Remus Lupin appears courtesy of J.K. Rowling. No
money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended. Thanks to J.K.R. for letting me linger in her world. Miss Smyth and
her bookshop are creations all my own. This piece was written as an exercise in
A wintry afternoon sun casts its
fading light through my front window. Golden
letters on the “Hawkins and Smyth Booksellers” marquee reflect its saffron hues.
Colorful dust jackets of the more
popular bestsellers fill the front display, arranged to entice a passing
customer into my little shop. The dust
motes waltzing with Brownian motion in the shafts of light are my only company
My bookshop located on Bythe
Way, an obscure side-street off of Diagon Alley, is
uncommonly quiet, even for a holiday. Valentine’s
Day. Everyone must be out with their
lover. Perhaps enjoying an intimate tea
for two over at Madam Toddy’s or sharing an ice cream soda at Fortescue’s. Must be nice. I wouldn’t know.
Me? I’m alone today. Just like every other Valentine’s Day. Ever since that louse ran off with... Well,
that’s ancient history. No use crying
over spilled love potion, now is there?
So what is a plump, single, middle-aged
witch to do? Indulge my fantasy, of course. Today’s trashy novel? Moon
over the Moors by Wanda Witherspoon, her latest romance.
A comfy overstuffed chair and tea
trolley fill a cozy alcove behind the register. A steaming cup of hot cocoa rests near my
fingertips. From this vantage point, I
can read my novel and still keep an eye on the door, should a patron enter the
premises. My eyes are not on the door. They are glued on the crisp, virgin pages of
my book, devouring every word.
For you see, romantic moonlight is
about to break over the moors, and Catherine is meeting Heath for a clandestine
tryst. She has just realized her undying
love for him; although I’ve known of it since page one. Heath, our intrepid manly hero, has a deep
dark secret—one which will alter their destiny forever.
Heath whispered. His intense blue eyes bored
into her soul. “There is something you
it is, Heath,” Catherine sobbed, “It can wait, but our love cannot. That’s what I’ve come to tell you.”
Cat.” Heath clasped Catherine in his embrace,
stilling her trembling limbs against his sinewy chest. “There is something I must tell you first. Something which will alter our destiny
The doorknob to the shop clicks. Tinkling bells signal the arrival of a shopper.
Great stinking piles of dragon dung. Not a soul shows up all afternoon, so why now?
I close the novel with a snap and
stuff it out of sight under the counter. My fingers work to smooth my dress. I bury all traces of my disappointment under a
pleasant smile and turn to see who has interrupted my indulgence.
A middle-aged man in a worn cloak
enters my shop. He is tall and thin. His clothing is neat, although darned in
places. A polite smile accompanies his
“May I help you find something in
particular?” I say. My plan is simple. The quicker I can help him find what he needs,
the faster I can return to my novel.
“Mind if I browse?” he replies. He smiles again and gestures toward the stacks
with a wave of his hand.
Oh, Merlin. One of those. He could be here for hours. I resist the urge to roll my eyes. I will my lips, which have drooped a bit at
the corners, back into the shopkeeper’s smile.
“Of course not,” I say. “Browse all you like.” I give my hand a flippant wave, as if I
haven’t a care in the world. “I’ll be
right here, should you need anything.”
My novel beckons to me from its
hiding place under the counter. I dare
not pull it out under a customer’s watchful gaze. What would they think of a bookstore
proprietress who fills her mind with such drivel, when surrounded by so many
worthier literary works?
A sigh escapes my lips. I cast about for something to occupy myself
while I wait. Ah, dusting. Without magic. It takes longer the
old-fashioned way, but I’m killing time.
The man walks to the section on
Defensive Magic and scans the titles, searching the bindings like a Niffler
sniffing out shiny treasures. One of the
volumes catches his attention. His
eyebrows shoot up for just a moment, before falling back into place. I catch the hint of a smile crossing his lips.
No one has looked at those books for
ages. What has he found?
I edge a bit closer and rearrange
the books on a nearby shelf. All the
while, my eyes stray to him. Inquisitive
He runs his hand over the leather-bound
tome, brushing the dust from the spine with a lover’s caress. He pulls the book from the shelf. His eyes sparkle with a look that I recognize
as longing. He opens the book to the
middle and reads. His fingers stroke over
the inky words on the yellowed parchment.
No ring on his finger. Hope rises in my breast and catches in my
throat. I squelch the feeling. After so many disappointments, you’d think I’d
I move around to the opposite side
of the stacks and shuffle the books on the shelf. Here I stand, among a collection of old rare
books that no one wants. A wan smile
crosses my lips at the irony.
