Harry Potter and the Runecraeft of the Norns

Chapter Eleven: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic


"I'm sorry about ruining the hunting trip you had planned," Harry said, as the pair exited the Humanities Building.

"It's okay, this is way more interesting," Jessie replied.

"Still, let me take you out to dinner to make it up to you," the boy offered.

"You don't have to do that," she protested.

"Kind of have to; it is pretty much my fault."

"How'd you figure that?"

"Those drekheads wouldn't leave you alone, so I hurt them, but not enough to make them back off, because I didn't think their ego would be that big. They follow us into the forest and provoke the Howler with their noise, and it ends up chasing us."

"Well, I'm grateful that you stepped in when you did."

"I wasn't going to just stand by and let it happen; that's just not who I am. What good is power if you can't use it to help your friends?"

"Just your friends?"

"I'm not a charity."

Jessie felt her heart swell with joy: she was his friend.

"So, let me take you out to dinner to make it up to you. I insist."

"Okay," she accepted.

They walked in a comfortable silence to the bus stop located on the edge of campus. Unlike their previous visit to Houston, they had not taken a taxi, instead relying on the city's public transportation system.

"What do you want to do with the half million?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts as he climbed into the passenger seat.

"Half a million?"

"It's only fair; he was going to pay a million for the whole thing, so the dismantling fee should come out of my end, since I'm the one who wants to keep half of the Howler."

"Can't I just put it into the bank?"

"Well, any deposit over ten would raise red flags for suspicions of criminal activity."

"Ten thousand dollars?"

"Yeah."

It took Jessie a few seconds to do that math.

"What can I do, then? It's not like I can just carry it around, can I?"

"I keep a pretty sizable amount of scratch on me, in case I need to buy something big."

"How do you carry it around?"

"I've got a Mokeskin pouch."

"A what now?"

Harry reached behind his neck and fiddled with something, then pulled a bag on a string out from under his shirt, holding it out to her. "This."

"What's it do?" Jessie asked, examining it closely before handing it back.

"It's bigger on the inside and recognizes certain voice commands, like requests for money based on amounts and denominations," he explained, putting it on and tucking it under his shirt.

"Something like that would be helpful," she decided. "Where would I get one though?"

Harry held up a pamphlet, and Jessie recognized it as the one he had gotten from the professor on Monday. "There'll be something in here," he said, eyes running up and down the page before finally stopping. "We got lucky; there's a version of Llewelyn and Haig here in Houston. Otherwise, we'd have to go to San Antonio."

"Llewelyn and Haig?"

"It's a boutique that sells luggage, except here, it's called Lewis and Sons. I need a slotting map of Houston, though, because I don't know where the frag that address is."

"Do you have a plan?" she asked.

"I always have a plan," he replied. "It's just not always a good one."

"What's your plan?"

"There's this spell, locate landmark. It works by asking the subconscious of every person within a mile where a location is, then using whatever consensus it comes up with to generate a simple direction. However, it doesn't account for distance or what paths you can take, so it's really more of a sledgehammer than a scalpel, but it'll do the trick.

"According to the schedule, this bus follows Main Street, so we can ride that all the way downtown and start from there.

"First though, we should get a hotel room; there's no reason to fly back and forth."

Boarding the bus, they rode in a comfortable silence, though Jessie found herself nearly with her nose pressed against the window as she marveled at the sights of the city. Though she now lived in Dallas, she was still a small town girl at heart, and with so much of her time spent working at Lilah, she hadn't had a chance to explore the city she now called home, so the chance to see the buildings of a big city was still new to her.

"This is where we get off," Harry said, tapping her gently on the shoulder as the bus stopped.

"Why here?" she asked, as the bus pulled away.

"I saw a hotel down the street."

Jessie found herself with her head tilted back as she followed after Harry, staring at the multitude of high-rises all around her until they stopped outside of a tall, wide grey building.

"What do you think?" Harry asked, holding the door for her.

Stepping through the door and into the hotel, Jessie felt like she was being transported to another world with its clean white walls, white-and-grey marble floors and golden furnishing, the brightly-lit, wide-open space felt fancy and modern, and suddenly she felt more than a little out of place in her jeans and flannel shirt.

"Harry, I don't think we belong here," she said, taking a step back and bumping into him.

