The Sugar Quill
Author: Eudora Hawkins  Story: That Olde Black Magic  Chapter: Chapter 2: Revelations
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Black Magic Chapter 2

That Olde Black Magic

Chapter 2: Revelations

Tappety-tap-tap. Ding!   The metallic clatter of a typewriter’s keys rings in my ears. The comforting aroma of paper and ink fills my nostrils. Then the biting scent of liquor. A hoarse voice whispers in my ear. Enervate!  The charm tingles on my skin. My eyes jolt open, squinting into the soft gaslight.  A rugged unshaven face peers back at me. Sirius Black.

“Aaaaaah,” I scream.

I shrink from him, scrambling back against the cushions of an overstuffed chair. My wand. My fingers fly to my pockets. Where is my wand? My thoughts are firing faster than spells in a duel. Where am I? How did I get here? What has he done to me?

“It’s all right, Cory.” Mr. Lupin’s warm hand clasps mine. He places two wands in my palm, wrapping my fingers around smooth wood. “There. You’re armed and we aren’t. Now, please, calm down.”

His eyes are gentle, kind, and pleading. I feel myself slipping under his spell. I pull my hand from his grasp and look away. I don’t want to be hurt again.

My eyes shoot past Mr. Lupin to my surroundings, trying to get my bearings.  Musty old tomes and crisp paperbacks line the shelves all around me. A tea trolley rests next to my chair, piled with romance paperbacks. The latest edition of The Quibbler lies folded beside them. I’m inside my bookshop in my comfy reading nook behind the counter. Even so, my hands shake. I can barely grip the wands.

“Where do you keep your smelling salts?” Mr. Lupin studies me, his face creased with too many cares. He takes my hand and chafes my wrist.

“The store cupboard,” I say, collapsing back against the chair cushions.

“Sirius?” Mr. Lupin nods to Black.

Black’s heavy footfalls stomp across my shop.  I hear the door to the store cupboard creak open behind me. Sounds of shuffling papers float from the backroom. Black’s frustrated mumblings accompany his search.

“You know him?” I twist to catch a glimpse of Black. Shafts of light spill from the cupboard door, left ajar.  But that renegade is hidden behind the door, out of sight.

“He’s…we’re only trying to help,” Mr. Lupin says.

My cloak slides from my shoulders. I grab for it, but my fingers close on air.  Mr. Lupin’s gorgeous, heart-breaking eyes stare, taking stock of my curve-hugging gown.  His mouth slackens for just a moment, then his jaw goes rigid.  Anger, resignation, and sadness all flash in his eyes.  He turns and stares at a rumpled parchment spread open on the counter. My own loopy handwriting covers the tear-splotched page.

“My note,” I say. Was that the parchment I saw in Black’s fist?  My eyes search Mr. Lupin’s face. “You never got it?”

The disappointment in his eyes tells all. Merlin’s beard, imagine how it must look to him.  How shocking to find me dressed in a sexy little black robe with another man, after I’ve called off our dinner engagement for this evening.  What must he think of me?  But then, what was he doing with her?

I owe Mr. Lupin a proper explanation. But would he ever believe the truth?  Chagrin warms my face.  All my words have fled.

Always the gallant gentleman, Mr. Lupin does not confront me.  He walks to my tea trolley, plucks a book from the pile of dog-eared paperbacks teetering on the edge, and pretends to browse.  Pretends, I know, because the tension in the room thickens like a Dementor-induced fog.

“I know what you’re thinking.” I manage a wan half-smile. “It isn’t how it looks.”

“Doesn’t matter.” He waves a dismissive hand, but doesn’t lift his eyes from the book. “Would have happened eventually.” His tone is resigned, seasoned with a hint of sarcasm. A wry smirk appears at the corner of his lip.  “I suppose the vicar let slip about my condition.”

“The vicar?” My astonished eyes are glued on him.  “Mr. Snape knows about you and that pink-haired witch?”

“What?” Mr. Lupin fumbles the book in his hands.

The paperback careens into the pile, sending the stack toppling across the cart.  He grabs for the books in a futile attempt to restore order. But things cannot be put right so easily now, can they?  Best to come clean, I think. I take a deep breath and pluck up the book he was browsing—Wanda Witherspoon’s Moon over the Moors.

“I saw you and a young witch together at Fortescue’s.”  I hand him the book.  The quaffle is in his court.  Now it’s his turn to explain.

