Shadow Council : Preludes Book One
The Snake and the Lion
Xander shivered as he made his way up the drive to his home, the feeling of his hometown was like the opposite of Hogwarts. The old castle was cold, drafty, and damp in many ways, but despite all that it seemed to wrap itself around you like a warm hug from your mother. Sunnydale was warm on his skin, the sun beating down in a way that felt incredible compared to the cool Scottish weather he had endured all year, but beneath that, to his magical senses that were now awakened the town froze his blood.
He shook it off, knowing the reason, and forced the chill out as best he could as he opened the door to his home.
“Mom, Dad?” he called out, “I’m home.”
He came up short, though, when he found himself face to face with a group of people, most of whom he’d never seen before. His mom and dad was there, but other than them his Uncle Samuel Ruiadri Harris. His Uncle liked his name about as much as Xander liked his middle, though, and generally just called himself Rory, or if a full name was required, Sam Axe. Xander never could figure out where the ‘Axe’ came from.
Four other people, however, were total strangers to Xander but it was easy enough to identify them as magical. Their sense of dress was just skewed enough to make it clear that they weren’t used to keeping up with fashion, though Xander wondered how dumb you had to be to screw up men’s fashions, cause as far as he could tell they hadn’t really changed much in a few hundred years unless you were a teenager with more money than brains.
His thoughts on the strangers were interrupted when his mother spoke up.
“Alex, honey, these are representatives of your father’s and my families.”
“Thank you, Jessica,” One of the men spoke up, “I’ll take it from here. This is Alex is it?”
“The name, it’s Xander.” Xander told them, “not Alex. Alexander if you’re pissed with me, I guess, but I’m just Xander.”
The man raised an eyebrow, and then shook his head, “Hardly an appropriate name, young man. Xander is meaningless; Alex and Alexander have a sense of power behind them. They have weight.”
“I’m twelve, Sir. I can’t carry much weight.” Xander replied dryly.
Rory chuckled loudly, earning him a glare that he cheerfully ignored.
The speaker rolled his eyes, staring at Rory, “For goodness sakes, Anthony, why did you invite this fool?”
“Sam is family, Marcus.” Tony said stonily, neither warm nor rude in the ways Xander might have expected from his dad. “And really, I don’t trust you.”
Marcus snorted, “Really, and this squib is going to do what to protect you from me?”
“Other than cut your heart out before you can pull that stick from the hidden holster on your left thigh?” Rory asked idly, a knife appearing in his hand as he calmly used it to pick his fingernails. “Get on with it, Marcus. I’ve got a date in LA with a hot momma who’s gonna want her Lincoln back.”
Marcus sighed, eyes not leaving the knife for a moment, then turning back to Xander. “We are here about you, boy.”
So much for names, Xander figured, “Oh yeah? What about me?”
“You’re a scion of the Harris and Lavelle lines, despite your parents... condition, which entitles you to a place in the world. With that place comes responsibilities, child. We are here to ensure that you are prepared to meet them.”
“Oh lord,” Xander groaned, looking over at his mom, “this is more pureblood bullshit, isn’t it?”
Rory started laughing again, but his mom and dad flinched, though they both nodded.
“Boy, watch your tongue...”
“Marcus Harrison. Enough.”
The room fell silent as one of the two women Xander didn’t know rose up and stood across from him, “I am your Great Aunt Jessica Maeve Lavelle.”
Xander’s eyes flickered to his mom, and she nodded slightly. Xander nodded to the woman, remembering his lessons from the book and nodded slightly to the woman, bowing from the waist. “Aunt.”
A flicker of a smile passed across her face even as frustrated annoyance marred the expression on Marcus’.
“Very good, child. You understand some of the proprieties.”
Xander shrugged a little, “I was sorted into the unofficial pureblood superiority house at school. It was learn to fit in at least a little, or get a knife in the back.”
“I’m sure you’re exaggerating,” His mom said, smiling hesitantly.
Xander smiled a bit, “A bit, mom, most purebloods wouldn’t know how to handle a knife.”
Rory near split a gut laughing, again drawing irate glares from the Marcus and the other man Xander didn’t know. “Sounds about right, kid. You ever want to learn to use a blade in a real fight, just ask.”
Xander grinned, much to his mother’s disconcertion. Rory had, like many of the squib members of the families, including Tony Harris, joined the service to escape the influence of the families. Unlike Tony, Rory had chosen to make it a career and stayed in for his full twenty, serving fourteen of those years as a SEAL. The idea of him teaching her son how to use a blade was more than a little worrisome.
“Rory, I’ll thank you not to give my son bad ideas.”
“Sorry, Jess.” Rory smirked, then winked at Xander.
Xander just grinned back.
The Lavelle Matriarch just sighed tolerantly, but kept her focus on her young great nephew. “I understand that you’ve spent the year in Hogwarts.”
It wasn’t a question, but Xander nodded anyway. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Our family once held a seat on the board there,” She said, then glanced back at Marcus and nodded, “both our families did.”
Xander hadn’t realized that, “Really?”
“Yes. The British branch of the family, arguably the trunk branch really, died out over a century ago for the Lavelle’s. I believe that the Harris line ended during the War?” She glanced back, and received a nod from Marcus.
“What, with that Mold in his shorts dude?” Xander asked, eyes rolling up as he wracked his brain to remember the Overlord dude’s name. For the life of him he could never quite remember it.
Jessica raised an eyebrow, but easily decoded his meaning. “No. I mean the War. Grindlewald’s uprising and the Second World War”
“Who’s Grindlewald?” Xander blinked, suddenly interested. The Second World War had some personal meaning to him, as it had deeply affected Willow’s family, and he knew that his Dad had family who had served with the US Forces abroad then.
“Grindlewald was a Dark Wizard, a true Dark Lord in fact, who led an uprising across Europe’s Wizarding world. The fallout of his reign of terror spread into the normal world, both directly and indirectly allowing for the rise of Adolf Hitler.” She told him seriously, “A great many of the old families were crippled or destroyed then, in the chaos of the aftermath the one calling himself Voldemort rose and inflicted even more damage across the pureblood families. The European trunk lines of many great families were destroyed by those two madmen.”
“Whoa.” Xander said, nodding dumbly. There was a lot more to the history of the world than he knew, apparently. “Grindlewald was behind the Nazis then?”
“Not precisely, young man,” Jessica said, taking her seat again and carefully crossing her legs. “The National Socialist Party were entirely founded by normal humans, however there were several Wizards who pushed it into the direction it went. Don’t mistake me, Hitler was hardly a nice person... or one that I would want in any level of power, but many of the excesses of his followers were not precisely at his command. He fired them up, before unleashing them on Europe. I truly doubt that he ever really imagined what he had done until it was too late to do anything about it. Whether he would have done something to stop it, or not, is lost to history now. Grindlewald and several of his followers took the war machine Hitler had begun to forge and used it to their own ends.”
“Everyone knows about the six million Jews they killed,” Jessica said pensively, “Few, though, even in our world know that they also rounded up over one million squib families, dozens if not hundreds of poor Wizarding families who refused to join Grindlewald’s forces, and also nearly wiped out the Vampire clans, Veela Enclaves, and many other demi-human communities across Europe. Today, France is the only place in central Europe where you can find any significant Veela population. The underground hid them, you see. Vampires have retaken many of their old haunts; however there are large swathes of Europe where the Lycan’s still hold sway, notably Paris.”
“This is ancient history, Madame Lavelle,” Marcus muttered, “And entirely over the boys head. You’re wasting your time, and ours.”
“My time is my own, Marcus Harris, and you are free to leave.” She retorted icily.
Marcus grimaced; glaring at her, then abruptly rose up. “I’ve had enough. The boy is obviously unfit to take on family responsibilities. I will reconsider him when he graduates. Good day, Anthony.”
Ignoring everyone else, Marcus and one of the women that Xander had not been introduced to, left in a huff as Rory snorted.
“Good riddance you old bastard.”
“Rory!” Jessica Harris snapped.
“Sorry, Jess.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “You know I can’t stand the folks.”
Jessica Lavelle stayed silent for a long moment, then rose. “For the moment, I have to concur with Marcus, Jessica. Teach him of the family history, I will speak with the boy again before he begins the new school year.”
“Yes, Lady Lavelle.”
Xander raised an eyebrow as Jessica Lavelle swept out of the house, her motions as graceful as Marcus’ had been abrupt.
“That was fun,” Rory smirked.
“You don’t have to wind him up like that, Rory.” Tony said, sighing tiredly. “You know Marcus is a bit of a stick.”
“He’s a bit of a stick like I’m a ‘bit’ of a womanizer.” Rory retorted. “He’s the stick up the families’ ass, and you know it, Tony. Why you let him come here at all is beyond me.”
“The family asked.” Tony responded, then burst out, “Damn it, Rory, it’s the first communication we’ve had with the family in over thirty years! Don’t you miss it? Any of it?”
“Of course I do, you know that,” Rory responded, irritated. “Walking away from the magic, even for a squib, is like cutting your own heart out. But I did it, and I’m done with it. I’m not going back, Tony. You shouldn’t either.”
Tony just sighed and said nothing in response.
Xander was arranging his room a little later when Rory knocked at the door.
“Hey kid, mind if I come in?”
“Sure, Uncle Rory.”
“Call me, Sam, kid.” The retired Navy man grinned, “You survived the family gauntlet down there, you deserve the use of my name.”
Xander grinned, “Thanks, Sam.”
“So how was school?”
“Was ok...” Xander said hesitantly.
Sam chuckled, “You loved it, right?”
Xander smiled slowly, “Yeah.”
The older man nodded, “Yeah, I still remember magic, kid. It’s a whole other world, though I’ve seen enough of the normal world to know that there’s some amazing stuff here too.”
Xander nodded, though he wasn’t really sure what Sam was talking about.
“Don’t forget the real world, kid. Magic is fun and really damned awesome, but the world the families live in is really small too.” Sam told him seriously. “Learn to live in both, and you’ll love life a lot more.”
Xander nodded, “I will.”
Sam smiled, then moved to leave but was stopped when Xander spoke up.
“You serious about showing me how to use a knife?”
Sam eyed him for a minute, “You’re not planning on killing a schoolmate, are ya?”
Xander chuckled, but shook his head, “No, it just sounds cool.”
Sam hesitated a bit, considering, “not a real good reason, kid, but in this town it may not be a bad idea. They told you about Sunnydale, right?”
“Yeah,” Xander frowned, “If it’s so dangerous, though, how come my parents moved here?”
“Land’s dirt cheap, lots of ways to make a buck, and your folks are both squibs.”
Xander looked confused, “huh?”
“Squibs, you know what they are, right?”
“Sure, non magical people born to magical families, right?”
Sam shook his head, “Naw, kid. Squibs are low magical people born to magical families. Your mom and dad both have some magic, just not enough to cast spells. They’ve got full internal stores, though, and that makes them just about as tough as you are.”
“You never noticed that it takes one hell of a whack to seriously hurt you?” The Navy man asked, chuckling.
“I never thought about it,” Xander confessed.
“Well, trust me, you’re tough. Your magic will heal you fast too, given a chance, and you even put out a low level defense against most supernatural types.” Sam told him, then waved a hand, “Don’t get me wrong, kid. It won’t stop a vamp or much else, but it will encourage them to look for another meal, given the option. Squibs are the same, so your folk are pretty safe from most of the trash around here.”
“Oh.” Xander nodded, considering. It made sense, given what he’d seen in school. Hell, Harry alone offered enough proof on that matter, come to think of it. He should have been killed for a couple of the stunts he pulled on the Quidditch pitch alone.
“Yeah, that’s why a lot of us, Squibs that is, join the forces.” Sam said, “We’re tough, strong, and hard to kill. Plus the military is a good way for a kid who’s never lived in the normal world to ease into it. When you start in the service they tell you how to do EVERYTHING. Right down to how to properly soap your ass, if you get the right... or maybe that’s wrong, Instructors.”
“That makes sense.”
“Anyway, I’ll show you a few tricks, and hang around town a bit to give you some pointers on the night life, k kid?”
“Sure, thanks Sam.”
“No problem,” Sam told him, “but not tonight. Tonight I have a date.”
Xander spent the rest of the night settling in and getting permission to use the basement for some of the homework and potions projects he’d decided on for the summer. He couldn’t practice some of the defense spell work down there, at least not until he was at a higher level and could reinforce the basement with some structural charms, but it was perfect for most everything else.
His dad helped him clear it all out, and Xander found himself enjoying the time spent with the old man for the first time in a long time. He hadn’t realized just how much of the bitterness his father had shown throughout his life had been aimed at the family who had abandoned him, or passively forced him out. The way they treated people left a lot to be desired, in Xander’s opinion, and he privately swore he wouldn’t do that to anyone.
The next day Xander set out early, heading for Jessie’s place first.
“Hello, Mrs. McNally, is...”
“Jes!” Xander grinned, ducking under the sweep of his friend’s arm and coming up behind him. He gave Jessie a light push, sending him stumbling out onto the doorstep, then closed the door.
“As I was saying, Mrs. McNally, is breakfast ready?” Xander asked with a wide grin as Jessie started hammering on the door.
Sarah McNally chuckled, but shook her head, “You just missed it.”
“Nuts.” Xander snapped his fingers, stepping clear of the door.
Jessie scowled at him as he let himself back in, “So not funny.”
“Was pretty funny on this side of the door.” Xander countered.
“MOM!” Jessie howled, “Don’t encourage him, alright!?”
“How have things been, man?” Xander asked after the laughter died down.
“Boring!” Jessie complained, “Without you, Willow is out of control!”
Xander blinked, “Are we talking about the same girl? Red head, timid, scared to say boo?”
“Except when it comes to study!” Jessie countered, “She’s insane, Xan!”
“Jessie’s grade went up over ten percent across the board,” Sarah interjected proudly from the kitchen.
Xander chuckled, “Well, you know in that case, I met another girl just like Willow. If you want I could introduce them and...”
Jessie paled, looking horrified, “Don’t you DARE!”
Xander found himself again laughing at his friend, “Relax, I doubt that Hermione is going to come over here from England just to drive you nuts.”
“Alright, alright, you got me again. So come on, dude, how was it?”
“School was pretty cool, actually.” Xander answered, wanting to say more, but knowing he couldn’t. Jessie didn’t know about magic, and the law said it had to stay that way. Willow knew, at least some, so he could talk to her about it, Xander figured, but even there he knew he had to be careful. “Scotland is bloody cold, though, let me tell you.”
“Bloody?” Jessie smirked. “You sound all British.”
Xander rolled his eyes, “You try living with a bunch of em all winter and not have some bad habits sink in.”
“I’m sure it was a great educational experience,” Sarah said as she reappeared with a tray of cookies and a pitcher of milk. “Here you go boys, enjoy.”
“Thanks, Mrs. M.” Xander grinned, grabbing a glass and a couple cookies. “You have no idea how much I’ve been craving milk.”
The two looked at him oddly.
“They don’t have milk in Scotland?” Jessie asked, skeptical.
“They do, but it doesn’t taste the same, and really pumpkin juice is way more popular,” Xander shivered a bit. “It’s not bad, I guess, but it got kinda sickening real quick.”
“Pumpkin juice? Oh gross.” Jessie made a face.
“Jessie! Don’t judge other people like that; you weren’t the one over there.”
“But mom! Pumpkin juice!”
Sarah McNally sighed, shaking her head. “Eat your cookies then get outside and blow the stink off you, but be back for dinner! Xander would you like to eat here?”
“Sure, thank Mrs. M. I’ll let mom and dad know.”
She smiled nodding at the young man, then went back to her daily activities as the two boys made short work of the snack before heading out.
“Oh my GOD! Xander!” Willow squeaked, staring in surprise. “You’re back!”
“So I am!” Xander grinned, “Good to see ya, wills.”
Willow abruptly stopped smiling and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Ow! What the hell?”
“That’s for no phone calls, no letters, no...”
“Hey, chill...” Xander held up his hands, placating her, “No phone there, Wills, and the place is like, really isolated.”
Willow’s eyes widened, “Really?”
Jessie frowned, “Man, no phone? That’s nuts.”
“No TV either man.” Xander said, sighing theatrically.
Jessie stared at him in undisguised horror. “Oh God, you’re not going back, right? Tell me you’re not going back!”
Xander grinned, “Probably not. But there’s a school on the east coast that I might be going to.”
Jessie sighed, wiping his brow in mock relief, “At least they will have TV. No way there’s a place in the states that sick.”
“Not having TV is NOT sick,” Willow lectured, “It probably results in better grades...”
“And a lot of practical jokes.” Xander added.
“There, see... wait, what!?”
“Trust me, bored people with time on their hands in an old Scottish castle equals some really nasty gags,” Xander grinned, “I think TV would distract some of em.”
Willow glared at Jessie, then sighed and smiled at Xander. “It’s good to see you back, Xander.”
Xander grinned back, then hugged her, “It’s great to be back and see you.”
He looked over at Jessie and pulled him into a one armed hug that rapidly turned into a headlock.
“Both of you.”
“Hey! Let me go!”
The vacation was off to a great start as far as Xander was concerned, even if he didn’t get any work done for the first few days as nearly every waking moment was spent with Jesse and Willow. By the end of the week, though, he was squeezing in a couple hours here and there to practice his magic and work on the potions project he had set himself. Hopefully he’d have some stuff to surprise the twins with, if he ever saw them again.
Willow had surprised him by sitting in on many of these study sessions, mostly because Xander never really considered them studying and he could distinctly remember that Willow often ducked out of anything he considered fun in order to study. She was, however, fascinated by what he had learned and he showed her a lot of the basics.
Unfortunately she didn’t match well with his wand, and with none of her own there wasn’t much she could do until she found him working diligently on his private potions project one day.
“Potions.” Xander said, carefully cutting up some of the supplies he’d bought in Salem. “I’m trying to figure out how the Twins made these things.”
“Huh? Oh,” Xander nodded to the pile of candies and such the twins had taken to spiking his food with at the end of the year. “Those. They’re spells in food form. You eat one and all kinds of weird things can happen.”
“Like body transfiguration, delay cast charms, some jinxes and even a hex or two.” Xander said, “There’s one there the twins call Ton Tongue Toffee, for example, it makes your tongue grow so big it rolls out of your mouth and across the table.”
“Ew! That... so wrong.”
Xander shrugged, “That’s the twins. They’re twisted, but pretty brilliant.”
“So how are you working out what’s in them?” Willow leaned over his shoulder.
“I got an identification spell from my journal,” Xander said, “and I’ve been trying to break down the results. Here, see?”
He showed her a page of notes he’d made, and Willow read it with a scrunched up face as she tried to work out what it all meant.
“This is just colors and stuff.” She said finally.
Xander nodded glumly, “Wizards haven’t moved into the digital age yet, Wills. Identification spells are all based on auras, and you have to interpret what they mean.”
Willow looked around, “Do you have references?”
Xander grinned and nodded to the small bookshelf he’d setup, “Yeah, there’s a book there on basic aura reading and common spell components.”
Willow grabbed the book instantly as Xander turned back to his work, “I think the twins have worked to disguise their work, though... either that or they’re using some really rare components, cause some of the auras don’t match up.”
“Ummm hmmm...” Willow mumbled from where she was reading, already oblivious to him. Xander just smiled and turned back to his potions experiment, laughing internally at his redheaded friend.
A few days after that, while coming back from a movie with Jessie and Willow, the three of them were treated to an odd sight.
“Dude. Check out your dog.”
Xander turned to see where Fenrir was running around his yard, being dive bombed by a raven. The black bird would swoop in, let out a loud caw, then Fenrir would leap up almost five feet in the air as he took a swipe at the bird.
