Apparating was out of the question. Neither Rolf nor Luna had even suggested it, for they both knew that any kind of trace magic would frighten the Auguries, who had been screeching for a while, signaling a coming rainstorm. The two magizoologists had not even brought their wands, so the two were wandering, lost in the forest with only two muggle lanterns to guide them, looking for a place to stay dry for the night.
It wasn’t until she had nearly bumped her nose into it that Luna saw the door before her. “Hello,” she whispered to the wood, holding her lantern up to try to determine what kind of structure she had found.
In the dim light, she could make out that the structure was little bigger than a shed, but it looked quite deserted, and it was a promising shelter for the evening.
“Rolf!” she called.
“Yes, darling?” he answered, the lantern (which signaled his position) bobbing as he turned around.
“I think I’ve found someplace to stay,” she said, gesturing for him to join her.
She had just tested the doorknob and found it unlocked when, from behind her back, she heard a crash and a sort of wail.
“All right, love?” she asked, hand on the doorknob.
“Yes, yes. Be right there!” came the muffled reply.
Luna pushed the door all the way open, only to find that the inside of the shack was much different than it appeared on the outside.
“Fascinating,” Luna said softly, staring at a short set of stairs which should not have fit in a shack of any kind; even more surprising was the fact that the stairs led to what looked like an expansive front room.
“Hello?” Luna called, ascending the stairs and allowing her lantern fall uselessly to her side.
The room was well-lit by a blazing fire in an open stove. Across from the fire, she found a half-eaten dinner on a dark wood table.
“Hello?” she called again, approaching the table, listening to her voice echo in the cavernous room.
This time she was answered, but not by a human voice—a silver tabby cat was tucked in a corner of the room. She was growling, but it was muffled because she held a small kitten in her teeth.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Luna said, “Is this your house?”
The cat growled again.
Luna tilted her head and considered the cat and her kitten again. “You don’t have to stay like that if you don’t want to,” she said, “You can turn yourself back into a human.”
The cat gave her a startled look, which morphed into a suspicious glare from a very human face. Although the woman who stood in the cat’s place was obviously young, she had silky silver hair like her fur had been, and she held a beautiful baby with striking blue eyes.
“How did you know that I’m human?” the woman asked, clutching her baby to her chest.
Luna looked at the woman. “Well, isn’t it obvious?” she said. “You’re an Animagus!”
“I’m a what?”
It was at this moment that Rolf decided to make an appearance, stumbling ungracefully into the house and up the stairs. Luna began to knock some of the leaves and sticks that had become entangled in her husband’s hair, and whisked a spider-web off of his eyelash. Even without these decorations, Rolf still looked quite bedraggled, as his Muggle clothes hung wetly off his skinny frame.
“I see the rain has started,” commented the woman with the silver hair.
“Yes, it has,” Rolf told her good-naturedly, and stretched out a hand toward her, “I’m Rolf Scamander, and this is my wife, Luna. We’re terribly sorry to intrude. We thought the house was empty.”
The woman with the baby looked almost startled enough to turn back into a cat.
Luna slipped her hand into her husband’s, and said gently, “I don’t believe we should have been able to see this place.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” the woman said. “My name is Sophie Jenkins, and this”—she gently bounced the baby she was holding—“is Morgan.”
“What am I? Chopped liver?” came a voice from farther inside the room.
“Oh, yes,” Sophie said, nodding towards the fire, “And that’s Calcifur.”
From within the fire itself, a face materialized, spitting sparks in an obvious attempt to look frightening. Luna and Rolf just looked at him curiously.
Calcifur sighed, resting what might have been called his chin on what might have been called his hands. “I can’t scare anybody anymore,” he pouted.
“That’s all right, Calcifur,” Sophie told him, “I still like your spark.”
Calcifur’s flames flared as though he were blushing, in an odd way. “Yeah, well,” he said.
Rolf began to approach the creature curiously, adjusting his glasses as he went. “Calcifur, eh? What are you, then?”
Calcifur leaned his flames away from the approaching human, holding up a log from next to the fireplace as if to fend him off.
“He’s a fire demon,” Sophie answered, busying herself by putting Morgan back in her chair and filling a kettle with water, which she hung above Calcifur. “Markl!” she called, “You can come out now!”
A scruffy, but clean boy of fifteen or sixteen came tearing down a flight of stairs that seemed to lead to another floor. “Who is it, Sophie? And why’d Calcifur let ’em in?”
“Oh, as if I have any say anymore,” Calcifur bemoaned.
Markl stopped dead at the bottom of the stairs, considering the two visitors for a moment. “They look funny,” he said, before returning to his half-eaten meal with vigor.
“That’s Markl,” Sophie explained to Luna, “My husband Howl’s apprentice. You’ll have to excuse him. I can barely get him to say a word to me anymore, and he’s always hungry.”
Rolf was not listening, but poking rather presumptuously at Calcifur, who flinched, and finally cried out, “Sophie!” with a spark that burnt Rolf’s intruding finger.
“Calcifur!” Sophie scolded the fire, “That’s no way to treat our guests. Let me fix it for you, Mr. Scamander.”
