B stands for Beginning, E stands for Electricity.
— Kurt Vonnegut.

ECSTATIC ELECTRICITY — An imponderable vital fluid, the hypothetical carrier for the force of SYMPATHY. The term is understood to mean a PROJECTION of the QUIDDITY (cf. ὑποκείμενον) of LIGHT. It is to be inferred that ecstatic electricity is the force of persuasion in both literal and metaphorical senses.
Asenion Izzard, WORDS OF MAGIC.

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
build thee more stately mansions, O my soul.
— V.A.

To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
— Joseph Brackett.

She was the best girl I ever see, and had the most sand.
— Huckleberry Finn.

#

Westward Ho! (7d: Nor This Either).

#

The Tutor stood at the top of the Pacific Coast Highway pedestrian overpass, shading Harry Potter's eyes against an optimally sunny day that would quash the most frobly-mobly of feelings, and then turned around to say a silent aloha nui to the Golden State. It was probably just as well he'd decided to leave; the Beach Boys hadn't quite sung it that way, but it was true: the sun is big out in California, and even Madam Pomfrey might raise an eyebrow at a student with a sunburn in November.

It had been...nice to have the Californian sand beneath his paws. Hooves. Hands. Feet. Water up to the knees, sand squishing pulpily between the toes, he'd never felt more grounded.

The golden dragon flew across the moon, just to give him an extra pang. And he'd never seen the Hollywood sign. But it was enough to know it was there.

Oh well, bound to have a body again eventually; I'll come back. I always wondered why Romana kept telling me to take a vacation, and now I know...

{ ...Who's Romana? }

Not sure. I think she was someone I met too soon...or too late.

He looked out to sea. It was bigger than the sun, thanks to perspective, and made him feel like there should be some kind of lesson to impart before leaving the state of the Endless Summer for the one where the Oak King was lying in wait for the Holly King.

Harry? About the horizon...

{ Yeah? }

Always try to remember that you're standing on it.

It would have to do; he was in a hurry. He turned and ran.

#

His conscience was running behind him, but for a change he'd caught and passed it.

I confess, he thought to himself. I carried Harry Potter, human child, into the unknown, five thousand miles away from where he should be, and that was on top of carrying him off five hundred miles from where he should be.

No, worse, he'd enticed Harry Potter, human child, into carrying him.

(Wizard child, correct a small voice, although it got only as far as "Wiz" before his conscience gave it the bovver boot treatment.)

Child! He blew himself a mental raspberry. In the biography department, he was a subscription set and everyone around him was a factsheet. Carrying people off like bookmarks tucked into his Nth volume — he shouldn't be allowed it. He shouldn't be allowed to travel with any of them.

Well, maybe Nicolas Flamel. Or that chap they couldn't pry off his broom even after he'd crashed it — especially after he'd crashed it — Armando "High Impact" Dippet, there was a chap he could travel with.

He paused at a trash bin to hand the gum wrappers he'd collected whilst crossing the beach to a raccoon, and resumed his dashing.

{ What are you all grumpy about? } asked Harry.

Grumpy? I wouldn't say Grumpy...I wouldn't say Happy either, but not Grumpy...who's that other one? Not Bashful...Dopey? Well, yeah...

{ Never mind who, why? }

Why? I have been standing in your feet, he said, directing them towards the intersection of Ocean and Colorado. I mean, yeah, okay, you're only as old as you feel, and in fairness I've got some notes here suggesting I'm something like 1/12th the age I can reasonably hope to achieve, but I really need to set a better example.

He detoured around the chalk-sketch man who'd been drawing a turkey and cornucopia earlier, and who was now drawing Charlie Brown serving pretzel sticks, popcorn and toast as Thanksgiving Dinner to a table of people, all in the style of Da Vinci.

I should be more like a fireman. I should carry you out of burning buildings, not out of your nice safe castle and into Old Broken Down But Mysteriously Still Operating Amusement Park...

He arrived at the corner and waited for the light, ignoring the sounds of the fully functional Ferris wheel and 100% operating roller-coaster on the Santa Monica Pier. (Fine, be that way, reality, but the principle stands. Shut it, carousel!)

I, Harry, am a fribble. And the trouble with fribbles is that we are not wizards in any sense of the word. We don't succeed, we get away with it.

