When Aberforth left to feed his goats, Rowan warily kept her wand on her lap. She didn't trust being left alone with the other rough-looking patrons now that Aberforth was gone. All in all, she was not very impressed with the services being provided by the said drinking establishment. She most certainly would have left a bad review on the web if she could have.
Having cast a cleaning charm on the mug, Rowan tentatively sipped at the steaming cider. To her surprise, the cider tasted rather good! Taking another sip, she enjoyed the rich taste as her impression of Aberforth went up just the tiniest bit. But only just a tiny bit.
The pub door opening causes her to glance up at seeing a soaking figure enter. Removing his hood, the tall, round man with glasses and brown hair made his way forward. Pulling his cloak open pinned on his chest a blue rose could clearly be seen. The polyjuiced stranger made his way towards Rowan, before pointing at the seat before her.
Rowan gestured for him to have a seat as she whispered, Muffalito. It simply wouldn't do for any of the patrons to overheard any of their conversations. "How have you been?"
The polyjuiced form of Alphard Black in a smooth, deeper voice says, "As well as I can be considering my condition." Reaching for his side, he subtly slides a brown envelope underneath the table to her. Rowan quickly grasps the envelope and slides it underneath her cloak for the time being settling between her elbow and chest.
"Rowan, I have to ask," Alphard paused. "Just what is so special about these five wizards?"
"Why?" Rowan said though narrowed eyes.
"A good friend of mine is dead because of that report," Alphard gravely rumbled.
Rowan's eyes widen as she says, "I'm sorry, Alphard. But even I don't know the answer to that question. All that I know is that there is something very wrong with one of them, but I don't know which one of them."
"I thought as much," Alphard tiredly murmured as he leaned back to rest against the chair. "But I fear for you, child, more so now than ever before."
Pausing Alphard closed his eyes to say, "The friend of mine had this delivered to me before her death. She found something else, but she didn't write it down nor tell me as she never had a chance too. That evening she was going to tell me something, but I don't know what. All I know is that only was she killed, but right in the ministry too. It was an accident they said, but how does a magical creature pass through security without being caught? It was no accident; we both know that."
"She must have been a very good friend."
There is a long bout of silence until Rowan says, "There's something else isn't there?"
"Will you tell me?"
"I can't, not yet."
Rowan accepts the answer and doesn't push Alphard for answers. Rising to her feet, she says, "I best be gong now. I've already tarried long enough."
"See you soon," Alphard said as he opened his eyes to see Rowan nod at him once more, before leaving. He watched her vanish into the dripping rain as he began to loudly cough. Reaching for his handkerchief he was overcome with tremors as he could hear clearly hear the words of the St. Mungo's healer's voice in his ears.
"I'm afraid, Mr. Black, that your illness has rather abruptly worsened as you seem to be under a great deal of stress."
"How much time do I have left?"
"...At best two years."
"And at worst?"
"A year, no more."
Wiping the blood off his mouth, Alphard tries to rise to his feet only to suddenly feel the earth move sideways beneath his feet. Suddenly, weak and feeling his body dead limp, he felt his body falter backward as everything went abruptly cold and dark.
With a start, Alphard awoke to the crackling of the fire to find himself tucked into an armchair. Warily glancing around the room, he found an old bookshelf, some old furniture, a dusty old carpet, and a painting of a girl on the mantelpiece. There were no other photographs nor family portraits except that of a girl with chest-length golden hair neatly pulled back with bright blue eyes holding a book in her arms.
"Polyjuice is worthless if it wears off, Black," a masculine voice guffawed from the doorway.
Alphard turns to stare at his unlikely savior the bartender of the Hogs Head and the unlikely owner as well. "Thank you," Alphard rasped as Aberforth pointed at him sip the steaming mug of tea on the small stand next to him. Nodding his thanks, Alphard tentatively takes a sip and sighs at feeling the honey in the tea smooth his sore throat.
"So, dying, are you?" Aberforth curtly stated. "You look like death warmed over."
"Yes," Alphard for once did not try to deny it.
Aberforth grunted, "How much time do you have?"
"A year, no more than two."
"Mm, a dam shame."