“Rolf,” he said. “And it’s no problem, really. I can do it.” He reached into the side pocket of his jeans.
“No wands, love,” Luna reminded him gently.
Rolf sheepishly pulled his hand from his pocket which had indeed been empty.
“Wands,” said Sophie curiously, approaching Rolf and taking his hand with a firm, clinical air, “I never can keep track of mine, and I never was much good with it anyway. I find it’s much easier to do without.”
A look of concentration came over her, as she brought Rolf’s burnt finger to her lips and began to whisper in tones too quiet for anyone else to hear.
“There,” she said, after a moment.
Rolf was staring, dumbstruck, at his hand, now free of any injury. Luna was considering Sophie with even more curiosity than she had shown before. Sophie said only, “Would you care for some tea?”
A few hours and a few cups of tea later, the group had begun to understand each other. Luna and Rolf told Sophie about their Augury hunt, which Sophie understood with the exception of a few geographical details, such as the concept of England. In turn, Sophie had explained that the door they had encountered in the woods was her husband Howl’s private exit, from which she had been expecting him back. She invited Rolf and Luna to stay in her old room downstairs until the storm had passed. When they thanked her profusely, she confessed that she wasn’t at all sure she could call the door back to where they came from without Howl’s help.
Rolf made friends with Calcifur, mostly through flattery and questions on how the castle was kept moving, while Luna spoke with Sophie at the table where the silver-haired woman was deftly spooning something into Morgan’s mouth. Markl settled onto a sofa near the window which looked out on a small marina in a tiny bay
“Now, what was it you called me earlier?” Sophie asked.
“Yes! What does that mean? Is that something peculiar to Ainglen?”
“England,” Luna corrected her. “Not really,” Luna told her, “I don’t even think that English witches and wizards were the first to become Animagi. It’s much more likely that the magic came from your world, and we’ve just formalized it and given it a name.”
“Yes, I’d never realized how much is common to both worlds,” Sophie replied. “You said you were looking for Auguries? Those creatures that make that awful racket before it rains?”
“Well, where I come from, we call them Screechers, and they’re supposed to be bad luck. A Screecher’s yell is supposed to be a death omen, or some such nonsense.”
“Auguries are often misunderstood in our world as well,” Luna said, “It’s only people like Rolf and I who go looking for them. We’re magizoologists, you see. We study magical creatures, and we specialize in those animals which are considered to look, or to herald evil. As you and I both know, the Auguries only yell before it rains, and Rolf and I believe that there are so many more creatures that are similarly misunderstood. “
“Certainly,” Sophie agreed. “And I’m sure that misunderstanding is why Howl chose those woods for his portal. If what you say is true, they’re close enough to a town so he can travel within your world without too much difficulty, but far enough away that the castle hasn’t ever been found, until tonight.”
“And you’re sure you’re not a form of salamander, Calcifur?” Rolf was saying, drawing the ladies’ attention.
“What? I’m a scary fire demon! What don’t you get?”
“Give it up, Calcifur,” Sophie called over, “You’re a sweetheart, salamander or not.” She smiled at the indignant sputtering of the fire.
“Would you like us to search for Howl, when we get back to civilization?” Rolf asked Sophie, as they prepared to leave the next morning.
Sophie chuckled, one hand on the handle of the door, ready to attempt to open it to the forest exit for her guests, and the other hand holding Morgan on her hip. “Oh, no, thank you. If I start thinking like that I’ll worry about him.” She chuckled softly. “But do keep in touch, will you? I’m sure your post owls can find the castle, and it would be nice to hear about your world, and how you two are faring in it. I know it’s silly, but I sometimes get lonely being the wife of a reclusive wizard, even with a teenager, a fire demon, and a baby to keep me company.”
Luna smiled. “I will,” she promised, “But you must write back. I want to hear more of your world, as well!”
“Of course,” Sophie agreed, “And I hope we’ll meet again someday. I’ll write to you if the castle is ever on the island of England.”
“Lovely,” Luna said, carefully hugging her newfound friend so as not to disturb Morgan.
“Right,” Sophie said when they separated. “Are you ready?” she asked Luna and Rolf.
They both nodded.
“Calcifur?” Sophie called. “Are you ready?”
“This isn’t gonna work!” griped the demon in response.
“That’s what you said last time, Calcifur,” Sophie told him, placing one hand on the door-knob and turning a second knob a quarter turn to the left with her other hand. “All right, it’s now or never,” she said, “I’m opening the door, Calcifur.”
Sophie turned the knob and opened the door, a strong gust of wind encouraging Luna and Rolf over the threshold. “Good luck on your Augury hunt!” Sophie said, just before they heard the door close behind them. Luna and Rolf looked around, not surprised at all to find themselves in the forest where they’d first entered Howl and Sophie’s Moving Castle.
Over the next few years, Luna and Rolf proposed numerous expeditions to discover just exactly where the divisions were between Sophie’s world and theirs, but as they themselves were not qualified to make the necessary examinations, and no one else believed that they had stumbled upon a different world to begin with, nothing was ever done about it.
But whatever anyone else did or did not believe, there was no denying that Luna often received letters from a “Sophie Jenkins,” at “The Moving Castle.”