It wasn't the sort of alleyway that attracted a lot of pedestrian traffic. It was too far removed from the market place, and not quite seedy enough for the randy tourist trade that Soho enjoyed.
It was late enough into the evening that my footsteps echoed in a lonely and eerie manner off the buildings I passed. I had planned to walk down as far as the lane at the end, where I would hop on the underground and head back toward the Leaky Cauldron.
But halfway there, my eyes turned inexplicably to the shop's window. My heart quickened, and my feet, of their own accord, took me inside the dim interior. Some greasy, apathetic-looking merchant eyed me as he leaned against his counter top, waiting for me to speak.
"In the window over there," I said, nodding to the front. "Behind the replica of the Queen Mary and next to the broken clock."
"Yes," he said, drawing out the 's'. "The doll."
"The doll," I repeated.
"It's not a child's toy," he said, knowing full well that he didn't have to tell me. "It's not something you would give to your woman for her bed, or to throw among her cushions."
"No, it isn't." Damn the man, how long would he play me?
He ambled slowly to the window, picking up the object in question and returning to where I stood at the counter. I had one hand in the pocket of my robes, consciously trying to avoid causing the galleons to jingle. What price would this peddler extract for this prize? Any price, and it wouldn't be enough.
Looking down at the obeah, hiding my eyes from his mercantile scrutiny, I waited for the rest of his sales pitch.
"There are many imitations," he said. "Sometimes they work, but most often not. Not everyone knows the powers of this doll."
"Yes, I see that you do. There are those in your world who would pay any price for it."
I looked up at him, seeing the knowledge in his eyes. Was this Muggle working for the Dark Lord? Did I just buy my own death by entering this excuse for a shop?
He looked away, something in my eyes having satisfied him. Speaking toward the front window, he continued. "But also, there are those of us in my world that would like to know we can continue to live. Without poorly explained disasters, where many innocent die. Without having to look over our shoulders for things we won't recognize anyway. But, sadly, we don't have the necessary powers to use this thing."
"It's from Africa," I guessed. I could almost feel the native drums, could almost smell the heavy jungle heat of it.
"Yes, Africa. Made at a certain time, in a certain way, by a certain priestess. Not for purchase by just anyone."
"Yes, I see that you know."
I waited for him to name his price, knowing I'd pay it, and no longer caring that he knew I'd pay it.
"For you, mister, twenty pounds."
I almost laughed in his face. I removed my hand from the stack of galleons in my pocket and reached into another pocket for a Muggle twenty-pound note. Tossing it onto the counter, I scooped up the doll and headed out the door.
Back in my rooms at Hogwarts, I put the obeah on the table in front of me and studied it. It was made of heavy, coarse burlap, with arms and legs roughly shaped to resemble a human form. Its head had no facial features, save for a single blue bead sewn into its brow. It gave the doll a Cyclops-like appearance.
Turning it over, I found a pouch in its back, closed with light-weight twine. I opened it carefully, seeing the silken pocket where something could be placed. I was dying to try it out, suddenly frightened that the shopkeeper had a box full of these fakes in his stockroom.
I stuffed the obeah under the cushion of the sofa before getting up to answer the knock at my door. Filch was standing there, taking all of ten minutes to whine about having caught two Gryffindors violating curfew. He wanted permission to have them clean the potions classroom for their detention.
As I nodded, impatient to get back to my examination of the obeah, I impulsively reached out and yanked a strand of hair from Filch.
"Hey, what gives?" the caretaker asked in his surly voice.
"Forgive me, Argus," I said smoothly. "I thought I saw a flobberworm in your hair."
Sneering at me, he backed away and headed for the potions classroom, two sullen students in tow.
I shut the door, already rolling the greasy strand of hair between my palms to make a tiny ball of it. I quickly untied the pouch at the back of the doll and placed the hair inside, then tied it closed again.
What to do now? I paced my rooms, gripping the doll, looking all around me for inspiration. Throwing down the doll to the floor, I picked up the coffee table and brought it down on its side directly on top of the obeah.
I stood there, breathing heavily, until the table made me aware of its weight. After setting it back where it belonged, I picked up the doll, feeling slightly foolish. Untying the pouch, I went to remove the hair, but amazingly, I couldn't find it. Did that mean...
I heard the sound of frantic voices in the hallway outside my door. Running to see what the commotion was, I saw that Minerva had already come down and was calming the boys so their words would be more easily understood.
"He tried to pick up the desk to show us how filthy it was underneath," one said. "He knows he's not good at magic, he's just a Squib, but he did it anyway. The desk fell on him; it hit him right on his neck. I think he's dead!"
I ran to the classroom, and without even approaching, I could see the truth of what the boy had said. The heavy desk was still on him, and his neck was so obviously broken under it.
The rest of the night was a blur to me. I wasn't fully aware of my surroundings again until after the funeral service.
Stunned by the power I'd held in my hands that night, I'd hidden the doll away. But not even a week later, I was drawn to its hiding place behind the loose stone at my fireplace. Knowing that Filch's death could not be attributed to coincidence, I began to calculate the best way to use the obeah.
I lacked inspiration; that was my problem. So much to be done, but I didn't know where to begin. Then I received an Owl from Malfoy. The blasted wizard had escaped Azkaban, had gone into hiding, and now had the temerity to contact me. How could he pretend to trust me so much when I could never trust him?
It would be such a relief not to have to watch my back around him for the rest of my life. Wondering if the organic matter of his handwriting would be enough, I tore off enough of the parchment to get a good amount of his writing, but still, a small enough piece to fit into the pouch of the obeah.
Once again, I paced my rooms. Glancing into the kitchenette, I entered and quickly filled the sink with water. Shoving the doll to the bottom, I held it there for what seemed like an hour. Wondering how long it would take for someone to find his body somewhere, I emptied the sink, wringing out the doll before checking its pouch.
It was empty.
It took three days, but finally, at the Order meeting, Potter informed us all that Malfoy's body had been found floating in the North Sea. He had drowned, and had most likely been there since the prison riot, which allowed so many to escape.
Heady with the power I'd been denied all my life, I drank myself through a bottle and a half of Ogden's Old Firewhisky that night. Almost giggling at the potential I found within me and the obeah, I began to wonder how to obtain something organic from the Dark Lord himself.
As I looked down at the ugly mark on my left arm, beginning to darken, I had a scathingly brilliant idea. No, I wouldn't answer the summons; it would only be to hear the insane wizard rant about how his favorite servant had unceremoniously drowned himself.
I worked with my knife, carefully shaving off the top layer of skin, right where the mark was coming in vividly. I didn't mind the blood, the pain. Ogden's Old was a magnificent anesthetic. Placing the bloody bit of skin into the pouch, I placed the obeah on the table to close the latch.
Savoring the moment of my most brilliant efforts, I waved until all the candles I had strewn around my rooms were lit, filling my rooms with the victorious smell of sandalwood and pine.
Lifting the obeah, I kissed it mockingly and tossed it into the lit fireplace. As it began to burn, I ignored the pain of my arm. I'd never have to answer the summons again! I waved my arms around me in celebration, my robes billowing out.
The heat was far too intense. Was it possible all these candles would do that? I looked over at the fireplace, where the obeah was becoming nothing more than a charred mass. Too late, I noticed that my robes were burning. I flung them off, but at the same time, I realized what I had done.
That's when I sat down at my table to finish this entry. The world must know what happened. There is no saving myself now, the flames prevent me from leaving this inferno that I created out of my own arrogant stupidity. My wand had burned along with my robes, and I can barely breathe now . . .
My only hope is to place this journal in the sink, under water. It can be dried later . . .