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The door creaked open ominously, and the floorboards groaned under a tentative foot.

“Come in,” she called, her voice cracking. “I won’t bite.”

If it were up to her, she would oil the hinges and replace the floorboards, but people expected a certain ambience, so she lived with it.

She picked up her walking cane and heaved herself out of her comfortable old chair, limping around the stacks of books and bottles towards the nervous young man standing just inside the door. His hands were in his pockets, his shoulders were hunched, and he looked ready to bolt back outside.

“What can I do for you, young man? Tell your fortune, perhaps? You want to see what your future holds?”

The young man blushed and shook his head. She stood there in the flickering half-light of the fire, and said nothing.

“P-p-p-p-potion,” he stuttered at last.

“You want a potion? Well, you’ve come to the right place. What for? Love, perhaps? To catch the eye of the lady of your dreams?”

He shook his head again, but slower this time.

“No? You surprise me. There’s a woman involved, I can tell. What is it then?”

He pushed the door closed behind him. “I just want to talk to her.”

“Oh? Is she perhaps locked away in a tower, and you want to be able to fly up to her window? Walk through the walls of her prison? That kind of potion?”

He shook his head yet again. “Nothing like that. I just…” He looked down and shuffled his feet. “I just don’t dare,” he muttered.

She smiled. “Ah, a courage potion. My speciality!”

Whatever they asked for, she claimed it to be her speciality. It instilled confidence in the customer, which was, generally speaking, never a bad thing.

She set a cauldron of water over the fire, throwing in ingredients from the various bottles and jars around the room. A bit of pickled this, a sprinkle of powdered that, some of the green stuff, some of the purple stuff. It was an old recipe, right out of Granny Witherwinkle’s Big Book of Practical Potions.

Finally, just to finish off, she lifted down a jet black bottle with a dripper in the lid.

“Not too little, not too much,” she whispered as she carefully counted the drops into the mixture.

“What is that,” the boy whispered, leaning forwards to look at the bubbling mixture.

She laughed. “Vanilla essence. Makes it taste nicer.”

She ladled a measure out into a clean bottle and stoppered it with a fresh cork.

“Keep it corked for at least three hours,” she told the boy, “Then drink it all in one go. The effects should last you at least, hmm, four or five hours, the first time.”

The boy took the bottle gently, and pressed half a dozen silver coins into her outstretched palm with his other hand.

“Thank you ma’am,” he said.

She smiled as he turned and strode out of the door, already standing several inches taller and straighter than he had when he came in. As the door banged back into its frame, she ladled some of the potion into a glass and took a sip. It was one of Granny’s tastiest recipes, she thought as she returned to her chair to drink it in comfort. If she didn’t make such a good living out of being the local witch, she could have gone into the drinks trade.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: I haven’t done Three Word Wednesday for a while! This week the words were Dare, Essence and Practical.)