Chapter 2 : Two
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The treatments were supposed to make him better, not like this!
“Are you certain you are alright today?”
“I’m better,” Will said, jingling the Muggle coins in his pocket.
“Meet here at five o’clock sharp,” his uncle said with warning. “And if I’m not here, you find Mrs. Welfield.”
His uncle smiled and gave him a pat on the back. “Be careful.”
Will nodded and watched his uncle march off to do his errands. He looked around at the busy street with the cars and bustling people and smelled the thick London air. Will couldn’t open the magic door. He wasn’t even allowed to try. But out here, he could touch anything he wanted.
The gloves and cloak flew off in an instant, stuffed hurriedly into his knapsack. Will dug the Muggle money out of his pocket and crossed the street to buy a pastry. He ran his hand along the brick walls of the buildings as he walked and munched, letting his mind drift far away from thoughts of being careful and needing new leather gloves.
He wandered into the neighborhood by the school and made his way to the empty school yard, trying to pretend that he wasn’t different from the rest of them. Will leaned into one of the swings and spun himself around. Uncle had told him that it would get easier when the other students got to know him better. But he wasn’t allowed to let the Muggles at school know the real him.
There were so many secrets he couldn’t tell.
The spinning swing lurched to a stop and Will scanned the branches of the school yard tree.
“Are you there, Mutch?”
When there was no answer, Will decided he’d better check on his friend. It had been ages since he’d seen him.
The school yard gate was locked, so Will wedged his foot in the space between the slats about halfway up and heaved his body over the fence. Down the path, Will came to the bridge over the river.
Will had followed Mutch home once, down by the muddy riverbank, listening to his crude jokes the whole way. Mutch called him “fat boy”, even though he was so skinny. When they reached the bottom, he’d tried to push Will into the river and Will had thrown gobs of mud at him until he stopped. He laughed as he crossed the bridge, remembering the ridiculous tantrum Mutch threw, jumping up and down covered in twigs and brown sludge.
Across the bridge, Will headed off the path towards the docks and slipped in the mud. He caught himself on a sturdy branch of the hedge and regained his footing in the slick dirt. Mutch’s home wasn’t far. He crouched between the bushes and looked for movement at the bank of the river.
He saw a bright flash near the dock warehouse. Mutch would get into loads of trouble for small mirrors and broken glass. It could be his friend, playing tricks again with the light. Will wanted to call out again but then he smelled dead rats and froze.
Hidden in the bushes, Will watched a black-robed man take large strides towards the warehouse. His silver mask glinted in the sunlight, the same kind of mask the other man wore outside the Potions Shop.
Those people belonged in the Alley. Will frowned. They didn’t even like Muggles or squibs. The dark Wizard smelled like bad magic and he was closing the warehouse door where Will had seen the flash of light.
It was just the kind of trouble Mutch liked to get into.
The river rushed by as Will scrambled through the bushes and down the bank to get closer to the warehouse. He stayed out of sight, hoping he could get close enough to see if Mutch was really there without the man noticing him. The man’s wand appeared from under his robe and Will crouched down again, watching him wave his wand in front of the door. It glowed for a second. The man rattled the door forcefully and satisfied with his magical lock, turned and walked away from the warehouse.
Was Mutch inside?
When he could no longer smell the dark Wizard, Will ran to the warehouse and looked through the dusty windows. He rattled at them, but the rusty latches wouldn’t move. Will ran back to the door handle and grabbed it. The magical lock dissolved into his fingers with a strange tingling sensation. Slowly, Will pushed the door open. He sniffed the air.
No more magic in here.
Suddenly, Will felt sick. He clutched at his stomach and tried to focus on the warehouse and finding Mutch. All he could see in the dark was a small empty table and a lot of dust. Nothing was here at all. Why did the man in the robe bother to lock it?
Blinking, Will’s eyes adjusted and he saw footprints on the floor. He followed them through the door, in a large circle around the empty room and then right back to the door. Will thought that this was very odd for the man to do.
Then he heard a high-pitched sound, almost like a muffled wail. “Mutch?” he called out.
Before he could examine anything closer, the dead rat smell hit his nose again and Will knew he had to get out. There was no place to hide in the warehouse and the man was coming back!
