I adjust my cloak and peer over my shoulder to see Charlie entering my office, his expression inquisitive. Smiling softly, I smooth the thick material over my stomach and slip my wand into my pocket. "I have an appointment with my barrister," I explain, answering his silent question.
Ever since the incident with Moody, it seems Charlie has been both a bit more cautious, and protective, of me. I want to regain his full trust, and I have been more than willing to offer details of where I was going and why. His belief in me was really all I had left these days, and I refused to mess that up anymore than I already had with Alastor.
"Your barrister?" Charlie steps farther into my office, the noisy bustle of the department drifting away as he nears me. I reach out to touch him, pulling him toward me and I relax by simply wrapping my arms around his waist. "Is something wrong?"
"No. But I've come to a decision," I admit, lowering the volume of my voice, as if in some secret, dark corner, Babette would somehow be listening. "One that is going to change a lot in my life."
Something flickers in Charlie's eyes and I recognize the concern. Wanting to assure him, I lift up on my toes and kiss his cheek. "I don't want you to worry."
His hands tighten around my hands as he takes them in his. "Aveline--"
"I'm signing Cleansweep back over into Whizzy's name." The words slip past my lips in a flurry and I pause suddenly, chewing my bottom lip as I wait for Charlie's reaction. He stares for a moment before confusion settles.
"Because it belongs to him. Because I should have never taken it from him the way that I did. And because in a matter of months Luc has been completely destroying everything Whizzy's family accomplished since Merlin knows when." I pull away from Charlie, conflicted inside as I walk to my desk to get my files. I feel Charlie's eyes on me as I gather my things and the guilt that has been building inside of me since my divorce eats away at me further.
Babette was going to be furious. I didn't consult her on this, and I wouldn't. She would never allow it. It was going to be hard enough dealing with Luc when he found out. But I had to hold my ground and when Babette confronts me, I already have my explanations in order. The company is losing money by the day, Babette. Consumers and clients have begun investing in the Mercury Fire and the Nimbus Racing Broom Company due to Luc's ruthless and less than ethical business practices. If you continues to hold onto Cleansweep, you will have nothing to show for it but bankruptcy and possible investigation from the Ministry for embezzlement, among other various felonies.
Of course, Babette could very easily counter my excuses. The company was not in her name, it was in mine. Fifty three percent anyway. Whizzy owned the rest, though he has not step foot into the building, or the board room, since I kicked him out of it. Babette didn't care that it would be my reputation on the line if Cleansweep went under, but I did. Selling the company back to Whizzy was the only logical way to keep the fortune she has already gained. And she could move onto her next venture.
Still, the thought of doing this behind Babette's back had my fingers trembling and Charlie must have noticed because he was suddenly next to me, taking my hands in his and lifting them to his lips where he kissed the knuckles softly.
"You're doing this because you feel guilty?" he asks quietly and I blanche, remembering the horror and humiliation of the other night behind that dirty pub, my wand pointed at Moody's chest, ready to snuff the life from him over a lie.
"I nearly killed a man," I remind him and slowly pull my fingers from his grasp. "I've done so many things...Merlin, you can't begin to know. All because I was lied to, Charlie. I'm finding out things that a part of me would rather not know, but I know I need too. Looking at Moody that night, hearing the truth from a man I've despised for years...Gods, everything is different now."
I lift my hands to my forehead and breathe in slowly to control the anxiety attack threatening. So many things in my life were balancing on the edge, threatening to teeter over into oblivion. I could be throwing my entire future away by doing this, but it had to be done if I was ever going to move beyond this, beyond Cleansweep and Babette and the sins I've committed.
Looking up at the man who fathered the child still growing in my stomach, I smile shakily. "I have to make these things right. Everything, including what I did to Whizzy."
Charlie nods, seemingly understanding and kisses my forehead. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"No, I have to do this myself. It's not going to be pleasant telling Luc he's sacked." A small smile touchs my lips. "Not that I'm not looking forward to it."
"I'll be here, if you need me."
"You always are," I point out with another smile before I kiss him and grab my things. The trip to my barrister's office takes a bit longer than usual, as Paddy as since advised against Apparition and the Floo Network. But Barrister Lane is waiting for me, her glasses slipping down her nose as she welcomes me into her plush office.
We go over the papers from Cleansweep and she makes several notes, her tongue sticking out from between her lips as she scribbles on the parchment with a gold quill, occassionally asking me a question about the company. The papers for the transfer were drawn up earlier when I had contacted her about my intentions and they sat in front of me now, the signature line blank and ready to be marred with the ink of my quill.
