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
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.
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
“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
“We’re just colleagues…” he says.
“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
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
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”
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
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
“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.
“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
“Sounds like he’s paying someone
off,” Black says in a baritone growl.
“Blackmail perhaps?” Mr. Lupin’s
“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
“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
“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
“No.” Mr. Lupin shakes his head.
“You don’t think that she…? I mean, she
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
“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.
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
“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
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?