There was no telling WHAT Criss had expected, but it was not this.
He was straddling, most uncomfortably, a thin wooden broom handle, and grasping, also uncomfortably, the waist of a man he was forcing himself to admire; although admittedly, his patience was waning.
At first the broom took them straight up into the air, much higher than was necessary, and at an incredible speed which slowed down considerably once they had reached the desired altitude. Criss would have at least liked to be low enough so that someone on the ground who happened to be awake might have seen them. After all, what was the point of doing magic when there was no one there to be impressed by it? Although, he reasoned, this man-- Mr. Plutker-- was probably just trying to impress him.
It was working, of course, but Criss would have settled for something more dazzling and less... dangerous. He was forced to painfully situate his crotch to the right of the broomstick handle, and his weight threatened to shift too far to that side at any moment. He was holding onto Mr. Plutker to balance himself, but Mr. Plutker kept swerving the broom every time Criss put any more pressure on him. It was as if the man had never attempted this trick on anyone else before. Criss was honored to be the guinea pig, naturally, but even that privilege could not help him suppress such primal fears as falling miles from a flimsy flying stick.
After the first few minutes of the flight, Criss began to relax enough to consider the magical mastery it must require to perform a trick like this. He chided himself for the negative feelings toward Mr. Plutker that had been brewing since they'd taken off. The man must be an absolute genius to make a regular broomstick honestly fly, let alone to carry the weight of two men in doing so. And, Criss reminded himself, he was extremely fortunate just to be here, and to be given the opportunity to learn magic from people who were probably at least half as good as Mr. Plutker.
Their descent was sudden, and just as fast as their ascent had been, only more terrifying because this time they were plummeting downward. Criss let out a weak scream that he was very grateful J.D. had not been there to hear, but they slowed down to a reasonable speed before landing softly on the precious, beautiful ground of a small courtyard.
"Evenin' Charles," said a woman's voice. Criss was still regaining his dignity and hadn't looked up yet.
"Alright Fannie?" said Mr. Plutker. "Just had to pick this boy up from one 'a those muggle hotels. Hogwarts, ya know. Mother 'ad a right tantrum tryin' ta bring him 'ere."
Fannie and another woman were sitting at a small round table that Criss could only see by the light of the candle between them. They were both smoking long cigarettes and had huge dollops of curly, frizzy hair, which made Criss smile and nearly forget his recent trauma. They reminded him of how kids' mothers would dress up as hags for Halloween. He couldn't see their noses, but in his mind, there was no question they contained warts.
"Is that right," said Fannie. "Well, best get him inside before the dogs start a-howlin'."
"Right you are," said Mr. Plutker, and he steered Criss by the shoulder through a door and into a tavern-- the very same tavern where they'd met earlier that day.
"This is the Leaky Cauldron, isn't it?" said Criss, more in an effort to make conversation than because he was curious or unsure.
"Indeed it is, Mr. Angel," said Mr. Plutker, smiling but still steering him directly toward the staircase. "Now, everything's been arranged and you'll be staying the night here. I'll meet you downstairs at 9 a.m. sharp, and make sure you eat breakfast before that, as we'll have a long day ahead of us."
Mr. Plutker pushed open a door to a tiny room with nothing but a bed, a table, and a window. "And don't worry about your mother, everything'll be explained to her in the morning. Goodnight, then."
"Goodnight," said Criss.
And with that, he walked into the little closet of a room, closed the door, and enjoyed a deep sigh.
For this was only the beginning... the beginning of something likely even greater than what he was imagining. It was more than just magic. More than just magic school... more than lots of magicians gathered together in one place. Because they weren't just doing magic, they were embracing the lifestyle of magic.
Even in New York he had been laughed at by normal people for dressing the way he did. AND he had been laughed at by people who dressed the same way, for attempting to do magic for them. But never had he been laughed at by a fellow magician, and it was this more than anything that had brought him to this place. The fellowship, the brotherhood, of magicians who sacrificed everything for their art, all for the purpose of entertaining those who understood less.
There was an alarm clock on the bedside table, but Criss did not touch it. He had faith that his body would wake him, as always, at exactly 5:57. He crawled into the gnarly bed and prepared himself for sleep, hoping he would dream about something other than his recent broomstick experience.