"I don't want to go to the doctor's!" Honora whined from her place on Henry's back.
"Don't care." Henry said bluntly, getting a firmer grip on her as they walked through the market towards the little shack. "Mam says you need to go, so you're going."
"But I don't want to!"
"But nothing. Now quit talking, I've got a banging 'eadache."
"Fine." The little girl sulked for a minute, and then perked up. "Will ye buy me a sweetie?"
"If you're good. 'Kay, time to get down now, Hon."
She hopped down and held onto her brother's hand as he knocked on the door and walked in.
"Hallo Henry! What can do for you?"
Dr Smyth was a short, balding man with a long nose and milky eyes.
"Me sister needs 'er check-up. Says her ear hurts."
"Pop her up here then."
Henry picked Honora up and placed on the counter.
Mr Smyth was a Cari, which were a lot more common than a Lamia, and meant that he could sense injuries, and do his best to heal them. Henry had broken his leg falling out of a tree while climbing with Kitty, and she'd healed it in a heartbeat. Still, he wasn't about to tell Dr Smyth that.
"Hmm…she's got a mild inflammation…rub this in it every night for a week or so, she'll be right as rain again in no time. Personally, I reckon it's the witch that lives up on the hill. Always had a shifty look about her, even as a babe."
Henry bit his tongue.
"'Enry?" Honora asked, sucking on her stick of sugar.
"What?" Henry nearly chocked on his sugar.
"I heard you calling for 'er. Is she your girlfriend?"
"No!" Henry gasped, and Honora giggled.
"'Enry's got a girlfriend! 'Enry's got a girlfriend!"
"'Enry's got a girlfriend!"
His little sister let go of his hand and skipped in front of him, waist-length dark hair flying around her, still giggling. "Is she pretty?"
"She's pretty! You're sweet on 'er! 'Enry's got a girlfriend!"
"Have you, Henry?"
"No, Mum." He groaned as his mother came out to meet them. "Hon was listening and got the wrong idea."
"'Enry's got a girlfriend!"
"I have NOT!" He yelled, and Honora laughed, running round to hide behind her mother's skirts. His mother smiled deviously.
"Sounds like someone's got a sweetheart."
"I hate you both."
Henry grumbled as they cackled like a pair of witches, stomping off to go up to the woods again.
"Where you going?"
"Why? Going to meet your sweetheart?"
"Oh shut up!"
The sun was low in the sky, and Henry knew he had less than an hour to be back home, but he still wanted to go to their field. Their field wasn't really a field, but a small area of grass with a pond in the middle of it. There was a willow tree with lots of excellent sitting branches overlooking it, and Henry leaned against the trunk of the tree as he perched on one of the lower branches, chucking stones at the frozen water.
"'Ello!" Kitty popped up from around the trunk of the tree, and Henry jumped.
"Hallo. How's ye leg?"
"Sore." She wiggled around to sit in front of him, and leaned back against him, her snow-splattered hair tickling his neck. "Ain't it cold?"
"Just a bit." He shivered, and then felt a pang of pity; at least he had a proper bed.
"I'm thinking of going down to the village. Properly, without a disguise."
"What? Why?" Henry looked at her in surprise.
"I want to see if I can find someone who'll sell me things. I can't keep nicking off of you."
"But, Kits, what if they…?"
"I'll run sharpish, then, won't I?"
"You'll run like the wind, Kits. Run like the wind."
"Like the wind? I can run with the wind." She hopped out of the tree and landed on all fours like a cat, hissing in pain when the pressure went on her injured leg, and then drew a curve in the air in front of her. "Ventus."
A current of wind whistled through the trees around her, picking up snow from the ground and making Henry shiver. Kitty swept her hand under her like a conductor directing her orchestra, and she was lifted up in the air slightly, laying back so that she was cushioned by the flow of cold air. "Cool, eh?"
Henry climbed back down the tree. "Not really."
"Not cool enough for you? Here," She pointed at him, and he rose up into the air, limbs flailing, screeching in surprise.
"Put me down!"
She dropped her hand to her side and he fell to the floor with a 'thump', groaning.
"That cool enough for you?"
"Yes, that was pretty cool. I just prefer to keep me feet on the ground, you see?"
"Got it, boss. You coming to the castle with me tomorrow?"
"Kits, it's probably not the best idea-"
"Come on, it'll be fun! Just tell your mam that you're going on a trip to see if you can find some springs, or something. She probably be glad to get you out from under her feet."
