The Magic Quill #123: The Care and Feeding of MIADS

by Robbie Fischer

Contest winner (tie): jatibbal and TWZRD
Honorable mention: ralucacoldea

It was raining in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

This wasn’t the kind of rain that students had often seen there over the thousand-year history of the school. It wasn’t simply an illusion of rain, playing across the enchanted ceiling, resembling the weather outside. It was a good, honest, wet rain that drenched the floor cobbles, tables, and draperies, and caused the levitating candles to fizz and smoke. Joe Albuquerque would have suspected a leak, except the ceiling displayed a rare image of a bright, sunny day outside the castle. The effect of this sunlight shining through the rain was dazzling to the eyes.

Joe looked round at the caretaker, the headmistress, and the groundskeeper – he had already forgotten their names; the staff at schools other than his own never really interested him. The sour-looking caretaker fidgeted with his hands, keeping his eyes respectfully downcast. The half-giant groundskeeper stood at attention, which looked ridiculous given his unkempt hair and clothes. The headmistress simply looked impatient and disapproving. Joe sighed. He knew he shouldn’t have worn his Prince of Wales disguise, but the only other one not being cleaned was his Pope outfit.

“This is a MIAD,” he said finally. “No question.”

“If you’re telling us this is a Magic-Induced Atmospheric Disturbance,” crabbed the headmistress, “we might have guessed that without retaining your services.”

“Type 2,” Joe added pointedly. The headmistress’s jaw snapped shut. Joe continued: “There are three major categories of MIADs. Type 1 is the result of magical emissions mixing with ordinary rain. Everything it falls on develops magical side effects. It happens rarely, but when it does happen, it’s a disaster for magical secrecy.”

“But it also happens outdoors,” the headmistress pointed out.

“Usually,” Joe conceded mysteriously. “This, however, is Type 2, magical weather created by the residual ionization from a major magical battle, particularly one fought in an enclosed space.”

“You said there were three types,” the caretaker grumbled.

Joe shrugged. “Any MIAD that isn’t Type 1 or Type 2 is classed as Atypical. For example, a rain of frogs, especially with bechamel sauce, would be an Atypical MIAD. Such things are generally caused by a large-scale magical accident.”

“All right, Mr. Albuquerque,” said the headmistress coldly. “You’ve narrowed this indoor rainfall down to a type of magical weather that happens indoors. How this is worth such a high fee remains to appear…”

“If you had listened,” Joe said with royal brusqueness, “you would have noted more than the location of the weather. Each type of MIAD has a different cause, and therefore a different cure. The difference between accidental magic, magical pollution, and the fallout of a massive battle is very significant. The only cure for Type 1 and Atypical MIADs is to wait for them to end, then do a thorough cleanup and try to prevent them happening again. Type 2 is different. It can become a chronic problem, breaking out from time to time for centuries after the battle that caused it. It’s like a ghost – not of a person, but of an event.”

The headmistress looked crestfallen. “Then we shall have to close the school after all…”

“On the contrary,” said Joe. “Something must be done to cancel out the residual ionization. There are two things that could work, but it’s probably too late for one of them – taking all the wands that were used in the battle and subjecting them to Prior Incantato. This is something like erasing the last spell each combatant cast, and it would break up the energy pattern that holds the MIAD together.”

“We’ll never get all those wands together, headmistress,” said the half-giant.

“No, too many of them were buried with their owners,” the headmistress agreed, “or were destroyed when their owners were captured, or…”

Joe broke in with an air of royal prerogative. “I beg your pardon,” he said, “but there is another option. I once saw a large, jeweled watch that was said to belong to the previous headmaster here. I noticed that one of the dials on the watch had a duckbilled platypus on it. I did a lot of work in the Southern Hemisphere, earlier in my career, and I happen to know that the platypus can absorb virtually any amount of magic without being effected.”

“I think I see where this is going,” said the half-giant, who, Joe realized, might be cleverer than he looked. “You mean to sacrifice a platypus to calm this storm, and I won’t have it…er, that is to say, I wouldn’t have it even if I did know where a platypus could be found…” The groundskeeper ended up nervously shuffling his feet.

Joe stared at him for a moment, then said, “I wasn’t going to suggest anything like that. No platypus sacrifices will be necessary. If my guess is correct, we could use the platypus dial on Dumbledore’s watch to absorb the residual magic from the Battle of Hogwarts. Headmistress, do you know what became of the watch?”

Now the old lady looked very distressed. “It hasn’t been seen since Dumbledore’s death,” she said.

“Where was it last seen?” said Joe.

“Let’s see…” The headmistress wrung her hands. “Dumbledore gave it to his brother…Someone stole it and got away on a thestramule…It was recaptured and returned…but it wasn’t in the head’s office when I took over, and it was never mentioned in Dumbledore’s will. Do you know, the only time I saw that watch outside Dumbledore’s office was when we went down to the station to see about that murder on the Hogwarts Express. Dumbledore kept taking it out and fiddling with it. Something about the way he held it made me afraid. But that was years ago…”

Joe’s insides jumped, jumped again, and turned somersaults as he heard this speech. It brought back more than one memory…a certain afternoon outside the Bogley Squint Ward at St. Mungo’s…the heroics of his friend Merlin, the deft fingers of Sadie, the mysterious behavior of Harvey…and the story of an unidentified corpse that somehow connected Spanky Spankison’s hunt for a werewolf with Merlin’s escape from Gringotts…Joe gulped as he realized one of his friends might be in possession of a very dangerous magical device.

+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE +++

To help choose the direction of the next few chapters of The Magic Quill, visit theDiscussion 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: Which of Joe’s friends has Dumbledore’s watch now? (A) Spanky. (B) Sadie. (C) Merlin. (D) Harvey. (E) None of the above – just surprise us!

CONTEST: Describe Joe Albuquerque’s next disguise.

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