"Nonsense," he said, taking her by the hand and leading her to the front desk.

"Welcome to the Lancaster Hotel," greeted the clerk, an attractive young woman in uniform, trying to hide her obvious disdain. "How may I be of service?"

"We'd like to book rooms for the night, if you'd be so kind."

"Certainly. I'll need a credit card for billing purposes."

"Sure thing," Harry said, handing over a black plastic card.

The clerk swiped the card through the reader, and Jessie shifted her weight uncomfortably where she stood. Then, suddenly, the clerk's eyes widened almost imperceptibly in surprise, and Jessie could see her straighten herself.

"What kind of room would you like, sir?" she asked Harry.

"I'd like the two nicest adjacent but not adjoining rooms available," he answered.

The clerk spent a few seconds typing on the computer in front of her. "That would be the Deluxe Penthouse King Guestroom, sir," she said. "We have several adjacent rooms available for one hundred fifty dollars a night."

"Harry, I couldn't…," Jessie protested.

"Trust me, Jessie, you deserve it," he told her, his tone reassuring. Then, to the clerk, he added, "We'll take them, thank you kindly."

"That will be a total of three hundred fifty-three dollars and seventy cents, sir."

"Please put it on the card, if you'd be so kind," Harry said.

"Here are your keys, sir," said the clerk, handing the credit card and two keycards to the boy after another long moment typing on the computer. "Please enjoy your stay at the Lancaster Hotel."

"Thank you kindly," Harry said, extending a folded up bill between his index and middle fingers to the clerk. "For your services."

Entering the elevator, Jessie avoided eye contact with Harry, feeling guilty about the money he had just spent on the room for her.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing," she mumbled.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

"It's nothing," she repeated.

"Doesn't sound like nothing…"

"Look, I don't like that you're spending so much money on a hotel room for me. We could have gone to a cheap motel and I would have been fine. It makes me feel bad, like I'm using you for your money, when I'm not like that at all."

Harry didn't say anything for a moment. Then, "I'm sorry, I hadn't thought of that. After the drek you went through today with the Howler and those gonks at the gas station, I just thought you deserved a nice place to regroup, take a shower and stay the night after we went out for dinner."

"It's not like I don't have money now," she continued. "I could have paid for my own room."

"I'm sorry, I didn't think of that," Harry said apologetically again. "I just kind of thought of this as part of taking you out to dinner for ruining the hunting trip you planned."

That gave her pause. She hadn't realized he had thought of all of this in that way.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize that's how you were thinking of it," she apologized.

"What are you apologizing for? I'm the one who fragged this up."

"I didn't think about what you might have been thinking. In my head, I turned you doing a nice, thoughtful thing into something you weren't even intending."

"I should have been more clear; it's just, this is your first big payday, at least I assume it's because it wouldn't make sense for Lilah to be in financial trouble otherwise, so I didn't want you to have to worry about the cost of things or to start spending money like it's going out of style. While it's true that one of the few good things about having money is that it can afford you things, once you get a taste for spending money, it's hard to stop yourself."

"I didn't know that was what you were thinking."

"I mean, it's not your fault; you can't read minds, and I didn't say."

That made her think of something very unsettling.

"Can magi read minds?" she asked.

"Yes, some of them can. I can't, nor would I have an interest in doing so even if I could."

"Doesn't it bother you that some random stranger can go through your thoughts without your permission?" she asked.

"Not me, personally," he replied.

"What do you mean?"

"I have a tattoo that prevents mental intrusion and manipulation."

"Is that what the tattoo on your arm does?"

"Not exactly; that tattoo is a defense against abnormal status effects."

"'Abnormal status effects'?"

"Petrification, paralysis, poison, blindness… instant death… Those kinds of things."

They were arriving at their rooms as Harry told her that, and the time it took to put the keycard into the lock gave her a moment to think about what he said.

"Look, you should call your father and let him know you'll be staying the night in Houston," suggested Harry. "He'll probably be worried about you if you aren't home tonight.

"I'll see you in an hour."

Before she could say anything else, the door to his room closed gently behind him, leaving her alone in the hall.

Pushing open the door, Jessie found herself staring into a bedroom the size of the living room in the loft above Lilah where she was staying with Daddy, with off-white walls and grey curtains framing the window next to the biggest bed she had ever seen in her life. Opposite that was a modern-looking desk with a phone sitting on top of it.

