Saturday, March 7, 2009

More fun homework

Oh, boy, this one was tough to get started, but boy did I have fun once I got going! We were given the first paragraph of a story, and had to write the rest of the story. As usual, I went on a bit longer than I originally planned :-)

The shadows lengthened as the lonely witch waited in the graveyard to make her connection. Where was he? He couldn't have forgotten about her, could he? The shiver of cold slithered down her back and her heart jumped to her throat as she spotted someone in the distance. Was that him? She had never met him before, but hoped it was her contact. If she were to be caught by Ministry officials with this in her possession, it could mean real trouble for her whole family! Impatient and fearful, the stranger approached too fast, but too slow all at once. "How did I get myself into this?" she muttered under her breath. The faces flitted though her mind of those that coerced her into submission...

This was supposed to be a lark, something that Dahlia would previously never even consider. But smuggling, really! What would Mother think? And yet, she’d taken the crystal flask, wrapped it carefully in her hand-knit scarf, and tucked it into her black robe. It was really quite unexpected. And Dahlia never did anything bold or unexpected. She lived a quiet life, working in the payroll office of the Ministry.

At first Dahlia thought she’d be carrying a curing potion for some magical mishap too embarrassing to go to St. Mungo’s for. After all, the person was assisting wasn’t exactly known for his caution. Or perhaps it would be a love potion. After all, not everyone was skilled enough at potions to make their own, and they wouldn’t want to be seen buying it, either. And her contact might not want it for himself. He might want it to sell. But the brief glance she’d been able to give the contents of the flask showed her something darker. It was brown in color, and small bubbles rose up in it.

She supposed it was her own fault, really. Curiosity had gotten the better of her, which she knew would most likely end poorly. Life as a ministry worker could be a little dull. But dull suited Dahlia. At least it had, right up until she got the urge to go on an adventure. She’d gotten some travel brochures, and the one for Peru had seemed to stand out from the rest. At the time it seemed like fate, although now it seemed more likely it had been charmed to draw her to it. Once she was in Peru, she did all of the usual touristy things, even the Muggle ones, like climbing Machu Picchu. She’d had a wonderful time, and then went to spend a couple of days in Lima.

Somehow, Dahlia had found herself in a street much like Diagon Alley, in a shop rather too much like Borgin and Burke’s for her comfort. She didn’t even now how she got there. One minute she was walking down a sunny Lima street, the next she was entering a dark alley she didn’t even know existed. Yet somehow she knew it was a place from the wizarding world, and she’d somehow known how to get into it. Then she’d walked directly to the shop, neither stopping nor looking at any other shops. She didn’t plan on staying, but somehow she couldn’t make herself turn to go. She felt odd, as if she could only move very slowly. Suddenly, an ancient hand was laid on her arm. “Please, miss, if I might have a word or two with you” a quavery voice said, in heavily accented English. “You are from London, yes? And you are familiar with a certain shop there, one that Muggles might not know about?” She whispered “Muggles” as though just saying the word too loudly might bring them into her shop. But there was no one else there. From the looks of the shop, it wasn’t very often that someone else was there. And if the elderly witch was talking about Borgin and Burkes, she most like was going to talk about dark magic, something Dahlia was very careful to steer clear of. Dahlia very briefly thought of pulling away, and walking very quickly out the door. After all, the crone in front of her could hardly chase her. But wasn’t she here for an adventure? Her trip would be over the next day. She might as well squeeze as much excitement into it as possible. And yet the feeling of bravery was new to her, and it didn’t feel quite right, like wearing someone else’s robes.

Gathering up her courage, and wondering if she’d remembered to put her wand in her robe, Dahlia turned to the woman and said “Yes? What can I do for you?” in her brightest voice.

