missiondoll (missiondoll) wrote,

Sonatina For Unaccompanied Minor, Part 2

Part 1

December 13, 1988

“Anthea! Anthea!” Howard waved at her from the other end of the station platform. He’d grown again, grown so tall that he didn’t need to jump any more to be seen over the heads of the adults. Anthea left her cart where it was and eeled through the crowd to throw herself against the front of his duffle coat..

“Hello, brat,” Howard said into the top of Anthea’s hood. “I suppose I don’t need to ask if you’re glad to see me.”

“If you call me ‘brat’ ever again, I’ll set your Asimov collection on fire,” Anthea said. “I’ve got lots to tell you. Things I couldn’t put in the letters. Will you come and pull the cart?”

“I see your school’s set you on to expecting star treatment already,” said Howard, but he followed Anthea back down the platform to where she’d left the cart with her trunk and knapsack. Anthea had had to lean backwards with all her might to get it moving. Howard put one hand around the front bar and started walking, and the cart followed after like a well-mannered dog.

Ann was waiting outside the station at the wheel of Mum’s car. Howard lifted the trunk and bag into the back seat. Then Anthea had to take the cart back to the station door, and when she came back Howard had bagged the front passenger seat and was looking unbearably superior.

“Mine next time,” said Anthea, and leaned back to enjoy the familiar sounds of Ann trying to drive the car. Ann was actually quite a good driver, but she and Mum’s car existed in a constant state of war. Howard would be allowed to drive it soon, and treated the entire idea with an uneasy respect that seemed to have something to do with the noise the brakes made at traffic lights.

“We’re going to the Museum first,” said Ann, glancing at Anthea in the rearview mirror. “Mr Hathaway insisted.”

“What, before I’d even been home?” said Anthea.

“He wants to know how your end-of-term results came out, and what you’re going to do next term.” Ann took the turn into Hammond Street a little too fast, and dealt the steering wheel a sharp smack.

“I don’t see why he can’t use a telephone like ordinary people,” grumbled Anthea, but she was secretly rather pleased. Her going away to school this year had been Mr Hathaway’s idea. He hadn’t answered any of her letters, either. Anthea knew he had no other music students, but certainly a wizard must be very busy. If Mr Hathaway wanted to see her, he must not have forgotten about her entirely.

Ann left Howard and Anthea at the front door of the Museum and went to park the car. Anthea untied her cape and slung it over her arm as they walked through the corridors. The door marked Curator was just the same.

“I’ll wait for you out here,” said Howard, and fished a biro and notebook out of his duffle pocket. Since this was December, the notebook was extremely dog-eared and battered. The biro looked as though he’d been chewing on it.

Anthea tapped on the door. “It’s open!” called a man’s voice from the other side. There was a Mrs Hathaway, and they had a little boy, but they always found somewhere else to be while Anthea was having her lesson. The Hathaways resided in a part of the Museum that was fitted up as a sort of living-history exhibit, but Anthea thought the Museum must not have very much money to spend on keeping it up. Everything was shabby and well-used, and there never seemed to be groups of school children wandering through as there were in the other exhibits.

The exhibit had a courtyard, with real animals in it, and beyond it had been built to look like part of a house. The curtains of the house were always shut, which had puzzled Anthea until she found out about her teacher being a wizard. Mr Hathaway’s library, where Anthea had her lessons, was just inside the front door. Anthea ran across the courtyard, dodging the chickens and two cats, and nearly collided with Mr Hathaway as he came out of the library.

“You’ll break your nose someday doing that,” said Mr Hathaway, squeezing her once fiercely and then putting her away from him with his hands on both shoulders. “Let me look at you. A quarter-inch taller, too many chocolates and not enough games,” Anthea thought guiltily of the spots on her chin and the toffees she and the other girls had shared on the train, “and a head full of new questions. Just what I’d expect after your first term away at school.”

Mr Hathaway drew Anthea back into the library and waved her to sit on one of the chairs in front of his desk. He sat behind it and turned over the hourglass that always ran during her lessons.

“I can see you’re bursting to tell me something,” said Mr Hathaway.

Anthea grinned at him. “Casting lists for next term’s productions went up yesterday. I’m to be Celia in Iolanthe and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It still felt odd to say it, particularly the Dream bit. All of the female soloists in Io, except the Queen, were first-years. The teachers had chosen that particular opera to show off Amie Strand, the American girl who was playing Iolanthe. Amie was eleven, looked fourteen and sounded thirty. But Anthea was the only student below fifth year to be cast in Dream. “They haven’t had a girl as Puck in something like forty years, and never one so young as me.”

Mr Hathaway looked a bit impatient. He had taught Anthea most of the music she chose, Sullivan and Quilter and Head and the rest, but he had grumbled about doing it. “That’s all very well. What about the rest of it?”