“But there’s nothing between me and Tonks,” he says.

Tonks?  Miss Tonks? Visions of the spry grey-haired woman that delivered that wonderful typewriter pop into my head. Miss Tonks was her name. That sweet young thing in Fortescue’s is the elderly woman?  I will my gob shut, but can’t help staring.  Now I recall the wrinkle-free face, the youthful voice, the vim and vigor of the old dame.  She’s no old woman. How could I have missed it before?

“We’re just colleagues…” he says. “Friends.”

“It didn’t look that way to me.” I cross my arms over my chest.

“And Severus didn’t tell you that I’m…?” Confusion clouds his blue-grey eyes.  I follow his gaze to a fading scar on the back of his hand. He stares at the book in his palm.

Heath, the muscular hero of Moon over the Moors, winks back at me from the cover.  Then it hits me—the scars, his mended cloak, his penury, his interest in my romance novel. Mr. Lupin knew the ending. He knew Heath’s unspoken secret. He’s a werewolf too.

“Oh, Merlin, no,” I say. “You thought I called off our dinner because of that?”

“Why, yes,” he says. “I’m not exactly a popular dinner guest.”

The loneliness in his eyes breaks my heart.  I avert my own gaze and look down at the brawny man gracing the cover of Moon over the Moors. Mr. Lupin and I first met over that book. He was a gentleman from the start. And even when Mr. Snape baited him with barbs, he repaid Snape’s ill will with kindness. Mr. Lupin may be a werewolf, but he’s as much a knight as the strapping hero of that romance novel.

“Well, it doesn’t bother me.” I point to the book in his hand. “Heath is a werewolf.”

“Cory.” Mr. Lupin sighs and places the book on the table. “Heath is fictional character. Sirius wrote this as a joke.  A parody.”

A loud bang sounds from the store cupboard, followed by a few choice mutterings from Black. A wary look crosses Mr. Lupin’s face. 

“You all right in there?” Mr. Lupin shouts toward the storeroom.

“Fine.” Black’s deep baritone resonates from the cupboard. “Just fine.”

 Mr. Lupin’s shoulders relax, but he still doesn’t look at me.

“Granted, we’ve only just met.” I reach for Mr. Lupin’s arm. “But everything I’ve seen of you points to a man of courage, kindness, gentleness. A sort of nobility.”

“Brilliant. A noble savage.” Mr. Lupin shakes his head and turns away. “But it changes nothing. I’m still too old, too poor, and…too dangerous.”

Too old?  His slip cuts deeper than a Slashing Hex.  He’s not thinking of me, is he?  I wonder if Miss Tonks has any idea how lucky she is.

The sting of Mr. Lupin’s unwitting rejection strikes deep, its pain sharp. I sink down into my overstuffed chair, wishing that I could just disappear into its soft cushions. He studies my face. His expression is all solicitude and concern. He has no idea what he’s done.

“Hurry up with those smelling salts, Sirius,” he shouts to Black. “She’s going under again.”

A louder crash erupts from the store cupboard. Plumes of dust billow from my storeroom along with coughing and more unseemly language. The effect is more sobering than a doze of Pepper-Up. I bolt to my feet. What the devil is that brigand doing back there? Destroying my storeroom?

I dart to the store cupboard on the heels of Mr. Lupin and rush through the door. A panel hangs askew along the back wall. Behind it, a hidden cubbyhole. Where did that come from? Black kneels on the floor in front of the gaping hole and chuckles.

“What the blazes have you done?” I say to Black, my mouth hanging open.

“Look at this.” Black reaches into the opening and extracts a dirty bottle. He purses his lips and blows grime from the label. His face breaks into a triumphant grin. “Ogden’s”

Ogden’s Old Firewhisky. My ex used to drink that.  I haven’t touched the stuff in years.

“There’s quite a stash back here,” Black says, taking more bottles from their hiding place. “Along with this.”

He pulls a bound stack of parchment from the dust and hands it to me.  I study the faded and tattered cover.  Journeys with the Jinn. Oh Merlin, my ex’s memoir…or the beginnings of one.  He was writing this book when we were together. Stories of his school years, traveling the world with a genie for a private tutor.  But what is his manuscript doing in my store cupboard?

