Hi, everyone! I'm back, with my first chapter update as a married woman! The summer's been amazingly busy, what with the wedding and honeymoon and settling into our new home. It seems like everyone's been running around, trying to get stuff accomplished (except my cat, the lazy thing), and now school's snuck up on us again! Speaking of sneaking, today's chapter features Marietta Edgecombe-Cho Chang's friend who betrayed the DA to Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix. I fear she's not a very likeable kid in this chapter, but then again, she wasn't a particularly likable girl in canon, either.
Sorry for the long delay, but in addition to my busy summer and the start of the school year, I must confess that I seem to be running out of ideas for chapters. I have a couple that I started which stalled in the writing process and it took forever to come up with a workable chapter idea and see it through to the end. Marietta was inspired in part by one of my new students. He's a sneaky little troublemaker, too.
Special thanks to all the reviewers who offered their thoughts on Charity Burbage's chapter, as well as all those who are still following this story!
Secrets, secrets are no fun…unless they're shared with everyone.
Ten-year-old Marietta Edgecombe leaned back surreptitiously behind the edge of the partially-closed door. The perfect angle, and she'd hear him clear as day…
Secrets, secrets are no fun…
Marietta was an expert in all the secretive arts. She could hold her breath for over a minute so as to avoid detection while playing hide-and-seek; she knew all the best hiding places. But it was while playing a simple game of hide-and-seek that she had discovered the true excitement of hiding and seeking.
The hiding part was half of the game. She'd conceal herself behind dustbins, in closets, under beds—wherever it looked like someone was up to something.
The other part was the actual seeking. Marietta didn't seek her friends and family members. It was their secrets she was after. She could unearth secrets with the practiced air of a prospector sifting for gold.
And, most importantly, she could get away. For what good was getting the goods on someone if you couldn't make off with the information?
"I can't get away with anything around here!" Marietta's sister Natalie fumed at her parents one night, as she faced them like a prisoner before the bar entering her final plea. She had been caught sneaking in one of the sitting room windows late one night after her parents had received notice of her mysterious absence through none other than Marietta. "How'd she even see me coming in? What was she doing, lurking in the shadows? And anyway, why aren't you punishing her? She tried to blackmail me for pocket money, and when I told her I'd spent all mine, she went prancing off to you. The only one who never gets in trouble around here is her! You'd better watch out, because if you reward her every time she tattles on me, what's to stop her from tattling on you?" And with that, she stormed off toward her room in a veritable huff, leaving the rest of the family trying to figure out the source of her ire, other than the obvious annoyance at not being allowed out to see her boyfriend for the next two weeks. Sixteen-year-old Natalie was the only Edgecombe to grasp the injustice of the situation, the danger of letting Marietta cultivate the skills of an extortionist.
Robert Edgecombe was used to hiding. He hid his secret business dealings from his colleagues at the bank, under cover of a 'special client'. Completely unbeknownst to his wife, he went on feathering his nest in complete and utter secrecy. But he never in a million years dreamed he'd have to go into hiding from his own precocious daughter.
…are no fun…
"Number five hundred and twenty-seven, Mummy," Marietta reported smugly. "That's where Daddy hid it all."
"And?" asked Madam Edgecombe breathlessly. Here at last was the moment it all came down to—at last, she would discover the root of her husband's sneaking around, from there, she could decide how best to use the information to her own advantage…
"Money," said Marietta simply. "Great heaps of gold! Like a buried treasure!" She looked rather sulky, put out that her father had neglected to share his secret fortune with her and in doing so, provided her with everything she ever dreamed of. From the time she was a tiny child, Marietta had always hated the idea of being left out.
…unless they're shared with everyone.
"Well done, my dear," whispered Madam Edgecombe in her daughter's ear. "No secrets, you remember that."
She basked in the warmth of her mother's praise in complete self-satisfaction. "Of course, Mummy," she replied.
Robert Edgecombe had no idea it was coming. He left the bank early one lovely Friday, feeling especially pleased with himself after he'd been able to make a huge deposit into his secret account. Soon, he'd have enough to quit his job at the bank for good, abandon his shadier clients and run off to a life of leisure in some remote country. He trusted his plan to no one—not his wife, not his daughters, because its very success depended on his complete and utter skill at disappearing from the face of the earth. It would be better for him to simply vanish one day, and for the ones he left behind to wonder where and why.
Whistling as he rounded the corner, Robert suddenly stopped in his tracks. The door to his house stood wide open, and within he could see the dark shapes of a veritable crowd of unfamiliar witches and wizards walking around. What was going on? His senses, sharpened by his dealings in illegal activities, warned him of an ambush.
