Spike cleared her throat, shuffled through her scrolls of parchment at the lectern. Her carefully prepared speech might be resting on an owl’s outstretched wings, but right now, the cat had her tongue. And had most likely left it in the Potions lab under the lake.
Then she dropped her notes. Flaming Muggle Studies!! Smiling weakly, she gathered them all back up onto the lectern, selected a likely looking beginning, and started to read.
“ ‘Jim knew every centimeter of his shadow, could have cut it out of tar paper and run it up a flagpole – his banner.
“ ‘Will, he was occasionally surprised to see his shadow following him somewhere, but that was that.’ "
Wroxton waved her to a stop. She removed her glasses, pinched the bridge of her nose lightly between thumb and forefinger, as if warding off a headache. “Miss Spike …”
“Actually, Headmistress, it’s Miss von Schadelthron.” She dropped a brisk curtsey. “Everyone gets that wrong. It’s my great-great second cousin, forcibly removed, the blond vampire in the dungeons. It causes a lot of confusion, having undead in the family tree.”
The Headmistress’s smile wavered, then tightened, hanging on to her mouth with grim determination. “Be that as it may, Spike, I was going to say that while I am the Headmistress, and may perforce be presumed to know everything, I am also a dreadful Legilimens. While I can see you have some lovely character studies of a Gryffindor and a Slytherin going here, I would like – nay, sincerely appreciate—some context. If you would be so kind?”
“Jim, your dark Slytherin boy, is Jim Nightshade. The Gryffindor counterpart is Will Halloway. They’re the thirteen—almost fourteen—year old Muggle protagonists of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and the inspiration for my presentation." She let go of her death grip on the podium's wings.
“Now, Jim and Will encounter a very dark and quite powerful wizard. Assuming that Niven’s Law applies--”
“Unpack, Spike. This is your thesis to defend; define your terms.”
“Right. Well, Niven’s Law. Any sufficiently rigorously defined magic is indistinguishable from technology.”
“Nicely done. Continue.”
“So …” she found the actual beginning scroll at last. “Ray Bradbury was an esteemed writer of the First Fandom. Bradbury earned his membership by publishing a newsletter devoted to speculative fiction in the 1930’s. In 1962, he wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes.
“Here we have Jim and Will, dark and light together yet apart. Again, they are young male protagonists, much like the story of the Boy Who Lived. Again, they find themselves thrown up against a shrewder, stronger, more powerful enemy who knows more magic than they, with only a single older man to guide them and pass along the information they need in order to ultimately claim victory.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes opens with the carnival arriving in Jim and Will’s town, just as the Potter histories open with Harry receiving his admission letter to Hogwarts. Both sets of heroes find that the world they had always assumed would play by the rules they were taught has now turned upside down. Jim and Will find a carnival like a larger Mirror of Erised; it finds the deepest longings in your heart and pulls them to the surface, then grants them to you, with a wrenching twist. Miss Foley, the boy’s older spinster English teacher longs to be young and beautiful once more. The carnival grants this desire, except she’s rendered blind in the process. The town barber, who has an eye for the ladies, goes into the hootchie-kootchie tent, and is transformed into the carnival’s own Bearded Lady.”
“You mentioned Niven’s Law?”
“I did. See, there are no incantations, no wand movements, no potions. Magic happens, but through things, like the mirror maze that alters Ms. Foley, the dancers who transfigure Mr. Crosetti. And the calliope!” Spike’s eyes glittered. “The calliope which can add years or take them away. See, it’s all artifact-based.”
“Like the Philosopher’s Stone?”
“Mmmm, yes, but the Stone was created through alchemy, a subset of potions practice. There’s no mention of such in Something Wicked This Way Comes, just the carnival running on its own power, and perhaps the caged lightning of elec-- elec-tri-ci-ty.” She sounded the curious Muggle word out carefully.
“Hmmm. And the socks, Spike. I see the dark and light, for Will and Jim, yes?”
“Yes, and all the colors for the carnival. If I may?” She flipped through the scrolls again and read, “ ‘ For the tents were lemon like the sun, brass like wheat fields a few weeks ago. Flags and banners bright as bluebirds snapped above lion-colored canvas. From boots painted cotton-candy colors, fine Saturday smells of bacon and eggs, hot dogs and pancakes swam the wind. Everywhere ran boys. Everywhere sleepy fathers followed.’ “
“One last thing. I thought your proposal said this was multi-media, Spike.”
“It is, Headmistress, but ah—“ she gestured to the younger students perched on the edge of their seats. Word had been trickling through the school about the Muggle Lantern Show Spike was arranging for the finale. “So upon second thought, I’ll be playing the lantern show in the
“Hmmmm. And just what would you know about the
Spike dropped her notes again.