“I didn’t know a dog that small could jump that high.” Jessie said in wonder.
Xander just grinned, “Odin!”
The two looked at him like he was nuts, but the raven broke off from its play and zeroed in on Xander instantly.
“Dude!” Jessie ducked away as Willow too squeaked and dropped to a crouch.
Odin swooped around, settling in on Xander shoulder with a triumphant caw, its eyes gleaming as he watched Fenrir run up. Xander chuckled at his two friends.
“Relax guys, this is Odin. He belongs to a friend from school; she trained him as a passenger pigeon of sorts.”
Jessie slowly straightened up, eyeing the bird with awe, “He came from SCOTLAND??”
Xander laughed, “No, she’s from the States, out on the East Coast.”
“Still, X, man, you mean to tell me he flew across the country??”
Xander nodded, fishing some theater snacks he’d saved for Fenrir from his pocket and offering them to the bird. “Here you go, boy. Let’s see what you’ve got for me.”
Odin patiently let him take the note, then cocked his head questioningly and cawed once.
Xander checked the note briefly, and shook his head, “It’s cool, I don’t need to send an answer. I’ll call her later.”
Odin cawed loudly, then jumped clear and flew off.
“Man.” Jessie breathed, “That is one well trained bird.”
As soon as Jessie and Willow left for the evening, Xander went straight to the fireplace. They’d managed to get the floo hooked up, but it was for communication only. He lit it with a barbeque lighter that was there and tossed the floo powder into the flames.
It flashed bright green as Xander called, “Number One, Cemetery Lane.”
Across the country, in an old and decrepit looking home, the fireplace roared to life and exploded out into the living room. When a face appeared in it shortly thereafter, no one deemed it remarkable and Lurch walked slowly over and groaned.
“Hey Lurch,” Xander grinned, “Is Wednesday around?”
Lurch moaned again, then nodded and turned away.
“Cool. I guess I’ll just wait then.” Xander grinned.
“Alex, my boy,” Gomez grinned as he approached, “How are things out in... Sunny California?”
Xander grinned as the dapper man shivered as he said those last two words. “Oh, you know sir, nothing like a Hellmouth to keep things interesting.”
“Hellmouth?” Gomez leaned forward, “You don’t say? Wednesday didn’t mention Sunnydale.”
“You’ve been here, Sir?”
“Fourth honeymoon, young man,” Gomez smiled, puffing on his cigar. “Lovely time. It’s just too bad about all those Sabbat breeds, distasteful creatures, those. No sense of soul, you know?”
“Not really, but I’m learning, Sir.”
The two twisted, looking around to see Wednesday approaching. Gomez smiled and rose up, “Well I’ll see you another time then, my boy. Enjoy your chat.”
“Wednesday.” Xander said, his tone almost matching hers, then he grinned wide. “Good to see you.”
“And you as well.” She replied, “I see Odin made it to you with no problems.”
“He’s on his way back now,” Xander said, “Sorry I couldn’t send him back through the floo, but our connection doesn’t handle transport. Costs too much, and I guess it has to be warded heavily for security, and those cost a lot too.”
“That’s fine. Odin is a perfectly capable bird.” Wednesday said, “He’ll be fine.”
Xander nodded in agreement, “Oh hey, our address is Sunnydale Harris Home.”
“I will remember. How have your holidays been?”
“Pretty good, been working on my potions project, and getting some practice in too. You?”
“Much the same, Gram mama is helping me with potions, though.”
“Cool. Hey, can you ask her how to identify potions ingredients? The twins seem to have obscured their work,” Xander griped.
“I will ask,” Wednesday promised, and the talk quickly moved along into other subjects, including what each family was up to. Xander decided that whatever else was true about the Addamses they knew how to have an interesting time.
Xander’s summer holidays quickly settled into a routine, between spending time with Jessie and Willow and working on his magic he didn’t have time for much else. He was forced to make time, however, when Sam came back to make good on his promise, which he eagerly did.
Well, Xander was eager until the training Sam offered him consisted of exercise and lots of it. Sam just smirked, stole a beer from Tony, and settled in to watch as Xander sweated through the calisthenics.
“Tell you what, kid,” He called once after Xander whined about this not being what he’d asked for, “you get through the whole routine without dying on me, or puffing like a freight train, then we’ll start with some fighting basics, deal?”
Xander glared at him, but Sam only laughed and went back to sipping his beer as Tony came out and joined him as they watched Xander groan through the paces Sam had set for him.
So things quickly broke down into a set series of patterns that Xander rather enjoyed, and the summer became one of the best of his life. He, Willow, and Jessie roared through Sunnydale, doing all kinds of things that he never really got around to with them before. The normal stuff too, like movies and parties, but they often just found themselves out on the cliffs looking over the ocean for long hours as they talked about the past year and just simply reaffirmed their friendship.
Then he would spend time with his magic, sometimes plotting to nail the twins even if he had to do it from across the ocean, sometimes just reading ahead in his workbooks. Wanting to do homework was a new experience to Xander, but from what he had found at Hogwarts it was common to muggle born and raised. The very idea of doing magic was just so awesome they HAD to do as much as they could.
The pureblood students had a lead on them, but one thing every Muggleborn had over their pureblooded brethren was that they enjoyed trying to catch up. What was old and dull to the magically raised was awesome and incredible to Xander and those like him.
So he read ahead, and practiced some stuff from the second year books while his potions brewed. At the same time, Willow spent long hours over in the basement with him, buried in a book and asking questions that forced Xander to review everything he’d learned. In turn, he found it all the easier to move ahead with the past years work fresh in his mind.
He and Willow both wished they could tell Jessie, though; keeping the secret of magic from him was complicated and made things harder on all of them. If Xander had to do it for more than the summer, he doubted he’d be able to manage.
Through it all he kept careful notes and continued to work in the Coven Journal.
Narcissa shook her head, amazed at the work being run through the journal. She wished that Draco would spend as much time on learning magic as this one did. Lily was the same, though, she remembered idly. When she was spending time doing all sorts of inconsequential things, Lily Evans had been absorbing everything she could about magic and its practices.
How often had that happened, Narcissa wondered idly. Lily had started fast, it had been obvious from nearly her first day that she was bright, but just how bright wasn’t evident until her fourth or fifth year. By Seventh year, well it had been a foregone conclusion that the little Muggleborn girl would be Head Girl.
There was drive there, that Narcissa would have expected in Slytherin or, at least, Ravenclaw. What made her a Gryffindor would forever be a puzzle. Still, Lily hadn’t been the first Muggleborn to take that position, nor the last. Indeed, if she was reading correctly between the lines in Draco’s ranting, there was a young Miss Granger who was well on her way to being the latest.
There was a certain... love, no, not love. A Lust for magic that the Muggleborn seemed to have, Narcissa supposed. This all consuming infatuation that would eventually die down to a lifelong love similar to that which Narcissa herself held with the magic of her life.
The pale wife of Lucius Malfoy sighed, remembering the envy she had held for her Muggleborn friend during their school years, then went back to working on the journal. She truly enjoyed this diversion from her daily life; this young man was a fresh wind blowing through her life. She only wished that her fellow coven founders were still around to offer their points of view and enjoy it alongside her.
The worst day of the summer happened right around halfway through the holidays while Xander was working on his attempt at re brewing the twins’ ton tongue toffee. He could have sworn he had it right, but when he tested it on himself nothing seemed to happen.
Resigned to another failure Xander had started to pack things away when he felt a tightness in his pants and began to fidget.
“Xander?” Willow frowned, noticing his grimace. “Are you ok?”
“Pass me the antidote we brewed...”
“Why? It didn’t work...?”
“Willow! Just pass me the antidote!” Xander snapped, grabbing at the crotch of his pants as he tried not to be obvious about it.
Willow, puzzled, quickly handed it across to him and he drank it down but unfortunately found that it had no effect. “Xander, what’s wrong?”
“Uh, nothing.” Xander lied. He shifted again; managing to maneuver himself to his jeans weren’t threatening to crush the affected part of his anatomy. “I, uh, need to go and do... something.”
Willow blinked, confused, but before she could say anything Xander got up and bolted for the stairs out of the basement, only to run dead into his uncle as Sam came down the stairs.
“Hey, whoa kid, where’s the fire!?”
In my PANTS, Xander snarled internally, glaring at his uncle. “Nowhere, just need to go upstairs.”
“Kid?” Sam blinked as Xander pushed past him.
Willow just shrugged when Sam looked to her for an explanation, so he decided to follow and see what was up. Upstairs he found Xander in the hallway, fighting with his pants.
“Uh... kid?” Sam asked hesitantly, then he noticed the bulge in the kids’ jeans and started to wonder just what he and the redhead had been up to. “You know kid; maybe it’s time for you and your old man to have the talk...”
“What?” Xander stared at him for a moment, then grimaced, “Ow! God, Uncle Rory give me a hand here!”
“Hey kid, that ain’t even legal in Tennessee.” Rory held up his hands.
“What are you... Ahhh...” Xander sighed as his pants came loose and he relaxed a bit, “God that sucked. Stupid potion.”
“Potion?” Sam blinked, “Uh... that was caused by a potion?”
Xander nodded; face reddening, “Yeah. God, what if Willow had seen me!? Oh man, this is so humiliating!”
Sam eyed the kids’ crotch for a moment before realizing what he was doing and shook himself clear, “Uh... how long does it last?”
Xander blinked, “I dunno, why?”
“Just curious, kid.” Sam said, thinking hard about the potential benefits. “You got any left?”
Xander slumped in a sofa chair, his zipped now undone as his underwear tended through the split. “Why!?”
“I’ve got a date tonight, kid.” Sam grinned.
Xander groaned a little shifting again for comfort, then looked at Sam oddly. “Yeah, sure I guess. It’s down in the cauldron. Just get it from Willow, I think I’m gonna spend the day in bed.”
Xander quickly put that humiliation out of his thoughts and, after the effects of the potion went down, literally, a few hours later he vowed to never test potions on himself again. The twins had the right idea, in his opinion. Get some suckers to do it.
In the meantime, though, he refocused on just enjoying his vacation time.
Well until his dad came to him one day and said that Sam had suggested they have ‘The Talk’. After an hour that quickly became the second most humiliating thing that happened to him that summer, Xander escaped with pretty much no dignity left and a vow to NEVER tell anyone about those events as long as he lived.
As the end of July came, Xander was surprised to come upstairs one morning to find Miss Berkeley speaking with his parents.
“Ah, hello, it’s been a year, hasn’t it, Alexander?”
“Ah, I guess so, yes.”
“Tell me, how was your time at Hogwarts?”
Xander shrugged, “Was ok I guess.”
The scholastic recruiter smiled, “I think it was a little better than ok, you did quite well actually. Not top in your classes, but usually within the top twenty, which is quite respectable.”
Xander smiled, “Well I learned the trick to that here.”
“Find the smartest girls in school and hang around them,” Xander grinned.
Elizabeth Berkeley smiled widely, “That sounds like an excellent plan. I was just speaking with your parents about your options for this year.”
“Yes, the Salem Institute has reopened its doors to new students, though space is still at a premium due to the volcano...”
“Yeah, I remember.” Xander smirked, “Has it kept growing?”
“Quite.” Elizabeth nodded, then sighed, “To be honest it’s been a nightmare. We still haven’t worked out what those students were working on, and if we could we would certainly ban it in the future.”
The woman sighed, then shook her head, “At any rate, you have a place in Salem, of course... also, home schooling remains an option, and I am pleased to say that we have decided to encourage an ongoing scholastic exchange.”
“You mean we can keep going to other schools if we want?” Xander asked, interested.
She nodded, “yes, though there are some restrictions.”
“What kind?” Jessica asked, leaning forward.
“While Hogwarts and its sibling schools in Europe are well known for high standards in scholastic pursuits, there are several courses they do not offer that are highly encouraged in Salem.” Berkeley stated, “American Wizarding History, for one. Chemistry, Physics, Biology. These are core courses in the normal world, but only electives at Salem. Still, they have become increasingly more important as technological advances begin to match, and in places outstrip, magical alternatives.”
“What are you suggesting then?”
“These are mostly introductory courses, because magic is taught so young, they basically amount to prep courses in case Alex here may wish to pursue them further after he graduates.” She explained, “So we’re considering offering a tutor to help balance the Old World education and atmosphere with some of our own new world curriculum.”
“That sounds pretty cool,” Xander said.
“We’ll have to discuss it,” Jessica said, frowning, and wondering about her son being so far from home yet again and possibly remaining there for several years, barring holidays.
“Of course, just contact me within a week or so?”
Jessica nodded in agreement, and Elizabeth rose and said a few parting pleasantries before leaving.
“So, Alex, what do you think?”
Xander frowned, considering, “I don’t know. Hogwarts is cool, and I had a lot of fun...”
“And got pretty good grades too,” Jessica said, looking at his report, “I’m impressed, Alex, this is a big improvement.”
Xander flushed, but nodded as he smiled, “Thanks mom.”
“Now though, this is a big decision.”
Xander nodded in agreement, “yeah.”
“Did you make any friends?”
“Sure, Mom, Hermione and Wednesday are great.”
“And will they be at Hogwarts?”
Xander paused, “Well Hermione will be.”
“What about this Wednesday?”
“I don’t know, she’s like me, Mom.”
“Is she the one you talk to over the floo every few days?” Jessica smiled.
“Well go check with her then, see what she’s thinking about doing.”
Xander nodded in agreement, “Thanks Mom.”
#1 Cemetery Lane
The explosion of the floo flame startled the Addams clan for only a moment before Wednesday ran up to the fireplace and actually smiled a little.
“Hey Wednesday,” Xander’s flaming image grinned back, “You get a messenger from the school?”
“He’s still here.” Wednesday said, taking her normal seat. “He and father are speaking about the options available to us now.”
“Mine left; has he talked about the exchange program?”
“Any idea what you’re going to do?”
“I believe I would like to return.” Wednesday said after a moment, “I believe that it may be important.”
Xander raised a flaming eyebrow, “Oh? Are you a seer or something?”
“No, but the family blood often exerts an influence.”
“Watch it,” Xander smirked, “You’re starting to sound like some of the purebloods.”
Wednesday arced a brow in return, unsmiling as she responded, “Please. The Addams bloodline is a carefully monitored integration of all blood traits. Those stagnant families are nothing compared to mine.”
Xander’s fiery image threw up his hands, “Whoa, ok, I give. Just saying.”
“At any rate, father is discussing the matter now.”
Xander nodded, and then grinned as he heard Gomez yell something about a donation in the background. “What was that?”
“I believe that father is offering to pay for our tutor.” Wednesday said with a smirk.
Xander rolled his eyes, knowing from the past Christmas just what Gomez could be like. “So you’re going back?”
Wednesday looked at the burning image of her friend, considering the question. She had a distinct feeling that it was important for her to be in Scotland, for the moment at least. She also thought that it was likely important that she and Xander remain close, but she didn’t know why. Should she convince him to go back? The question bothered her, as she didn’t have all the information for herself. Did he even like it there?
He hadn’t been unhappy, she didn’t think, but perhaps Xander wanted to go to Salem. Should she try and convince him otherwise?
Wednesday took a breath.
“I am.” She said, “And you?”
“I’m not sure,” Xander said seriously, “I need to talk it over with my mom and dad.”
“Do so.” She said, then smiled ever so slightly. “If you choose not to, write me.”
“Count on it.”
Xander’s image vanished then, and Wednesday stared at the empty fireplace for a long moment.
His will was his own; he would make his choice as she made hers.
Come what may, she was an Addams and not some pawn of destiny.
Xander was torn, actually, concerning the coming year. Returning to Hogwarts wasn’t really something he had looked forward to, though he did have brief flashes where he considered a given. Moments where he thought about studying with Wednesday and Hermione, nailing the twins to the wall, maybe even talking more with Daphne about pureblood politics.
The journal rested on the bed beside, and he realized that it too was a sign that he had expected to return, on some level. Of course, what else could he expect? He didn’t know Salem, had no clue about any other school for magic THAN Hogwarts. To some degree, he supposed, he’d never really considered going elsewhere.
He took a breath and nodded. He supposed that was settled then.
“You want to go back?” Jessica asked softly.
“Yeah, Mom,” Xander smiled, “I’ve got some friends there, and Wednesday is going back too.”
“I’ll call Miss Berkeley.”
Xander found himself feeling nervous again, just like last year when he was getting ready to go, but this time found the sensation to be a bit more thrilling than frightening. He was going to learn more magic; it just didn’t get any cooler than that, unless you counted the fact that he got to do it with friends.
Of course he was leaving Wills and Jessie again, and that really sucked, but they’d have a great summer and another one next year. He wished that Willow’s parents had let her attend magical school, but then Jessie would be alone and that wasn’t cool either.
There were so many things he wished were different, but the world didn’t respond to wishes and he’d learned a while ago that making them was futile. Oddly, though, after he’d given up wishing for things, some of them started coming true. He was magical, special, that was an old one, a wish he’d had since he was old enough to read comics. Every kid wanted to be Superman or Spiderman, or something, and he got to live the dream. A more important dream, one where his parents got along a bit better, seemed to be coming true too. His dad didn’t drink so much now, and his mom seemed more... here than she had before.
He wasn’t sure it was something that would hold, but in the meantime he had to admit that it felt pretty good to think of his parents as a combo rather than two separate individuals.
The rest of Xander’s summer proceeded at an ever increasing pace, making him feel like he was riding an accelerating train. The days flashed by, crammed with everything he could think of doing with his friends before he had to leave them, but it wasn’t long before he could see the end of summer looming and knew that their time was short.
Oddly, his Uncle had taken a bit more of an interest in Xander’s magic work in addition to his physical training, which resulted in a strange conversation toward the end of the holidays.
“Hey kid, what are you up to?” Sam asked nonchalantly, leaning against the stairwell as he watched Xander practice.
“Pretty good, I think I’ve got this ‘Protego’ shield charm almost right.” Xander said, demonstrating the spell with a powerful shout of ‘Protego!’
The shield shimmered into existence between them, an iridescent bubble that slowly firmed up as Xander focused on it.
“Neat,” Sam said, pulling his keys from his pocket and whipping them at Xander.
Xander jumped, the shield flickered and burst like a bubble as the keys struck it then went on to bounce off his forehead.
“Stay focused kid,” Sam said, walking into the room. “A shield is no good if you can’t keep it up.”
Xander rubbed his forehead, glaring at his uncle. “Yeah, yeah. Jeez, did you have to throw them so hard?”
“No,” Sam answered, then smiled, “but I wanted to.”
Xander grumbled, but went back to work.
“They teach you shielding spells in first year?” Sam asked, looking over the book Xander was working out of.
“Nah, I think it’s like fourth or fifth year, but it’s COOL.” Xander grinned, “hard as it is to believe, I’m doing homework I don’t have to do yet.”
“I think that one might be a bit ahead of you, kid.” Sam chuckled, shaking his head. “Just remember what I said about magic, ok kid?”
Xander nodded seriously.
“And, on that note, I was wondering kid... can you make any more of that potion I borrowed?” Sam asked his expression hopeful.
“Why?” Xander blurted, then remembered ‘the talk’ with his dad and shivered, “You know what, never mind. I don’t want to know. Uh, yeah, I kept notes so I wouldn’t try the same thing twice...”
Xander picked up his potions journal and frowned, flipping through the pages until he found the one marked as ‘utter failure, do NOT mix again’ and handed the journal over to Sam. “That one, copy it if you want, but leave the original there. I don’t want to accidentally mix that again.”
“Sure, sure, kid,” Sam said, pulling out a pen. “Whatever you say.”
