The Sugar Quill
Author: Norwegian Blue  Story: Mind Games  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

            A/N: Thanks to Genesse and Darker Rage, who pre-beta-ed and Brit picked this so long ago I’d be surprised if they remembered it. They helped more than they know, and people should only be so lucky to have them as readers. Of course, thanks also go to my SQ beta, Beth, who is unbelievably patient.

 

 

            On a cold, rainy sort of day, about two years ago, Gilderoy Lockhart came to Bandon, County Cork, Republic of Ireland.

           

He had come to meet a friend of mine, my best mate, actually. Maura and I have always been best mates. I was born a few months behind her, and since my father was a wizard, and both her parents were magical, it seemed only natural that we more or less grew up together. When we went to Hogwarts, we stayed friends, even though it was hard at times. She was Sorted into Slytherin, and I went into Hufflepuff, which would have made things difficult at the best of times, but since I was half and half, a lot of her housemates tried to make things especially hard. But if Maura hadn’t been Sorted into Slytherin, I’ve always thought that she would have been sorted into Hufflepuff. She was stubborn and loyal to a fault, and she always ignored her housemates whenever we sat together in the library or went into Hogsmeade. By the time we graduated, the war had started to heat up, and it became more difficult to rationalise our friendship to my own housemates, never mind Maura’s. After we left Hogwarts, the war intensified, and Maura, as stubborn as she was, made her loyalties blatantly obvious. Such as it was, I’m sure both of us were lucky to survive the war years.

           

Maura’s best subjects at Hogwarts had been Defence Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Creatures, so it seemed only natural, after the war ended and everyone could go back to their normal lives, that she take up “taking care of pests,” as she called it. She officially worked on her own, but anyone involved in that line of work knows that it’s foolish to go it alone, so usually she went where she was needed and worked with whoever was locally “taking care of pests” there, and she was developing quite a reputation for herself.

           

Within a few years after the war, however, Bandon received its own pest. Really came out of the blue, nobody was sure where it had come from, and no one wanted to get close enough to ask it. Maura hadn’t dealt with Banshees before, and tried to get some of her old contacts to come over and help her get rid of it. Banshees were rarely a problem outside of Ireland, and people in Ireland who knew how to get rid of them begged off for some reason or another. Later we found out that one of the preferred ways of ridding an area of a Banshee was forcing it to go somewhere else. You can make of that what you will.

           

The local wizarding community tried to watch out for the Muggles. We really did. We got permission from our Council of Magic to put up Muggle wards, so they’d stay out of the Banshee’s territory. We put up wards around the Banshee to try to keep her in. But sometimes a Muggle got too close to the edge of the wards, and for a while it seemed like it had been during the war, where the local Muggle papers would have mysterious deaths on the front pages every few months or so. Then Mister Lockhart came, and everything changed for Maura.

 

                                                                                                                                               

 

It was almost time for dinner, I thought, looking at the clock on the wall. Maura seemed to be aware of this, as she was almost pointedly not looking at the clock. She continued pushing a cloth around her desk, having run out of things to file at least an hour ago. Occasionally she would halt her cleaning, wander over to the filing cabinets and then poke through the files, as if she expected them to jump around in the drawers since the last time she checked.

           

I sighed and pushed away from my own desk and started walking over to Maura. She didn’t look up even though I wasn’t making any effort to walk quietly. She did tense up and stop moving for a second.

           

“Maura.” No reaction. I tried again, louder. “Maura.”

           

“Do you need help with something, Adela?”

           

“No, everything’s fine. I was going to suggest we close up for the night. I’m starting to get hungry.”

 

“I’m fine. I’m not hungry. You can go if you want. I’ll close up when I finish.”

 

She said this every day. Once in a while, I actually let her get away with it. I’d go home for dinner or I’d stop by a chip shop or go down to the pub for dinner, and I’d think of an excuse to walk back to the law firm and the lights would still be on, and Maura would either be scrubbing a spot onto her desk or just staring off into space until I rapped on the door and startled her.

 

“Well, if you’re not hungry, you can still come. I’m thinking I’ll go to the Legless Duck for dinner. I’ll buy you a drink.”

 

Maura looked at me with one eyebrow raised. How she still managed to do that was beyond me. “You are going to eat at that pub?”

 

“When a person gets hungry, they’ll settle for anything.”

