The Last Magus

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Love’s labours...

For the next few days Joe was the talk of the town. By the second day after the robbery practically everyone in town had heard the story. The strange bank robbery that had been foiled in a most unusual way. It was curious but with each retelling of the story the number of robbers grew. It started at three but rapidly grew to where Joe had defeated a highly organised gang of at least fifty heavily armed robbers. Joe smiled at this notion, the simple fact that fifty heavily armed robbers would probably not have fitted into the foyer area of the bank didn’t seem to affect the story. Always there were looks of awe that crept into the faces of the listeners as Joe’s name was mentioned, the ones that didn’t know him would comment “Joe Winstanton? Who the heck is he?” in some cases the word heck would be replaced with an expletive, while others who did know him would breathlessly answer “Joe? A hero? Never! He doesn’t seem the sort!”

On the third day after the robbery a local newspaper picked up the story, the reporter saw it as one of those human interest items, like the cat that got stuck in a tree until fire officers came and shot it out with a fire hose…just one of those stories that makes it into the back pages and is promptly consigned to the trash bin the next day. Joe had been in and checked his account, Lin’s cheque had cleared so he was officially comfortably well off now. He called in on Lin on the way home and presented the coin to him, much to Lin’s enthusiastic grin.

“I hear you big hero Joe boy.” He said slapping Joe on the shoulder.

The reporter and photographer were waiting on Joe’s doorstep when he got home, to get the full inside scoop, the full expose, the low-down as the reporter put it. Which was odd as what was finally published ended up nothing like the truth! Joe grimaced inside as he smiled and let the men into his front room. Once in he settled himself down and was forced to retell the story. Every few sentences the reporter would interrupt with a question or try to draw an assumption that plainly wasn’t there. When Natalie was mentioned the reporter noted a slight blush that crept into Joe’s cheeks, “Ah!” he thought, “our hero fancies her…” The photographer meanwhile took endless pictures, snapping away on his digital camera before swapping to a spare memory card. Some of the pictures Joe felt were impossibly intrusive and left him feeling incredibly self-conscious about his little home. He had too stop the photographer trying to get the rest of the house, that might have caused even more of a stir! He snapped a picture of Draco, conveniently as the golden retriever. The reporter was crooning about the wonder dog. But as the camera flash went off Draco’s coat reflected so much light back that the picture itself came out as nothing but a golden blur. Eventually after telling the story at least four times, just so the reporter was sure he had every salient detail and hadn’t missed a single fact…or at least nothing that couldn’t be invented. Both men left promising the story would be in the next day’s paper…probably, if the editor was in a good mood!

Joe just grimaced to himself as he waved them goodbye and went back inside his house. “Today’s headline is tomorrow’s chip paper!” He thought.


That evening Joe slipped on his jacket and visited his local shop he wanted to get a loaf of bread and some soup, he fancied a bowl of good chunky style country house soup with all the vegetables in it, something thick enough he could add meat and call it a stew. As he passed the paper rack on the way to the counter he almost dropped his purchases. A special evening edition of the paper was on the rack. They rarely ran special editions, there being so little local news of any real importance. His story was right there, not a back page human interest story; a few inches about a foiled robbery, local hero etc.…instead they had done a full-blooded front page spread expose with photos of Joe’s house both from the outside and the front room in full gory detail. The gaudy headline read “Bank robbery! Three robbers foiled by local man with…magic!” and then went into intimate detail about how the people of the town and local area would be stunned to discover that living in their midst was a real life wizard! Joe’s eyes almost bulged out of his head. He grabbed the paper and started to read. The story they had printed was so over hyped as to be almost unrecognisable from Joe’s viewpoint, almost all of it was salacious gossip and garbage. They had quotes from the bank manager complementing Joe on his outstanding character, comments that Joe almost choked on when he read them, Franklin Jolly had not had a nice word to say about him in…well in forever!

There was mention of the bank giving him a reward for his bravery, a mention that had caused Jolly to go into something resembling a seizure. The story continued inside and was joined by an editorial comment piece on the possibility of there being real magic. From its tone it was clear the editor believed in the total impossibility of anything magical. In fact the editorial almost went as far as saying Joe was probably mixed up with the gang and the whole thing had been staged…almost!