“I’ve passed the trials for both choirs next year,” Anthea said. “The Academy Choir’s doing a whole program of Monteverdi at Christmas.” That would please Mr Hathaway, she knew. Choral music pleased him, and very very old choral music pleased him best. “And Mr. Stanton’s arranging something new for the treble choir, some Bach and Bruckner, but we don’t know which ones yet. I’ll write you when we know.”

“Excellent,” said Mr Hathaway. “The Bruckner’s ambitious, but it will do you good to extend your reach a bit, even if your grasp doesn’t match it yet. How about your academic exams?”

“All right,” said Anthea. “Better in French and German, not so good in maths. About the same, really.”

Anthea”, said Mr Hathaway sternly.

“I suppose you want to know if I’ve failed anything,” said Anthea, examining her fingernails and trying not to squirm. Telling Mum and Dad was never going to be as difficult as telling Mr Hathaway. “Well, I haven’t. Not exactly.”

“Go on,” said Mr Hathaway calmly.

Anthea sighed. “It’s nothing, really. I’m going to have extra coaching next semester, except usually they only give that for students who need to catch up to the others in their year.”

“You can’t possibly be behind,” said Mr Hathaway. “You’re a year older than the other first-years, and your school here wasn’t at all bad. It’s only that there wasn’t enough music there. Why are you having extra coaching?”

This was the difficult part. “I’ve been sneaking in to listen to one of the classes for fifth years and older,” said Anthea. “And I got caught. It was Storytelling and Narrative Logic.”

Mr Hathaway stared at her. “What on earth persuaded you to do such a thing?”

“I needed it,” said Anthea, looking at her boots this time.

“Needed it? What for?” demanded Mr Hathaway, beginning to look angry.

Anthea knew she had been dreadfully stupid to listen to the class, and stupider still to get caught, and nothing made Mr Hathaway so angry as when she didn’t think. However, she knew perfectly that not having told Mr Hathaway everything four years ago might have been stupidest of all. This was not a moment she had been looking forward to.

“Do you remember when I was eight,” began Anthea, “and I began looking for songs that told stories?”

“Of course.” Mr Hathaway glanced impatiently at the hourglass. “All those songbooks from the dustiest part of the Poly library. You brought me that peculiar piece about the woman who married a seal and was drowned, and the one about the Gilly’s Rann. Things that were much too old for you. You won’t be ready for the one about the seal for another ten years at least.”

“Well, yes,” said Anthea. “They were the wrong songs. But they were the right kind of songs. They were songs about making spells.”

“And why,” said Mr Hathaway in a peculiarly level voice, “would you need to know about making spells?”

“Because I made a mistake.” Anthea looked up to meet his eyes. “I lost my temper and said something and it came true. And for four years I’ve been looking for a way to fix it.”

“Four years,” said Mr. Hathaway. “Four—Oh, Anthea. What did you do?” He said it the way Ann asked questions, in that way that meant they weren’t really questions.

“The Goon. I mean, Erskine. It’s Ann who called him the Goon. I told him to get lost.” Saying it aloud never got any easier, especially since she couldn’t say it to anyone except Ann and Howard. “And he has been. All this time. I needed to learn what kind of spell would bring him back. And since all I know how to do, really, is sing, songs about spells seemed the way to begin. Then I heard the older girls talking about their Narrative class, and I thought maybe what I needed was to finish the story. So I listened.”

Mr Hathaway shut his eyes and put the ends of his fingers against his temples, as if his head hurt him. “Let me understand you. You told Erskine to get lost. And he got angry and walked away?”

“No. He vanished completely. Like snapping your fingers.” Howard ducked his head and shouldered awkwardly through the low doorway. Ann came in behind him, without her coat and enormous shoulder bag, but still with a shawl wrapped round her head and shoulders. “Hello, Hathaway.”

“Hello, Venturus,” said Mr Hathaway, still in that strange even voice. “You’re looking well.” Anthea thought of pointing out that his eyes were still shut, but reminded herself in time--wizard.

“So are you,” said Howard. In the few months Anthea had been at school, Howard seemed to have become entirely an adult. It wasn’t only that he was taller, and had new glasses and shaggier hair and had grown into the jumper Aunt Wendy had knitted him last year. It was that he spoke to Mr Hathaway as an equal. Anthea remembered, with a shock, that Mr Hathaway was after all Howard’s brother.

“How much did you know about this?” said Mr Hathaway, opening his eyes and looking up at Howard.

“Not much,” replied Howard. “Erskine had been visiting us for years, telling me and Anthea the story of what happened. I believed him and I didn’t.”