 

“Why don’t you eat at home?”

 

“Well, I haven’t had time to do any shopping, have I? It being so busy ‘round here,” I said, gesturing at the spotless room.

 

She gave me a vaguely amused look but continued fingering the cloth that she hadn’t yet put down.

 

“C’mon. We both could use some socialising.” I banished the cloth to the dustbin. “Get up.”

 

Maura looked blankly at her desk for a minute and then pushed back from the desk.

 

“Great!” I tried not to sound too enthusiastic. Sometimes she just outright refused, usually when I tried to get her to come to my house for dinner. I think it’s easier for her when she’s in a group of people and she can pretend the focus isn’t on her, even though it’s just her and me eating at a table. I think the only reason why she can stand it at work is that she can act as though she’s too busy to make polite conversation.

 

I went over to the coat rack and got both our coats. Bandon has a small magical population, and the few magical businesses, like the Law Offices of Miotas and Evolutio (where we worked) and the Legless Duck, were shielded from Muggles and most of the witches and wizards donned Muggle clothing to blend in.

 

The pub wasn’t too far away, and Maura didn’t say much on the way there. I know that she doesn’t like working at the firm. I couldn’t really blame her. It was so different from what she used to do. After what had happened, and she had been out of St. Mungo’s for a few months, she obviously couldn’t go back to what she had been doing, at least not right away, and not before a lot of revision. The way she’s been acting, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was still scared. A bit of the “once bitten, twice shy” thing going on. Not that anyone could blame her. Knowing what happened to her probably put a few folks off of working with “beasts.”

           

But I get the feeling that she knows that this isn’t right. And it isn’t. She’s got talent. That sort of thing doesn’t die, no matter what’s happened to you. Someone who’s got the gifts that she’s got doesn’t deserve to be sitting in the Law Offices of Miotas and Evolutio, where there isn’t anyone named Miotas and Evolutio and the two people that work there would never have a chance of practicing law.

           

The “law firm” we worked at had been a running joke around town for the last couple of years, at least. Miotas had studied law to carry on the family tradition, got his licence by bribery and used more of the same to get Evolutio to work with him. Miotas did some of the cases, did more of what he called “research” and Evolutio did most of the cases, and never seemed to have a need for any of the research that Miotas dug up. One day Miotas came in, said that he didn’t really care to practice law any more, but in the interest of economy, he’d practice historical law, and that his half of the staff would be assisting him in research. No one quite knew what historical law was exactly, but it quickly became evident that by research he meant reading old newspapers looking for his name in the headlines. By that afternoon, Mr. Evolutio had packed up and left the office, never to be seen again. Rumours later floated back to the town that Mr. Evolutio had ended up at a small resort in St. Kitts in the Caribbean, taking care of whatever legal problems it may have. His staff was added to Mr. Miotas’ staff. After a while, James Feehan asked him if there was anything else he wanted done. Mr. Miotas said that there wasn’t, but that if he wanted to leave to find another job, he’d get one hundred and fifty galleons as severance. James left, and each time someone else asked him the same question, they’d get the same answer. I couldn’t have left because my mum was ill, and she being Muggle and my dad dead, I was the only one to take care of her and there weren’t many other jobs in the vicinity. By the time my mum, bless her, had died, I was the last one left at the firm. Mr. Miotas had left himself, having moved out to a farm to raise geese. Most times when I was at the office, I’d read the papers, mark ‘em and file ‘em if they had anything about Mr. Miotas or his family in them, and then would listen to the wireless for a while or read until it was time to go.

 

 A few months after my mother died, Maura had her accident, or whatever you wanted to call it. I went over and visited her in hospital quite often, and when she came back she needed a job. I told Mr. Miotas that I needed help, and that Maura would be perfect for the job. She’s been working there for going on two years now, and the only noticeable change between working there by myself and Maura working there was that it took half the time to read the papers and that I had to keep thinking of excuses of not letting her go to that empty house of hers every night. She’d only be worse off than she is if the only place she goes is her house and the office.

 

As we got closer to the pub, I noticed that there wasn’t a big crowd inside. That worked out well. If it was noisy and full, it was usually harder to keep her there. She may prefer groups, but no one likes being jostled around.

           

We got our drinks and I got my food, which, as expected, wasn’t that nice, and sat down. I started cutting up my food, and watched Maura run her finger around the rim of her glass. She was in one of her moods tonight, and I knew that she wasn’t going to stick around long if she could help it. It’d be enough if she would finish her drink tonight.