The light turned green and he dashed across Ocean Avenue, narrowly avoiding a shiny red 1964 Dodge sedan whose driver waved at him a bit too cheerily for his taste.

You see? I got away with that, but one mistake crossing the road and we'd be in American hospital — excuse me, in an American hospital — being quizzed about payment methods. And then being arrested for multiple counts of illegal alienation. And only because I've stood in your feet have I noticed any of this.

{ Uncle Vernon's always going on about how awful the NHS is... }

That, Harry, is because the NHS is to the British Government as you are to Uncle Vernon: created by wizards, administered by muggles who'd prefer it not to exist even though they benefit from it.

He ran up Colorado until he was once again opposite the uninteresting but beautifully sunlit building he'd seen through the window of H.M.T. Stieglitz III.

Happily, H.M.T. Stieglitz III was still there despite being a little magical shop, and a careful look in its window revealed it to be even more happily still devoid of any actual H.M.T. Stieglitz IIIs, whose presence would likely have proved inconvenient.

He reached out to open the door...

...looked at what was in his reaching hand...

...went back and returned the free ticket to see The Tonight Show to the man on the corner of Colorado who'd been handing them out...

...and eventually let himself into the shop. As quietly as possible, on general principles.

The door shut behind him with a minimal click.

The minimal click travelled through the wall to the stopped clock mounted upon it, and the vibration triggered a single deep chime.

The single deep chime caused the body of the stopped clock to shed the thinnest possible shell of dust, a shell that expanded to homeopathic density throughout the room.

The resulting average number of dust motes per cubic meter of room was approximately nil.

However, approximately nil was still enough to raise the actual number of dust motes in Harry Potter's left nostril to one, and this was enough to cause the Tutor to sneeze the sneeze of those trying not to sneeze, i.e., a very small "Dikj!"

Silence, barely disturbed, barely fell...

...but nonetheless slowly transformed from the usual kind of post-sneeze silence, in which one waits to find out if anyone's going to say Gesundheit, into the quiet-that's-too-quiet.

The Tutor, mental hackles rising, tiptoed towards the inner door and the storeroom beyond...

...and a muffled voice said, "Is there anybody out there?"

It did not come from the storeroom beyond the inner door. It came from inside a box next to the door.

The Tutor froze, mainly because he couldn't think of a good answer. Yes was clearly the wrong thing to say, but No was also clearly the wrong thing to say, and Maybe was just insipid.

The box was technically large enough to contain a complete human, or several cooperative house elves, but had no air holes. It was labelled LOT 190 #8 / SALOMON A. LEVIN / BENSALEM PENNA, so had clearly come a long way without much breathing.

"Is there anybody out there?" said the muffled voice again.

On the grounds that turnabout is fair play, the Tutor said "Is there anybody in there?"

There was a pause.

"In case you wondered, that was me nodding," said the muffled voice. "I'm making my home in this box, you might want to open it if we're going to have a conversation."

{ I've got it! } said Harry, and used the Zelkova wand to unseal the box's packing tape using a by-the-book envelope-steaming Household Charm, number 867 out of 1001.

Under the lid they found a couple of blue blankets for padding — blankets? padding? no, neither blankets nor padding, they were too delicate for blankets or padding.

He shook them out, revealing golden artwork on both. One bore the golden image of a phoenix surrounded by an ouroboros that had the motto EX UNO PLURES • AUSPICIUM MELIORIS AEVI written on its body; the other's design consisted of a smiling sun overseeing a sundial, both above the legend MIND YOUR BUSINESS. To the left side of the sun was the word FUGIO; to the right, the number 1578. There were also a few artistically-deployed rosettes here and there.

{ Why does that look familiar? } said Harry. { I mean, of all things. }

Probably cos it's very nearly the same design as on the penny that's funding me this trip, said the Tutor. Except the date's different.

{ What's fugio mean, anyway? }

The whole thing's a rebus that adds up to "Time Flies", said the Tutor, flipping the cloth over to reveal thirteen connected rings arranged in a circle around the legend WE ARE ONE. By itself fugio would more strictly mean I flee or hasten. Run away wouldn't be too far off... 1578, why 1578? Think think thinkity thinking think...ah! 1578 was when Sir Humphrey Gilbert went to America.

With all speed he folded the cloths — flags! — and set them on the desk.

