The shadows lengthened as the lonely witch waited in the graveyard to make her connection. Where was he? He couldn't have forgotten about her, could he? The shiver of cold slithered down her back and her heart jumped to her throat as she spotted someone in the distance. Was that him? She had never met him before, but hoped it was her contact. If she were to be caught by Ministry officials with this in her possession, it could mean real trouble for her whole family! Impatient and fearful, the stranger approached too fast, but too slow all at once. "How did I get myself into this?" she muttered under her breath. The faces flitted though her mind of those that coerced her into submission...
...her mother, pressing the item on her with strictest confidence, and her sister, wild with impatience for the transaction to take place. The only one not eager to see it happen was father, but what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. She recalled with a shudder the day her mother found his secret store of such treasures, stowed away in the musty garden shed. Shelf after shelf was lined with Muggle artifacts in various states of working order.
Discovering this silly collection would have been indulged and laughed off if it had not been for his confession of having tampered with the tokens. It was bad enough that he was foolishly obsessed with Muggles and their machines, but magical experimentation could mean serious trouble with the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department! She blushed as she thought of how humiliated and guilty her father had been as he described the devices and sputtered out what kind of magical experimentation he had done.
The stranger was almost to her now, breath issuing from him in great puffs of steam that trailed behind him in the growing twilight. She cleared her throat and hoped he would be the first to speak.
"Good evening," he said at last, and though his tone was friendly, she could not help tensing and clutching her package tighter.
"Good evening," she managed to squeak back. She stole a glance at what he clutched in his hand: a bunch of handpicked wildflowers. They were exactly the kind of flowers her contact was supposed to have with him. Was it really him?
He spoke again. "The graveyard is so nice this time of day. I'm just visiting my cousin's grave to leave some flowers," and he waved the small bouquet with a smile. She breathed out a sigh of relief at this phrase, it was exactly what her contact was supposed to claim.
It was him! It had to be, and yet she could not help asking, "Are you Antonius? Gwendolyn's friend?"
He nodded and with another smile asked, "So you have a little problem with a Muggle appliance, eh?" Did he think this was funny? Amusing to find that you have enchanted and misbehaving Muggle artifacts stored up in your home? Or was it that, skilled as her father was, one of them was actually beyond his ability to fix? Not amusing in the least.
She trembled as she shifted the sack she had brought with her and held it out. There was no amount of coercion her mother could have used to persuade her to show open the bag and take out the item inside. It was safe in the sack, quiet and peaceful. She wouldn't risk being heard or seen.
The wizard took hold of the bag, paused, and held out the flowers. "I may as well trade," he said with a laugh.
"Do you think you can you fix it?" she asked impatiently, take the flowers and squeezing the stems a little too tightly. She was eager to be gone, and to be assured that he wouldn't fail to fix the object and get it back into a Muggle home where it belonged. It was nearly dark now, and growing colder by the minute.
To her frustration, he laughed again. "I can certainly fix it! But remind me again what it's been doing."
This was not a welcome question, and she would have much rather not have been asked. She recalled with horror the chaos it had caused around the house when her mother pulled it out of the sack for the first time since her father had hidden it in there. Unfortunately, it had been a bright morning, and direct sunlight seemed to make it worse. No stunning spells or freezing spells had been enough to shut the thing up.
Upon being released from the dark sack, the appliance had crowed like a rooster, squawked like a parrot, warbled like a songbird, then creaked and jangled as it hopped around the house, getting more and more rambunctious with each hop. It knocked things over as it scrambled to escape the clutches of the various family members who were trying to catch it. Finally, it had started ripping and setting fire to the furniture. They managed to trap it once in a cloth sack, but it had burned a hole right through it. Keeping it in a dark, fireproof bag had been the only solution so far.
"Uhm...I think you should talk to my mother about it. I really should be going. I just want to know...what are you going to do with it?"
"I see. Well, I'll try some more complex spells than your father did. My shop is suited much better for this kind of"--he shifted and shook the bag, which gave a metallic rattling noise--"thing. If it makes you feel better, it's not the first one I've come across."
"Thank you," she said, and started to turn away. It really was dark and freezing now and she couldn't wait to get back home. The wizard turned away as well and started to walk in the opposite direction when her curiosity got the better of her and she turned back. "What's it for?" she asked. "I mean, from what mother described. What do Muggles even do with that thing? Does it have something to do with birds?"
He turned back as well, now a few feet away, and smiled. "No! Not at all. I think the bird noises were just an odd twist."
"It's not something harmful, is it?"
"No, it's actually quite mundane, without the enchantments. From what I've seen, Muggles use it to mix together ingredients for food. Usually batters for sweet things. I know it sounds silly, but they made little machines like this so they could mix ingredients faster. Quite ingenious, actually."
She breathed a great sigh of relief--it wasn't so harmful after all! Her mother had assumed the worst, that it was some kind of Muggle weapon. The squawking, whistling little appliance was used to make cakes! The thought of her father trying to mix cake batter with a devious, pyromaniac, quacking mixer was enough to make her smile. Relief and laughter started to pour out of her as she stood there, and the wizard smiled at her.
"I see you've got the turn of things now. Good evening!" he called as he walked away.
She couldn't wait to get home now. What would her mother and sister say? What would her father say when he found out it wasn't as glorious of a Muggle invention as he'd imagined? She set the wildflowers down on the nearest grave with a smile and walked a little ways to the cover of some trees. With another fit of laughter she thought eagerly of home and stepped into darkness.