That Olde Black Magic
A/N: This tale is told over five installments – a
departure from my usual format for the “Just Looking” series. So I hope you
will bear with me to the end.
the usual disclaimers apply. I only dabble in J.K.
Rowling’s world. No money is being made and no copyright infringement
special thanks to Gabriella DuSult
for the loan of her name and her signature Little Black Robes. Those LBRs and the
ensuing discussion provided the inspiration for this tale. Much
appreciation to andy33 for advice on
phrasing and all things British, and especially for taking on an established main
character with “idiosyncratic turns of speech.” You were marvelous. And a huge heaping of thanks to moonette for her
critiques, enthusiasm, and most of all her friendship.
Dedicated to St. Margarets and all the Fluffers at the Quill.
I rub my hands together with
anticipation and eye the battered Underwood typewriter resting on the kitchen
table before me. My first go at being a
romance novelist. I can hardly contain my excitement.
“What shall it be, Wanda?” I say to
my mechanical accomplice. “I think we need a new love interest for this novel.
What do you say, eh?”
The enchanted keyboard springs to
life. Her keys clatter, as inky words appear on the roll of parchment. I hear
the seductive slide of the carriage return and the soft ding of the bell. I peer over to see what she has written.
sinewy arm reached down, clasped Wanda’s waist, and pulled her free from the
bin. She collapsed into the muscled embrace of her rescuer, buoyed by the
strength of his rippling biceps. A
bespectacled man returned Wanda’s astonished gaze. But his bookish exterior could not hide the
mischievous twinkle behind the spectacles or the way his eyes stole over her.
marvelous,” he whispered. “The name’s Arthur Weasley. Misuse
of Muggle Artifacts.”
hero,” Wanda breathed.
“Oh, please, Wanda.” I roll my eyes.
“Isn’t that a little obvious? I’m sure this Mr. Weasley is a lovely man, but
you can’t be the heroine of your own novel.” I huff a sigh. “And
what about Heath?”
Heath. The hunky hero of Wanda’s last two romance novels. I think
of him and my mind wanders to the handsome Mr. Lupin. Hair the color of a sandy
beach, lightly salted with a distinguished grey. And those lovely, lonely blue-gray eyes like
the skies over London, cloudy with
a chance of showers. I can’t suppress my
giddy giggle at the thought of dinner with him later this evening.
“I want a gallant hero,” I say.
“Not some incorrigible rogue.”
Tappety tap. The charmed
typewriter goes to work again. I steal
bounded across the moors, her hair a windswept froth of tangles. She wiped an
errant lock from the path of her china blue eyes and threw herself into Heath’s
Heath,” she gasped, bosoms heaving. “Don’t leave me.”
“Very funny, Wanda,” I chide, with
my hands on my hips. “I don’t want to be
the heroine either.” My fingers drum a staccato rhythm on the table. “Now,
I glance over at the latest edition
of The Quibbler lying beside my cup
of afternoon tea. A young boy with
unkempt black hair and a lightning-shaped scar stares back at me from the front
cover. The headline flashes in bold scarlet
letters: “Harry Potter Speaks Out at Last: The Truth about
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the Night I Saw Him Return.” A shudder like a Dementor’s chill travels down my spine. The return of You-Know-Who is the very last
thing I want to consider when writing a romance novel.
I flip the paper open. A half-page
ad for Lady DuSult’s Little Black Robes catches my
eyes. “Because sometimes black magic is what’s called for,” I read. The buxom
brunette in the advertisement models a stunning beaded gown. Now, that’s more
like it. In a blink, the gown changes to
a daring red-hot number with a plunging neckline. Underneath, a byline blinks. “Now also in
“That’s the one,” I say, jabbing a
finger at the photograph. “Our new heroine, a curvaceous
brunette. I can see it all
now. A life and death struggle, the
daring rescue, the heroine clasped in the embrace of our gallant hero.” I sigh.
“We’ll call it On the Wings of Love.”
Chapter 1: Courting Disaster
A little “black magic” is precisely
what I need tonight. In just under an hour, I’ll be out with the dishy Mr. Lupin. So here I stand in the fitting room of
Lady DuSult’s trying on the latest in little black
robes. Black satin slips over my hips as I wiggle into the dress. Stomach in. Chest out. Inhale.
“How does it fit?” the proprietress
calls through the fitting room door.
