The Woman of Secrets by Fynnsmom
Summary: This is Fynnsmom of Ravenclaw House writing for the 2011 Mysterious May Challenge in the Great Hall, Prompt #1.
Categories: Mystery Characters: None
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: No Word count: 4064 Read: 3623 Published: 06/25/11 Updated: 12/29/11

1. Chapter 1: The Trials of Sybil by Fynnsmom

2. Chapter 2: Sophia by Fynnsmom

Chapter 1: The Trials of Sybil by Fynnsmom
Author's Notes:
Sybil Trelawney has a summer job and a secret weapon.

Sybil Trelawney sat alone in a small storefront in the Shoreditch Cultural Quarter in London. She had to take a summer job since her demotion to adjunct professor--a Muggled-up term that meant she didn't teach full-time at Hogwarts. She didn't care so much about the title. It was the disrespect that upset her. Divination wasn't taken seriously as a profession anymore, and to add insult to injury, she wasn't paid full wages over the summer.

When Sybil had tearfully gone to the Ministry, Office of Human Resources, they had told her that there were a number of opportunities awaiting her in the Department of Programs and Grants. From there, she found there were Galleons available for those conducting research in their areas of specialty. But they weren't handing out gold to just anyone. She had to write a grant proposal to compete for the Galleons. As far as Sybil could tell, that meant she had to find a particular area of need in her specialty, Divination. She had to submit a plan on how she would solve that problem, collect data, analyze data, and write a final report on how the problem was solved. Furthermore, she had to convince the Department that this was an important problem to solve, and that she was the one with the unique approach to do the job. The proposal had to be submitted to the Department by 6:00 pm, June 30th. Late applications would be rejected on the spot.

The only problem Sybil could think of was that she couldn't use Divination to solve anything. The Sight was a talent that presented itself when the fates deemed. She couldn't just sit down at someone's request and predict the future. If the Sight appeared to her that was great; if it didn't, there wasn't much she could do to control it. When she told the Department officials that she was an expert in Divination, as if they didn't know already, they tried to hide obvious smirks while they handed her the application forms. It didn't take the Sight to predict that her proposal wouldn't fare well.

Some of her colleagues had already started working on approved projects.� She heard that Poppy Pomfrey was working on a Potion to restore hair growth in circumstances that were impossible before.� Rumor had it that Malfoy Industries was heavily committed to funding the project.� Professors Flitwick and McGonagall were working with Ministry researchers from the Department of Mysteries to develop additions to the Patronus charm.� For those witches and wizards who suffered from depression, casting a Patronus was virtually impossible.� This research focused on self-transfiguration, a sort of self-hypnosis, where the depressed wizard or witch hypnotized themselves into feeling happy and then were able to cast a Patronus.�

When Sybil was questioned as to what shape her research would take, she drew a blank.� She couldn�t think of anything that the Department of Programs and Grants would pay money for.

That was how Sybil found herself in a hole-in-the-wall off an alley in Shoreditch.� It was an obscure location but the rent was cheap and by the month.� If enough students enrolled for Divination classes, the Board of Governors promised Sybil would be back at Hogwarts in the fall.� For now, she was a psychic, a fortune teller.� She had the unique problem of advertising her trade but not wanting to attract too much attention.� She catered to Muggles because they had no idea of who she really was.�

Not able to afford a new wardrobe, and not knowing what to buy if she could afford it, she wore the same clothing she did while teaching.� She decorated her room with pretty things from her classroom.� Her favorite crystal ball was a prominent prop and she separated the main storefront from her private back room with a curtain of beads.� She stopped at a local magic shop and bought tarot cards in case someone expected a reading, and kept her favorite tea in stock in the event someone wanted her to read tea leaves.�

�

She opened her shop for business and soon learned a lot of people thought fortune tellers were a sleazy lot, out to steal their money.� Young women asked if they would get married and older tourists asked if they would have grandchildren.� Sybil�s favorite clients were the goth teenagers, who looked like they had taken grooming lessons from Severus Snape. She was fascinated with all of their piercings and tattoos.� They acted sophisticated but still gave Sybil proper respect.� They seemed to hang on her every word.� She jazzed up her predictions for them.�

What no one guessed or knew was that Sybil had a secret weapon.� When business was slow she slipped beyond the beads into her back room.� There she had what she figured no other fortune teller had�a laptop computer and a printer.� She would feed data into the computer and it would generate horoscopes and other predictions that she would print out.� Sybil would study these and kept a few hidden beneath her flowery tablecloth.� When the Sight failed her, as it often did, she could always count on her computer.� It seemed to have endless fortunes to share.�

Of course, a computer wouldn�t work at Hogwarts.� Muggleborn students often tried to bring electronic equipment from home, not realizing that the castle�s magic overpowered any Mugglized magic, like electricity.� What Sybil didn�t want anyone to know was that she had a bit of non-magical blood running through her veins on her father�s side.� One of her great nieces was a Muggle teenager who knew a lot about electronics.� She had a great passion for computer games and had set up the laptop and printer for her eccentric �hippie� aunt to use in her �new age� business.�

Sybil felt protected in her new shop.� She was hidden away from the humiliation of the magical world.� So many things had happened, and so many things would never be the same.� After all the changes at Hogwarts, she wasn�t sure if she�d even be able to go back there again.�

�

One sweltering July morning, Sybil unlocked her storefront and stumbled in, trying to balance her ham and Swiss croissant, iced coffee, keys, and a couple of potted plants.� She put her breakfast on the table next to her crystal ball, and then turned around to put the plants on a bookcase.� She stopped short.� Something was different.� She backed up and looked at the table again.� She hadn�t offered anyone tea or read any tea leaves, but there on the table were two mugs.� Someone had prepared tea from her private stash and then left the leaves for reading.� Sybil couldn�t help but look into the mugs.�

She didn�t like what she saw.� Or rather, she was confused by what she saw.� One cup held what looked like a snake.� That could mean three different things.� It could mean wisdom and the fates were complimenting her on her intelligence.� She preened a bit thinking of that.� On the bad side, a snake could mean enmity or falsehood.� Were the leaves taunting her on being a fake?� Or, was it simply a clue that a Slytherin had stopped by?� The second cup obviously held a bird.� The trick was deciphering what kind of bird.� A hawk symbolized jealousy and might reflect her earlier thoughts on the good fortunes of her colleagues.� If it was a raven, that would show death or bad news.� Was this a warning?� She locked the front door so she could spend some time on her computer trying to figure out what the bird was.� It was an important thing to know.

On her way into the back room, she stepped on something round that was rolling about on the floor.� She slipped but managed to catch herself on the doorframe.� Beads from one of the many blue strands hanging in the doorway had broken from the chain and were lying on the floor.� She�d pick them up to reattach later.� Stupid, cheap curtain!� I almost fell.� I wonder if any more broke off.�

The room was semi-dark but Sybil could open the computer and turn it on in the dark.� She left the lights off since she didn�t want to draw attention to the fact that she was there when the closed sign was on the door.� She sat down and reached to flip the laptop open.� The desk was empty.� She frantically reached around, thinking she had pushed things back to handwrite something last night.� There was nothing there.� She now knew the bird was a raven foretelling bad news.� Since she was in Muggle London, she knew the computer hadn�t magically disappeared.� It had to have been stolen.� But who knew it was back there?� And how did they get in?� Sure, there were mugs on the table but everything else seemed undisturbed.� All Sybil could think is that she was on her own.� What would she do without her computer-generated fortunes?� She had a lot of research stored in that stupid piece of equipment.� It wasn�t important to someone else, but to Sybil, it was her life.�

Sybil felt dizzy.� She was sweating and her heart was racing.� She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, praying for a vision.�

I don�t know what to do.� Merlin help me.

End Notes:
This story was written under Prompt #1: The Amateur Sleuth. Something incredibly valuable has gone missing, and everybody is completely stumped. There is no way a stranger could have entered the room! Nothing--except for the missing object, of course--seems to be changed. Although . . . were those blue beads on the floor before? And did you really leave those two mugs out on the table?