Joe hurriedly bundled the paper in with the bread, soup cans and minced meat then queued up, he kept his head hung down desperately avoiding the gaze of anyone else in the shop. However, as he raised his head to count out the money into the young female shop assistant’s outstretched palm, her eyes widened as her mouth dropped open, “Oh my God you’re him…You’re the wizard!!!” Every other person in the shop stopped what they were doing and looked at Joe. “You are you’re him ain’t you?”

“I think wizard is going a little far. I did one spell I got lucky that’s all.” He mumbled under his breath.

“Go on then show us a spell…” The girl leaned on the counter, clearly she had this job as an after school thing as she couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old.

“What would you like?” Joe said despairingly, “I’m not going to call up a dragon on the spot?” Joe visibly blushed, flushing a brilliant red colour.

“You mean you can’t? What sort of wizard are you?”

“One who doesn’t waste magic on tricks.” Joe reluctantly nodded, he agreed that the story was about how he had stopped the robbery but he emphatically said that the paper had none of the actual details correct and she shouldn’t believe everything she read in the papers; magic after all was impossible! Joe had as he repeated with practically every sentence got lucky! Finally he hurried out of the shop, desperately hiding his face by pulling the collar of his jacket up, after he finally managed to get his change from her and rushed home praying that no one else would see him.

Joe prayed that the story would thus die its death, a nothing story in a local rag about a local robbery gone wrong! Nothing to see here…move along! He could then go back to the quiet normality of his life…at least the quiet part anyway, he doubted normality in this case would ever be restored. Sadly, he was wrong, far from the story dying the next day there was a follow-up story, again salaciously hyped, about how he and Natalie had been secretly lovers the whole time…it actually used the word lovers! Joe felt so embarrassed, for Natalie more than himself. He was on the verge of phoning the paper to ask where the hell they got off printing such trash when he got a knock at his front door. With a deep sigh he opened the door a crack, expecting to see some kid wanting to taunt him or get him to perform a magic spell. Instead Natalie was standing on his doorstep. The weather had decided to turn to a soft drizzle that morning so she was standing shielding her raven wing dark hair from the worst of the wet with a copy of the paper. Joe opened the door with a half smile.

“Hi Natalie…how are you?”

Natalie thrust her copy of the paper at him, “Have you read this Joe?” Her face had a curious look to it, Joe couldn’t place it immediately, was she angry, was she upset or just as embarrassed as he felt.

“You know…” He started, it sounded weak but he couldn’t avoid it now, “I was just going to phone the paper and get them to do a retraction…this is plainly garbage.”

“I tried already they said they stick by their story and would see me in court…The editor even hinted this story might go national!”

“National?”

“It was one thing to cover the robbery the way they did…but this says that you and I have been secretly seeing each other for months! I’ve not been at the bank months and I only met you the first time on the day of the robbery!”

“I know that! Look I’m sorry, they think it sells papers!”

“What do you have to be sorry for? You didn’t tell them any of this did you?”

“What that you and I were together? Be serious! You know how these reporters want to hype stuff up, they always want to make mountains out of molehills…especially if it sells papers! I told them about the robbery and that’s all I swear.”

“Well they interviewed me yesterday too, Mr Jolly was livid wanted to stop my pay for the time they took. I told them everything I remembered about the robbery, which wasn’t all that much; I sort of switched off after that creep thrust the gun in my face!…and this is what they wrote…there’s almost nothing about the robbery in here! Where they got off with this secret lovers stuff I don’t know!”

“Well I never said anything about you.”

“Hmm well I guess I told him, the reporter, I sort of liked you when you came in and I may have said that we’d been out to the cinema together that evening.”

“Yeah…see what I…wait you told him you liked me?”

“Well yes of course…what’s not to like? You maybe a bit…”

“Scruffy?”

“I would say more a little unkempt…but I think there’s a really good man hiding inside there. By the way thank you for taking me to that film it was so much better than going alone, I really enjoyed it. We’ll have to go again sometime.”

“You mean that? Because well I’ve got to admit I enjoyed the evening too! I haven’t been to the cinema in years. You certainly seemed to enjoy the meal afterwards…”

“I did warn you I absolutely love Oriental food…you shouldn’t have let me eat so much though! That Chow Mein was just something to die for…or talk so much.” Natalie giggled and looked at the floor shyly, “what time was it we left the restaurant?”

“I don’t know but it was late, I think we were the last to leave. I caught the waiter a couple of times looking at his watch.” Joe gave a half hearted laugh, he had enjoyed that evening immensely, he didn’t want to admit it to Natalie but that had been his first date…ever!