Sam then ignored Xander as he went back to practice his spells, preferring to focus on copying the page contents as perfectly as possible.
“Hey bro!” Jessie called as he and Willow came into the house.
“Guys,” Xander grinned, “I thought we were meeting up later?”
“We thought we’d have a little celebration, dude, we did miss your birthday you know.”
Xander smiled hesitantly, “That’s ok, guys, I mean I wasn’t here.”
Willow ducked her head, “We wanted to.”
“Come in,” Jessica said, coming into the room with a big cake, surprising Xander. “Is everyone hungry?”
“Yes ma’am!” Jessie grinned, bolting for the table.
Xander looked around, a little lost, but Willow tugged him to the table and he followed willingly.
“Guys, Mom, I don’t know what to say... thanks.”
“Looks like you figured it out easy enough,” Jessie grinned.
Xander grinned in response as Willow stepped to his side and pushed something into his hands.
“What’s a party without presents?” Jessie asked from the other side of the table, a big slice of cake halfway to his mouth.
Xander glanced at Willow, who had reverted to her shy self.
“It’s not much or anything, I just... kinda thought it would come in handy.”
Xander grinned, then opened the package. He was surprised when he saw the lovely pen set inside a hardwood box, both because it was a rather elegant style that he’d never seen before, but also because of how much he actually appreciated it. A year ago, he knew, he would be disappointed not to have a toy or something similar.
“I told her we should get you a mini TV or something, but she insisted,” Jessie apologized from across the table.
“It’s ok isn’t it?” Willow asked, her voice suddenly worried. “I mean, it’s not disappointing to you or anything, right?”
“Willow.” Xander said softly, cutting her off. “It’s great. Thank you.”
Willow beamed at him, “It’s a really fancy fountain pen, so you might have some trouble at first, but I thought, you know, with what you told me about the school it might kinda fit in.”
Xander blinked, pulling the silver pen out and looking at it carefully. Willow was right, actually, the nib of the pen looked very much like the quills they used at school. Some of the Muggleborn kids had the foresight to bring ballpoint pens with them, especially the older years, but such things were frowned on by many of the teachers. Snape especially detested them and wouldn’t grade any work done with one.
He experimentally scratched out his name on the wrapping paper and was both shocked and pleased to see it write almost exactly like the quills, only much smoother and easier to work with. He mentally compared it to how quill work looked and was pretty sure it was almost identical.
“This is perfect!” he blurted, gleefully examining the pen closer, and noticing several refill cartridges.
“There’s a book on calligraphy too,” Willow said helpfully.
“Oh, just brilliant, Wills, Jess... its great!”
“Careful, your inner nerd AND inner brit is showing, dude.” Jessie said, mock mournfully, “My best pal, lost to the whims of the nerdy British. It’s horrible.”
“Yuck it up, smart guy,” Xander scowled playfully at his pal.
“I will,” Jessie grinned.
Xander grinned then, and looked at his two best friends on this side of the Rockies. “Thanks guys. You’re the best.”
After the impromptu party, the trio went out to the movies and spent the rest of the evening in the Bronze. Despite all the warnings he’d had about the dangers of the Hellmouth, Xander had yet to see a vampire and he was actually a little disappointed, thought not by too much. Even Gomez Addams had referred to the local vamps as ‘Distasteful’, which either meant they were sun loving pacifists, or seriously freaking scary.
Given the fact that they were, after all, Vampires, Xander figured for number two. He’d already wrung a promise out of Willow to not go out alone or with someone she didn’t know, and to make sure Jessie did the same. His parents and Sam had also said they’d keep an eye on the duo, but Xander was seriously going to break the law just as soon as he could provide some good proof to Jessie and get away with it.
Sam had told him that most vamps don’t grab younger kids, though, because it attracted too much attention. Xander had felt better after that, but Sam had then gone on to say that in Sunnydale the attention tended to die out pretty quick, and that teens were considered primo targets cause of how often they ran away.
Xander figured that he had a couple years, tops, to figure out a way to break it to Jessie without getting himself in deep with the Magical Law Enforcement types.
He would worry about it more, except that he’d been looking every time they were out after dark, and the town seemed dead at night. If it wasn’t for everyone agreeing, Xander would think they were pulling a joke on him or something.
As it was he just pushed it aside, and trusted that everything was under control. After all, if the vamps and dangerous types weren’t anywhere to be seen, it should be pretty safe.
“Xander, your port key is here!”
Xander clomped down the stairs, running over to where his mother was taking a letter from a post owl and grinned. “When’s it set for?”
She checked the note, and one eyebrow went up. “Five minutes. Lord they cut things close, don’t they?”
“I’ve got my stuff, mom.” Xander grabbed the handle of his school truck to show that he was serious, and reached out for the key.
The port key turned out to be an actual key, he found as his mother handed it to him and Xander examined it for a moment curiously. “Looks kinda beat up.”
Jessica smirked slightly, “Wizards like to use old things for port keys, it cuts down on the odds of the wrong person picking it up. They probably got this out of a lost and found tray.”
Xander chuckled, and his mother gave him a quick hug.
“Behave at school, try not to get into too much trouble, and don’t forget you’re great Aunt Lavelle is going to meet you at Salem for a chat. Be polite.”
“I will, mom.” Xander promised.
Jessica pulled back, checking her watch. “Almost time, hon. I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m gonna miss you and Dad too, Mom,” Xander said, just a tiny bit surprised that he was telling the truth.
“Are you coming home for the holidays this time?”
“I... I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know, ok?” Xander asked hopefully.
Jessica smiled softly, “Alright.”
Xander started to say something else when he felt a tug at his navel, and the world whirled around him, and he was gone.
Xander’s arrival in Salem ended with him on his backside in the office of the Dean, staring up at the bemused faces looking down at him and flushing in embarrassment.
“Sorry,” He said, climbing to his feet. “I can’t seem to get the hang of those things.”
“No need for apologies,” Said an old man who reminded Xander a lot of Dumbledore, though with a little less insanity showing through. “I believe I was in my forties before I learned to land properly from a port key, though they were a tad rougher back then.”
The two other people in the office smiled slightly, and Xander recognized one of them as his great Aunt and quickly bowed to them both.
“Well, a polite young man as well,” The old man said, smiling. “I’m Arthur Fitzpatrick, young Mr. Harris, Dean of Salem Academy for the Magical Arts.”
Xander blinked, then turned and bowed slightly to him as well. “Pleased to meet you, Sir.”
“And you, young man. I regret that you have chosen to school yourself elsewhere, I think you would have been a fine addition to the campus.” Arthur said, smiling widely. “Now, we gathered here to speak of how things will work on this exchange program, if you’re amenable?”
Xander blinked, not actually knowing what the word meant, but decided to agree anyway just based on context. “Yes sir, of course.”
“Excellent,” Arthur smiled again, then nodded to the man Xander didn’t recognize.
“I am Professor Hardy,” The hawk faced man said; “I’ve been assigned to liaise between Salem and Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. I will be providing you will extra tutelage in the coursework you’ll be expected to know should you go on to higher learning in a non-magical institute after you write your NEWTS.”
“Nice to meet you, Sir.”
“You will be expected to maintain a certain level of grades, Alexander,” Arthur said seriously, “Last year we didn’t watch as closely because we had nowhere else to send you, but if your grades drop you will not be permitted to continue at Hogwarts.”
Xander swallowed, but nodded. “I understand.”
“Judging from your marks last year, I don’t believe there will be any great issues,” Arthur said, glancing through the sheaf of parchment he was holding. “You’ve turned out very respectable results that, while not exceptional, do show you to be ahead of the class averages at Hogwarts and here.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Now, the standard warnings of gloom and doom done with, I believe that you’re great Aunt wishes to speak with you in private.” Arthur stood, “You may, of course, use my office if you like.”
“Thank you, no, Dean.” Jessica Lavelle said as she too rose up. “I believe we’ll talk and walk.”
“Of course.” Arthur replied, returning to his seat with an affable grin.
“Come along child,” Jessica said, laying a hand on Xander’s shoulder.
Xander nodded and let her lead him out.
Once they were away from the office, outside and moving along the manicured paths that made up the non-volcanic portion of the campus, Jessica spoke again.
“Lesson one; never hold a private conversation in someone else’s office.” She said out of the blue, “It is an invitation to nosy busybodies to spy on you.”
Xander blinked, looking back, “You think he would have...?”
“Unlikely, but possible. No, I meant it as general advice, child.” The older woman said, “It is far too easy for Wizards or Witches to get the idea that they deserve to know everything about everyone around them. Power Dementia is an ugly thing.”
Not knowing what else to do, Xander nodded in agreement.
Jessica smiled, “You don’t know what I mean yet, child, but you will. Tell me, what do you know about your family?”
“About my mom and dad?”
“No, Alex. Your family. The Lavelle’s and the Harris’.”
Xander shrugged, “not much. Mom told me some over the summer, but it seems really complicated.”
Jessica sighed, shaking her head. “You should have been identified as magical a long time ago, Alexander. The scrying devices must have been blinded by the infernal portal you live near, and no one thought to check The Book. Marcus will tell you nothing of the Harris family, I expect, and there is little I can say other than some background.”
She paused, considering, “The Harris magical line is Irish, as is your Lavelle bloodline, though we Lavelle’s are a widely traveled bunch. Both trunk lines were destroyed, as I told you before, and now only the Colonial lines exist. Some here, some in Africa, Australia, South America. Likely a few extended relations in the Ural Mountains, and possibly even into the Russia, Lavelle family only. Harris clan members are almost entirely in Australia and America, and most of those in Australia have been disowned at some point in their ancestry.”
“As the non magical folk sent criminals to Australia as punishment, so too did our lines send... black sheep. Family members who chose not to fit in, but rather to cause trouble in one form or another.” Jessica shrugged, “Actually, many of those types came to America as well, but our ancestors on this side of the Atlantic were usually too important to strike from the family register and so your paternal blood is possibly one of the last of the official Harris lines.”
“Whoa.” Xander blinked.
“You don’t understand any of this, I know,” She sighed. “So much to learn, so little time. On the Lavelle side you’re not quite as important, but you’re still one of ours and we tend to stick together.”
“I know some of this stuff,” Xander said, frowning. “Blood seems really important to a lot of people in England, you know.”
She smiled slightly, “I was aware, yes.”
“A lot of my schoolmates,” Xander wouldn’t say friends, “seem to think it’s the most important thing when it comes to being magical.”
“Many people do, though I will say that few of them are intelligent folk.” Jessica said, faintly amused, “Of course, in fairness, few folk of any sort are intelligent.”
“My friends are.” Xander said his tone defensive.
She smiled at that, amused by his instant leap to the defense of his friends. “Perhaps. Are they purebloods?”
Xander snorted, “Not hardly. Hermione is Muggleborn, and Wednesday thinks purebloods are pretty thin blooded.”
“Interesting names.” Jessica raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll tell you a little secret, Alexander, something pureblood lines hate to dwell on.” Jessica said after a moment, “If you go back far enough, even the oldest pureblood family begins with a ‘Muggleborn’. We came from the non magical populace, as does every variation of humanity in existence. Vampires, Lycan’s, Wizarding Kind, all from the same source. What many would consider ‘lowly’ humans.”
Xander smirked, “Makes sense. I knew there was nothing to this pureblood stuff.”
“I did not say that, Alexander.” Jessica said sharply. “Remember this well, we may have originated from them, but bloodlines that have existed for centuries and even millennia are changed by time. There are talents, little blood traits that arise from time to time in a bloodline, that do follow the blood. They separate us from the majority of those who are born to non magical folk. You will almost never see a Speaker born to normal folk, not one of any stripe.”
“Those who have a natural empathy with an element of magic. There are those who speak with animals, elements, even the spirits who have crossed over.”
“Spirits? You mean ghosts?” Xander grinned, “Anyone can speak with them.”
“No, those who have crossed over. Not the souls who remain here for whatever reason, those who have moved on.” She corrected sharply. “These are bloodline traits; it’s almost unheard of for a first generation Wizard or Witch to enjoy anything of the like.”
Xander considered that for a long moment, then spoke up, “Do our families have any talents like that?”
Jessica smiled, “Good question, child. One I will table until another time, however. If you’re very good, you’ll be able to answer it for yourself.”
Xander crossed his arms over his chest and sulked slightly, causing her to laugh again.
“Come, Alex. Our time runs short, and you have another busy year ahead of you.”
His great Aunt led him back to the dorms, then bade him goodbye, leaving Xander feeling very confused as to what the whole meeting had been about. One thing he did know, however, was that he was going to be doing some research into his family lines just as soon as he got a chance.
The possibility of having magical talents that went beyond casting spells was just too cool to leave unchecked.
He played with Fenrir a bit, then went to sleep for the night with the knowledge that he’d be heading back to England the next day dancing through his dreams all night. Lack of proper sleep aside, however, Xander was up early and excited to get moving. He was meeting up with Wednesday again today.
The Addams once again arrived by car, forgoing the faster modes of transport in favor of the ancient automobile chauffeured by the title character from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
“Alexander.” Wednesday Addams returned his happy shout with a more reserved greeting, leading Xander to slow his approach slightly, and shift to a more laid back wave.
“Ready for more Hogwarts?” he asked, smiling.
“Of course. Are you?” She asked pointedly, one eyebrow peaking.
“Probably not.” He grinned.
She sighed slightly, shaking her head, then turned back to her parents. “Mother, Father.”
“Wednesday, Darling, we’ll miss you so.” Mortisha said, leaning over to hug her daughter.
“Alex, my boy,” Gomez greeted Xander as he came around the car, “How have you been? Care for a cigar?”
“Uh, no thanks, and I’ve been good, Sir.”
“Sir. Please, call me Gomez lad.” The exuberant man laughed, “No need to stand on ceremony with me.”
“Gomez, honey, Wednesday is ready to go.” Mortisha said, dabbing at her eyes.
“Ah yes, off on another adventure. You do us proud; Wednesday, just remember the Addams motto and you’ll do fine.” Gomez said with a fierce grin.
“Addams motto?” Xander asked, curious.
“We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Wednesday said in a deadpan delivery.
“Yikes. Cheery.” Xander blurted with a shiver.
“I know,” Gomez clasped his hands together. “Gives me goose bumps just thinking it. That’s a strong family statement, my boy.”
Xander nodded, slowly. He couldn’t really argue with that, that was for sure.
The elder Addams left shortly after, and with only a short bit of milling around Xander and Wednesday were herded into a smaller group than the last time, with professor Hardy chaperoning.
“Is everyone here?” he asked, looking around. Once he had satisfied himself that he wasn’t missing any of his charges, he gave out the last minute directions and held out the port key.
When they all touched it, the key tugged them into the swirling space they transited, and then spat them back out in London’s Diagon Alley. The group arrival created a bit of a fuss, but things calmed down shortly as the group made their way around the alley, getting their books for the year. There seemed to be a lot more of them this year, Xander noticed, most written by the same guy.
“Who’s this Lockhart dude?” He whispered to Wednesday.
“I do not know.” She admitted, “I’ve never read any of these books.”
“They look kinda cool.” Xander said hesitantly.
Indeed, they looked a lot cooler than the other books they had to buy. Shiny covers, moving pictures, and a wizard posing on the front of each book with wide smiles and heroic looking postures made the books seem pretty interesting. Xander tucked them away, counting out his money quickly, and wondered if he could get some time in some of the other stores before they had to go.
It wasn’t to be, however, as Hardy rounded them up shortly after that and another port key later found them on platform nine and three quarters as people milled about, saying their goodbyes to students who were boarding the train.
“Alexander, Wednesday, I’ll see you on the train now.” Hardy said firmly.
“You’re not coming?”
“No, I have to take the others across the channel to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.” he said, “You two are the only two returning to Hogwarts.”
Xander nodded and Wednesday merely pulled him along.
“Come along, it’s time to board.”
“Alright, see ya, Sir!”
Professor Hardy nodded as the duo boarded the train, then turned to the rest of his charges and withdrew his port key ring yet again.
Xander and Wednesday had taken a seat in an empty compartment, the dark girl’s quiet stare more than enough to scare away any firstie who may have normally dared intrude, and several second through fourth years who had appeared as well. The train rumbled once or twice, and then a few minutes after they had boarded they were on their way. The two sat in what could have been uncomfortable silence for most, but was more of a companionable quiet for them, both reading their own books up until the door burst open and Hermione rushed in.
“Herms.” Xander grinned, putting his books aside.
“Oh god, have either of you seen Harry or Ron?” The young witch asked tightly.
Wednesday raised one eyebrow, “Have you misplaced them?”
Used to the Raven of Ravenclaw’s sardonic comments, Hermione just slumped into the seat across from them, “I can’t find them anywhere, they didn’t get on the train.”
Xander frowned, “Huh.”
“Huh!? HUH!? Is that all you can say?”
“Have you told the prefects?” Xander asked.
“Of course I have.”
“Well, until we get to Hogwarts we can’t do anything else. Unless you want to fly back on broomstick and search London.” Xander suggested wryly, then paled when he saw the gleam in Hermione’s eyes, “And I was JOKING about that. Wednesday and I are Americans, for god’s sake, we’d get lost before we even FOUND London.”
“I would not.” Wednesday objected calmly.
“Fine, I would.” Xander retorted. “They probably just ran late, they’ll get hold of someone and probably be in the castle before we are.”
“You really think so?” Hermione asked expression hopeful.
“If not, I think that there’s a small army of professors who’ll be out looking for them, and THEY know the area.” Xander shrugged. “Besides, Harry’s tough.”
“Right and Ron is with him too.” Hermione let out a breath.
Xander glanced at Wednesday, then shrugged, “I’m sure he’ll be ok anyway.”
Their arrival in Hogwarts was uneventful, though Hermione flew right at Hagrid when the big man arrived to gather up the first years.
“Hagrid! Hagrid, you have to help!”
“There, there, Hermione, what’s wrong then?” Hagrid paused, turning away from the quailing first years.
“Harry and Ron never made it on the train!”
“WHAT!?” The giant of a man roared, sending eleven year olds cowering to the cobblestones.
“Relax.” Xander said, “Hagrid’s alright.”
They looked up at him, unbelieving.
“Are you sure?” one asked quietly, looking like he was about to pee his pants.
“He’s harmless, unless he sits on you,” Xander replied with a smirk.
That was a joke most of them got, and the giggled hesitantly. A redheaded girl nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, my brothers say Hagrid’s the best.”
Xander turned his focus on her, one eyebrow crooking. “Let me guess, Weasely?”
She glared at him, noting his green and silver, “Something wrong with that?”
“I suppose it depends.” Xander replied dryly, “Do you take after Ron, the Twins, or Percy?”
She grinned cruelly. “The twins are scared of me.”
“Lord help us all, we’re doomed.” Xander returned with an expression and a tone to match Wednesday at her sarcastic, cutting best.
The girl reddened, but their attention was diverted away from their banter to where Hermione was chattering urgently with Hagrid.
“Right then,” The big man said, coming to a decision, “Let’s get your first years in the castle. Don’t you worry, Hermione, I’ll go straight to McGonagall as soon as we arrive. We’ll get ‘em back, don’t you worry none.”
“Too late,” Hermione said softly.
Xander put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed slightly, then nodded to the carriages. She nodded in agreement and along with Wednesday they headed in that direction.
As they arrived at the waiting carriages, however, two more redheads were waiting.
“Oh brother of mine, look here, our favorite...”
“Test subject has returned.”
Xander rolled his eyes, “Do you guys mind? Hermione is worried about Harry and your bother.”
The two shrugged, “Those two will be fine...”
“We taught Ron everything he knows.”
“Well that explains the attitude.” Xander retorted sarcastically.