He ran out of the warehouse and scrambled up the bank the way he had come through the bushes. His legs felt like jelly and his stomach churned. Will forced his legs to keep going as fast as they could when he reached the bridge and didn’t stop until he was back over the fence. When he finally reached the school yard, he fell to his knees under the tree, breathless.
Mutch’s wail sounded just like that when he was sad or hungry. Or hurt. Where in the empty warehouse could Mutch have been hiding? And how was Will going to get to him?
Will wasn’t going to tell his uncle about the man in the mask and the warehouse. He’d broken a rule and put himself in danger when he followed the dark Wizard. It would be better if he kept this to himself.
Will stopped writing in his notebook. What exactly would he have done? What spells had he memorized that would have saved him from the man in the mask? If he had caught sight of Will, he’d have chased him down and killed him. Or worse. He could think of a thousand bad things that might have happened.
Will had almost been too weak to make it back to his uncle in time. He’d tried to sleep it off, but in the morning his hand still prickled from where the lock had dissolved and the nausea hadn’t let up.
“There’s the freak! The skinny little freak!” Anthony taunted as he strutted up to Will. The big bully picked up a stick and started poking him. “How messed up you are... wobbling about like you’re drunk all the time! Hey, maybe you ARE drunk!”
“Like your pa!” Will wanted to retort, but he couldn’t say it out loud. A lump formed in his throat, remembering the bloodshot eyes of Anthony’s father when he’d picked him up from school. At least Anthony had parents.
“He’s always sick!” Anthony shot back, angry at the interruption. “And he makes me sick every time I look at him!”
Anthony turned back to Will, noticing that he had gotten to his knees. “You stay there.” He poked Will with the stick, pushing him back to the ground. “I’ll take care of the girl.” And then without warning, Anthony threw the stick as hard as he could at Marly.
Will cried out in alarm, but it was too late. Marly caught the stick square on her forehead and was knocked to the ground.
“If I could do magic for real...” Will shouted, which made Anthony turn back to him angrily.
“See what you made me do?” The bully pointed to Marly, who was on the ground holding her head and crying. “You and your stupid stories and your pathetic wimpy legs!” Anthony took a step towards Will. “It’s all your fault, you freak!”
He planned on putting in a few good jabs before getting pummeled. Will imagined all the things the real Wizards could do to someone like Anthony with their spells. Things that would punish Anthony for hurting Marly like that.
Then, just before he could beat away Anthony’s outstretched hands with his stick, he felt a gust of wind rush through him and then Anthony was flying backwards off the ground. The bully landed hard and his head hit the dirt with a “thunk”.
Had I done that?
“The teacher thought it was all a big accident, that Anthony tripped over a tree root and let go of the stick that hit Marly,” he explained to his uncle in his room after his homework was done.
“But that’s not what really happened.” He told his uncle about waving the stick and the surge of air through his body and Anthony flying backwards. “No one trips forward and falls on his back.”
Uncle shook his head. “It wasn’t you, Will. You’ve never done magic and you probably never will. If you had, the Ministry of Magic would have detected it and sent someone after you. You know the rules.”
“If the Ministry senses magic in the Muggle world, they have to find it and make everyone forget about it. It’s how we all stay safe,” Will recited from the regulation texts he’d studied.
Will thought about the man at the warehouse. He hadn’t actually done magic then, he’d merely undone it. And then at school, the air that rushed around him… through him… had filled him with warmth. He’d felt stronger after school, even helping Mrs. Welfield with her packages on the way back to the Potions Shop.
But right now there were Wizards in the shop and he had to stay in his room. Touch nothing. Don’t let them see.
Sitting in the middle of his bed, he peeled off the remaining bits of bark on his stick and ran his fingers over the two bumpy knots in the middle. It was nothing like the smooth polished wood of his uncle’s wand. And it didn’t smell like magic.
He practiced reciting spells from his Hogwarts Book of Primary Charms, waving the stick around for over an hour, but as usual, nothing happened.
Will felt like a freak.
The magical healers didn’t help Will at all. In fact, they made him even sicker.
“See here,” his uncle held up the dark brown vial. “The transfusions last about a month or so before your body absorbs enough magic to make you weak again. But today, your blood is as dark as it was right before you collapsed that time on the stairs this summer. Remember?”