“Well I’ll say this Joseph Winstanton, you’re a hell of a lot less shallow than some of the guys I have dated.” Natalie smiled warmly, Joe shuffled his feet, a wave of embarrassed warmth flushed through him. “When I think of the number of BMWs and Jags I’ve been promised…only to get an old clapped out mini cooper with a dodgy clutch!” Natalie smiled as she leaned in and softly kissed his cheek, “Thanks for a wonderful evening lover. So can I come in or do you always keep your girlfriends freezing their bits off in the rain?”

“Oh no sorry, please come in…come in. My house isn’t much I’m afraid.”

“I saw from yesterday’s paper! You need a good woman in your life Joe, get you straightened out.”

“They only got the one room…thankfully!”

Natalie raised a querying eyebrow, “Why thankfully?”

“Well…if I can be honest my house is a little strange. They might have found that out if they’d gone into any other room.”

“Strange? Stranger than a man who can put three bank robbers to sleep with a magic spell?” She raised that quizzical eyebrow again.

“I can’t explain it, but I could show you sometime…this house well it just isn’t ordinary!”

“Well if it’s weirder than you are Joseph it must be really out there!” Natalie giggled and smiled again as Joe let her in. “Oh hi Draco, I remember him from the day of the robbery and Geoff keeping him outside…does he bite?”

“No Draco is a really good…err dog. This man’s best friend anyway.”

Natalie half knelt down and tickled Draco under the chin. Draco gave a warm wonderful smile and panted excitedly, “Those green eyes are very unusual I’ve never seen eyes with gold flecks in them before, and that fur of his positively shines, you’d think it was metal! What breed is he?”

“I think he’s a mix…something else to tell you later I think.”

“Alright Joe you keep your secrets…but I’ll find them out you’ll see!” Natalie rose back up to her feet and looked around the room. The paper hadn’t done the room justice, Joe needed someone in his life badly! Her eyes alighted on the brightly burning fire and she smiled, “Oh thank God for a little warmth. You are right about the weather, I think when it’s cold it’s better to be somewhere warm…and boy oh boy is it cold!” She rubbed her hands together and stepped towards the fire, without asking she pulled a large cushion from the sofa and set it on the floor, “I’ll sit by the fire if that’s OK with you, might help dry me out a bit.” Natalie shivered, she peeled off her raincoat letting Joe take it. She was casually dressed in a light denim jacket, white T shirt that seemed to pull a little suggestively tight across her bust and tight blue denim jeans that started to steam softly in the warmth of Joe’s room. “It’s my day off today…but old Jolly thinks I should have foregone it because of the jerk reporter.” Joe hung her coat up on the back of his door, it dripped onto the bare concrete floor. Natalie sniffed loudly, “Oh Joe is that coffee I can smell? I’d love a mug if you’re making some…” Natalie giggled again as she seated herself on the cushion in front of the fire. She stretched her arms forward towards the flames warming her hands. “You can tell it’s January!”

“I know what you mean!” Joe replied, “though February is usually colder.”

“Brr! Don’t say that!” Natalie shivered again and pulled herself a little closer to the fire.

The pair of them spent the rest of the morning just chatting idly, drinking mugs of warm coffee. Joe had to apologise for not having any milk as he drank his coffee black.

“No problem, I can drink it black too…especially if it’s good and strong!”

Joe felt he was in a dream. Natalie was so very beautiful and to hear her talking so freely and in such a relaxed way, without reservations was enthralling. Her soft voice and those soft liquid hazel eyes entranced him, she was in every description the woman of his dreams! After a couple of hours of this enjoyable company Natalie coughed a little.

“Err Joe could you tell me where the bathroom is please?”

“Ah!” Joe flushed an embarrassed red and hung his head, “I could but I guess it’s time I showed you my weird house.” he got to his feet and moved to the door that lead to the rest of the house, “Come with me…” Natalie rose and followed him, she was perplexed.

“You could just tell me Joe…I’m a big girl you know, I don’t need a guided tour.”

“Well you see Natalie that’s just it! My dad called this a house of intentions, I never really understood what he meant. Until I became an adult, then it slowly dawned on me. I was practically born in this house so I’ve grown up here, spent my whole life here… so it just feels normal to me. That was until I got to see a friend’s place some years ago and realised it wasn’t all that normal after all.”

“Normal?” Natalie raised an eyebrow as she half looked at him. “It’s a house Joe!”