The twins looked at each other, the grinned evilly at him.
“Just so you know...”
“We didn’t get enough time to properly pay you back last year.”
“But now, the gods have smiled on us. We must have done something right in a previous life.”
The two glanced at each other, puzzled, then spoke together. “Can’t imagine what that would have been.”
They shrugged, then went on with their normal back and forth.
“Anyway, now we get you for a full year.”
“Our prayers have been answered.”
“We do hope you’re ready for pain,”
“And then, when you’re used to wearing green and silver again,” The twins smirked, “We’ll take a shot or two at you as well.”
Xander rolled his eyes, “Get a new act, this one’s stale.”
Then the three boarded the carriages as the twins looked at each other with determined expressions.
“What should we do, brother of mine?”
“I know, we will get him...”
“At the feast!”
“Brilliant!” The two grinned together as the carriage doors closed, leaving Xander to sigh.
“Those two are a good argument for birth control.”
“Xander!” Hermione flushed hotly.
As they approached the castle, Xander noticed that Hagrid had indeed beaten them there in the normally slow boats and was conferring urgently with Professor McGonagall. The older woman got very tense and hurried off into the castle, which told Xander that at least someone was doing something. He relaxed a bit himself, letting out some tension he hadn’t really known he was carrying.
Harry was a good enough guy, and Hermione liked the two of them, so yeah he was a bit worried.
“Oh look, the Barbarian is back and hanging out with his little mudblood again.”
The drawling voice cut into the thoughts of the trio as they walked up to the castle, and they looked up to see Draco Malfoy leaning against a wall ahead of them.
“Still with the same old routine, huh?” Xander shook his head, “I told the twins that their act was stale, but yours is growing mold, Draco.”
Draco stiffened, glaring at Xander, “How DARE you?”
“Besides,” Xander went on, ignoring the question, “It’s not like ‘mudblood’ is a good description of muggle born, Draco.”
“What?” The blond boy blinked, noticing now that the ‘conversation’ was drawing a crowd.
“Actually, I think that mudblood would be a better description for purebloods that have children with known problems, like squibs.” Xander went on, “I mean, how can you call Hermione a mudblood when you don’t know what her blood line is, was, or will be? She could be anything, from the worst traits on the planet, to the very best. You just don’t know, right?”
Draco looked lost as Hermione stared at Xander with an expression alternating between horror and fascination.
“I think that muggle born, real muggle born,” Xander said pensively, “are better named... Wild bloods.”
“Wild blood??” Draco blurted out, going red. “What kind of nonsense is...?”
“Well, if you can’t predict her blood traits, then she’s a wild factor, isn’t she?” Xander asked, shrugging. “So you can’t call her a mudblood, because you can’t prove it. In a couple hundred years, after she’s had children, grandchildren, and so on... well then you can say one way or the other, but right now it just makes you sound stupid.”
“Indeed.” Wednesday intoned as she walked past, “Not that you need the help.”
Several of the gathered crowd stopped murmuring at what Xander had said to laugh nervously at Wednesday’s comments, which only riled Draco up more. He jumped forward, grabbing Wednesday by the arm and whipping her around violently.
“You freak! You can’t talk to me like-!”
Hus statement was cut off by Wednesday’s wand jabbing into his crotch, Xander’s driving up under his ear, and Hermione’s glowing between his eyes. He froze, turning remarkably pale as Xander glared at the two bookends who had only just realized he needed help.
“Back off.” Xander growled at Crabbe and Goyle before turning to Malfoy. “Here’s how this works. You can insult all you like, we’ll insult back. You can argue, we’ll argue back. Or you can get violent.”
Wednesday looked up at Draco, jabbing her wand once into his groin, “And then we will get violent back... after that, you won’t insult, argue, or get violent again. Ever.”
Draco, still staring cross eyed at the glowing wand between his eyes, squeaked.
“Now go and play, little boy.” Wednesday said softly. “Before I decide to play with you.”
They released him and the Malfoy scion stumbled back, practically falling on his ass before Crabbe and Goyle grabbed him to keep him from falling. He stared at them in undisguised fear before the three of them retreated.
“You’ve gotten better.” Wednesday nodded slightly to Xander as they put away their wands.
“Practicing over the summer,” he said, “Plus my uncle is former Navy and he decided I needed some exercise and stuff.”
Wednesday nodded, not bothering to comment on what ‘stuff’ was. Xander just grinned at Hermione, nodding to her wand. “That was so freaking cool. What spell were you ready to cast?”
She blushed, “Actually, it was just a tinted lumos spell. I thought it would look intimidating.”
“Sweet.” Xander grinned, glancing over his shoulder, “I think you intimidated Draco into a new pair of shorts.”
“Indeed,” Wednesday rolled her eyes, “I did not need that image, thank you very much.”
Xander shrugged, “Everyone’s a critic.”
The trio glanced around, noting finally that they had drawn a crowd. Wednesday coolly ignored them as Hermione blushed at all the attention, but Xander just bowed.
“Thank you, thank you, we’re here all year folks.” he said with a flourish and bow, “please, no flowers, just throw money.”
The crowd chuckled at that and began to break up. The trio were heading in to the school when a scream went up, and they spun around to see people pointing into the air as an old car flew past.
“That I did not see coming.” Xander said, staring at the sky as the car looped around, barely missing a tower, and came back.
“Oh my god!” Hermione screamed, hands flying to her mouth.
“I’m just guessing, but I’d say that Harry and Ron are here.” Xander said to no one in particular.
“What makes you think it’s Potter?”
Xander glanced to one side, then nodded to Daphne as the dark haired girl stepped up beside him.
“Two reasons,” Xander said as the car did a loop the loop. “First, Harry’s the only guy missing who can make an entrance that big...”
The car missed its landing, then swerved left and careened into the whomping willow, which proceeded, well, whomp on it with a great deal of enthusiasm. Xander winced, “And two, only Ron could possibly screw it up that bad.”
Professors rushed out of the school, running in a group down to the willow as it proceeded to pound on the car and, as the school watched, Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were rescued from the flying car before it, apparently on its own cognizance, took off for the forbidden forest.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” Xander said, looking at the group of first years that was nearby. “Believe it or not, this isn’t really all that strange.”
A few of them tittered nervously, then several laughed outright, and as the word came back that both Harry and Ron would be alright after a stay in the infirmary wing, they began to laugh almost uncontrollably as the teachers came back, looking completely befuddled by the reaction of the students to the events in question.
Xander let out a breath, then looked around to see that Hermione was gone, chasing after the teachers who had Ron and Harry. He shrugged, then extended an arm to Wednesday with exaggerated gallantry.
She looked at him evenly for a moment, then nodded and accepted his arm.
Green and Silver strode with Blue and Bronze, walking through the laughing first years and into Hogwarts and their second year of magical education.
Xander watched the sorting from the Slytherin table, trying to ignore the sheer weight of the loathing he could feel emanating from Draco as the blond boy sat in his normal position to Xander’s left. Daphne had taken a place on his right, for which Xander was grateful cause it meant that he at least had some semi decent conversation as things moved along.
The hat had sent Slytherin it’s fair share of the firsties, Xander noted, though most of them seemed a little cowed compared to the exuberant ones that were ricocheting around the Gryffindor table. Xander supposed that there were some good things to being the ‘evil’ group.
As the sorting was finished, the headmaster looked around and delivered his normal speech, introducing the new defense professor as one Gilderoy Lockhart. Xander frowned, thinking about where he’d heard that name before, then realized that it was the author of many of his new books.
Weird, Xander frowned. School books were standardized, right? A professor couldn’t just pick his own books as the ones to teach out of? Maybe the standards had been updated this year, Xander supposed, and Dumbledore had elected to hire the man because his books were considered the new standard.
Still seemed weird. He wondered what Hermione thought about it.
Thinking about the bushy haired girl caused Xander to glance over at the Gryff table just as the headmaster uttered his final words and the tables groaned under the heavy weight of food appearing from nowhere. In that moment Xander’s eyes crossed over the Twin’s positions and he noticed them both studiously looking anywhere but at the Slytherin’s.
That brought him up short and he glared at the food in front of them.
“The banquet do anything to you, Harris?” Daphne asked curiously, noting his expression.
Xander hesitated, then drew his wand and glanced around. He spotted a Firstie wearing glasses and reached over Daphne to snag them.
“Quiet. I’ll pass them back in a moment.” Xander tapped the glasses with his wand under the table and uttered the charm he used to try and break down potions ingredients, then brought the glasses up and put them on.
The prescription nearly crossed his eyes when he looked through them, and he shook his head. “God, are you part bat? You’ve got to be blind as one...”
He forced himself to look at the food, though, and noticed that most of it was fine but the meat pie was showing a familiar pattern. He pulled the glasses off and slid them back to the table, catching Draco’s hand as he lifted a slice of the pie to his mouth.
“What are you doing?” Draco asked his expression disgusted as he looked down his nose at Xander. “Unhand me this instant.”
“Twins got to the meat pie.” Xander hissed, “Pass it on down the line. Don’t know what it does, but let’s not make fools of ourselves at the first meal of the year.”
Draco swallowed, but nodded and set down the slice of pie before turning and whispering the message along as Xander turned to Daphne.
“Pass the word, stay clear of the pie. Weasley twins got into the kitchens.”
Daphne paled slightly, but nodded and in a few moments the word had rippled down that side of the table as well. She turned back to him as he helped himself to some potatoes. “How’d you know?”
“Used an ingredients charm on the meat pie.”
She blinked, “Did it show you something poisonous?”
Xander looked at her, startled, “Course not. They’re pranksters, not assassins. No, the twins use an obscuring method I haven’t cracked to protect their recipes.”
She frowned, “So how did you know they did anything?”
“Well when the pie wouldn’t tell me what was in it, I was pretty sure someone was up to no good.” Xander replied dryly, then chuckled at the chagrined look on her face.
While they were talking, a fifth year moved behind them and leaned in. “What’s going on?”
Xander explained, and the older kid frowned, “Those charms don’t give you specific information, you have to interpret the aura of the magically affected ingredients. Everything on this table was just transported up here magically; you mean to tell me you can tell every possible aura, and its combinations, at a glance like that?”
Xander shook his head, “Of course not. But the twins use an obscuring technique on their jokes, so people can’t copy them. I recognize that pattern.”
The fifth year shook his head, “I don’t want to know.”
Xander chuckled, and the meal went on with the Slytherin’s carefully avoiding the pie as they ate, while the twins shot confused glares in their direction. Xander snagged a piece of pie before it was banished at the end of the meal, then stole the firstie’s glasses again when desert appeared. After a careful look around the table he handed the glasses back, canceling the charm, and nodded to everyone.
Slytherin tucked in as the twins glared at them from the Gryff table but apparently they’d only had time to nail the one dish since they had only arrived less than two hours earlier. When the meal ended, the prefects led the first years to the dorms while the rest filtered in on their own. Inside the Slytherin dorms Xander took out the pie and looked around at a few who were watching him expectantly.
“Alright, let’s see what the show was supposed to be...” He said, taking a breath before hesitantly taking a big bite of the pie.
For a moment nothing happened, then suddenly Xander’s whole body shook and he seemed to inflate like a balloon. In a few seconds he had gone from a fairly average looking sort to the poster boy for Pillsbury. He sighed, looking down at himself as he spat the bite of pie out into the trash.
“Right. I need someone who knows runes and someone who knows arithmancy.” Xander said coldly, the tone sounding odd coming from his huge body as he waddled around. “Draco, you know how to get around the school unnoticed after dark, right?”
Malfoy glared at Xander, but remembering that he had kept him from eating the tainted pie nodded grudgingly. “You’ll never get into Gryffindor dorms without the password though.”
“Who wants into Gryffindor??”
Xander got his volunteers, so the four of them, Xander, a seventh year named Harrow, a sixth year named Jacobs, and Draco snuck out after curfew through a passage Draco swore them to secrecy about.
“How’d you know about that?” Xander asked, grudgingly admiring the knowledge of the blond.
Draco smirked at him, “You would never believe the things I know about Hogwarts.”
“Right.” Xander rolled his eyes.
The four made their way through the back halls until they reached the great hall.
“Keep watch,” Xander hissed to Draco, “If you see anyone you come get us. Don’t yell, don’t run, come get us.”
Draco waved at him, “Yes yes, just hurry up before we lose enough points to sink any hope of the house cup.”
Xander nodded and led the other two into the hall. They looked expectantly at the Gryffindor table, but Xander shook his head and lead them straight to the Slytherin table.
“Here,” He said softly, drawing his wand and casting the reverse of the identification charm, “This is the plan.”
Sometime later the four snuck back into the Slytherin common room, led by Draco with Xander taking up the rear. Once inside, Xander looked at them seriously, “Just remember, act surprised and shocked when it happens.”
Harrow nodded jerkily, as pale as a ghost, and Jacobs wasn’t much better.
Draco looked at them, then back at Xander, “When what happens? What did you do?”
Xander smirked, “You don’t want to know.”
Draco started to object, but Harrows shook his head, “You really don’t, Malfoy. I wish I didn’t know. If anyone finds out we did this...”
“They won’t.” Xander said confidently.
“Did what??” Draco was beginning to become concerned. Not for whatever it was they had done, but for how it might bleed over on him.
“Call it plausible deniability, Draco. Trust me; you do NOT want to be blamed for this one.” Xander said with a grin.
Draco looked at the three of them and growled, “Fine. Like I care anyway.”
He turned in a huff and stomped off, as the other two looked at Xander with concern.
“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Harrow said tensely. “If Professor Snape or the Headmaster figures this out... They might just let Filch break out his ‘toys’ just for us.”
Xander nodded, “I know. So just remember, don’t let on that you were expecting anything and don’t go sneering at the twins either. You’ll give the game away.”
“Better tell that to Draco,” Jacobs sighed.
“If Draco doesn’t sneer at the twins, that’ll give the game away.” Xander said, rolling his eyes.
“He’s not exactly subtle, is he?” Harrow asked, chuckling.
Xander shook his head, “He’s not as cunning as he thinks, that’s for sure. And lord knows his only ambition is to spend his daddies’ money. You ever get the idea that some people just get dumped in here by default because no other house would take them?”
Jacobs winced, “That’s dangerous talk, Harris. Just a friendly warning, Malfoy may not be subtle, but with the power his family wields he doesn’t have to be. You might want to stop pissing him off.”
Xander shrugged, “I don’t really care, I mean it’s not like I have to live around him, you know? I’m an American, and I’m going home sooner or later.”
“Just don’t expect the rest of us to join you in annoying the bear cub, ok Harris?” Harrow said with a sigh, “We have to live around here.”
“No problem.” Xander smiled, heading for the stairs to his room. “See you in the morning.”
The two shuddered, thinking about breakfast.
“You know, I might sleep in.” Harrow said with a shiver.
Xander chuckled evilly, and headed to his room.
The two older students looked at each other after he left and shook their heads.
“You know, I think I’ll not gamble against Harris.” Harrow said carefully.
“Yeah, tough to play against someone who’s willing to risk everything without blinking.” Jacobs agreed.
The next morning saw Xander coming into the Hall for breakfast a little early. He knew it was stupid, but there was simply no way he wasn’t going to be present when this one went down. He wanted to see the looks on the Twin’s faces when everything hit the fan.
Kids were trickling in, and Xander noticed that the twins hadn’t arrived yet. He was a little disappointed, really, because he was pretty sure that they weren’t the types to let their gags go off without being around to watch the fireworks either. Xander shrugged it off, remembering that it didn’t matter if they didn’t pull anything this morning.
Sooner or later they’d try again.
He settled in, this time with the safety goggles he’d used for potions work in his basement resting in his pocket. The hardened acetate goggles were crystal clear, and wouldn’t give him a headache like the borrowed prescription lenses had yesterday. He cast the charm on them quietly and scanned the table quickly, but found nothing out of the ordinary so he settled in to eat.
The twins came in a few minutes after he did, and Xander tensed as he watched them.
They didn’t look at him as they sat down at Gryffindor table, along with Harry and Ron Xander noted with some relief. He’d known that they would be ok, but it was good to see them up and around. He nodded to Harry, then smiled and waved at Hermione. The twins glared at both Xander and Hermione briefly, but seemed to give it up as pointless a moment later before they both looked over at Xander, smiled sweetly in unison, and waved.
Oh crap, Xander thought, his stomach roiling. Did they do what he expected? Or something new? There was nothing he could do about it now, though, other than hope they kept up their barrage.
The professors were settling in now, chatting amiably for the most part as they ate. Xander noticed that Snape seemed to prefer reading the prophet in the morning, but Lockhart was attempting to chat his ear off and the dark professor was visibly restraining himself from cursing his colleague, probably magically as well as verbally.
It happened shortly after that.
There was an audible ‘pop’, the sound filling the Hall, and Xander instinctively looked over to the twins, who were gleefully looking back at him. He saw their expressions grow puzzled, then both paled as one as their attention twisted away from the Slytherin table.
Xander followed their gaze, biting his cheek as hard as he could when he saw what could only have been Professor McGonagall squawk loudly, feathers fluttering as she bounced around the table in obvious aggravation. The other professors were staring in rampant shock, except for Headmaster Dumbledore who seemed to be shifting between amused surprise and mild annoyance.
The next disruption was at the other end of the faculty table, when Professor Snape suddenly began to gag as his mouth was forced open and his tongue rolled out of his mouth, thumping down onto the table, and rolled to the left across Professor Lockhart’s hand as the shocked man froze in mid reach for a platter of hash browns.
That was the signal for pure pandemonium as one professor after another began to change into various colors, forms, and whatever else. Even the headmaster was not immune as his face turned a bright red, then gold, and began to cycle rapidly between the two like some signal light. Students were caught between staring in shock and laughing in hysterical glee. Xander settled for what he hoped was a blank stare of surprise and shock.
Lockhart, one of the only professors unaffected by virtue, Xander thought, of not having had time to eat while chatting to professor Snape, drew his wand immediately and began yelling.
“It’s alright, I’m here! I know just the counter curse for this, professor Snape, hold still now...”
Snape drew his wand in a flash, but the four foot tongue made a total hash of whatever he was trying to cast, and Lockhart quickly cast his counter curse with a flourish.
This time Xander didn’t have to fake shock as Snape’s tongue fell out and flopped around the table. He winced and jumped up quickly, running over, God I hope they can reattach that!
“Go get the nurse!” He yelled at the closest student he could grab, then rushed the head table as Snape glared murderously at Lockhart as the Defense professor stammered and looked at the writhing tongue in shock.
“Uh, well there now, you can close your mouth properly, right?” he asked with halting laughter.
Snape’s eyes practically glowed with an unholy light as he snapped his wand out and cast a silent stinging hex at the Defense professor.
Lockhart jumped in pain, yelping. “Here now, there’s no cause to... OW!”
The third hex sent Lockhart running from the hall with Snape on his heals just as Xander arrived at the faculty table and grimaced down at the writhing tongue that was curling around a plate of bacon and eggs.
“Ugh... No way am I touching that.”
The transformations began to reverse, starting with McGonagall, just as Nurse Pomfrey came rushing in.
“What’s this about someone cutting Severus’ tongue out?” She asked, eyes searching blood.
“I don’t know about cutting, Ma’am.” Xander said, nodding to the still writhing tongue. “But Professor Lockhart cast some kind of spell that did that.”
“Merlin’s beard.” Pomfrey hissed, looking around. “Where’s Severus?”
“Chasing Lockhart across the Channel, heading for France right about now.” Xander replied dryly.
“I doubt they’ve reached that distance just yet, young man.” Albus Dumbledore said with an amused twinkle as he too examined the tongue. “I haven’t seen this curse cast in many a year, I must say, Professor Lockhart has quite a hand with a very obscure silencing curse.”