 

After I took a few bites it was becoming apparent that certain awkward silence was settling in. The fact that I almost always tried to make Maura come with me somewhere, anywhere, after work had never come up in conversations. I believe that Maura assumed that it was retribution for getting her a job; that the payment was keeping me company when I needed it, when John, my Significant Other, as they say, was out on the other side of the world doing repair work on the Floo Network. Honest enough work, but he wasn’t home often. Of course, she could have seen right through me. She had always been able to do that, and though I assumed that had changed after she had lost her memories, I wouldn’t be surprised if that weren’t the case. Still, even if she hadn’t lost everything, bringing up my concern for her wasn’t exactly comfortable dinner conversation. Casting about for a topic, I blurted out the first thing that had come into my mind which was something that I had been thinking about for the past few months.

 

“How long do you expect you’ll be working at the firm?”

 

Maura’s glass suddenly danced across the table and I reached out to steady it before it fell over or went off the edge of the table. “What—I thought—I didn’t know that it was considered temporary.” She let the unasked question hang in the air. I raised my eyebrows at her, wishing again that I could just raise one, though I really couldn’t see the use in this situation.

 

“Well, it wasn’t, really. You can stay there until you quit working all together, if you’d like. But the only reason why I stay there is that it pays the bills and I can’t be bothered to try to find another job, because honestly I don’t care. I like my freedom, and Merlin knows I get plenty of it at the firm. But I’m the first to admit that counting blades of grass is an adrenalin rush compared to working there. And, Maura, don’t try telling me you like it.”

 

Maura, having recovered both her wits and her glass, took a sip out of the latter, and then said levelly, “I’m sure you don’t find it any more fascinating than I do.”

           

I dived right in without any heed for my own sanity. “Of course I don’t. But I accept it. Sometimes I’m disappointed that I couldn’t be doing things different. Travelling all over the world, meeting the rich and famous, seeing my own name in the papers, but I’ve mostly accepted that it’s my lot in life, and mostly I’m happy with it. Miotas is fair enough, he lets me take time off when I need it, and I make enough to do some travelling once in a while, and my John is around often enough for me not to be wanting in that area. But Maura, you don’t accept it. Otherwise, why would you be rubbing spots into the desks, and organising the files alphabetically, numerically, chronologically, by length, and any other which way after doing the same thing only ten minutes ago. You’re restless, dear, and no one can blame you. You aren’t meant to be doing this sort of thing. You know that.”

 

Maura was looking out of a window. There wasn’t anything interesting out there, but I figured that she needed to gather her thoughts together, and I started to make a dent into my dinner. I had just come back from the bar with another drink when Maura spoke again. She had been running her thumb over the tips of her fingers and had been doing this for a good five minutes, which is why I nearly upset my own drink when she suddenly said “I don’t.”

 

“Beg pardon?” I asked, dabbing at the spot on the table where some of my drink had splashed.

 

“I don’t,” she repeated calmly.

 

I tried to remember what I had last said. I remembered the general gist of it, but not verbatim. “Don’t what?”

 

“I don’t know that I’m not meant to be working at the offices.”

 

“How do you mean that?”

 

“Well, supposing I am meant to be working at the firm, and you’re just saying it.”

 

I blinked a couple of times. “What, you think I’m lying to you?” I put down my fork. “Are you saying you like it there?”

 

“I---I don’t know.” She sounded rather final about it, and put her glass down with a thud.

 

I looked at my own glass and thought for a second. “Well, it’s a simple enough question. Do you or don’t you like working there?”

 

“Didn’t you here me? I just said I don’t know.”

 

I was getting a bit tired and frustrated. “How do you mean—”  

 

“Why’s it matter?” Maura’s face was getting a bit red, and her eyes were getting a bit shiny. “Well—I’d say that I—I like working there a lot more than you do. You’re always the one that wants to leave first.”

 

I knew that it was because she didn’t want to go home, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why she didn’t want to go to my house at night, or go for something to eat after we left. “Well…all right then. You like working there. Forget I said anything.” There. The ball was in her court. If Maura wanted to say anything more, it was up to her to bring it up. I started poking at the remains of my dinner.

