It’s been a jam-packed January, with dinners and events and serious new year’s resolution fever. But before we get into all of that, who’s ready for Chapter 2 of our Untold story? Jon has taken on the incredible task of chronicling our book in full, giving us a legitimate chapter’s worth of action to read this month! It’s extraordinary.
Me? I’m mostly here to tell you about the food.
Chapter 2 unfolded for us on New Year’s Eve dinner, culminating just moments before 2018 came to a close. To celebrate the occasion, I pulled together some local gems from our neighborhood, sourcing almost everything on the table from the our nearby Italian deli and bakery Leo’s Latticini, also belovedly known as Mama’s of Corona.
For appetizers, Jon, Tommy, Emily, and I shared an artichoke salad, caprese salad, homemade hot sausage, and green olive tapenade on tomato focaccia. The main course was a humongous bowl of Mama’s fresh cheese ravioli with marinara. And for dessert, some classic Italian rainbow cookies with New Year’s champagne.
It was a simple meal that reminded me that not every special occasion needs to be elaborate and made from scratch. Sometimes you just need to let your surroundings speak to you. This was a perfect celebration of our home and our community.
And now, your humble author…
In the Owlery, a quiet two weeks passed. Owls lent out and back to owl-students, a hoot, a trainer’s call and a swoop to land on a gloved hand. In the Library, mice chittered and gnawed on yellowing pages of textbooks and grimoires, taking bits and scraps under narrow gaps in the old wainscoting to make their winter nests. Certainly no secrets divulged.
In the Great Hall, however, young Jackson Applefrost tipped back a precarious chair across the aisle to the Slytherin seats. “The key… psst! The key! Do you still have that key?” Each whisper a little louder and more strained as he tried to get the attention of Roland, who was busily slurping his soup, bowl to lip.
Hyacinth tutted and rolled her eyes to Chloe at the other end, who tapped and pushed a spoon toward Roland.
“OK, OK, OK,” he said, “But my way is much faster…” he took the spoon and, with perfect etiquette, dipped it into the soup, scooped away from the bowl and into his mouth.
“No, you clod.” She gestured to him to turn around, where he saw Jackson leaned back, head tilted, looking upside down.
“Hey, let me talk to your bird. Does he have that key?”
Roland leaned back to match him. “My god man, I don’t just bring my Hob guy to dinner. He needs his rest, and you rest your mouth! The key is in my duffel bag. Hush about that.”
“Coming through!” announced Christopher Ticken, at the head of a group of third-year students, tipping the chairs back upright and pushing them in to tables. His friends chuckled as the boys grunted back into their places. Jackson stuck his fingers up to his mouth like a scarab’s pincers and gestured at them as they walked away.
“Gryfs and Slythies,” said Ticken to his friend, turning around to see Jackson pulling oddball faces, “what is this school coming to?”
“Eh, leave them be. They’ll grow up, right, cuz cuz?” Serj teased his cousin Hyacinth. She blanched and gathered her belongings.
“Let’s go, Jackson, before we lose our house ten more points.”
The room bustled as the meal ended. In the great old hall as everyone began to file out, Chloe quickly walked up behind Roland and handed him a note.
“Observatory after curfew!” The note was drawn with a little doodle of a cat with bat wings. Roland pushed through the crowd to Jackson, passing it on, then onward to Hyacinth, who read it, and the winged cat flew away, vanishing from the note along with the rest of the disappearing ink. Plans were set.
“Isn’t it beautiful? We watched the constellations after class a week ago! I knew it would be quiet and we would have a chance to catch up!” Chloe said quietly to her friends, sitting on the floor between rows of the planetarium-like room. The dome of the roof was a magical barrier, open clearly to the sky above, with just a thread of light blue electricity gently crackling over it like light rippling across a pond.
Around the room, tables set with astrolabes and sextants were arranged for classroom and scholarly use. Knobby brass poles held up flasks of potions under magnifying glasses, concentrating beams of moonlight making the potions bubble and gurgle.
