A Novel Kind of Hero
A/N: All the usual
disclaimers apply. Remus Lupin,
Nymphadora Tonks, and Severus Snape appear courtesy of J.K.
Rowling. No money is being made and no
copyright infringement intended. Miss
Smyth and her bookshop are creations all my own.
With special thanks to
for her comments, enthusiasm, and encouragement.
Hot amber liquid pours from my
teapot into two china cups. I gaze over
the tea tray at the sandy-haired gentleman standing across from me and hand him
a cup of steaming brew. He takes the teacup,
warming his fingers on its sides. A
polite smile accompanies his thanks.
My brightest smile lights my face. I don’t even know his name. But I’ve been anticipating this moment ever
since he first wandered into my shop on Valentine’s Day. I can’t believe he’s
really here in my little bookshop this morning, having tea with me.
“Cream and sugar?” I gesture
toward the china creamer and sugar bowl on my tray.
The bells on the shop door jingle,
announcing the arrival of customers. Drat, it all! Can’t a gal get a break? I glance from the handsome man at my counter
toward the newcomers at my door. Why
can’t they just go away? But then I remember my sorry financial state. I need the business, after all.
“Please help yourself,”
I say to the gentleman with an apologetic grin.
A witch in an ermine-trimmed cape
enters my shop with a girl of about eight in tow. Golden curls and baby blue
bows top the child’s head. The child’s red cheeks puff out. The most enormous
bright blue bubble emerges from her pursed lips. With a pop that makes me jump, the bubble
bursts all over her face. Gummy strings stretch
from her nose to her chin. She plucks
the sticky mess from her face with gooey fingers and pops it back in her gob. I
can just picture those wads of sticky gum all over my precious books. I cringe and bustle over.
“I’m terribly sorry, Madam,” I say
to the woman in my most courteous tones. “But this is a bookshop. Food and drink are not allowed.” I indicate a
sign prohibiting food and drink prominently posted in the front window, just
under the “Hawkins and Smyth Booksellers” marquee.
The woman stares down at me over
her turned-up nose, then surveys the tea tray on my
counter. A condescending frown works
over her features. Oh, Doxie droppings! The
woman ignores my pleas and turns to her child.
“My little Bertha is a perfect
angel, aren’t you lambkins?” She gives
the spoiled brat an indulgent pat on the head.
The imp flashes her mum a toothy
grin, but sticks her tongue out at me the minute her mother’s back is
turned. The recalcitrant child proceeds
to blow the largest bubble I have ever seen.
The resulting pop threatens to cover in sticky blue goo
three of the rarest and most expensive volumes in my shop. My fingers itch for my wand.
Before I can do anything, the shop
bells sound again. I glance up to see a
big oaf lumber into my shop. It’s one of
Malfoy’s minions, one of the two goons we chased from my flat last night. He leers at me and approaches. I roll my eyes.
“What are you doing here?” I say.
“Mr. Malfoy gave me a week.” A shiver runs down my spine at the memory of
Malfoy’s cold grey eyes. Malice veiled
under a thin veneer of propriety.
“Sent me to keep an eye on you, luv.” The git leers at me. “In
case you decides to skip town like Hawkins did.”
Hawkins? My former business partner. I still can’t believe that he borrowed all
those Galleons from that villain and then left town without mentioning anything
to me. I feel like I’ve just been jilted again. My ire rises, along with the
pain of yet another betrayal.
“Get out of my shop.” I keep my
voice low, but as firm as I can manage without causing a row.
Whatever will my customers think of
me? I can’t let them catch me being rude. But I can’t abide this cretin in my shop
either. I glance around. The handsome
gent has vanished from sight. Drat it all! Where has my Heath gone?
While I’m distracted, the big oaf
barges right past me, plods to my private nook behind the counter, and settles
his carcass into my overstuffed chair.
He leans back, folds his massive arms across his barrel chest, and props
his great muddy clodhoppers up onto my counter next to my tea tray. The faint scent of dragon dung wafts through
the shop, remnants of last night’s escapades.
I wrinkle my nose and grimace.