 

After a few seconds, Maura cleared her throat. I looked up at her and met her eyes. She met my gaze for a moment, and then went back to running her thumb over the tips of her fingers.

 

“How can you know that I’m not meant to be doing this sort of thing?”

 

I sighed. She really was a piece of work. “Well, for one thing, anyone who spends anytime with you in that office could see it. Since I’m the only one there, though, it’s up to me to bring it up. But I know you, Maura. You don’t like doing this type of thing. You’re not meant to be cooped up inside. You never were, and I don’t see any reason to imagine that you ever will.”

 

“So what you’re saying is that you think you know me better than I know myself,” Maura said slowly.

 

I recognised it for what it was, of course. I knew it was a loaded question, even as I was saying “Of course not! What are you on about?” Heaven knows that I’ve pulled it a time or ten on John when he was home for a long enough time for us to get into a fight. And just the same, Maura was using that tone where she was angry, but didn’t think it was the best idea to show it. Funny. The last time I had been on the receiving end of that tone had been from my mum, a few years before she died.

 

Sure enough, Maura didn’t say anything for a few minutes afterwards. She kept on running her thumb over her fingers. Suddenly she relaxed and put both her hands on the table.

 

“Well, it’s true, I imagine.”

 

 

There were a few minutes of silence between the two of us, during which I cleared my throat a few times. Then I decided that tact could shove it.

 

“Well, yes. I suppose so. I mean, that’s to be expected in this sort of thing…” I started trailing off, realising that tact was very useful in this sort of thing, as well as making you think twice about saying things that you might regret.

 

Maura hadn’t lost everything. “No, Adela, you’re right. ‘Tis a pity, though, that there has to be this sort of thing.”

 

I swallowed, then nodded.

 

 

“You’re probably right about other things as well. I imagine I’m not exactly thrilled working at the firm. The problem is I can’t think of anything else I can do

at the moment.”

 

There was something in her tone that was making the hair on the back of my neck creep up. Sort of reminded me of when my grades from school came home and my mother got to the owl before I did. Mum may have been a Muggle, but she understood Hogwarts’ grading well enough. I cleared my throat.

 

“Well…maybe if you ask around…Or I could. Be glad, too. If you’d like…”

 

“There’s an idea…”The tone was still there. The sort of tone my mother used when she asked me if I could turn the cushions into a hoard of midges when I was five or why was I getting “Needs Improvement” in Transfiguration. “But I think the problem is that there isn’t much better. I’m not exactly sociable, so I couldn’t work in here,” she said, waving her hand at the pub in general. “I could work in the Flahertys’ shop, but I’m no good at maths. She began tapping her fingers on the table, very quickly like. Sort of like those stepping songs the Muggles around here used to fond of. Or one of those classical songs. Bee. Flight of the Bumblebee. That’s it. “That’s it for places of the magical sort ‘round here. If I worked with Muggles, they’d be suspicious, that’s for sure. Someone who can’t remember who they are.”

 

I cut in. “Well, you’d have to make stuff up if you were to be working with Muggles anyway.”

 

She kept going. “I suppose I could go over to Cork. Find something there. It’s not that far. I could take one of the Muggles’ buses. Or find a Floo connection. You’ve got one, yeah?”

 

I nodded. It didn’t seem likely that she had run out of steam yet, so I just let her go on.

 

“But what will I do?” She was still tapping madly on the table, and she hadn’t looked at me in the past few minutes. “All I know how to do is file papers.” Suddenly her head jerked up to look at me. “If I don’t like working at this place filing papers, how am I supposed to like filing at other places?”

 

“I’m not sure.” I hadn’t expected this conversation to take hold. At least, I don’t think I did. I just wanted her to start thinking about moving on if she was able. Just get her to start thinking about it.

 

“I’m not sure either. I can’t go back to Hogwarts, to learn everything I’m supposed to know. Those counsellors gave me some of those pamphlets on the necessities. Scourgify. Accio. Incindio. I suppose I could summon housecleaning supplies to me and after I’m done with them, I can light them on fire.” She gave a short, quiet laugh. “Nobody’s going to hire me. Even the Muggles expect you to have gone to their schools.”

 

“The Ministry will give you a fake—” I started.

 

“I still don’t know the slightest thing about Muggles. I’m still having trouble sorting out their money. They’d notice that, I’d say,” she said bitterly.

