“Come on,” I pressed. “What is it? Some sort of herbal healing device? You could make a fortune selling them. That was brilliant.”
Charlie didn’t even crack a smile. In fact, he looked mildly upset. “Shush a second and let me sort out your shoulder,” he said quietly.
“Can you sort out my shoulder?” I asked apprehensively as the taxi trundled along the narrow roads, bumping and jolting, but I didn’t feel a thing. I mean, Charlie may have a magic stick, but that doesn’t mean he can fix dislocated joints as easily. I’m sure sticks have some limitations.
“Yeah, I’ve done it before,” he said, rubbing his day-old gingery stubble on his chin. “Dragons come with their casualties.”
I smiled, but again, Charlie didn’t. He looked strangely serious, and I was getting worried. Maybe the herbal healing stick had some sort of freaky side effects? Or maybe he was just worried about me hurting my shoulder more while I couldn’t feel anything. At any rate, he was slightly freaking me out.
“This won’t hurt at all,” he said. “But it might feel slightly uncomfortable, and I’m going to have to press pretty hard to pop the joint back in the socket, alright?”
Charlie tapped on the screen separating us and the taxi driver, and indicated for the driver to pull over. “I don’t want to accidently push in the wrong direction as we go over a bump,” he explained.
Once we’d stopped, I shuffled around so Charlie could reach my left shoulder easier. “Give it your best shot,” I said, taking a deep breath in preparation. Although I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t feel anything, my body was still tensed for pain.
“Relax,” Charlie instructed, putting both his large hands on my shoulder. I closed my eyes as he pulled, and my numb shoulder seemed to come alive with sensation. My eyes flew open as I felt the briefest of flashes of pain- and I could almost feel the bone ball and socket inside my shoulder- and then it was over, and Charlie sat back on his seat.
“Well, that was easier than I expected,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I thought I’d be pulling and pushing for longer than that.”
“Thank you,” I said.
He huffed at me. Now, I was exceptionally confused- had I somehow done something wrong? Was dislocating your shoulder a Charlie Weasley no-no?
“Could you take us back to the Lichtberg please?” Charlie asked the driver, who nodded and mumbled something in German.
I think Charlie was ignoring me now.
I tried to ignore him back, moving my arm experimentally. It could be moved slightly, but I felt uncomfortable twinges if I pushed it too far. Charlie stopped me.
“You should tie it up so you don’t hurt it accidently while you can’t feel anything,” he said, taking off his jacket.
“What is that stick?” I asked again, but he ignored me, folding his jacket into something resembling a sling. He tied the sleeves around the back of my neck, making sure my arm was secure in the main body of the jacket.
“Once we’re back at the hotel, we should get a doctor to come out and see you,” he said, avoiding my question still. “You don’t need the hospital now, but a proper sling and some strong painkillers would help a lot.”
“Charlie, stop dodging the question!” I said, frustrated. “What is that stick?” I dropped my voice low, suddenly realising something. “It’s not... it’s not illegal, is it?” I asked quietly.
Charlie gave a short bark of a laugh, but it was humourless and cold. “No, it’s not illegal.”
I set my jaw sternly. “Charlie, you’re scaring me,” I told him. “Will you please explain whatever is making you act so weird? I don’t like it.”
He looked at me for one long minute, his face unreadable. I hadn’t lied when I said I was scared- this serious and worried Charlie was so different to the joker I had known for the past couple of weeks, I was truly anxious.
“I’ll tell you when we get back to the hotel,” he said, finally.
I nodded, half-satisfied. I’d make him tell me eventually. And I was still pretty worried about whatever he needed to tell me. He was a murderer? He wasn’t really Charlie Weasley, he was an impersonator? He was a spy? He was an alien?
This is why I don’t like mystery stories. In the end, I always assume that the big secret is an alien invasion. To me, that seems like the only logical solution. I am always wrong.
The rest of the car journey was spent in an awkward silence. Charlie stared out the window, deep in thought, and I played with the zip on his jacket around my arm. The taxi driver kept giving us suspicious looks in the rear view mirror as well, which didn’t help my overall feelings of paranoia.
When we finally pulled up outside the hotel, Charlie paid the driver and waited for me to clamber out the car. He was still being scarily silent and his eyebrows were furrowed in thought.
At reception, he organised for a doctor to come round to take a look at my shoulder, and then we slowly walked up all four flights of stairs in total silence. Once we had got to my room, Charlie sat on the bed, head in hands. I sat on the deep window ledge, and watched him for a second.
“I expect an explanation,” I said, breaking the silence. Charlie looked at me, biting his lip. “And every second you don’t answer,” I continued, “I become more worried. So please, put me out of my misery, and tell me you are not an alien.”
He half-snorted in amusement, and leant back on my bed. I noticed that when he had left this morning, he’d made the bed immaculately, straightening the pillows and smoothing out the creases in the duvet.
“I’m not an alien,” he said with finality, so that at least soothed my fears on that front. “I’m just... I’m not sure how to explain without you freaking out,” he said.
And boom, all my fears came back.
