(1938-10-06) To Catch a Thief: Celebrity Visit
Details for To Catch a Thief: Celebrity Visit
Summary: Following up a request from Phil, Astoria goes to Godric's Hollow and visits a potential victim.
Date: 6 October 1938
Location: Godric's Hollow
Related: Plot:To Catch a Thief, Seeking Assistance

The address for Mrs Millicent Gardner of Godric's Hollow is easy enough for Astoria to find. The thatched cottage looks tired but well kept. Whoever lives there has pride in their home. By the time Astoria arrives it is near tea time and there is a warm cozy light coming from the windows in the cottage.

There is a loud CRACK near the outskirts of the village where, with little warning, a woman wearing black robes appears. Her robes rotate wildly, but only for a moment, before she places her wand inside them. A moment later, Astoria brushes her hair out of her face and strides down the cobbled street towards the address she was given. It only takes her a few minutes to find the cottage and open the small gate that leads onto its walkway. Moments later, she raps gently on the front door, her eyes keen and focused.

There is twitching of curtains, not just in the cottage Astoria stands before but also on a couple of other houses nearby. The door opens a crack and a small, plump witch's face appears. "Who're you?" It is hard to tell how old the woman actually is what with her vibrantly blue dyed hair. A small cat slips out the crack in the door and Millicent opens it wider with a sigh. "You'd best come in. I have to leave it open for Mr Tinkles anyway." The witch standing before Astoria resembles a blueberry on legs. Her hair and her robes are perfectly coordinated.

Well - that was simple! Astoria's smile is small, and does not show her teeth, while she regards the older witch. "I am Astoria Bletchley," she replies, curtsying slightly. She steps inside the door, allowing Mr. Tinkles the right-away. A moment later, she adds, "Are you Madame Gardner?" She takes a moment to look around the home - or, at least the entryway.

Astoria Bletchley! That name means something. Millicent reaches up to smooth her hair in what has to be said is a valiant effort to stop it from sticking out at odd angles but alas is a failed one. "I am indeed. Would you care for some tea?" She toddles into the front room leading the way. The interior of the cottage is much like the outside; bearing a mark of shabby gentility. Generations of family stare down at those who pass by the paintings in the hallway. In the front room, where Millicent lead, there is soft music coming from the wizarding wireless and a pair of knitting needles making a fair isle jumper. "I have one of your books here…" she rummages through an overfilled bookshelf and with an "AH" locates the book.

"That would be lovely," is Astoria's answer. She follows the witch, moving quietly, until they enter the kitchen. Along the way she studies several photographs and, of course, the various nooks and crannies of the rustic home. Once inside the kitchen, however, her attention focuses intently on Millicent. "Oh, excellent," she remarks, tone pleased. "Did you enjoy the book?" she asks, letting a smile creep onto her lips.

"Oh I did!" gushes Millicent. She sets the book down on a small occasional table that stands between the arm chairs near the fire. There are already tea things set out but the woman toddles to a dresser to fetch another cup and saucer. "Are you lost dearie? Is that why you are here? Sometimes the Hollow can be confusing on a cold night like this." Gesturing to one of the chairs Millicent takes the other. The furniture is worn and repaired but clearly the family once had money because it is of good make and has stood the test of time and several generations.

Astoria seats herself after the offer and smiles, again, after Millicent gushes. She watches the older woman, eyes focused, while settling into her chair. She replies rather quickly, "Oh, no. I am here at the behest of a colleague. We are working together on a story for the Prophet. To be frank, Madam Gardner, I need your help." Astoria pauses, and her eyes darken somewhat. She reaches to take her cup and saucer, and then pours herself a cup of tea.

Millicent looks a bit confused. "My help? I am just milliner, Ms Bletchley. What can I do to help?" She takes a small tart from the plate on the tray and bites into it as she watches Astoria, her eyes a bit wide with amazement still.

"There is a man - a thief - who has been preying upon women for an extended duration. My colleague and I think you were one of his targets." Astoria holds the older woman's gaze while she speaks. She continues, "He uses a powerful memory charm to keep people he comes into contact with from remembering the encounter. My colleague and I were wondering - did you ever come into contact with the thief?" Her tone is level, but, while speaking, becomes slightly strained. The experience is not easy, and the question is a difficult one for Astoria to speak aloud. Perhaps she is not used to such intimate questions.

The question gives the older witch pause and the hand holding the remains of the tart shakes. She lowers it to her lap and looks around the otherwise empty room. With a faint nod she says, "I met him. It was awful. But he wasn't that good with the charm so in the end he clubbed me over the head and took my things. I was heading towards the hospital in London. It was Tuesday and Tuesdays are when I visit my sister-in-law. She lives there permanently now since the potions damage became too difficult for us to treat." She sets the tart aside and rubs her hands together. "He was shocked that I could use magic, that I could resist the charm."

Astoria listens to the older woman quietly, nodding as she gives her account. "Madam… we, my colleague and I, need your help in bringing this man - no, this monster to justice. If we do nothing, he will continue unimpeded. But with your story, we could gain a glimpse into the origins of the charm he uses." She leans forward a little. "I cannot /imagine/ the stress this must cause. If there is aught that I may do then please, by all means, tell me. I will do what I can."

Millicent closes her eyes. "I was embarrassed and did not want them to know what happened. I said I had fallen." Elderly people fall, it was a sensible excuse for her to use. When she opens her eyes she looks straight at Astoria. "But my sister-in-law thinks I should tell them what really happened. Do you and your friend think that if a healer looked at me they could still tell what the spell was?"

Astoria answers Millicent with a nod, and, "I am very confident that they will be able to tell. If you heard the incantation, I can search through an entire library to find its source, too." Astoria leans backward, relaxing. "You needn't be embarrassed, Madam. He is an accomplished thief, and determined. You are a source of great bravery, I-" she clears her throat, and takes a moment to collect herself. "I think your will to fight against him is a source of inspiration."

Her small hands gripping the arms of her chair, Millicent nods. "I will do it then. I will go speak with a healer on Tuesday when I go down to visit my sister-in-law." She breathes out a heavy sigh as if the incident had been weighing her down for sometime. "Would you sign my book for me before you go Ms Bletchley?" With trembling hands Millicent picks up the book and holds it out to Astoria.

"I think that is an excellent idea. I will meet you there, if it pleases you," Astoria replies. The question takes Astoria back, but only for a moment - she smiles, letting her lips curve upwards until her teeth can be seen beneath them. "Oh, I would be delighted." She reaches forward, taking the book with a smile, and places it in her lap. A moment later she removes a pen from her robes and opens the cover. It takes her only a moment to write, "To Millicent Gardner - Each fear conquered is a footprint that is soon lost to the elements. Yours truly, ~Astoria Bletchley." She hands the text back to Millicent, smiling, before tucking the pen into her robes.

Millicent takes the book and gushes over the inscription. She shares tea and tarts with Astoria, treating her like the celebrity she is and then tires after about twenty minutes or so at which point Mr Tinkles returns and Astoria is politely shown the door so Millicent can send an excited owl to her sister-in-law telling her about the visit from a famous writer!

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