Anders was late out of bed the morning after his mother's funeral, which wasn't that much of a surprise, given that it had been the wee small hours until he'd finally been so tired he'd fallen asleep in the chair next to the fire. At some point he'd woken and removed himself to his room, where he had slept fitfully.
It hadn't even been the funeral itself that had sent him into thoughtful melancholy; it had been the shock he'd felt at the number of people who had turned up to support him. Minerva McGonagall, of course, Bill and Fleur...even Paul Graves. He'd shed a few tears when the simple, plain casket containing his mother's body had been lowered into the damp earth - but he had shed a lot more later when he realised just how many people were prepared to ignore the Daily Prophet and be there to support him through this.
When he emerged into the kitchen, his hair was a mess, he was unshaven, but he seemed happy enough as he greeted Wilf.
"Morning, son." Wilf was sitting in his usual seat by the fire, patiently combing the Old English Sheepdog.
Anders glanced up at the clock. "Only just. Another fifteen minutes and it'd have been afternoon." He stuck his head in the fridge and emerged with a carton of orange juice. He placed some bread in the toaster and sliced himself up some cheese. "Can I get you anything?"
Wilf had not been with him last night when he had finally let go of his grief. It had been too personal; something he needed to do alone.
"You could pour me a glass of the apple juice if you're by the fridge." The old wizard was patiently combing burrs out of the dog's fur.
Anders did so and ferried the drink across to his mentor. "One glass of apple juice," he said, plunking himself down in the chair opposite with his toasted cheese sandwich and orange juice, which he ate with a healthy appetite - definitely a good sign. "I hope I didn't wake you up when I came up to bed last night, I dozed off in the chair. Brain was working a lot, you know."
"Thank you kindly," Wilf paused to sip at the juice. "No, you didn't bother me in the slightest."
"Good." Anders fell silent again and ate his food. "I was thinking...I might send an owl to Sylvie. She did say she'd come to Mam's funeral. I was bit worried that she didn't turn up, the message she sent was a bit cryptic. Said she wasn't too well again. I feel sort of responsible, y'know?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me," Wilf nodded. "I was concerned she didn't make it, knowing how stubborn she is about things."
"Bill asked me to pop along to the offices, too, he says he can probably give me some translation work to keep me going." He was definitely bright and breezy. "I'll maybe swing by her apartment on the way."
"Good good. Sit still now, Ian." This last was directed at the dog, who was starting to get fidgety with the grooming process. "I ordered in a book from a shop in Diagon Alley, would you be good enough to collect it for me if I give you the slip?"
"Absolutely no problem." Anders finished his food and went to wash up his plate and glass. "I'll just go shower and shave and then I'll go straight on over." He paused as he passed by Wilf's chair.
"Thank you for yesterday," he said, simply.
"That's alright, son. Tried to make it pretty for her."
"Oh, it was definitely that." He smiled warmly and vanished off to tidy himself up, emerging from his bedroom looking very much like the Anders Grimalkin of old, a confident, composed young man with a bright future ahead of him: nothing like the broken wreck he had been mere weeks ago.
"I'll be back when I'm back, then," he called as he headed for the fireplace in the lounge. A handful of Floo powder later, he emerged, sneezing slightly, in the fireplace of Bill Weasley's office.
"Morning, Anders," Bill glanced up.
In reply, Anders sneezed again.
When he'd managed to stop sneezing, he grinned broadly. "Sorry for arriving unannounced, but you did say to use Wilf's Floo link at any time. I thought I'd drop by and pick up those pieces of translation work you said you had."
He absently wiped soot of his cheek. "Plus I've got a couple of errands to run in town...you know how it is. Busy, busy."
"No problem, I'd have had the fireplace on divert to my secretary's if I'd been in a meeting." Bill sorted out two large mugs and tapped them with his wand. "Coffee. Grab a seat."
The young Curse Breaker flopped into the seat opposite Bill and grinned.
"Feels sort of weird being here," he confided. "I haven't been here...y'know. Since."
"How are you doing?"