“Get your feet off my counter and
leave now,” I hiss through my teeth. I ignore
his stench and lean over the counter toward him. “Or shall I summon the
“Go ahead.” The large man guffaws. He
doesn’t even have the courtesy to keep his voice low. “And Malfoy’ll
throw you in debtor’s prison ‘til you rots or pays back every penny you owes.”
The nerve of the great sodding idiot! Anger rises in my breast and flushes my
face. I push up my sleeves and grip my
wand. Hot tears prick in my eyes. I need
time to think.
I flee to a small alcove where the
rare old books are shelved. Through a
gap in the leather-bound tomes, I glimpse the smug expression on the face of
that goon and the impertinent little girl reaching her sticky fingers to soil
my comic books. Any hex will do. But wouldn’t you know it, I can’t think of a
My fingers grip the handle of my
wand. I grit my teeth. I’ve half a mind
to just march over there and stuff the wooden rod up the goon’s great backside.
I hear the soft rustle of robes
next to me. Startled, I look up. The handsome gent stands beside me, an open
book in his hand. His head is lowered,
his eyes trained on his book, but his shoulder brushes against mine. Oh,
Merlin, I can’t let him see me like this.
“What?” I whisper back, searching his face. What
could he mean?
he says, not removing his eyes from his text. “A useful
Ah, sudden understanding hits me
like a Stunning hex. Why didn’t I think
of that? A wicked smile crosses my lips.
I site the big goon through the
opening in the books. With my quarry in
the crosshairs, I point my wand tip in his direction. “Waddiwasi!”
Whispered incantation leaves my lips.
Wads of chewing
gum streak from the girl’s surprised gob and fly straight up the great bully’s
nostrils. The girl lets out a shriek that would rival a Banshee’s. The
lumbering lout howls and jumps up from the chair, his great meat hook of a hand
clamped over his nose. He utters a stream
of curse words not fit for polite company. I stuff my fist into my mouth to
stifle my giggles. I couldn’t have planned this better if I tried.
“What’s the matter, lambkins?” The mother rushes to her spoiled brat’s side,
full of solicitude and concern.
“My gum. My gum.” The wailing child points a sticky finger at my
nemesis. “He stole it.”
Before I can blink,
the irate mother storms across my bookshop toward the big bully. She wags a manicured finger in his face and
begins her diatribe, her berating screams drowning out his curses.
“Why, you horrid
candy from a child. You should be ashamed of yourself...”
The great goon’s eyes widen. The top of the woman’s head barely reaches
his chin, but her size belies her fury. Like a Chinese Fireball protecting her
nestlings, she chases the scoundrel from my shop. He flees with the Harpy hot
on his tail and her little wailing fledgling in pursuit. I double over,
laughter spilling from my lips.
When I can contain my giggles, I
turn to thank my rescuer. The thin
gentleman replaces the book on the shelf.
His own face brightens with mirth, the sadness in his blue-grey eyes
banished like a Boggart.
“I can’t thank you enough,” I say,
when I’ve regained my breath.
A charming smile spreads over his countenance.
“I don’t believe we’ve been
properly introduced.” I proffer my hand. “I’m Terpsichore Smyth.” His brow rises. A momentary crinkle appears on
his forehead. I prattle on to cover my sudden nervousness. “Oh, I know it’s an odd name. You know parents. The names they chose for their children. My great aunt was a famous dancer, you
know. Me? I’ve got two left
feet...” My voice fades as my chagrin
rises. “Please call me Cory.”
His smile deepens, sending little
wrinkles shooting from the corners of those lovely eyes. He takes my hand, warm
in his fingers. My own thumb touches a
silvery scar on the back of his hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Cory,” he says,
as a slight blush colors his cheek. “I’m Remus Lupin.”
Oh, Doxie droppings. Why did I natter on
so? Some muse of dancing I am. I’ve gone
and put my foot in it again.
Yet here we stand, this handsome
stranger and I, hidden from view by stacks of old
tomes. His hand still clasps mine. I
thrill at his touch.
The shop door clicks open amid the
tinkling of more bells. The spell
breaks. Mr. Lupin and I spring apart as
if hit by a defensive jolt. My better
reason takes hold. After so many
disappointments, you’d think I’d know better.
