The Long Goodbye
Liam was so startled by the Kane's abrupt departure that he failed to grasp at first that he had won. The old judge looked kindly at him and said, "Come, son, and take your wand."
Suddenly, Liam could feel again the magic emanating from the Dragon Wand. A threatening menace no longer, it beckoned to him. Liam stood and reached out his hand. The wand came up off of its pillow and flew right to him.
As his fingers wrapped around it, a great burst of sparks erupted from the tip. The sparks continued in a flow, covering the desk in front of him and spilling out onto the floor. They rose into the air like blue and yellow fairies.
"Sorry," he said, abashed. "It does this sometimes."
"Only for you, son," said the judge.
Pemberton gave him a hearty slap on the back. "Well done, kid. You beat them! You beat Rudolpho Kane, fair and square. I can't wait to tell old Craft. And Alex, he'll be tickled, too."
The sparks continued to flow out of the wand's tip. Liam finally switched it to his right hand, so it would stop.
The green eyed witch stepped forward. "Lars Stilgrevsen sends his congratulations," she said.
"Thank you," said Liam. "Thanks for sticking up for me."
"Lars did not think that one so young would have the wisdom to master this wand, but you have proved him wrong." She gazed down on him with her piercing green eyes. "They tell me you used this wand to kill an acromantula."
"I did it to save a friend," said Liam, quickly.
The woman nodded. "You know what this wand can do, what it is capable of doing. Let that knowledge guide you. You must learn to temper its strength. To use it for mundane tasks will require focus, and a gentle hand. Good luck." She gave a polite nod to Pemberton, and then walked from the room.
McGonagall had left already. Only a few people remained in the room now. One of them was Prudence Pym, the reporter from Witch Weekly. "Excuse me, Liam," she said, "would you care to make a statement?"
"I think he's said quite enough already today," said Pemberton, sternly.
"I'll make a statement," said Liam with a grin. "I'm starving! When's lunch?"
It was, in fact, a quarter passed eleven. His classmates were halfway through Transfiguration. Liam walked with Pemberton down to the Entrance Hall. At the great front doors, the two shook hands. Pemberton strolled out the door into the warm spring air. Liam idly wondered if he were going to take the train back to London, or if he had a more efficient way of getting there.
Liam idled around the doors of the Great Hall until he heard above him the clatter of footsteps, as one class after another was dismissed for lunch. He heard Philip's voice before he saw him. "Look, it's Liam!"
Soon, Michael, Philip and Sadie were gathered around him. "What happened?" asked Sadie. "Is the hearing over?"
"Yes. Look!" The Dragon Wand was at his belt. He pulled it out far enough so that the silver ring was visible. "It's mine now."
Sadie gasped. Philip said, "What about Cyrus?"
"Don't know. They left right after the judge ruled against them."
Michael said, "How 'bout after lunch, you show us what that thing can do!"
Sadie was right on his heels. "We have to get you ready for Finals! You missed a week of practicals! We'll have to go over everything."
Liam set his hand on her shoulder, and she beamed up at him. He had never been so eager to practice Formal Magic. "You're right - I've got to practice with this thing. Let's get a bite to eat first. Meet us here in half an hour."
As the three boys walked to the Hufflepuff table, Michael said, "I'm sticking with you, this time. Grand-mum wasn't too pleased when she learned I'd skipped out on some study sessions last term."
At the lunch table, Liam got just a single question, from Stacy. "Everything all right?"
"Everything's fine, thank you." Liam answered with a smile. Lara gave him just a glance.
Though he was hungry, Liam was eager to use the Dragon Wand again. He and his friends ate a quick lunch, then met Sadie outside the Great Hall. They went up to the second floor, but instead of going to Liam's usual spot, the room which had no furniture in it whatsoever, they sought out an unused classroom with some furnishings.
Sadie had spent her lunch break mapping out a curriculum on a piece of parchment. She had Liam stand at the front of the room, and set a feather quill in front of him. "Let's try the levitation charm first."
