Eileen Finnegan banged around her kitchen, venting her extreme frustration on drawers, doors, and the delph, which she found was more satisfying to smash by a throw to the floor than a blast with her wand.
The unfairness of it all really made her angry. All she’d ever wanted was to give Seamus an advantage, an edge. To teach him skills no other boy in all of Ireland would learn. To give him an extra measure of power and protection in case the likes of Voldemort ever rose again. And rise again that monster did indeed, and extra protection Seamus had indeed! But did her Muggle husband see it that way? Sure he didn’t!
And hadn’t her man always been delighted when she used magic to help him along? Like putting a Confundus charm on that advert for the fantastic executive chef’s position so that no one besides Joe could figure out how to apply? Like apparating over to Joe’s favorite Parisian market for last-minute supplies? And if she had a galleon for every time Joe had asked her to instantly clean his muddy tack with the Scourgify charm! Well, then! How was what she had done for Seamus any different?
It was genius, it was, that she’d recognized the opportunity for Seamus to learn all about demon magic, and make a friend who could do it for him, too! And Eileen was helping her friend Adjoua in the process, because wands alit! Serena would never have made it in the wizarding world if Seamus hadn’t been looking out for her, and that’s what Adjoua wanted, wasn’t it? For her daughter to mix with witches and wizards instead of demons and Muggles and Merlin-knew-what-else?
She’d admit she hadn’t supervised the whole affair as well as she might have — but it wasn’t her fault! When Adjoua said that her nephew Asmo had gone to Hogwarts, and would give Seamus a private tour, how was Eileen to know that Asmo wasn’t a wizard? Certainly he looked like a wizard when he came for Seamus, kitted out in a fine robe and presenting Seamus with a flash Quidditch broom. “Asmo” sounds like something you’d hear at an astrological reading, so Eileen assumed he was the son of Adjoua’s sister, who was something of a Seer.
Joe was incredulous when he’d heard this, shouting “Couldja not tell he doesn’t look anything like the Kouassis?”
“How do you mean?” asked Eileen.
“The Kouassis are from Africa! Yer man Asmo looks like he’s from Greece or somethin’! Can ye not see which family he resembles!”
Eileen was perplexed, replying, “Are you saying I’m supposed to have memorized the entire family tree? Adjoua’s family is quite large; I don’t know who married whom!” which caused Joe to throw up his hands and stomp out the door.
It was only last month that Eileen had learned her assumption about Asmo was wrong. She’d spotted him hanging about the stand of trees by the duck pond, and assumed he was with Seamus. But then Seamus arrived home in his father’s car; he’d been riding with his Muggle friends. By then Asmo was gone.
Later that evening when Eileen was talking to Adjoua through the fireplace, she mentioned the incident. That’s when she learned that “Asmo” was short for Asmodeus, and he was not the son of Adjoua’s sister, but rather of Sidney’s brother.
That’s when she realized that her son had been spending a great deal of time with demons.
That’s when she realized she was being spied upon.
That’s when she got freaked.
So maybe Joe had a point about the dangers in her scheme, which she’d finally had to confess to him. But one mistake didn’t spoil the whole plan! She’d done the right thing — that was sure! Wasn’t it?
Doubt poked at the edges of her mind. Seamus had been acting funny ever since he’d returned from Hogwarts. Normally when Seamus was home the house was filled with Irish boys and girls, Muggles and wizards alike, tracking mud, spilling sodas, leaving sandwich fixings all over the kitchen, and devouring trays of sweets baked by Joe. His bedroom would look like his Hogwarts trunk and his tack trunk had collided and exploded. Every week he’d ask Eileen for another large box of Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans.
But this summer was very different. The few friends who stopped by were mostly from Hogwarts, and they visited on the patio. His bedroom was neat, and his closet was filled with new clothes: dark Muggle-style suits, knee-length athletic shorts in mad patterns, hiking shorts covered in pockets, t-shirts and jumpers in shockingly bright colors. He took most of his meals at his father’s restaurant, and when he ate at home, it was with Serena and other friends from America whom Eileen didn’t know. They grilled fish and chicken and fruit and made large salads. The boxes of Bertie Bots remained untouched.