He sipped at his coffee whilst he considered his answer to the question.
"Curiously optimistic," he said, eventually. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life sort of optimistic." He smiled. "Have you heard anything from Sylvie? She was meant to come to the funeral, but sent an owl saying she was poorly."
"No, I haven't. Cedric came back from Europe a few days early, I don't know if there's any correlation."
Anders' smile slid off his face, but was back again within seconds. "Oh. Oh, well, they probably had some, uh, catching up to do. Anyway, this translation stuff..."
"Yes. I can get you a temporary secondment onto the translation team; one of the usual witches who takes on that caseload is off on maternity leave and they're a little short handed at the moment."
"Sold," said Anders cheerfully. "My brain is starting to seize up." He accepted an armful of scrolls from Bill, as well as a useful bag that held them all easily, folded up to the size of a postage stamp and fit perfectly in his front jeans pocket.
"I'll be back when I've completed this little lot," he said. "I need to nip into Diagon Alley for Wilf, then I have one more errand to run." His face went serious for a moment. "Thank you for your support yesterday. It was good of you and Fleur to come."
"It was good of you to allow us," Bill returned easily. "You take care of yourself now."
"Will do." Anders stood up and shook Bill's hand warmly. It was a pleasure to see the young man so improved.
His stroll through Diagon Alley attracted a number of glances, but that was nothing he wasn't used to. He kept himself straight-backed and his head held up high. He picked up Wilf's parcel, ignored the definite glares of one or two people in the shop and went on his way.
His wandering feet took him to Sylvie's front door.
This was a crazy thing to do.
But hey! He was crazy, so it was all good.
He raised a hand and, gripping the door knocker in his hand, rapped loudly.
After a long delay, Cedric opened the door.
There were a lot of things Anders could have done at that point, but he did the one thing that he had never, ever believed he would be capable of.
"Cedric! Hi, how are you? I was just wondering if Sylvie was OK...? She didn't come to my mother's funeral, I was just...worried."
He started out well, but by the end of the sentence was flagging and anxious.
"She had a bit of a relapse. Bad cough, which has dropped to a chest infection. We thought it wisest if she didn't go out in the cold again."
Cedric took a moment to reply, clearly weighing up how crazy he thought Anders looked today. "You're not supposed to see her, you're aware of that, yes?"
"I was aware of it, yes, I was just passing, though, and after all, she's my friend and I care a great deal for her would you just pass these flowers on from me and let her know that the funeral went OK and that I hope she gets better soon."
The words tumbled out, but his mild expression didn't alter at all.
Cedric gave him a long, steady, appraising look, and proved his inherent gentlemanly upbringing by saying; "Would you like to come in for a moment? I'll see if she wants to see you."
He didn't say 'since you don't look mad today' nor 'just this once' but both were inherent in the appraisal.
"Oh!" Anders was genuinely surprised, but then regained his composure. "Yes, yes, I'd love that. Thanks."
Cedric politely held the door open for him, and vanished into the apartment towards the living room.
Feeling decidedly self-conscious, Anders slunk indoors, clutching the bunch of carnations littered with freesias that he'd picked up.
There was the soft mumble of voices and then Sylvie stepped out into the hallway; wrapped up warmly in a jumper that looked big enough to be Cedric's over tracksuit trousers. Her hair had a slightly mussed look, and she smiled politely.
"Hello, Anders. This is a surprise."
His face lit up. "Hey," he said, softly. "It's good to see you." He handed the flowers out towards her. "I got these for you," he said, a little shyly. "I remember you telling me you liked freesias."
"Thank you." He could hear the congestion in her voice, and she took the flowers with the same calm little smile. "I'm very sorry about yesterday. I hope everything went as well as it could under the circumstances."
His face fell a little. "It wasn't easy. It's over now, though, and we can move forward, you and me." He lowered his voice. "Did you get a chance to speak to him yet? You know...about you and me?"
Her brow creased and she looked up from smelling the flowers. "About what, exactly?"