“Is it something bad?” I asked, feeling a lot like I was trying to guess my birthday presents; ‘Is it edible? Is it an animal, vegetable or mineral?’ Before you say anything, Jess gives some wacky presents. The other year I got a dead cactus which was supposed to bloom into life if you gave it water. It didn’t. I eventually threw it out, and bought a live one. Don’t tell her.
“It’s nothing bad,” he reassured me. “I just don’t know how to explain it,” he repeated.
I crossed my legs, and looked out the window. Small people walked past underneath my window, out in the sunshine for the first time in weeks.
“Start at the beginning?” I suggested.
Charlie half-shook his head, and then sat upright, folding his hands in his lap. He took a deep breath, and focused his gaze on the apple-green wall and dark oil painting of a forest in front of him.
“Mellie...” he said, and I waited, because whatever this was, it was an incredibly hard thing for him to say.
“Mel,” he said again, and there was another excruciatingly long pause. “I’m a wizard.”
The question was a kind of knee-jerk reaction- if he’d said; ‘I have diabetes’ or ‘I’m in love with your mother’ or even ‘I hate you, because you are an ugly, mean person’... I still would have squawked ‘what?’ at him.
I wasn’t expecting a declaration of magical abilities though, which Charlie then proceeded to explain.
“You see, the thing is I am wizard, so I can do magic and stuff.” He paused, and ran his hand through his hair. “That ‘herbal healing stick’ is my wand,” he said.
“Mellie, I couldn’t tell you earlier because I’m technically not allowed. Witches and wizards, we’ve got a whole Ministry of Magic and a Statute of Secrecy, which explicitly says that you can’t tell the Muggles –that’s you, as a non-magical person- and we’re really not supposed to break it. I just didn’t want you to be in pain with your shoulder- I really do work with dragons, by the way; proper, real, fire-breathing dragons, I’ll take you to Romania to see them some time- and I went to a school of witchcraft and wizardry called Hogwarts, and you seriously can’t tell anyone else about this,” he said, and took another deep breath, apparently finished with his garbling.
“Mellie?” he prompted.
I was a little dumbstruck. “You’re a wizard?” I managed finally, swallowing hard. I had to say, this was a pretty impressive imaginary world that Charlie had made up, with its Ministry and its Statute of Secrecy. But I was definitely calling Marty as soon as the doctor came.
“You don’t believe me,” Charlie said suddenly, and I couldn’t lie to him.
“I’m sorry, Charlie, I really am. But I can’t believe that you can do magic.”
A ghost of a genuine smile hovered around his mouth. “But what if I can prove it?”
I folded my arms. “You can’t,” I said, sure of myself. There was no way that Charlie could do magic. It was impossible, and broke just about every law of physics that there was. Although the only rule I knew about was Murphy’s Law.
And then, with a flick of his stick and some Latin-y sounding words, the dressing table was turned into a very large, very pink, pig.
“THERE IS A PIG IN MY ROOM!” I yelled, pretty much on the verge of being hysterical. That’s me. Calm to bat-shit-crazy in 0.003 of a second. Charlie had turned my dressing table into a pig. A dirty great pig was in my hotel room, looking at me confusedly through its tiny black eyes.
“Stop freaking out!” Charlie said, trying to shush me.
“CHANGE IT BACK, RIGHT NOW!”
“Alright, alright!” Charlie said, flicking his wand again, as he said something else which sounded a lot like ‘pork and men’s potatoes’.
“Why is the pig still in my room?” I asked, my voice deceptively calm.
Charlie swallowed. “I was always bad at reversal-spells,” he said. “Especially with big things.”
“Then why didn’t you pick a smaller animal?” I said, creeping higher up the octaves again.
“I was going for the wow factor!” Charlie said, exasperatedly, pointing his stick at the pig again. The pig seemed pretty unconcerned, sniffing at the air with a large, square snout.
“SO YOU CHOSE A PIG?” I yelled. “HOW WILL THAT MAKE ME GO WOW?”
Charlie closed his eyes, –probably to block my annoying yelling out- flicked his wand, and muttered the weird potato words again. This time, the pig shimmered slightly, and then with a tiny pop! changed back into my dressing table.
“Thank Merlin for that,” Charlie said, collapsing on the bed. “I couldn’t take much more of your screaming.”
As the immediate danger of pig poo on my carpet had been eliminated by being morphed back into an inanimate object, I calmed down considerably- and my mind started working properly again.
‘Merlin’, Charlie had said, on multiple occasions as well, and if he was really a wizard, then that would kind of fit. Charlie had never seen a film... he didn’t know how to text... he certainly couldn’t drive... I remembered something else ‘I’d rather fly to Austria on a broomstick’, he’d said in London. The references to dragons... Marty had called me a Muggle as well... the names of his teachers- Rumbleroar and something? He was an expert on mythical creatures... which probably weren’t as mythical as us Muggles liked to believe. Holy crap, I wanted to see a unicorn.
“Are you afraid of pigs as well?” he asked. And then there was also his very real proof... I could still smell pig.
“Of course not, I was just shocked,” I snapped back automatically.
Charlie being a wizard kind of made sense. Oh God, I’m going crazy now as well.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “Just for a second, let’s pretend you are a wizard.”