“I…I don’t know.” I glimpse my
reflection in the mirror and cast an uncertain glance at the door. “What do you
Ms. DuSult, a statuesque brunette,
sweeps in and eyes my dress with an appraising stare. She cocks a finely shaped
“Not bad,” she says. She pulls a
clip from her chignon, sending luxurious locks cascading over her shoulders.
“Just needs a little adjustment.”
Her fingers tug on the fabric of
the dress, taking a nip here and a tuck there. She waves her wand. I inhale as
the dress cinches in at the waistline.
“And you’ll want a little something
to draw attention to the décolletage.” She waves her wand again, as magic
crackles over the gown. “Just a touch of magic to bring out your
inner beauty.” As she eyes her
creation, a slow smile spreads over her ruby lips. “There.”
I gaze into the mirror. The simple
black sheath clings to my body. Little
sequin crescent moons sparkle on the sweetheart neckline. Who is this woman
staring back at me, all softness and ample curves? My fingers sweep over the
silky satin, just to make sure it’s really me.
I cannot contain the seductive smile that slides over my face and the
blush that heightens my cheekbones. Just wait until Mr. Lupin gets an eyeful of
me in this.
“I’ll take it.” I say, exiting the
dressing room. My voice has deepened to a purr.
“No need to wrap it up. I’ll wear it.”
In a flash, she’s rung up my
purchase and I’m wending my way down Diagon Alley. My old frock swings in a shopping bag
dangling from my fingertips. With each
step, my new little black robe caresses my legs with a delightful satiny swish.
Outside Magical Menagerie, I stop
to check my reflection in the display window.
The stylist that Lady DuSult recommended has performed miracles on my hair.
I tug on a wispy tendril. My frizzy curls have been transformed into a simple
upsweep, my face now framed in soft spirals.
Then I see him…them…reflected in
the glass. I turn around to face Fortescue’s across the street. The ice cream parlor is brightly lit, the
interior clearly visible from the street.
Inside, Mr. Lupin sits in the company of…another woman!
Wind gushes from my lungs as if
I’ve been broadsided by a Bludger. Dazed, I stare. There must be some mistake.
Mr. Lupin reclines in his chair.
Only the young woman is eating. She is young and beautiful with a heart-shaped
face and brilliant pink hair. I can’t
Images of another pretty face loom
from my past. That irksome blonde tart with her arms around my ex. Voices echo
in my head accompanied by the crackle of an old wireless…
is Hilda. You’re listening to Household Hints with Hildegard on WWN. How may I help
Oh, she was helpful, all right.
Helped herself to my boyfriend. The tramp ran off with
This can’t be happening again. Perhaps
Mr. Lupin and this young woman are just friends, acquaintances. I’m
over-reacting. After all, he was supposed to have dinner with me. I know I should keep walking and pretend that
I saw nothing. But
Oh, Merlin, they’re sharing the
treat. The young woman holds out a spoonful of ice cream from her sundae and
spills. She springs from her chair to his side, frantically dabbing up
chocolate sauce from his shirt, his chest, his face. Her hand rests on his cheek. Warm color flushes
his face at her touch. And I can no
longer deny it. He loves her.
What man would not prefer a young
beauty like that? How can I hope to compete? I sniffle back my tears. I had such high hopes for this evening, but I
also have my pride. And I would rather walk away with it intact than grovel for
the affections of a man that I cannot hope to win.
I must call off my dinner with Mr.
Lupin. Think of a way out. My feet speed down Diagon Alley to the Owl
Post. I hope that I am not too late.
Gaslight illuminates the streets of
Diagon Alley in a flickering coppery glow. I dash down a narrow, winding side
street. My heels patter a melancholy
rhythm against the cobbles. The
lamplights turn into flaring pinwheels through the blurred lens of my tears. Mr.
Lupin will have read my letter by now, a paper thin excuse about a forgotten
previous engagement. I do not want him
to see me like this; do not want to have to explain the truth. It’s better this way.
I speed my steps, anxious for the
familiar comforts of my flat – a cozy chair by the fire, a cup of cocoa, and a
tawdry romance novel. I recall the clickety-clack of Wanda’s enchanted keys, typing away as I
left. Perhaps she has even completed the first chapter of our novel. What solace that would be.
The Hawkins and Smyth Booksellers sign
welcomes me toward my shop. My books are
all safe and secure behind closed shutters, where I long to be. Locks on the
front door click open. I reach for the knob.
