Finnley hesitated. The idea of running away from everything had a certain allure, like some sort of cure-all that would magic away his problems. But he knew real magic now, and it didn't work like that. He knew real life couldn't work like that either. Bracing himself, he said, “No, Mom. We can’t just leave Mia.”
“It’s not like her parents are going to let you come over while she’s sleeping anyway,” she replied, but her eyes flickered for a moment. As if she didn't believe herself.
This wasn't the first time she’d wanted to uproot when she was faced with things she couldn't deal with. She had moved here when his sister died, had moved just after his father died, way back when Finnley was small. Now, with the appearance of monsters and magic, she seemed ready to take flight again. Finnley thought that even if they left for a few days, it would be like betraying Mia after all they'd been through.
“We need to stay here, Mom,” Finnley repeated firmly, and this time, he meant more than just the roadtrip. “There is never a place where we can be entirely safe. And… I think that magic will continue to follow me now, wherever I go. I need Mr. Vaughn to teach me about it. There’s so much I could do if I knew enough. I have Mia and Monica, and I haven’t been able to make friends in years.” He was playing to her soft spots, and they both knew it, but that didn’t change the fact that it was true.
Her eyes drifted towards the window, as if she could see Mia’s house from here. As if she could see into the future. Then she pulled her gaze back in, looking around at the house. Finnley knew that she loved it — knew how hard she’d worked for it. “Alright,” she said, “so we stay here.” Finnley moved from his chair to the sofa where his mother was sitting and leaned his head against her shoulder. She sighed and leaned back against him. After a moment like that, Finnley got up and cleared the table, then grabbed his rabbit and headed upstairs.
“Finnley, wait,” his mom said. He turned, and saw her sitting there on the couch, looking so alone. “Want to sleep on the couch tonight? Like you did when you were little. We used to build pillow forts and fall asleep in them…”
“You need to get some sleep of your own, Mom,” he told her, trying to be kind. “Preferably in your own bed. It's been a long day.” The last words sounded empty to his own ears after having said them so often already. Long day was an understatement.
His mom nodded, and he retreated upstairs to his own room, closing the door with the softest of clicks. He waited for a few minutes with quiet breaths, listening. Then, finally, he heard his mother’s slow footsteps climbing back up the stairs, which groaned beneath the wait of her cares. “Goodnight,” he called. She didn't reply.
Finnley sat in bed for a long time, stroking his rabbit, thinking things through. He got up when he couldn't stand the stillness anymore and crossed the room to his pin board. The words “Ghosts — past and present — sister” with “mysteries within mysteries” written just below glared at Finnley. He unpinned the paper and grabbed a new note sheet and a pen, which he flipped between his fingers so that the ends tapped the table in turn. Rory glanced up at the noise, and Finnley stopped the motion.
There was something strange to it all. The ideas of there being something strange about a situation involving monsters and magic made Finnley want to burst out laughing, only he felt that there really had to be something more.
Something was nagging him about what Mr. Vaughn had said. Magical influence? Had Mr. Vaughn used magical influence? Did the horse have magical influence? And there was another thing. Something about returning it to its normal state.
Finnley scrawled “normal state” and “magical influence” on the paper and reached for his spell book. The creature that had taken Allie’s shape seemed to have been around for years, according to Mia’s story. There was that dragon-like demon, made of smoke and ashes. Fred had tracked it down, had captured it and killed it. He'd even used some magic to do it. But this… this was different. It was almost like Mr. Vaughn had disenchanted a horse.
Finnley sat upright at the thought. He pictured enchanting an object, how he would write the spell, how it would feel to sustain it and cut it off. Was there some sort of counter spell that another magician could use, negate the effects of the first?
Finnley’s heart began to thump hard in his chest. If that was true, then the horse could've been a real horse, something another magician had placed a spell on. It would have to be so intensely complex… But if Mr. Vaughn had said what Finnley thought he said, then it made sense.
Finnley worked to still his shaking hand as he grabbed another piece of paper and drew out a spell. It was a “pretty spell” — or at least, that was Finnley’s term for it. It didn't do much, and it was a single spurt of energy, not continuous. The spell was accordingly far too flowery for his liking, but it worked, and the paper turned a faint shade of blue as Finnley activated the spell.
Now, to counter it. Finnley looked through his spell book, but it didn't say anything like this. He could make a spell to turn the paper white, but his two spells would then have to fight it out. He could only imagine it would be worse with the original spell written by a different magician, and he didn't think that it was a battle of strength. Finnley could destroy the paper or prevent it from being creased or end his initial spell, but none of this were in the least bit helpful. His head sank forward onto his desk, where he fell asleep for the rest of the night.