The Magic Quill #40: Unfinished Business, Part 1

by Robbie Fischer, concepts contributed by: Mike, Cindy, and Lighthouse Junkie

“Fancy that,” said Endora. “As soon as Merlin starts telling the story, suddenly he’s the one with the excitable bladder.”

“It must be something they put in the firewhisky,” Sadie observed. “Whoever runs off at the mouth the most also has to get up to use the privacy.”

“Well, while we wait for him to come back from the Three Broomsticks,” Endora began.

“Fancy anyone walking half a mile just to be able to use a clean toilet,” Sadie interjected.

“…I suppose this is a good time to tie up some loose threads your repeated trips down the street left undone,” Endora finished.

Spanky reached into the shadows of his hooded cloak to wipe a bit of firewhisky foam off his lips, and said, “Mine? Loose threads? Which ones?”

“Well, you never did tell us how that duel with Sid Shmedly turned out,” Sadie accused.

The cloaked wizard sputtered indignantly. “What do you mean? I told you in fine detail about loads of duels that I fought with Shmedly!”

“But you left us hanging about the one in your seventh year at Hogwarts,” said Endora. “The one where you saw Gryffindor’s sword in the first round. You never said what happened after that.”

“Oh, well, that’s easily mended,” said Spanky cheerfully. “Since we drew in the first round, obviously, the duel went all three rounds. I won it, of course. The transfiguration task was to see who could make the best cup of tea without touching any of the tea things. Shmedly was helpless, because he had never brewed tea in his life; he’d always had a house-elf to do it for him. As for me, I was brewing tea before I could talk in complete sentences, and just the previous summer I had helped fill in for Mr. Niblet’s houseman, who was sick, so I had lots of experience. Shmedly whined that it wasn’t a fair task, but the task was drawn at random from a list of approved suggestions submitted by members of the club, and it turned out that he was the one who had submitted it. No doubt hoping thereby to get a good cup of tea without doing any of the work!

“So we came to the wand-to-wand combat, in which I had the advantage of two wands, while Shmedly’s strength was his remorseless, cruel, and lightning-swift imagination. He took an early lead in the points by somehow slipping a fernunculus curse through my defenses, and for a while all I could do was shield myself against one hideous curse after another. At one point, I was slipping on a mess of gobstones while acid-tipped daggers rained down on me and a cloud of evil-smelling gas was following me around. But I saw Shmedly feint toward my left side, and somehow I knew that he was getting ready to throw a curse around my right flank, so I dropped the shield charm on my left wand and hit him with the Hurlequin Curse.”

“The–what?” Joe Albuquerque said, cupping a hand behind his ear.

Spanky grinned smugly. “Hurlequin. I read about it in a dusty corner of the library one time, in a book about the history of magic in the royal court. I doubt that anyone had used it since the seventeenth century, until I tried it on Shmedly. I wasn’t sure it would work, but when I threw it at him with all my heart, he stopped in his tracks, went down on all fours, and began coughing up yards and yards of multicolored silk handkerchiefs, knotted together, one after another. My opponent was down, and I didn’t dare curse him like that–not in front of the whole dueling club, anyway. So I asked him to submit, and after tugging feebly at the line of handkerchiefs, he threw down his wand. And that was that!”

Everyone at the dingy parlor table applauded heartily. “Well played,” said Harvey, whose face was currently concealed behind a paisley handkerchief.

“Is everyone satisfied now?” Spanky asked, still grinning.

Sadie stopped in the midst of scraping the bowl of her pipe and said, “Not even nearly.”

Spanky’s smile faded.

“You’ve had me on tenterhooks since the first day you set foot in here,” said Sadie. “You still haven’t said what you and that enormous knife of yours had to do with the werewolf who tried to ruin baby Harry Potter’s first Christmas.”

“I thought it would be best left to the imagination,” said Spanky, mysteriously.

“Well, now, we’ll see…”

“No, I think Mr. Spankison is right,” said Harvey, with a warning note in his voice.

“But he said was going to tell us what he knew about the different ways the Death Eaters tried to get at young Harry. He said…”

“Oh, all right,” said Spanky. He pulled out his long, dangerous looking knife, and stuck it blade-down into the tabletop.

Sadie fidgeted behind her veil.