 

“Well, I still got my old books from school. I’ll loan ‘em to you. Not the same as learning from someone, but better than nothing.”

 

“I’ve still got my old texts.” Maura said shortly. “I’ve read ‘em.”

 

I hesitated. “Well, you’ve tried some of the spells, then?”

 

“Of course. You think I’ve been using them as door stops?”

 

I watched her fingers, tapping the table. She was enjoying this. She always liked to play mind games, especially when something was bothering her. “Then what’s the problem?”

 

“Do you ever look at anything else in those papers besides Mioatas’ name?”

 

I thought for a moment. “Well, yes. Can’t say I ever pay close attention to them, though.”

 

Maura stopped tapping her fingers on the table, and put both of her hands around her glass. “There was something in it a few weeks ago. It was advice to kids who had just left school. You have to sell yourself, it said.”

 

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Well, I suppose that wouldn’t hurt, but I hear you can get some awfully nasty things that way.”

 

Maura rolled her eyes and took one of her hands away from the glass. “Well, my problem is,” she began, ignoring my statement, “what I’ve got to sell. No skills. No talents. I’m a medical case. I know they aren’t supposed to discriminate.” She said, holding up a hand to stop me. “But they do, and just call it something else. And I know I’m not prize to look at.”

 

“You’ve been thinking about this before, then? Asking around?”

 

She nodded. “Didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You’ve been good to me. Getting me this job, checking in on me. Didn’t want you to think that I didn’t appreciate it.”

 

“I never thought you’d have stuck around.” I said, surprised. “Not that I don’t appreciate it, mind. But…” I trailed off. I never could figure out a plan for Maura after she outgrew the position at the firm. Merlin knows that I’ve spent time thinking about it, but I had always thought it would be one of those things that sort themselves out.

 

Maura was studying me. “I never asked you to be my caretaker, Adela.”

 

I smiled a little. “Someone’s got to take care of things for you. No one else knows you that well.”

 

Instead of returning my smile, as I had thought she would, she looked back down at her glass. “Nope. No one does. You know me best.” She glanced back up me and then stared out the window. “What would I do without you?”

 

Maura plays mind games. I crack jokes. “Be in a right state, I imagine.”

 

She didn’t answer, and began running her fingers around her glass. “It isn’t really fair, is it?” She asked quietly. She abruptly stopped her finger and reversed direction.

 

I kept quiet. I don’t know if she was expecting an answer.

 

“Its right, isn’t it?” She asked. “Your mum dies for a couple of years, and you’re stuck here taking care of her while your husband goes around the world. Then your mother dies, and you’re stuck at this job. Then I get—I don’t know, and you have to take care of me.”

 

I choked on my last bit of food. “Honestly, Maura. I don’t look at it that way. Neither should you!”

 

“Can’t help it,” Maura said bitterly.

 

“Maura, knock it off. I really don’t mind.”

 

“I do.” Maura took a sip of her drink. I don’t know why. It was water. Maybe force of habit. “I’m an expert in whatever it is I did. I still don’t know what the title was. Obnoxious Magical Beast Catcher, I guess. I worked with all these other experts. Then damn it all, I’m out in the fields, gibbering like an idiot, and I don’t remember a damn thing. It isn’t fair.” She gulped down the rest of her water and started choking on it. I hit her back a few times.

 

“No, it isn’t.” I answered when she finished choking.

 

“Damn banshee.” She thumped her glass down on the table. “I’ve read through all those books that I had from before. I’ve read all I could think of. Never read about a banshee that knocks out memories. My luck to find the one that does. My luck that Lockhart’s weakness is Shielding charms. And Silencing charms. And whatever other charms that could have helped.” She breathed out threw her mouth. “How the hell is he such an expert if he doesn’t know Shielding charms? Excuse me, is weak at Shielding charms? Hell, how is he still alive? Seems to me that’d be the first thing you learn.” She leaned back in her chair. “I know it’s not his fault. If I was such an expert—” She looked over at me for confirmation. “Then I would know this stuff myself. It was my fault. I wasn’t quick enough on the wand. I was being stupid. I wasn’t sticking close to Lockhart or he wasn’t sticking close to me. Whatever happened and however it happened. It doesn’t matter now.”

 

I finished my drink, then looked at her. She was staring at the ceiling. I got up and got our coats. She put hers on without saying anything, and we started walking away from the pub. Once we got to the end of the street, we’d have to go our separate ways until tomorrow.