Liam nodded. This was the last charm he had attempted with Hexwood's wand. He set his feet, then drew the Dragon Wand. He could feel the swell of magic in his arm straight away. He gave a dramatic flick and swish and shouted the incantation: "Wingardium Levioso!"
It was as if a great gust of wind had blown in from the window. Feather and desk flew up into the air. The desk banged against the ceiling and fell in a clatter to the floor.
There was a shocked silence amongst the four of them. Michael was the first to speak. "That one, it doesn't want to lift the feather; it wants to burn down the village."
There was nervous laughter from the others. "Look at the desk!" said Philip. "You broke the leg."
Sadie quickly mended it. "Let's try that again, but with a little less gusto."
Remembering what the green-eyed woman had told him, Liam tried again. His flick was a little more gentle. Though the wand swept the feather high into the air, it did not take the desk along with it.
Sadie made him practice every charm Flitwick had taught them that spring, and a few from the Autumn Term as well. After a dozen charms, she was satisfied. "All right, that's better. Every time, your wand is a little more controlled."
"Are we done, then?" asked Michael.
"No, we just started!" said Sadie. "Next is DADA. He needs to practice 'Alta.'"
"You mean, one of us has got to stand there and have our arm blown off by that thing?"
"Yes. I'll do it if you're afraid to."
Michael had to do it, then. He couldn't be shown up by a girl from Ravenclaw. He drew his wand and stood a few paces from Liam. "All right, get it over with."
"Why don't I try it right handed?" asked Liam. He switched hands and then fired a quick 'Alta' at Michael. The spell pushed Michael's wand arm high into the air.
"That was plenty strong enough," said Michael.
Liam nodded. "What's next, Sadie?"
"Transfiguration. I know you never finished your handkerchief. I'd also like to see you do the basic Potions charms - you know, fire and water."
So, Liam went back down to the Common Room to fetch his cauldron and his tin foil. Michael went with him, while Philip and Sadie stayed up in the room and reviewed their History of Magic notes.
When he returned, Sadie had him start with the tinfoil. Liam closed his eyes, envisioning the finished product with its smooth silk and black and yellow checked pattern. With a flick of his wrist, he started work on the foil. He was using his left hand again, however, and the spell quickly got away from him. The foil tranfigured into silk, but it began to expand in size until it was tumbling off the sides of the desk. When he finally lifted his arm to break the spell, it stretched to the floor.
"You engorged it!" said Sadie.
"It's as big as a tablecloth," said Philip, holding up an end.
"Well, I know what my mum's getting for her birthday," said Liam with a grin.
Sadie set the cauldron on the stone floor and had Liam pour in water and then start a magical fire. The water from his wand sloshed everywhere, and they all pitched in to clean it up before he tried making a fire. Again, the wand came on strong and had the cauldron simmering within a few minutes time.
"I've got to be careful with this thing," he said, more to himself than to the others. "The lady told me I needed to temper it. I didn't know what she meant, but I think I do now."
"Which lady is this?" asked Sadie.
"Stilgrevsen sent an assistant to the hearing. She verified that I had the Magic Key." Liam then backtracked and told the others the whole story of the hearing.
"And the Kane's just stormed out at the end?" asked Philip.
Liam nodded. "I don't think they even got the money from the school for the wand."
"Mental," muttered Michael.
"But, what about Cyrus?" asked Sadie. "Is he coming back to take his finals?"
"That's a Ravenclaw question if I ever heard one," said Michael.
Liam gazed down at the wand, with its dark wood and silver ring. "I don't know," he said softly.
Cyrus Kane did not return to Hogwarts to take his finals. Spencer got word, early the following week, that Cyrus would be transferring to Durmstrang for the next Autumn Term. He would not return to Hogwarts until he was an adult.
The Slytherins found it too much to bear that one of their own had been brought down by a Muggleborn from Hufflepuff (from Biggleswade, no less!) And so, an alternative explanation was quickly offered: Wren had been but the instrument, the weapon. It was Umberto who had laid Cyrus low.