"Probably. Fine. I'll come. Not at night, though."
"Oh…please?" Kitty pouted.
"It'll be dark, Kits!"
"No it won't!"
Kitty held her palm out and a warm ball of light blossomed from her fingertips, resting on her hand gently. She looked at Henry for a minute, wide eyed, brushing her hair out of her face, and Henry caved.
Kitty clapped her hands in excitement and beckoned him to follow her back to her little camp. As they walked through the woods, Henry climbed along logs and leapt off the end, jumped over streams and swung off lower branches like a monkey.
"You look like a right idiot, 'Enry."
"Says Sir Limp a Lot."
"Oh shut up."
When they reached the clearing, Kitty gave a shriek and dropped her crutch, running full pelt towards her tent. "Kits, what's…?"
The material had been slashed in too many places to count, pieces of it missing or blowing in the wind, and inside everything had been rummaged through and broken.
"Damn villagers!" Kitty swore loudly, frantically trying to save the tent canvas with magic, but some of the pieces were missing. "I bet it was that old man from this morning."
Henry knelt beside her and started to collect up the rest of the things on the floor.
"Abluo." The contents of the now-deceased tent flew up and sat back in place, but the tent remained flapping in the wind, utterly unsalvageable.
"What am I going to do, 'Enry?"
She gazed desperately at him, trying not to cry, amidst the ruins of her only shelter as the snow began fall again, shivering bitterly in her thin jacket.
"I…I don't know. Maybe you could come down to the village?" Even as he said Henry knew it wouldn't be a good idea. They were the ones who'd wrecked her camp.
"No, they wouldn't let me. I'd have to stay with the pigs, or something."
"I don't know about pigs, but there's a stable down there. Maybe you could…?"
The small girl climbed to her feet slowly and Henry slung his arm around her as they walked back off into the trees.
"Henry! Henry! Henry!" Honora was jumping on him excitedly, dark hair knotty and bedraggled. "The statues have gone!"
"What?" Henry grabbed her ankle so that she stopped, and sat up, hair all over the place.
"The statues are gone!"
"Have you told Mum?"
"She said to go back to bed."
"What time is it?"
"The sun is up!"
"Fine." Henry dragged himself out of bed and picked up his sister. "Show me."
They went down to the kitchen, and Honora pointed out of the window.
She was right.
The statues were gone.
"What's all this racket about? It's not even…what?"
"The statues, Mum, they're gone."
"I'll get your father. Get dressed, both of you."
The children ran up the stairs, racing each other, and Honora threw on a raggedy old black dress and three pairs of stockings, before yanking on a jumper and her boots. Henry pulled on the trousers he'd been wearing yesterday, a flannel shirt and his boots, forgetting a jumper in his haste.
"Hon, you got anything too big for you?"
"Me pinafore ain't comfy."
"'Kay, thanks Hon."
He slung it over his shoulder and thundered down the stairs.
"I'm going out, Mum!"
"You shouldn't be, Henry, the statues-"
"I don't care about no statues! I'm going out! I'll get the eggs if you want!"
"Its fine, we've got enough, but Henry-"
Henry swept out, pinafore over his shoulder, and head down to the stables, going to the last row where his father's horse, Thunder, was tied, chomping on hay that was being fed to him by a seemingly invisible hand. At the sound of Henry's footsteps, there was a flash of light, and the hay fell to the ground. When he reached the stall, it looked empty aside from the horse and a saddle, but he knew better.
"Kits? You awake?"
Her tired but grinning face appeared from nowhere, and he helped her to her feet.
"Just about, 'Enry."
"I got this off Honora. It looks like it will fit."
He turned his back so that she could change, and then spun back around when she tapped him on the shoulder, smiling.
"Woah, Kits, you look…kinda nice."
She twirled around, new dress flying around her, and then pointed at her jacket.
"Abluo. Furvus." The brown coat cleaned itself and went jet black, with shiny black buttons, matching her boots.
"Practically one of 'em princesses, now, eh, 'Enry?"
Henry privately agreed with her.
"Now, if I…" She tapped the top of her head, and hair straightened itself slightly, though it was still messy, and her face cleared of dirt. "I can go to the market."
"I'll come, just in case."
"Come on then, boss." Kitty hooked her arm through his and dragged him off towards the market, waving at Thunder cheerily. Henry felt her tense as they entered the market at first, but when no one attacked her, she relaxed slightly.
"Loaf of bread please, Dennis."