“I don’t think this is what he meant to do,” Xander said dryly.
“Yes, well, that’s what we’ll tell Severus at least.” Dumbledore chuckled.
“FRED AND GEORGE WEASELY!!”
Minerva McGonagall’s scream of outraged ire froze the twins in place where they were trying to sneak out of the hall.
They turned around, both quite pale.
“We swear, professor, we didn’t...”
“Do this.” Both said together.
“Don’t you lie to me! I recognize your idiotic hand in this insane prank!” McGonagall roared, “Fifty points from Gryffindor and detentions for the rest of the month! And I swear, if I catch you pulling anything like this again, why I’ll... I’ll...”
They didn’t get to hear what she would do as the room was distracted by Snape reappearing, dragging a badly beaten Gilderoy Lockhart by one leg. He dropped the leg just inside the hall and walked with as much dignity as he could muster to the head table, nodding to Madam Pomfrey, then at his tongue which had returned to normal size on the table.
“I’ll see what I can do, Professor,” The nurse said quickly, “I’m afraid I don’t know this curse, though...”
“I do, Severus,” Dumbledore said calmly, “And it can be reversed with little trouble. Have no worries.”
Snape visibly seemed to relax as Minerva continued laying into the twins, who had finally seemed to come to a realization as they stared at Xander as one.
“Me?” Xander tried to look shocked.
“Him?” McGonagall blinked, “Sure you’re not blaming a second year for this ruckus!?”
The twins froze, not wanting to be the ones who dragged teachers into it, nor to give credit to someone for pranking THEM. Albus Dumbledore, however, had already turned to Xander.
“Did you do this, young man?”
Xander was about to answer when Snape twisted him around and glared at him. Xander swallowed, “Professors, I freely admit that I’ve tried to duplicate the twin’s pranks, but I’ve not had any luck. Frankly the work is beyond me, and the twins use some kind of obscuring charm to keep people from working out their things.”
Snape glanced over at Dumbledore and nodded slightly as Minerva whipped out her wand and examined the tainted food.
“He’s right,” She said, “There’s a complex obscurement charm over all the... prank products. It’s far beyond a second year. You two, with me. NOW.”
The twins fell in behind their head of house as she left, shooting death glares over their shoulders at Xander. He didn’t dare smirk at them, however, not with Snape and Dumbledore watching him.
“Come along Severus,” Poppy said, levitating the tongue with her wand. “I’ll need your help as well, Albus, if we’re to do this quickly.”
“Of course, Poppy,” Dumbledore said calmly. “Let us be off.”
Xander watched them leave and let out a relieved sigh as he fought to keep his legs from turning to jello. He walked as calmly as he could back to the Slytherin table, sitting woodenly as he began to force himself to eat.
Daphne looked over at him, eyes wide. Everyone knew that he was planning something, but this was beyond anything they’d even dreamt. “What did you do?”
Xander didn’t look at her as he whispered back, “We warded the table. Anything the twins send here with that obscurement charm on it gets dumped on the professors table instead.”
She stared at him, jaw dropping open, then closed it slowly and went back to eating. Xander didn’t move until Harrow and Jacobs entered the hall. He got up and left the table, meeting them as they were about to sit down.
“Destroy the runes, eliminate the evidence.” He hissed. “Professor Snape will be looking for blood on this one.”
The both paled, then nodded curtly as Xander kept moving past them, heading for his first class.
The rest of the day was damage control as Xander rapidly learned to regret letting so many people know, or even have a hint of what he had been up to. Slytherin’s were all but publically congratulating him on the stunt, and Xander knew it was only a matter of time before it got back to Professor Snape, and quickly started working on a story that fit the facts.
He snagged Harrow and Jacobs in between classes and filled them in, leaving Draco out because the blond didn’t really have any details. After that he spent the rest of the day repeating the same thing over and over, and praying that it got back to Snape before the original rumors did.
Defense class with the Gryffindors was tense as hell, but luckily Lockhart broke that up by the end when he unleashed a horde of pixies on the class. Xander and Draco wound up back to back as the damned things fluttered around, wands out for all the good they did.
“Break for the door on three?” Xander asked over his shoulder.
“Right. Vin, Greg, you with us?”
The two larger boys nodded, also waving their wands around to little effect.
“Three!” Xander snapped, barely ducking a dive bombing pixy as he leapt over a desk and rolled into the aisle.
“Hey! What happened to one and two!?” Draco yelped, sliding to the ground under a flying book, skidding into the aisle across from Xander as Crabbe and Goyle followed on their hands and knees.
Xander blasted a Stupify into the air, scattering a group of pixies that were lining up for a run on Hermione and Harry’s position, then scrambled to his feet and pulled Draco along as he bolted for the door. “One and two were too damned slow and they got left behind! Now run unless you want to join them!”
They reached the door just as another mini horde of the damn things swung around, and both Slytherin’s dove through under the assault, scraping their knees and elbows as they slid into the hall. They rolled over onto the backs, wincing as Greg Goyle and Vincent Crabbe were caught in the attack that missed them. The pixies picked the two hulking boys up, tossing them around for a bit, then casually flicked them out the door.
Xander and Draco split apart, rolling clear as the duo splattered into the floor and wall where they had been.
“You two dead?” Xander asked from where he had rolled to a stop.
Vince groaned as Greg just managed to roll his head up and look around with a stunned expression.
“I’d move if I were you.”
“Huh?” Greg blinked. “Why?”
Xander just grimaced as the horde of students came rampaging out of the classroom, screaming and waving their hands around to hold off the pixies. They proceeded to trample Goyle and Crabbe into the ground as he and Draco pressed against the hall and watched them rush past. When the majority had gone by, Draco looked down at his two friends and winced.
“Vince? Greg? Are you two alright?”
“I think we’d better get them to the infirmary.” Xander suggested.
“Don’t be stupid,” Draco muttered, “They’re tough. Right guys?”
Vincent groaned and sat up as Gregory shook his head and rolled to his knees.
“We’re fine.” Vincent said after a moment. “Right, Greg?”
“Uh... yeah. Fine. What hit me?”
Xander shook his head as Lockhart came rushing out, hitching his robes up and running full bore down the hall. He risked a glance back in the classroom and winced. “Looks like Lockhart has Harry, Ron, and Hermione on cleanup.”
Draco laughed, “Good for them. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Xander took a breath and sighed, “You go on, I’m going to help out a bit.”
Draco gave him an incredulous look, “You mean that after all that, you’re going back in there?”
“Oh hell no.” Xander muttered, “But my stunner needs practice, so I’m going to play sniper.”
“Play what? No, never mind, I don’t care.” Draco shook his head, “Come on, Greg, Vince. Let’s leave the mudblood lover to his friends.”
“Wild blood lover, if you please.” Xander replied with a smirk, causing Draco to let out a snort of exasperation as he stomped off with his bookends in tow.
Xander chuckled and snuck his head around the corner of the door, jabbing his wand in as he settled his focus on a pixy well away from the others. “Stupify!”
Clearing out the classroom took most of the rest of the period devoted to DADA, so Xander figured practicing his stunner on the pixies should count toward his class work, even if it was a fourth year spell. The rest of the day wasn’t nearly as eventful, thank god, and soon enough Xander found himself in the library with Hermione and Wednesday as they reviewed the day’s events and did their own reading.
“Thank you again for the help in Defense, today, Xander.” Hermione said, sounding grudging.
Xander looked up at her, eyebrow raised, “Are you mad at me?”
“You shouldn’t have done that to the Professors, Xander.” She scowled.
“Me?” Xander blinked, going into his preplanned story, eyes flickering around to see who was listening. “Herms, come on, I’m a second year... I spent all summer trying to match the twin’s gags and failed at every shot. Ask Wednesday, I even had her check with her Gramma about potions work. There’s no way I could have pulled off those transfigurations and stuff.”
She glared at him narrowly, “The twins are swearing that it wasn’t them, they were set up.”
“I guess it’s possible,” Xander said, shaking his head, “But I’m nowhere near the level in potions and transfigurations to pull that off.”
Hermione chewed on her bottom lip, mulling it over, then sighed. “I’m sorry I blamed you, Xander. I guess the twins have annoyed someone else.”
“Yeah well, more power to them, whoever they are.” Xander shrugged, mentally cataloging the listeners. A few Ravenclaw’s, a sprinkling of others, and Madam Pince were all in earshot. “To be honest, I was going to get them back with a prank, but after this morning we decided it would be smarter to call it off.”
“We?” Hermione raised an eyebrow.
“A couple others from my house,” Xander shrugged, “It’s not like the twins don’t deserve some payback, you know. But, like I said, after this morning... it didn’t seem prudent to unleash anymore insanity.”
“Well good.” Hermione said after a moment. “At least you’re showing some common sense. Whoever set off that insanity this morning was a complete fool with no respect for the hard work of the professors here and...”
As she went on Xander noticed Wednesday eyeing him evenly over her book, the girl’s expression as unexpressive as always, but Xander clearly got the impression she didn’t believe a word he had just said. He just shrugged at her and flicked his eyes to Hermione, causing Wednesday to nod once and return her attention to her book as Hermione continued to rant about rule breakers.
Xander cut her off there, “Say, who was it who cursed Neville last year anyway?”
Hermione went beet red, shut up quickly, and ducked her head into her book at that, leaving Xander to smirk softly and return to his own work in the Coven Grimoire.
Narcissa whistled softly as she read through the notes her unknown student had made. There were some advanced arithmetic and runes work there, devised as part of a warding scheme. It was work well ahead of any second year, and she wondered where he had come across it? It was only an idle thought though, as she was finding herself interested in his notes on the blood tensions in the school. She had to smile when she read the term ‘wild blood’ and its description.
Narcissa was a Black, part of an older pureblood culture than the Malfoy family, and she had been brought up as an alternate to take over the family bloodline. Her sister Andromeda had been the first choice, their other sibling Bellatrix being too unstable to entrust with such responsibility. When Andy fell in love with a Muggleborn, however, their Aunt had struck her name from the family register.
That had shocked many in the family to the core, and set the Blacks steadily on the road to destruction. Then Matriarch Black was NOT an approved keeper of the line, and was nothing really, but a small minded and petty bitch. The grand old lady who had trained both Andy and herself would have reluctantly accepted Andy’s choice, and merely removed her from the primary line.
Now, because of the old bitch and her stupid ideas, Andy’s blood was lost to the Blacks, as was the potential in the blood of her Muggleborn... no, her Wild blood Husband. And it was a very interesting bit of potential, Narcissa noted. There had never been a full metamorph in the Black line before, so the trait in Andy’s daughter was either fully inherited from her father, or had resulted in the mixing of blood. A few generations down the line, it would have been a great boon to the Black bloodline to bring the descendants of that line back into the Black’s primary blood.
So many things ruined by the small minds of fools who thought to play above their station. The wars had taken the lives of so many of the best and brightest of the world she loved, it seemed that the idiots had inherited what had survived.
Narcissa reached for a quill and began to pen a note to her sister. Andy would love to hear this.
The time ran by, with Xander trying hard to deflect the blame, and credit, for the prank of the first morning. He succeeded for the most part; the professors seemed to believe that he didn’t have anything to do with it, especially once Draco started bragging loudly about having taken the Twins down a peg or two.
Xander would have smacked him, but he’d expected it and planned for it. When Snape rounded on Draco, and the twit spilled his guts, Xander’s cover story had already filtered through to the professor and he just angrily berated Draco in the common room, then stalked off. Snape clearly believed that the twins were to blame, and wasn’t interested in hunting down nonexistent Slytherin perps.
He was the most obvious candidate, of course, but that was working in his favor slowly as many of the more even minded types convinced themselves that he couldn’t have been the guy who pulled off anything that big. Harrow and Jacobs knew better, but they had done the dirty work and were both Slytherin enough to keep their mouths shut until they were safely away from the school. Xander might have to worry about what Harrow might say after he graduated, but until then he wasn’t going to open his yap.
Luckily for him, Draco was bound and determined to move into the limelight and unveiled that same night that his dad had bought brooms for the team, and he was the new Slytherin seeker. The expensive new brooms were the talk of the dorms that night, and the school the next day, and by the end of the week Xander found himself relegated to yesterday’s news.
The only people who believed he had pulled off the prank of the year, so far, were a few Gryffindors, and a handful of scattered kids who had all the credibility of UFO spotter back home. Oh, and the twins of course.
Xander had started letting the twins catch him with a few pranks here and there, and to be honest getting caught by a few he hadn’t seen coming, just to make himself look like the poor victim. Not the most satisfying way to pass his time, but Xander much preferred to be overlooked.
His close brush with a prank spiraling out of control and nearly getting blamed for it had taught him one lesson.
Secrecy was golden.
Thankfully the term smoothed out after it’s rather spectacular start, and Xander quickly fell back into the routine of classes and hanging out with Wednesday and Hermione. It was odd, he supposed, but that was pretty much all he did. Of course, back in Sunnydale he really only went to classes, hung out with Jessie and Willow, and watched TV. Ok, he also read comics, but he did a lot of reading here too.
The new wrinkle this year was Professor Hardy, who showed up right on time over the first weekend. Xander and Wednesday were waiting in the classroom when he strode in and nodded politely to them.
“So, how are things going?”
“Well, Sir.” The answered in unison.
Hardy’s lips quirked slightly, “I do hope they teach you more than that old gag here in Hogwarts.”
Xander grinned back, “Of course, sir.”
Wednesday merely raised an eyebrow.
“Alright, here are you’re texts for this year.” Hardy said, handing them out. “Nothing complicated. American Wizarding History isn’t difficult; it’s just reading and remembering. I’ll trust you to do that yourself, for the most part.”
“Now, these,” He produced several slim workbooks. “Are a little different. You’ll have to do some work here, and I’ll be available to make sure you understand the work. These are introductory courses to basic physics, chemistry, and biology. For today, let’s look at the chemistry primer, as I suspect you’ll find some of the details on lab work to be surprising.”
The two frowned, but read as directed and very shortly it became clear what Hardy had meant.
“Sir, some of this sounds like potions, but we do it very differently here.” Xander said hesitantly.
Hardy nodded and smiled tightly, “You do, don’t you. At Salem, however, the Chemistry and Potions classes are... or, rather, were... held in the same labs and used the same procedures for safety, among other things.”
“Then why are things different here?” Wednesday asked, genuinely curious, as her Gram mama brewed her potions in a very similar manner to the Hogwarts Curriculum.
“Salem is a member of the New School of potions theory, or as the Europeans tend to call it, The Jeune Ecole.” the hawk faced professor said, “Hogwarts, along with most of Europe are adherents of the old school. Most of North America, Australia, and Japan are proponents of the new school of potions theory, while Europe, South America, Africa, and China follow the Old.”
“Which one’s better?” Xander asked, looking over the notes. “Hey, I used some of these procedures at home this summer. Mom insisted.”
Hardy looked over his shoulder and nodded, “Safety one oh one, it’s a good idea when working on your own with no experience, no matter which school. As to which is better, that is a hotly debated issue. There are some clear advantages to both systems, however, which can be considered.”
Hardy paused, making sure that both were paying attention, then went on.
“First, the New School uses very tightly controlled procedures, carefully regulated variables, and meticulous lab work. You cut most of your ingredients on glassware, unless the recipe calls for a specific cutting surface, and then you never used the same surface for different ingredients. The idea is to eliminate as many variables as possible, to ensure a consistent brew. Are you following me?”
Xander frowned and looked confused. “Uh...”
Hardly chuckled, “Alright. I’ll tell you a story that might help explain things. A long time ago, people used to believe that tomatoes were poisonous, did you know that?”
Xander blinked and looked at Wednesday.
Wednesday smiled, “I did.”
“Excellent, do you know why?”
“Exactly,” Hardy nodded, then glanced over to see Xander totally confused. He smiled slightly, “People of the day often used lead dishware, plates and the like. Tomatoes are mildly acidic, and would dissolve the lead, so people eating tomatoes would also consume lead in dangerous quantities. Now, many magical potions ingredients do the same thing when you prepare them. They interact with the cutting surface, sometimes even the knife itself, and add another variable to the potion. Do you understand?”
“I guess so, Sir.”
Hardy nodded, “The striving goal behind the New School is to minimize all unknown variables and allow for potions brewers to produce reliable, consistent, brews with minimum effort and time.”
“And the Old School, Sir?” Wednesday asked, curious now. She had never been taught any other way, and wondered what he would have to say about it.
“Well, if the new school is a scientists system, then the old school is an artisans system.” He replied, “Those with real talent tend to flourish better in the older, less precise system. If you have that talent, you learn quickly to adjust for the variables, and can turn out superior products... generally at a cost of time and effort, however.”
As his two students were considering that, Hardy went on, “At Salem we don’t turn out potions masters and mistresses, we prepare people to take their doctorates in potions theory. The difference between a Master and a PHD is currently a hotly debated issues at the ICW level, and we don’t get too much into it for now other than to say that, on average, a Doctor of Potions Theory can brew known potions faster and cheaper than most masters, often in bulk, however Masters tend to make better overall brews and currently lead the world in innovations within the field.”
Hardy chuckled, “Master’s tend to call Doctors ‘assembly line workers’ while doctors refer to masters as prima donnas. If you ever get to that level, I assure you, the parties are interesting to watch.”
The two children nodded dutifully, not entirely understanding but getting the gist of it.
“The reason I bring this up is that at some point you may find yourselves back in Salem, or at another school or facility that practices the ‘Jeune Ecole’ method.... here in Europe the only school that does so is Beauxbatons, in case you’re interested. So I advise you to familiarize yourself with the lab procedures, just in case.”
“We will, Sir.”
“Very good, now then let’s have a look at basic physics and how magic interacts with Newton’s Laws.” Hardy said, “I think you’ll be surprised by some of the things that aren’t happening when you cast certain spells.”
Those tutoring sessions were short, only a couple of hours once a week, but the reading assigned was significant and Xander found himself spending more time with his school books than the Grimoire as the weeks moved on.
Hermione was soon pulled in by the prospects of books not available in Hogwarts library, and Xander found himself sharing his texts with her more and more often. She had immediately gone on a rant about how the new school methodology made so much sense, and had then gone on to bring it up in potions class to Professor Snape.
Now there was a class Xander wished he could have missed.
Snape’s rant had take the entire class, and threatened to spill out into the next period until he’d noticed the time and stormed out of the class, after taking twenty points from Gryffindor of course. Hermione had been caught between tears and rage, huffing about the backwards attitude and such, while Snape had spent the next week growling at her about Potions factories and all sorts of other nastiness.
Suffice to say it made potions with the Gryffs a tense class.
Halloween was almost on them by then, though, and the school was providing its own distractions to break up the tension. The decorations were being setup, and the kids were eager for the holiday. All in all, even with the sniping between Snape and Hermione, things were pretty cheery.
Except for Wednesday, of course.
“You ok?” Xander asked, “You look kinda down.”
Wednesday gave him a look that would have send most others running, but only shrugged. “There is something... wrong in the school.”
Xander grinned, “You want to pin it down some more?”
She rolled her eyes, “I have been hearing... things lately.”
“It’s an old castle; I’ve been hearing things since last year.”
“Not the normal castle sounds, Alexander,” She said sharply, “darker sounds. Sounds steeped in black magic.”
Xander leaned back at that, “In Hogwarts?”
“Indeed. This is a bastion of the light,” She said with a twist of her lips. “But it’s ancient as well, and there are many dark secrets buried here.”
Xander nodded, “Alright. Any idea what you’re hearing?”
She shook her head, “No. Not yet. But when forces this dark entangles in a place this steeped in the light... things will be, ugly.”
