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Professor Mendelssohn

She grabs a box of safety pins and builds herself a home

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Professor Mendelssohn

Continued from here.

 

Putting pen to paper was a task of great complications. Hardly the best at using words unless rehearsed and rooted within her pools of knowledge (hence the bluntness of her usual conversations), Maureen had scrunched up several lined sheets and launched them into the bin opposite her, deeming her efforts pathetic.

 

Rowan’s situation was one that required careful handling, so the correspondence had to be perfect to every last letter. Even her writing was neater than usual as she worked her way through what proved to be the letter she settled on. “Take this to Rowan Allard. You’ll see her, she’ll be looking sad somewhere.” The spectacled owl blinked twice before soaring out of the window.

 

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Rowan,

 

Further to our discussion earlier in the year, I have managed to find accommodation for you over the summer. The Rainbow House is a residential care home for children and is located in Woodingdean, which I believe isn’t too long a drive from where you were living previously. If you would like to look around and talk to the carers there, we can arrange a visit one weekend. You shall also need to move your belongings over for the summer which I (or another member of staff) can obviously help you with.

 

- Mendelssohn

 

 

“Honey? Have you finished working on your letter?” A soft voice called as Maureen leant back in her chair, a stressed sigh followed her move downwards. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Shara walked into the small office area they shared for their respective work, the walls covered in shelves of expedition journals draped in varying quidditch memorabilia and used to keep match schedules where players zoomed from paper to paper in place.

 

“Come on, we have a game to watch.” Shara continued, holding out her hand and beckoning for Maureen to join her. “I thought once we were done we could swing by the home and try and get some pamphlets for Rowan to read through.”

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Rowan Allard

Rowan Allard was happy.

 

That  was one of the few truths of the universe. Even years earlier back in Brighton, when she was being yelled at for trampling rose bushes and attempting to outrun schoolyard bullies, she did it was a smile on her face.

 

It was because she’d learned early on that the world needed balance - without it, nothing worked. Rowan was there to balance Cathy; just as optimism and warmth was there to balance hate and malice. One Allard for another that had always been the way things were. That was the way things were always going to be.

 

Or, at least, Rowan had assumed that. Of course, assumptions only lead to naive children looking foolish - or that’s what her mum had told her on her sixth birthday. She’d never assumed she was right; once again, foolish.

 

Since Christmas, she’d been attempting to understand what balance Cathy’s departure was supposed to bring. Without her mum, who was she supposed to be the counterweight to? Maybe that whole ‘balance’ belief had always been a load of crap she’d told herself to explain away her mum’s personality; a lie she used to trick herself into pretending to be happy long enough that she believed she was.

 

Her happiness had faded over the weeks, leading to long periods of sadness and even longer ones of apathy. Feeling nothing had never appealed much to Rowan until she found it replacing her anguish; nothing was always going to be better than something when something felt like a hot knife in the stomach.

 

She was in the midst of a bout of apathy when an owl landed next to her, that was the only reason she didn’t let out a shriek at the sight of it. A bird phobia was life ruining at Hogwarts, honestly. With no hesitation, she pulled the message from around its leg, opening it in a swift motion to get the horror of receiving mail out of the way as quickly as possible.

 

The message inside was from Mendelssohn - the only adult in the entire world that would ever have Rowan’s trust again, and even then that was if she managed to not leave her too. Rowan quickly scanned the message, rolling her eyes at the name of the house while attempting to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

 

With a loose piece of parchment and a black ink pen she pulled from her bag, she scrawled a reply.

 

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A visit would be best - need to make sure of it’s loon population, I have to be with my people. Your help would be the best. It currently is the best too.

 

Thanks, R

 

 

Three readings of the message later, Rowan felt that is was adequate enough to at least imply she was okay with everything when she was most certainly not at all okay with anything. With mild hesitance this time - her mood shifting once more - she attatched her message to the talon of the owl in front of her.

 

“Alright, mate, just return to sender, you got that right?” She asked the bird before rolling her eyes, this time at herself, “Talking to a flipping bird. Why can’t they just have email like a normal school?”

