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What’s with Harry?

It was a few days before Imbolc, and the seven coven leaders had their first meeting since the working on Samhain. At least it was the first meeting where they were to discuss recent events. They didn’t count the funeral of the former High Mistress, which had been a sad affair.
The new High Mistress, Stefania, welcomed them all, and introduced their newest member, Lavinia, the new leader of the former High Mistress’ coven. “Thank you all for the reports you have all given me,” she said in her soft, but commanding voice, “and thank you all for the support you have all shown me in my new and demanding position.” She picked up the reports sitting in front of her, and tossed them into the middle of the circular table. “These tell us that there are several trends developing. Some are welcome, and some are troubling.”
“What trends are troubling, High Mistress?.” The man opposite her asked. “I thought that everything was going very well.”
“You are right, Dimitri. Since the working, we have identified more latent witches than we hoped, which is good, unfortunately, it is also bad. The problems we have are those of success, and it appears we have done rather too well. Lavinia, could you?”
“Thank you,” she replied, standing. “Our former leader worried about this eventuality, and spoke to me at length about it before she passed. In the three months or so since the working, our ranks have swollen considerably. So much so, that we are already having trouble keeping up. From having two witches in training, we now have almost a hundred. Our resources, and by that I mean trained witches as well as premises, money, and time, have suddenly become quite stretched. I did a rough estimate, extrapolating from the numbers that have emerged, and based on how long it will take us to train newcomers so that they can in turn themselves be trainers. My best estmate is that it will be between three to five years before we can accommodate every emerging talent.” She cleared her throat, as the bad news wasn’t finished. “This means that there will be lots of new witches who will slip through the cracks, who we won’t be able to train. Not only that, but every identified witch will have parents and siblings who are also latent, but who had passed their time of manifestation before we enacted the working. Many of them will request training as well.”
“I see,” the man beside Lavinia noted. “Nothing exceeds like excess! Now I understand why you were chosen.”
“Very droll, Gregory,” Stefania replied. “My predecessor set aside considerable funds for you all to draw on. It seems that she had a certain facility with predicting the future.” It was time to drop the bombshell. “In the circumstances, I am asking, no, demanding, that all coven members commit to us full time, and dedicate themselves to this project.”
From her right came the question, “Could you clarify that, please?”
“Certainly, Jerome. It means that, except in special circumstances, every coven member will have to give up their jobs to work with the training program, as the need is so great.” She raised her hand to forestall the inevitable questions. “I will pay everyone instead.” She gave them all a wide smile, amidst the silence that said that their objections had been finessed, and added, “Being able to predict the future is a very useful financial talent.”
* * *
The inevitable knock came on my bedroom door. “Go away!” I shouted through it, “I’ve a lot of homework to do.”
“I just wanted to know if you were alright,” Harry’s much quieter tones wafted back.
I guessed that I would have to face him eventually, but wasn’t going to do it one on one in my own room, as that would really send the wrong message. I opened the door, and went downstairs to the living room, leaving Harry to follow. Dumping myself in a chair rather than on the sofa for safety’s sake, and without looking at him, I managed to say, “I’m quite alright, Harry, thanks for asking.” I noticed my brother making a hasty exit. Coward.
“Janice,” he said, in a quavering voice, “you’re fantastic.”
Very much not what I wanted to hear. “Harry, look I have had a horrible day, and am in a mood to tear heads off chickens. Be careful.” I met his eyes at last, and he seemed to shrink.
“Sorry, Janice,” he replied in a reasonable tone, “but it’s not just your sprinting ability. I don’t see you for a few days, and now you are absolutely glowing with…” His voice trailed off. Obviously my earlier tirade was making him choose his words with care. “…health. In fact you seem to be…”
“What are you trying to say?” I asked, forcibly interrupting him as he trailed off again. “In fact if that’s it, I have to get back to my homework.” I got up, and walked towards the stairs, hoping he would be too tongue tied to say anything as I left.
He wasn’t, and produced a line designed to make any girl give pause. “Janice, you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”
Even with the heads up my brother had given me, I was surprised. I turned towards him, and could only ask, “What was that?” in as disbelieving a voice as I could manage. I should have kept walking.
Now he got up, and grasped my hands, while I stood dumbly, waiting for the axe to fall. “I have always seen you as my ideal, something I will admit I did not express very well, and now you have blossomed into a beauty beyond any man’s dreams. Please let me apologize to you for the many injustices of the past.” Well, that was very nicely said. Crap.
Wanting to forestall any protestations of love or anything close, I told him, “Well, about bloody time you stopped making my life hell. Now you do know that a pretty line or two won’t do even begin to wipe away all those years of teasing and trickery.” Of course I made the rookie mistake of looking him straight in the eye while I said it, and couldn’t stop my indrawn breath as I had the first really good look at him since my tumble while out running. Damn, damn, damn, he was just amazingly handsome. I was saved from committing any immediate indiscretion because I had to wonder why I hadn’t noticed that before. That was when I experienced a revelation. Was my sudden recent change of perception in any way linked to all the other scary crap that had invaded my life? Too much of a coincidence. That made me shout, “Ken, come down here now!” As soon as I said it, I realized I would have to drag my brother out of his room, so I pulled away from Harry and his long fingered hands – don’t even think about what he could do with them, Janice – and bounded upstairs. Rapping on his door loudly, I screamed, “Get your scaredy-cat backside out here, we have serious things to discuss.”
It took me two minutes to get him out of his bolt hole, downstairs, and seated on the sofa next to Harry. That was when my father came home.
