“Welcome, we’ve been expecting you,” my butler, bored and composed to near unconsciousness, greeted me with half-closed lids.
“Poppycock,” I snapped, and hefted my suitcase into his gnarled hands. With surprising deftness, they received it. He did, however, stumble a few steps backward into the arched portico of my family’s estate.
“The only time you’ve ever expected me was when I passed between Mummy’s thighs.” I brushed past him toward the grand staircase.
“On the contrary,” he said, “I expected they’d send Little Miss to boarding school, especially after the stunt she pulled with Chef. Not a morning passes, but your father doesn’t miss Chef’s sausage cheddar quiche.”
“Yes, well, she deserved it. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll ask you to unpack my things. I’m dying to play with the kittens. Mummy said they hang about the garage?”
“Yes. She has me feed them every day. They’re her favorite toys of late.”
Swatting his question away, I bounced up the wooden stairs. Mummy enchanted them exactly how I demanded. The extra-springy landing popped me all the way to the top step.
“Octavian!” I called down, “fetch me Daddy’s dissection kit. I want to practice. Haruspication was my favorite class, you know.”
“I’m not surprised. Will Little Miss be needing a chicken then?”
“No, I’ll make do.” I doubt he missed the flint in my glance. The threat. Irritation flitted across his angular, bone-colored face. The deep creases bracketing his mouth twitched.
I didn’t care, what could he do to me? I was practically a credentialed witch. One semester to go.
From behind, I heard the distinct flick, felt the air rush. The smack, the sting against my backside.
Our shape-shifting butler retracted his tentacle. “Didn’t expect that, did you?”