Rapid footsteps approach. I hear
the soft swish of fabric, leathery like the wings of a bat. Darkened shadows
reach for me with inky fingers. Hairs on the back of my neck quiver to
attention. My heart pounds with fright like a snidget
caught in a net. Damn, why won’t this door open?
“All right, love?” a hoarse
baritone voice whispers. The scent of liquor on his breath is unmistakable,
about ninety proof.
My fingers whisk my wand from my
pocket. Soft light ignites at the tip. I
twist around to get a good look at my assailant. A man of about thirty-five stares back at me,
a crumpled bit of parchment in his hand. Dark hair falls with rakish abandon
over a pair of haunted eyes. His face is still handsome, although there is a
rugged, even haggard look about him as though he’s seen more of life than
warranted by his age.
Wait a minute. I know this
face. More filled out than in the wanted
posters, but unmistakable.
“You?” I stagger backward. My wand tip is shaking, pointed at the man’s
chest. “I know who you are. I’ve read the papers. I’ve seen the posters. Merlin, there’s one
posted in my shop window. You’re…St-stubby
He’s not really Boardman, I know.
But I cannot bring myself to say so without fainting on the spot. Denial is the
better part of valor.
“Can’t put one over
on you, love.” He chuckles, a
barking laugh that I know I’ve heard before.
“What do you want?” My fingers
tighten on the handle of my wand. I’m not lowering it. “Did Malfoy send you? Are you one of his thugs?”
“Whoa, easy now.”
He raises his arms in mock surrender. A
roguish grin lights his features. “I like a woman with spunk. But there’s no
need to hit me with a load of dragon dung.”
Oh, for Agrippa’s sake. He’s barking mad and drunk to boot.
“Why, I’ve half a mind to—” I
sputter, waving my wand tip at his nose.
Hang on. Load of dragon dung? I
stare into his bedroom eyes. Only two people and a great black dog witnessed my
showdown with Malfoy. And this man
wasn’t one of them.
“How do you know about that?” I
“Well, I…” His eyes take on a
Mr. Snape’s words repeat in my head:
Perhaps you are unaware, Miss Smyth, you
are standing in the presence of a dangerous wanted criminal. The realization hits me like a Stunning Hex.
Images of the great black hound
flash through my memory. A sodden mutt
with pink soap bubbles on his paws and a clownish grin. The
hungry canine licking the last dregs of a steak and kidney pie from a tin.
The massive dog stretched out across my bed.
I relive it all in the mischievous glint in this man’s grey eyes.
“You’re the dog, aren’t you?” I’m
so shocked that my wand hand drops limp to my side. “You’re an Animagus.”
An unrepentant lopsided grin works
over his face as if this is all some big joke. What a cheeky rascal! My hand lashes out to strike his face. A stinging slap.
“What was that for?” His hand massages
his jaw. I can hear the abrasion of his
fingers against the five-o’clock-shadow.
“For tricking your way into my flat
and spending the night under false pretenses, that’s what!” I shake out my
hand, my fingers still smarting from the blow.
Merlin’s beard! Did I just slap a
wanted criminal? What was I thinking? I flatten
myself against the door. The handle digs
into the small of my back. What have I done?
“Off with you now,” I say, my wand
tip trained back on his chest. “Before I send for Magical Law
An idle threat, I know. My eyes
peer over Black’s shoulder and sweep the deserted street. Please, let there be
someone there. Someone to rescue me. But only the fog creeps along the cobbles.
“Easy, love,” Black’s voice
soothes. “I’m not going to harm you. I just came to check on you.” He runs a
hand through his dark mop of hair and stares down at the crinkled parchment in
his hand. His expression grows grim. “When you called off your evening with Moon…I
mean, Remus, I thought maybe you ran into Malfoy or something.”
“What?” My head reels. “You know
What connection could Mr. Lupin possibly
have with the Ministry’s most wanted criminal? My white knight’s armor has
certainly taken a tarnishing tonight. My knees wobble and weaken beneath me. How
could I have been so stupid?
More footsteps sound on the
cobbles. Thank heavens, someone’s coming. I hear a light warbling whistle. Or
is that buzzing in my ears? Lamplight illuminates a thin man in a worn cloak
heading toward my door. Oh, Doxy droppings! It’s him.
“Cory?” Mr. Lupin says. His eyes
widen, then travel to the man leaning against the
shutters covering my shop window. “Sirius? What are you
The buzz in my ears increases to a
roar. My vision blurs, then fades to black.