Children grow up! she admonished herself. They find new friends. They have new interests. But the sliver of doubt grew. If she were so certain she’d done the right thing, why was her head so wrecked about it?
Her internal rant was interrupted by a loud cracking sound from the direction of the front garden. That’ll be the delivery man from Pamela’s Potions, she thought.
Eileen hurried to the hall door and peered through the peep hole. What she saw made her stomach ice over. She didn’t know who was coming up the walk, but from the looks of him, she was certain of what he was.
She quickly stepped to the side of the door, her back pressed against the wall, fervently thanking Merlin that she’d taken her wand, which she gripped tightly against her chest.
“Cop on!” she scolded herself, “You’ve faced worse!” But the hell of it was, she wasn’t sure she had.
She jumped at the chime of the doorbell. She couldn’t wait any longer. She didn’t know why the demon hadn’t just appeared in her kitchen; maybe the ring at the door was meant to catch her unawares? At any rate, she had the advantage. It was now or never.
In one swift move, Eileen flung open the door and shot a stunning spell straight at the heart of the visitor on her stoop. The man went flying across the garden, hit the wooden fence, and landed in a heap in the flowerbed.
Eileen rushed out, wand at the ready, but the man didn’t move. Eileen barely had time to be relieved before she had new worries: what would she do with him? Eileen had expected a duel, which would have attracted the Ministry Obliviators, but it looked like no one was coming over a lone stunning spell. She would have to get him out of sight herself before her Muggle neighbors spotted him and started asking questions. She hated to bring a demon into the house, but she didn’t dare kill him; who knew what sort of retaliation she would face? Maybe if she knew what kind of demon he was, she could figure out what to do with him. She knelt down and regarded the stranger.
Half his face was normal, and half was all twisted and scarred. His long, bright red hair was done in a plait down his back. His clothing was made of leather and canvas, and from one of his ears hung a dragon’s tooth. Now that she was studying him, he looked vaguely familiar. Where had she seen him before? Perhaps he was in her special grimoire, “Deamhan na Eire.” (Sadly, there was no book entitled “Deamhan na California.”)
Well, he couldn’t stay in the garden, could he? For her safety, she bound him with the Petrificus Totalus spell, and for the safety of the wizarding world, she added an invisibility spell. Then she levitated him up the path and into the house, hoping that no curious Muggles would wonder why she was marching across her property with a pointy stick. Once inside, she made him visible, settled him on the sofa, and sat herself in an armchair where she could watch him while consulting her books.
An hour later, the pile of books around Eileen’s chair was quite large, but she hadn’t found any creature like the one on her couch. She finally had to admit to herself that she couldn’t identify him by looks alone. Eileen signed, stretched her arms and legs, and thanked her lucky stars that as the mother of a rather destructive boy, she’d become expert at binding a body while keeping the face and voice free. She waved her wand at the stranger and undid a small part of her Petrificus spell.
The demon immediately opened his eyes and looked around as far as his eyeballs would allow. Eileen knew he couldn’t see much beyond the ceiling. He stretched his lips and jaw, testing to see how far they would move. Finally, he tried to speak.
“I know someone’s there. I can hear you.” He had an English accent.
Eileen stood, but kept out of view. “There’s someone here all right, and before you get any ideas about saying a spell, know that I’ve a wand on you.”
She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt. She had no idea if she could block a demon curse.
“Where am I?”
“Never you mind where you are. I’m asking the questions. What are you called?”
The man hesitated for a moment, then said, “My name is William Weasley. I’m an independent investigator gathering information on behalf of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Hogwarts? Hogwarts didn’t send people; they sent owls. This was a trick.
“Sure, and I believe that!”
Eileen shot some sparks across the man’s field of vision to remind him of her wand. “What are you called, and the truth this time!”