"Are you sure about this, Aveline?" Barrister Lane asks, her eyes glancing between my face and the quill in my hand. "Once Mr. Worthington signs these papers, it's done. It will be extremely difficult for you to dispute the contracts if you change your mind."
Nodding, I read over the papers once more. One hundred percent of Cleansweep Broom Company will be re-transferred into Whizzy's name. He'll have the remaining factor in his life to deem it nearly perfect. Tonks, a child, his company and family legacy...and all ties with me, the demonic ex-wife, severed and gone.
I feel the softest pang inside of me and I rub my chest before I sign the marked parchment. After I finished, Barrister Lane slips it into an envelope and seals it. Her smile is wide as we shake hands. "These will be owled directly to Mr. Worthington. I'll inform you when he has signed and returned the contract."
Relieved, I say goodbye and leave her office, exhaling slowly once I step outside. My nerves were ebbing quickly and despite what I had thought earlier, my next task would not be as hard as I thought it would be.
I enter Cleansweep twenty minutes later and ignore Lola, who scowls at me as I walk by and enter Luc's office without invitation. He's sitting in Whizzy's chair, leaning back as his dark eyes scour the parchment in his hand. He barely glances up at me before he returns to his so-called work.
"What is it, Aveline?"
I approach the desk and snatch the parchment from his hands. His eyes flash and his jaw clenches with impatience before I set the parchment down. My throat is dry but I push past it and lift my chin. "You're services will no longer be needed here at Cleansweep, Luc. You can get your things and go. I'll be keeping tabs on the company until Randall returns."
"Rand..." Confusion reigns before revelation hits him and he grips the arms of the chair. "Worthington?"
"I've recently signed over the controlling interest of Cleansweep back to Mr. Worthington. He'll be no doubt returning to his former position, which means you're no longer needed." I smile. "Or wanted."
"Does Babette know what you're doing?" Luc asks, slowly rising from the chair. "Did she approve this?"
At the mention of Babette, I wince briefly. "This is my decision. You've already made a mess of this company, Luc. It's going to go bankrupt in a matter of months if it's not turned around and you're making no effort--"
"This isn't about effort," he yells, slamming his palm onto the desk and causing me to jump slightly. "You were to get the company from Worthington, and leave the rest to Babette and myself. This was never about maintaining the company and selling brooms, Aveline."
I purse my lips tightly and inhale through my nose, trying to maintain my temper. "You're a pathetic, immoral, cowardly roach. If you're not gone by the end of the day, I'm going to have security escort you out."
Luc is silent a moment, his dark gaze piercing me to the spot. He rounds the desk slowly, his eyes drifting to my stomach before he smirks. "You haven't even given birth to the bastard yet and motherhood has already ruined you."
My hand stings where it connects with his cheek and the noise of skin slapping skin seems to echo in my ears. He grabs my wrists painfully, shaking me as he pushes me back until my back hits the door. I cry out and hiss when he twists my write in his grasp.
"Listen to me, Aveline," he begins, his voice quiet and dangerous as he lowers his face to mine. "I'm going to discuss your most recent mistake with Babette and she can decide what to do with you. You've veered off in the wrong direction long ago and I knew it. I saw it the moment you married Worthington. I knew you would be a disappointment. I tried to tell Babette but she had so much faith in you as her daughter that she wouldn't listen to reason."
"Get..off...of me," I rasp, pushing in vain to move him away. Memories flood me and suddenly I feel as if I'm in a dark room again, shaking, pushing against a much larger chest, and biting my lip to keep from screaming. I'm finding it difficult to breathe now and Luc chuckles. He loosens his hold on me and releases my hands.
"You know there will be consequences for this. And not just from Babette." When his hand touches my cheek, I fight the urge to turn and sink my teeth into his flesh painfully. "I'm not going to let a prissy, spoiled little rich girl tell me how to run my business. I know my place in the clans, and I think you do too. Maybe you need a reminder."
"Five o'clock," I manage, trying my hardest not to rub my wrists. "Get out or I'll have security throw you out on your pathetic ass." I slip out around him and turn to open the door. I walk briskly out, shooting a look at Lola, who would be the next one gone once Luc was out of the way. I hurry to the lifts and when I slip inside, I turn to see Luc watching me from his doorway. It's only when the doors close upon his image that I slump against the lift and breathe again.