Thanks so much to Kerichi, who did a damn good job of betaing so quickly and professionally. You're always #1 with me, Paige.
Chapter 2: Sophia by Fynnsmom

Sybill stood for several minutes, pitying herself. After all she'd been through in the magical world she felt she was entitled to a small success at least. She had been trying to keep a low profile and mind her own business. Why couldn't she catch a break? She allowed herself a few tears. Then she wiped her eyes with her fuchsia pink cotton scarf and straightened her back. Clearly, there wasn't anyone standing by to bail her out of her predicament. She would solve her own problem. She just had to think for a moment.

Her great niece, Sophia, had left her a thin, box-shaped object and explained that Sybill could talk to her by touching the "screen" in a certain spot where Sophia's picture was displayed. Sybill guessed it worked something like a Patronus for Muggles, except there was no wispy figure, just a voice coming from a small picture--kind of like an enchanted portrait.

Sybill didn't care how the device operated, she just wanted it to work. She'd never used it before but now seemed like the emergency situation Sophia had talked about. Sybill had a soft spot for her great niece. She kept in touch even though, several years earlier, her mother had told Sybill to keep her "weirdness" away from the family. Sybill had always been described as eccentric by her siblings. They attributed it to the time Sybill had grown up in--the heart of the hippie years--and that she had probably experimented with drugs. She had a non-conformist wardrobe and talked about such ethereal topics as the inner eye, prophecies, and symbolism as if they existed. They were happy when Sybill took a job up north in a boarding school. They didn't pay attention to what she taught. They were happy she was out of the way. In the meantime, Sybill had used her unique characteristics to cover up what she really was. She learned to be alone.

Sophia was also a product of her generation. She was liberal and tolerant of those who were different. She was proud of her aunt who chose to live her life as she wanted despite what anyone else said. Sophia didn't judge Sybill. She was more than happy to help her set up various electronic devices that she could use in her business. Despite her grandmother's disapproval, Sophia enjoyed talking to Sybill and learning about all the New Age topics that she seemed to know about. After all, she was eighteen now and of age. Sophia wasn't sure if Sybill could predict the future but it was fun to play along. As far as Sophia was concerned, imagination was a wonderful thing.

Sybill pushed a small button on the plastic device and it lit up. Then she touched Sophia's picture. Sybill heard some music and then heard Sophia's voice.

"Hello, Auntie."

How did she know it was me? Maybe she has the Sight. Sybill felt a small tingle of pride. "I need your help. My computer is gone without a trace. I don't know what to do. I don't know what happened, but I want it back. I need it." Sybill struggled to keep the panic out of her voice. "Can you come help me find it?"

"Sure. I'll meet you at your shop in about an hour."

Sybill pushed the button on the device and it became dark. She put it on her desk and paced in the small back room, wringing her hands.

 

Sybill kept the shop closed while waiting for Sophia. She didn't feel confident without her laptop. In the castle, she had been laughed at time after time for predicting events that didn't come to pass. But what did people want? Sybill couldn't guarantee that her predictions would come true immediately, but that's what everyone expected. Some of her best work came to pass in the future. After all, just look at the Boy Who Lived. On the other hand, Sybill preferred to ignore all the dire predictions she made about Harry Potter during his Hogwarts years.

Sophia arrived within the hour. She was wearing a tie-dye shirt and cut-off denims along with big hoop earrings with blue beads and large sunglasses. Sybill thought she looked adorable, although a little radical. She supposed that was what young Muggles wore these days. Sophia had two large iced coffees and gave one to Sybill. Sybill hadn't eaten her breakfast and eagerly sipped the coffee.

"Where do you think we should start?" Sybill asked her niece.

"Well, what happened exactly? What did it look like when you came in? Was it a big mess?"

"Not really. There were some beads on the floor from my beaded curtain." The intruder could've broken them or they could've just fallen off. Then I sat down at my desk to do some research and there was no computer." Sybill rubbed her forehead to try to remember more details. "And, there were two used tea mugs on the table so there must have been two burglars at least, and they made tea."