Instead I blindly follow the lantern of love until squelch…some callous
bloke tramples my heart to bloody pulp like a Hinkypunk.
I force my gaze away from him and
peek through the aperture between the books to see who has entered my
shop. An elderly woman walks through the
door. Tight grey curls cover her head, a pill box hat
perched on top. A colorful carpet bag
dangles from her fingers. She glances
about the shop as if looking for someone. She steps forward with a nimble
tread, surprisingly agile for a woman her age.
That is, until she overbalances and careens into my display of comic
The woman falls, sending her
orthopedic shoes sailing skyward and the carpet bag flying willy-nilly. The ill-mannered comics burst into fits of
hilarity. Oh dear!
I run to assist her. Mr. Lupin follows right on my heels. The periodicals fall silent. I spot a rotted banana peel under the
display. Those damned comics and their
“I’m terribly sorry.” I bend to
help her up. “Are you all right?”
Mr. Lupin takes her other arm and
lifts her to her feet. She shrugs off
our help, straightens her pill box hat, and smoothes down her plaid woolen
suit. She replaces her shoes, but one
silken stocking sags to her ankles. Her face flushes.
“Just fine,” she says, in a voice
quite youthful for her age. She turns to
Mr. Lupin. “Wotcher, Remus.” Then she spies the comic books knocked from
their perches. “Oh, your display.” She waves her wand
at the periodicals. The funny pages give
a half-hearted flap, but the comic books remain on the floor. “Sorry.” She shrugs
an apology. “I never was very good at those householdy
sorts of spells.”
“I’ll get it,” the gallant Mr.
Lupin says. He puts the display to
rights with just a flick of his wand.
Meanwhile, I bend down to collect
the contents of her carpet bag that has spilt open on my floor. An old typewriter nestles safely inside the
bag, undisturbed by the fall, but papers are scattered everywhere. I scramble
to gather them up. I can’t help but scan
the contents. I can’t believe my eyes. My fingers clutch the pages of a new romance
novel. The words Heath and Catherine
jump off the page. I’d know that writing
I stuff the pages back into the
carpet bag and stare from the older woman to Mr. Lupin. It all makes sense now. How Mr. Lupin knew the ending to my novel. The identity of his elderly lady friend. I stand in the
presence of the Wanda Witherspoon.
“You must be Wanda Witherspoon.” I
seize the woman’s hand. “You have no idea what a privilege this is. I’m your biggest fan.”
The woman’s jaw drops, rendered speechless.
Oh, of course, she’s just being modest.
Being a celebrity must get quite irksome. All those fans assaulting
her on the street.
“I’m afraid there’s been some
mistake.” Mr. Lupin says, shaking his head.
But I’m certain there’s no mistake.
A brilliant idea takes shape in my head.
I can see it now. A
book signing with Wanda Witherspoon.
Women will be lined up for blocks outside my shop. My little bookstore will be saved.
“Oh, I quite understand your desire
for anonymity,” I say, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. “It’s just that business has been off of
late. And well, if you would consider a book signing at my shop, it would help
me a great deal. It would save my bookstore.”
I cast Ms. Witherspoon my most pleading look. “Won’t you please consider
“Well, what have we here?” A
waspish voice hisses from behind my back.
I release Ms. Witherspoon’s hand
and spin around. The vicar stands behind
me, a look of triumph on his face, much like a cat that has cornered a mouse. His spidery fingers clasp a romance novel, the
paperback copy of Wanda Witherspoon’s Poisoned
Passion that he had purchased from me just yesterday.
“Yes, Miss Smyth.” A condescending
sneer twists across his sallow face. “Thanks to your astute powers of observation
and deduction, you have unwittingly helped solve a mystery.”
I bristle at his sarcastic tone,
well aware that I have just been insulted.
But my surprise at his appearance has rendered me mute. How did he sneak in here without my noticing?
How long has he been behind me? Did he
witness my flirtation with Mr. Lupin?
Color heightens on my cheeks. I
feel like an errant school girl, caught snogging in
the restricted section of the library.