Xander shivered slightly. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what there was in the castle that could set Wednesday on edge.
Halloween was upon them in no time, though, and Xander made his way to the Great Hall with several others from his year and house. The decorations were spectacular, as always, with floating jack-o-lanterns lighting the hall, and food bending the large tables under its weight.
He settled in beside Daphne, nodding to her as she smiled back and tapped a monocle she had resting on the table beside her.
“Food’s clean, far as I can see.”
“Thanks,” Xander nodded, taking her word for it as he started to dig in.
The twins’ pranks had been petering off as Xander continued with his strategy from last year of taking the small hits and storing them up until the twins had another big knock coming. At this point he suspected that they were starting to doubt he was the culprit themselves, and that was the way he wanted it,
In the meantime, most of Slytherin had figured out the identification charm and the pattern the twins used to obscure their gags. Xander had also noticed some of the Ravenclaw’s examining their food before eating, and so he knew that particular method wasn’t going to last much longer.
As a whole, thankfully, the twins were far more dangerous to the Gryffindors than to anyone else, and with Hermione often ranting about what new stunt they were pulling on poor first year Gryffs, Xander had at least some warning of what they were working on.
He had to admit, though, they were geniuses when it came to this stuff. Way beyond him, and he didn’t think he was ever going to catch them. Their real liability wasn’t their skill; it was their love of notoriety. As long as they were looking to take credit for their stunts, on one level or another, he had an advantage to play into.
He glanced around the hall, expecting to see Hermione and exchange some greeting for the season anyway, but was surprised to find that not only was she not there, but Ron and Harry were missing too. He shook his head, wondering for a moment what they were up to but decided that they could look after themselves.
He nodded to Wednesday, who nodded back, and was about to move on when he saw the normally unexpressive girl suddenly go tense and snap upright, throwing her chair back to the floor. The other Ravenclaw’s around her jumped away from her, obviously afraid of the girl, but she didn’t move. Fillius approached the table cautiously, and Xander rose up himself, making his way around the table.
“Are you alright, Miss Addams?” Fillius Flitwick asked, eyeing his most disturbing student carefully.
Wednesday didn’t reply as Xander hurried over himself.
“Wednesday... Wednesday, are you ok?” Xander asked, moving around the table.
She snapped her head to stare into his eyes.
“Something just died.”
Xander paled, thinking about what she had said before, and was about to reply when a scream was heard from outside the hall. He, Fillius, and Wednesday were the first to move and got out ahead of the crowd. They made their way through the halls until they found Ron, Harry, and Hermione staring at a mess on the floor in disgust.
On the wall beyond them were words written in blood.
“Enemies of the heir, Beware!”
The panic that captured the school in those few moments was broken as Albus Dumbledore pushed through the crowd, his very presence broadcasting a quiet security that calmed the younger people present, and even had a noticeable effect on the adults.
“Calmly everyone,” he said serenely, “Be calm, and we’ll work this out. What has happened?”
“Potter did it!” Draco bellowed, loud enough to be heard through the school. “It was Potter!”
“Shut it, Malfoy!” Ron snarled, taking a step toward the young Malfoy heir, only to be held back by Harry and Hermione.
Albus was looking around slowly when Argus Filch pushed his way through, grumpily telling the children to shove off. “What are you all doing out here, no gatherings in the halls, I’ll put you all on... Mrs. Norris?”
The caretaker froze for a moment, staring at the body of his cat, and then let out a wail as he rushed forward.
“What happened here!?”
“That is what we’re here to determine, Argus.” Dumbledore said calmly.
Filch looked around, eyes lighting on Harry, Draco’s screaming coming immediately to mind. “What did you do to my CAT!?”
“I... I didn’t do anything!” Harry protested.
“And yet you were here when we all arrived,” Severus Snape said silkily.
“We were just going back to our rooms!”
“And skip the feast in the great hall?”
“We were invited to Nick’s death day party!” Harry protested again, looking for all the school to be wallowing, lost in the events.
Xander stepped back, not really caring about it right then. He had the same morbid curiosity as anyone, but while Hermione seemed to be alright, he was worried about Wednesday.
“Hey,” He nudged her, “Are you ok?”
She didn’t look at him, her eyes fixed on the cat’s stiff body. “Something’s not right.”
“I think we sort of established that.”
“No. That’s not what I meant.” She said, eyes glaring at the cat. “There was death in the air, Alexander. I could feel it.”
“Cat looks pretty dead to me.”
She shook her head, “No. It’s not.”
“Argus, your cat isn’t dead.”
Xander twisted back as Albus made that pronouncement, the echoing sound of Lockhart yelling ‘I knew it!’ going unheeded by most.
“She’s not?” Argus looked up, hopeful.
“Merely petrified.” Albus confirmed, frowning pensively.
Xander again tuned out the others, focusing on Wednesday. “How’d you know that?”
She gave him a flat look, “I know death.”
“Oookay,” Xander said slowly, “You remember what I told you last year about the creep factor? The bell at the top of the meter just dinged.”
Wednesday paid him no mind, however, as the crowd moved away from them and followed Dumbledore toward the DADA offices. She looked at the blood on the wall, then shook her head. “It wanted death. It was calling for it, for a painful death. Why did it show mercy?”
“What?” Xander asked, looking around to see if anyone was listening. He didn’t like the way everyone was ready to jump on Harry as the culprit, and couldn’t help but feel that Wednesday might be setting herself up for the same. “What it?”
She let out a slow breath, then looked at him steadily for a moment.
Then she turned and was gone.
Xander watched her go, hands going out in plaintive confusion. “Serpent? What serpent!?”
The castle had little else to speak of in the coming days; the rumors of the Chamber of Secrets were on everyone’s lips as the aftermath of Halloween rolled over them all. In history of Magic, Hermione actually managed to talk old Prof Binns into recounting some of the legend before he droned off about Goblin’s again.
After classes, Hermione was noticeably absent from their normal study hours, leaving Xander and Wednesday to themselves. Which seemed to Xander to leave him all alone, as Wednesday had become even more focused than her normal self, leaving him out in the cold.
He turned back to his Grimoire, learning spells as the fancy struck him, mostly looking for the cool ones. He tried his hand at Arithmancy, the concept of developing his own spells being incredibly cool to him, but found that he wasn’t much better at magical math than he was at regular math, and he’d tested pretty low there.
So, for the moment, he moved that aside and started looking into other types of magic for fun. The Grimoire had a really excellent index system, in which all he had to do was whisper what he was looking for and the book would fly to the appropriate page, and even provide a list of books in the library on the topic.
While he had been looking through for creating spells, Xander got sidetracked by enchanting objects, then was immediately enthralled by a single notation at the very bottom of that page.
The Magic of Body Art.
Xander blinked. Magical Tattoos? So cool.
Unfortunately the book only had a very brief discussion of one example, which kind gave Xander the creeps. A Spell known as the Dark Mark, which had been used by Mr. Mold in his Shorts during his reign of terror over a decade earlier. It described the mark in detail, surprisingly, listing it as a means of summoning the Lord’s minions, punishing those who failed the Lord, and possibly even providing the Lord with information about those who had been marked.
The hows weren’t listed, though, just some speculation on the methods. According to Evans, who had seemed to have done the majority of the research on the topic, the Mark had to be a compilation of several spells from multiple fields of magic. One of the fundamental cornerstones, in her opinion, was the Protean Charm, which originated from a school of magic not commonly used by European Wizards.
The Sympathetic magic of the charm would allow the lord to affect any other Dark Mark, as long as he had access to at least one. From there the spell work was presumed to be fairly simple, though according to Evans the Lord had managed to somehow lock the spells in such a way as no one had yet discovered how to unlock it.
The concept was cool, Xander thought, not that he had any interest in creating dark marks for himself or anyone else. Still, he found the bibliography for the subject and started pulling books out of the library. Unlike most of his preferred areas of interest, almost everything on magical tattoo work was actually in the open area of the library and not in the restricted, so Xander soon found himself happily learning all there was to know about the art and magic of body pictures.
Which, actually, wasn’t as much as he’d hoped?
Most magical tattoos were, literally, magical tattoos. They had no powers, or anything really cool, they just moved around the body like their real world counterparts might, and looked cool. Xander had no real interest in that, however, since he really didn’t understand the idea of marking one’s body with something permanent just for cosmetics. What if his taste changed in the future? When he was five he loved the care bears on TV, but the idea of one of those printed on his chest was really kinda disturbing at twelve.
And so he was about to give up the avenue of reading when he came across one spell, buried deep in an old tome that had more dust on it than paper.
To Charm an Image with the effect of a spell.
That was more like it, Xander decided, and he dove into some of the coolest reading since he had discovered comic books when he was four.
Life moved on at the Castle, however, and within a few days things were slowly coming back to normal as the school prepared for the next Quidditch match of the season. The Gryffs were playing this time around, against Slytherin, and that all but guaranteed an exciting match. Xander found himself pressed into attending as part of the Slytherin group, ostensibly to cheer on their new seeker, Draco Malfoy.
Much to her dismay, Xander had succeeded in guilting Wednesday into joining him; so that he’d have someone to talk to, err, talk at. Even if she never said a word back, Xander was pretty sure she’d be more intelligent company than most of the rest in his section.
The game got underway more or less normally, with the usual high flying and heavy handed play from the two antagonistic teams. Immediately the crowds were treated to a show of aerial acrobatics from Harry as to give them all shivers as he dodged a particularly insistent bludger that seemed bent on turning him to paste.
The game went on, scoring climbing, and it became clear to everyone save Madame Hooch apparently, that something was up with said bludger.
“Why don’t they stop the game?” Wednesday asked, sounding only mildly curious. “As I am to understand, that thing is obviously been tampered with.”
Xander shrugged, “Don’t know.”
“Maybe the Slytherin’s have it right,” She shrugged, “Cheating is part of the game. Curious, I had thought that these people believed otherwise.”
Xander winced as one of the Gryff chasers took a hit from the other bludger while the twins were covering Harry. “That had to hurt.”
“Indeed. It’s a more interesting game than I had believed.”
Xander chuckled dryly as the time out ran out, and the game began again. In seconds the bludger was chasing Harry down again as he swooped and twisted in the air to evade it. Xander wished that he could fly half as well as Harry, but knew that there was some serious talent packed into the scrawny kid and just had to admire it from the ground level.
“Why has he stopped?” Wednesday asked calmly.
Xander shrugged, then followed Harry’s gaze to where Draco was floating on his broom, taunting Harry as the Golden Snitch floated just by his head. Xander groaned softly, shaking his head, and couldn’t help but imagine just how scary the world would be if Draco Malfoy really was as good as he thought he was.
“He had better move now...” Wednesday shook her head mournfully as the bludger slashed out of nowhere, slamming Harry around, “Too late.”
Harry careened about, heading for the ground in a hurry as Draco seemed to wake up. They two almost crashed in mid air, then Harry slammed into the soft ground and seemed to stick there. There was a hush as everyone watched the players rush his position, then Harry shifted and looked down at his hand in a daze. He lifted it slightly, then seemed to pass out as Wood arrived and held his hand up to show the Snitch secured in it.
The crowd screamed, but not as loud as Harry, who let out a wail that could only be of one dying it seemed. People hushed again as the teachers arrived, Lockhart leading the way with his wand already drawn.
“Step aside everyone!” Lockhart called dramatically, “Just a broken arm, I can fix it with a simple charm...”
Harry murmured something, shaking his head, and Lockhart laughed genially. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying, folks... one moment boy, I’ll have it fixed in a jiff...”
The Professor leveled his wand at Harry’s arm, began to flick it through the air as he opened his mouth to speak, and then screamed as his arm broke in three places. There was a shocked hush as Lockhart screamed pitiably on the ground next to Harry, who seemed to only want to move away from the Professor.
Xander, in the stands, meanwhile glanced at Wednesday who was sliding her wand away.
“Didn’t know you cared about Harry,” he said.
“I do not. I, however, care a great deal less about that fool.”
“Fair enough. Teach me that one?”
Wednesday considered for a moment, then nodded curtly.
The excitement over the match only lasted a few hours, however, before it was eclipsed by something far more sinister.
The mysterious agent of the Chamber had struck again, and this time it wasn’t a cat.
The school descended into a panic that didn’t abate for the rest of the week when the news that Colin Creevy had too been found petrified, his omnipresent camera glued to his face and an expression of naked fear visible on what could be seen of his features. Xander didn’t know the kid at all, he was a muggle born Gryff, which made him pretty much the last person in the school who would be seen with a snake, but even so he felt bad for the guy. Everyone said that being petrified was like going to sleep, but it still was going to seriously suck since the mandrake root needed to cure them was several weeks or more from being full grown.
At their weekly session with Professor Hardy, however, more questions seemed to come up than were answered when Xander asked about the situation.
“They’re waiting for what?” Hardy asked, blinking.
“The mandrakes are too young to mix the reversal potion,” Xander said, frowning. “Couldn’t they just call a magical hospital? There are some of those, right?”
“There are.” Hardy nodded, frowning. “Someone is running around petrifying students?”
“Not someone.” Wednesday corrected, “Something. A serpent.”
The American professor raised an eyebrow, “A Basilisk? Surely not. You’d have seen deaths by now if you had one of those on the loose.”
Wednesday glared at the table, “That has bothered me as well.”
Xander shivered, “The lack of death is a good thing in my eye.”
“Quite.” Hardy just suppressed a shudder of his own.
Addamses were hard to deal with at the best of times. Their reactions to stress were legendary, however, and Hardy wanted nothing more than to get clear of the girl as soon as possible. He, however, had a responsibility to the two children in his care.
“No, it’s not likely a basilisk.” He said after a moment, “More likely you’ve got one of those death eater twits, or one of their kids, playing around with black magic.”
Wednesday just shrugged.
“Still, I’ll see what I can do. Read to chapter eight for our next session, please?” He said, nodding to the children. “Alright. Be on your way.”
After the two had left, Hardy withdrew a small compact from his pocket and flipped it open.
“Salem Head Office.” He said into the mirror.
The mirror buzzed, once and then twice, and then again and again for several moments. Finally it stopped and shimmered to show a tired looking face staring back out.
“Hardy? Do you know what time it is??”
“I’m at Hogwarts, Arthur.” Hardy said curtly. “They’ve had an incident.”
“Are the kids ok?”
“They’re fine, but some local by the name of Creevy got himself petrified. Second incident this year.” Hardy explained.
“Oh lord. Some idiot playing with potions?”
“Maybe. I was thinking one of their terrorist cells; maybe the kid of a member,” Hardy admitted, “The Addams girl thinks it’s a basilisk.”
Arthur shuddered visibly in the small mirror. “Sweet Franklin, I hope not.”
“I can’t see it myself. You know how those things are, we’d be neck deep in bodies in a school this packed.”
Arthur nodded, “You’re right, but don’t underestimate the girl. Those Addams, well if there’s one thing they know its dangerous magical creatures.”
“I’ll bear it in mind, in the meantime could you put in a call to the CMDC for me; see if they’ve got any reversal potion on ice?”
“I’ll call them right away.” Arthur promised, “Are you pulling the kids out?”
“Not yet. Like I said, it looks like it’s those Death Muncher twits. Neither of our kids are targets for that sort of thing. Killing American wizards are a damned good way to bring the ICW into play, and they don’t want that level of pressure on them anymore than the British ministry does.”
“Agreed. Alright, keep a closer eye on Hogwarts for a while though. I’ll get a hold of the CMDC right away.”
“Thank you, Arthur.”
The dean of the Salem Academy nodded curtly and the mirror flashed once before becoming a simple makeup mirror again. Hardy flipped it closed, then decided to speak with the headmaster before he took a port key back to Durmstrang.
The time sped past, and after a couple weeks the worst of the tensions began to calm down again, though the underlying tension just continued to grow. Potions class was increasingly a trial as the Gryffindor contingent tightened ranks, such that Xander was rarely able to speak with Hermione now.
He locked down, just doing his own work and basically keeping his head down while occasionally regretting coming back. Wednesday was growing more and more distant, not that most people could tell. He could see it though, and was worried about her, but the word unreachable had been invented with Wednesday Addams in mind.
Xander worried and tried to talk to her, but she just ignored him most of the time, and glared at him like he was some insignificant insect the remaining times. Finally he just gave up; sitting next to her silently and just hoped that she would talk to him.
Christmas was approaching when one morning, during mail call; a large eagle winged into the Hall and zeroed in on Xander’s position. It circled him once, dropped a letter, then left when it was sure Xander had picked it up.
“You got mail?” Draco sneered, “You never get mail.”
Xander shot him a glare, then turned the envelope over and read the address. “Weird.”
“What is it?”
Xander glanced over to where Daphne was leaning in his direction, obviously curious.
“I dunno.” Xander shrugged, tearing it open.
He pulled the pages open and started to read, his eyes almost crossing as he tried to understand the wording. “Whoa. I thought you only saw this kind of writing in bad lawyer movies.”
Daphne got curious and moved over to his side, “May I?”
“Huh? Sure.” Xander passed her the first page while he turned to one that had been handwritten and began to read.
A moment later Daphne looked up, confused, “This says that it’s an advance on royalty payments for a medical patent?”
Xander stared at her, “in MY name??”
“Weird.” Xander shuffled through the pages, then blinked as he located the receipt. He stared, blanking out until Daphne leaned over his shoulder.
“Oh. My. God.” Daphne swallowed. “Is that real?”
“I don’t know. It says it’s a draft on a Gringotts of America account.” Xander said, paled. “That’s a LOT of zeroes.”
“What did you invent!?”
“I don’t KNOW!?”
The two of them tore through the papers, attracting attention from the rest of the table. Finally Daphne looked up, a page in her hand, frowning. “Xander... What is ‘Viagra’??”
Xander frowned, “I have no clue.”
“Here’s the patent,” Daphne said, handing it to him.
Xander took it, reading through it rapidly, and actually growing paler by the second until he matched Draco in color.
“I’m gonna KILL him.”
“I’m gonna KILL HIM!” Xander snarled, startling basically the entire hall.
“Who?” Daphne demanded, totally lost.
“My Uncle! He did this!”
“He invented Viagra?”
“No! He sold my formula!”
Daphne looked confused, “And stole your money, right?”
“No, he put that in my name...” Xander said, tearing through more pages.
Daphne looked around, a little lost. “Uh... What’s the problem then?”
“Problem!? Problem!? The problem is....” Xander looked around suddenly stopping as he realized everyone was staring at him.
He rapidly turned red enough to match a Weasley’s hair, swallowing as he stared around.
“Nothing.” He whispered. “No problem.”
“No problem!” Xander exclaimed, grabbing all the pages and crumpling them to his chest. “There’s no problem!”
The school watched as Xander scuttled back from the table and then bolted from the hall, clutching the papers to his chest as he ran.
Xander ran back to his room, barely able to breath, and slumped on his bed as he reread the patent application. He pulled out his potions book, flipping over to the failed experiments page, and his heart sank as he confirmed his worst fears. His Uncle, the man he trusted, had sold him out. Xander knew he’d never live this down, not when people found out what he’d invented. He didn’t know much about sex, but he knew enough to know that this was gonna come back and bite him in the ass later.
It was a LOT of money, mind you.
Xander stared at the bank draft again, barely able to believe the zeroes after the one printed there. He checked again, confirming that it was indeed his name.
I’m gonna kill him.
Xander took a breath, shaking his head.
No. Death is too good for him.
I’m gonna PRANK him.
He had all year now to plan for it. But Sam WAS going to pay. Oh yes, he was going to pay.