Kitty grabbed Henry's wrist when the intimidating-looking man looked at her, but he just smiled at her. "What can I get for you, lass?"
"A…A loaf of bread too…please?"
The man wrapped the loaves up in brown paper, and handed them to her.
"Here," Henry paid for both of them with the coins he'd grabbed from the pot on the mantelpiece at home and they left the shop. The stalls were crowded and the sound of voices battered their ears as they went down to the nest stall. A bowl fell off a table nearby, and Kitty leapt nearly a foot in the air, her coat beginning to smoke.
"Calm down, Kits. No one's going to hurt you." Henry whispered, but she didn't answer, brow furrowed, clutching his hand tightly.
Mrs Graves from two houses down bumped into Henry, muttering an apology as she did so, and Kitty shied away from the woman like she was going to hit her.
"Who's this, then? Aren't you the girl from up on the hill?"
"Yes, ma'am." Kitty mumbled nervously, and the woman shuddered, backing off and giving her a wide berth. "Aren't you the witch?"
Kitty's breathing sped up rapidly and Henry squeezed her hand.
"Maybe we should go-"
"I asked if you are the witch?"
Henry tried to intervene.
The woman, who had a rather impressive bosom and a long mane of flaming red hair, grabbed Kitty by the shoulders. "Are you?"
Kitty squeaked, and Mrs Graves let out a ferocious yell as she flew backwards and landed on the slushy ground. Everyone around was watching now, as Kitty ran forward.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to, ma'am, honest-"
"WITCH!" The woman screeched, and Kitty took a few cautious steps backwards.
"Go home, Henry. Go on, quick!"
"Yes, go home boy. This is between us and the witch!" The old hag spat and Henry hesitated, torn between listening to his friend and protecting her.
All of the market stall owners converged in a circle on Kitty, who raised her arms in front of her as if she could ward them off.
"Please…" She pleaded. "I don't want to hurt you, but please, back off…"
They didn't listen, grabbing the nearest sharp things they could find and backing her into a corner.
"I'm not dangerous, I won't-"
She let out a scream of fear as one of them threw a knife at her, and it froze in mid-air, falling harmlessly to the ground.
"Kitty!" Henry yelled, and went to help her, but someone grabbed him by the ear.
"Kitty, eh? You know this girl?"
It was his father.
"Dad, she won't hurt them, they're going to hurt her, you have to-"
The mob shouted angrily as Kitty darted past them and seemingly vanished into thin air, and Henry's father shook him.
"Where's she living? Where would she go?"
"Up in the woods!" Mr Florian shouted triumphantly. "I destroyed her home yesterday!"
"Let's go!" Someone yelled, and the mob began to move up towards the hill.
"Dad," Henry said desperately. "Dad, you don't understand-"
"I understand enough." The huge man looked uncharacteristically stern as he dragged his son back to their house. "Helen!"
"What is it now?"
James Alden pushed his guilty-looking son forward.
"He's been associating with the witch!"
"Henry!" His mother looked furious.
"Kitty, he called her. She bewitched you, or something?"
"No she wouldn't, she's not evil, she's just different!"
"Just different." Mrs Alden snorted. "Just different. She's a witch, boy, and you're not going do yourself any favours consorting with someone like her."
"She's just a little girl, like Honora! She hasn't got no parents!"
"Serves her right. Witch!"
"Get out. Go on, get out. Go play or something. Climb a tree. Go for a run. Just get out of my house."
"Fine." Henry grumbled, shaking his father's hand off his shoulder and storming out.
The air was bitterly cold and biting, burrowing into Henry's bones and chilling him from the inside. Goosebumps arose on his arms as he stomped up towards the forest.
"Stupid Mum. Stupid Kitty. Stupid Mrs Graves. Stupid..." He froze as he reached their field and caught sight of the villagers, making their way back down to the village, laughing and joking. A single plume of smoke rose from the middle of the trees, and Henry ran.
That was what cast such eerie shadows, melting the snow around it.
Henry gave the flaming tent a wide berth, and walked further into the wood, hoping that his friend would show herself when she saw him. There was a single tree on sire, leaves gone and trunk blackened, and then Henry saw the jacket pinned to it.
He forgot how to breathe.
It was just a jacket, he told himself, just a jacket, not Kitty. Just a jacket. A jacket that was burning, burning because it belonged to a witch.
A gasping sob sounded near him, and he crept forwards.
"Where are you?"
There was no answer, and he waited a few minutes, but she never replied.