‘I have to say, Mr Aether, I’m a bit tired of your behaviour,’ O’Hanlon said, circling the living room. He frowned at the odd jar of insects or box of coloured rocks. ‘Just two days ago, you couldn’t get rid of me quick enough, and now you need to speak urgently?’
‘I’m sure you know what I need to talk to you about?’ Charley said, waving a hand at Valorie. Valorie, however, was not going anywhere. This matter had as much to do with her, as it had to do with Charley. Eddie however, retreated upstairs.
‘Yes, I understand you have some concerns about the proposal for the Wizard Watch List?’
‘Oh my God… is this really necessary? Why does the Government need to keep a catalogue of who’s a Wizard and who’s not?
‘It’s just a cautionary procedure. People running amok with all these… powers… powers we can’t even begin to understand. The common Mortals are frightened.’
‘So what does that mean?’ Valorie asked. ‘If someone commits a crime, and it just happens they’re a Wizard, they’ll get more punishment than normal people? It’s insane!’
‘Valorie!’ Charley said sharply. Valorie shut up.
‘I don’t see why cautionary measures have to be taken now,’ Charley said to O’Hanlon. ‘We are not running amok, as you so eloquently say. Most Wizards are decent, law-abiding citizens.’
‘Ah! Most of them are,’ O’Hanlon said, his face lighting up with satisfaction, ‘but of course some of them run rioting around the streets at night, blowing fire and scaring the wits out of civilians. Don’t they, Mr Aether?’
Charley ground his teeth. He had a fury in his eyes that Valorie had never seen – and she had seen his eyes a lot.
‘People,’ he said dangerously, ‘of all ages, races, religions, genders and from many different backgrounds, can be capable of committing a crime. By singling Wizards out as especially rampant troublemakers, you are sending a very bad message to the civilians. And what if this National Database information got out? The persecution against the Wizards would never cease.’
‘Well, it’s not my place to say,’ O’Hanlon said, not the least bit affected by Charley’s words. ‘What can I do to change things?’
‘Talk to people. Make a stand. Do something.’
‘I’m afraid I just don’t have the authority to do so. The only reason I have this job, is because it was assigned to me. Taking a stand against my own cause can lose me my job. So there is nothing I can do.’
Charley made an angry noise, then took a step back, as if he didn’t trust himself not to behave violently towards the taunting Official.
‘The Wizarding community will not stand for this,’ he said.
‘Ha! What Wizarding community? How are you going to find the other Wizards? You, who are so afraid of speaking out to the Mortals, for fear of being bullied. No, Mr Aether, for the moment anyway, I think you’re all alone.’
Valorie looked curiously at Charley’s face, which was pointed down towards the floor. When he spoke, it was with a low, resigned tone.
‘Please get out of my house.’
Valorie glared at the smug, triumphant look on O’Hanlon’s face, before he turned and left the house. The door slammed.
Charley lifted his head. His face was no longer cheerless. He turned to Valorie.
‘I think I have a idea to bring the Wizarding community together. It occurred to me just now.’
Valorie looked uncertainly at him. ‘Will it work?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I have to be. If you have any doubt about your own ideas, how can anyone else?’
Valorie swallowed. ‘OK, but… is there any way I can help?’
‘That depends. Do you have an email address?’