 

“I’m sorry,” I murmured into my coat. I think I was sorry for bringing it up. I know I was sorry for it happening.

 

“It’s all right,” Maura said absently. “Well, I guess it isn’t.” She sighed and a cloud of steam floated in front of us for a second before disappearing.

 

“I guess it would make sense to be confused. And I did that. I remember being confused. I was more confused about the stuff that I did remember. How did I remember how to talk? How come I remembered to dress myself? How come I don’t get lost around here?”

 

She looked so lost that I laughed a little out of instinct, trying to lighten the mood. “Yeah, I remember coming in and you arguing with the Healer about how come you remembered how to go to the toilet.”

 

Maura gave a laugh that turned into a sigh. “I remembered how to read. And once I started learning the spells again, the basic ones came back quick enough. But it seems like it took away everything. You know more about me than I do. Half the people in this town know me better than I do. And it just seems like it will always be like that.”

 

We walked in silence for a few moments. “Did I ever tell you that Lockhart sent me a gift while I was in hospital?”

 

I was surprised. “No, I don’t think so.”

 

“He sent me a singing card. I know it’s a nice thought and all, but all it sounded like was Cornish Pixies screeching. Actually, it was Cornish Pixies screeching. He wrote in it, saying that if I start off with Cornish Pixies, I could work my way up to Banshees. Build up an immunity. That’s what he did, apparently, how he saved himself. I was still mostly confused, I guess, but I was just so angry at him. I wanted to throttle him. Did he tell me that before we left? Before we went out to meet the Banshee?”

 

I shook my head. I didn’t know. I had wished her luck the night before, as was our practice when she went out on dangerous missions and pretended that we knew that we would see each other within the week. But I usually hadn’t done her research with her, or gone with her whenever she worked with another person or a group of people and they did debriefing, or whatever it was they called it.

 

“Shouldn’t it work that way?” She asked, trying to sound calm, but her voice began to thin out. “I tell him everything I know about the situation, about the ‘beast’ and he does the same?”

 

“I’m pretty sure that’s how it usually worked when you did that sort of thing.” I wanted give her a hug or try to comfort her in any way, but she was so high strung at the moment that she would probably snap. Maybe it was good that it was brought up now. If it had been left any longer, she would have stewed over. If that wasn’t what she was doing now.

 

“I’ve heard him on the wireless, not too long ago. Sometimes when I’m home alone and I’m tidying up and…well, you know. Sometimes it goes by quicker if it feels like someone’s there with you. Anyway, ‘parently he’s writing a new book.”

 

I nodded. “It seems like he always is.”

 

Maura grinned a little. It was amazing how quickly someone’s temper changed. “Aye, but this one’s an autobiography,” she said knowingly.

 

I halted for a moment. “And the others weren’t?”

 

Maura’s smile almost strengthened for a moment. “I went over to the bookstore in Cork last Saturday. They had signs all over. It’s going to be out in two months. Imagine that? Having signs up about a book two months before they’re going to sell it!” Maura shook her head. “It’s going to be called ‘Magical Me.’”

 

We were at the corner where we had to split up, but Maura was hesitating. I took this as a good sign. Usually she left my company as soon as was polite. To try and keep the conversation going, I grasped for a question. “What were you looking for in Cork?”

 

Maura’s face closed up again, and I sighed inwardly. “Nothing too particular.” She glanced down towards her street, but I at least had to try to find out what was going on.

 

“Well, did you buy anything?” I asked.

 

Maura again glanced down the street. “Well, I was actually looking at his books,” she said, and I had the feeling that if she had one, she’d be glancing at her wristwatch.    “Did you buy one of them?” I prompted.

 

“Actually, I did. Break with a Banshee.”

 

I had been expecting that, but I tried to match her tone of trying to keep the conversation. “Was it a good read?”

 

Maura breathed out through her nose. “Very informative.”

 

I raised my eyebrows at her, but Maura ignored me and started to walk down the street. I shrugged, and walked with her.

 

“Well, what did you think of it? Was it an ‘Enthralling Read’? A ‘Smashing Success’? A ‘Real Page Turner?”

 

Maura shot a look at me. “Mr. Lockhart is an excellent story teller. It’d be a good read if it were a complete work of fiction….For all I know, it very well could be.”

