I do not own the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, or 'The Witches' by Roald Dahl. This fan-made and I receive no profit from it.
Conrad thought the new janitor was a bit ...strange.
Oh, the man did his work well enough. Often he turned up in the hallways of the school, cleaning the floors. The man seemed to be perfectly content to go about doing his job, notwithstanding the many children who came up to him after school let out, begging to be shown his magic tricks. He never turned them away, but dazzled them all with pulling coins out of ears and flipping cards from his deck, gaining cries of wonder from the assembled students and the occasional passing teacher.
The janitor never did the same trick twice, but as Conrad watched eagerly with his friends as the man produced a paper crane for a giggling girl, he couldn't help but notice that the man's smiles didn't quite reach his blue eyes.
It was almost as though his tricks were just for show, and that the man was missing something.
Conrad encountered the man next riding his bike home. The man's flaming red hair stood out like a beacon as he walked along the country road, humming quietly to himself. Conrad craned his head to look at the man, and his bike hit a loose stone in the road, sending him crashing to the ground. The man started around, his hand reaching into his pocket, but relaxed when he spotted Conrad. "Alright there?" he called out, jogging over to help Conrad up. Conrad dusted off his jeans and accepted the handkerchief offered to wipe a trickle of blood from his grazed cheek. "I wasn't looking where I was going," he said, feeling embarrassed as he confessed this to the man, who merely smiled in a knowing way.
"Happens to all of us, I imagine. How's your bike?" The bicycle had weathered the tumble well, with a few new scrapes added to its worn paint. Conrad shifted it upright, but didn't feel like riding it home just yet after his fall. "You work at my school," Conrad said hesitantly, looking up at the man. He nodded, his eyes creasing in a grin. "Yup, that's me. Ron Weasley, pleasure to meet you."
"Conrad Thurston, sir." The pair shook hands.
Mr. Weasley lived near Conrad's house, in the basement flat of a house around the corner actually. Mr. Weasley pointed it out to him as they walked by, Conrad wheeling his bike along. "The radiator sounds like a dying cat in the winter, but the rent is cheap," Mr. Weasley said with a laugh. Conrad saw again that half-smile, never quite brightening his eyes.
Conrad in turn pointed out his house as Mr. Weasley turned down his lane. He described the treehouse he and his friend were building in the chestnut tree, and all the flowers his Grandmama grew. Mr. Weasley listened, his eyes drinking in the sight of the country house. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked Conrad, who shook his head. "It's just me and Grandmama," he said softly.
Mr. Weasley grew quiet, his face still. "I'm sorry to hear that," he offered. "I ...sorry, I didn't think."
Conrad's Grandmama heard the whole tale from her grandson, tutting over the scrap on his cheek. By the next day, Mr. Weasley had been invited over to tea that weekend.
It turned out to be quite fun. Mr. Weasley turned out to be quite the storyteller, going on for hours about the adventures a group of friends had while at boarding school. Conrad was sure that he was embellishing the story at every turn, because who on earth had a werewolf for a teacher or could make cars fly? However, it was the first time he saw Mr. Weasley light up, and his shoulders didn't seem as heavy.
Grandmama simply sipped her tea and smiled indulgently as Conrad debated with Mr. Weasley about how anyone could brew potions to make you lucky or fly on broomsticks for a sport. "Besides," Conrad said testily, "Grandmama knows all about witches and they don't do things like that at all. They hunt children, you see!"
Mr. Weasley glanced sharply at Grandmama, who merely gazed back calmly. "Quite so," she said. "Although your stories are incredible in their own right, they don't quite match up to what I have learned about witches."
"What about wizards?" Mr. Weasley asked, his hands clasped tight around his teacup. Grandmama shook her head. "I am afraid I have never heard even a whisper about one."Mr. Weasley look crestfallen, but then grinned broadly. "I suppose I'll have to find them myself."
Mr. Weasley had come over that day, to help Grandmama with a broken doorknob. He did repair work at the school sometimes and Grandmama had asked Conrad to see if Mr. Weasley would be willing to look over the doorknob before she called a repair service. Mr. Weasley was free that Saturday and arrived that morning with his tool kit. Conrad showed him upstairs to where Grandmama was waiting, then quickly dashed off, eager to get to work on the treehouse.
