twenty-nine

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SNOW LITTERED THE BACK ALLEY of the Three Broomsticks Inn. Winter was upon them, and time was moving quick. Hagrid had already bought the usual twelve Christmas trees for the Great Hall — a stark reminder that she would be returning home for the holidays again.

She'd snuck out under her cloak which she had charmed with an extremely powerful Disillusionment Charm. It did not make her invisible, but rather the exact same colour and texture of her surroundings; almost like a human chameleon.

She had gotten the idea from Harry's Invisibility Cloak, which admittedly, she should have stolen on the train at the beginning of the year. Though, that might have been more trouble than it was worth if he had decided to press charges.

Invisibility Cloaks are rare and valuable things, and why Potter possessed one is a mystery. It was too short of notice for Celestia to ask Narcissa to find and buy her one, so a Disillusionment Charm on an thin cloak would do. Though, due to the cold, she wore a thicker cloak underneath, which she found rather uncomfortable.

The alleyway behind the Three Broomsticks is quiet, only a muted thrum echoing out from inside the building. To get behind the buildings was quiet a feat, considering the fact that the alley was only a slim pathway full of trash. Opposite the Three Broomsticks and the buildings its joined with are lesser-known shops with no access to this alleyway.

Thus, cue Celestia climbing over a wall wearing a heavy cloak and attempting to not get caught. There was an entryway at the very opposite end of the alley which led out of Hogsmeade, but it would've been too risky for her to take if there are still Auror's patrolling for Voldemort.

Nonetheless, she made it into the alleyway behind the Three Broomsticks where a sparse amount of snow had found itself. Thankfully, it was not thick enough to show evidence of her footprints.

She'd done the hard part; climb over a fence and not gotten caught. She'd done the boring part; the waiting for the inevitable. Now, it was time for the sordid part.

The noise of the Three Broomsticks filled the alleyway as Madam Rosmerta opened the back door. She hauled out a bag of trash, and the door swung closed behind her, once again muffling the chatter of the Three Broomsticks.

She heaved the sodden bag into the large magical dumpster, watching as it remained for a moment, then disappeared to Merlin knew where. She pressed her hands to her apron, cleaning them. Celestia had to make her move, and she had to make it now.

Imperio, she thought, but did not say aloud as she pointed her wand at the Three Broomstick's landlady.

For one short moment, Celestia worried that Rosmerta was not under the curse and she would have to risk saying it out loud. But then Madam Rosmerta straightened, almost as if she was a marionette doll being pulled at by the strings, and did not move.

Celestia slunk out of the shadows, though still hidden under her cloak. Rosmerta showed no signs of awareness as she approached, only standing there, gazing at the wall.

When she stood directly in front of Rosmerta, and the woman still showed no signs that she knew that Celestia was there, she finally pulled her hood back. Still, with her face now on display, Rosmerta did not blink.

Celestia's dark hair was tucked into her clothes, though it bundled up above her collar in a mass of frizzy hair. Pink tinted her cheeks and nose slightly from the cold, contrasting her pale skin. She waited another moment, this time to surveil her surroundings.

No one else entered the alleyway, and no one else appeared to be approaching from inside the Three Broomsticks. She didn't have long before someone noticed Madam Rosmerta's disappearance, so she began giving her orders.

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