The Boggart lay at the bottom of the tin bath, a small mound of damp brown fur against the white of the sheet that Aunt Zelda had laid underneath him. He half opened his eyes and regarded his visitors with a bleary, unfocused gaze.
“Hello, Boggart. Are you feeling better?” asked Jenna.
The Boggart did not respond. Aunt Zelda dipped a sponge into a bucket of warm water and gently bathed him.
“Just keeping Boggart damp,” she said. “A dry Boggart is not a happy Boggart.”
“He’s not looking good, is he?” Jenna whispered to Nicko as they tiptoed quietly out of the kitchen with Aunt Zelda.
The Hunter, still poised outside the kitchen door, regarded Jenna with a baleful stare as she appeared. His piercing pale blue eyes locked on to her and followed her across the room. But the rest of him was as immobile as ever.
Jenna felt the stare and glanced up. A cold shiver shot through her. “He’s looking at me,” she said. “His eyes are following me.”
“Bother,” tutted Aunt Zelda. “He’s beginning to DeFrost. I’d better take this before it causes any more trouble.”
Aunt Zelda pulled the silver pistol out of the Hunter’s Frozen hand. His eyes flashed angrily as she expertly broke open the gun and removed a small silver ball from its chamber.
“Here you are,” Aunt Zelda said, handing the silver bullet to Jenna. “It has been looking for you for ten years, and now its search is over. You are safe now.”
Jenna smiled uncertainly and rolled the solid silver sphere around her palm with a sense of revulsion; although, she could not help but admire how perfect it was. Almost perfect. She lifted it up and squinted at a tiny nick in the ball. To her surprise there were two letters carved into the silver: I.P.
“What’s I.P. mean?” Jenna asked Aunt Zelda. “Look, it’s here on the bullet.”
Aunt Zelda did not reply for a moment. She knew what the letters meant, but she was unsure about telling Jenna.
“I.P.,” murmured Jenna, thinking it over. “I.P….”
“Infant Princess,” said Aunt Zelda. “A named bullet. A named bullet will always find its target. It doesn’t matter how or when, but find you it will. As yours has done. But not in the way they intended.”
“Oh,” said Jenna quietly. “So the other one, the one for my mother, did it have…”
“Yes, it did. It had Q on it.”
“Ah. Can I keep the pistol too?” asked Jenna.
Aunt Zelda looked surprised. “Well, I suppose so,” she said. “If you really want to.”
Jenna took the gun and held it as she had seen both the Hunter and the Assassin do, feeling its heavy weight in her hand and the strange sense of power holding it gave her.
“Thank you,” she said to Aunt Zelda, handing the pistol back to her. “Can you keep it safe for me. For now?”
The Hunter’s eyes followed Aunt Zelda as she marched the pistol off to her Unstable Potions and Partikular Poisons cupboard and locked it away. They followed her back again as she walked up to him and felt his ears. The Hunter looked furious. His eyebrows twitched, and his eyes flashed angrily, but nothing else moved.
“Good,” said Aunt Zelda, “his ears are still Frozen. He can’t hear what we say yet. We’ve got to decide what we’ll do with him before he DeFrosts.”
“Can’t you just ReFreeze him?” asked Jenna.
Aunt Zelda shook her head. “No,” she replied regretfully. “You shouldn’t ReFreeze someone once they start to DeFrost. It’s not safe for them. They can get Freezer Burn. Or else go horribly soggy. Not a nice sight. But still, the Hunter’s a dangerous man and he won’t give up the Hunt. Ever. And somehow we have to stop him hunting us.”
Jenna was thinking.
“We need,” she said, “to make him forget everything. Even who he is.” She chuckled. “We could make him think he’s a lion tamer or something.”
“And then he’d join a circus and find out that he wasn’t, just after he’d put his head into a lion’s mouth,” Nicko finished.
“We must not use Magyk to endanger life,” Aunt Zelda reminded them.
“He could be a clown, then,” said Jenna. “He’s scary enough.”
“Well, I have heard there’s a circus due in the Port any day now. I’m sure he’d find work.” Aunt Zelda smiled. “They take all sorts, I’m told.”
Aunt Zelda fetched an old, tattered book called Magyk Memories.
“You’re good at this,” she said, handing the book to Boy 412. “Can you find the right Charm for me? I think it’s called Rogue Recollections.”
Boy 412 leafed though the musty old book. It was one of those where most of the Charms had been lost, but toward the end of the book he found what he was looking for: a small, knotted handkerchief with some smudgy black writing along the hem.
“Good,” said Aunt Zelda. “Perhaps you could do the spell for us, please?”
“Me?” asked Boy 412, surprised.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” replied Aunt Zelda. “My eyesight isn’t up to it in this light.” She reached up and checked the Hunter’s ears. They were warm. The Hunter glared at her and narrowed his eyes in that familiar cold stare. No one took any notice.
“He can hear now,” she said. “Best get this done before he can speak too.”
Boy 412 carefully read the spell’s instructions. Then he held the knotted handkerchief and said,
Whatever your Historie may be
’tis lost to You when you see Me.
Boy 412 waved the handkerchief in front of the Hunter’s angry eyes; then he undid the knot. With that, the Hunter’s eyes went blank. His gaze was no longer threatening, but bewildered and maybe a little frightened.
“Good,” said Aunt Zelda. “That seems to have worked well. Can you do the next bit now, please?”
Boy 412 said quietly,
So listen to your new-sprung Ways,
Remember Now your diff’rent Days.
Aunt Zelda planted herself in front of the Hunter and addressed him firmly. “This,” she told him, “is the story of your life. You were born in a hovel down in the Port.”
“You were a horrible child,” Jenna told him. “And you had pimples.”
“No one liked you,” added Nicko.
The Hunter began to look very unhappy.
“Except your dog,” said Jenna, who was beginning to feel just a bit sorry for him.
“Your dog died,” said Nicko.
The Hunter looked devastated.
“Nicko,” remonstrated Jenna. “Don’t be mean.”
“Me? What about him?”
And so the Hunter’s horribly tragic life unfolded before him. It was riddled with unfortunate coincidences, stupid mistakes and highly embarrassing moments that made his newly DeFrosted ears go red at their sudden recollection. At last the sad tale was finished off with his unhappy Apprenticeship to an irascible clown known to all who worked for him as Dog Breath.
The Apprentice watched with a mixture of glee and horror. The Hunter had tormented him for so long, and the Apprentice was glad to see someone was at last getting the better of him. But he could not help but wonder what they were planning to do to him.
As the sorry tale of the Hunter’s past ended, Boy 412 reknotted the handkerchief and said,
What was your Life has gone away,
Another Past does now hold sway.
With some effort, they carried the Hunter outside like a large, unwieldy plank and set him up beside the Mott, so that he could finish DeFrosting out of the way. The Magog paid him no attention whatsoever, having just scooped its thirty-eighth Shield Bug out of the mud and being preoccupied with whether to take the wings off this one before it liquified it or not.
“Give me a nice garden gnome any day,” said Aunt Zelda, regarding her new and, she hoped, temporary garden ornament with distaste. “But that’s a job well done. Now all we’ve got to sort out is the Apprentice.”
“Septimus…” mused Jenna. “I can’t believe it. What will Mum and Dad say? He’s so horrible.”
“Well, I suppose growing up with DomDaniel hasn’t done him any good,” said Aunt Zelda.
“Boy 412 grew up in the Young Army, but he’s okay,” Jenna pointed out. “He would never have shot the Boggart.”