He had been hammering away for nearly an hour when he saw the woman. She was standing in the garden, looking right up at him. Conrad froze. She smiled up at him, her teeth glistening in the spring sunlight. Never taking her eyes off him, she reached into her handbag. "I have something for you," she said, her eyes gleaming.
Conrad dropped his hammer with a loud thud and scurried up the tree, clinging tight to the branches. The woman called after him, trying to call him down, but Conrad's heart was racing, going a mile a minute. A witch, he thought. A real witch. He shut his eyes, trying to shut out the woman's voice, terrified beyond speaking, wishing with all his might that his Grandmama would come and make her go away. Then-
"Oy!" Conrad's eyes snapped open, and he saw Mr. Weasley, almost running over to the treehouse. He was glaring angrily at the woman, who Conrad could see was very taken aback by Mr. Weasley's sudden appearance. She stammered out, "I was just seeing if the boy wanted some-"
"Yeah, well, I can see from here that he's got the right idea about strangers," Mr. Weasley growled, one hand in his pocket. "Now clear off before I call the police on you." The woman drew herself up, every inch of her affronted. "Well, I never!" Mr. Weasley held his ground, staring her down until she turned on her heel and marched off.
Conrad waited until she was out of sight before climbing down. He was shaking all over and didn't resist the calm hand Mr. Weasley rested on his shoulder, steering him inside the house.
After that, Mr. Weasley walked with him home from school. Conrad never found out if Grandmama asked him to, or if the man had decided it on his own.
It was when Grandmama got sick that Conrad found out that Mr. Weasley liked to play chess. "It keeps you occupied," he explained, producing a travel set and sitting across from Conrad in a corner of the hallway, near his Grandmama's room. Conrad could tell Mr. Weasley was trying to distract him from worrying, and at first he wasn't happy about it.
Then he began to learn all the different ways a chess game could go. A defensive line of pawns, a tag team of knights and bishops, and a queen darting everywhere across the board. It grew to be fascinating, and Conrad spent long hours waiting outside his Grandmama's door, soaking in the game.
"Which is your favorite piece?" he asked Mr. Weasley one day. The man ran a hand through his bright hair, contemplating the question. "Probably the knight," he said, then laughed at Conrad's expression. "You thought I would say the queen, did you?" Conrad nodded. "Well, let me explain a little. The queen is all very good and useful, but it's not good to rely on the one piece that can do everything. That leaves holes in your strategy. A knight, though, that's a good piece to have on your side. Since it doesn't always move in the way you expect, or want to, it can become a help when you least expect it."
Mr. Weasley seemed a bit surprised when Grandmama invited him to come with them to the seaside. "Of course, if you had other plans for the holidays-"
"No, it's not that," Mr. Weasley said, his ears turning pink with embarrassment. "Only, I haven't the money for it."
Grandmama fixed him with one of her looks. "Then, Mr. Weasley, I believe you should be willing to accept a gift, and not hold it against me."
Mr. Weasley looked shocked. Then a sheepish smile spread over his face. "I suppose I can't say no." Conrad grinned happily, playing with his new pet mice.
Conrad thought the holiday had been going rather well, despite the threats made against his mice. Mr. Weasley had gotten a thoughtful look after that heated discussion with the manager, and later as Conrad searched for a safe place to train William and Mary, he spotted the manager charging through the parlor, his hair a vibrant purple. Conrad had been forced to hide behind a couch until he had stopped giggling.
Then, when the training had been coming along so nicely, the witches had come. Conrad kept quiet behind his screening, not daring to make a sound as he heard the plot to kill all the children with the Formula 86, and shivered at the venom in their voices. He watched in horror as Bruno Jenkins was transformed into a mouse and the witches cackled in delight.
Conrad tried to make a run for it when they found him, but they were everywhere he turned and the doors were locked tight. The witches grabbed hold of him as Conrad wriggled and twisted, desperate to get away. "Mr. Weasley!" he shouted, fear flooding through him. "Grandmama! Help! He-mmm!" One of the witches had slapped a hand over his mouth, sneering at him. "Can't have the little sneak attracting attention now," she jeered.
The crowd dragged him up to the Grand High Witch, who looked down at him in disgust. "Now, what to do with a filthy little thing like you," she said, drawing excited tittering from the witches huddled around her.
The woman's eyes lit up with glee as she delicately removed the stopper of the Formula 86.