Numb with confusion and anticipation, Robert Edgecombe stepped across the threshold and into the hall. Standing side by side in the kitchen doorway, he spied his daughters. Natalie's face was a picture of utter confusion; her brows were knit, eyes slightly narrowed, lips slightly parted. When she caught sight of her father, she stepped forward in search of an answer. "Dad! What's going on? All these people from Magical Law Enforcement just showed up, out of nowhere…what are they doing here? Why are they looking for you?"
Her questions continued, rattling off at a steady pace in an unsteady and anxious voice, but Robert didn't have time to answer her. Magical Law Enforcement? It can't be, he thought to himself, there's no way they could know. I covered my tracks, double- and triple-checked…
Still visible behind Natalie, Marietta hadn't moved from her spot in the kitchen doorway. She was watching her father with a strange expression on her face—not fear, or curiosity, or confusion, as would be expected. No, she looked…calculating. And it unnerved Robert.
His wife was seated on the sofa, in discussion with an official-looking wizard. She seemed rattled, and was toying with a damp tissue in her lap. Both looked up as Robert entered the room soundlessly, walking as slowly as if he were in a dream.
"Robert! Thank goodness! Officer Crowley from Magical Law Enforcement has his team searching the house for Merlin-knows-what; I told him that there must be some mistake, how could we be hiding thousands of Galleons of laundered money here, but he wouldn't listen! Won't you please straighten this out?
As he nodded blankly and lowered himself into a nearby chair, Robert noticed that, though her tissue was damp, his wife's eyes showed no sign that she'd been crying, and her preoccupation seemed—in his agitated state—to be just a shade or two too frantic to be genuine.
"Mr. Edgecombe? I'm Tom Crowley from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I'm here to ask you a few questions about some funny doings down at the bank…seems a great deal of money's gone missing over the past few years, and our sources lead us to believe you may be involved. If you'd kindly come with us…"
"I'm not going anywhere!" Robert Edgecombe protested virulently. In the background, he could see Natalie's eyes welling up with tears as she faced the prospect that her beloved Daddy was a swindler and a crook. "You've got the wrong man!"
"Really, sir? Then how would you explain the regular deposits, through various channels, made to a secret account numbered five-two-seven? We've looked into the account holder, a Mr. Wallace Snidely, only to find that Mr. Snidely does not, in fact, exist, and that you yourself authorized all deposits into said account. We've also found that a very large withdrawal was made from the aforementioned account only yesterday, totaling a cool one million Galleons in assets. Would you happen to know anything about that, sir?"
though he'd been feigning shock and indignation throughout this little speech, Robert's face flushed with genuine astonishment at this last announcement. Withdrawal? He hadn't withdrawn any money…some thief had clearly gotten into his vault and stolen from him!
"What the—withdrawal—when I—" he sputtered, completely forgetting that he was supposed to be playing the part of an innocent man.
"Robert, how could you? I feel as if I don't know you anymore!" his wife wailed, burying her face in the tissue, most likely so the officers couldn't see her suspiciously dry eyes. Two officers flanked Robert Edgecombe's chair, took him firmly by the arms and led him out of his house.
"Daddy, please…tell them you didn't do it!" Natalie begged as he passed her in the hallway. "Tell them you're not a crook!" Robert could only look at her blankly, as the carefully-crafted life he'd made for himself, not to mention all his well-nourished secret plans, fell down around him.
Only Marietta remained impassive. "No more secrets, Daddy," she said in a level voice, with an odd little smirk.
And as the officers led him away in disgrace, it was then that Robert Edgecombe realized who it had been who'd discovered his secret and led him to this low place.
"That's right, darling," Mrs. Edgecombe whispered in her little daughter's ear as the law enforcement personnel cleared out of the Edgecombe house, taking her husband away with them. "We'll have no more secrets. Never again. You did very well, and Mummy'll have something very nice for you once it's safe to go for the money."
Smiling inwardly, Marietta wondered what sort of reward she'd demand for her part in this intrigue. Sharing secrets is fun, she thought to herself, but only for the right price…
Well, it seems like both Marietta and her mother netted some unexpected rewards out of their duplicity, and will go on believing that intrigue is an admirable thing...setting the stage for future events. But enough about them-what did you think? I can only hope that my readers are still out there and haven't abandoned me, and that you're willing to share your ideas. And please, if you have any chapter requests, send them my way, because the pace of this story-now up to fifty chapters, if I'm not mistaken-seems to be slowing now that I've covered so much ground.
Hope everyone's well and those in school are having a productive new year.