“Nice stars. Cygnus, Ursa Major, Aquila…” Jackson observed to himself. “Hey, I see a swan, a bear, and an eagle. No pigeon! No Hob-stellation!”
Roland scrunched up his nose.
“How about a toad?” Chloe’s companion Tobias peaked its head out of her pouch and snatched up a glowing moth with its tongue. Its bulby cheeks lit briefly, then faded.
“Keep his tongue to himself! Or we’ll end up in more trouble! What are we going to do with this key? Do you remember that shadow? We can’t keep it laying around but we can’t just give it back…” Hyacinth wiped off a bit of toad-tongue wetness that splashed from its hungry mouth.
Chloe pushed the toad’s plump head into the satchel, fumbling with the buckle as she spoke, “We can’t just try to open every door… but maybe there’s an origination spell we can use to find its match--”
The observatory door creaked open.
“--down!” she gasped, pushing Jackson and Roland under the seats, much like she just tucked the toad. Hyacinth was already low.
“Another foolishness! Oh, what a wild upset! Nonsense, pointless act!” The resonant voice of Professor Merryheather filled the vast room, and even as she came down to a whisper, its dry echo could be heard. “How did you lose the key?!”
“I didn’t know I would have a guest. It was in good keeping, it was on its way to where it needed to go…”
“And what will Prudence do without it?”
“My sister does not need it yet. Not until he awakens.”
“Pudgeful, you baboon, keep order with the books. That’s your job. You don’t need someone to blame if you don’t make such mistakes!”
“He is watching, and He won’t like the way you speak to me.”
The pair grew quiet. Madam Pudgeful walked to the telescope. She adjusted it down from its starward gaze, to the Northwest over the Manglewood. Merryheather approached and peaked in.
“Enough. It won’t matter who is watching if they can’t get here.” Professor Merryheather grabbed Madam Pudgeful by the ear, and then with a nasty glare and second thought, released it and pushed her out the door, slamming it behind them.
“Let’s see what they were looking at.” Jackson rose and scurried to the telescope.
Across the Manglewood, on a hilltop, stood a humble cottage, thatched roof, dark wood beams, and light aglow from the windows. A crooked chimney crept over the eaves, with a little tin cone cap collecting sooty black smoke and releasing it in little tup-tup puffs. The smoke rose up collecting in an odd round shape that in the cool gibbous moonlight revealed an aura. Hyacinth, Roland, and Chloe gathered for a turn.
The hair stood up on the back of their necks as the sound of the door sent them scampering, spinning the telescope around.
“I kne-eee-ew it. Rascals… Bratlings. Voila!” Pudgeful raised her goblin hands, whoosh, and the students flipped upside-down before her. The unlatched satchel on Chloe’s bag opened and Tobias flopped unceremoniously out. With a cunning reflex, Pudgeful snatched it just before it hit the ground with her left hand. Released from the magical lift, Roland and Chloe dropped.
“Nasty boy. Sticky boy. Awful nasty sticky boy. The worst! And you lot are no better… And you should know better! But you don’t and you are here again,” Pudgeful shook her sleeve with her free hand and a glowing moth flew up. The toad opened its mouth slowly and snatched at the moth. Pudgeful stuck out a crooked pinky finger, as the tongue wrapped around it, spraying toad spit onto a suspended Hyacinth. “No key in here…” she said prodding inside its mouth like an amateur dentist. She looked at the children before her, eyeing them over, looking toward Roland. “But I think I know when I see a thief…”
“You old bitch! You’re the thief! Give me back my toad!” Chloe yelled, pointing her wand at a device on a nearby table and flinging it toward Pudgeful.
“Wha-haaa!” She swatted away the lobbed tool, earning a yelp of pain from Roland as it deflected toward him.
“No! Listen now! I am not a naughty guy, I am a nice boy!” He grimaced and feigned toughness in a high-pitched squeal as he clasped his groin. “You accuse me and accuse me but I told you no!”