The box held a dozen well-packed rectangles, and even through their wrappings he knew instantly what they were. He pulled the nearest one up and out, whipped the covering from its frame, and revealed a portrait of a man.

The artist had apparently striven mightily for Wild 19th-Century Romantic, but wasn't enough of a liar to overcome either the subject's perpetually startled blue eyes or his Slytherin-green velvet Wild Bill Hickok suit. Overall, the man looked less Lord Byron than Bertie Wooster fresh from touring in a Wild West show and looking unusually but insufficiently buff. He was standing before a bookcase, next to a reading desk with chair, the desk lit from behind by a small round window.

"Hello!" said the subject, and waved clumsily. He was using the index finger of his hand to mark a page in a blue-bound book. The Tutor squinted at it. Was it a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...?

It was titled Tom Swift, Jr. And His Chronoplastic Telectroscope. That was probably a no.

Attached to the bottom of the frame was a dark brass title plate, and its engraving read:

IAIN M.N. ADAMS
1736-?

"Iain Adams!" said the Tutor. "The Iain Adams? Iain Mycetes Noel Adams?"

"You've...heard of me?" said Iain Adams, mildly shocked.

"Yes!" said the Tutor with delight. He carried the portrait over to H.M.T. Stieglitz's escritoire and leaned it up against the filing-drawers. "I'm a great fan of your puddle. Also, Hogwarts library would quite like its books back!"

Adams smote his forehead with his book. "I paid the fines!" he said. "Not returning books, is that what I'm famed for now?"

"The library staff call you The Bookkeeper!" said the Tutor admiringly.

"Oh for heaven's sake," said Adams, sinking onto his chair. "Gryffindor swans off with a sword after the lease runs out, do they start calling him The Bladeburgler? No. Other than the goblins—

"—No, wait, hang on: my puddle? what puddle?"

"The one they cast the permanency spell on," said the Tutor. "The one on your failing-to-study desk in the common room, the one you were always falling asleep at and dribbling on. I put a big bath towel on it last Wednesday Chess Club, by the end of the evening it was absolutely disgusting."

{ Oh, yeah — that's when we saw Flint in the washroom! } said Harry. { I remember now. }

Adams's book slipped from his hand in horror. "That's not saliva!" he cried. "It's a low-flow aguamenti!"

"Really?"

"It was a very clever device to reserve one of the good desks during seventh year finals study week! And they think it's a — a permanent pool of drool?" He collected the book from the floor and brushed it off with a ruffled cuff. "Drool! Who would start a rumor like — oh, I expect it was Malfoy..." He inserted the book into the bookcase next to a copy of The Time Machine. It didn't fit, so he removed a copy of The War Of The Worlds, which he attempted to stick into the gap between the books and the shelf above. It didn't fit.

"You had a Malfoy too?" said the Tutor. "Was he annoying?"

"Two of them, actually," said Adams. "She was a prefect, he was a firstie with me. Word of advice, never tell the entire common room that 'Malfoy' translates as 'dyspeptic liver'."

"Did you," said the Tutor, adding mal foie for Harry's benefit.

"First night at school," said Adams, rearranging all the books on the shelves. "Got into a bit of a tiff with him over something inconsequential. An unwise jibe, as he knew that one of my middle names basically means mushroom..."

The Tutor took a seat on H.M.T. Stieglitz's chair. "Liver and mushrooms," he said, "I'm surprised you didn't get along."

"With his sister I did," said Adams, trying to fit the book onto the shelf. It didn't fit. "Cassandra. She thought I was hilarious. At the school Christmas party she told me Malfoy actually means 'puff-pastry'."

{ Puff-pastry? } said Harry. { Draco Puff-pastry?! }

"Puff pastry!" echoed the Tutor.

"From millefeuille," explained Adams. "Thousand-leaved, mille fois." His wry expression turned into a dreamy smile. "Gosh, that takes me back..."

Mille fois, interjected the Tutor silently, leads to milfoil, the herbal medicament — and that, if you're into the doctrine of signatures, is why Draco Malfoy is better than you at Potions.

{ He is not! } said Harry.

Well, exams coming up in less than a month, feel free to do me proud.