“I’m William Weasley,” said the man firmly, “and I’m looking for Seamus Finnegan.” His eyes searched around again. “Are you Eileen Finnegan?”
Eileen gripped her wand tighter. “And what would you be wantin’ with Seamus?”
“I’m beginning to think you might know, Mrs. Finnegan.”
Eileen’s blood ran cold. She hit the man in the shoulder with a stinging spell. “I asked what you’re called!”
The man winced, but said resolutely, “I’m not called anything. I’m not the demon you’re looking for.”
Now they were getting somewhere! “Oh? Then what manner of demon are you?”
“I’m not a demon at all! I’m a wizard named William Weasley. I’ve come ask Seamus about a demon sighting, but I see there’s no need — you’ve obviously encountered one. I assure you, it’s not me! You can confirm my identity with Minerva McGonagall.”
Eileen thought hard. What if this odd-looking man were telling the truth? What if he really were a wizard? Where had she seen him before?
She was about to call her owl and send a message to Professor McGonagall, when she realized something else: the whole reason she’d come to the door and looked through the peep hole was that she’d heard the sound of Apparition. Demons didn’t Apparate; they Sifted, which made a different sound. A demon trying to catch her unawares would never deliberately make a sound — or would he? Would he try pretend to be a wizard, down to the detail of faking Apparition? Was this an impostor who had encountered the real William Weasley, who really did have plans to visit her? The name “Weasley” sounded so familiar….
Eileen went to the kitchen table, where the Saturday travel section of Magical Ireland lay open. There it was: an extensive article about post-war changes in Wizarding London, including interviews with the new owners of popular shops in Diagon Alley. The piece included a large photo of the ribbon-cutting for Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, which depicted the new owner receiving the keys from the founder, a red-headed young man named George Weasley.
When she’d seen this photo, Eileen had remembered a red-headed witch named Molly Weasley who’d won a Potions Society recipe contest, and wondered if George Weasley were her son. Now she looked over at the red-headed man petrified on her sofa, and wondered if he were also related. Or if he were a demon pretending to be a wizard who was related.
How could she find out? What magic worked on both wizards and demons? Eileen considered the possibilities, and realized with satisfaction that there was a potion! She hadn’t used it in a long time, but it didn’t lose its strength. Did she have any left?
Thirty minutes later, thanks to a bit of Veritaserum, Eileen knew far more than she ever needed to about the rather exciting life of one William Weasley, curse-breaker for Gringott’s bank, member of the anti-Voldemort movement, Hogwarts graduate, son of the contest winner, and yes, a wizard, not a demon.
She also knew exactly why he’d paid her a visit. Apparently a Hogwarts student suspected that Serena was a demon. Professor McGonagall had dismissed the accusation, but this young curse-breaker would not let the matter go. Eileen felt fairly certain she could answer his questions without drawing undue attention to her family.
“My apologies, Mr. Weasley,” said Eileen, as she lifted the Petrificus Totalus spell and helped him to sit upright, “but I’m sure you understand why I had to be cautious.”
“Yes, I do,” said William Weasley, who looked annoyed, but spoke politely, “although I do wish you had conferred with Professor McGonagall rather than enchanting me.”
“Well, I had to be sure you were actually a wizard, didn’t I? What if a demon had taken your form? McGonagall would hardly know that.”
Weasley knit his brows together. “Fair point,” he said. “It seems you know a thing or two about demons.”
“That I do, Mr. Weasley,” replied Eileen with a smile. “Would you like a restorative tea?”
Soon Eileen and the curse-breaker were sitting at her kitchen table with steaming mugs of her hearty rejuvenating herbal brew. They had made small talk while she simmered her potion, Weasley recounting his pre-war adventures in ancient Egyptian tombs. Eileen wondered what kind of creature had mauled his face. She didn’t think it right to ask, since he hadn’t volunteered the tale under the influence of her potion.