Shocked and aghast, the crusty librarian stepped back.
“I didn’t take a key! I didn’t take a book! Maybe you took it? Tell me! Where did you put it?!”
“It’s in the-the-the Tower--” she stuttered, stopping herself from continuing, and reasserted her authority. “It’s time. Time, time, time. Past curfew.” She lowered her hands and Jackson and Hyacinth gently turned and were lowered and landed on their feet. Herding the the children, she ushered them out the door into the darkened hallways leading to their dormitories.
“Take your sticky toad.” Arms and legs dangling, she scooped it by its rotund belly like a sunny-side egg on a too-tiny spatula, and flopped it into Chloe’s hands. The Slytherin rooms opened and the students climbed into their waiting beds.
Hyacinth and Jackson trailed Mrs. Pudgeful as she led them further down the hall on toward the Gryffindor quarters. The two looked at each other anxiously in the inky darkness, as up ahead a tall figure extinguished light after light, masking the photographs, flyers, and awards on the wall in shade.
Jackson clasped his hands together as they approached. Hyacinth gritted her teeth.
“Pudgeful…” snarled a voice. It stepped out of the shade toward the final candle in the corridor. A taut, fearsome statue of a man with a cunning grin stood, locks of long hair aglow the light of the last lantern. “Pudgeful… I’ve seen you wandering… Perhaps you have found the key…”
“Oh Argus, not now!”
Jackson leapt out from the shadow down the hall. “Oh hey, what key do you mean?”
“Ah-ha, truants!” Argus Filch, the rakish caretaker raised a broom to bat away the surprise guests.
Hyacinth reached into her pocket and touched a blue glass bauble the shape of an eye. “Nazarius Totalus…!”
As he drew back his broom to take a swing, the tie of the caretaker’s belt came loose, dropping his pants to the floor. Ensnared by his own trousers, he tumbled down, sending his pink-boxered rump into a pile.
Pudgeful blushed and helped him up. He quickly extinguished the last candle, fixing himself in the privacy of darkness, and hurried off.
“Nasty you are for House Gryffindor, unkind to our handsome Argus. Well, well. We will see what becomes of rule-breakers. Expelled, maybe… maybe worse…” She opened the door to the bedroom, and with a polite “after you”, guided the students in.
Turning back as the door closed, Hyacinth asked, “What tower?”
Her goblin lips just barely visible in the crack of the door quivered. “You’ll find out… in good time.”
“No matter how handsome he is, if he’s up to no-good, it’s our job to find him out,” Hyacinth said to her reflection in the mirror. “If he’s up to no-good, it’s our job to find him out!” She repeated, a little bit prouder. “This is what Gryffindors do. Maybe this is a secret extra credit, like a scavenger hunt for a villain.”
Roland and Chloe found Jackson peering into a mouse hole, looking for one of his little friends. “Tkk tkk tkk… tkk…” he clicked to them, but today, they did not emerge.
Hyacinth caught up to them, grabbing Jackson by the arm and gesturing her friends down the hall toward Argus Filch’s closet. “Filch is in on it. Jackson and I heard him last night! If he’s up to no-good, it’s our job to find him out! And my brother said he has a map of the school. Let’s find our tower and let’s find our key, and we’ll bring the missing book to Professor McGonagall and clear our names!
“Chloe… he doesn’t know you. Knock on his door and make him get lost.”
Hyacinth, Roland, and Jackson sat under the stairs and opened their books pretending to study.
The door opened and the sly caretaker looked out. The room was a precarious mess of cleaning supplies, books, and papers. A little radio crackled noisy classical music. Instead of replying like a normal person, Argus Filch looked at Chloe and sighed.
“Someone boofed in the bathroom! What a mess!”
Repeating the same sigh, he straightened his vest and gathered a bucket and mop and stepped out with an urgent stride.