The woman grinned as though reading Dahlia’s thoughts. “Don’t worry, my child, nothing bad will come of you in my shop. I only ask of you to carry something with you when you return to London. It’s too far for any of my owls, to make such a trip over the ocean. And Muggle post is so unreliable. And it is only a small thing; it won’t trouble you much at all. You will of course be paid for your service. My customer in London is most anxious for this, but cannot come to collect it himself. He is well known, and his visit here would be noticed. You would just need to bring him a flask, and he will pay you 25 galleons.” Dahlia’s eye brows shot up. That was a lot of money for so small a task. The contents of the flask must be quite rare. Or dangerous.

It didn’t seem so difficult. And 25 galleons would go long way. On the other hand, if the ministry caught her smuggling in some Peruvian potion, getting sacked from her job would be the least of her worries. She opened her mouth to say no, but out came “Of course I’ll help.” She moved like a sleepwalker and put the flask into an inner pocket of her robe. But at the same time, she felt a marvelous frisson of excitement, something Dahlia had never felt before. Then she was told who would contact her upon her return to London, to let her know where and when to bring the flask. Her eye brows flew up again when she heard the name. After all, just about everyone in the wizarding world knew who he was. And most were familiar with his shop, even if they hadn’t all been in it.

Now Dahlia was back in London, in this dark cemetery. She’d gone back to work, and everyone told her that her trip had done wonders for her, that she seemed so much more alive now. She hoped that no one figured out that it was nerves that were giving her vitality. She was still amazed at how out-of-character she’d been behaving. Of course, after the fact, it was easy to see she’d been under the affects of the same charm that drew her to Peru.

Now she looked up, and the figure was drawing near. The lowering sun hit his head, and turned his read hair molten. It’s George Weasley. Dahlia had met him at a party, before her trip. Thinking back, he had seemed awfully interested in her travel plans, especially after she’d told him she didn’t know exactly what she was doing on holiday, that she most likely would go to Bath for a week. He was the one who suggested something more exciting, and said he would send some travel brochures to help make up her mind.

“Hello Dahlia, did you enjoy Peru?” His reached into his robe with a boyish grin, and pulled out a bag of coins and his wand. Dahlia shrank back in alarm, but could not move away. Instead, she reached into her robe, and pulled out the scarf-wrapped flask. She unwound the scarf carefully, and held out the flask. George took it, and tucked it into his robe. Then he handed her the bag of coins, waved his wand and said “Finite incantatum”. Suddenly Dahlia felt different. Of course, all that time, feeling so odd, doing all of those most unDahlia-like things. She’d been under a spell! Somehow she’d been ensorcelled into smuggling! Now she was angry. 25 galleons to risk her career, her reputation, and possibly even her freedom. If she hadn’t been under some kind of enchantment, she never would have said yes. But even as she thought this, Dahlia was remembering the marvelous adventure she had been on, the exhilarating feeling she’d had when she took the flask from the old witch. She looked at George and asked “Why did you do that to me? Why did you put me under a spell?”

George laughed and said “because you asked me to!” Dahlia gasped in amazement. “I asked you to?” Dahlia was astonished. “I don’t remember doing any such thing! I was all set to go on holiday to Bath, and the next thing I know I’m looking at brochures for Peru and Antarctica.”

Then George explained. He was planning a new service, one that got people to try new things, to step outside their own limitations. He had talked to Dahlia at the party, and Dahlia had wistfully said she wished she was brave enough to travel somewhere different, like Peru, instead of taking the same old trip to Bath she took every year. George asked if she would be interested in trying out his new service. Since she would be his first test subject, not only would she get her vacation at no charge, he would pay her 25 galleons. He promised her that she would be perfectly safe at all times, and would do nothing dangerous or illegal on her trip.

“But I did do something illegal”, Dahlia said. “I sMuggled in the potion in the flask.”

George said “Oh, this?” and pulled out the stopper. “There’s nothing illegal about this. We just let you think so, to make the trip more exciting. It’s a Muggle brew I like.” He drank some of the bubbling liquid, and offered the flask to Dahlia. “Try it, it’s very good. The Muggles call it root beer.”