I drop the tome as if scorched by a dragon’s fiery breath. The memoir crashes to the floor, sending up a cloud of lilac dust. A photograph pops from between the pages of the manuscript. I scoop it up and stare.

A young witch waves to me from the photo. She is slim, her head covered in light brown curls. Me at fifteen. A dark-skinned man, wearing ballooned trousers and a turban, stands by her, I mean, my side. His muscled arms cross his chest, gold bracelets gleaming on his wrists. How odd. I don’t recall this man or the occasion of this photograph. Did I know him?

“What’s this?” Black leans over my shoulder, whistles, and points at the photograph in my hand.

“Oh nothing,” I say, turning the photograph over so he can’t see. “Just old rubbish.”

Nausea washes over me.  I drop the photo and watch it flutter in spirals to the floor. My stomach churns. I clutch my head to stop the room from spinning out of control. Perhaps it’s just the reminders of my ex.

“Oh, Merlin,” I say, as my knees give way beneath me. 

Mr. Lupin grabs hold of my arm and steers me out to my chair.  Black pulls the stopper from a bottle and thrusts a whisky glass into my hand.  Ice chatters against the glass. Black guides the goblet to my lips.  I sip, allowing the liquor to do its work on my frazzled nerves. 

Whisky burbles into two more glasses. Black hands one to Mr. Lupin and keeps the other. He leans against the counter, raises his glass to his lips, and downs the contents in a single gulp. His empty glass clinks on the counter.

Black’s grey eyes hold my stare as if he’s trying to read my thoughts.  Memories from the other night pop unbidden into my head. Malfoy regarding me with his imperious leer. His two muscle-bound goons preparing to rip up my flat.  The large black dog standing between me and disaster. I gaze into Black’s eyes through his unkempt fringe and see the mangy hound that saved my life.

“Tell me why Malfoy would want to ransack your place,” he says.

A sour laugh escapes my lips. “Malfoy came looking for Paul that night,” I say. “Paul Hawkins, my business partner. He’s been handling the books for years. I had no idea that we were in debt. No idea that he’d borrowed money from Malfoy.”

“How much are you into Malfoy for?” Mr. Lupin settles into a high-backed chair across from me and rests his drink on his knee.

“Fifty thousand Galleons.” I lower my glass. Desperation settles over my heart.

“Tell us everything you know about Hawkins,” Mr. Lupin says, leaning forward in his seat.

“There isn’t much to tell.” I take another gulp of whisky and swallow, allowing the alcohol to lubricate my lips. “I first met Paul about five years ago. His fiancée, Hilda, was in radio. Household Hints with Hildegard.”

“I remember her,” Mr. Lupin says. “Had a spot on WWN. Tips for getting rid of Doxies and the like.”

“Yes, that’s her.” I nod. Bitterness tinges my voice. “Anyway, Hilda was an old acquaintance of my ex-boyfriend’s.”

Actually, Hilda was a bit more than an acquaintance.  But I didn’t find out until the tawdry tart ran off with my boyfriend. The next thing I hear, he’s written a new book on household pests, an obvious collaboration. But I can’t say that, can I?  I force a smile.  Black watches me with rapt attention.  I get the distinct feeling that he understands more than I care to admit.

“And that’s how I met Paul.” I give my hand a careless wave. “We opened shop together, at the suggestion of my ex.  He was an author, you know. So Paul, being an accountant, handled the record-keeping and I ran the sales end of things.”

“What happened to Hilda?” Black leans in.  Doxy droppings!  He’s too damn sharp.

“Oh, she left him.”  I avert my eyes.  “Paul didn’t take it well. He’s a quiet man. Keeps to himself mostly. But he was always very good with the books. At least, up until a year ago.”

“What happened a year ago?” Mr. Lupin says.

“It seems that’s when he started borrowing from Malfoy.” I stare down into my lap, seeing visions of red ink on faded parchment.  “The promissory notes in his ledgers date back to last July. Regular payments drawn from Malfoy at even intervals.”

“Sounds like he’s paying someone off,” Black says in a baritone growl.

“Blackmail perhaps?” Mr. Lupin’s brow creases.

“Looks that way to me.” Black nods.

“And you knew none of this?” Mr. Lupin trains an interrogative stare on my face.

“Nothing at all,” I say, “until Malfoy and his minions came to my flat the other day looking for Paul and his money.”