It took her a minute of looking around the roomy room to find the clock on the wall. Seeing it was just past three in the afternoon and still in the middle of service, she called Lilah.

"Good afternoon. This is Lilah. I'm Maria. How can I help you?"

"Hi Maria, it's Jessie."

"Hey, girl! What're you up to?"

"Can I speak to Daddy?"

"Sure, let me get him for you…"

Jessie nervously twisted the phone cord between her fingers as she waited.

"Hey Pumpkin. What's up?"

"Hey Daddy. I'm not gonna be home tonight."

"What? Why?"

"Don't get mad, but I'm in Houston with Harry again."

"Did something happen?"

"Maybe…?"

"Pumpkin…"

"Okay, so we were hunting, and we were attacked by this creature…"

"Attacked? Are you hurt?"

"No, Daddy, I'm okay. Harry killed it, but we couldn't tell what it was, so we had to come to Houston to find somebody who could identify it."

"That doesn't explain why you won't be home tonight."

"The professor who identified it wanted to buy it from us, but Harry wanted to keep half of it, so the professor is taking it apart tonight."

"So you're staying in Houston tonight?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"If Harry tries anything…"

"I don't think he will, Daddy. He got us separate rooms at a really fancy hotel."

"How fancy?"

"Super duper fancy."

A moment of silence followed.

"Do you have plans for tonight?" Daddy asked.

"Harry wants to take me out to dinner to apologize for ruining the trip," she replied.

"I hope you have a good time."

"Thanks, Daddy."

"I've got to get back to the smokers. I'll see you tomorrow. Just be safe, okay?"

"You too, Daddy."

Hanging up the phone, she went into the bathroom to wash her face. Looking into the mirror as she wiped the water off with a towel, she noticed for the first time that her hair was matted with dirt and mud, with twigs and bits of grass sticking out.

That must have been why the clerk at the front had made such a face: she looked a mess.

She needed a shower.

Then, she saw the bottles of soaps, shampoos and bath salts sitting by the tub and realized she had never taken a bath before.

Daisy always said baths were relaxing.

Harry said they'd meet again in an hour, and Daisy once said a bath should never be longer than half-an-hour or it would dry out your skin.

Jessie decided then that she would have the first bath of her life.

But she would need to shower first.

Daisy once said not showering first was like sitting in a tub of your own filth, and she was filthy with all the things she had gotten on her running through the woods.

She was lucky she had brought a change of clothes with her.

~ooOoo~

He was waiting for her when she came out of the hotel room, feeling squeaky clean and totally refreshed from her bath.

"I got us a reservation for the chef's table at Whisperwind," he told her.

Jessie almost didn't recognize Harry. Gone were the T-shirt and jeans she was used to seeing him in, and in their place were a white dress shirt with the top two buttons undone, black slacks and a matching sport jacket, a pair of mirrored sunglasses hanging from the breast pocket. Even his usually messy black hair was cropped short in a crew cut, and she couldn't help but wonder how he had managed to get a haircut in the time it took her to take a bath.

"I spoke with the concierge," he continued, looking her up and down. "She gave me directions to Lewis and Sons. It's just a couple blocks over.

"They look good on you, by the way."

"What?" she asked, surprised.

"Your clothes," he replied as he started down the hall. "You wear them well."

"Um, thanks," she mumbled, feeling blood rush to her cheeks. The flowy tank top was the girliest thing she owned, and she was glad she wore it, even if it was with jeans and boots.

It was a short walk from the hotel to Lewis and Sons. From the outside, it looked just like its neighbors, a small shop with a half-dozen pieces of luggage in the front window display.

Entering the store as Harry held the door for her, Jessie was greeted by the sights of an ordinary-looking shop, suitcases, trunks and other pieces of luggage neatly organized around the interior space.

"Welcome to Lewis and Sons," greeted the clerk, a young man in a polo shirt and jeans. He paused for a moment, searching her face, before adding, "I know you."

"I-I don't think so," she said hesitantly.

"No, I definitely know you; you're that girl from that ad in Tuesday's Express," the man said. "Isn't your restaurant in Dallas? What're you doing here?"

"We had some business with the Seneschal," Harry answered for her.

"Who are you?" asked the man.

"One of her business partners," the boy replied, extending a hand. "Pleasure to meet you."

