219. The Unfortunate Crow

The crow stood perched atop the cabinet as the boy worked away at the cauldron. It might have rolled its eyes; but because crows have very dark eyes, it might have been just a trick of the light. But let’s assume that the crow was rolling its eyes, for it was a very intelligent crow looking down at a very unintelligent boy.

After all, everyone knows that you stirred the potion clockwise for charms, and counter-clockwise for curses. The boy is in for a nasty surprise when he finds out that his attempt to create a land fertilizer really turned out to be a desert in a bottle.

The crow tried to warn him, but because crows have very simple vocal cords and very inflexible beaks, its warnings came out as undecipherable cawing. The boy shushed the crow and continued stirring the mixture counterclockwise. The potion was beginning to glow green in the pot, and the idiot of a boy thought that this meant his potion was brewing right.

Everyone knows that good potions are supposed to glow a rich purple, not bright green. The crow might have sighed, but it was not anatomically able to do so. So it rolled its eyes again, in the darkness of the kitchen.

The raven that laid asleep in the shelf below the crow was no help. It had no magical knowledge to speak of, though in some screw-up by nature, it was gifted with a deep, baritone voice. The crow honestly thought that the wizarding world would be much better off if crows were the ones who could speak the tongues of men.

All the stupid raven knew to say was “Nevermore”.

The boy counted forty-nine, and there he stopped stirring. He pulled the wooden ladle out of the cauldron, and the liquid inside continued swirling on its own. The sounds of a brewing storm could be heard coming from the cauldron. The boy put the ladle away, took off his apron, and left the room – most likely to sleep.

That was what connected the boy and the raven, the crow thought with disdain: sleep and stupidity. It was like what they said about birds of a feather.

The crow hopped off its perch and stood on the edge of the burning cauldron. A sand worm poked its head up through the mixture. The crow, in one swift motion, picked it up and swallowed it. It went down the crow’s throat squirming. It tasted faintly of grease, but was otherwise tasteless and rough.

It cocked its head to one side, as crows did when they were thinking, as it looked into the swirling mess. There might be a way to save this, yet. It hopped over to the powder table. With a little pinch of this, a little spoonful of that, a slice of this root, and a bit of this other thing, a spell could be reversed. It was intermediate knowledge, at most – wizards who received proper training typically learned this in the third year of their apprenticeship. It was taught before wizards were allowed to experiment with any spell that might prove catastrophic, and even the oldest and wisest of wizards always had the ingredients on hand, just in case they accidentally cursed a land forever. It was easier than one might think, and wizards tended to be clumsier than most folk.

When the potion turned purple and began swirling in the opposite direction, the crow might have smiled. But its beak wasn’t made for anything but scowling; and so the crow scowled, though it smiled on the inside.

The boy came bustling in. “Oh, look what you’ve done!” he cried, shooing the crow away. “Now the whole thing is ruined! Bad crow! Bad! Shame on you!”

“I fixed it for you, fool!” the crow tried to say.

It only succeeded in cawing as the boy set out to undo everything it had done.


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