“And you served them a load of dragon dung.” Black bursts into a great barking guffaw.

“This is no laughing matter, Sirius.” Mr. Lupin turns to Black, the tension on his face evident in every worried line.  “Cory could be in real trouble if Voldemort is behind this.”

“What?” I gasp. A shudder ricochets through my body.  I don’t want to think about Paul tangled up with him. There must be some other explanation.  

“It seems clear that Malfoy sent his thugs after me for the money.” I say. “Why do you think this has anything to do with You-Know-Who?”

“Because Malfoy is a Death Eater,” Mr. Lupin says.

“A Death Eater?” I gasp.  “But the Ministry has assured us that they’ve rounded up all the Death Eaters. What about all their denials in The Daily Prophet?”

“All lies,” Black growls. Muscles in his jaw tighten.

I shake my head. No, he can’t be back. I don’t want to believe a word of this. It simply can’t be true.

“Easy, Sirius.” Mr. Lupin’s tone is calming and analytical, but with a wry edge. “Did you really expect her to take our word for it?”

Mr. Lupin reclines in the high-backed chair with an air of resignation and swirls the firewhisky in his glass.  Black turns away and paces the room with his head bowed, strands of ebony hair falling forward over his face.  He doesn’t bother to brush them away, too absorbed in his own thoughts.   A contemplative silence fills the room, punctuated only by Black’s footfalls across the worn wooden floorboards and the snores from a haphazard stack of books on magical beasts by the door.  

My romance paperbacks beckon from the tea trolley.  I want to bury myself within the pages of a fantasy. I stroke the picture of the hunky hero on the cover and think of the novel that Wanda and I are writing together, On the Wings of Love. What high-flying adventures we had planned for Heath. Swashbuckling action and, of course, a new lady love.  Wanda had wanted to model the hero of our novel after the man who had rescued her from the rubbish bin. Some dashing rake. But no, I had to have the gallant Heath. I glance over at Mr. Lupin. What hopes I’d had for this new romance. But that’s all gone now too.

“Funny how we each wanted to made the object of our affection the hero,” I say to myself.

“What’s that?” Mr. Lupin says, his whisky glass halfway to his lips.

Oh, sweet Merlin, did I say that aloud?  Black stops pacing and turns toward me. Mr. Lupin’s eyes focus on me over his glass, as he takes a drink.  Two pairs of gorgeous eyes trained on me. My brain frizzles into dysfunction.

“Romance novelists.” I hold up the paperback.  Warmth creeps up my face. “We…erm…they often model the hero after the object of their affection.”

Mr. Lupin sputters his drink. He doubles over in a fit of coughing. What did I say?

“Are you all right, dear?” I lean toward Mr. Lupin. “Can I get you some water?”

“Fine...” Mr. Lupin chokes out the words between coughs. “Just…swallowed…the wrong way.”

But the wide-eyed look that Mr. Lupin gives to Black betrays that he isn’t fine at all.  What’s going on?  They lock eyes as if they’re reading each other’s thoughts, then Black’s face lights with sudden understanding.

“Oh, is that it?” Black howls a great guffaw and claps Mr. Lupin on the back. “You’re safe, Moony. I don’t swing that way.  It was Tonks who suggested that I model the hero after you. I thought it was bloody brilliant.”

So I was right. Mr. Lupin is Heath! I knew it all along.

“Tonks suggested that?” Mr. Lupin fumbles the glass in his hand.

“I thought you knew.” Black chuckles again.

“No.” Mr. Lupin shakes his head. “You don’t think that she…?  I mean, she couldn’t possibly…”

Oh for Agrippa’s sake, she loves him too. And what man wouldn’t prefer a younger, more beautiful woman?  Any hope I had for him just got squelched again.  I want to drown myself in this glass.  I take another drink.

“Well, I should be going.” Mr. Lupin rises and places his empty glass on the counter.  His face is flushed scarlet and I know that drink is not the cause.  He nods to me, but does not look me in the eye. “Goodnight, Cory. Take care.”

“Goodnight,” I say, raising my glass to him. But my heart’s not in it.

“Are you coming, Sirius?” Mr. Lupin turns to Black.

“I’ll be there shortly,” Black says. “Have to take another route back. I think Snape’s on to me.”

“Right then.” Mr. Lupin pats Black on the shoulder. “See you at headquarters.”