"Chase Lewis," the man said, shaking his hand while still looking at Jessie. "Hey, I was thinking about going to Lilah next Sunday…"

"I'm sorry, I don't have the reservation book with me," she interrupted. "You'll have to call the restaurant if you want to reserve a table."

"Yeah, that makes sense," Chase said. "So, what can I do you for?"

"Um, uh," Jessie faltered, unsure of what to say.

Luckily, Harry stepped in on her behalf.

"We'd like to take a look at your select collection, if that won't be too much trouble," he said.

Chase seemed to need a moment to understand what he meant, then nodded meaningfully. "This way please," he said, gesturing towards the door at the back of the store.

Following Chase and Harry through the door, Jessie found herself in a cluttered workshop with all manners of trunks, backpacks and handbags hanging from the walls. Standing at the work table was a balding man with greying hair, a leather apron over his work clothes.

"Hey, Pops, you've got some customers," Chase said.

Looking up from his work, the older man nodded. "What are you looking to buy?"

"My lady friend recently came into a bit of money, so she needs something to carry it in, maybe something Mokeskin?" Harry answered. "And I've got a Mokeskin pouch myself, but I'm looking for something a little bit more modern."

"Only in Europe would you find people still using Mokeskin pouches," the older man agreed. "We've a selection of bifolds, trifolds, checkbook wallets, card cases, travel purses… just anything you might want, really. Son, show them what we have."

"This is probably what you're looking for," Chase said, guiding Jessie to a table at the side of the room covered in all kinds of wallets and purses. "Pops made all of these himself."

Jessie stared at the selection before her, not sure where to begin. She had never seen so many handbags in one place before.

"Do you take trade?" Harry suddenly asked, interrupting her thoughts.

"That depends on what you have for trade," Chase's father said. "What do you have?"

"Well, I've got basilisk rawhide."

"You're kidding, right? Basilisks have been extinct for… well, a couple centuries at least."

"You know what? Why don't you have a look and judge for yourself?" Harry asked, reaching into his bag and taking out a roll of untreated animal hide, holding it out to the craftsman.

The older man took and unrolled the rawhide, examining it closely once it was spread out to cover the entire table. "Where'd you get this, son?"

"I killed a basilisk."

"I don't believe you."

"Facts don't care if you believe in them. They're still facts."

"Good answer. Do you have more?"

"It wasn't a small basilisk."

"All right, then, you have my attention. What do you want for it?"

"Something of her choice for my friend, a half-dozen wallets for myself, and I need to get Christmas gifts for about a dozen friends, so something custom made for each of them as well."

Chase started to protest, but his father cut him off. "That's reasonable. If anything, we're the ones getting a great deal."

"Good," Harry said, before turning to Jessie. "See anything you like?"

She looked over the items on the table again, eyes darting over them one after another, but still none of them spoke to her.

"I'm sorry, it's just…" she started.

"There's nothing here that piques your interest?" Harry asked, finishing the thought for her. "What exactly do you want?"

She thought about it for a long moment, then answered. "Something small, that'll fit in my back pocket, but not black or brown, because that'll get lost inside a backpack or a purse. It needs to have velcro or a zipper or a button, too, so coins don't fall out."

"And it needs to hold more than it would appear to be able to," Harry added at the end.

Chase chose several items from the table, setting them to the side. "Which of these is closest to what you're looking for?" he asked.

Running her fingers from one to the next, she finally stopped at one second from the last. It was just the perfect size, a leather wallet folded into thirds. Flipping it open, she thumbed through the three pockets for bills, then popped the snap on the coin pouch, peering inside before closing the whole thing and putting it down.

"That's the one?" Chase asked, and she nodded. "What color would you like it to be?"

"Baby sky blue," she said, naming her favorite color.

She was surprised when a small length of wood dropped into his palm out of his sleeve and he waved it around in the air, saying something weird before tapping the wood to the leather.

Before her eyes, color radiated out from where stick touched wallet, and in a matter of seconds, the entire thing was the color she wanted.

Holding out a ring, Chase told her. "Here, put this on your pinkie."

She took the ring, slipping it on her right pinkie.

"Now say 'smaragd'," Chase instructed.

"'Smaragd'?" she repeated, confused.

The wallet vanished from the table, appearing suddenly in the palm of her right hand.