After all, it was Umberto who first recognized the significance of Wren's dragon dreams. Umberto was the one who had embarrassed Cyrus in front of the Old Men at the Christmas Party. This forced Cyrus to attack Wren again, publically, in an attempt to regain his lost prestige, re-igniting a conflict that Gregor had all but smothered. Umberto had thwarted Stainton as well, so that Wren's stinging curse went unanswered.
Umberto quietly guided Wren and Thompson to the Stilgrevsen book, and to Dragons of the Southern Hemisphere. Without Umberto's help, the two would not have been able to crack the mystery of the dreams and find the Key to the Wand.
Cyrus, upon joining Slytherin House, quickly threw his lot with the Conservatives. He despised Umberto for befriending the Muggleborn Gordon Sumner, and was unrelenting in his cruel comments to both boys. Umberto endured these taunts silently, but when he found his opponent's weakness, he ruthlessly exploited it.
There was one more piece of evidence that the Slytherins quietly pondered - the fact that Umberto was never questioned by the Headmistress for his role in the conflict. Some took this to mean that Umberto's part had in truth been rather small and peripheral.
Others, however, said this was a sign of a true genius. They marveled at how Umberto, in only his First Year, could destroy a rival without ever falling under the suspicion of the school administration. This accomplishment lifted the small, clever boy in the eyes of the other Slytherins. Afterwards, his prestige was such that even older students were respectful to him.
In later years, Liam would come to understand that Umberto was a powerful and influential wizard within Slytherin, and that he had played a part in Umberto's ascension. But at the moment, Liam's only concern was passing his finals.
He was well prepared for the written portions of his exams, as he had been given some extra days of study while his peers were practicing spells. Despite the hours of practicing with Sadie, however, Liam was still nervous as to how the Dragon Wand would respond during a test.
Yet, he was already getting the hang of the temperamental wand. When he felt a surge of magic coming, he would quickly switch the wand from his left hand to his right, and that kept the spell from getting seriously out of hand. He scored an "Outstanding" in his practicals for Charms and Transfiguration, and even coaxed an "Exceeds Expectations" out of Gregor, a notoriously strict assessor.
At last, it was time for the End of Term Feast. The Seventh Years wore special robes to the Feast. Allison and Eric put on their prefect pins once more. Eric wore a special pin, marking him as a Seeker. It showed a figure on a broomstick with its hand outstretched. Along the broomstick was three purple stones, signifying three consecutive victories over Ravenclaw on the Quidditch pitch.
But it was Archie Stollencroft who looked transformed for the occasion. He wore a broomstick pin like Eric's, but Archie's had a star on it as well, marking him as Quidditch Captain. Over his left breast was a heavy golden badge, marked with the Hogwarts "H," his service medal for helping save Lara Guishar from the rogue acromantula.
Archie showed it to Liam in the common room, before the group went up the stairs to the Feast. "You'll get one of these too, kid. But, they're going to make you wait. Who knows? You're young enough - you might win another one."
As the Hufflepuffs walked through the Entrance Hall on their way to the Great Hall, they passed the four hourglasses showing the House Points. Ravenclaw had finished the year in the top spot, but that was due in part to the precipitous fall of Slytherin. Both Slytherin and Gryffindor had lost two hundred and fifty points each for infractions during the May 29th riot.
Meanwhile, Liam and Archie had earned one hundred and fifty points each for saving Lara Guishar. The late three hundred point surge had catapulted the last place Badgers into second place.
Despite his detentions and the headaches he caused the Headmistress, Liam had not cost the Badgers a single point. With his regular points from Professor DeVere and his one hundred fifty point bonus, Liam accounted for a nearly a third of the Hufflepuff total.
Into the Great Hall they marched, with Archie in the lead. Michael and Liam were both at his heels. They sat down in their usual places at the Hufflepuff table. The Hall was decked in purple, and great banners of Eagles and Ravens hung from the rafters. The Ravenclaw ghost was sitting proudly at the table with her students. The haughty look on Calliope's face was almost more than Liam could bear.
The rest of the school filed in, and McGonagall said a quick word before giving way to food and merriment. But as the Feast truly got started, an odd change came over the room.