"Oh, that was the best Christmas," said Adams, surfacing most the the way out of his reverie. "She talked the house elves into letting her bake loads of the things, best bribes anyone ever gave. Butterbeer and puff pastries. She brewed the butterbeer, too. Wonderful butterbeer. She talked the Hufflepuffs out of their recipe and improved on it. Staggeringly effective disciplinary tool — if you misbehaved she'd cut you off. She really kept us in line with those. That and being the only person in school who could cast the Nose-Weasel Jinx. I'm glad she graduated before I lost us the House Cup..."

"Did you," said the Tutor.

"Well, yes and no," said Adams. "I developed a bit of an enterprise in sneaking lower years into Hogsmeade. I never got caught, but my clients did. Once the House Point counter ran into negative numbers. I heard that it started sucking gems out of the other house counters and then imploded.

"Still, I'd rather be known for losing the House Cup three years running than a puddle of drool!"

He threw his hands in the air theatrically. The War Of The Worlds curved gracefully through the air to land with a thwap somewhere out of frame.

"Actually," said the Tutor, "I sort of know you as sort of being the second Grand Sachem of the American Wizengamot."

Adams, who had just set out to retrieve his book, froze in midstep. "Do you," he said.

"Sort of. It's on your Famous Wizards card," said the Tutor. "But there's nothing else about it in the library. I read your diary, but it stops in 1769, just when things were about to get interesting."

Adams gave the Tutor a piercing look that verged on a glare, although he didn't seem angry. "Oh, they didn't get interesting until long after that," he said, and walked out of sight.

"Who was the first Grand Sachem, by the way?" said the Tutor, leaning in close to the frame.

"We started counting at two," Adams called back. "But you do know me for the Wizarding Revolution, not just...school things?"

"Shouldn't I?"

"An interesting question," said Adams, returning to view. He laid the book on the desk. "Let me ask you this: who am I?"

"...Iain Adams?"

"Yes, and very much so. That's the thing. I am Iain Adams. I may appear to be a bit of grease on canvas, a character expressed through the magic of oil painting, but I am the real thing. I am not a portrait of Iain Adams, I am the echt Iain Adams."

{ What? } said Harry.

"...What?" said the Tutor.

"I wouldn't have painted my upper lip like this," said Adams, pointing at it. "It makes me look sneery."

Harry and the Tutor whatted as one. "It doesn't look that sneery," added the Tutor.

"It happened during an electrical storm," explained Adams, pacing back and forth. "I was experimenting with the creation of ecstatic-electrical Lichtenberg figures — in modern muggle terms, working towards the magical equivalent of a photo-copier. Do you know about those? You do? It's amazing what one can do with electricity and dust, isn't it?

"In any case: I suspect I'd wired the polarity backwards on the transmogrifier, because when the lightning struck my power tower rod, the catastatic converter overloaded and the discharge blew me across the room and slap into my latest landscape. The paint was still wet, you see. I think I might have been killed if it had been dry. 'Cornfield With Crows', it's rather good, I think it's in the same box I was in.

"Being slightly dazed after a rather complicated experience, I thought it was the actual cornfield; certainly the crows did — I tried to Apparate out of it — and came out in what appeared to be the foyer of the Library of the American Wizengamot, except it was empty, and the Library of the American Wizengamot is never empty. I thus realized that I was, in fact, in my painting 'Still Life With Card Catalogue', and that I was trapped in paintspace."

"...Whoa," said the Tutor.

Adams sighed a guilty sigh through a guiltier grin. "To be honest, woe is not quite the word. I have been accused of preferring books to people. By myself, so there is an element of truth to it. And after all those years in politics I was tired of all the arguing. — So. The biggest and best library in the world. More wings than a cherubim. And me with free run of it, suddenly able to indulge my childhood fantasy of reading every book in the library. Can you understand my bliss?"

{ Hermione would be so jealous, } said Harry.

"All the research time anyone ever wanted and no need to fill out a reservation card. Time to think, to philosophize, to noodle at ideas..."

"What kind of ideas?" asked the Tutor.

"So far today?" Adams reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pad of paper. "Posteriori incantatem. It lets your wand guess what the most appropriate spell to cast next is, based on all the spells you've cast previously. Also, the notebook-pensieve. You use occulting argentum ink, it's like blood in that it can carry intentions and ideas — less permanently, but it's less costly in every sense of the word." He put the pad away again. "So, no, I'm afraid the woe — that's for the rest of the world, poor devils."

