The twisted figure sneered at her, “You found something, something unusual today. It’s not yours and you must give it to me.” He paused before adding “now!”
Georgina pulled herself up to her full height, towering over the abrupt visitor. “I’m sure,” she intoned, “I don’t know what you mean.”
Twisted features formed themselves into a humourless smile. “A stick, a straight, unadorned stick, about a foot long. It doesn’t belong to you. You must entrust it to me. For your own good. Do understand?”
“No,” bristled Georgina, “I don’t understand, and as for you, you have the wrong cottage. Goodnight!” And with that she shut the door firmly, her heart racing. Gathering her emotions Georgina turned slowly and headed towards the kitchen and her unfinished bottle of wine. Almost immediately there was another knock at the door.
Georgina had never suffered fools gladly, “Right!” she stated turning sharply on her heel, “some people just wont learn!” She paced quickly back across the hall and wrenched the beautifully stained oak door open, causing the wrought iron knocker to rattle irritably.
To her surprise the gnarled man in black had vanished. Instead where he had stood moments before there was now a large, flustered and somewhat flowery woman. Her ample frame was covered from head to toe in a garishly patterned outfit. A plastic mac, picked out in yellow daisies clashed with her blouse emblazed as it was with pink roses and her skirt of imposing lilies. Mismatched and sizable jewellery glinted in the dull light cast from the antique coaching lamp affixed to the wall. This second surprise visitor seemed unaware of her host as she rummaged through an enormous and battered handbag.
“Hello?” enquired Georgina.
The woman started suddenly, looking up from her bag and peering at Georgina through almost comically owlish glasses. “Ah greetings,” she gushed, “so glad I caught you in. I’m from the, er, hospital down the way and I’m, er, visiting all the local residents with some, er, well information I guess. I do have some identification in here somewhere.” With that she frowned and returned to searching her voluminous handbag.
“It’s OK,” soothed Georgina, “You said something about some news?”
“Ah yes,” the other woman agreed, “Hopefully it’s not important, and, er, wont affect you anyway. May I, er, come inside?”
Confused and intrigued in equal measure Georgina agreed and showed her visitor into her beautifully decorated living room. Indicating that the flowery woman should sit in the expensive and slightly uncomfortable sofa she planted herself in the designer armchair that neighboured the fireplace. Leaning forward she nodded indicating that her guest should continue.
“Right, well now, er, as I said I’m from the hospital.” With this she vaguely pointed in the direction Georgina assumed the hospital lay, “and I, er, need to warn, that is to say inform, you about one of our patients.”
Georgina raised her eyebrows, an action the other woman took as a sign of shock or fear.
“No, no, er, it’s OK, he’s alright, he’s, er, quite safe. Just a little unusual. He’s not a secure patient, you understand.” She said emphasising the word secure. “He can sometimes seem scary but he is quite, quite harmless.”
“You see,” she continued in conspiratorial tones, “He believes in magic, and, er , wizards and suchlike. Recently he has taken to secreting certain items in the gardens and houses of local residents and then visiting them later. He claims to be from a ‘Ministry of, er, Magic’ and suggests he is looking for lost magical items. Needless to, er say, these items match those he has already, er, hidden. He seems to take some kind of pleasure out of, er, confusing and surprising, er, people like this.” As she finished the larger woman’s gaze was drawn to the unusually straight stick laying on the coffee table. Her green eyes flashed for an instant through the thick glasses before returning to their previously confused gaze.
Not quite knowing why, Georgina stood up, quickly gathering the stick, and hurried over to the window. Her visitor stood quickly afterwards, her eyes flashing green again. “He’s been here then.” It wasn’t a question.
Georgina sensed a subtle change in her visitor and became cagey. “Possibly,” she agreed, “I did find this in the garden earlier.” She showed the other woman the unusual stick, ensuring it stayed out of her reach. The stick, it seemed to Georgina, now reminded her of something, something far more unusual.
“That’s it!” enthused the woman, “Give it me. I mean, I’d better take that.” She paused. “For his treatment.”
Ring encrusted, chubby fingers reached out eagerly to Georgina, while her guest’s eyes now positively blazed green. “It will be of great, important help to us.” She added imperiously. “Now if you please…”
”Don’t!” the voice boomed from all around the room, echoing off the walls and startling the pair. “Don’t give it to her, it’s a trick!” Georgina snatched back the stick as the other women swore viciously.
“Pythus? Is that you sweetie?” the large woman’s voice dripped sarcastic honey. “Why not show yourself to the nice lady? Tell her your stories of ‘Dark Wizards’ and lost wands. Let her choose who to give it to. What do you say Pythus?”
Wand, that was the word Georgina had been avoiding. The stick that had fallen from the Hawthorn earlier that day looked exactly like the toy wands the other girls had played with all those years ago. But to actually be real. That was just nonsense. Wasn’t it?
As Georgina pondered this, the fireplace flashed brightly and the skeletal twisted man who had been at the door not so very long ago stepped out from the grate. Much to Georgina’s annoyance he left a trail of sooty black footprints on the cream rug. In return he scowled at her, his hollow face narrowing further.
The twisted man in his ill fitting suit clicked his heels together in a strangely formal manner and inclined himself in a parody of a bow towards Georgina. Turning to the other woman his narrow nasal voice cut like a knife. “Mythia, you’re not welcome here. Leave now before I’m forced to take action.”
“Ha!” Mythia’s voice was arrogant and strong, at odd with her chaotic appearance, “Take action? Take action! That’s your problem Pythus. You never could and never did take any action. That’s why you shame your family by going snivelling to the Ministry for work. You don’t act.”
Pythus’ voice was steady and just as snide, “If by acting you mean becoming a murderer like your late husband, Mythia, then I am happy to remain inactive. Now give up, go home, you’ve committed no crime as yet.”
“It was war!” declared Mythia angrily, “He was a soldier, not a murderer, he fought for what he believed. He knew who was pure and who wasn’t.” She glowered at him across the room before turning to Georgina. Her cold green eyes fixed on the wand, held awkwardly in the other woman’s hands. “That, muggle,” spat the witch, “belonged to my husband. Give it too me now, and you may yet live. You sully it and his memory.” Georgina merely clenched it more tightly.
“Do not threaten the muggle!” Pythus ordered, causing his foe to turn and glare at him. Her voice shot up an octave in reply. “Of course you always were a muggle lover, even at school Pythus. A filthy muggle lover,” her eyes fixed on the silver snake attached to the wizard’s lapel. “And you from the same house as the Dark Lord. Traitorous scum. Coward!”
Pythus sucked in a calming breath through his hooked nose and addressed his tormentor steadily. “I am proud to have been Slytherin, Mythia, proud of what I achieved at school. I felt no desire to re-invent myself upon leaving, nor to marry into a twisted and evil mindset. If you were genuinely sincere in your belief in the houses from school you’d be at home developing healing and culinary charms not trying to retrieve a murder weapon.”
Georgina looked from one bizarre figure to the other bewildered by the conversation taking place in her own living room. “Excuse me?” she asked, her voice wavering and unsure.