“Well yes it is a house, but it isn’t a normal house, not in that sense…the two areas that remain constant are this front room and the landing here outside see?”

“Constant? You mean like the rest isn’t constant…”

“It’s as if the front room is fixed while the rest…well it changes…” Joe opened the door exiting the front room onto a well lit wooden floor boarded landing. Almost immediately in front of him the landing plunged down a worn wooden stairway to a small tiled square of red terracotta tiles and a back door. On his left the landing stretched out ending in a panelled door, a second panelled door just to the right of that and immediately to Joe’s right a third panelled door. All three doors were identical.

“OK Joseph so where’s the bathroom?”

“That’s just it…” Joe drew in a breath, he shuffled his feet awkwardly, “pick a door!”

“Joe I need to pee quite urgently so no games, I drink coffee therefore I need to pee! Which one is the bathroom?”

“No games Natalie, I’m trying to show you…pick a door…and think Bathroom.”

“Think Bathroom?” Natalie looked at him as if he was clearly going out of his mind, “I’m verging on making a mess of myself and you’re telling me…whichever door I pick will be the bathroom?”

“If you think it clearly enough, yes! The house will make it happen. That’s what’s strange about this place. Any door can open onto any room you want. I have the layout the way I want at the moment. Those two rooms down the stairs are at the moment my kitchen on the right and dining room on the left. But I can equally have one or both rooms up here on this level. I can equally have the bathroom downstairs, or upstairs or not at all. I can’t explain why it is…it just is.”

“So you live in a magic house too?” Natalie laughed, “Of course you do…you’re Joseph Winstanton the local wizard.” She thought Joe was clearly taking this magic thing too far! Natalie drew in a deep breath, “Sorry…alright just to humour you Joe.” she needed the bathroom with an increasing urgency, she gripped the door handle of the door immediately at the top of the stairs. “Bathroom” she said as she breathed out and opened the door. Natalie’s face filled with relief when she looked into the room and saw a small neat little bathroom, with tiled floor, a wash hand basin, toilet and bathtub with a shower rail and curtain. “Be right back!” she said and blew Joe a kiss.

After a few minutes standing patiently Joe finally heard the toilet flush and Natalie came out drying her hands on a towel that he kept on a heated rack.

“Phew I needed that! Great coffee by the way…But really Joe you needn’t have waited for me, I said I’m a big girl now so can go to the bathroom on my own.”

“Natalie…”

“Call me Nat if you like Joe, all my friends do.”

“OK Nat, shut the door please.” Joe spoke quietly trying to be patient, trying not to show his sense of desperation. He needed to show Natalie this quirk of his house because if she was going to visit again, and he sincerely hoped she would it would almost certainly mess with her mind if he didn’t show her. Natalie hung the towel back on the heated rack and shut the door, pulling it closed with a click of its latch. “OK door closed? Good now that was the bathroom right?” Natalie nodded solemnly, but she smiled, “So now I want you to think of some other room, say the Kitchen, and just reopen the door.”

“Joe?” Natalie’s expression was puzzled, bemused maybe even a little sympathetic, “Be serious! I’ll just see the bathroom again won’t I?”

“Just do it…” Joe smiled a thin smile, Natalie looked at his face searching for some trace that he was making her the butt end of some joke here. But Joe seemed to be serious about all this. “Think Kitchen and open the door again…the same door you just shut on the bathroom.”

Natalie turned back to the door and said with a sigh, “Kitchen”, rolling her eyes in Joe’s direction as if inwardly saying “humour him he’s such a nice guy, weird but nice!” She opened the door and stopped dead, the words she had been expecting to say of “see bathroom!” caught in her throat. In front of her, the bathroom had been replaced, the bathroom she had just left was now a neat orderly kitchen with a burning wood stove, one with an oven attached to it, a washing machine sat under a double sink, clothes dryer, small refrigerator and an upright deep freeze, cupboards covered the walls. Overall a really nice fitted kitchen, though she felt the cupboard units looked a bit dated and would have preferred a more modern styling. “What the…?” Her mouth dropped open. She looked around the sides of the door. “Where’d the bathroom go?”

Joe heaved a sigh, “Close the door…and try it again. Think Dining room this time…”

Natalie gaped at Joe then hurriedly closed the door with a little thump, “Dining Room” she said and opened the door again, wide. The kitchen had disappeared and been replaced by a beautiful dining room with wooden panelling on the walls and a bright burning fire in a fireplace that had previously held the wood stove, a highly polished dining table with four wooden straight back chairs pulled in against it. Natalie looked at Joe with eyes wide, “Joe what the hell is going on here?”