"I guess the burglars are British then," concluded Sophia with a grin.

"Does that help me find my computer?" asked Sybill nervously.

"It doesn't really. I was just trying to make light of the situation," Sophia said. "I think our best bet is to go the police. They have ways to sort this thing out. Do you know where the closest station is around here?

"No, I don't. Nothing like this has happened to me before. When I'm teaching at the ca--, I mean the school, we don't have to worry about thievery. I just feel so stupid and victimized, Sophia. I trust everyone and I shouldn't. This is what happens."

Despite Sybill's sad expression, Sophia couldn't stifle her giggle. "I love you, Auntie Sybill. You're certainly not stupid and you are so unique. Don't worry. We'll work it all out. Are you ready to go out and solve this crime?"

At Sybill's nod and a tightening of her longest scarf, they left the shop on a fact-finding jaunt.

 

Sophia's friendliness soon got them directions to the closest Police Station, which was about four blocks from Sybill's shop. Sybill stood by and acted nonchalant as Sophia put the directions on her phone into something called a "GPS." Sophia smiled apologetically and explained that she was hopeless with directions and this device made finding something much easier.

If it makes finding something easier, shouldn't we use it to find my computer? Sybill didn't want to risk sounding ignorant so she didn't ask her question. She thought it was much better to be quiet and observe, especially since she was in Muggle London.

On the way to the station, Sophia chattered on about her plans. She wasn't sure she was ready to go to University yet and thought about backpacking across the Continent for a year before settling down to study. She enjoyed the academic aspects of music and art and might do some comparative research during her travels--like how did drumming vary across indigenous cultures. Going to the States was also a possibility, but probably more expensive. What did Sybill think?

Before Sybill could formulate an opinion, their ten-minute walk found them on the doorstep of the local police. Sophia immediately walked up to the front desk. "Excuse me. My Aunt and I are here to report a crime."

The heavyset officer on duty looked sleepy. He raised blood-shot, half-closed eyes to look at Sophia and Sybill. "A crime? What sort of crime?"

Sophia smiled her politest smile. "Yes, sir, Officer Jordan, is it?" She squinted at the tiny writing on the officer's nametag. "It was a robbery at my Aunt's place of business."

Officer Jordan asked Sybill's full name, business name and address, and her profession. When Sybill gave her business name, Destinyz Starz, he outright snickered.

"If you're a psychic, can't you see where your computer is?"

Sophia saw her Aunt actually slump at that remark which was a very stupid and very old joke. She gave the officer a pointed glare. "Could we move on with the relevant questions, please? If you can't do your job and help us, we'll have to go elsewhere like maybe the press."

Officer Jordan shuffled his papers. "There's no need to be so cheeky, miss. I was only trying to add some levity to this routine paperwork." He poised his pen. "Do you have insurance on your business and its contents? I always tell shop owners to insure their valuable items. Now, what is your computer worth? Can't you just file an insurance claim and buy a new one?"

Sybill looked questioningly at Sophia. Sybill didn't do any of the Muggle things for her business, like buy insurance. She'd left that to Sophia to set up.

Sophia sighed and picked up her phone. "I have the serial number right here. You might want to take it down in case you decide to check out the local pawn shops to try and find the computer. But I shouldn't have to tell you how to do your job, should I now?" She gave the number to the officer and he made a great show of adding it to the form.

"Do you have insurance numbers too?"

Sophia promptly produced the numbers. "Any other numbers you need?" She asked the officer.

Jordan shook his head. He looked at Sybill. "Now you didn't make the computer "vanish" so you could get a new one to replace it with insurance money, did you?"

Sybill drew herself up straight in her chair. "What are you saying?" she asked loudly. "Do you think I purposefully "vanished" the computer? It was stolen, I tell you. I think you're the one being cheeky and very rude."

Sophia stood up. "Come on, Auntie Sybill, I'm sorry but this was a bad idea on my part." She took Sybill's arm and gently led her back onto the street.

"What now, dear?"

"I don't know. Let me think a minute. Maybe we can get some coffee and figure out a different plan."