 

I nodded, and walked quietly beside her for a moment or two. “So you didn’t remember any of it?”

 

Maura’s shoulders slumped. “Not one word. Of course, he didn’t put much in that I imagine I would recognize. The only times I was in there was at the beginning and when Mr. Lockhart went in and rescued me ‘mere seconds before the horrid Banshee of Bandon sent the girl to meet her maker!’ Very impressive, I thought.” She added bitterly.

 

“I think you’re right.”

 

“Eh?”

 

“It is fiction. In all the time I’ve known you, I’ve never known you to have intentions to meet your maker. The man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

 

We walked for a bit without saying much else other than pleasantries and the weather. When we got to her house, I stepped in for a few moments, and she offered me some tea. That in itself was hopeful, but I had something I wanted to do before I turned in for the night. Maybe this would last. I hoped it would. We said our good nights, and see you tomorrows, and Maura closed the door and I walked back towards town.

 

I walked past the street I would need to walk down to get to my house, and continued to the main street of town, and walked back to the Law Offices of Miotas and Evolutio. I unlocked the doors and lit the lanterns again. Then I walked over to the filing cabinet labelled “Bandon’s Famiousities.” Mr. Miotas insisted on calling it that, and it was full of news items that really didn’t have anything to do with Miotas, but Bandon as a whole. Anything exciting that had ever happened in Bandon was in here, magical or Muggle was in this filing cabinet. Considering the size of Bandon, it wasn’t that full, and about half of it was filled with events that had started happening seven years ago, on 14 April, and Catherine Finnigan’s boy first saw it. The wretched creature began screaming, but fortunately it wasn’t the “fatal cry” and the boy’s own instinctual magic created a silencing block before the thing changed pitch.

 

We all knew not to go out there, but even with our precautions for the Muggles, there’d be another death that they couldn’t explain. At least it wasn’t as bad as during the war, but it still didn’t make things much easier. It was heartbreaking to see the families upset and wondering how their perfectly healthy family member had a heart attack in the middle of a road. Each article telling these tales was dutifully chronicled in the filing cabinet.

 

Maura was the only one around who knew how to deal with dark creatures. She bought all the books she could find on Banshees. Travelled up north and to Canada and the States to talk with the few people living who had gotten rid of banshees. Set up a lot of correspondences with the experts. Then one day, on a whim after seeing so many of his books in the bookstore, decided that it couldn’t hurt to write Mr. Lockhart and see if he had anything to say on the subject. Before you could know it, he was here, in Bandon, suggesting that they go out there that very weekend.

 

Maura hadn’t thought it was a good idea. Even though it generally seemed dangerous, she always liked to stake out the area where her “beasts” lived before she went after them. But she, like all of us, had been wowed by his merits. Surely if he could cure a werewolf, turn a vampire vegetarian, and spend a whole year with a Yeti, he must be able to do something about a banshee. So she had made her preparations as quickly as she could, and that Saturday they both went out. Within two hours they both came back, Maura with that horrible dazed look in her eyes. My John hadn’t been working for the Floo Regulation Panel then, so he’d been home at the time, and he took her to St. Mungo’s by Floo. We had to Confund her before we could get her to step into the fireplace, she had been so out of her mind.

 

Mr. Lockhart gave us his story, didn’t even bat and eye, and finished with “Unfortunately, these things happen all too often. Dreadfully sorry. Do keep me informed of her condition.” Then he Disapparated. A few months later, we received a letter from Lockhart’s solicitor, saying that Mr. Lockhart was planning on writing a book on his experiences in Bandon, and that he had received an advancement from his publisher. Mr. Lockhart had very generously directed that a hundred Galleons from the advancement should go to Ms. Maura Leary’s expenses derived from her stay at St. Mungo’s. Would we be so kind as to ensure that she receives it?

 

I found myself staring at Lockhart’s picture in the paper, and wasn’t very surprised to find that I really wanted to rip it in half. I wanted to see the surprise in his face as it happened. I also wasn’t very surprised to find that my hands and arms were shaking. I’m sure if I looked in a mirror, it would have commented on the redness of my face and perhaps my eyes as well.

 

I took a deep breath. Then another. Then I returned the clippings to the folder where they came from, returned the folder to the drawer, and slid it shut. I turned off all the lights, went outside and locked the door. Then I headed home.

 

 

//
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