A loud crack like a whip ripped through the room, jerking every head around. Conrad's eyes grew wide as he saw Mr. Weasley standing just inside the doors, still locked and bolted. Before now, Conrad had thought he had seem the man angry. Now the man seemed to be beyond anger; he was furious.
Mr. Weasley slipped what looked like a silver lighter into his pocket, his eyes fixed on the witches whispering furiously at the other side of the room. The Grand High Witch stepped around the witches holding Conrad down and said imperiously, "Who are you, coming barging in here? This is a private meeting."
Mr. Weasley snorted derisively, pulling a long wooden stick out of his sleeve. "It became my business when you decided to lay hands on my friend there." His eyes narrowed, and his mouth grew thin. "Let him go."
The Grand High Witch laughed, high and cruel. The other witches echoed her, filling the room with mockery. Mr. Weasley didn't even flinch. Conrad began to struggle again in earnest, but the witches held him firm.
"You have no knowing of what we are and what we can do," the Grand High Witch said when the laughter had died. She sneered down her nose at Mr. Weasley. "You could not begin to comprehend the pain and suffering we are capable of inflicting on you. If you wish your life to be spared of this, go your way now."
Mr. Weasley gave her a flat look. "I'll take my chances. Now, I'll ask again, let him go." Conrad could see the Grand High Witch frowning, almost confused. "I have no intention of doing that," she spat at Mr. Weasley.
"Fine. That makes things simpler. Accio!" Conrad shot out of the grasping hands and landed with a thump against Mr. Weasley's chest. Mr. Weasley tucked Conrad behind him and snapped his stick up as a blast of heat and light flew from the Grand High Witch. It slammed against a clear dome shielding them, sending sparks across the room. Conrad clung to Mr. Weasley's jacket, shaking in terror.
"Impossible," hissed the Grand High Witch. Her eyes were mere slits as she stared at Mr. Weasley. The witches around her murmured uneasily, edging away from the red-haired man. Mr. Weasley flicked his wand again, catching the tiny bottle of Formula 86 soaring towards him. "What is this supposed to do, Conrad?" he asked in a low voice. "Turns people to mice," Conrad replied softly. "She used it on a boy earlier, called it a demonstration."
Mr. Weasley's mouth was a grim line as he turned back to the crowd of witches. "Right then," he said in a cheery voice. "Here's what will happen. You can leave here and never even think of using your powers to harm anyone ever again, or," Mr. Weasley grinned horribly, dangling the bottle before them, "You won't leave here."
Cries of outrage filled the room. Conrad peeked around Mr. Weasley, watching as the witches shouted at the man, spitting threats at him. The Grand High Witch herself was beside herself with fury, pointing a long finger at the pair of them, her eyes filled with venom. Another spell shot at them, but the shield blocked it once more. "No one will take the offer?" Mr. Weasley asked, his voice calm and level. He gazed around the room, looking for something. Conrad followed his gaze and saw a young looking witch standing hesitantly at the edge of the crowd. The witches turned to see what they were both staring at and utter bedlam followed as the witch broke away from her sisters. "Traitor! Scum!" they roared out, some flinging jets of fire after her as she ran. Mr. Weasley deflected these away as the woman scurried over to where he and Conrad stood. Conrad could see tears welling up in her eyes and her lower lip trembling.
Mr. Weasley took her gently by the hand, tucking her behind him next to Conrad. "Anyone else?" he asked, an eyebrow rising in question. The only answer he received were snarled words of menace. Conrad shivered, wondering how Mr. Weasley could be so brave. He knew that he would be absolutely terrified to face off against all those witches; there had to be over a hundred of them!
"No one then?" Mr. Weasley hefted the tiny bottle in his hand. "Close your eyes, Conrad. You won't want to see this."
Mr. Weasley didn't tell Conrad much. After Grandmama had heard the word 'witches', she had turned pale as a ghost, and made Conrad stay in his room while he talked with Mr. Weasley and the young witch. Conrad huddled under his covers in his hotel bed, trying not to think about how close he had been to becoming a mouse. Mr. Weasley had found Bruno soon after he had ...taken care of the witches and set him to rights. Although, Mr. Weasley had done something funny, making Bruno forget the whole thing. Conrad didn't think it could be hypnotism, even if Mr. Weasley was good at card tricks. But those things Mr. Weasley had done, they weren't just tricks. Could it really have been magic?