“It’s what I’m trying to tell you…the rear of this house is…”

“Strange? Not normal?” Natalie volunteered.

“As my dad said, it is a house of intentions; you get the room you intend to go into. Doesn’t matter which door you pick, you can’t leave them open either; I tried believe me, they just shut themselves! The rooms sort of juggle themselves around at random during the night, nothing is fixed except the front room and this landing. I can’t tell you from one day, heck one hour to the next, how many rooms this house has because it changes. I’ve tried counting them, I’ve tried marking them, several times, but I always get different results…”

“Has anyone else seen this?”

“My parents…but no one else, you’re the first stranger. I was never allowed to bring anyone home as a boy and we never had visitors to the house. I think because they would have seen this and run from the place screaming!”

“So you’re saying I can go from your front room there…to ANY room I choose just by saying which room I want and opening a door…ANY door?”

“Yeah that’s about it. You just need to have a clear idea of where you want to go…a clear intent.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise you can get lost!…The house is perfectly capable of putting you in a room where you have no idea if you can get out of it again. As a boy I found rooms here that I’ve never seen again since. I used to wander from room to room, deliberately absent minded you know, not thinking of any particular room just to see where the house put me! I saw the house plans once, the front part is supposed to be Napoleonic, seventeenth mid-century while the back is much later; from the outside it’s maybe early twentieth century, like nineteen thirty. But that’s outside…the rooms I was finding as a boy were much much older than seventeenth century, in many cases they were like ancient tombs or medieval castle stonework. At that age it was great fun, growing up here I could play explorer just by going out and re entering the same door.” Joe looked at Natalie plaintively, “I’ve seen stone walled rooms that felt like they were far underground and impossible rooms that don’t even fit the house plans, longer, wider or higher than anything that should fit. I’ve seen rooms that should put me where my neighbours are or rooms where I’d risk being hit by low flying jets. One room had transparent crystal walls and I looked out over the countryside. Then once I even found a large open cavern complete with glowing fungus for lighting and an underground spring!”

“And all of those rooms are…in this house? What is this some sort of Tardis?”

“That’s just it…I don’t know if they are a part of the house, or may be a part of something else. I do know this house feels like it expands.”

“Expands?”

“It adds rooms when and if I want them and then loses them when I don’t use them any more, I can sometimes go back to them later, sometimes I’ll not see them again! For example, say I want a room to use as a keep fit area, a home gymnasium…I open this door.” Joe opened the door and Natalie goggled, “see a totally bare empty room, just waiting for me to decorate it and make it into a gym or whatever else!” Joe closed the door again with a slight bang. “I needed you to see it rather than try to tell you Nat because I just knew you wouldn’t believe me. But I figure if you’re going to be a regular visitor here…” Joe paused and Natalie hung her head a little with a self conscious blush, “Well I don’t want you going and getting lost in some room I can’t find!”

“It’s astonishing, I’d just love to see a surveyor’s report on the place.”

“I had one in once…he left scratching his head saying he’d never seen a place like it! I’m just glad I didn’t let him go off on his own, he might still be here if I had!”

“So let me get this straight You’re telling me that your little house from the outside is normal…but inside it is magic too? Is there anything else you need to show me?”

“I don’t know if the house is exactly magic but I suspect magic is involved…maybe it always has been. I grew up here so I’m just used to it…but you see…”

“A stranger like me…”

“Might be freaked out by it.”

“Well…it is a breathtaking thing to see in the cold light of day Joe. But you don’t need to worry Joseph I’m not freaked out!” Natalie’s eyes glittered, “I am fascinated…it makes me wonder about the history of this place have you ever researched it?”

“No, not really except from what my parents told me I know nothing of the history.”

“Well it’ll be fascinating to find out don’t you think?”

“Maybe…maybe not.”

“Well look let’s go back into the front room where it’s warm OK? Then we can talk…this landing is getting chilly.”

“Sure! There is one more thing I could do with showing you…”

“Oh let me guess, you’ve got a pet dragon in the garden woodshed right?” Natalie was half laughing.

“No…no.” Joe looked at her warily, “he’s in the front room at the moment…with all the gold fur and looking like a retriever…you’ve met him!”

“I’ve what? You mean you have got a pet dragon? Oh Joe don’t please! I’ll admit Draco is unusual but come on…a dragon?”