“You believed him, all right,” said Mr Hathaway grimly. “If you hadn’t, none of this would have been possible.” He stood up, pushed his chair out of the way and paced from the desk to the door and back again. Ann slipped out of his way and sat down in the chair across from Anthea. “It was laid on us by our parents that we had to stay and look after you until you came to know your powers. Erskine and I had the idea that perhaps we didn’t all have to stay behind, just some of us. We thanked our lucky stars when the three eldest were able to go.”

“New York?” said Anthea.

Mr Hathaway stopped walking back and forth, and sat on the edge of his desk. “That was Torquil. He did say he’d stay if we needed him, but we wanted to try and do without. He would have gotten bored.” Mr Hathaway said this as though Torquil being bored was like the Wicked Witch of the West getting wet. “So we enlisted help.”

Howard and Anthea both turned to look at Ann. Mr Hathaway didn’t. Anthea realized, then, that Mr Hathaway hadn’t looked at Ann yet, or spoken to her, or—“You, er, can see her, can’t you, Mr Hathaway? She’s not invisible or anything?”

“Of course he can see me,” said Ann. “He’s just too stubborn to acknowledge that what I did was right.”

“It was dangerous!” bellowed Mr Hathaway. “And foolish and, and, thoughtless.”

This word, coming from Mr Hathaway, seemed to have much the same effect on both Ann and Howard as it did on Anthea. Ann took a breath and let it out again. Finally, she looked at Howard and said, “You’ve read all the right books. What would you do if you knew you were going to go back in time and live part of your life over again? And make terrible mistakes unless you did something to stop yourself?”

“Leave myself a message,” said Howard immediately. “Something that was broad enough that it was bound to get to me somehow. Something that it would make more changes to history to get rid of, than it would to just let it play itself out. Not a note,” he continued thoughtfully, “nothing so, I don’t know, pointed. Conspicuous. Time doesn’t always notice what you’ve done, you know, not unless you call attention to it—“

“Enough,” said Mr Hathaway, holding up a hand. “I shall begin tearing my hair out if you go on talking about time as though it were an inattentive schoolmaster.”

“Did that really work?” Anthea asked Howard. “Can you dodge the rules like that?”

“You did leave a message,” said Ann to Howard, exactly as if Anthea and Mr Hathaway weren’t there. “You left me.” She smiled at him.

Howard went absolutely white. Anthea noticed this with interest. She’d read about it in books, of course, but had never seen anyone do it—certainly not her sensible big brother. The books hadn’t said anything about how much darker his eyebrows would look, or how his freckles would stand out.

“You served us wine,” whispered Howard. “The second time around. I made the Goon take us to see Hathaway, and you brought in spiced wine, and tried to stay and listen.” This seemed to upset him much more than the Goon’s disappearance and his own returning memory had done, four years ago. Anthea did a bit of quick mental arithmetic and realized that when they had been here the second time, Ann would have been Howard’s own age. The age he’d been at the time. This was harder to follow than the Goon’s fairy tale.

“I hid behind the doors,” said Ann, not taking her eyes off Howard. “And when you went through the Curator’s door, I followed you.”

Mr Hathaway muttered several things that sounded extremely rude. Ann ignored him and went on. “Dad—Mr Abraham from Natural History—he found me wandering about in the corridor, with no memory of anything except my name. You’ve met him. He didn’t think I was much more unusual than the albino butterfly he was being sent from France. He took me home with him. Father,” she looked over at Mr Hathaway, “had seen where I’d gone by then.”

“My archives changed,” spat Mr Hathaway. “I was looking at the book that showed your marrying and leaving town, and the words scattered like ants. That should not have been possible.”

Anthea understood, then, that Mr Hathaway was frightened. He declared things to be impossible when they didn’t work in a way he understood. “You keep records,” she said to him. “Records tell what’s happened. And what’s happened can’t be changed. But when Ann left home, she changed something. Have I got it right?”

Mr Hathaway nodded. “The first and second times, when all six of us were stuck here and had to share things out, I claimed records and archives. None of them could understand why I’d want it.” He ran a hand backwards through his hair, what was left of it. “Lucky thing I had, anyways. When Ann went out the front door, I could create records that showed that she’d been born here, thirteen years earlier, to parents who’d died in a car accident. She had no guardian, and the local Child Protection were overstaffed. The Abrahams had three children already, there was no trouble about them being approved to adopt a fourth.”

“Not after you’d messed about with the approval records, there wouldn’t be.” Howard sounded angry. “How could you just let her go, Hathaway?”

“For the same reason I’ve never let Anthea outstay her lesson!” shouted Mr Hathaway. “If you remember meeting Ann before, you remember that! She might have turned to dust for all I know!” He turned away, and saw Anthea’s face. “Not,” he added hastily, “that there was every any danger of it. Time runs differently in this house, that’s all. You’re quite all right here for a short time. Hence the hourglass. Anyways, she was perfectly safe. Neal and Ruth Abraham adored children and were happy to take in another.”