Moving just one or two volumes
creates a small space. His hands are
visible through the aperture. I remain
His hands draw my gaze. Thin, nimble fingers slide down the page. Ink stains cover them. They are not the coarse hands of a laborer. He must be a writer, I surmise. That would explain the mending on his cloak
and his obvious interest in literature. A
poor, starving writer. Researching his
next masterpiece, no doubt.
I continue dusting, but I have
stopped paying attention to what my hand is doing. My eyes draw closer to the shelf for a better
look at his hands. Most astounding are
the scars. Shimmering, silvery trails crisscross
the backs of his hands. What could have
My feather duster sends little
clouds flying from the shelves. The dust
catches in my throat. I stifle a little
cough. The man glances up, catching my
stare. His eyes are blue-grey, the color
of the skies over London. They are kind, but sadness lurks in them too.
Cloudy with a chance of showers, I
think. A blush of embarrassment flushes
“Did you find something you fancy?”
I say, hoping that he will mistake my curiosity for attentive service.
just looking.” He replaces the book on
the shelf and looks away. He strolls to
another shelf and continues browsing. I
can see the color rise in his cheeks.
My own words echo in my ears. I realize my error too late. He must have mistaken my comment for flirting.
A pick-up line. Oh, Doxie droppings.
I resume dusting the shelves to
hide my own chagrin. My attention stays
focused on the books this time. I make
my way around the shelf and note the volume that he had admired. A rare and expensive, leather-bound, first
edition of Hairy Snout, Human Heart.
The realization hits me like a
Stunning Hex. Of course, the truth could
not be more obvious. A poor struggling
writer could not possibly afford a fine edition like this. Why hadn’t I seen it before?
My eyes wander to the poor dear. The look of mortification on his face serves
to confirm my suspicion. I flash my most
“You know,” I say. “All books are half price today. A Valentine’s special.”
A momentary look of confusion
appears on his features. A crease
appears on his forehead, then vanishes. The kind eyes glow with sudden understanding
like the sun peeking from behind those blue storm clouds.
I laugh to myself, pleased at my
own good dead. My business partner will
be angry with me for giving away half the store. But what else could I do? I’ve always had a soft spot for aspiring
I stroll to the counter now and
replace the feather duster in its nook. My
novel entices me once more. Do I dare
sneak a quick peek?
The gentleman meanders to another
bookshelf and reaches for a book. I know
that I have a few minutes. My hand grabs
for my novel. I crack it open, flip to
my place, and indulge in a few precious moments of reading.
I look up to see the gentleman
staring at me over the counter. A grin
of amusement overcomes his countenance. Merlin’s
Beard. Caught red-handed.
I toss my trashy romance novel on
the chair behind me, hoping that he has not noticed the title. The hardback lands on the cushion with a soft
thud. I wince.
“Have you decided?” I say, feigning
“Yes,” he replies with a charming
smile. “I’ll take this one, please.” He hands me a used copy of Tainted Trinkets and Talismans.
I inspect his choice, a field guide
to Dark objects. A modest purchase. Not at all what I expected. He must be one of those mystery writers. A man of intrigue? Yes, that could be interesting.
“That will be fifteen sickles and
five,” I say.
He fumbles for the coins in his pocket. I take the opportunity to look at his face. Grey strands streak the light brown hair and
highlight his temples, but his face is young. A faint scar jags across his cheek, but no
wrinkles. Handsome, I think. And about my age.
He hands me the fifteen sickles and
five knuts. Our
fingers touch. I linger, enjoying the
“Would you like this wrapped?” I
ask with an eager stare. “It won’t take
but a moment.”
He smiles and nods. I dump the money in the till and wrap the
parcel in brown paper and string. I’m
stalling for time now. What else can I
do to make him stay longer? Wouldn’t you
know it, my mind has gone blank.
I hand him the parcel wrapped in my
best smile. His hand brushes against
mine again, as he takes his book. Then
he leans over the counter. He gestures
toward my chair. Oh, Merlin. My romance novel is lying in plain view, the
title blinking in letters as red as my face.
“The ending is riveting,” he
whispers and gives me a conspiratorial wink.
My mouth falls open. Gobsmacked. He turns and walks
toward the door. My voice returns with
the tinkling of the bell.
“Please come again,” I call out.
He turns, smiles, and nods. I’m left staring at the tall, thin man
retreating down the street. Story of my
I close up shop, return to my cozy
chair, and pick up my romance novel. My
eyes devour the last few pages to reveal Heath’s secret. He’s a werewolf. You could have knocked me flat with a feather.
Who knew a werewolf could be so sexy?