Once out of eyesight, the four stepped and shut the door behind them. The open window let in a breeze, looking out to the colors of the Manglewood’s autumn foliage.
A small cat bared its fangs and leapt down from a bookshelf.
“Oh, gross,” Roland said.
“That’s Miss Teeters, Filch’s new cat! My cousin told me she can speak to Filch and she tells him everything!”
“Tkk tkk tkk… Tkk…” Jackson held out a hand and begin gesturing to the kitten. “Hey kitty, where does Filch keep--” The cat began walking backwards, slowly at first, and then faster and faster. And then faster, and even a little out of control. “Hey, what the?”
Miss Teeters then began to rise and spin more, whipping up odds and ends and scraps of paper. Roland spun his wand in circles keeping time with the little whirlwind spinning.
Roland raised his wand and the twister lifted up, and then with a sudden upstroke, he stopped at once.
“Mowwowowwwwwww---” drifted the plaintive yowl, loudly, then quieter and quieter as the cat sailed out of the open window, across the yard, and into the red and orange expanse of trees with a gentle “fooft” as a few leaves and branches rustled in the distance.
Roland’s friends looked at him in shock. Several moments passed.
“OK,” he said, “What about a map?”
“Don’t do that ever again, you goon!” chided Chloe. “Poor kitty!”
Hyacinth shook off her surprise.
“I… uh, think… Wow, ok. I think maybe this is it.”
On his desk, a blueprint of Hogwarts with all of its rooms and buildings spread out before them. Little feet marched along its halls, sat in classrooms, and milled about in the old halls.
“Look… goblin feet!” Chloe pointed out. They paced back and forth in the old tower behind the kitchens, where the great school’s food stores were kept. “The food tower!”
Opening the door, they peered out looking for a safe moment to sneak out, and mixed in with the hall full of students and ventured on to their class.
The food tower sat adjacent to the kitchens behind the Great Hall. Squat and square, only a few stories tall, it did not stand out among the proud peaks of Hogwarts. The cool autumn sun had come to a rest and a fat moon squeezed itself in between clouds. Stepping out for fresh air, Chloe gestured to her friends to help her capture an imaginary snitch.
In the shadows, the crew crept along the stone wall. Nudging open a window, they boosted each other in, one at a time, into the dark chamber. Sacks of grain and beans filled the room in tall stacks and rows. Across the dark path between the wheat and garbanzo, a spiral staircase curved around itself. Creeping softly, they arrived at a landing with heavy metal doors.
Roland produced a key tied to a loop on his belt and held it up to the lock. He inserted it, turned, and--
“Nothing!” Jiggling it in its place, it clicked and clacked and rattled. “This isn’t it! The key to what?”
His anger and frustration simmered as he raised a wand to bash the door with a gust of wind--
And it opened.
But it did not open because of a spell, or because of a key, or because of great teamwork. It opened because a crusty goblin librarian thought her ally had finally arrived and had at last made himself known by tapping gently on the door.
And, in fact, that ally had indeed arrived.
“Mroww…” mewled a familiar, plaintive cat.
“I think we’ve found our new troublemakers, Miss Teeters.”
Argus Filch loomed six dashing feet above the children. Madam Pudgeful loomed fearsome below them. And just beyond their approach, a whirl of glowing lavender, heliotrope, pink, and plum spin slowly in the middle of the refrigeration room in Hogwarts’ humble food tower. So, where else to go?
Jackson looked back and forth at this friends, nodded, and led the way, pushing past the librarian. Chloe followed, and Hyacinth, and Roland, into the mysterious portal.
A sweet smell of pie filled Jackson’s nose, as the bright light of teleportation faded from his eyes, giving way to warm and golden wood, old ornate carpets, and curtains of fine silk. His friends slowly sat up behind them like they were waking up from strange dreams. He rubbed his eyes and began to listen.
What he saw was the sad and trapped Prudence Pudgeful, the librarian’s cursed sister, and what he heard was her weeping, until just now, all alone.