"That's amazing!" she exclaimed.

"It's nothing special," Chase said modestly.

"You'll have to forgive her; she's still new to magic," Harry explained, as she put the ring on.

"But she was in that ad!" Chase protested.

"And Lilah is magic-free."

"Then how?"

"I'm one of the partners, and I'm magical."

There was a moment of silence as Chase tried to digest what had just transpired. Then, his father asked, "What kind of wallet are you looking for?"

"I need a black bifold wallet with a hardened spine, a window for a photo I.D., slots for cards, two pockets for bills—one of which is an expanded space or a pocket dimension responding to verbal commands for easy retrieval of stored money—and compatibility with a belt chain, but not permanently attached to one. I'll need it to be made of something low-profile, so nothing fancy like dragon or basilisk hide, but reinforced to be able to withstand all kinds of traumatic events including ballistic impacts, sharp objects, fire, the works. No tracking magic, either; I mean, you can put some on it if you want, but I'll just strip it off later, so let's not waste everybody's time and energy."

"There's more than a few of those floating around in here," the craftsman remarked. "And you want six of them?"

"Each with a different design," Harry added.

"Well, we've got plenty of wallets that match your description," Chase said, gesturing to the pile of wallets he had assembled to his description. "Which ones would you like?"

"Men's, women's… Any six will do," the boy answered, then caught the wallets as they were tossed to him one after another.

"What are you looking to have made for your friends?" the craftsman asked.

"Well, Danger likes books, so I'm thinking a cover that can be used to protect whatever she's reading should do the trick. Something that'll automatically resize to whatever book she puts it on would probably be best…"

Harry spent the next several minutes carefully describing exactly what he wanted made for his friends while the craftsman took notes. Then, he finished with, "And you can ship them to this address when you finish everything" before handing the older man a business card.

The older man glanced at the card. "You're a long way from home, son."

"And I've still a ways to go," Harry added mysteriously.

"Well, you came to the right place," Chase said. "You won't find anybody better at making stuff for putting other stuff in than Pops."

"You're goddamn right," the craftsman agreed.

"That's settled, then," Harry said. "Are there any stores around here selling apparel appropriate for wearing to a restaurant in the evening?"

"Which restaurant are we talking about?" Chase asked.

"Whisperwind."

"I've been there once, with my girl; it's a really nice place," Chase remarked. "Shit man, I've been trying to get another reservation there for three months now; I'd love to be able to propose to her there. How'd you manage to get one?"

"Chef I used to work for is aces with the head chef there, and he got us a reservation for the chef's table."

"Chef's table? What's that?"

"It's a table in the kitchen proper. Menu might be a bit different, too, and the chef might give the meal a bit of a personal touch."

"That's good to know. Well, there's Sew Lovely; it's on this street, about two blocks that way. If you tell Norma you're a friend of the Seneschal, she'll know exactly what that means."

"All right then, it was good doing business," Harry said. "You have my number for when you want to buy more basilisk rawhide in the future."

"We'll definitely give you a call," the craftsman agreed.

"Good. I'll be hearing from you."

Exiting Lewis and Sons after Harry, Jessie felt like her head spinning from what had just happened in the shop, following him almost entirely by instinct. Everything that had happened in the store had felt so surreal yet amazing, like she was dreaming, except it was really happening. With Harry, she was getting to experience a whole new world she never even knew existed, and it was absolutely thrilling.

She was so captivated by the feeling that she didn't even notice they had arrived at their destination until they were through the door and inside a spacious store filled with beautiful, stylish clothes laid out on tables and racks, bowl-shaped lights hanging from the ceiling, and Harry was speaking with the woman tending the shop.

"Hi, have you been here before?" the woman asked with a smile as she approached.

"No, we haven't," Harry answered, peering at the name tag on her shirt. "Norma, we're friends of the Seneschal's."

"That's wonderful," the woman said, her smile widening as she strolled over to the front door, locking it, turning over the sign hanging there that said "Open" and drawing the curtains. "I don't get many new customers of our kind," she said.

"Any reason for that?" Harry asked.

"All of the clothes I sell to our kind are enchanted to resize themselves to the body of whoever is wearing them so they'll always fit perfectly, and to clean and repair themselves."

"You mean I can buy something once and wear it for the rest of my life?" Jessie asked.