"Alright, but I think I know what we can try next," Sybill said as they walked to the next block in search of a coffee shop.

 

After ordering two large caramel macchiatos, Sophia sat lost in thought while sipping her coffee. She didn't know what to do next other than look through pawn shops. Sybill was busy talking to the barista about whether the carrot or the sweet potato muffins were more nutritious. She purchased two of the sweet potato and made her way to Sophia's table.

"Well, my dear, should we go back to the shop and make a plan? I think that officer was rude and he certainly wasn't very helpful. He looked a little shifty to me."

"I agree. I don't think we can trust him to do a thorough job. He might go look in the pawn shops, but he might not. I'm with you. We need to figure something else out."

They both picked up their coffees and started the walk back to Destinyz Starz. This time it was Sybill who was lost in thought. I think it's time to try MLE. I should've thought of that sooner. Maybe I can find someone I know and they'll be helpful. Except If I take Sophia, I'm going to have to tell her about magic.

 

When they got to the shop, Sybill pulled out a large jangly key ring to unlock the door. Generally she used wandless magic, but she didn't want to shock Sophia just yet. They sat at the front table, as if Sophia was a client waiting for a reading. Sophia kicked off her sandals, pulled up her legs, and sat cross-legged on the chair. "What's next, Auntie Sybill?"

"Well, Sophia, there are some things we need to discuss first. You know I don't visit the rest of the family very often. There's a reason for that." Sybill paused to sip her coffee. "Your grandmother--well, we had a falling out many years ago, a silly argument over something that's no longer important." Sybill shook her head. "Things changed when you were born. I was so excited about my sister becoming a grandmother. I never had children, you know, so grandchildren weren't a possibility for me. I was determined to see you and be a part of your life. I saw your arrival in a vision. I knew your name would be Sophia and that you would be a very special person in our family.

Sophia listened intently. "I guess that vision came true didn't it? I think I'm pretty special." She grinned across the table at Sybill.

"I would say so." Sybill reached out and took Sophia's hand. "Now I have a secret to share with you. Do you trust me?"

"Of course. If I can't trust you who can I trust? You're my favorite aunt and you've never steered me wrong."

"What I have to say must be kept between us. No one else in the family can be told."

Sophia nodded. She knew that other people in her family tended to shy away from Sybill almost as if they were afraid of her. Sophia thought of Sybill as one of the most kind-hearted people she knew. Whatever secret she was hiding couldn't be that bad, could it?

Sybill closed her eyes for a brief moment. She cleared her throat and looked Sophia right in the eye. "I'm a witch. I have magical powers." She waved her hand and her key ring levitated above the table.

Sophia looked startled and then smiled broadly. "Cool! I always knew there was something wonderful about you." Sophia jumped up in excitement and ran around the table to hug Sybill. "OK, now what are we going to do? Can you use magic to find your laptop? Why do you even need a computer if you can do magic?"

Sybill smiled. "It's not that easy, dear. The laptop isn't a magical object. But I might be able to find someone to help us. They're like police with specialized skills. Are you ready to see magic at work?"

At Sophia's enthusiastic nod, Sybill stood up. "Hang onto my arm tightly. You're going on the ride of your life." With a doubly loud crack, Sybill and Sophia Disapparated and almost immediately arrived at the street entrance to the Ministry. After the usual procedures in the phone booth, they arrived by lift in the elaborate foyer that had been refurbished to its original glory after the War.

Sophia took her first Apparation experience very well. She stumbled a bit on landing but didn't everyone on their first ride? At least she didn't vomit and when she looked around the Ministry foyer she forgot she was a sophisticated Londoner of eighteen years. Her first words were "Wow! This has got to be the coolest thing I've ever seen!"

End Notes:
I apologize for the length of time it took me to post this chapter. I submitted it a couple of months ago but it was rejected. I never saw the rejection letter so I didn't know what to change. So I'm submitting it without changes and we'll see what happens. Thanks to Kerichi for her beta work on this chapter. Thanks to Perry for naming Sophia.
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