The room is silent as the fire crackles as Alphard sets down his mug and says, "I know that Albus Dumbledore has asked you to join the Order of the Phoenix."
Aberforth's face stiffens as his blue eyes dangerously glitter. "Then you would know that I told him he could make use of the place, but I'd no more join his game lest I become another chess piece on his board."
"You will," Alphard sounded rather resolute.
"I'd say, not," Aberforth snapped. "I'd rather get married!"
Alphard chuckled and shook his head. "I've been told that you will join. And I trust that person's judgment as they've never been wrong before."
"Know a seer, do you?"
"A farseer, actually."
Aberforth stiffens as he recalls the girl from this morning with those eyes. Clearing his throat, he says, "That might be true if things do get worse, I've heard some unsavory rumors as of late. And I can't very run a successful business if the clientele is off getting themselves killed, now can I?"
"No, one certainly can't," Alphard said unable to hide the amus.e.m.e.nt in his eyes. With trembling hands, Alphard suddenly reaches into his pocket and pulls out a round orb.
Aberforth instantly backs away having recognized the orb for what it truly was. "Did you steal it?" Aberforth barked.
"In a manner of speaking," Alphard said, before being overwhelmed by another hacking fit. The fit lasted for some time before he could finally breathe again, and wiped the blood from his mouth with an already stained handkerchief. "My apologies for the unseemly sight." Clutching the orb in hand, he says, "I'd like for you to hold onto this for me, Aberforth."
"Ministry's not going to come down breaking my doors?"
"No, Ministry won't even realize it's ever gone in the first place. I made sure of that."
"The record keeper, are you?"
"Aye, I am."
"Information like that could earn me a pretty knut and certainly get you killed."
"No doubt, but you're far too honorable to commit such a crime."
Aberforth snorts and folds his arms over his chest. "Say, I do take the blasted thing. What am I to do with it?"
"When I die-," Alphard paused. "-I need you to hand this over to someone."
"Who? Not Albus is it?!"
"Goodness, no! The recipient of the prophecy."
"Prophecies, bah!" Aberforth spat as if something vile. "Utter rot is what it is."
"This one is not," Alphard stubbornly insisted as he refused to lower his gaze.
Aberforth was the first to look away, before finally saying, "Fine then, Black. Who's it for?"
"A child by the name of Rowan Prince."
"A Prince, eh? They're fine duelers, they are."
Alphard gulped down his tea in reply, before transfiguring the cup into a small box which to hold the orb. Aberforth grunts unhappily, "That was my good unchipped cup."
"Allow me to compensate you then," Alphard said as he reached into his robes, before putting a galleon down on top of the small box.
Aberforth rolls his eyes and says, "Lord save me from idealistic Gryffindor's."
"Slytherin actually," Alphard answered with a cheeky grin.
Aberforth snorted and said, "Ye can use the chimney to floo away. There's some floo powder on the mantelpiece there."
"Thank you," Alphard said, before striding over to the mantelpiece and taking a bit of the sparkling powder in hand, before shouting, "Ministry of Magic!" The tired gaunt man quickly vanished leaving a muttering Aberforth behind.
"Who's the foolish Gryffindor now?" Aberforth barked as he took the box and muttered something under his breath as the box suddenly appeared in a corner of the painting.
The blond, blue-eyed girl in the painting nods at him and says, "It was the right thing to do, Aberforth."
"Was it?" Aberforth rumbled. "It'll only bring us trouble in the end, Ariana. Mark my words, nothing good will come it."
"You're the kindest and bravest person that I know," Ariana sincerely said.
"Not brave enough," Aberforth sadly said as he eyed her portrait.
"It wasn't your fault," Ariana softly said as Aberforth looked away blinking the moisture out of his eyes.
"I best be getting back to the bar," Aberforth cleared his throat. "There's no telling what those vile miscreants might be doing! Last time, I left and came back, I found one drinking straight from the barrel!"
Ariana nodded to him from the portrait, before walking away into the garden as Aberforth quickly headed downstairs. It was always best not to stick one's noses where they were unwanted. And yet once again, he found himself sticking his nose out again. A curse of the Dumbledore's so to speak as they did indeed tend to have rather long noses.