A quiet knock came at his door. "Conrad?" Grandmama called out. "Could you come in here please?" Conrad quickly hopped out of bed and slid through the adjoining door. His Grandmama was sitting on her bed, with the young witch beside her. Mr. Weasley was standing across from them, looking solemn and slightly downcast.
Conrad crossed over to his Grandmama, slipping his arms around her. "Are you a witch too, Mr. Weasley?" he blurted out.
Mr. Weasley snorted, laughter shining in his eyes. "Not a chance, but I see where you're going. No, I'm a wizard."
"Oh." Conrad thought this over, his eyes growing wide. "I thought there weren't any, just witches."
"There aren't." It was the young witch who spoke. Her gaze was fixed on Mr. Weasley. "Never in all my years have I come across a man with power, or heard of any rumor of such a thing. Truly, who are you?"
Mr. Weasley shifted his feet a bit, looking uncomfortable. "A bit of a mess really. I'm not exactly...from around here, even though I was born in England. Just not...this England."
Grandmama spoke up. "Those stories you entertained us with, all that time ago. They were about you."
Mr. Weasley nodded with a grin. "Me and my friends really. Believe it or not, I did really have a werewolf for a teacher once."
"But then, why is there only you here and not them as well?" the young witch asked earnestly. Mr. Weasley sighed, tapping his wand idly against his thigh. "An accident," he said firmly. "Mostly because I was being over confident and I really should have been more prepared. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure what happened or how to reverse it. All I know is that, close to a year ago, I landed smack in the middle of London, with no Ministry of Magic, no one I knew even recognizing me, and without a hint of magic besides my own. Your stories," he nodded to Grandmama, "were the first clue I had that there was magic somewhere here."
Conrad leaned against the balcony railing with Mr. Weasley as Grandmama was discussing things privately with the young witch. He leaned back, breathing in the tang of the sea breeze, watching Mr. Weasley looking out over the ocean waves. "You miss them, don't you," Conrad said quietly to Mr. Weasley. "Yeah," Mr. Weasley replied. "Quite a lot actually. I was hoping that maybe she," he jerked his head back towards the witch, "might be able to help me, but if she hasn't ever heard of anything like this happening before..."
Conrad glanced at the man, feeling a wave of loneliness come over him. Hurriedly, he changed the subject. "How did you find me earlier? You couldn't have heard me, I'm sure."
"Actually, I did." Mr. Weasley reached into his pocket, flipping out the silver lighter. "It's a funny thing, this is. You can click it and it sucks in the light from all over the room. Handy if you need instant darkness." He flicked it open and Conrad saw a curious mechanism, reminding him of his Grandmama's music box if he took the lid off.
"It doesn't just do light though." Mr. Weasley continued. "I found out by accident, that if someone is talking about me, someone that I care about, I can hear them through this. That's how I knew, you see. You called for me."
"Wicked," Conrad breathed, touching a finger to the cool silver finish. "But then," he asked, "Wouldn't you be able to hear your friends too?"
Mr. Weasley looked taken aback. He looked from Conrad to the lighter, then a light seemed to bloom over him. He clicked it, and a luminous ball, like a miniature sun, appeared with a pop. Mr. Weasley reached out with a trembling hand and grasped it. It seemed to dissolve into him and Mr. Weasley let out a shuddering gasp. "Mr. Weasley?" Conrad said anxiously.
The man didn't say anything for a long moment. Then he looked up, his eyes shining. "I never realized," he whispered. "Not once, how simple..." He turned sharply back into the hotel room, drawing the attention of both woman. "I know what I need to do," Mr. Weasley said, his voice shaking with suppressed emotion. "I'm sorry, but I can't stay, not now that-now that I can go home."
Grandmama stood and clasped Mr. Weasley's hands. "Of course," she said. "I wouldn't think of keeping you."
Mr. Weasley disappeared soon after that. Conrad went home find that Mr. Weasley had resigned from his position, paid off the last of his rent, and vanished off the face of the earth. Grandmama had parried off inquiries of his abrupt departure with a vague story of a family emergency, since the man had last been seen with them. The young witch had come to live with them for the time being, for reasons Conrad had yet to pry from his Grandmama.
While unpacking his bag after arriving home, Conrad found something unusual on his bedside table. A travel chess set and a worn deck of playing cards lay there, looking as though they had always been there. Conrad smiled as he picked them up.
AN: Because Ron would always want to go home.
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