“Miss Tonks, I presume.” The vicar
acknowledges Ms. Witherspoon with a curt nod. “And Lupin.” He shoots
a look of unrivaled disdain at Mr. Lupin. “I should have known the two of you
were behind this. No doubt Black was also involved in your caper.” He jabs a long finger at his novel. “This
piece of handiwork has Black written all over it.”
“Severus, I’m afraid you’ve lost
me.” Mr. Lupin’s face is a picture of innocence.
While he speaks, the carpet bag
inches out of sight behind a display of cookbooks under the direction of his
wand. I catch his eye. The slight shake of his head does not escape
my notice either. What the blazes is going on here?
“While your mental deficiencies
come as no surprise, Lupin,” Contempt drips from the vicar’s thin lips, “I
sincerely doubt your ignorance of this prank.”
He flips the book open to a passage that he has marked and holds up the
paperback. “I will not be made the object of ridicule by having my words
reduced to the torrid dialogue of a romance novel.”
“May I, Severus?” Mr. Lupin reaches
for the paperback.
The vicar hands over the book. His arms cross over his chest. He stands erect, looking down his long hooked
nose at his adversary. The black knight has just thrown down the gauntlet,
confident of his challenge.
My white knight, Mr. Lupin, eyes the
text. A crease appears on his forehead.
I get the distinct impression that he’s doing some fast thinking. Ms. Witherspoon peers over his arm, reading
as well. She snorts, then reddens under the vicar’s glower.
Me? I’m dying of curiosity. I can no
longer hold my tongue.
“Would someone please tell me what is going
on?” I turn to Mr. Lupin. “You and this vicar are acquainted?”
Mr. Lupin’s eyes sparkle with laughter. The corners of his mouth twitch.
Ms. Witherspoon sputters a guffaw
and turns away. I fail to see the joke.
“Madam, I am Severus Snape.” The
vicar’s proud nose sniffs. He fixes me
with a withering glare. “Potions master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
“You teach children?” I say, eyeing
him with astonishment.
“Yes.” The words escape his lips in
a sneering hiss. “Does that surprise you?”
His ill treatment of the young
woman and her two angelic tots in my bookshop resurfaces in my memory. After
what I had witnessed of his bullying behavior yesterday, I cannot fathom him in
front of classroom full of school-aged youngsters. I’m about to answer, when I
realize that his question was rhetorical.
How could I have been so misled? I
turn to Mr. Lupin. Have I been mistaken
in him as well?
“And you’re not a mystery writer
either?” I flash Mr. Lupin a hopeful look.
“I’m afraid not.” Mr. Lupin shakes
his head, but his reply is gentle. “Former professor, in fact. Defense against the Dark Arts.”
“Presently unemployed,” Mr. Snape adds
with a look of relish. A self-satisfied smirk works over the black knight’s
face. He has just landed his opponent a glancing
against the Dark Arts professor? Unemployed? That would explain his worn robes, his
interest in books, and his selection of that Dark Arts text in my shop on the
day we met. The luster fades from my white knight’s armor.
I glance over at the elderly
woman. She’s not Wanda Witherspoon, is
she? And without a book signing, I’ve no
hope of repaying my debts to Malfoy or saving my little shop. I’ll be out on the street soon too.
“And you’re not Wanda Witherspoon?”
I ask the woman, steeling myself against further disappointment.
“Tonks,” she says, shaking my hand
with a firm grip. “Auror. Department
of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Oh?” I sigh. My shoulders droop.
My last flicker of hope dies.
“So you see, Severus,” Mr. Lupin
says, appearing entirely too cheerful. “This looks like your average romance
novel to me, not that I’m much of an expert in that genre. I very much doubt that…erm…Mr.
Black has much expertise in that area either.
Not at all his style.”
The elderly Miss Tonks nods her
head in agreement, the pill box hat bobbing on her grey curls. The vicar’s
brows shoot up, buried momentarily under strands of greasy black hair. His sallow complexion colors. His jaw clenches with his
fury. Daggers shoot from his dark eyes. Finessed by the white knight, a fatal blow.