They settled themselves across from each other as Eileen finished a joke about a goblin, a ghoul, and a leprechaun. Weasley chuckled and he took an experimental sip of his tea. Eileen felt it was time to address Weasley’s questions head-on. Perhaps she could even gain a little aid in keeping Asmodeus from her home.
“So that was grand,” said Eileen. Weasley looked up from his cup, and she continued, “You know, Mr. Weasley, I have to say I find your claim that Serena Serpentia is a demon quite fantastic. I suppose you know she’s a friend of the family?”
Weasley raised his good eyebrow. “Of the family? No, I didn’t know that. As I explained under your enchantment, I only know that your son Seamus was in the position to see her exhibit a demon behavior, Red-Spark-Apparition specifically.”
Eileen spoke firmly, hoping this would add strength to her lie. “It’s called Sifting, Mr. Weasley, and I don’t believe Serena did it. I know quite a bit about demons, and I assure you that over the years I would have noticed any funny business on Serena’s part.”
“Begging your pardon, Mrs. Finnegan,” said Weasley, looking solemn now, “but I think you’re overlooking something.”
“Indeed? And what am I overlooking?”
Weasley set down his mug and leaned forward. “Your son and Miss Serpentia spend most of their time away from home. You have no idea of what they get up to at school.”
Eileen was genuinely confused. She had been under the impression that Weasley was investigating Serena. What did he suspect of Seamus?
Weasley continued, “Considering your recent demon encounter, I would think you would be more open to the idea that your son might know something about this.”
Eileen’s heart pounded, but she kept her face neutral. Weasley couldn’t possibly know about her encounter with Asmo in the stable! Or could he? As casually as she could, she asked, “What makes you think I’ve had a ‘demon encounter’?”
“You were convinced that I was a demon, so it stands to reason that you were expecting one. It would be very helpful if you could describe your experience.”
He didn’t know! And here was her chance to get some anti-Asmo advice. Eileen cradled the mug in her hand and invented a plausible tale.
“Well, I don’t know exactly what this means, but last month I saw a young man standing in the trees on our property. It looked like he was watching the house. I thought he was one of Seamus’ friends, but before I could talk to him, he Sifted away in a cloud of red sparks. I don’t know what he was doing here, but I’d very much like to prevent him from returning.”
“Perhaps he is a friend of your sons.”
Eileen scoffed with genuine disbelief. “Don’t be ridiculous! My son does not have secret friends who skulk about in the shadows.”
Weasley set down his mug, straightened, and looked Eileen directly in the eye. “I’m serious, Mrs. Finnegan, and you must take this seriously, too. I’m going to be honest with you now about something you didn’t discover while I was under your Veritaserum. I believe that your son Seamus has discovered that Serena Serpentia is a demon, and that he’s trying to enchant her into sharing demon magic.”
Eileen didn’t have to feign shock at Weasley’s words. She was absolutely floored that he’d figured out her plan, and churning inside because he was pinning the scheme on Seamus.
Weasley continued, and Eileen listened with growing dismay. “If this is true, your son is playing a very dangerous game. You see, it’s a myth that a wizard can trick a demon into sharing magical secrets. The truth is, the relationship goes the other way.”
Eileen felt the warmth drain from her body. With great effort, she forced out her words. “What do you mean, ‘goes the other way’?”
But she already knew. The black suits. The uneaten sweets. The wand left behind while he was half a world away. How could she have been so blind! She could barely listen to Weasley’s devastating answer.
“The more the demon gives to the the wizard, the more the wizard develops actual demon powers, and — this is important — the more the wizard is bound to protect and serve the demon. When demons and wizards develop an intimate psychic relationship, the demon does not become more like the wizard. It is the wizard who is drawn into the demon’s world.”
There was a long silence as Eileen sat deep in thought. William Weasley waited patiently as she wordlessly rose, mug in hand, and walked to the tea kettle behind him.
With great deliberation, she set down her mug, picked up her wand, and pointed it at his head.