"That's the idea," Norma answered. "I want to make clothes that people fall in love with and can wear forever; I used to have favorite shirts that would just wear out, and I hated that."

"That's incredible," Jessie said.

"So, what are you looking for today?" Norma asked.

"We're going to Whisperwind tonight, but my friend didn't pack something appropriate," Harry explained. "That's my fault, though, because this morning, we were planning on going hunting and fishing, until something came up and now we're in Houston."

"How'd that happen?" Norma asked.

"Ozark Howler attack."

"Oh my God, are you hurt anywhere?"

"Cracked a couple ribs, but that's nothing I haven't had a dozen times before. Killed it, though, but we didn't know what it was, which is why we came to ask the Seneschal."

"You killed an Ozark Howler?! Is it for sale?"

"Why, what are you looking for?" Harry answered.

"The hide! If I could just get my hands on the hide, I could create a masterwork."

"Unfortunately, we already sold half of the Howler to the Seneschal, but I'd be happy to sell you a portion of what's left when I get it back tomorrow morning."

"Why not sell me all of what's left?"

"I'd like to try making some things with it myself."

"Like what?"

"I mean, you're not about to tell me what your masterwork will be, are you?"

"No, I suppose that's fair."

Then, to Jessie, she asked, "What kind of dress are you looking for?"

She had to take a moment to think about the question. It just wasn't something she had ever put much thought into before, mostly because she didn't really wear dresses.

"Maybe something casual?" she said, after a moment. "But elegant, like something I could wear on a nice date, but also to prom," she added with more confidence after a little more thought.

Norma nodded in understanding, going over to a wall with a rack of dresses attached to it, pressing her hand against it. It glowed lightly, then slid aside, revealing a hidden closet.

Taking a dress hanging in the closet, Norma held it up and said, "Let's start with this one."

~ooOoo~

"How do I look?" Jessie asked again as she emerged from the fitting room.

She was wearing a short-sleeved, burgundy off-the-shoulder dress with what Norma had described to her as a "princess-seamed bodice". The stretchy knit material clung to her body from where it fitted perfectly at her waist to halfway down her thigh, a side slit running down to the hem that nearly touched the floor. It was the latest in the long line of dresses she had tried, and she thought she looked really good in it.

"You make it look amazing," Harry answered after looking her up and down for a moment. "Your skin tone really accentuates the color of the fabric."

Then, to Norma, he asked, "Do you have a shawl or a bolero jacket that might pair well with it? Right now, it's a good look for a casual occasion, but something like that could be a really nice accent that takes the whole thing to the next level for formal events."

"A 'bolero jacket'? That's not something you hear out of a boy every day," Norma remarked.

"How many boys visit your shop everyday?" Harry retorted.

"Touché. Let me see what I have in the back."

Norma disappeared through the door labeled "Employees Only", and Harry pulled the pouch he wore around his neck out from under his shirt as he walked over to a table displaying clothes.

"Five hundred thousand dollars, American, strapped hundreds only," he said, and stack after stack of cash poured out of the pouch, landing on the tabletop in a heap.

"What are you doing?" Jessie asked.

"I believe these belong to you," he answered, gesturing to the money. "You might want to put it in your wallet, now that you have one that can hold it all."

Taking the money, Jessie placed one strapped stack after the next into the pocket of the wallet Chase had told her was made from Mokeskin, marveling as the money disappeared into the slot as soon as she put it in. She had never had this much money at once before, and it felt a little bit intimidating.

"You're going to want to take the currency bands off of those," Harry said, as she reached for the last two stacks of bills. "The Mokeskin won't take the bands off, so if you ask for something less than the entirety of what's held by the strap, it'll tear it off, and torn bills won't exactly be accepted at most places."

Nodding at the explanation, she slipped the yellow-and-white band off of the bills before feeding them into the wallet.

"How do I get them back out?" Jessie asked.

"It understands most words," Harry explained. "It's not particularly finicky either; as long as you're clear on what you want, it'll give it to you as best it can. It's clever, but it's also thick, so don't ask for denominations it doesn't have; you only have hundred-dollar-bills right now, and if you ask for, say, twenty-five dollars, it'll tear off a quarter of a bill and give that to you. Learned that one the hard way. The more specific you are, the better off you'll be."

