The Magic Quill #3: The Double Barreled Wizard
by Robbie Fischer
Breathless silence held sway for what seemed a long time, at the table nearest the fire in the Hog’s Head. The stranger in the hooded cloak, whose face had not been seen, squeezed a bit of lemon into his cup of McKnickers Incendiary, took a sip, and winced.
“I wonder,” the figure said conversationally, “which got its name from which, the village or the pub? I suppose it depends on which was here first. I’ve always gone in for antiquarian stuff. Genealogies and such. Did you know, for instance, that the first recorded wizard who became a werewolf in Britain was the brother of…”
“You know,” said the disembodied voice of Endora, the invisible witch across the table from him, “I don’t remember hearing your name.”
“If you did, you would be hallucinating,” the stranger remarked laconically. “But then, I’m sure Merlin isn’t really his name,” he added, jerking his thumb in the direction of the empty chair next to Endora’s empty chair.
“Whose?” said Endora, only without the h.
“The fellow who is sitting beside you,” said the stranger.
There was another pause. Endora said gently, “There ain’t no one sitting there at this time, luv. On’y ‘e’s gone to buy us another bottle, ‘e ‘as.”
Whether this fazed the cloaked stranger, only he knew, since his face was hidden by his hood.
“Anyways, what shall we call you?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Go on. We ain’t kept nothin’ from you. Wot you see is wot you get,” Endora said while continuing to be rather invisible.
“Er, as you wish then. You can call me Spanky.”
Endora’s laugh was not the shrill cackle one would expect of a witch, invisible or not. It was more like the belly-laugh of a hearty, well-watered, well-fed (but not-well-intentioned) person whose age, size, and sex, thanks to the technological miracle of the Invisibility Cloak, remained undisclosed. Sadie, the pipe-smoking witch behind the veil, also laughed, a rich, hoarse, wheezy laugh that turned into a fit of coughing.
“All right, then, Spanky,” said Endora, who recovered first. “Now tell us about this… what did you call it?”
“Double Barreled Wizard.”
“Blimey, that creates a picture, that does. And it makes me thirsty.”
“Not that kind of barrel. You see, when I was a very young wizard, I learned that I had an advantage over most wizards. I was ambidextrous.”
“Amb-I-beg-your-pardon?” wheezed Sadie, who was still recuperating from her coughing fit, and also relighting her pipe.
“I had two wand hands. It never occurred to me to consider this unusual. I would have pitied anyone whose left wasn’t as handy as his right, I would have wondered at their disability. To me, the world was full of people with half-withered limbs. I, on the other hand, was good with both hands. Thank God, no one resented me for it.
“I grew up in a little village that was home to several magical families, including the family that owned the village. They had an enormous estate with yew mazes, statues, fountains, and orchards. And in those grounds was a walled garden where the young witches and wizards used to play quidditch. There we were quite safe from being discovered by the muggle villagers.
“But in my day, we did not have enough players to field even a skeleton quidditch team. We needed at least one keeper, two chasers to attack the goal, a beater to defend the goal, and a beater to defend the chasers. But for a couple of years there were only four of us, between those who were too young to be allowed and those who had gone away to Hogwarts.
“So I came in rather handy. I was able to play attack with my right hand and beater with my left, at the same time. Perhaps we just had a slow bludger, but I managed it somehow. And not only did I have equal strength and accuracy in both hands, but I soon learned to focus on two things at the same time. I could pass the quaffle back and forth with the other chaser, and make shots on goal, while at the same time batting the bludger away from us and toward the other side. I learned to track multiple sequences of events, and to react to them simultaneously, beating with one hand and chasing with the other.
“But alas, we had no seeker, and our snitch was beginning to get dusty. So I volunteered to play that position, too. Which was quite silly. And of course there was no way to know if I was any good, because I was the only seeker, and the other side never had a chance to score points. I couldn’t very well be a keeper and a chaser at the same time, could I? So I was always on the winning side. Only the fact that I had to concentrate on three things at once kept me sharp. That, and the fact that Hildy Crumb was no slouch as a beater either, and she knocked me off my broom at least once a week.
“I think I know a Hildy Crumb,” Sadie said pensively.
“I doubt it,” said the stranger.
“Changing names to protect the innocent, eh?” Endora sneered.
“To protect me, more like.” For once, he sounded as if he were smiling. “Finally the time came for me to go to Hogwarts. I received my letter, and the landlord took all the magical students from the village to Diagon Alley. And when I walked into Ollivander’s wand shop…well, let me remind you, the wand chooses the wizard. And sometimes, two wands choose the same wizard at the same time. It only happens when they have two wand hands, as I did. And the landlord…” The speaker put his hand under his hood, as if to wipe a tear from his cheek. “Finest man of his generation, he was, and a good Quidditch official too…” A sniff, a clearing of the throat. “Well, the landlord insisted on buying a wand for each hand. They didn’t come cheap.”
“You carry two wands,” said the voice of Merlin, who had returned with a full bottle during the previous recitation. “Let’s see them, then.”
“After I finish my story,” said the cloaked stranger. “But first, I need to use the courtesy.” He looked around.
“There isn’t any courtesy here,” Sadie said flatly.
The stranger fidgeted, nonplussed. “Er…well…”
“What’s the nearest place what ‘as one, luv?” Merlin said, invisibly.
“Down this alley to the very end, turn left, and about an eighth of a mile further on your right,” the voice of Endora rejoined. “It’s in a place called the Three Broomsticks.”
The stranger heard the unmistakable noise of three people shuddering, though he could only see the effect on the veiled witch.
He stood up. “I shall return to finish my story as soon as I can.”
“Don’t worry, Spanky,” said Endora, still sounding as though she wanted to laugh at the name, but with a newfound air of respect as well. “We ain’t going anywhere.”
What happens next? Send us your idea in 150 words or less, and tune in next week for another installment of the Magic Quill.