“I was still in disgrace with the Rogue Magic Bureau,” Spanky began, his voice very soft. “Ilona, my fiancee, was still missing after the Owlympic dueling final, with the genie and all. I spent most of my time, and had spent all of my money, roaming around the country, searching for her and interrogating every magical creature that I met. I must have looked like a wild animal, myself. Somehow, I also managed to remember a case or two I had been working on at the RMB, and was looking into some of the suspects in those cases, half-hoping that they might be connected to what Shmedly had done to Ilona. One day, while I was using a variety of RMB surveillance techniques that included, but were not limited to, a disillusionment charm and engorging my own ears, I managed to pick up a conversation between two suspected Death Eaters who were hexing a crate of Golden Snitches to look like golf balls…”

“Whatever for?” Endora interrupted.

At least two people at the table suppressed groans of frustration.

“Muggle-baiting, of course,” Spanky said with only the slightest flicker of irritation.

“And I heard them mentioning a familiar name–Potter. As you know, I had been a good friend of the Potters, before I fell out of favor with the whole world. Actually, James and Lily had sent me several owls to ask how I was doing and if they could help in any way. But when I heard the rogues saying that the Potters were going to have a child–a child who was marked for death by someone the accomplices seemed unwilling to name–I began to listen very closely…”

+++ Pause for RIDDLE TIME! +++

Many readers have begged me to give you the ANSWERS to those riddles (in #1-25) which I actually know. I guess I had you stumped! I really don’t think you need this, but since you asked nicely, I’ll tell you the answers I haven’t already given away…if I know them! If you don’t want to stop guessing & discussing among yourselves, twist your eyes away from what follows. Or, feel free to debate whether you agree with my opinion! And by the way, please bear with my inaccurate, off-the-top-of-my-head quotes, because I’m moving & my books are all packed up!

Riddle #1: Lily Potter’s last words were (something like), “Not Harry! Don’t kill Harry! Take me instead!” And my theory is that, by killing her, Voldemort unwittingly agreed to Lily’s terms. This is why her sacrifice had the effect of protecting Harry from being killed.

Riddle #2: When Vernon was strangling Harry in the first chapter, something surged through Harry so that Vernon let go of him as if he had received an electric shock. Later, Umbridge let go of Marietta Edgecombe in much the same way, when Dumbledore told her to stop manhandling his students.

Riddle #3: Lee Jordan has been known to associate with nifflers, the giant squid, and (most tellingly) an acromantula.

Riddle #4: I already gave you this one, but think about it. Hagrid puts down the fieriness in Madame Maxime to “the French in her.” You don’t suppose it could have something to do with her being, say, a HALF GIANT?

Riddle #6: Hermione to Ernie Macmillan: “You don’t think I would leave this list lying around where anyone could find it, do you?” (or words to that effect)

Riddle #22: I believe it was in Harry’s third year, when Oliver Wood said something about how Flint had made some changes to the Slytherin line-up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first book in which we hear about Montague, Warrington, Bole, and Derrick. For all we know, they might have been new players that year–at least some of them. This would suggest that Pucey (who played against Harry’s side in his first year) was cut from the line-up or put on reserve until Harry’s fifth year, when Flint had left the school & the Slytherin team had an opening for a chaser.

Riddle #23: I haven’t checked CoS Forums lately, but if your e-mail feedback is any indicator, no one guessed what I was after in this one. I’m really shocked! Well, you’re off the hook. Lockhart’s biggest fan is Gladys Gudgeon. Lupin knew a boy at school (the one who nearly lost an eye to the Whomping Willow) named Davey Gudgeon. Do you suppose they could be related?

Riddle #24: On the other hand, lots of people have responded with the “correct” guess on this one. I think the clue that Percy’s break with the Weasleys is a sham came when someone reported his row with Arthur, and noted that they had never seen Arthur row like that; usually it was Molly who did the yelling. Isn’t that suspicious! Maybe it had to be so secret that even Molly doesn’t know–poor thing–and her anguish helps maintain Percy’s “cover.” Of course, the question then becomes, what is Percy’s mission? Going against this theory are the clues that say Percy has been poisoning Fudge’s mind against Harry, a strange thing for a pro-Dumbledore spy to do, unless you think back to the way Percy sulked at the Quidditch World Cup when he saw that Harry, and not himself, was on speaking terms with Fudge.

Riddle #25: And yes, the most recent alarm that the sneakoscope failed to give ended up written all over Marietta’s face. Of course, if she wasn’t present at that last DA meeting, it might explain this otherwise deplorable lapse in dark detection.

What happens next? Send us your idea in 150 words or less, and tune in next week for another installment of the Magic Quill.