“Harry,” he said in greeting, and went to shake his hand. “Feeling better now?” For some strange reason, he had always approved of him. While their attention was on each other, I signaled Ken to say nothing. My dad’s unexpected appearance ensured we couldn’t talk about what was happening with me, as there was absolutely no way I was going to tell him about all the crap that had befallen me recently. Unfortunately my dad noticed the one thing I didn’t want him to. “Harry, you’re gazing at my daughter with what appears to be a certain amount of intent. You going to ask her out at last?”
Wow, dad, way to put the cat amongst the pigeons. Am I the only idiot in my home who hadn’t see the signs? Of course I was; I was too busy avoiding the bastard. I had to set things straight, and fast. “No, dad, he hasn’t, and after all the crap he’s put me through, he’s got a long hard road ahead of him before I say yes.” This shut both their mouths, so I added, “That’s if he even wants to, which, based on his past behavior, I rather doubt.” That kept them quiet for quite a while longer. That was when it dawned on me that I hadn’t said no. Damn.
Harry got himself back on an even keel before my dad did, and told him in a measured tone, “Actually sir, the idea had crossed my mind as your daughter…” He turned to me and stuck out his tongue, reverting to character. “…is a stunningly attractive girl, who is also very intelligent and vivacious. In light of what she has just said however, it seems doing that will have to wait until tomorrow when she is in a better mood.” Whoopee! For a moment there, I thought he was about to suggest that I would make a perfect wife!
Well, I had to give that one to Harry, who chose that moment to send a dazzling smile in my direction. It was all I could do not to send him one of mine back. Shit, why did it have to be Harry? He then scored another brownie point by standing, and addressing my father. “Mr. Donnelly, I think I should be on my way. Please excuse me.” The damnable boy then flashed another wide and oh so appealing one at me, accompanied by a broad wink, as he went out the front door.
Once it had closed behind him, my dad turned to me, and burst out laughing. Thanks for the support, father mine. All I could do was get up with as much grace as I could manage, and throw back over my shoulder, “Call me when dinner’s ready.”
Dinner, naturally, was yet another disaster. My dad could not stop himself going on and on about his current pet peeve. “Now the bloody witches are advertising on TV.”
Squelching any reaction which would give my father ideas, I asked, deadpan, mostly to get back at him for his earlier meanness, “Really, dad, I thought they only made demands.”
Well that set him off, like I thought it would. “It seems our fair city is being inundated with brand new witches, if you believe what they say.”
Before he could get going with a full out explosion, my mum put her oar in the way of it, calmly stating, “Of course I believe it dear, and they wouldn’t be spending good money otherwise. Anyway, love,” she said, now addressing me, “all they want is anyone who thinks they might be showing odd powers to contact the number they showed.” She then added, nonchalantly, “It seems that all the new witches turn out to be about your age.” Adding fuel to my fire, she went on to ask, “Myles, wouldn’t it be something if our Janice turned into a witch?”
We could almost hear his teeth grinding. Keeping his self control admirably, he merely said, “Can’t happen.” That was when I gave Ken a rather too vicious kick under the table while glaring at him pointedly. He got the message. Our dad wasn’t to hear a single word about all of the weird things that had been happening to me. Or else.
Later, I got Ken alone by the expedient of forcing my way into his room. It was a room I didn’t enter, and he probably thought it was an okay place to hide from me, even knowing how pissed I was with him for leaving me alone with Harry earlier. Not today. “Ken, if you hadn’t run away to hide in here earlier,” I told him as I pushed past his doorway, “we could most likely have sorted a lot of this stuff out while Harry was here. Now…” My loud monologue came to an abrupt halt as I noticed a rather flattering photo of me on his desk. Well, now was just not a good time to be distracted, so I put that aside for later, and continued, “…here’s the question: could I be a witch?” The idiot just stared at me with a dumb expression on his face, so I posed another question. “How about: what the hell are these old tunes doing to me?” He stayed mute, so, wound up as I was, I let my voice emphasize my lousy mood, screeching, “And what’s this crap with Lawless bloody Harry?”
At last I got a reaction out of my brother, who raised his hand, palm towards me, and said, “Give me a moment, Jani.” So I gave him a minute while I got my breath back. This seemed to allow him to get his head together enough to give me a proper answer. “As to the first, I don’t know. It sounds like a real possibility, but I understand it runs in families, so if you are, then I might be and at least one of our parents could be too.”
“Wow, if dad’s a witch, that’d be something!” And it’d turn his bigoted world on its head.
“Don’t get too excited, Jani, it’s only one possibility. After all, your symptoms aren’t exactly classic witch.”
“You mean I don’t have any sudden urges to run out and get a cauldron and a broomstick.”
“Don’t forget the pointy hat and the warts.” I gave him the finger for that one, which made him laugh. “What I’m saying is it’s too early to jump to conclusions, and anyway, what about Harry?”
I groaned. “Jesus, Ken. I’ve no idea. I mean suddenly he makes all those Hollywood leading men look positively plain, and tells me roughly the same back.” I punched the bed he was sitting on, and opined, “Damn, if only it wasn’t Harry, I’d be on his lap in a trice, salivating at the thought of licking him all over.”
That really sent Ken into paroxysms, and he ended up on the floor. “That doesn’t sound like my virginal little sister.”
He was right, that wasn’t me at all; time to change the subject as I definitely didn’t want to get onto the topic of my non-existent sex life. “What about those songs?”
“You may not like this idea, but mum was the one who got me going on all those oldies, as they are favourites of hers. We should ask her.”
I was obviously reluctant to explain things to my mother, as she would most likely tell dad, but as that seemed like the only way forward, we found her in the kitchen. Ken took the lead and, skirting the subject, started by asking about the first song that had affected me, and sent me to sleep, Stranger on the shore.
“Funny that you should mention that one,” she replied, with a reminiscient smile. “I used it as a lullaby when you were kids. Did okay with you Ken, but Janice, you went out like a light every time.

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