The Ravenclaws were proud and smug in their victory, but they were a quiet, studious bunch, and it was their habit to speak softly at the table. They thought that loud carrying on was rude, crass, beneath them. The Slytherins brooded silently over the fall of Cyrus Kane and what the portends of that fall were. The Gyffendors were quiet, too. Though they had won the House Cup, they had landed in last place in points after the riot. McGonagall had given them all a tongue-lashing that had left them cowed.
Only the Hufflepuff table was cheerful and boisterous. They, after all, had been in last place the entire term. To find themselves second in points at the end was a happy surprise. They had won their Quidditch match against Ravenclaw, but the attack of the spider had cut their celebration short. Now, the Hufflepuffs toasted their brave Badgers. There were salutes and speeches, hugs and kisses, and near the end of the evening, loud and happy singing.
Professors Meadows and Sprout came down from the staff table to join in the festivities. Archie, Eric and the other Seventh Year boys began to sing a bawdy song about a waitress named Sonja, which caused embarrassed laughter all around.
The Hufflepuffs were the last group to leave the Hall. One would have thought that the feast was for them. Perhaps, in the end, it was.
In the morning, the tired, happy Hufflepuffs arose to their final day at Hogwarts for that term. Liam made a quick search of his area to make sure all his belongings were in his trunk before going out into the common room.
Lara Guishar was there, sitting in a chair by the fire. Her hair was still damp from her shower. When she saw him, she rose and came right over to him. "Oh, Liam, I wanted to give you this." She pulled from a pocket of her robe an envelope. "It's from my father. It's his way of saying thanks for saving my life."
Of all the girls in the school, she was the only one who made him nervous. He wanted to say something clever, but all he could manage was, "Oh. Um, thanks."
He took the envelope from her and ran his thumb along the flap, but she said, "Don't open it here. It might be better if you wait until you're on your own." Liam looked at her, curious and confused. She added, "I know what it says, but nobody else does. Not even Stacy."
"Um, okay." He slipped the note in his pocket.
She gave him a warm smile, one he had waited the whole school year for. "Have a good summer."
"You too. See you in the fall."
She nodded and then turned and walked back to the girl's dormitory.
Liam didn't get a chance to look at the note from Alex Guishar, for into the common room came Philip, Michael and Fortney. Behind them came a crowd of older boys, including Archie and Eric. "Let's go up, shall we?" said Archie, and he led the group out into the hall.
When they were on the stairs, they began singing again the song about the waitress named Sonja. The group tucked in to a cheerful breakfast. Liam felt relaxed and happy. He wanted to savour the moment with his friends, but time was slipping quickly from him. Soon, he was in the queue for a carriage for the ride down to the station.
It was just the four "nearly Second Year" boys in the carriage this time, but on the platform, they were met by Sadie and Gillian, and the four Irish boys from Gryffindor, Paul, Dave, Adam and Larry. The ten of them crammed into a single compartment.
There was no quiet moment on that train ride for Liam to read the note in his pocket. He often forgot about it, except that a corner of it kept poking his thigh. He had no idea what the letter might say, but if Lara was keen about keeping it a secret, he figured he ought to be, too.
No one slept on the ride home, with the Gryffindor boys in the car. They all wanted to see the Dragon Wand and hear the story of Liam's battle with the spider. Paul wanted to know more about Liam's quarrels with Cyrus from earlier in the term. Then Dave said he'd heard a rumour that Liam had been lectured by the Bloody Baron, so Liam had to tell that story, too.
Before he knew it, they were at King's Cross. There were handshakes and backslaps all around. The Irish boys piled out into the hallway, Michael and Philip followed them, but Liam held back. He wanted to say his goodbyes to Sadie. Gillian too, had stayed behind. Her blue eyes flashed between the two.
Sadie gazed up at him, and Liam was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "Hey, you all right?" he asked.
Give her a hug, stupid.
Liam put an arm around Sadie and said, "Have a good summer."
She was crying now. She turned and nuzzled her face into his shirt. "You, too," she managed to say.
