A/N: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci and all characters and settings appearing in this fic are the property of Diana Wynne Jones's estate.
"I think Rosalie has the best plan so far," said Flavian, although his voice conveyed that even he had his doubts. "Christopher isn't all bad. He did stand up to the Wraith, and he actually apologized to me yesterday for-oh!" His eyes widened and he looked around the hall. Christopher and his unaccountable friend were gone.
"What is it, Flavian?" asked Rosalie, following his gaze in the direction of the library.
"He asked me how one goes about imprisoning a spirit traveler," said Flavian. "I thought he was just being beastly, laughing at another's expense, but-"
The realization burst on all of them at the same time. Dr. Simonson was the one to voice it. "He was plotting a jailbreak," said Paul. He turned to Rosalie. "Really, this child is the one you want to trust with the future of-"
Being without her magic was unsettling. It made Rosalie's skin prickle and agitated her stomach in a way she had no time for. "He stood up to the Wraith when the Wraith could easily have turned that gun on him. It's just for the time being. We'll figure out later how to notify the Government about Gabriel." She looked away from the pale shape next to the staircase and began to walk purposefully towards the library. There would be time for that later. "Right now-" There was work to be done. "-we need a nine-lived enchanter. Christopher is the only one have."
"If he hasn't already done a bunk with his partner in crime," muttered Paul, but he fell into step with her.
"Assuming we don't want that to happen," said Rosalie a little more sharply than she intended. "All the more reason not to waste time arguing about it."
If not everyone agreed with that sentiment, at least no one contested it. They found the door to the library open and the door to the converted study room likewise. Rosalie couldn't see to tell if the spells were still in place, but the voices coming through the open door suggested not.
"Do you want me to break the spells around the grounds for you?"
Flavian drew breath audibly at his pupil's offer. Paul gave an unsurprised snort.
"Now you stow it!"
Rosalie bit down on the surge of anger she felt at the sound of that voice. She could still hear the same voice breathing meaningless compliments, spinning tall tales to justify an extravagant expense... advising cheerfully on a batting stance… arguing the merits of the hornpipe versus the waltz…
…Mockingly confessing to every level of corruption and deceit. It appeared that he'd even managed to lie through the interrogation spells. Not a word about his accomplice! Not a hint that they'd be walking into an ambush if they followed up on his information! How much more had he hidden? If she could have spoken with Christopher without ever laying eyes on the owner of that voice again, she would have. Christopher was a child, one who had evidently been subjected to exactly the terrible influences that had concerned Gabriel enough for him to assume guardianship of the boy. He had an excuse. Other people had none.
The voice continued. "From what you've told me, there's no one apart from you two youngsters and me in this castle with any magic worth speaking of, and your uncle could return at any moment. And you expect me just to walk out?"
That gave her pause, just outside the doorway, just for a moment. Then the overwhelming hypocrisy of the question propelled Rosalie into the room. "Why Mordecai, do I actually hear you uttering a noble sentiment?" The question came out more hopefully than she meant it to do, but Rosalie pressed her lips together to discourage such sentimentality.
Mordecai didn't even have the grace to look abashed at being caught in the act of escaping custody. "Strictly practical, you know me, Rosalie." Of course, he'd been positively smug when caught in the act of treason. Whyever should she expect more? "Have you come to lock me up again? I can't see you doing it without your magic, but you're welcome to try."
She dearly wanted to call his bluff, but he was right that the advantage was on his side- not in numbers, perhaps, but in magic. Certainly in magic, with Christopher on his side. She did the next best thing and dismissed him. "We haven't come to see you, at all. We came to see Christopher." The words carried the satisfaction of being true, and Rosalie underscored them by turning to Christopher and presenting their request.
It was just as well she hadn't made an issue of it because Christopher (Christopher who had never shown an ounce of kinship for any living creature besides That Thing) was unexpectedly, unfathomably loyal to the least likely of people.
"I'll do it," he said. "On two conditions. I want the G - Millie as my chief helper and she's to be paid by being sent to school." The young lady in question, dressed in what must have been Christopher's old clothes, nodded as if this were perfectly reasonable.
"And T - Mordecai Roberts is to be set free and not arrested again afterwards."
She hadn't been looking at Mordecai, but she couldn't help but notice the surprised twitch - not as if he'd been going to object, of course, but as if he knew that he ought to. It was followed by a faintly rueful, almost indulgent smile. He caught her eye over the children's heads, and the fond expression vanished, replaced by the careless mockery he'd shown since his arrest. Rosalie lifted her chin and turned back to Christopher.
She agreed to Christopher's conditions. There was nothing to do but agree and something about Mordecai's mocking smile that so clearly expected a refusal made her determined to prove him wrong. Deserved or not, he'd have his freedom, and oh, she wished him well of it!
She put off asking herself how she was going to convince the magistrates to let a self-confessed double agent walk away without even a slap on the wrist. She would cross that bridge when she came to it, when the Wraith was behind bars, when she had her magic back, when it was over. If Gabriel were here… but Gabriel was not here, thanks in no small part to the man who had just charmed himself into an undeserved pardon.
And when it was over, and the responsibility on other shoulders, she would close herself in her room with a strong cup of tea and cry for both of them.