"What do you mean?"

Adams stroked his chin. "Do you find my story believable thus far?"

"I suppose. Stranger things have happened at sea..."

"Well, drop anchor. After I entered the picture, the outside world changed. This is pure conjecture, I admit — call it post-hoc fallacy if you like, mistaking correlation for causation — but I believe I was translated not as a mere object, but as a constellation of events. When I crossed the paintspace threshold, I took some of the very flesh of the universe with me, and Time itself came somewhat undone — leaving me as but a bit and/or bob, a flotsamic remnant, an exile from continuity, a footnote to history with no corresponding asterisk in the main text.

"I don't claim to be an indispensable man, but once I left it, American history, at least, collapsed like a set of badly-assembled shelves."

"It did?"

"That's why I was surprised you knew me. The course of wizard events on this continent, to borrow a phrase, has gradually become farshimmelt. According to what appears to be an unimpeachably accurate current reference, the Magical Congress of the United States of America set up shop before the United Colonies had even thought about being States, moved to Washington when George meant the Third and DC was Roman for six hundred, and shortly thereafter had a lot of trouble with sasquatches, a species native to the opposite coast, three thousand miles away." He drummed his fingers on his reading-table. "Washington! Our government offices were in Elphrish Alley in Philadelphia. And I can tell you, as I told the last person I spoke to since getting into this frame — sasquatches don't migrate."

"They don't?"

"No, they commute." Adams turned his chair around and sat on it with his arms across the back. "...I wonder if that chap ever finished the book he was writing? I'd look him up in the card catalogue but I didn't get his name...bit of a mumbler."

{ Hang on, } said Harry. { How can he read current history in a painting he made of a library in the past? }

Excellent question, said the Tutor, and passed it on.

Adams shrugged. "What I wanted was a current newspaper. What I had was a wand and considerable time to think about the problem. Transfiguration was never my best subject — all my snuffbox mice came out with metal whiskers — but it occurred to me that tracing through the chain of association from snuffbox to mouse is wildly complex compared to turning a thing into the mere current version of itself.

"I might not have been able to do it out there, with actual objects, but in here it's all images, symbols, ideas. Which is good, considering all the interlineating I've been doing..."

"You've been writing in the books?!" yelped the Tutor. Maybe that's why Madam Pince was always in a bad mood, it was common belief that her Librarian Sense could tell what was going on half a world away.

"Only virtually!" protested Adams. "In any case, I have access to the present-day Library of the American Wizengamot, and the present-day papers to which it subscribes — and the present-day history books that have gotten written. Do you know what a scourer is?"

"No?"

"To me a scourer is a jackanapes who scampers about after dark breaking people's windows and knocking over policemen. Not in the new history, though..." He sighed, this time with sadness. "It's terribly ironic — I was reading Martin Chuzzlewit by Dickens — apparently when Dickens visited America, he found some of my countrymen to be of the firm belief that Queen Victoria alternated her residence between the Mint and the Tower of London. And now our history is just like that.

"The history of magic I remember is in broad strokes very simple. Wizardry as we know it sprouts in Ancient Greece from the Fragments of Katalektikos, is carried, unknowingly, by Imperial Rome to both sides of what becomes the English Channel; from Europe it spreads with Marco Polo to meet up with the mages of Kublai Khan coming the other way, from Britain it spreads to America, and a few competitive rains of frogs later here we are. Now ask me about the native wizardry of the Americas."

"What about it?"

"There isn't any," said Adams simply. "Can't be any. The facts are inconsistent with its existence."

"How so?"

"Did the European and American muggles meet in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? No. It was a purely one-sided encounter. There were no suitable animals in the Americas to build a muggle civilization on, you see. You can put the cart before the horse, but you can't do without the horse, or the ox — unless you've got wizards. Magic is worth any number of draft animals. If there were contemporary native wizards they would be running the Americas." He paused and raised a alternative-presenting index finger. "Unless, perhaps, they were of the same philosophy as the wizards of the Indian subcontinent, who seem fairly sure that nothing exists and spend a lot of their time transfigured into clouds and columns of vibrating air.