As if to make a point, he said, "One hundred eighty-six dollars, American, in a single, a fiver, a ten, a Jackson, a fifty and a C-note.", and the pouch around his neck vomited the money exactly as he had asked for into his waiting hand.

Jessie decided to give it a try. "Five hundred dollars," she said, and the money rose out of the pocket, the eyes of Benjamin Franklin peering up at her.

"You might want to keep that in the other pocket," Harry suggested. "You can't always use verbal commands to retrieve the money you need."

"What about you?" she asked.

"I have a wallet with a company card and some loose bills," he answered, pulling a worn billfold out of the bag he wore slung across his shoulders and tossing it high at her. Eyes rising as she dropped her wallet on the tabletop, she reached up and tried to catch it, bobbling it between her hands when she failed to gain control of it right away.

By the time she had it firmly in her hands, Harry had already closed the distance and then backed away, her wallet in his hands. "Take this from me," he said.

"What?" Jessie asked, surprised.

"I have your wallet. You need to get it back."

"And you won't just give it to me? Even if I ask nicely?"

"That would defeat the point of this exercise."

Cautiously, she approached Harry, watching as he casually flicked the baby blue wallet upwards behind his back, reaching up to snatch it out of the air with his other hand.

Without thinking too much, she reached for her wallet, but Harry lightly slapped her hand away, stepping away as he did so.

"Come on, you can do better than that," he said.

Straightening herself, she lunged at the wallet, but he suddenly tossed it high into the air, where it landed inside one of the bowl-shaped lights.

"Why'd you do that?" she demanded. "Now I'm gonna hafta find a ladder."

"No you don't," Harry said.

She looked around, considering her options. "I guess I could try and use one of these tables."

"That's not necessary," he said.

Jessie felt frustration rise in her chest. "You threw it up there! Why don't you get it, then?!"

"You're missing the point," Harry said.

"And what would that be?" she snapped.

"You're still thinking about it like it's a normal wallet."

It took her a long moment to get what he meant. "Smaragd," she said, still looking up at the light, and her wallet vanished from inside the bowl, reappearing in her right hand.

"You need to remember: your world isn't as small as it used to be, not with magic in your life," Harry said. "The more Lilah operates with magicals as an integral part of the clientele, the more you'll be exposed to magic, magicals, and their habits. You're going to find you'll need to be able to change what you consider normal very quickly, sometimes even instantly."

She knew what he meant: in just a week, she had discovered magic was real, met a lot of magical people and learned monsters were real, and she could only imagine just how much larger her world would get.

Norma was pushing a rack of clothes as she returned from the back. Stopping, she took a long-sleeved, beryl cropped jacket and held it out. "What do you think?" she asked.

Jessie wasn't sure what to think about the dress she was wearing, much less the jacket she was looking at, except that it looked fancy.

"Maybe a different color?" Harry suggested, flipping through what was hanging on the rack. "That green and the burgundy of the dress don't really go together."

"You seem to know a lot more about fashion than most boys your age," Norma said.

"I've a friend who's an actress," Harry explained as he took a hanger off the rack. "She knows a lot about style and clothes, and I pay attention when people talk to me about things they're experts in. Here, try this one on."

Taking the hanger from him, Jessie slipped her arms through the long sleeves and let the knitted white fabric stretch slightly around her body, the hem of the jacket resting just below her shoulder blades. Seeing her reflection in the mirror, she almost didn't recognize herself. She had always avoided wearing dresses because she thought she looked out of place in them, but right now, she thought she actually looked sophisticated.

"How do I look?" she asked.

"It's more of a shrug than a bolero, but when you make it look as posh as you do, there's just no arguing with that," he answered, and Norma nodded. "We need to do something about those boots, though; they don't match the rest of the ensemble."

"There're a lot of stilettos that'll go well with that outfit," Norma agreed.

Jessie balked at the thought. "I've never worn high heels before," she protested.

"Stilettos are out, then," Harry said, and she nodded. "Maybe block heels or wedges?"

Norma nodded, drawing something in the air with the pointer on her right hand, and one of the walls parted, revealing row after row of shoes in different colors and styles. Holding her left hand up, palm towards the wall, she swung it sideways and shelf after shelf flew slid past the opening in the wall.

"You wear, what, a size six?" Norma asked, glancing at Jessie's feet.

"How'd you know?" Jessie asked.

