A/N There was one little loose end left, and I could not give my dear reviewers cause to complain about another mean cliffhanger. No pun intended.
For the last time in this story, all characters and the locations they live in belong to JKR. With the exception of Peter Henderson and Bill Doulton, who are mine. The idea for this chapter, too, came to me when reading Headmistress X's Ancient Magic.
Finally, all credit for increasingly correct language should go to Kelly Chambliss. She is to grammar and punctuation what McGonagall is to Transfiguration. Only much more patient with her student.
From chapter 11:
'And Bella did that to you? Telling you that you were … upsetting you so, making you ask for …' Slowly, Minerva's voice became stronger. 'That criminal… that despicable, that … I'll kill her for this!'
'You will not. You will not even get angry. It is bad for you. Relax, that is an order.'
Slowly, Minerva relaxed. Poppy is right, she realized. I'm still as weak as a baby and shaking all the time. I must keep very calm and get well soon. Get back here soon. Now that that abomination has escaped … I must keep that anger for later. And find a safe way to let it out, not kill that thing in cold blood. She deserves it, but as things are, it would land me in Azkaban before you could say 'unforgivable curse'.
'Of course, that boulder fell down the cliff,' the old man said testily. 'They do, you know, it's called "gravity".'
Bill Doulton suppressed a sigh. Peter Henderson, retired science teacher and, so far, sole witness of "The Boulder Incident", made him feel like a rather obtuse first former. To add insult to injury, he did so while sipping a beer he, Bill, had bought him.
Bill looked round the taproom of The Beachy Head Arms. Brightly colored carpet, too much gleaming copper, faded, carefully framed newspaper clippings of previous Beachy Head incidents, pub food that aimed at, but did not reach, gastro-pub status. The very last place where one would expect to find William Doulton, journalist/investigator, admired by all, feared by many. Unfortunately, Doulton the journalist/investigator had never fully materialized. Instead there was just plain Bill, senior journalist on the local rag. "Senior" meant he was responsible for the lanky youth who wrote the sports page and who had buried his fifth granny during last month's Test Match.
He looked back at Henderson. A good teacher in his time; he could see that. Still had everything it took. Except an actual classroom, but try telling that to an ex-teacher, Bill thought wryly. 'What you mean, Sir,' he started.
'What I mean, is that the surprising part is not a boulder falling down the cliff end. It's the boulder soaring up towards it, over a considerable stretch of grassy hill. For that is what it did, as I've spent the best part of an hour explaining.'
'But, surely, that is a most unlikely phenomenon. Is there no possibility that you … I mean … there was quite a fog, this morning, and … ' Bill's voice faltered under the piercing stare.
'Of course it's an unlikely phenomenon, why would I bother to inform the paper otherwise? Use your wits, young man. And if you do not believe me, find the other witness.'
'So, there was another witness?' Please no, Bill thought, don't make me trail another OAP who wants his five minutes of fame.
'Yes, there was,' Henderson replied, somewhat mollified at Bill's show of interest. 'An elderly lady. Frail, dressed in black, had a walking stick for support. Tartan scarf, if I recall correctly, but I cannot be quite certain about that. She was some distance away, more or less at the bottom of the hill. Would be, of course, if she needs a walking stick, couldn't possibly climb up. She saw everything too, I'm certain of it. Not that she will be able to explain it, any more than I can,' he added, grudgingly. 'It looked like witchcraft, I tell you, pure witchcraft.'
But the elderly lady in black with the walking stick was never found. To Bill's credit, it must be said that he did make an attempt, albeit a feeble one. Henderson's quote on witchcraft, however, made the headlines of The Beachy Head Crier. It earned Henderson a reputation as a "quaint old character" which was totally undeserved, but which bought him drinks for months.
A/N I have considered a sequel, set during book six. Would you like to read it? Then please press the button. A simple 'yes' or 'no' would be helpful, anything more really makes my day.