"You're right, you're right." He put his finger to his lips. "Ssh. When the time's right, not when he's standing next door." He reached his hand over and caught one of her curls, which he wrapped round his finger. "It's good to see you again."
"Anders, please don't." A slight look of confusion in her brown eyes, she brought up a hand to move his away from her. "I know the last few days have been absolutely awful for you, but we really can't revisit this territory again. I'd rather not have that kind of conversation right now."
At the touch of her hand on his, a touch that pushed him away from her, he felt a corner of his heart start to crumble. "I don't understand," he said, softly. "When you left, the other morning, you said you'd speak to Cedric when he came home. I'm not pushing or anything, Syl, but surely sooner is better than later...?"
Something was very wrong here and he felt creeping anxiety.
A definite frown this time. "I'm sorry, Anders. I'm not sure what you're talking about."
He tried a smile. "You know. The other morning. When you left Wilf's." The anxiety was more than just creeping now, it was rampant. An alarm bell sounded at the back of his head somewhere. "You really don't remember, do you?"
"I haven't been to Wilf's," Sylvie said slowly. She seemed about to say more when her breath caught in her throat and a sudden violent coughing fit overtook her.
Anders, getting increasingly panicked, moved towards her in concern, but she waved him away. When the coughing fit had passed, he spoke, his words slow and careful. "You have been to Wilf's. You left your scarf there, here, I brought it back." He took it out of his pocket and held it out to her.
"'vie, sweetheart, are you alright?" Cedric came out of the kitchen, a cup in his hand, clear worry in his expression.
"I'm sorry Anders, you must be confused. That's not mine." Sylvie reached out a hand to rest it lightly on the nearby hall table to support herself, and Cedric moved up to put his arm gently around her waist.
Anders stared at the young couple, who were very clearly, very pointedly and very, very much obviously in love. Another part of his heart crumbled inwards. He'd been nothing more than a distraction whilst Cedric had been away.
"Y...you're right," he stammered, putting the scarf back in his pocket. "My mis..my mistake. I'll see myself out, shall I?"
"Thank you for the flowers, Anders." Sylvie managed another smile, leaning against Cedric for a moment and then looking up at him. "I'm going to go back to the couch I think. Would you be good enough to see Anders out?"
She padded back down the hallway.
"Thank you for coming," Cedric said politely. "I know that she used to think a lot of you and it's good that you're not holding anything against her for what happened. I'm very sorry to hear your mother passed away."
She used to think a lot of you.
"Thank you for the sympthy," said Anders, between clenched teeth. He was barely holding it together. He had to get out of here, had to get away. He had gone pale and could feel a tremble starting somewhere deep inside. He'd be d*mned if he'd collapse in a sobbing heap in front of Captain Cleft-Chin, though.
"I'll see you out. It would be better if you called ahead next time." A smile that went a little way towards friendly. "As soon as your final checks come through clear, I'll instruct my solicitors to lift the restraining order. I hope you understand."
Anders could barely manage a nod. He felt as though he were in some sort of horrible, horrible nightmare. Mere days ago, he had slept with the most beautiful girl he'd ever known in his arms. Now she was denying ever having come near him in that sense.
Suddenly, more than anything in the world, Anders wanted his mother.
This forced him to pause whilst walking out of the apartment and catch his breath several times to retain his composure.
Cedric saw him to the door, wished him well, and shut the door behind him.
He walked back towards Diagon Alley in an absolute daze. Everything felt so unreal. As he made his way to the Leaky Cauldron to Floo back to Wilf's, he felt a wave of nausea rise up in him and had to pause to be violently sick.
When he got back to Wilf's, he almost walked straight into the old wizard, who was carrying a stack of scrolls from his extensively well stocked library down to his office.
"Sorry," mumbled Anders. "Your parcel." He handed the parcel to the old man. "Need to go and change, don't feel so well..."
"Thank you, son," Wilf took the book and tucked it under his arm. "Are you alright?"
"Fine, fine," lied Anders, unconvincingly. "I'll just - you know. My room." He walked up the stairs and carefully, oh-so-carefully, shut the door of his bedroom.