"I'll send you an owl," he told her, echoing another prompt from Gillian.
Sadie slipped away and dried her eyes on a handkerchief. Gillian, with a sudden motion, gave Liam a firm hug. He found himself with a face full of red hair. She held him tightly and let out a long and beautiful laugh.
"What?" he asked.
Nothing. Something Lara told me.
"When?" he asked again, thinking of the note in his pocket.
When I visited her in the hospital. I'll tell you later. But, it would be years before she did so.
Out of the compartment they came. Liam helped Sadie with her trunk, and then got his own. (The Roycester brothers had already retrieved Gillian's trunk.)
Sadie and Liam walked through the barrier together, the last pair to do so. Around them were their friends, greeting family members and saying goodbye one last time.
Sadie stopped short. There was a look of sad resignation on her face. Liam followed her eyes and saw his own family. There in the center of the group was Lara Guishar, and her father.
Liam turned to Sadie and gave her a gentle pat on the back. "Have a good summer, okay? I will write you, I promise."
Finally, she smiled. "Okay. I'll write you, too. Have a good summer." Her voice cracked, and she turned away and rushed to where her family was waiting.
Liam made his way towards his family. Around him, he heard several calls of "Bye Liam! Have a good summer!" He waved, but didn't see who was speaking to him. He got a firm hug from his mother, and a hearty handshake from his Uncle Charlie.
Alex Guishar stood nearby with his hand on Lara's shoulder. "There's the lad," he said. "He saved my Larisa." He held out his hand, and Liam gave it a firm shake.
Though he had yet to read the note, Liam said, "Thank you sir," for it seemed the right thing to say.
"A good day to you, Mrs. Wren," said Alex to Annie. Then, he led his daughter away into the crowd.
Annie draped his arm around Liam and said, "That man, Alex, says that you saved his daughter's life, and that he's going to pay your tuition and books for the rest of your years at Hogwarts."
That's what the note says, thought Liam. Then, She must know about the spider.
Sure enough, Annie said, "We got a series of owls a few weeks ago. One saying that there had been an incident involving some students and one of the forest creatures, and that two students received minor injuries but that there was nothing to worry about. And then we got another saying that you were one of those students, and that you were not in any trouble but had acted quite bravely.
"It still didn't seem like you had been in any danger, but then we heard from the Guishars that you had saved their daughter's life, and that the creature was a . . . what was the word, Patrick?"
"Acromantula!" said Patrick eagerly. "A giant spider! and Liam killed it they said!"
"How big was this spider?" asked Annie.
Charlie said, "Don't ask a question that you don't want to know the answer to, Annie." He put his arm around his sister and pulled her in the direction of the parking lot. "Come on, let's go."
As they walked back to the car, Annie said, "Larisa, that's Alex's daughter's name."
"Lara. Everybody calls her Lara."
"I see. Is that the girl who was writing you at Christmas time?"
"No, that was Sadie."
"That's right, Miss Thompson. Have we met her yet?"
"No. She came through the barrier with me."
"The cute little brunette?" asked Charlie.
"And who was the redhead?" asked Charlie. "I saw her turn and wish you a happy summer."
"So," said Annie, "there's Lara, Sadie and Gillian. Are there any other girls in your life?"
"I think that's one of those questions, Annie, that you don't want to know the answer to," said Charlie.
Liam grinned, and Annie said, "You are your father's son."
They had come in Charlie's old Saab, a funny egg shaped car with a hatch back. Charlie threw Liam's trunk in the back, then the four of them got in the car. They headed north, through the fading light towards Biggleswade.
Liam dug into his pocket for the note from Alex Guishar. His wrist brushed against the Dragon Wand. "Oh," said Liam. "I have a new wand."
"Cool!" said Patrick.
Liam drew the wand. "Look, it's got a little ring on it with a picture of a dragon."
"Can I have your old one?" asked Patrick.
"Sure," said Liam. "Maybe it'll like you better," he added with a laugh.
