The Platypus Test
Contest winner: Linda Carrig
Spanky drooled. His eyes stared blankly, his head hanging at an odd
angle, as Avarice Exion spooned porridge into his slack mouth. His
wrists and ankles were tied to the chair, and the skin around his mouth
"Well, I think he's faking it," said her sister Concupiscence, who was
leaning against the doorjamb. "It's his training. He'll wait until our
guard is down, and then attack. Or run for it, maybe."
"That may be so, Connie," said the third sister Malignancy from her
rocking chair in the corner, without looking up from her needlework. She
was embroidering thorny vines around the edges of a pile of linen
napkins. "But it may also be that the serum is working, and his power is
Spanky chose this moment to belch a mouthful of porridge onto his bib.
Ava sighed and mopped it up. "His mind is breaking, more like," she
said. "We have to stop dosing him before he loses his marbles
"The quest for knowledge calls for sacrifice," Malignancy chirped.
"This is next to murder," Ava grumbled, slamming the bowl down on the
corner of the washstand.
"Finished, is he?" said Connie. "Time for his dose, then."
The moment Connie fished the bottle of platypus potion out of her apron
pocket, Spanky began to sing in an eerily childlike voice: "Moo, moo,
mooncalf, Have you any milk? Yes, sir, three cans, Smooth as silk. One
for my wizard, One for my witch, And one for the little elf, Who lives
in the ditch. Moo, moo, mooncalf..."
By this time Connie had uncorked the bottle and measured a spoonful of a
thick, brown, nasty-smelling syrup. Ava pinched his nose and held his
head back, averting her eyes, while Connie jammed the spoon into
Spanky's mouth. He choked slightly, then swallowed, and finished his
song in a hoarse voice: "Have you any milk? Yes, sir, three cans, Smooth
The sisters waited in tense silence while Spanky breathed in rapid short
gasps. Ava discreetly hovered behind him with a bowl and a towel, in
case of another incident of stomach upset. After a few minutes his
distress passed, and the prisoner resumed staring and drooling, and
breathing normally. The women relaxed.
"Time to test him," Malignancy warbled sweetly.
"Why don't you test him?" Ava complained. "This was your idea, Nancy, I
didn't even want to do it, and now I'm doing all the work!"
"This is work too," her sister replied, brandishing her needlework.
"That's why this thing" - she nudged a hamper full of freshly-ironed
napkins at her feet - "is called a work-basket. If you think you can
finish all the new napkins by the weekend, you're welcome to try..."
"All right!" Ava snapped. Grumbling, she rummaged in her pocket and
produced an opened Chocolate Frog. She placed it on the wash-stand,
where Spanky could see it as he lolled and drooled. Then she pulled a
wand out of another pocket and stuck it in Spanky's hand, helping him
close his fist around it. "All right, Mr. Spankison," she said gently.
"You know how it goes. Make the sweet come to you."
Spanky stared unseeingly toward the Chocolate Frog.
"Go on," coaxed Ava.
In a whispery voice that tore at Ava's heart, the once-powerful RMB
agent began to sing another song: "Chocolate Frogs, Chocolate Frogs, One
a sickle, two a sickle, chocolate frogs..."
"Just say Accio frog," Connie groaned, rolling her eyes.
To Ava's surprise, Spanky said just that. But the sweet didn't budge an
"Try again," said Ava, almost hopefully. "Twirl the wand like so."
Spanky moved the wand a bit and repeated the spell, but again, nothing
"I would call that a success," Nancy drawled from behind her needlework.
Connie clicked her tongue in disagreement. "He's hoaxing us, I tell you.
There's know way we can tell whether he's lost his powers at all."
"He's lost more than his powers," Ava said, but this argument had been
going round between them for days, so no one felt a need to continue it
as Ava shoved the wand and frog back into her pockets.
"Cauldron cakes, cauldron cakes," Spanky sang softly. "One a sickle, two
"Well, there is one way we can tell," said Nancy.
"Not that," Ava said, clutching her belly.
"I agree," said Connie. "If he's hoaxing us, he could get away."
"But he'll die," Ava whispered, as if Spanky couldn't hear her from an
"Only if the serum works," Nancy answered brightly.
"Or if he's out of his mind," said Ava. "You still wouldn't know!"
Nancy shrugged. "I've heard it said that the knowledge of certain death
'concentrates the mind wonderfully.'"
"This is monstrous. I'll have nothing..."
"You'll do it," Nancy insisted in tones of icy sweetness.
Ava wrung her hands in despair. "But why me?"
"Because," said Nancy, "Whoever does this will need to be shielded, and
Connie has always been best at shield spells. So she'll be busy; that
"And where will you be?" Connie wondered aloud.
"I will be shopping in the village..."
"Oh, well done!" Connie howled.
"...with exact, walking and talking simulacra of the two of you. I would
give my left eye to see either of you manage that spell, leave alone
sustaining it for an hour-long stroll in public."
Ava covered her mouth. Connie snorted and shook her head. "I should have
known," said the latter. "I always wondered why the two of us always got
blamed for trouble in school, when we were never there to see it happen.
It was you all along, you and your Samuel Acres."
Nancy winced, then shrugged again. "You'll thank me after today. There
will be dozens of witnesses placing you anywhere but at the spot where
you dump the body. In a word, I'm giving you an alibi."
"That's five words," Connie said, scratching her temple.
Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Make it look like he succumbed to his injuries from the Battle of
Hogwarts," Nancy suggested as she packed up her work-basket. "It's what
everyone will expect anyway."
Nancy walked out of the room. Her sisters remained where they were,
staring at each other in astonishment, as the sound of footsteps on the
stairs faded in the distance.