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Professor Mendelssohn

They had devoted a weekend to the trip, Maureen securing permission from Gawkrodger to take Rowan from the castle and to the rolling hills of Woodingdean – strikingly green against the grey skies that framed the southern countryside. Apparating to an old farm a short walk away from the main town, Rowan and Maureen had no choice but to hold onto each other given the younger girl’s inability to travel alone. Awkwardly frozen arm in arm as they landed, the professor cleared her throat in the hopes that would tell Rowan to let go without having to actually tell her to do so.

 

“We’re heading that way,” they set off on their walk in silence, the occasional tractor being their only company along the winding route that lead to the cobblestoned town center. When the silence got too overwhelming, Maureen cleared her throat again (it was becoming something of an awkward habit) and mumbled: “If you don’t like it, don’t lie to us about it, we can find somewhere else.” That ‘us’ would become important in three… two… one…

 

“I thought you two had gotten lost!” A tinkling voice called,  and if the two witches turned their heads they would discover Shara sat in a pub garden – waving to them with a beaming smile. Maureen couldn’t stop her lips from curling upwards at the sight, the desire to uphold her reputation as being a stoic badass outweighed by how cute she found her girlfriend. But while Rowan would be able to glimpse the rarity of an actual smile present on her professor’s face if she glanced upwards, the woman had already told Shara they weren’t going to be all gooey and gross in public. A smile was the most human Rowan would get to see her. “I thought we could grab a bite to eat before we set off for the home?”

 

And thankfully Rowan liked the Rainbow House, despite its overly cutesy name (matched by the white exterior which had small rainbows and sunflowers painted across it) – or at least she accepted her fate there without kicking up a fuss. Though small, Rowan would get her own room, and as a student at Hogwarts the shared bathroom facilities shouldn’t have been too much of a problem to navigate. “We shall bring some of her belongings down over the next week, but she won’t be moving in for a couple of months.” Maureen told Bonnabelle, who had been more than accommodating on their trip around the home.

 

But still, while the Rainbow House seemed nice, there was a pang of guilt brewing inside at how Rowan would merely be dumped at the home for three whole months. She wouldn’t have the established friendships the other kids had and once she made them, if she did, she’d be back to Hogwarts. It felt unfair, and was playing on her mind as she wrote to Rowan that night.

 

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-Over summer, I just want you to know you can get into contact with me whenever you like if you ever feel like you need to talk to someone-

 

“Can I add something?” Shara asked, her comically large slippers announcing her arrival before she made it to the room, their non-slip sole thudding against the wooden floor of their living area. Though Shara had known Rowan for all of five hours, she already seemed quite attached to ensuring her wellbeing. Maureen handed the notepad over so her girlfriend could get to work.

 

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Hi Rowan!

 

I just wanted to say it was lovely getting to meet you today, though I wish it was under better circumstances. Our owl will hate me for it but I’ve enclosed some cookies for you – I hope you like them!

 

- Shara

 

 

The strawberry and vanilla cookies weighed their owl down considerably, but it was nothing a featherweight charm couldn’t solve – so at least some problems still had quick fixes.

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Rowan Allard

Woodingdean had been a familiar enough place; the rolling hills, the off colour sky, the odd grumpy farmer every few acres. Only an hour and some change by bus from her home - make that her prior home - it had been a frequent destination for Rowan. And more than a few times she’d arrived there accidentally after sleeping through her stop.

 

The uneven ground she and Mendelssohn hiked over was familiar beneath her sneakers. She’d had many a picnic with Lydia on the soft grass of some stranger’s land. Their blanket would lay askew as it sank into the furrows and grooves made by tilling the land.

 

Rowan had been using the memories as a method of distraction; perhaps if she tried hard enough she might be able to convince not only herself but also Mendelssohn they were there for a picnic. Of course that hope - like every hope before it - was quickly dashed by her professor’s words. They were well meaning, Rowan knew that, they didn’t help the situation though; instead they served to remind her of where she was, of what she was doing.