“Oh, come now, Father,” said Ann coolly. “Don’t forget the important bit. You and Erskine needed me to help. Venturus had to be looked after until he knew about his powers. No one could say you weren’t looking after Venturus if you sent your own daughter to help bring him up, could you?” She looked over at Howard. “I expect your parents think to this day that hiring a thirteen-year-old girl to mind their infant after school was their own idea.”

Anthea felt rather shaky. She looked over at Howard, but he had opened his notebook and was scribbling furiously. Instead, she slid off her chair to lean against Ann’s calves, and propped her chin on a bony knee. “If time runs differently here, are you immune? Is that why you didn’t turn into a baby when Howard brought time back?”

“Time turned backwards and didn’t take me with it,” said Ann. “No one quite knew how the mixture of my parents’ blood would turn out. Father—Hathaway—is a wizard, right enough. Mother’s something else. Don’t you know where you are yet?”

“A worn-out exhibit in the Museum,” said Anthea. “Or…” She got up and went over to the nearest of Mr Hathaway’s library windows. She put out a hand to pull back the curtain, then stopped and looked at Mr Hathaway. “If I pull this back, I’m not going to see the back wall of the exhibit, or even the street behind the Museum. Am I.” It was quite easy, really, asking questions that weren’t. Anthea felt sure that after today, she would never forget the trick of it.

“No,” said Mr Hathaway. “It varies. I believe it’s the Forest of Arden this week. It’s real places most of the time, in the sixteenth century anyways, but some of Shakespeare’s settings were hard to pin down as to exactly where and when he meant them to be.”

“Under Hill,” said Anthea. “But I’ve eaten here, dozens of times, and I can still come and go. It’s not, not—Howard, what’s that thing where the mercury builds up in your blood over time and a tiny bit makes you ill?”

“Cumulative,” said Howard absently.

“Yes, that.”

“No,” said Ann. “Mother said I could invite three friends. You and Howard are safe to eat and drink under the roof of my father’s house, and so is Sam.” Sam was one of the violinists in Ann’s quartet. “You may also be able to sleep here safely, but I’ve never been moved to test it.”

“No,” said Anthea. “Better not. See here, if it took all three of you to look after Venturus—Howard—you minding him and then living with us, and you, “she nodded to Mr Hathaway, “keeping an eye out through me, and the Goon visiting all the time to tell Howard who he was…” She shook her head. “You only had to stay until Howard knew he was Venturus, didn’t he?”

“Ye-es,” said Mr Hathaway, sounding as though he were unrolling it in his mind. “On the day you lost your temper, Howard must have already believed the story, even if he didn’t yet know it. I don’t think you could have sent the Goon away unless the conditions under which he could leave had been met. Forgive me, my dear, but you haven’t the power. Nothing else you’ve said has ever happened on command, has it?” Anthea shook her head. “That’s a relief. I rather think that bringing him back may be the only piece of magic you’ll ever do.”

“It had better be,” said Anthea. “I haven’t time for another set of lessons.”

“What did you learn?” asked Howard suddenly. All three of them whipped their heads round to look at him. “Sorry. I meant Anthea. What did you learn about creating the spell? From the Narrative Logic class.”

“You were listening at the door.” Anthea scowled at him. “I suppose you’re going to tell Mum and Dad.”

“Never mind,” said Howard impatiently. “Did you find out what to do?”

“Not yet,” Anthea told him. She turned to Mr Hathaway. “That was the bit I never got to tell you. Miss Hennon, who teaches the class, said I was to join it next term. I’ve got extra coaching with her every night until I’m caught up.”

“Hang on,” said Howard, “You broke a school rule, and they’re rewarding you by giving you what you broke the rule to get?”

“Well, yes. Only they think it’s punishment.” Anthea sighed. “They don’t know why I want it, you see. It’s like the way Dad made you smoke the entire packet of cigarettes that time.”

Howard glanced at Ann and went red. “Never mind that,” he said.

“Don’t tease him,” Ann said. “He’s afraid that if I find out all the silly things he’s done, I won’t take him overseas with me next summer.”

This was news to Anthea. Their parents had been promising for years that Howard could celebrate his seventeenth birthday by traveling somewhere with Ann’s quartet, if they’d have him. Sam and the others must have said yes. “Are you going to Los Angeles again?”

Ann shook her head. “Boston this time. It’s right next door to Cambridge—not our Cambridge. Talking about American travel always sounds so odd. Anyways, Ed’s got a friend at the Institute of Technology there that Howard really ought to meet.” She smiled. “There’s more than one way to travel in time.”

Part 3
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