He strolls to the door and disappears to the tinkle of the shop bells. And I’m alone again, but for Sirius Black.  The brigand walks to Mr. Lupin’s now vacant chair, sits, and pours himself another drink.

“Where is Hawkins?” Black says.

My thoughts return to a certain bespectacled accountant. How could Paul turn on me?  The pain of another betrayal cuts too deeply.  My fist clenches. I want to bury Paul in a load of dragon dung.

“Gone, I presume.” I drain my glass. “Run off and left me to settle his debts.  Traitorous rat.”

Black’s grey eyes turn to steel. I can see the muscles in his jaw working, his teeth grinding. He tosses back his glass, empties the contents, and wipes his mouth on his sleeve.

“I’ll kill him,” he whispers. A half-crazed look lights his eyes, an inner madness.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture,” I say with a weak smile. “But don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

“Not after what he’s done,” Black rasps through gritted teeth. “Sold out my best friend to Voldemort and framed me for murder.”

“Paul did that?” My jaw couldn’t drop any lower.

“No, Pettigrew.” Spittle flies from Black’s mouth as he speaks the name.  “Peter Pettigrew.”

Pettigrew?  Wasn’t he the man that Black supposedly murdered?  Wasn’t he the reason Black was incarcerated in the first place? But Pettigrew’s dead. 

“You’re not making any sense, dear.” My voice takes on what I hope is a cajoling tone. I pat his arm. “You can’t murder a man who’s already dead.”

“But he’s not dead, don’t you see?” That haunted look is back in Black’s pleading stare. He jabs a finger toward the door. “He’s been living out there.  Free all these years, while I’ve been locked up in Azkaban and forced into hiding.” Black grabs this month’s Quibbler from my tea trolley and thrusts it into my lap.  “Didn’t you read Harry’s interview?”

“Of course, I’ve read the interview,” I say, pushing the paper from my lap.

But I do not want to believe that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned.  I don’t know what to believe anymore. Nothing makes sense.  When a touted pillar of society acts like a cheap thug and a wanted criminal saves my life. Even Wanda could not fabricate something so fantastic. Either I’m going barmy or…

“Then it is true?”

“Of course, it’s true.” Black’s fists ball.  “And Pettigrew’s alive.”

If Pettigrew’s alive, then Black didn’t murder him. And that means…He’s an innocent man. But… 

“But then why does the Ministry still deny it?” I say.

Black throws back his head. His mirthless laugh fills the room. “Because Fudge doesn’t want to believe that Voldemort’s back.  It would mean trouble such as he’s not had to face for fourteen years. He’d rather believe in a lie than face the truth.”

Merlin’s beard!  I need another drink.   I pour myself another finger of whisky, although my hand is shaking so badly that I spill half.   I empty the glass in one go.

“Whoa, easy there, love.” He takes the empty glass from me, his fingers lingering on my hand. “So what’s Hawkins to you?  An admirer?”

“Who? Paul?” I cannot contain my guffaw.

I can still picture the balding bookish accountant pouring over our ledgers. He’s never been interested in me.  Not interested in anyone since his fiancée ran off with my ex.

“No.” I shake my head. “Our relationship is purely professional.”

“Someone else then?” He rests his arm on the edge of the chair behind me and coils a finger in one of my curls.  His eyes rake over me, taking stock of the form-fitting little black robe. “Someone else worth dressing for?”

I stare down into the glass in my hand, seeing Mr. Lupin’s anguished eyes watching me over the pages of a book.  Then I recall his look of unmistakable adoration for that sweet young thing in Fortescue’s. A pang stabs my heart.  What can I say? 

“No.” I shake my head with a laugh that sounds false even to my ears. “No one.”

But Black’s eyes are riveted on my face with a stare that reaches into my soul.  I can’t look away.  Flecks of gold ignite in his grey eyes, passion buried beneath a veneer of steel.  Laugh lines crinkle at the edges of his eyes, as a rakish grin spreads over his lips. His hardened exterior crumbles away, revealing a rugged handsomeness that leaves me breathless.

Something metallic jingles. Keys in a lock. I pull away from Black and jump to my feet as if seared by an errant ember. What the blazes just happened?

My gaze flies to the door.  The knob rattles. Someone’s coming. Who could be visiting my bookshop at this late hour?  Malfoy? Is he coming after me? Aurors? Have they come for Black?


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