 

Rainbow was not the term she’d have used to describe the foster home as it wasn’t particularly colourful. Most of rooms they’d seen had been varying shades of dull tans and pale beige with a dusty grey every now and then. Though Rowan barely knew Shara she expected her to point out the blandness of everything; unfortunately both her adults stayed silent.

 

The only thing that gave it colour (and character) were the pictures of smiling kids and various homemade artwork that covered every surface it could - the fridge, the pin board, every previously unused wall. That was what had sold Rowan - not on liking it, or being happy about it, but on not making a fuss about being dropped there like an unwanted toy for the summer.

 

That was exactly what had been weighing heavy on her upon her return to Hogwarts.When friends questioned her about the trip ( “Where did you go?” “Why was Mendelssohn with you?” “Did you murder someone with her?”) Rowan was barely able to mumble a lie. In fact, she’d told them she’d gone to Brighton to check up on her mum, which was mostly the truth if you squinted at it.

 

When a tin of cookies - the sweet scent of fruit and vanilla wafting from it - arrived accompanied by a sour looking owl and a letter from her adults, a mix of emotions ran through her.

 

Rowan had been sure not to make a fuss about the house; her true emotions hidden behind her false smile and overly kind words. She had been nothing but kind towards the house parents - or the mother and her sidekick. Meticulously she’d made sure not be negative, to convince everyone she was happy with the situation.

 

All that work to ensure a place to live over the summer and now this. Fear settled in her stomach; people only gave sweets when something was wrong. Rowan expected the worst when opening the letter; perhaps Bonnie hated her, maybe she’d been kicked out of the foster system too, or worse, maybe Maureen was giving up on her.

 

Her eyes scanned the letter, taking in both handwriting and assigning each to their respective person. A wave of relief washed over her upon finishing Shara’s section. Nothing bad was happening - well, nothing else bad was happening. She retrieved a notepad from her bag, a pen hooked onto the binding. 

 

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Shara and Professor Mendelssohn, 

 

First of all, thank you so much for the cookies, they are amazing! Sweets always make me happy when I'm feeling down. I'll have to save them for a rainy day. Secondly, Shara, it was wonderful meeting you too. You seem like a lovely person and I can't wait to see more of you. Also, Professor, your kind words were much appreciated. If I need anything I know I can count on you. 

 

Thank you for everything, 

Rowan.

 

 

Rowan sent the letter before she had a chance to read it or second guess herself - she knew it sounded fake, but she couldn't help that. Cathy had been the one to force her to write personal thank you notes for every occasion. If someone so much as showed up in her line of sight on her birthday she owed them a thank you note; 'It is only polite' Cathy would say in her scolding, disappointed voice. 

 

Hence why her words seemed manufactured and artificial - they were. Still, she hoped it would put the two of them at peace, or perhaps give them some solace in the fact that she was okay. Or at least that she was able to pretend she was okay; that was practically the same thing, right? 

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Professor Mendelssohn

Weeks had passed since their trip to the Rainbow House, and mere days were left before the summer holidays were thrust upon them. In that time, Rowan’s life had been boxed up and shipped to the countryside, a dim grey room awaiting her lively presence. With every trip, the occupants of the house blossomed from ambience to fleshed figures full of life regardless of circumstance. Unable to use magic, boxes had been carried between Mendelssohn and a girl by the name of Josie, who had promised to keep an eye on Rowan while young Ani had proven themselves rather fond of the professor’s vague explanation she studied plants, and had taken to showing their specimens off – which lined the window of their otherwise lifeless room.

 

Jotted in her diary was a reminder to send Ani some samplings for them to plant. 

 

No matter what she did, that haunting feeling of guilt still persisted. The thought she could have done more to find (and subsequently punch) Rowan’s mother, or something better if such a thing existed, for the young girl. Shara’s empathetic soul had soothed that feeling, pointing out she was going above and beyond her job description to help one of her students when she could have easily palmed her off. Whenever her girlfriend began to point out she was a lot softer than she liked to let on the woman usually shrugged it off, but these days she welcomed the reminders because it allowed her to believe she was doing the right and best thing by Rowan.

