadaver.

"Thank you. I don't know how I can ever repay you. You saved my daughter. And after how I acted before…I'm so sorry."

Lenny shrugged and flipped his head to toss his long bangs out of his eyes. His typically lazy smile had a new energy now. He was invigorated by the victory.

"Why did you come back, anyway?" Charity asked.

His eyes flicked toward Natalie and then back to Charity. Natalie stood with a hand on her hip and a raised eyebrow—she too seemed curious for the answer.

"She's obviously done with me. So I was going to ask if you wanted to have a go."

Charity felt her overabundant goodwill toward him settle back toward mild irritation. "I'm…uh…not dating right now," she answered absently as her attention was caught by a flash of black and white at the front of the store. Another of Savu's victims had reanimated and now scurried across the shop to sniff at the shield covering Natalie.



Author's Note:

And so we find the mystery behind Savu. With that secret revealed, this story will go on hiatus for a few months. Pulling off what I hope to accomplish with what remains of New Prince is is going to be tricky, and I think we'll all be better off if I can hammer out a completed first draft before I begin posting again. And before that can happen, I've got some other projects calling for my attention. :/

Before I step entirely away from FF for a wHile, I'll be posting a final finale to my Survivor: Vampire Island story, in which we have some fun w/ Cullens. :) Is going to be good.

And lastly, I want to give a shout out to Metropolis Kid, whose been my inspiration to even get this far in this story. Thanks, peach. ;) If you enjoy Hellsing, Star Wars (KOTOR), Chuck, or just good stories in general, you should check out his profile - he's got two awesome stories at the top that are currently being updated. Also, if you're a Chuck fan, look for a link on Metropolis Kid's profile where you can "Like" a facebook page that might help the show stick around for a 5th season.

Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing!