In the morning, Hieronymous knocks on my door and tells me that if I'm ready, he'll take me to the airport.
"Oh, that's all right," I start, "you've got too much to do today-" but he waves me off.
"The minister and Mr. Lewis have everything under control," he says, and looks amused when my eyes widen at the mention of Mr. Lewis. He doesn't answer my unasked question, though, just says "downstairs in an hour, if that suits," and walks off.
I shove my clothes and other things into my suitcase (casting a regretful eye upon my unfinished book about Nicholas Hawksmoor, which I'm forced to leave behind), then go looking for Mrs. Barton and some of the other staff members to say my good-byes, making sure to arrive in the foyer at the appointed time.
Mr. Davies drives again, and we sit in the back of Hieronymous's black sedan as we pull away from Yeavering Hall. I watch it recede into the distance with a mix of relief and regret.
"What do you think you'll do with it?" I ask.
"Set the thing alight and watch it burn," he says immediately, putting an unprintable expletive between "the" and "thing."
"Language!" I gasp in mock-shock, putting on my British-actress-in-a-regency-film accent. "Is that any way to behave in polite society?"
"You'll forgive me if I don't consider you and Mr. Davies to be a cross-section of 'polite society,'" Hieronymous says. I catch Mr. Davies's glance in the rear view mirror, and although he stays as silent as ever, he rolls his eyes at me. I grin.
"I was considering selling it to one of the hotel companies, actually," Hieronymous says. "Quite a few of the old estates have gone that route. And it isn't as though I'm going to live there. I've spent too much time trying to get out of that house to move back in. I'd like to live somewhere-"
"That fits," I finish, without thinking, and Hieronymous gives me a puzzled look.
"That's a way of putting it," he says. "It'll give a bit of extra income. I'm not getting out of that estate tax now, and I could use the money if I decide to set up that school in the future."
I nod. "It'll be nice to let people in to see the house - it's really something else."
"Hm," says Hieronymous, noncommittally.
"What time's the service today?" I ask, changing the subject.
"I managed to stall it until two, for all the people coming up from London. I'll be back in plenty of time, don't worry."
"And Mr. Lewis?"
At this, Hieronymous smiles slightly, and then performs the spell that lets us talk without Mr. Davies hearing. Once it's done, I ask "so what is he? Besides horrible, I mean."
"He calls himself a 'genius' - not in the sense of someone very intelligent, but a sort of spirit from the Otherworld. I think he's just posturing, however. It would be more accurate to call him a familiar, as he's a spirit obligated to follow the orders of the head of the Grabiner family."
"Which is you," I say. No wonder he was so upset that morning we returned from the Otherworld. He was probably having a marvelous time engaging in all sorts of horrible behavior under the late Lord Montague's rule, and now that Hieronymous has taken over, his sources of entertainment must be severly curtailed.
"I wouldn't trust him as far as I could spit him," says Hieronymous, "but he does come in useful for funeral planning. And he's absolutely miserable about it." He gives a very nasty smirk at this.
"Serves him right," I say, "but be careful with him, okay?"
"Of course," says Hieronymous, but I still don't feel quite right about letting Mr. Lewis stay with him, considering his track record with creatures from the Otherworld. Still, there isn't anything I can do - I'll have to trust Hieronymous to take care of himself for now.
We get to Newcastle International Airport in about an hour, and I let Hieronymous buy me a ticket to travel to Heathrow and then on to Logan. "First class?" I remark on taking the tickets. "You didn't have to."
"Call it my last donation to Iris Academy," he says. "Petunia did say that the school would pay your expenses, after all."
"All right," I say. "Thanks."
He walks me to where the security line starts, and we both stop before I get into the line. We make an odd pair among the rest of the crowd saying their good-byes, me in my jeans and hoodie, and him in a black suit for the funeral this afternoon.
"Well," I say, "thanks. It was very... educational."
"Hm." Hieronymous's mouth twists a bit. "I can only hope that with me gone, your further education will be a bit more sedate."
"Maybe," I say, shifting my suitcase from one hand to the other. When I do that, there's a flash of red in the light, and I start.
"Oh I say, "I forgot." I put my suitcase down and twist the ourobouros ring off of my left hand. "Here. Thanks for letting me wear it."
"No," he says, putting his hands up and looking strangely flustered. "Please keep it. I don't have any use for it, and anyway, it suits you." When I don't respond he adds, questioning, "Happy birthday?"
I have to smile at how awkward he's acting, and I consider the ring again. It's true that I'd gotten used to wearing it, and it would make a pretty interesting souvenir of my trip.
"Thanks," I say, "but I don't think I want it as a birthday present." And because I can't resist, I add "do you follow?" He doesn't say anything, but raises his eyebrows to indicate that yes, he follows. He takes the ring from me, slipping it into the pocket of his suit jacket.
"Right, well," I say, "I'll see you, I guess."
"In January," he finishes.
"January?" I say, sudden hope rising in me, but then I realize, and my voice falls. "For the divorce, right?"
"For the divorce. Right," he echoes.
"Do we have to?" I ask, knowing the answer.
"What do you think the Daily Mail would do if they found out that the newest Viscount Montague was married to a seventeen year old American high school student?" he asks.
"They'd skewer you," I admit.
"They'd crucify me," he replies, which gets me smiling again. "I only just kept that carbon monoxide charade from becoming a full-blown scandal; I don't think I have it in me to keep this one quiet, too."
"That's fair, I guess," I say.
"It won't be so bad," he says, and then, looking away, "I could take you to dinner after, if you wanted."
This turns my smile into a grin. "You're not serious."
"Why shouldn't I be serious?" he asks, still not meeting my eyes.
"You wouldn't even have lunch with me at our wedding and now you're asking me on a date for our divorce?"
"I didn't say it was a date," he says, testily, but I ignore him.
"So where are we going? The Glen?"
He grimaces. "Not so close to the school, if you don't mind. I don't care to have either of us constitute the subject of further student gossip. How do you feel about... I don't know. Burlington. It's not exactly a culinary mecca, but-"
"I feel," I say, interrupting him, "optimistic." He finally meets my eyes, and we stand for a moment, smiling at each other.
I take two quick steps forward, put my hand on his arm to steady myself, stand on my toes and kiss him on the cheek. "Bye, then."
He doesn't kiss me back, but for a fraction of a second, he touches his cheek to mine. "Good bye," he says, his mouth hidden in my hair.
And I turn away from my future ex-husband, pick up my suitcase, and take my first step towards home.