 

After the young girl’s letter had revealed she ate sweets to make her happy, Shara had taken it upon herself to send recipe after recipe and batch after batch of treats. From things discovered through Bake Off to traditional Polish obscurities, the Hufflepuff girl now had materials for an entire novel dedicated to baking. Maureen told Shara to calm down a little, but a flour covered and frantic Shara had been consumed by the urge to ensure Rowan’s first summer at the Rainbow House was the best it could possibly be. Maureen didn't come with gifts or charming warmth, but with another letter which had taken her several attempts to perfect.

 

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Rowan,

 

As the summer holidays arrive, I bring an update regarding your move to the Rainbow House. Shara shall be waiting for you at King’s Cross – our trip to Woodingdean garnered too much attention and I don’t want to fuel the gossip further by collecting you from the station in person. Instead, Shara shall drive to Paddington where I shall meet up with you and we shall continue the drive. By this point, most of your belongings are at the home, and we will obviously help you transport what you have left. Miss Thomas is aware you’re a student at a boarding school but your magical status has not been disclosed, so we’ve figured out a way to charm your books so they look like muggle storybooks (allowing you to do your homework over the summer, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear this.)

 

Relating to this, I’ll be leaving my home address in reception so you can contact me through the muggle mail service if needed.

 

If you need anything else before the summer holidays start, do let me know and I shall try my best to get it sorted out.

 

- Mendelssohn

 

 

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Rowan Allard

Professor Mendelssohn had never been the first person that came to mind when Rowan was struck with a dilemma or, worse, a situation. In fact, Rowan had always been adamant to leave the drama of her classmates as far away from the greenhouses as possible (of course that was all while staying as far away from the defense classes as possible as well). The professor had always seemed brash and stoic - both striking fear into the students and keeping everything about her and her life shrouded in mystery.

 

Now that Rowan had broken through that defense and garnered herself a peak into the Maureen that lived just beyond Professor Mendelssohn, she couldn’t help but scold herself for her past digressions. Granted, she’d only been playing into the rouse the woman had wanted her to; Maureen Mendelssohn wouldn’t have a reputation if she didn’t want one.

 

Hence why Rowan worked so hard to protect it. Amidst sweets from Shara arriving on a consistent basis, Rowan would hide the items from any questioning glances. Those who were bold enough to voice their queries were met with a variety of lies: ‘I joined a subscription service,’ ‘Lydia’s mum made them,’ ‘There’s a house elf who is in love with me.’

 

Of course the sweets were a nice distraction from the other, near constant in her life.

 

The voice in the back of her head refused to be silenced. It got exponentially louder when they neared Brighton, when they moved the few items she owned into her new room, when someone mentioned going home for the holidays. Every passing moment her situation got closer to reality and farther away from ‘quirk future life event’.

 

It was clear that Mendelssohn was worried about her - or possibly worried about what the foster home would do to her. If she wasn’t, she’d have pawned Rowan off eon before; most of what was happening could have been handled by a house elf if they were allowed off Hogwarts property.

 

The letters had been a kindness Rowan hadn't expected but appreciated none the less. It showed her that not all adults were as horrid as she was beginning to believe they were. Perhaps not everyone let their heart die when they grew up.

 

It had been days since her arrival at the Rainbow House; acclimating to the new climate was not quite as easy as she had hoped. However, she found herself in the midst of a new group that would create memories that would shape who she was. With her letter she sent photos - Polaroids snapped in the midst of activities. It was easier to lie in a photo than it was in correspondence - at least that was the case for Rowan.

 

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Mendelssohn and Shara, 

 

Thank you! I know I've said it a million times but I can't say it enough! The house has been lovely; I'll have tons of fun stories to tell upon my return to Hogwarts. If I return, that is, as it's just's too much fun here ! That was a joke, of course. I've included some pictures of me and the crew. I think you would like most of them. Perhaps if you came to visit you might be able to prove me right. 

 

Thanks again for everything, 

Rowan.