The white knight returns a
congenial grin, deflecting every pointed barb aimed in his direction with a
good-natured smile. Perhaps my initial estimation of this man was not so far
off. He may not be a writer, but I
cannot deny that he has a certain panache.
Mr. Snape turns on his heels,
causing his black traveling cloak to swirl in spirals around his spindly legs.
In three strides, he reaches the door. Good riddance, I think.
Mr. Lupin calls after him and waves the paperback aloft. Unabashed amusement
lights up his features. “You’ve forgotten your romance novel.”
“Keep it.” The black knight turns
with a scowl, exits my shop, and stalks down the street in the direction of
“May I have that?” I say to Mr. Lupin. A flush of embarrassment
warms my face. “I never did get to finish that one.”
Mr. Lupin hands me the novel. I
look down at the cover of the paperback, avoiding his stare. Then I slip the book into the pocket my dress
and remember the papers in that carpet bag.
Those were Ms. Witherspoon’s papers.
What was the manuscript of her next novel doing in that carpet bag?
“But the carpet
bag?” My finger points to the colorful textile bag peeking out from
behind a display of cookbooks. My eyes
search Mr. Lupin’s face. “That was Ms. Witherspoon’s
manuscript I saw, was it not?”
“Yes.” Miss Tonks nods her head,
her grey curls taking on a lavender hue. “The beginnings of
Mr. Lupin summons the carpet bag
with a flick of his wand. I glance from
the open bag to his face with a questioning stare, eager to have this mystery
solved. His nimble fingers remove the parchments
from the case. I peer inside. An old Underwood
typewriter rests on the bottom of the otherwise empty carpet bag. The clickety-clack of worn keys comes from the bag, followed by
a soft ding and the slide of a carriage return. What is the meaning of this?
“Allow me to introduce Wanda
Witherspoon.” Mr. Lupin indicates the mechanical device typing on its own.
“Wanda Witherspoon?” I say,
“Not just any typewriter,” the
elderly Miss Tonks says as a youthful smile overcomes her face. “An enchanted typewriter. Give it a plot and a few lines of
dialogue and it produces a best-selling romance novel.”
“You see, a mutual friend of ours
works at the Ministry.” Mr. Lupin lowers his voice to a whisper and gives me a
conspiratorial wink. “Misuse
of Muggle Artifacts. He confiscated this machine. Seemed such a shame to destroy it, so we thought to put it to use.”
“Took the minutes of our…er…meetings,” Miss Tonks says. “You should read the account
it produced. Dedalus Diggle,
a barbarian sex god?” She doubles over in a fit of helpless giggles.
“Most recently,” Mr. Lupin says. “It’s
remained in the custody of a friend of ours who’s been…erm…housebound.” He averts his gaze from my face for a
fleeting moment. “We thought it would give him something to entertain
himself. Miss Tonks here had the idea to
publish the volumes. We had no idea
they’d become best-sellers.”
“This is all very fascinating,” I
say, staring from Mr. Lupin to Miss Tonks. “But what does this have to do with
“My friend wanted you to have it.”
Mr. Lupin rests his hand on my arm, his expression earnest. “He thought that you could get more use out
of it.” The serious look melts into an
amused grin. “And with your imagination, there’s no end to the stories that you
could produce. I can recommend a publisher at Whizz
Hard Books who’d be very interested in your manuscript.”
Me? A romance
novelist? Giddiness overcomes me
at the thought. My own
novels on the best-seller list. People lining up outside my bookshop for my autograph. Why,
with this typewriter, I’ll be able to discharge my debt to Mr. Malfoy.
“Thank you,” I say,
both hands on my grinning cheeks. “You have no idea what this means to me.”
My eyes settle on Mr. Lupin’s mended cloak.
Surely, he could make better use of this typewriter. A twinge of guilt dampens my delight.
“I couldn’t accept this.” I shake
my head. “And deny you a source of livelihood.”
“Romance is hardly my genre, I’m
afraid.” A sudden flush colors Mr. Lupin’s face. He diverts his gaze to a nearby bookshelf. “And I would be sorely disappointed if you
were to lose this shop.”