Rumors spread fast concerning Xander’s explosion in the Great Hall, but since there had been several close witnesses, including Draco Malfoy, pretty much the entire school knew, or thought they knew, the real story behind the explosion. There were twisted versions in which Xander was flat broke now; his money stolen by an evil uncle, and others in which he was rich, the sole heir to an uncle’s fortune, but basically everyone knew that an Uncle and Money were involved.
Thanks in part to Daphne they knew it was Money with a capital ‘M’ as well, but Xander didn’t really blame her since she had been trying to curb some of Draco’s more ludicrous stories. As a story that approximated the real one began to filter out, Xander found himself the target of various levels of interest from students who had ignored him before.
After barely evading the attentions of a fifth year girl, Xander ducked into the library the next afternoon and was pleased to see both Hermione and Wednesday at their usual table.
“Hey,” He said, smiling pleasantly as he sat down.
Hermione smiled back.
Wednesday did not.
That was ok, of course, she never did. Xander rubbed the back of his head, shaking slightly. “Man this is nuts.”
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked, frowning, “There are stories all over school about you.”
“Yeah, I know.” Xander sighed, “The latest ones are closest to the truth, I guess.”
“You invented a medical potion and have been paid a fortune for it?” Hermione raised her eyebrows.
“Ah... yeah, those ones.” Xander admitted, “Though I wouldn’t call it ‘medical’ exactly.”
“What is it??” Hermione perked up, bouncing a little.
“Please,” Xander begged, “Don’t ask. Please.”
“But...” Hermione pouted. “But why?”
“Cause I didn’t do it on purpose, Herms,” Xander muttered, “And really, it was a humiliating lab accident, that’s all.”
“What would you call it?” Wednesday asked.
“Huh?” Xander and Hermione both looked at her, confused.
“You said you wouldn’t call it medical exactly. What would you call it?”
“Judging by my Uncle?” Xander replied sourly, “Recreational.”
Hermione screwed up her face in confusion as even Wednesday looked a little at sea by the comment.
“Please, just don’t ask anymore, ok?” Xander begged again, “I can’t tell it to you two, it’s too embarrassing.”
Wednesday raised an eyebrow, looking over at Hermione, “Now I simply HAVE to know.”
“Me too.” Hermione happily agreed.
Xander moaned, slumping at the table, covering his head with his hands.
“Show us the patent.”
“What?” He looked up, peeking at Wednesday from under his arm.
“Of course!” Hermione squealed, “You don’t have to tell us, just show us the patent, we should be able to work it out.”
“You think?” Xander asked doubtfully. “I don’t know, it’s pretty complicated.”
Wednesday gave him a glare that would melt steel, while Hermione perked up even more at the word complicated. Xander sighed, drawing the papers from under his robe.
Wednesday raised her eyebrow again, “You have it on you?”
“Leave this in *Slytherin* territory??” Xander asked incredulously.
The dark girl tipped her head to acknowledge the point, taking the papers from him as she and Hermione moved closer together to pour over them. Xander sighed, leaving them to it, and opened up the Grimoire to work on some of his other personal projects.
That was what he loved about this school more than anything else, Xander had found. The fact that the subject matter was really only a base for doing your own thing. Magic was all about creativity, working with things only comic book writers ever got to play with in the ‘real’ world. The classes were important, but they were just prep courses for living day to day in the magical world. It was what students could do when they moved PAST the classes that was utterly and totally cool.
Xander found that he loved the idea of Spell Crafting and its related spheres of magic, which really meant he had to learn pretty much every sort of magic he could since spell crafting, artificing, and enchanting all required firsthand knowledge of a vast array of spells.
Right now he was working on the arithmetic formulas for charging a rune from a caster’s own magical core. He’d been able to lift large sections of the work from the rune and warding work done by Harrow and Jacobs had done for him at the start of the year. Most of it was pretty similar, actually, since he was working on what was, essentially a ward you could draw on your own body.
It wasn’t quite as simple as that, though, Xander had found quickly. There were warnings about doing it, actually, since the runes would permanently lower the wearer’s magical core. Additionally, wards were ‘always on’ so to speak and that would make all sorts of daily experiences rather inconvenient. Xander thought that those two things were the reason very little had been done in this area of magic, at least as far as he could tell.
The Dark Mark was a piece of work for much of the same reasons. It actually put a constant drain on anyone who wore it, albeit a very slight drain. Xander rather suspected that the drain was bigger than Evans guessed, though, cause he knew that if he was going to go the evil overlord route he would put a tap into the mark and use the magic drained for himself.
That wasn’t what he was working on, of course. Xander just tended to have giggling fits at the thought, and he felt he needed some cheering up. He was trying to put a valve on the charging rune, and create a magical analogue to a battery so that the runes would only draw power when they were charging, and would shut off when full.
The math, however, was a nightmare.
He knew he had to learn it, he desperately WANTED to learn it, but Xander had a sinking sensation that it was just beyond him. Beyond him now, and maybe forever.
Xander looked up, realizing that he had been gnawing on his fingers as he scribbled down another attempt at solving the formula he was working on.
“Nothing.” He muttered.
Wednesday merely stared at him until he broke.
“It’s the math.” He sighed, “I don’t get the math.”
Hermione looked up from where she was pouring over the patent information, ears perking at the mention of math. “What math? We don’t have any classes in Arithmancy yet.”
“I know, I’m trying to figure it out anyway.” Xander muttered.
“Let us see.” Wednesday said, reaching out a hand.
He sighed and handed the page over, on one level happy to be distracting them from the patent information, but on the other a little embarrassed that he needed help. The two read his notes for a long moment before saying anything.
“Xander, some of this is incredibly advanced.” Hermione blinked, looking up.
“Yeah, I know, I lifted stuff from a warding scheme.” Xander replied, “I’m trying to adapt it to create a magical battery.”
“This will not work,” Wednesday said after a moment, “The warding formulas are not designed to tap a person’s magical core.”
Xander grimaced, glancing at Hermione, who nodded.
“She’s right.” Hermione frowned, “The arithmetically important numbers are totally different when dealing with a human. What are you trying to charge?”
“Nothing in particular, yet,” Xander sighed, shaking his head. “I just want to be able to charge something, and stop after the charge is full.”
“Won’t that drain off the magical energy when it stops?” Hermione frowned, looking up, “I read that runes are constantly charging.”
“Yeah, but that’s when the battery comes in,” Xander said, “We should be able to store power; I mean it can’t be that hard? Normal folk invented batteries ages ago.”
“Over two thousand years ago, actually.” Wednesday said, “The original versions were used for limited electroplating on ancient jewelry.”
“See?” Xander said, “If normal people can do it, we should be able to.”
“It’s not the same thing,” Hermione complained, “electricity isn’t stored, exactly. Batteries store chemical energy and then turn it INTO electricity. You can’t just store chemicals that turn metal into magic, Xander.”
Xander sighed as Wednesday nodded.
“She is correct,” The dark girl replied, “It will not work.”
Xander finally gave up, nodding, “Alright. Thanks for the help.”
“I’m sorry, Xander,” Hermione apologized. “I wish I could tell you what you want to know.”
“No, it’s ok.” Xander forced a grin he really didn’t feel. “I needed to know before I wasted more time on it.”
“You’re trying to work too far ahead,” Hermione stated, hesitating.
Xander snorted, “Says the girl who’s already read up to, what? Sixth year books? Seventh?”
“Fifth.” She corrected, irritated. “I’m working on sixth and seventh this summer.”
Xander chuckled, a little more real this time, and grinned at her, “Don’t change, Herms. I need my Willow Fix.”
She scowled at him, “I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
He just smirked and took back his papers, incidentally retrieving the patent information at the same time. He glanced longingly at the worthless formulas for a moment then slid the pages into the back of the Grimoire under ‘Failed Ideas’ and closed the book with a sigh.
Class was buzzing later that day when Xander attended potions, but thankfully he was entirely off the minds of his classmates. No, they were now excited about the upcoming Dueling Club that had been announced. Xander was mildly interested himself, as he knew a couple spells for that sort of thing already, but was still a little down over his failure with the formulas and wasn’t paying much attention.
The class progressed as normal until towards the end when Crabbe’s cauldron exploded, covering much of the class, Xander included, in an engorgement potion similar to the twins ton tongue toffee, only with none of the precision. Xander found himself with a giant left arm, and ear that was flopping down like something out of Dumbo as much of the class wailed under similar afflictions.
“Every one calm down!” Snape instantly yelled, using a sonorous charm on his throat. It got their attention and they all stilled, “If you’ve been splattered with the potion come to the front for a reversal draught.”
Everyone filed down, Xander included, and were quickly set right as Snape fumed and stomped up to Crabbe’s cauldron. He tipped it up and his eyes almost literally flared when a burned out firecracker fell clear of the pot.
Xander winced, every safety lesson he’d learned while working on his own was just screaming at him that he’d gotten off really lucky. He’d been closer to Crabbe than he really wanted to think about.
“When I find the person who did this,” Snape hissed, “I WILL see them expelled.”
The dark potions master looked around, eyes lighting on where Harry was sitting and resting there for a long moment. Finally, after the moment passed, Snape spun away. “Class dismissed.”
Xander glanced at Harry, but shrugged and put it down to Snape’s apparent hatred of the guy. He’d never done anything that stupid before, at least not with no sign of heroic sacrifice to be found. Xander glared at the cauldron for a moment and went over the ingredients for the standard engorgement potion in his mind.
Luckily there was nothing flammable or particularly unstable. Xander shuddered at what would have happened if it had been either his, or the twins, specific versions of the same potion. He quietly packed up his stuff and filed out with the rest.
Xander met up with Wednesday that night, two among the many students who had elected to see what the new ‘Dueling Club’ was all about. They made their way to the appointed place, noting the crowd, and took over a section in the corner away from the worst of it.
“This should be cool.”
“I hope it’s not some inane club intended to promote Professor Lockhart,” Wednesday said dryly.
“Nah.” Xander shook his head, thinking about the Defense Professor. “The guy’s a coward. No way he’d put himself at the end of anyone else’s wand.”
“People do strange things in pursuit of obsession.”
Xander was about to respond when he noted the door open and his stomach dropped as none other than Lockhart himself came prancing in.
The two of them sat through the Professor’s normal long winded introduction of his favorite person, himself, their expectations dropping by the second. He finally nodded across the hall with a flash of a smile, “And just in case things get out of hand, I’ve invited the school nurse to be here to help out. Please, a little polite applause for Madame Pomfrey.”
The entire room applauded, considerably louder than the sparse reception Lockhart had received, which earned a frown from the toothy professor. He shook it off quickly though, inviting the school nurse up to the front.
“Now, perhaps we should show the children what we’ll be practicing,” he bowed with a flourish as the matronly woman stepped up, lips puckered in a frown, then winked at the students. “Have no fear; you’ll still have your nurse when we’re done.”
Xander rolled his eyes, then did a double take and rolled them again when he noted Hermione staring with a glaze in her eyes as she watched the Professor. Wednesday watched his gaze and nodded minutely.
“Yes. She’s still infatuated with him.”
“Still?” Xander blinked, “How long has that been going on?”
“Boys.” Wednesday muttered, shaking her head. “If you weren’t so tied up in your own little games, you would have noticed it at the beginning of term.”
Xander frowned. That long?
“Wow.” He finally said, then frowned, “Why?”
“I’m sure I have no idea.”
They were distracted then as Lockhart and Pomfrey stood across from each other on the platform, wands out.
“On three then,” Lockhart chuckled, waving his wand around carelessly. “One... two... three!”
They both snapped their wands forward, snapping out the incantation in sharp tones.
Jets of light crossed the platform, striking each of the adults, yet while Lockhart’s arm snapped out wildly and his wand flew across the room, Pomfrey managed to hold onto hers. There was a quiet moment, then Lockhart smiled widely.
“There you have it, children. The disarming curse and I kept my word you see... took it easy on the lovely lady. Thank you so much for your help, madam.”
He poured on the charm and the nurse blushed a little in response.
“Not at all, professor.”
“Alright, into pairs then.” Lockhart said, “Practice the spell as you saw, curse to disarm ONLY!”
Xander glanced at Wednesday, who nodded practically imperceptibly, and the two of them cut a bit of space out for themselves. They were soon tossing the curse back and forth, with varying degrees of success, as they practiced the spell. It wasn’t long before a disturbance across the room distracted them, and everyone else, however.
“I said disarm only! Disarm only!”
They stopped, glancing over as Lockhart rushed into the middle of what looked like a brawl between Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy. As he broke it up, Draco said something they couldn’t hear from across the room and Ron turned ever redder than his hair.
Ron snapped his wand out, yelling, “Take this you turd!”
The spell charged through the Gryffs wand, but something went wrong as it had all session and the wand misfired. A sparkling pulse of magic exploded out the side and drove straight through the crowd and at Xander. He snapped his wand up in response, barely able to think, “Protego!”
A thin, barely formed shield pulsed into being, intercepting the spell before it could hit him, but the power of his shield was too little and it burst an instant later. It had the effect, however, of deflecting the spell to one side and directly into the unusually surprised face of Wednesday Addams.
The Addams Scion gasped in shock rather than anything else as her head snapped back, raven hair haloing around her as she staggered back a step and went down to one knee. Xander lunged in her direction, sliding to his knees at her side.
“Are you ok!?”
Wednesday glared evenly at him and Xander grimaced to see her nose had grown several times its proper size. Several people were giggling madly around him as Madame Pomfrey pushed through.
“It’ll be fine, my dear, I’ll have that fixed in just a...”
“I’m fine.” Wednesday said coldly, waving the nurse aside. The giggling stopped as several people, including Pomfrey, gasped as her nose visibly began to shrink again. In a few seconds the enlarged nose had returned to normal and the nurse was stammering to explain it.
Wednesday ignored her, however, as did Xander. The duo focused on Ron, who was staring with an interesting look of horror on his face as the terror of the Ravenclaw second years and a Snake stalked in his direction. Before they got halfway there Harry had moved in beside Ron, stepping a little forward to protect the red head.
“It was an accident.”
“Accidents happen a lot around him lately.” Xander growled.
“It’s not my fault!” Ron blurted, “My wand...”
“Should be replaced.” Xander ground out.
Ron flushed, “I... I haven’t been able to get to Diagon Alley and...”
“Need I remind you that accidents can happen... to anyone?” Wednesday asked darkly, causing several people around her to pale.
Hermione, swallowing, stepped in between them. “He didn’t mean it, really...”
“He’s a menace, Hermione.” Xander muttered, then shook his head.
Wednesday glanced at him and seemed to come to a conclusion. “Indeed. Come, Alexander. I think we’ve learned what little there was to learn here.”
The two turned and marched out of the room as people moved out of their way.
Harry looked over at Ron and let out a sigh, “You need a new wand, mate.”
Ron just looked a little sick, but didn’t argue. Hermione looked torn for a moment then looked back at her friends. “I have to go for a minute.”
She rushed off, leaving them confused.
“Girls.” Ron muttered, shrugging.
That evening, after the dueling club had let out with no further incidents, Ron and Harry were making their way back to the Gryffindor tower when a shadowed form stepped out into their path and stopped them. Both went for their wands as they recognized Xander.
“You want trouble, Harris you snake; we’ll give it to you.” Ron threatened, his wand wobbling a little as he shook it.
“Weasley, the safest place in this entire school is staring down the business end of your wand.” Xander countered, rolling his eyes.
Ron flushed his hand shaking even more, but before he could do anything Xander threw something at him. He caught it on reflex, dropping his wand in the process, then winced as it hit the ground.
“Yeah. That’s not a great reflex either, Weasley.” Xander rolled his eyes. “Might want to work on that.”
Ron flushed, then glanced down at the object Xander had thrown him. “What’s this?”
He shook it, then his eyes widened as he recognized the sound of Galleons rattling inside. He looked up, confused.
“I want to buy your wand.”
“What??” Ron blurted, “Why? It’s broken!”
“Exactly. I want to find out a bit on how they’re made,” Xander said, “And I’m sure as hell not going to take mine apart. Yours is already broken, you need a new one and I need one I don’t care about. There’s fifteen galleons there. That should cover a new wand.”
Ron swallowed, looking down at the money pouch. “I...”
Xander just waved off what he was saying, already moving to leave. “Think about it. When I get back from the holidays you either give me my money back, or you give me your old wand. I don’t really care which, but if you ‘accidentally’ curse Wednesday or Hermione again I’m going to take it out of your hide as if you did it on purpose.”
Ron didn’t get another comment out before Xander was gone. He looked over at Harry, face confused. “What do I do, mate?”
Harry was torn, uncertain what to say. His best friend was notoriously uptight about money, something Harry had yet to find a way around. If he accepted this from Harris, well all the better in Harry’s opinion. Harry didn’t want to make it seem like he was trying to encourage Ron to accept charity or anything though.
“Well, fifteen galleons is probably a little above market for a broken wand,” Harry allowed after a moment.
“Yeah,” Ron mumbled, sagging a little.
“On the other hand, I haven’t seen too many around.” Harry said, thinking about it. “What do wizards do with broken wands anyway?”
Ron seemed a little surprised, “Well... throw them out I suppose. Doesn’t happen a lot, though. Most wizards take good care of their wands.”
“Well, then it wouldn’t be easy for him to get even a broken wand, would it?” Harry said reasonably. “I think he knows it’s a bit over the top for price, but I expect he doesn’t care.”
Ron nodded sourly, “He got all that money, right? Rumors are all over school.”
“Not what I meant, mate.” Harry corrected, “You hit his friend with a curse...”
“That was an accident!”
“I know that, mate,” Harry said placatingly. “The point is, what would you pay to protect Ginny? Or Hermione?”
“You think he doesn’t really care about the broken wand?” Ron asked, a twisted look on his face.
“Probably not a lot,” Harry admitted, “But who knows? Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t mind figuring out how a wand is put together myself.”
Ron looked at his friend like he was a little batty, “it’s a wand, Harry. What’s so special about it?”
Harry sighed. Sometimes he really didn’t understand people who were raised in the magical world. “Ron, just cause you don’t care how it works doesn’t mean others feel the same.”
The school’s fall session ended shortly after that and Xander met Wednesday at the train as they had agreed.
“Ready?” She asked him as he approached.
“For another holiday with your family? No, but I’ll muddle through,” Xander grinned.
The dark girl almost smiled at that, not quite giving away her amusement. The Addamses were not as oblivious as it often appeared to outsiders. She, and they, knew that their way of life was far from the accepted norm. They mostly just didn’t care. They lived as they chose and would not apologize for it, even by way of explaining themselves to outsiders.
Few such outsiders voluntarily exposed themselves to further contact after the first, however. She was impressed that Xander was coming, even though she knew that his options were limited. International port keys weren’t cheap and, while he did have money now, she didn’t think it had quite settled in to his way of thinking.
Still, he could stay at Hogwarts easily enough, yet she had a distinct feeling that he wanted to come with her. The year before he had honestly seemed to enjoy his time, mostly, and he seemed to be looking forward to more.
She just shrugged, “Father is meeting us in London. Apparently the headmaster asked him not to come to the school again... he scared Mr. Filch.”
Xander snickered. It figured that Filch would be scared of anyone who seemed to agree with the caretaker’s own suggestions concerning the ancient torture devices he was constantly jabbering about.
“Well then, let’s catch that train.” Xander said with a smile, “We wouldn’t want to strain poor Filch’s heart any more by missing the ride and making Mr. Addams come fetch us.”
“Certainly not.” Wednesday agreed solemnly as they made their way to the train.
Xander almost would have sworn he heard the tiniest hint of a giggle in her voice. Almost.
“Alexander, my boy!” Gomez Addams boomed cheerfully as Xander and Wednesday stepped off the train, “And my darling Wednesday, we have missed you at home.”