 

 

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Professor Mendelssohn

Rushing through the brickwork and being pulled into the magical realm of the platform to Hogwarts, Shara grinned as nostalgia flooded her. It had been years, decades even, since she had been at nine and three quarters. In their final year, she, Maureen, and a couple of their closest friends had opened a window and climbed onto the roof as they hurtled through Scottish countryside blossoming in summer. Rowan, she imagined, enjoyed less dangerous ways of wasting time.

 

Standing in the middle of a sea of faces, the woman was the sort who naturally stood out thanks to a combination of the warmth she exuded and her inability to colour match her clothing choices. Problem patterns and questionable combinations always adorned her small, awkward body. As the brilliant red train pulled into the platform and the first of the children ran to their families, Shara stood on tiptoe to catch sight of Rowan. Once she eventually appeared, Shara called over with a frantic wave of her hand.

 

“Rowan, hi!” She beamed, her face scrunching up with happiness as the young girl approached her. Though the interactions between them had been brief and far between, Shara held out her arms and pulled Rowan into a close hug. “Did you have a nice journey?” She broke the hug after getting an answer, but her hands were still placed softly on either shoulder and her gaze was heavily tinted with love as she looked down on Rowan. As they spoke, a couple of girls walked past bidding the younger of the two farewell. Shara smiled to them too, a surly looking brunette and a messy blonde struggling with a crate of colourful, cylindrical objects labelled ‘firewinks.’ “…Huh.” Shara watched curiously as the box, and the blonde shooting her a suspicious look, disappeared down the platform. So much for Rowan avoiding dangerous pastimes.

 

Attention drifting away from the firewinks and back onto the teenager, Shara beamed and grabbed her trunk. “Right then, let’s get going.” They spoke with ease, conversation a natural skill of hers, as they made the short walk to the car – a pastel blue, ancient model mini cooper whose back seat was overflowing with vintage (meaning, questionably tasteful) furniture purchased from a cutesy market in Brixton. “Oh, oops, gimmie a second,” casting a surreptitious glance over her shoulder to check no one was watching, Shara pulled her battered ebony from her jacket pocket and waved it over her purchases, shrinking them significantly so the woman could shove them in the boot beside Rowan’s trunk.

 

“There we go!” She held the door open for Rowan to climb into the now empty car before settling into the driver’s seat. “Right. Are you more a ABBA person or a Blondie person?” She held her two most cherished CDs up for judgement.

 

---

 

“Shara, honey, I’m not saying I don’t appreciate your dedication to avoiding IKEA like the plague but did we really need a bedside table shaped like a toad?” Sat crossed legged on the sofa, Maureen found herself looking down upon Shara sprawled across the floor – with her wand she had carved a hole into the back of the toad and was painting the formerly black wood with a starting green. “How much did it cost?”

 

“Like, three pounds?”

 

“Hmm, exactly.” Ugly didn’t begin to cover the knotted wood. “What sort of animal cruelty are you inflicting upon it?”

 

“Turning it into a flower pot!” Shara turned to grin up at Maureen, her curled brown hair pulled into a knotted bun collapsing by the second and her face dotted in green. “You know I love a bright garden.” Maureen glanced out over their garden, getting assaulted by every colour in the spectrum in the process.

 

“I can see.” Before Shara could defend any of her purchases, the sound of clattering informed them their mail had been delivered and the woman on the floor scrambled upwards (a task, given the fluffy socks she wore around the house had no grip) and dashed for the door. “Expecting something?”

 

“I ordered some paintings!”

 

“…That would fit through our letterbox?”

 

“Yeah they are only postcard sized.”

 

“Of what?”

 

“Of really ugly dogs. They are hilarious Reen- oh!” Shara’s discussion on ugly dog postcards which would make for great barbeque starting materials was suddenly silenced, and Maureen stretched herself to look around the door of the room without actually standing up. Though she questioned what was wrong, she didn’t get a reply until Shara handed her a letter addressed to them in a familiar hand.

 

They read eagerly, and poured over the pictures with relief Rowan had seemingly settled into the Rainbow House with ease. “Should we visit her? Having a familiar face show up would be nice.” Maureen could only offer a small, noncommittal ‘hmm’, her gaze travelling the image of Rowan, alone, on the frame of her window. “That is not a happy ‘hmm’. What’s wrong?”