"But that's not what the history of magic in America says. That history says American native wizards just sort of wandered around failing to pick up sticks even though the forests were full of them, and being, I don't know, nice to look at. But I ask you: what would even decorative wizards have done when muggles armed with metal deathsticks showed up and started breaking up the continent like unto a Martian invasion? They wouldn't have allowed it. A wizard might, but wizards would not. Ergo, no wizards."

The Tutor frowned. "It's a pretty big continent to have no wizards," he said.

Adams leaned back against his chair. "Indeed, it's the great peculiarity: the Americas, the magically silent continent. Scattered hedge-wizards without wizardry are common enough in the world — there were hedge-wizards in Britain before it was even Prydain, but not until the Romans arrived was there wizardry. As Salazar Slytherin said, no paper, no books; no books, no libraries; no libraries, no wizardry. A wizard without books is no wizard at all; the library gives the wizard identity. It was no coincidence that Hogwarts sprouted up so soon after Ælfred set up all those scriptoria. But the Americas had bark paper five hundred years before the founding of Hogwarts — it's what all those codices the conquistadors burnt for witchcraft reasons were made on.

"I was never able to verify it but I'm told the motive for the original Statute of Secrecy was the destruction of the monastic libraries by Henry VIII, and that didn't even affect any magical texts. The first Time Turner saved the Library of Alexandria. Would wizards put up with that sort of thing?

"No. I've met native priests, I've met herbalists; doctors, yes — but wizards, no."

He paused to look at the edges of his world, and made a rectangular shape with his index fingers to indicate his frame of reference. "Before the premise got whipped out from under me I had a rather interesting hypothesis I wanted to investigate. It was going to be my next big project, having finished the Great American Confundus.

"I developed the notion," said Adams, almost conspiratorially, "that not only did the Americas have wizardry, they had it first — long before the Greeks, a head start of ten thousand years: time enough to finish it."

"Finish what?"

"Magic. They discovered the why of magic and brought it to its conclusion. A wholly magical civilisation arose, developed, transcended — hatched, if you like — and vanished in rope-trick fashion, leaving behind a continent identical in shape but seemingly untouched by magic. In short: the root of the legend of Atlantis."

The Tutor formed a that's-interesting shape with the mouth. "How would you even investigate that?"

"Well, I had always planned to devote my retirement to tourism," said Adams. "Get a first-hand look at Asia's Civilising Service. Do you know about that yet? It sounds brilliant. Instead of a Ministry of Magic they've got an academic system that's embraced the whole of magical society, like Hogwarts cross-bred with Giant Hogweed. You never have to graduate and your guidance counselor is quite likely to be a chess-playing dragon...but I digress. As even geniuses leave traces and shadows behind, I decided I would travel the world looking for anomalies; I would start where Charles Fort had to leave off because he wasn't a wizard. Seek and ye shall find.

"The irony is, by virtue of having been deposited in here, I now have a better idea of where to start looking, even though now I couldn't find."

The Tutor was going to say Do you? but settled for raising an eyebrow.

"You see," said Adams, "when I crossed the boundary between reality and paintspace, something very odd happened to me, and I do say that in the context of being deposited bodily into a painting. At the time I thought it was an hallucination, the random fancies of an electrocuted brain. A vision of wonderful nonsense, a great patchwork of events, experiences, encounters of every kind that I know never happened to me though I seemed to participate in them. Unless they did.

"I have sat," he said, "in the nest of a pterodactyl, and walked the Quirinal Hill of Imperial Rome.

"I have met the historical Lady Marion in Sherwood Forest, and I have seen indescribable monsters under sheets of ice in the Antarctic.

"I have danced atop a skyscraper in New York — and yet I cannot be sure it was New York, for I have been to the bar in the most scandalous Chicago speakeasy.

"And I have been atop a mountain. A butte in Montana, I think, certainly Montana was involved somehow, though it could have been Wyoming. And something was happening, something beyond my comprehension, just a blur of light and sound but I think it meant something, I think it was important, and I think it was the last moment of contact between the original, magical New World and Newer World I occupied.

"If I ever get the chance, that's where I want to go."

Go. The word echoed with implication, a bass pedal effect provided by his conscience. This was the most exciting thing to happen in three months, and Kirkus Square had a different approach to time, but that didn't mean Nicolas Flamel wasn't waiting for him — no, not waiting for him, waiting for Harry Potter, human child.

And he had yet to hit the book store...

"Er," said the Tutor. "I truly hate to say it, but I have to be going..."