My mouth opens, but all words fail
me. How could he have known my
predicament? No one but the great black
hound witnessed my meeting with Malfoy last night. No one else knew of my
financial troubles or Malfoy’s threats to close down
Miss Tonks breaks off, flustered. Then she fixes me with a determined look. “…er…our friend insisted that you have this.”
say. My voice trembles. I am unable to blink back the tears of
gratitude that flood my eyes. “Who do I have to thank for this?”
“Our friend wishes to remain
anonymous,” the chivalrous Mr. Lupin says.
He is all smiles and charm.
“Thank you, the lot of you.” I say,
barely getting the words out before tears stream down my cheeks. My fingers fumble in my pocket for my handkerchief
and brush against the paperback novel.
“Allow me,” says the white knight,
offering his hanky.
I take the handkerchief and dab at
my wet face. I sniffle. Mr. Lupin shifts his feet and directs his gaze around
the shop, giving me a moment to collect myself.
Miss Tonks looks even less
comfortable. She stares out the shop
window, then screws up her face. Her grey hair takes
on a greenish tinge. Must be the tears
clouding my vision. Or perhaps those
naughty comic books are up to their pranks again. They’ve taken a liking to the old gal.
“How can I ever repay your
kindness?” I say in a steadier voice. “Perhaps a free book or two.
Although the whole lot would hardly do the job.”
“No need,” Miss Tonks says. “Just following orders.”
She gestures toward the door. “Got to go. Late for work. Later, Remus.”
The spry old woman waves and turns
toward the door. In her haste, she
nearly topples over a stack of textbooks on magical beasts, snoring in a heap
by the door. Miss Tonks catches herself
at the last minute. The tomes growl at having their slumber disturbed, then
settle back down.
“Sorry.” Miss Tonks exits my shop
with an apologetic grin.
A polite smile appears on Mr. Lupin’s face. He gazes out the shop window down the street.
“I really should be going as well.”
I don’t want him to go. True, he’s not the muscled hero on the cover
of my romance novel, but he will always be my Heath—the gallant knight who came
to my rescue.
What can I do to make him
stay? What enticement can I offer? I scan the room, my eyes lighting on the tea
tray. Two china cups of cold tea lay on
the salver, untouched.
“Must you?” I cast him my most
pleading stare. “We never even had that spot of tea.”
Without thinking, I reach for his
arm like some Grindylow grappling for him with my
brittle fingers. What a desperate fool I am?
What will he think of me?
perhaps.” He pats my hand. That overcast look is back in his blue-grey
eyes, a tinge of untouchable sorrow.
I withdraw my hand, defeated. My teeth bite down on my lower lip to stop
its quivering. I know the routine. Mr. Lupin walks towards the door. I turn
away, listening for the tinkling of the shop bells. I can’t bear to watch.
His footfalls sound across the
floor. I hear the soft swish of the
mended cloak against his trousers, but no bells. My breath catches, waiting.
“Yes?” I spin around, not daring to
hope that things might be different this time.
The gentleman stands, his hand
stayed on the doorknob of my shop. He
glances back at me. A slight blush colors his face.
“Would you have dinner with me
tonight?” he says.
Dear Sweet Merlin! My ears must be deceiving me. Did he just ask
me out? My heart has never flittered so fast.
“I’d be delighted.” A giddy smile
spreads over my lips. “I close up shop at seven.”
“I’ll meet you here at eight then.”
My laughter mingles with the sound
of the shop bells, gay and ringing. I
smile and wave, watching him go, anticipating his return. I can hardly wait.
The hours will fly by today. A romance novel beckons to me—one of my own
creation. As much as I adore Catherine,
I think Heath needs a new love interest this time. I dash to the old Underwood and lift the
marvelous contraption from the carpet bag.
“What do you think, Wanda, my
dear?” I say to the enchanted typewriter. “Brunhilde, Viking warrior princess?”
My fingers glide over Wanda’s
keys. The typewriter springs to life,
keys clacking away in rhythm. Wisps of
steam rise from the page. If Whizz Hard Books wants another best-selling bodice-ripper,
Wanda Witherspoon will oblige. Her next
romance will be so hot that it will melt the rivets off an Iron Maidenform brassier.