“Why do you think his name is Draco?” Joe answered plaintively.

“Draco…Oh my God, you’re serious?”

“Draco is not a dog. He is…” Joe drew in a deep breath as if steeling himself, “an ancient gold dragon that appeared the morning after I did my first spell. He can change shape and use magic far better than me so he’s teaching me how to use magic.”

“Of course he is Joe, that’s what dragons do after all don’t they?” Natalie laughingly thumped him on the shoulder. “He only looks like a weird golden retriever because he’s in disguise.” Natalie was almost ready now to start laughing so hard she would have to mop tears from the corner of her eye. “Magic spells, a magic house and now a pet dragon? Whatever next?” She pushed past him back into the front room, Draco stood patiently by the door, now transformed into miniature golden dragon with wings glittering in the firelight.

“Actually the magus is completely accurate…but I’ll have you know I’m no pet!”

Natalie looked at Draco, then back at Joe, then back at Draco, “Did he just…urggh!” Her knees gave up and she collapsed down as she fainted. Joe caught her, gently lifted her off her feet and carried her to the sofa, placing her down with the utmost care, her head on the end closest to the warmth of the fire.

Five minutes past Natalie was out cold, Joe kept fanning her to get her air as he tried to revive her. Draco just kept telling Joe to calm down as she had just fainted and would recover. Finally and with some obvious caution Natalie opened her eyes a crack. Everything appeared normal after all, she was in Joe’s front room lying on his sofa. Joe breathed a deep sigh of relief, “What happened?” She asked looking around the room.

“You fainted.”

“I had the oddest dream Joe…it was about this house being strange.”

“It was no dream Nat, I think it all got a bit much for you, too much in one go.” Nat’s eyes widened in alarm, “I wanted…needed you to know it though Nat because well…I don’t know how to say it.”

“You fancy me?” She volunteered.

“No…well yes, I mean maybe. I think you’re really very beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

“…And I’d really like to have you as a friend, but I don’t necessarily mean a girlfriend in that sense, just…”

“A friend who happens to be a girl?”

“Yes! That’s it! Though I also wouldn’t rule out well…”

“Us being together properly?”

“Yes…I also don’t think friends should have secrets between them. So I’m not the luckiest of guys Nat, when you and I went to the cinema the other evening it was my first date…ever with anyone. But the house you were probably going to find out about eventually if you spent any time here. Just a few hours and you needed the bathroom…”

“So I didn’t imagine it or dream that…but did Draco really talk to me?”

“Yes, I really talked to you. It was not any voice throwing or ventriloquism by the magus, I am as he said an ancient gold dragon.” Draco stood by the sofa in his miniature dragon form.

Natalie’s eyes widened, “You…you were serious? I suppose I’m going to have to start reassessing everything I thought I knew. I thought Dragons were huge monstrous things.”

“At full size…” Draco took on his smug contented look, “I am four hundred feet tail to snout with a two hundred foot wingspan. But there are, or were, many different types, fairy dragons only grow to maybe three or four inches.”

“Yet you’re here now in this house and what about three feet long?”

“Magic miss Natalie, I can change shape and size to suit what is needed. Watch…” In a blink Draco transformed himself into the golden Persian cat with glittering fur he purred contentedly then blink and the retriever dog stood in the cat’s place, another blink and a ten inch long golden dragon statuette with gleaming gold flecked emeralds for eyes, before finally back into the three foot long gold dragon he had started with. Natalie was simply too amazed for words. With a pleading look she looked at Joe before taking his right hand in hers.

“It’s OK!” Joe tried to reassure her, “I’m getting used to this myself, I only started this magic lark four days ago and it was by accident I did.”

“Well Joseph if you and I are going to be friends, I guess I’ll never have another one like you will I? How many other girls can say they are dating a real life wizard who lives in a magic house that has rooms that juggle themselves around while he learns magic from his own pet…”

“I am no pet miss Natalie, please stop referring to me as such.”

“Sorry Draco…I meant no offence. Has his own companion gold dragon that can change shape and size at will.”

Joe shuffled his feet as he hung his head, for all the world he looked like an embarrassed teenage boy suddenly finding out the beautiful girl he has a huge crush on really liked him too. “Does that mean you want to think of me as a boyfriend then?”

“How about for now Joe…you’re a friend who happens to be man? I take it you don’t want me shouting about any of this to anyone else?”