"Ah, pity. It's nice to have a conversation once in a while. Still —" Adams peered at the room outside his frame — "if this is another antique shop I'll be on someone's wall soon enough..."

"Would you like me to shoplift you back to Hogwarts?"

Adams looked shocked. "I thought you were a Slytherin? We never go against the penal code!"

"That's one of the first things my prefect told me, actually," said the Tutor. "Just a thought!"

"Thank goodness, I was a bit worried there."

"...Didn't you put Mercury on your coins, though? Between commerce and thieves, he's the god of shoplifting."

"Then let him shoplift me back to Hogwarts."

"Maybe I should come back —" no, don't say when the shop's open — "later and buy you. My prefect would be thrilled to have you in the common room."

Adams stroked his cheek thoughtfully. "It's just possible I'm as good as at Hogwarts. Before the accident I shipped a load of personal effects to the Alumni Archive, and one had a few of my early paintings in it. I've been around to them, but they're all dark — in storage, I expect."

"I'll see about dropping a hint in the right place. Are there any library books in them?" said the Tutor. Adams did not dignify the question with an answer. "Shall I put you back in the box?"

"I'd prefer that you hang me," said Iain Adams, and paused for a frown. "That sounded different in my head..."

The Tutor found a suitable nail in the wall opposite the window. "Incidentally," he said, setting the frame's wire in position, "you gave me the passing impression that Salazar Slytherin was a bit more highly regarded when you were at school. These days people seem to think he blotted his copybook severely..."

"What, the Chamber of Secrets rumor again?"

"I hadn't heard of that one."

"Oh, there's the Gryffindor version and the Slytherin version. The Gryffindor version says that Slytherin hid some form of esoteric initiation chamber somewhere in the school, and loaded it with a great wyrm that would one day emerge at the hand of his true heir to purge the great unwashed, and Gryffindor threw him out on his ear when he found out about it.

"The Slytherin version says that one Feast of Fools Day, Gryffindor made a giant naked statue of Slytherin with an animated mouth that went blah-blah blah-blah-blah blah blah blah when anyone walked past it, and installed it in the deep end of the swimming pool like a man in the bath. Slytherin got angry and walked out, and Gryffindor closed down the pool, officially for maintenance but really out of embarrassment. Later it got lost during a renovation, or converted into a septic tank or something. The truth may lie somewhere between."

"Between?"

"Myths have power. People may take them as true, and then make them true. There's a book by a fellow named Eco about it."

The Tutor stepped back and regarded the placement of the picture. He didn't have a bubble level, but it looked straight enough. "Well, what I meant was, he supposedly wanted to limit Hogwarts attendance and keep out the semi-washed."

Adams shrugged. "All I know is what Cassandra Malfoy told me, which is that old Salazar just wanted to make sure that the hoity-toity purebloods got educated. They tended to pull their children out of school to avoid hoi polloi and go sulk in a fen somewhere, and end up with their only grimoire on a hook in the privy."

"Interesting," said the Tutor, stepping away from the portrait. "Well, I hope I find you at Hogwarts...did you really start counting at two?"

"In the Grand Sachem department? Of course. When it comes to political heads, people doubt there'll be a second, but expect there'll be a third. —Incidentally, boy, I never got your name."

"Er," said the Tutor, halfway to the inner door. "Smith...Rupert Smith."

"Don't be too dissatisfied with Rupert," said Adams, apparently mistaking the reason for the ellipsis. "It beats Iain. I tried wearing glasses once, to look a bit clever, and Malfoy called me 'six-eyes' until I stopped again. Good-bye, Master Smith!"

"As we say in Slytherin these days, eau reservoir," said the Tutor.

"You do? Dear me..."

#

We are told that Victorian paintings represent a freezing of time in the moment before a cataclysmic event...
— Arthur B.

A linking of two realities that by all appearances have nothing to link them, in a setting that by all appearances does not fit them.
— Max Ernst.

In Chicago, Illinois there's a twenty-four-foot high gold statue of a witch with a Golden Snitch in one hand and a lightning rod in the other. No one gives it a second thought.
— Iain Adams, Diary.

We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.
— Eugene Cernan.

One cannot fight death with death...
— Agata Bielik-Robson.

In good time we can do it all.
— John Maynard Keynes.