"I suppose we should wait a bit, give her a chance to get into town,"
"You're talking this calmly!" Ava shouted.
"Might as well," said Connie.
"I don't even know what kind of spell..."
"Sectumsempra should do the trick," Connie said briskly.
Ava looked sick. She spent the next few minutes pacing nervously between
the wash-stand and the window. On one pass she paused by the window and
looked out with a sudden stillness that should have caught Connie's
attention, but the latter was occupied, cleaning her fingernails with
her wand. Then Ava turned away quickly and resumed pacing, her face
At length Connie glanced at the clock on the wall and said: "Why don't
you undo his bonds? I'll shield you, then you can throw him a wand and
we'll see what happens."
"I would sooner see anything else," Ava muttered. Nevertheless, she
waved her wand and the bindings on Spanky's wrists and ankles fell off.
Spanky immediately began rubbing his arms and stretching his legs. He
looked like a man waking up from a long sleep.
"Protego," Connie muttered, casting a shield to protect herself and Ava
from their prisoner. "It's starting to look like I was right," she
added, catching Ava's eye.
Ava's face turned bright red, and her eyes swam with tears.
"What's the matter with you?" Connie snapped. "We'll be all right. You
might as well bung him a wand, so we can finish this scientifically."
Ava threw Spanky's wand at him. He caught it in his left hand and waved
it at the two sisters. The tip of the wand fizzed and sparked, but
otherwise nothing happened.
"Looks like he still has a bit of a charge in him," Connie remarked.
"Could just be a bit of residual magic in the wand itself," Ava
"Well, there's one way to be sure," said Connie. "Try to slit his throat
once and see if he puts up a defense."
Ava leveled the wand at Spanky, who was standing now, staring at his
wand in apparent shock. Ava's hand trembled. Finally she confessed: "I
"You will," said Connie. "Or do you want me to fetch Father?"
Spanky shook his wand again and again. Nothing but a few puffs of
glittery smoke came out of it.
"All right," said Ava, grimly. She pointed the wand at Spanky's heart
and chanted: "Sectumsempra!"
A jet of light struck the center of Spanky's chest...and disappeared. He
looked down at himself, uninjured.
Connie gasped. "How did he...?"
Before she could complete the thought, a tremendous crash sounded from
downstairs, followed by a commotion bangs, yells, and the sound of solid
wooden furniture being reduced to splinters.
"Watch him for a moment," Connie said, rushing out of the room. A moment
later Ava heard her scream: "Father!" More bangs, yells, and crashes
came up from below.
Ava held her prisoner at wandpoint, wild-eyed, wondering what to do. She
didn't have long to reflect on this matter. She heard Connie's voice
give one last, desperate scream - then the thunder of footsteps on the
stairs, the shouts of men and women searching the rooms ...
Too late, Ava thought of barricading the door. It had barely closed when
it was blasted open again. The first person through the door was Queen
Silvia of Sweden - or rather, Joe Albuquerque, though at the moment the
resemblance was remarkable. Ava recovered quickly from her surprise and
began firing curses and defensive spells at the door, while herding
Spanky behind her toward the corner by the window. In the sudden thrill
of battle, with her mind clear of anything but survival, she kept Joe so
busy that, for several moments, he didn't have a chance to call for
help. When he finally did manage to yell "In here!" Ava winged him with
a stunning spell, which sent him staggering into the wardrobe.
Ilona, Agent Dalrymple, and a half dozen other RMB agents poured into
the room before Ava could finish Joe off. Their curses glanced off her
shield - she was, after all, not far behind Connie in that department -
so that she could scarcely see through it. Meanwhile, the force of
ricocheting spells had shattered a vase and two lamps, melted a ceramic
figurine, set fire to Nancy's rocking-chair, and burst the stuffing out
of the bed.
When four more agents rushed into the room, Ava realized she had only
one choice. She grabbed the bewildered Spanky by his collar and shoved
him ahead of her, straight into Dalrymple's arms - and in the momentary
confusion, she jumped out of the window.
Ilona ran to the window and looked down.
"I didn't hear an impact," Joe said, adjusting his tiara.
"Her broom caught her," said Ilona. "She'll be miles away by the time we
go after her."
Nevertheless, Dalyrmple ordered the other agents to give chase. Their
footsteps thundered out of the room, down the stairs, and off into the
Ilona turned slowly from the window. A blurry second later she was
clutching Spanky like a lifebelt, and making kitten-like noises into his
chest. Joe and Dalrymple both coughed and turned away awkwardly.
The first intelligible thing Ilona managed to say was, "I knew you were
Spanky said nothing, but only patted her shoulder with a bemused look on
"Well?" she cried. "What do you have to say?"
Spanky pulled away from her, cleared his throat, smiled awkwardly...and
began to sing: "Little Boy Blue, come wave your wand, The Kneazle's at
the chickens, the Abraxan's in the corn. Where is that boy that looks
after the beasts? He's back in the broom shed, fast asleep..."
+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE +++
To help choose the direction of the next few chapters of The Magic
Quill, visit the Discussion Forum, or send Robbie feedback. The survey
answer with the most votes, and the contest entry (or entries) Robbie
likes best, will be featured in the chapter after next.
SURVEY: What happens to Spanky as a result of the platypus potion? (A)
He permanently loses most of his magical powers. (B) He recovers and is
soon back to normal, give or take an occasional relapse. (C) Without
losing his own powers, he develops a resistance to other people's magic
that makes defense a snap - but also has some goofy side-effects. (D)
CONTEST: Invent the name of a professional Quidditch player and the
"world record" he or she holds.
Discuss this installment in the forums.
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