Will remembered feeling so weak that he’d fainted and waking up in the Muggle hospital attached to the tubes and the pumping machines. He didn’t know what “blood cancer” was, but the Muggle doctors were convinced that he had it and needed new blood.
Will looked down at the floor. “There were dark Wizards by the school last week. I might have done some things.”
His uncle’s brows furrowed. “What kind of things?”
“But I don’t think he saw me at all,” Will reasoned. “I stayed out of sight the whole time, like you always told me to.”
Will climbed the stairs and looked at his bed where he was supposed to lay down, but resting wasn’t going to make him feel any better. All he wanted to do was get away from all the magical smells. He grabbed his knapsack, opened the window, and climbed onto the vines and up.
Will dug through his knapsack and brought out the spell book again, pretending he was a real Wizard like his uncle. Like his parents used to be. A breeze flipped the pages open to one of the spells he’d been imagining when Anthony had been so mean.
Will got out the stick he’d kept and tapped it on the spell book, closing his eyes and remembering how the air had surged through him just before Anthony flew backwards. If he concentrated, he could imagine that same feeling building in him now. Will relaxed into the bricks of the chimney and let the feeling grow, like a ball of light inside him, getting brighter and brighter.
He hung on as tightly as he could and watched the open spell book flutter down. His knapsack hung from one arm and swung back and forth below him.
“Will!” his Uncle bellowed from below.
He hung, suspended for a minute on the vine before he came to his senses. Will’s uncle was waving his arms at him wildly. He couldn’t help Will with magic. It didn’t work on him. Will would have to save himself.
Will tucked the stick into the front of his shirt and pulled the knapsack up over his shoulder. He took a deep breath and managed to wrap his legs around the vines and heave himself through the window into his room. As he stood by his bed catching his breath, his uncle’s heavy boots stormed madly up the stairs.
“What in Godric’s name were you doing out there?”
Uncle had the spell book in his hand, waving it at him like a lunatic. Will tried hard not to laugh because it would make Uncle madder.
“You’re too weak! What if you had fallen? No one could have helped you!”
“You almost got yourself killed!” his uncle said, still very angry. “What if someone else had seen you up there? What if the dark Wizards had found you? Or the Ministry?”
“You can’t do magic, Will. You never have. You aren’t a Wizard like the rest of us!”
“I can’t help it if I’m different!” Will cried out in frustration, gripping the stick tightly. Why wouldn’t his uncle listen to him?
Will felt the frustration build in him like the light had and he imagined Mutch throwing one of his tantrums, screaming and stomping his feet. An unseen force whipped all his books and papers around him like a tornado as the surge went through him again.
But he couldn’t control it.
Will backed up and shrank against the wall as the wind got stronger and stronger. He didn’t want to hurt his uncle. “Stop! Stop it!” he cried out, dropping the stick and throwing his arms up around his head.
When Will looked up, he saw Uncle with his wand out. The room was a mess of torn up papers and books.
“I’m sorry. I won’t touch anything,” he mumbled into his hands.
Uncle reached down with his big hands and picked Will up off the floor. He sat Will back down on his bed and hugged him.
Will looked up at his uncle, who had his face bunched up in wrinkles of worry. “Do you believe me now?”
His uncle patted him on the back. “It’s alright, Will. We will figure this out.”
Will found his place under the tree the following week after school, hoping that he’d see his friend today. So much had happened to him.
Neither Will nor his uncle could explain the stick, except that it helped him focus the magic better somehow. It wasn’t a real wand with a magical core. Will had Un-magicked his mother’s wand when he was little and they’d never let him near one since.
“Well, look at the sick boy!” Anthony taunted.
Anthony looked warily at the pulsing stone. “Nice trick,” he said, but Will heard the hesitation in his voice.
Will concentrated like his uncle had shown him and felt the wind around him build. He aimed his stick and pushed all his thoughts at Anthony and felt the wind shift.
Then the air around him shifted uncomfortably and Will froze. He nervously gripped the stone in his pocket. They were coming.
“When I’m stronger, I need to go back there and find out why it looks so big,” he whispered to himself. Then he stopped short. He’d have to tell his uncle about the Ministry men and how he lost his stone. What if his uncle didn’t have another one to give him? How was he going to control his magic without it?
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