And that, my friends, is the end! Some quick thank yous:
For my birthday, eleven years ago, my older daughter took me to the movies to see Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. I remember not being terribly impressed, but then again, Chris Columbus is not my favorite director. For Christmas that year, we got Summer a set of the four J.K. Rowling books that had been published by that time, and over a weekend that January, I read the first one.
I was, of course, enchanted. Summer had read the first book already, so I read the second book out loud to her. We continued on reading the books, with my younger daughter Riley in the room, trying to follow along (but mostly falling asleep.)
When Book Seven was imminent, we started over at Book One, and I read them all again, out loud, in order. Riley was old enough to enjoy them this time. It was a special time for me as a parent.
Summer and Riley were early advocates for the Liam Wren concept, and it is for them that I wrote this book.
Thanks also to my two regular correspondents, Ripley and Sherriff, for all their great comments; to the site for giving me this forum and access to such a great audience of H.P. fans; and to Rowling, for seven very entertaining books, and for a wonderfully detailed world that I just had to revisit.
This turned into quite the project! It's nearly twice as long as my previous book, and took about twice as long to write. I came in with some very firm ideas on what I wanted to do, and I executed my plan thoroughly. I must admit, I am proud of the finished product, particularly the scenes with the dragon. I'm curious to know what you all thought. The story is chock full of characters and subplots. (A messy British novel, shall we say?) I'm wondering which character and subplot was your favorite.
I chose to set this story seven years after the fall of Voldemort, which gave me the freedom to use many of my own characters while still relying on Rowling's surviving characters to provide continuity. That choice, however, left me responsible for a bewildering number of names. I did my best, inventing as many names as I could, but there were just too many. So, I took a few shortcuts along the way.
Since I use a pseudonym, a pen name, for my writing, I sprinkled into this story some real names of writers and artists who are better known by their psuedonyms. There are many, many references to J.R.R. Tolkien in these pages, more than I called attention to at the time. I gave nods to a few other favorite books as well: Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, and John LeCarre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
For the Gryffendor and Hufflepuff Quidditch team members, I relied, for the non-speaking roles, on names of my friends from the old neighborhood. If any of you are reading, I love and remember all of you, and hope you are well.
Most of these references (your high school English teacher will call them "allusions") are for my amusement alone, but you may come across a name and say, "Hey isn't that . . . ?" and yes, it is, and (probably) by design.
Okay, what's next? Is there more? Well, there could be more. I have another complete outline, Wren of Hufflepuff, which would pick up the story right after "Black Cats" and take us all the way to Year Seven. It wouldn't be a novel like this one, with a mystery to solve, but more a series of anecdotes and highlights. The focus will be on Liam's romantic relationships, and I will have to do my best to keep within the Terms and Conditions.
There is also notes on Morwena and her friends. In fact, I have much more on Morwena, Tess, Pauline, Rhiannon and Vanessa than I do on Stacy, Stephanie or Monique. So, I may write out some of that. Then, there's an idea, still pretty vague at this point, about what happens to Cyrus at Durmstrang. (He hits bottom and then starts turning things around, and becomes a much better person. It does happen sometimes!)
But first, I'm going back to my fictional town of Peace Valley, California. I already have The Trouble With Girls up on Amazon. I'm reading through its companion (sister book) Missy Baker is a Band Geek, right now. I hope to have Band Geek up on Amazon in a month or so, followed by The Rock Stars of Cooper High.
I have my eye on FictionCentral, and will probably post some of my older stuff there in the coming months, too, under my KJ Cartmell byline.
And then, the next novel:After a chance encounter at an airport, it's love at first sight for two high school seniors, handsome, worldly Thomas Reeve and beautiful Adeline Godson, the daughter of a church pastor, in The Gospel of Thomas. It will probably be 2015 before that manuscript is polished and ready to publish, so I'll try to keep you occupied with other things in the meantime.
Thanks again for reading! As I've said before, I watch my read counts with interest. I like to see which chapters are popular. Your feedback is important, too. If any of these notes and ideas sound interesting to you, let me know in your reviews.
And please, spread the news! If you have a friend or relative who loves the Harry Potter books, send them my way. Goodbye for now!
November 21, 2012