Charlie raised his eyebrows and twirled his wand between his fingers. “Alright, I’m pretending.”
Woo, sarcasm. You’re so funny. Hear that silence? That’s me, not laughing.
“Okay,” I repeated. “So, you’re a wizard. What the hell are you doing on the set of a Muggle film?”
Charlie looked relieved that I wasn’t shouting anymore. “Well, there are a couple of reasons. One reason is that I’m a bit short on money, and as you said, it’s a brilliant wage...” he trailed off.
“And the other reason?” I asked.
“Uhhh, that’s a little more hard to explain,” he hedged.
“Harder than explaining that you’re a wizard?” I asked incredulously.
“I suppose you could call it meeting old friends,” he said. “Yeah, meeting old friends and making new ones.”
“Magical friends?” I enquired, attempting to sound blasé.
Charlie winked. “Very magical. I thought telling you would be harder than this,” he said suddenly. “And I have to say, you are taking this pretty well.”
“You expected more screaming and mad shouting?” I asked.
“No, and I don’t think you could have physically got your voice to go any higher,” he said, chuckling. “I’m sure there are dogs somewhere, writhing on the ground in pain.”
I scowled at him, and then there was a knock on the hotel room door. Charlie went to answer it- standing there was a very old man, with an old-fashioned leather doctor’s bag and a massive beard. “Hello,” he said in accented English. “You need a doctor?”
“Yeah,” Charlie said, standing aside to let the man in. “My friend Melanie has dislocated her shoulder. I managed to pop it back in, but we need painkillers and a sling for her arm, as well as some professional help.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” the man said amiably, shaking Charlie’s hand.
He was very gentle with his examination of my sore shoulder, as Charlie’s quick-fix-magic-healing-wand-thing was beginning to wear off, leaving my arm aching and tender. He also praised Charlie’s bone-setting, which prompted him to lean down and whisper in my ear.
“I set the foreleg of a Norwegian Ridgeback once,” he said, his breath tickling my ear. He sounded very proud, so I smiled at him- although that became a bit forced when the doctor poked my shoulder particularly hard.
The doctor loaded me up with painkillers and a prescription for when I got back to Britain, and he also strung up my arm with a proper sling, showing Charlie how to help me with it, which meant Charlie could have his jacket back. He shrugged it back on.
“You need to get a lot of rest in order for your shoulder to heal,” the doctor said, picking back up his bag and flashing us a yellowing smile. “All you need is time to recuperate, and you should be fine. Don’t stretch or strain your shoulder too much- so you’ll probably have to take some time off your job, depending on how strenuous it is.”
He shook Charlie’s hand again, and let himself out. Charlie didn’t let the door click shut, instead grabbing it and checking to make sure the doctor had gone into the lift before turning back.
“I didn’t want him to accidently hear about magic,” he explained.
“Now what?” I asked.
Charlie leant on the door frame. “Well, you should probably assure Jess you’re not dead, as I’ve noticed that she does have a tendency to overreact- and then you’re probably going to have to go home and take some sick leave.”
I scowled. “That’s not what I meant.”
Charlie grimaced. “Yeah, I know.”
“So?” I realised my voice probably came out a lot harsher than I intended. I looked at the floor, feeling kind of awkward. Charlie was a wizard. He could do magic. He could put spells on people. He could do practically anything. I suddenly felt very small and inferior. I was scared of thunder, and he worked with dragons. I mean, come on.
“So... well, you need to take some time off, and I was thinking that I could maybe take some time off as well?”
My eyes snapped back up to his face. “What?”
He scratched the back of his neck, looking kind of sheepish. “It’s my brother’s birthday in a week, and I was going home- do you maybe want to come with me?”
“To your house?”
Charlie nodded. “I mean, only if you want to. I’ll just take you home if not, I’m sure your cousin could look after you- Max, yeah?”
“Are all your family magical?” I said, ignoring his question. I was still trying to wrap my head around everything Charlie had said, and I was really quite impressed with how calm and steady I was being.
“Erm, well, the vast majority of my family are. I think Mum has a second cousin who is an accountant, but we don’t really talk about him.” Charlie’s eyes glanced down at my shoulder- I hadn’t realised my hand was unconsciously rubbing my sore arm.
“Right...” A magical family, I thought. A whole family of magical people. He probably doesn’t even see how weird that is to me.
Charlie smiled nervously at me. “So do you want to come? I promise to protect you from Violet, and you need to rest your shoulder. Just for a few days, for the celebration? I’ll take you home anytime you wanted to leave. It might even be fun....”
A couple of days in a house full of magical people. “I’d love to go,” I said, not counting on the wide grin that spread across Charlie’s face.
“Really? Oh, that’s amazing! Wait, I’ll just go tell Philip that you’re going to have to take some time off work-”
“Since when were you and the director on a first name basis?” I asked incredulously. I marvelled at myself sometimes, I really did. Never mind that Charlie was a wizard, I was impressed that he knew Philip Masters. Ridiculous. Priorities, Melanie.
Charlie waved a nonchalant hand. “Oh, you know.” He winked mischievously at me. “Watch this,” he said, swivelling on the spot.