“No absolutely not! In the past two days thanks to that damn paper I’ve been pestered by kids…”

As Joe spoke there was a thumping knock on the door and the sound of children giggling and laughing. “They think I’m going to show them some magic spell or other, I only know three at the moment! I can burn them, put them to sleep or change them into gold, I don’t think the parents would be to pleased do you?”

“You just need more practise magus.”

“Yeah well Draco when am I supposed to practise exactly? It tires me out…and with the incessant interruptions…” Another loud thumping knock at the door.

Natalie looked thoughtful for a moment, “You know there could be a way to keep the children happy and give you all the practise you need…magus.” She teased her finger up to his chin before blowing him a little kiss.

“How?”

“Set yourself up as a children’s party magician, the difference being that you do your act with real magic.”

“Oh yeah great I just said I can only do three spells…so OK children Uncle Joe the wizard is going to set fire to your parents curtains…short show I think!”

“Don’t be silly magus there are many more simple spells you can use that will provide a good show. The illusion school would be particularly good. I think miss Natalie has an excellent idea.”

“And if you want to Joe I could organise things for you, you know bookings, advertising all sorts. My forte is organisation, I’m wasted in that damn bank. The money is nice but the job satisfaction sucks! I like the customer interaction but it’s not really my thing.” Natalie’s eyes gleamed as she smiled warmly at Joe, “As you get more spells and get better at your magic, magus…” she said teasing him again, “well I could collate those spells into some sort of spell books for you.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“Why not? You’ve got money now haven’t you? When you said turn the kids to gold I’m guessing that coin of yours was magic right?” Joe nodded shame faced.

“I’ve got four more and they’re all identical, that’s why I can’t sell them all together.” Natalie was certainly a very sharp girl. “I wasn’t conning my friend though that was a genuine gold coin…it’s just it didn’t exist as a coin until the day before the attempted robbery.”

“So you’ve got a source of income at least…who cares if it’s genuine or magic! I could organise contacts and buyers for your magic coins, that way you don’t have to go selling too many to the same one. Look Joe seriously, I really hate working at that bank.” Her look said “and I really like being here with you!” Joe blushed, “Mr Jolly is just getting creepier by the day, since the robbery he’s been wandering around the bank like a bear with a sore head; he’ll snap at you for no reason and he’s grumbling all the time. I don’t know what happened when you talked to him but he’s gone really strange! At times he’s so morose he looks like he wants to kill himself while at others he’s so angry you don’t want to be in the same town as him! Then there are the looks he’s been giving me!” Natalie now looked uncomfortable, “I get the feeling he wants me! I don’t know if it’s as some sort of eye candy for the bank or he thinks maybe a mistress for him to play with on the side! He thinks I’m going to drop my knickers just because he’s the boss! He keeps eyeing me up…!” Natalie’s face turned to a look of disgust as she shuddered, “the thought just makes my skin crawl! I want out of that place and really soon…”

“The old bastard is married! From what I know his wife has all the money and wears the trousers in that marriage. I think that’s why he is the way he is, at home he’s the powerless one! Someone told me if he tries to divorce her he’ll be penniless…By the way you might like to know, they live just across the road.” Joe pointed out the window to the large house opposite his.

“See? What?” Natalie half rose with a look of shock, “He’s your next door neighbour…Oh crap Joe!” Joe calmed her down as she looked slightly panicked, she rested back into the cushions on the sofa. “But look Joe honestly if you can pay me a modest wage, doesn’t need to be huge as long as I can pay my bills and put something by for college. I’ll quit the bloody bank and come work with you. I think it’ll be a heck of a lot more fun! We can setup your magic show together, you then get to concentrate on your magic, practising, improving etcetera while I’ll deal with everything else! Visitors, bookings, all of it! The shows will give you an honest income too if you feel so bad about your magic coins. I think we’ll make good friends you and I, I felt that the first time I saw you…and if…well you know something does start to happen between us.” Joe looked shamefaced again as Natalie just smiled at his shyness, she took his hand in hers gently and stroked it, “well we’ll see where it takes us won’t we?” Natalie’s eyes were sparkling as she spoke, Joe couldn’t tell if it was the firelight or an inner fire of excitement inside her. “And if you need an assistant for any of your spells…magus” She teased him, “…I’m pretty hot in a swimsuit you know!” she giggled and twisted as if modelling for him.

“I don’t doubt that for a minute.” Joe laughed as he stretched back on the couch sighing contentedly.

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