 

“Do you think she’s genuinely enjoying it?”

 

“Well, why don’t we go and find out? Tell her we will plan something.” Shara was sat on the sofa now, or more accurately, perched on Maureen’s knee while they read the letter together. They were quickly joined by Takko, the cat they had promised Rowan they would look after over summer given the Rainbow House’s no pets policy. Shara scratched behind the tabby’s ears, earning an appreciative purr. “Send her a picture in return to brighten that place up too.”

 

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Rowan,

 

We are both relieved you are having fun at the Rainbow House and seem to have settled in well. We had the pleasure of meeting a couple of your friends when we went down to move some of your belongings – enclosed I have a couple of packets of plant seeds for Ani. There’s also a picture of a dog Shara thinks will liven your room up. She ordered it online and let’s just say it’s a good job professional quidditch pays well with the amount of rubbish she brings home. You should see the toad flowerpot she’s currently crafting.

 

If you would like us to visit let us know and we would be happy to plan something. Takko is being well looked after, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear.

 

- Mendelssohn.

 

 

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Rowan Allard

When Rowan had disembarked the Hogwarts Express to find a familiar face - Shara’s to be precise - waiting for her, it was odd. Not in an off putting way, of course. In fact, Rowan was pretty sure Shara couldn’t be off putting if she tried - that’s what Mendelssohn was for.

 

Regardless, someone - anyone - waiting for Rowan to disembark was an unfamiliar experience. She’d grown accustomed to walking herself home to the familiar brownstone; her stomach sank at the reminder that she wouldn’t be returning home to Brighton.

 

Shara hadn’t signified that an adult cared about her, it signified her entire world shifting.

***

Mornings at Rainbow House were an oddity in themselves. Nearly twenty teenagers all going their own direction, getting ready and preparing for the day, were all stopped dead in their tracks for “family breakfast.”

 

Rowan was met each morning with a hodgepodge of food, everything from fresh fruit to overly processed sugary cereal. She was in the midst of filling her plate (and watching Rook pile Maltesers into a bowl) when Bonnie sauntered into the room.

 

“Delivery!” She sing-songed as she tossed a single letter onto the dining table, “I think it’s for Rowan.”

 

A chorus of ‘oohs’ rang out from the group - save for Saf who proceeded to place two fingers in their mouth and wolf whistle. This was signal from them that it was time to embarrass someone; their target today just happened to be Rowan.

 

She’d attempted to retrieve the letter, hoping that if she got her hands on it first this would be avoidable. Of course, when it was one against fifteen there was no way to win. Just as Rowan was reaching for it, a well manicured hand snatched it out of her reach.

 

“What do we have here? A letter? For Rowan?” Each word that came from Iris’ mouth was playful in its sarcasm; that didn’t stop the heat from rising in Rowan’s stomach. Her eyes followed the envelope as Iris spoke, her hands moving about with her words. “Who’s it from? Your boyfriend?”

 

“Obviously not.” Rowan grumbled in response, jumping in an attempt to reach the letter. Unfortunately, it was out of Rowan’s reach - out of everyone’s reach actually, Iris was well over six foot in heels. 

 

"Oh, obviously." Saf had climbed onto one of the chairs to pluck the letter out of Iris' hand. Bonnie yelled at them to get down, Saf, of course, didn't listen. Rowan attempted to get to Saf only to be held off with one hand, the other was used to hold the letter while they ripped it open with their teeth.

 

When Saf began to read the letter was when things went from playful to serious; Rowan's words turned angry and malicious. The yelling from the kids - who had been aging them on - ceased, silence fell over the room. Saf had offered up the letter without a fight, which Rowan snatched from them before storming out of the kitchen and up to her room. 

 

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Mendelssohn,

Thanks for the dog photo, it adds plenty of life to my room that wasn't there before! I'll be sure to pass on the seeds to Ani, I have a feeling they will enjoy them wholeheartedly. While I would love for you all to visit, it's a bit of a madhouse here. I think you'd have to contact Bonnie and Earl to see if it would be okay with them.

 

Rowan.

 

 

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