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Practical, and Magic

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Carrie thought that Miss Price was simply the most wonderful lady in the world. Back in London, Aunt Bessie had looked after Carrie and Charles and Paul very well, and worked so hard as well. Carrie had looked forward to being as good a mother as Aunt Bessie had been to them, and probably a cleaner like her as well. Well, that part she hadn’t look forward to, exactly, it just seemed to come with being a woman and grown up, so far as she could see.

That, or married to a rich man who hired cleaners of his own, and Carrie knew better than to count on that.

Miss Price, though. Miss Price told everyone what she thought and took no nonsense from anyone. And she wasn’t one of those adults who spoke to children as if they were puppies; she spoke to Carrie as an adult, and Paul as well. Charles she was a bit too tolerant of, sometimes. He needed a good smack some days, Charles.

Still. Miss Price was just smashing. A bit frightening with her backfiring motorcycle and her sharp eyes to start with, but oh, Carrie loved that yellow smoke. Miss Price was just so very there, with her beautifully cut skirt suit, and her clear gaze, and her telling everyone what was what. And then turning Charles into a rabbit! And every man who pushed her around after that, as well. No, Carrie couldn’t think of being only a cleaner and a wife now.

Carrie wanted to fly, like Miss Price flew when she led her army of ghosts. And Carrie wasn’t afraid of any poisoned dragon’s livers. If they even had anything to do with magic the way Miss Price was magic anyway. What were they for? Not for flying, and not for turning people into rabbits, and not for travelling anywhere you wanted to go. Not for commanding your very own army of ghosts.

Miss Price wasn’t afraid of anything, not even the Germans, not once she could look them in the eye. She didn’t even notice that clergy man who was always about with his greedy eyes; she just kept right on shutting doors in his face. Well, until Mr Browne punched him in the nose one day, and then he stopped knocking on the door every Wednesday and Friday. Carrie thought Miss Price would have gotten around to turning him into a rabbit sooner or later, once the clergy man had done something really rude. Carrie would have done it the first time she laid eyes on him, if she could have.

Miss Price said she wasn’t going to be a witch any more, after her workroom blew up, but Carrie had been commanding her own little army of brothers, and they salvaged quite a lot from the wreckage. Nothing had caught on fire, so actually most of the papers were safe. Miss Price’s spell book took a long time to find, but they should have just asked Cosmic Creepers to begin with; he’d known exactly where it was: mostly safe and tangled up with Miss Price’s nightgown.

The dragon’s livers were a lost cause, but that was all right. And the broom – any broom would do! Not too safe for broom flying most nights anyway, and besides, when you had the Bed the broom really was a bit of a lark. Nothing wrong with a good lark now and again, ‘course, but Miss Price was practical. Carrie liked that about her. (Practical was even better when it came with singing and dancing and having fun sometimes. Carrie wouldn’t ever tell Miss Price, but she thought that Miss Price probably loved flying her broom just as much as Carrie loved to watch her.)

Mr Browne turned out to be quite a good cook, and most nights he jollied Charles and Paul into helping him in the kitchen. Carrie thought it was very funny that her brothers did not seem to realise that they were being taught how to cook by Mr Browne. She loved Mr Browne for it, because she and Miss Price spent time together then, going through her papers together. Miss Price taught Carrie many, many things on those evenings – the house accounts, and Miss Price’s investments and financial affairs, and how to look after the motor cycle, and quite a lot about herbs. She taught her how to manage one’s own house, and use little charms – the ones Miss Price hadn’t learned from Professor Emelius Browne’s Correspondence College of Witchcraft. Those ones Miss Price didn’t know how she knew, and those ones she never forgot.

Miss Price taught Paul and Charlie anything they asked about as well, but it was those evenings that Carrie liked best.

For weeks after the night the Germans came, Carrie dreamed of watching the ghost soldiers come to life in the museum, and Miss Price flying out over the town to lead them. She dreamed of the beat of the drums and the blast of the trumpets, and Miss Price calling down to the German captain calm as you please. She dreamed of Miss Price flying into gunfire, and the stamp of the hollow armour boots, and the Germans yelling in fear and running away.

When Carrie had learned everything she could, she’d bring a crack team of ghost armour with her on the Bed, land them behind Hitler’s lines and sent them to assassinate generals. Or she’d find a way to enchant a ship’s wheel, and land a ship full of ghost soldiers right where in would hurt Germany the most. Or, she’d tell the Bed to take her to Hitler, and see if it could. Miss Price would turn him into a rabbit right quick.

Carrie was going to be a witch. She’d live with Miss Price and Mr Browne, and Paul maybe – Charlie wouldn’t stay forever – and she’d study and practice and arrive in town in a cloud of blue smoke, and fly. She would lead armies of ghosts and wear whatever she wanted, and ride her broom astride like Miss Price.

And if Carrie couldn’t make the magic work for her – if it turned out that she could do the small things, but not Substitutiary Locomotion, well, she was learning Miss Price’s stare and directness as well. No, Carrie would choose a life for herself, and it would be a bigger life here in Pepperinge Eye than London had ever showed her was possible.

The war didn’t make anyone feel lucky, but Carrie was so very glad that she had come to live with Miss Price.