"Lucky guess," Norma said, shrugging. She suddenly clenched her left hand into a fist, and the shelves stopped short. "See anything you like?"

Jessie studied the shoes on the shelf, eyes wandering from one to the next until they finally stopped on a white pair with blocky heels.

Following her eye, Norma asked, "Would you like to try them on?"

"May I?" Jessie asked. "I've been walking around for a while, and it's been hot out, and I don't want to dirty them."

"All of the pieces in my select collection are self-cleaning and self-repairing," Norma explained. "They never get dirty, and even if you tear or break one, it'll fix itself in a few minutes."

"Here," Harry said, placing a chair next to Jessie. "You can use this."

Sitting down, she untied her boots, pulling them off her feet and dropping them onto the floor, slipping into the heels and carefully doing up the buckle on the strap just above her ankle before putting both feet on the floor and standing up.

Lifting her right foot, she planted the heel of the shoe on the floor and started to shift her weight forward when she felt her balance slip as her ankle turned. Falling sideways, she heard the scraping of the chair on the floor and saw it slide across the room out of the corner of her eye, then felt herself being caught. Glancing down, she saw Harry's arms under hers, holding her up with his forearms, fingers curled almost closed like she had seen a dancer do at a talent show.

"Put the front of your foot down first, then transfer your weight to the back," he coached. "Take it slow until you get the hang of it."

Following Harry's instructions, she took one careful step, then another, then one more, walking around slowly until she got a sense of how to do it at a normal pace.

"How do you know how to walk in heels?" she asked.

"Sometimes, I'm a woman, and sometimes when I'm a woman, I need to wear heels, so I learned how to walk in them," he answered.

After walking around a little more, Jessie finally sat back down and took the heels off, slipping back into her boots and tying the laces in neat, loopy bows, then took off the jacket, putting it back on the hanger.

Back at the rack, Harry was going through the clothes hanging on it, flipping through them one after another before taking another hanger off the rack, this one with a long, sheer piece of rectangular cloth on it that he held out to Jessie. "Try this one, too."

Taking it, she held it up, then turned it over in her hands, not quite sure how to put it on, until Harry took it and draped it across her upper back, over her arms and passed it through her elbows so it was on the insides of her forearms.

Catching her reflection in the mirror, Jessie was surprised by how much just a single accessory changed the way she looked. While the jacket had given her an air of elegant sophistication, this new accessory made her look almost delicate, even if she wasn't as slender as the models on the cover of the magazines she'd seen at the store.

"What do you think?" she asked, turning to Harry.

"You look exquisite, like you could be in a painting from the Renaissance," he answered, and she felt the blood rush to her cheeks at the compliment.

"Thank you," she managed to say, her voice barely above a whisper, before she turned to Norma. "I'd like to buy all of these," she declared.

"That'll be eight hundred sixty dollars," Norma told her, and Jessie froze at the price. Norma must have seen this, as she quickly added, "They resize and reshape to fit your body, and they're self-cleaning and self-repairing, so they'll last a lifetime."

Unsure of what to do, Jessie looked to Harry for advice, and he nodded, so she took out her wallet, saying, "Nine hundred dollars," and handing Norma the nine bills her wallet produced.

"Will you be wearing them out?" Norma asked, returning two twenty-dollar bills that Jessie slipped into her wallet.

"It'd be a little awkward walking around in this in the middle of the day," Jessie said.

"In that case, if you change in the changing rooms, I'll package it for you," Norma said.

"Thank you," Jessie said.

As she entered one of them, she heard Harry say, "So, I'm looking for a little black dress, a little white dress and accessories to match…"


Author's Notes: In modernity, people are somewhat defined by how and for what they shop for with their disposable income, so I thought this chapter a necessity to show the differences between shopping in magical America versus shopping in magical Britain. It also serves to showcase how, while magical Britain remains firmly entrenched in the past, magical America has kept up with the times.

With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, please take care to be safe. Even if you're tired of wearing a mask, it's important to keep wearing one even after you've been vaccinated, as you never know which strangers aren't, and the vaccine's primary function is to make it less likely for its recipient to die upon contracting the virus, since no vaccine is 100% perfect.

Once again, many thanks to my long-suffering editors Romantically Distant and pmansell for proofing and editing my work. Also, thank you for reading what I've written.