He stood there for several moments, then picked up his holdall and started cramming it with his clothes wildly.
After five minutes there was a gentle tap at his door.
There was no reply.
When the door pushed open, Anders was wrapped around his holdall, clutching it to his chest and rocking backwards and forwards slightly, his eyes wide, his expression one of absolute horror. His drawers were open and his clothing strewn all over.
"Anders." Wilf walked in cautiously.
He seemed too caught up in whatever it was that had tipped him back over the precarious edge of his sanity to reply and he merely held the bag even more tightly to his chest.
Quietly, Wilf sat down on the edge of the bed next to him, his knees clicking as he did so, and sat and waited for a little while.
"She loves me," Anders said, eventually. "She said so. You saw her, Wilf. She was here. She was with me. She loves me. She loves me. She loves ME!" The last was shouted loudly and he dropped the holdall. His eyes were filled with unshed tears. "She blanked me. Totally. Completely."
"Yes," Wilf frowned. "She was here with you. For two nights."
"Yes!" Anders pointed at Wilf. "You SAW HER! But she denies it. She's ashamed of me, or something...once Cedric came home, she must have realised how much she loves him..."
That did it. That broke him and he burst into loud sobs.
"Come here," Wilf said kindly, and put his arm around the young man.
"I don't understand," he said, when the tears had run their course. Wilf could feel him trembling. "She said she loved me. Is this some sort of revenge thing?"
"I don't know." Wilf said honestly. "She didn't seem like the type to me."
Anders clung to Wilf. The old man had become his family now, and it showed in this needed moment of comfort. "She all but looked through me, Wilf."
"Tell me all about it, son." Wilf patted Anders' back lightly. "Tell me everything."
In a tearful voice, the young man managed to relay the events of the morning. By the time he'd reached the part where Cedric had said the words 'used to care for you', the tears had begun again.
"Hush now," Wilf soothed him very softly. "Hush. I think one of two things. Either she was too afraid to say anything with Cedric in the house, or something has changed - or been changed. There is no reason the Sylvie Redfearn I have met would deny these things unless there was a very good reason. Don't you think?"
"I don't think it was because Cedric was there," he said, wiping at his tears and slowly beginning to calm down. "It was odd, Wilf. She claimed she'd never been here before - even when Cedric wasn't in the room."
"Come now, this isn't the Curse Breaker I trained. Where's that analytical eye, Anders? Where's that lovely paranoia that raises the hackles within twenty feet of something being up?" Wilf gently wiped Anders' face with the sleeve of his robe, his voice fond and soft but none the less commanding. "Talk it back, break it down, work it through. Root cause analysis, my boy."
"She knew who I was," he said. "So if it's a memory wipe, it's only a surface level one, to take out anything recent. But she knew about my mother, too, so it'd be a selective spell; only destroying what someone didn't want her to know." His eyes narrowed. "Cedric didn't seem to register any anger at my presence, so it's possible he doesn't know about us being together, so I don't think that's necessarily what it is, unless he's a very good actor..."
He pondered for a while.
"Too many variables. Work it from the other angle. Is this something that is likely to be self-inflicted?"
"No. Sylvie meant what she said. I KNOW she meant what she said. I just knew." He was absolutely adamant. "I can't believe for one second that she chose to do this. Which leaves Cedric as the main suspect."
"Or a secondary subject who has done something to both of them." Wilf pointed out calmly.
"Don't steal my moment of suspecting Cedric." Anders managed a wan smile. "But why would anybody do that?"
He tried to recall the meeting to mind; had there been anything unusual? Apart from Sylvie's rejection of him, of course.
"Someone who wants them to be together, or someone who doesn't want her to be with you."
The neck of the oversize jumper had been loose around her neck, and there had been the faint silver gleam of something around her throat. Sylvie didn't habitually wear necklaces, especially when she wasn't feeling well. She complained that they got tangled around her throat when she slept.
Anders had got a faint prickle when he'd moved his hand close to it, when he'd wound his finger in her hair. "The necklace," he murmured. "I wonder..."