“Father.” Wednesday nodded, smiling at the exuberant man who was attracting attention all across platform nine and three quarters, “Mother isn’t here?”
“She and Thing are seeing to our temporary home.”
“The castle again, Sir?” Xander asked.
Gomez glared at him for a long moment.
“Sorry, Gomez.” Xander corrected himself with a slight flush.
The wide smile was back in an instant as Gomez swept them both up and bustled them along, “Not this time, my boy. We tried, but some movie company had the place leased. It didn’t seem right to push them out for a family vacation.”
“Oh?” Xander said, curious but mostly polite.
“Quite. No, we’ve chosen a place a little closer this time.” Gomez stated, grinning widely. “It took some doing, lad, but we’ve acquired a lovely little chateau right here in London.”
“In London?” Xander frowned, thinking, “I didn’t think there were any castles in London.”
“Your education is frightfully lacking, my boy. The Tower, of course.” Gomez winked.
“Tower?” Xander kept racking his brain. The only tower he knew of in London was, “The Tower of London?”
Xander frowned again, still thinking very hard. “I’m pretty sure they don’t rent that out.”
“Course they don’t,” Gomez replied, “Dreadfully difficult to get a place there too, but with the right application of money, magic, and, well, Charm... anything is possible, as you’ll learn. Come now, here’s Lurch with the car.”
They were going to be arrested.
That was the only thing that Xander could think as the car pulled up in front of the London monument, and Gomez quickly jumped out and dragged Wednesday and himself along.
“Come along now,” The man grinned, leading them toward the old castle set on the river. “Lurch will see to the bags.”
It was an incongruous sight, Xander decided as he followed out of morbid curiosity. He was waging with himself on how close they would get before being challenged, but was surprised when Gomez led him both to a slit in the walls that had no guards.
He looked around, curious, “Shouldn’t there be guards here? There are everywhere else?”
“Wizard entrance, my boy.” Gomez chuckled, “Haven’t bothered with guards here in almost twelve years.”
“Oh.” Xander said, clutching Fenrir to him chest as they moved through the walls. “Then why...?”
“Crown jewels, of course. They were worried Voldy Thingamajig would steal them, took the guards off the day after the celebrations ended.” Gomez said with a shrug, “Ministry is a touch weird, if you ask me.”
There was a mind numbing statement. Gomez Addams considered someone a touch weird.
“Ah, here we are.” Gomez said, stepping out into a hallway that was as dark and dank as the Hogwarts dungeons. “The Royal Wizard’s Suite.”
“Of course.” Wednesday spoke up for the first time, “The British monarchy has always had a Wizard to attend them, since Merlin.”
“They don’t use these rooms, now, of course.” Gomez grinned, “And the Wizarding world doesn’t have much care for them, which is why we were able to procure their use for the holidays.”
“But... isn’t this sort of, historical?”
“Alexander,” Wednesday said flatly, “How many wizards do you know who care about the ‘muggle’ side of the world, even the royalty?”
She had a point, Xander supposed, but it still felt... disrespectful to be walking around here like they owned the place, let alone living here for a couple weeks.
“Precisely.” Gomez said, “To most wizards this is a dirty little secret you don’t talk about in polite company.”
“They seem to respect Merlin.” Xander said, frowning.
“It’s always easy to respect a giant, my boy,” Gomez said, oddly solemn in that moment, “no matter what his quirks. Especially if he’s safely dead and not around to embarrass you anymore.”
Xander shook his head.
“So on the real world side of this,” he said, “The Tower is a historical landmark, protected and guarded... and on the magic side... what? You can rent a room?”
“Not quite so crass,” a new voice entered the conversation, and they looked up to see Mortisha approaching, “however that mostly covers things.”
“Tish,” Gomez smiled widely. “I’ve missed you.”
“You were only gone a few hours.”
“A few hours of eternity, my love.”
Mortisha smiled a hint of amusement in her look but mostly just adoration, “Mi Amour.”
Gomez growled, shaking his head from side to side before looking up at the ceiling and letting out a howl. “Tish! That’s French!”
The man rushed across, plucking up his wife’s arm, and began to kiss passionately along as she patiently let him indulge for a moment. Then with a wave of her hand she gently pushed him away, “Gomez, later. The children.”
“What?” Gomez looked up, lost and confused. His expression cleared up and he smiled regretfully, “Of course, my love.”
“Wednesday,” Mortisha nodded to her daughter.
“How was school?”
“Fine.” Wednesday replied, “Alexander invented a potion and was paid a small fortune for it.”
“Really?” Mortisha looked over at Xander, “What kind of potion?”
Xander turned beat red, alternating between glaring at Wednesday and swallowing hard. Wednesday, of course, didn’t blink in response. “I... uh, well it was really an accident, so it’s not a big deal...”
“He won’t tell anyone,” Wednesday said, “I believe he’s embarrassed.”
“Embarrassed?? Nonsense!” Gomez declared, “You got paid, right lad? That’s the American way, how could you be embarrassed?”
Xander shook his head, clutching Fenrir so tightly the pup yelped.
Mortisha cocked her head slightly, eyes focusing on the dog. “Is that Fenrir?”
“Uh, yes ma’am.”
Xander blinked, “What?”
“He hasn’t changed in a year.” Mortisha said, sounding puzzled.
“By Jove, you’re right.” Gomez said with a crooked grin as he drew out a cigar. “What sort of dog is that anyway?”
“He is a Dire Wolf.” Wednesday supplied.
“Wolf!?” Xander yelped, holding the puppy out from him and staring at it. Fenrir barked once and panted back at him. “Why didn’t you tell me!?”
“I believed that you knew.” Wednesday said dryly, “You did choose him, after all.”
Gomez snapped his fingers, “Dire wolf, of course! That explains it!”
“It does?” Mortisha asked, sounding confused.
“Doesn’t it?” Gomez asked.
“Explains what!?” Xander asked, hopelessly lost.
“I don’t know, my boy,” Gomez admitted with a grin. “What does it explain, Tish?”
“Really, Gomez, doesn’t it seem odd that the puppy hasn’t changed in a year?”
“Now that you mention it, that is passing strange.” Gomez frowned, “I don’t know much about puppies though, creepy little things.”
Fenrir barked once, then growled at Gomez.
“Gomez!” Mortisha chastised him, “Be polite. Fenrir is Alexander’s guest.”
“Of course, you’re right, Cadida. I sometimes lose all manners,” Gomez sighed, then looked evenly at the puppy. “I apologize.”
The dog seemed to consider than, then yipped once and turned away.
Mortisha examined the dog intently for a moment, “Even a Dire Wolf ages far faster than a human, he should be near full growth by now. How curious.”
“Is something wrong with my Dog?” Xander asked, voice worried.
“I don’t know.” Mortisha admitted, considering it. “I am hardly an expert, but he seems fit and hale. Gomez, what do you think?”
The Addams patriarch considered for a moment, then held up a finger. “Cousin Itt.”
“Of course, darling, you’re a genius.”
“No, Itt. Who is the family Doctor.” Gomez said, shaking his head. “Unreliable fellow. Never around when you want him, can’t get rid of him when you don’t.”
“I’m sorry, Tish, but that fellow is a little strange if you ask me.” Gomez replied, shaking his head.
Mortisha sighed, shaking her head slightly, “I’ll put in a call to Cousin Itt. He’s a fully certified Master in Care of Magical Creatures.”
“Family over achiever, that one,” Gomez confirmed. “He’ll know what’s up.”
Xander nodded hesitantly.
“Where are Uncle Fester and Pugsley?” Wednesday asked, now that the issue of the dog had been settled for the moment.
“Sulking.” Mortisha said with the slightest hint of exasperation.
“Poor boys,” Gomez said with a shrug and a wave of his cigar, “but what can you do? The rental agreement was quite clear, no explosives in the tower.”
Xander settled into his room that night, thinking about what had been said about Fenrir. The call had been put into Cousin Itt, or that, or whatever his name was and they said that it would all work out, but he was a little worried about the pup.
“Are you ok, boy?” Xander asked, looking at the dog as he sat on his bed.
Fenrir yipped once, sounding happy to Xander.
“So why aren’t you growing?” Xander asked rhetorically.
Fenrir barked again, several times, leaving Xander in no greater clarity than before. Xander sighed, throwing himself back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. He hoped his dog was ok.
There was a draft then, and a chill and Fenrir began to growl softly from the floor.
Xander sat up fast, eyes wide as he looked around and snagged his wand from the end table. “What is, boy?”
Fenrir continued to growl, and Xander got his feet, wand leading the way as he looked at the wall the dog was focused on. Xander didn’t see anything, and leaned in slowly.
“I don’t see any- AHHH!” Xander yelped falling back on his ass as a ghostly shape came through the wall, holding its head in her arms. He scrambled backward for a moment, holding his chest, then glared at the form. “You scared the crap out of me, Lady! What the hell!?”
Narcissa Malfoy nodded to her son as he entered the manor, smiling warmly. “Welcome home, Draco.”
“Thank you, mother.” The blond boy said, dropping his school trunk to the floor. “Dobby!”
The house elf popped into being, flinching back from the boy, “Yes, Master Draco?”
“Put my trunk in my room, and mind you don’t go looking through my things.” Draco growled.
“Right away, Master.”
The elf and trunk popped away as Narcissa sipped her tea. “Hard semester?”
“No more than usual.” Draco said, slumping into his chair.
“Sit straight, Draco,” She corrected instantly. “Slovenly posture is for your private rooms, we entertain here. You do not wish to get into that habit.”
Draco sighed and shifted until he was sitting up, “Of course.”
“You seem perturbed.”
“No, not really. Just thinking about things.”
Draco glanced around, as if looking for someone. “Where’s Father?”
“Lucius is at the Ministry, he won’t be home early.”
Draco nodded and sighed, giving Narcissa a clue to what was on his mind. Something he didn’t want his father to know about, at least not just now.
“Mother...” The boy suddenly seemed many years younger as he hesitantly spoke up, “I... Why are purebloods better than mudbloods?”
Narcissa raised her eyebrow, both eyes widening in surprise. “Pardon me?”
“I mean, I know we are!” Draco said quickly, hands up as if to stave off punishment, “But I need to know why.”
“I am curious,” Narcissa said after a moment, “What brings this up?”
“One of my housemates challenged me to answer that question,” Draco admitted, “And I still can’t. Not the way he wants me to. I know that the reasons have to be there, we ARE better than they are, but I don’t know what they are.”
She smiled slowly, “Very good, Draco. You’re learning to question, be careful however... your father is not the sort who likes to be questioned.”
Draco nodded, swallowing.
“But... we are better, right?”
Narcissa smiled a little wider, “Yes Draco. Purebloods are, at least to a degree, superior.”
“So... what makes us better?”
“There are many ways to answer that question, most of which I will tell you now, your father does not understand, nor does he care to.” She told her son. “I heard a word recently that describes muggle borns far better than the term you tend to prefer. Not mudbloods, Draco... Wild bloods.”
Narcissa was shocked when Draco hissed and grimaced at the term. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s what Harris, the housemate I was talking about, calls them.”
Harris. So that was the one who had the book, or it seemed likely. Interesting.
“Well they are,” Narcissa replied, then shrugged, “Or at least those who are not descended from a squib line are. Consider a well bred hound, Draco, and compare it to a fox. The fox is a wild blood, the hound a pureblood. You can, to a certain degree, predict how a Hound will perform based on its bloodline. You can even, if you are very careful, influence how a hound’s blood line will develop.”
“And... that’s good?”
Narcissa smiled thinly, “Sic a hound on a fox and see which one is more likely to come out on top. The fox is generally quite lucky to escape with its life.”
Draco nodded slowly, understanding at least slightly.
“There are more factors, however. Blood traits, such as Speaker talents, follow a bloodline. Muggleborn almost never develop even the weakest of these,” Narcissa continued. “Parseltongue is a known trait of Salazar Slytherin’s line, for example.”
“The Dark Lord.” Draco said, nodding.
“Precisely. Rowena’s bloodline has been rumored to have strong instances of Second Sight; perhaps ironic since Rowena herself was a powerful detractor of seers and the like,” Narcissa said, “though it’s perhaps because she herself suffered from an uncontrolled gift. Each of the founder’s lines had powerful gifts, as do many of the older pure blood lines.”
“What were the others?”
“Gryffindor supposedly had a very advanced instance of Mage Sight,” Narcissa said thoughtfully, “And Helga was a powerful emotive caster. The Malfoy line has begun to show hints of several talents, but nothing steady quite yet.”
“What about the Blacks?” Draco asked eager to hear about his own heritage.
“The Black line,” Narcissa paused, sighing, “The Blacks were known for several uncommon talents, but the signature trait of the Blacks was a form of Mage Sense similar to Gryffindor’s Mage Sight.”
“What can you do with it?”
“Those with a strong gift could feel raw magic,” She told him, “including wards, natural lines of ley magic, and conjunctions of such. Many Blacks took on duties as curse breakers, and were unparalleled at it.”
“It’s unlikely, Draco,” She told him gently. “That was a trait of the main Black line; you’re from a cadet branch. I’m afraid that the wars have all but destroyed that particular gift.”
For the first time in a long time, Narcissa could see her son really thinking about things instead of parroting what her husband had told him. It wasn’t that she disagreed with her husband’s position, but she knew that blind faith often led to a dead end and was pleased that Draco was considering the ideas for himself.
“There is one thing to remember, Draco.” She said after a moment.
“The fox is a wild blood, as I said... but never forget, so is the wolf.” Narcissa told her son, “And a wise hound will think twice before stalking a wolf.”
Wednesday Addams paused outside the door to Xander’s room, and eyebrow going up as she heard conversation from within. She knocked after a moment and waited until she heard Xander’s voice inviting her in.
Inside the room she was only mildly surprised to see Xander leaning back on his bed, chatting with a headless ghost.
“Hey, Wednesday,” He greeted her with a grin, “This is Anne.”
The ghost tilted slightly at the waist, not a bow but a greeting. “Good evening, young Wednesday.”
“You’re Majesty,” Wednesday returned, with a respectful tilt of her head.
“Majesty?” Xander blinked.
“Boleyn, I presume,” Wednesday directed at the ghost.
“She is a former wife of Henry the Eighth, and one time Queen over England.” Wednesday said to Xander, slightly disdainful of his lack of awareness.
Xander grinned, shrugging as he caught the tone, “hey, what do I know about England? I’m a Cali boy, remember? And it’s not like they bother teaching us anything about real history in Hogwarts.”
Wednesday had to concede the point, “True.”
“Anyway, we’ve been having a nice conversation... at least we have since my heart started again,” Xander said with a playful scowl.
“Must I apologize once more?” The ghost asked, her eyes rolling as she held her head against her side. “Few are the living who can see me, and even fewer are those who can do so consistently as you two do.”
“We aren’t normal.” Wednesday replied dryly.
“I had divined as much.” Anne replied in kind. “Though we did officially repudiate witchcraft, I was aware of the Royal Wizard young one. You are of his sort, I assume?”
“Fascinating. I have not seen any like you before, and I have been wandering these halls for many years.”
“You likely have,” Wednesday corrected, “However were likely ignored. Ghosts are commonplace for those of us who live in the magical world, and this building holds little interest for wizards. So those who did bother to come here would have no particular interest in yourself.”
The ghostly woman winced, “I suppose that makes some sense.”
“No, it does not,” Wednesday replied evenly, “however it makes as much sense as anything else done by men... wizard or otherwise.”
Xander got a sinking sensation when the ghost laughed bitterly at the joke, and the two began to chatter about how oblivious his gender was. That was his queue to escape and he quietly sidled up to the door before bolting down the hallway. No way was he hanging around a ghost of some woman who got her head cut off and Wednesday Addams when they started talking about men.
He was congratulating himself on the escape as he explored a little when he heard sounds from ahead and decided to investigate. Xander made his way into a large setting room and noticed that Gomez had apparently taken the room over, having setup a large train set. Xander idly walked around it, checking out the impressive layout as he did.
“Ah, Alex my boy, how are your rooms?”
“Pardon?” Gomez frowned curiously, teeth clenched on his ever present cigar.
“Wednesday and Anne Boleyn are complaining to each other about men,” Xander explained. “Given that one had her head chopped off by order of her husband, and the other is Wednesday, I did the smart thing.”
“Ran for your life,” Gomez nodded, “Good job, lad.”
“What’s with the trains?”
“Every man needs a hobby, Alex,” Gomez grinned, waving Xander over. “Have a look.”
Xander did so, marveling at the detail of the set. It really was a pretty spectacular layout. He peered closer as one of the trains moved past, and tilted his head slightly as he could have SWORN that there was a man looking out at him.
“Uh...” Xander held his hand up questioningly.
“Not the same though,” Gomez sighed, setting down the controls. “No explosives clause... it’s a travesty.”
“Um...” Xander shifted, trying to see if he could spot the train’s passenger again.
“Terribly annoying. Frightfully unfair.” Gomez went on, pacing around the table. He suddenly stopped and shook his head, “Listen to me, here I am in lovely historic London, in one of the most haunted places in the world, and I’m pouting like Fester and Pugsley over the lack of explosives.”
Gomez laughed, “I’m truly a spoiled American, Alex. Can’t live without the modern pleasures. Well, time to correct that.”
“Uh, right...” Xander said, eyes still following the train.
“I think a little old world entertainment is in order. You game, my boy!?” Gomez bellowed.
Xander blinked, then shrugged, eyes still on the train. “Uh, sure.”
“Excellent. En Guard!!”
“What?” Xander snapped up, looking around in time to see a sword coming his way. “Ahhh!”
He caught it on reflex, but unfortunately not by the hilt. The blade bit into his palm, blood running freely as Xander fumbled it twice, cutting his fingers as well, then got a grip on the hilt before the weapon hit the ground. “Ow!”
He looked up, eyes betrayed by the injury Gomez had inflicted, just in time to see the attack coming. Gomez vaulted the table, flipping easily over it in a perfect somersault, and landed just a few scant feet away as he slashed his own blade in a cutting stroke at Xander.
Xander screamed, throwing himself back as the blade ripped his robes open.
“Defend yourself!” Gomez cried, lunging in.
Xander swiped his own blade across, but totally missed the strike, and winced as he felt a slice open up in his leg.
“Come on, lad! You can do better than that!”
“No I really can’t!!” Xander cried out, dodging to the left and nearly impaling himself on Gomez’ next strike.
Luckily Gomez pulled the blow and paused as Xander gasped for breath. “My lord, lad. Didn’t anyone teach you the basics?”
“Sword fighting isn’t ‘basics’ anymore!!” Xander snarled, glaring at Gomez, “it stopped being basics a hundred years ago!!”
“Nonsense!” Gomez declared, shaking his head at the state of education in the world today, “Alright then, let’s start with footwork. We have a great deal to cover, and so little time to do it in.”
Wednesday Addams raised an eyebrow when she entered the drawing room and found Xander wincing as he bandaged his hand.
Xander, looking up, noticed her and grunted, “Your dad’s nuts.”
She considered that for a moment, debating whether it was intended as an insult or a statement of fact, then shrugged. “Fencing?”
“Is that what you call it? I call it ‘Stab Xander Time’.”
Judging from the cuts and blood Xander was sporting, Wednesday had to admit that his appellation had merit. She sighed, shaking her head slightly.
“What?” Xander defended himself, “I’m twelve! I’ve never used a sword before!”
“The second is a reason, the first is not.” Wednesday replied dryly, idly taking up a blade from the wall and swishing it through the air. “How is your hand?”
“It’ll be ok. I’ve had worse just mucking around with Jess back home,” Xander admitted.
“Good.” She said, replacing the sword. “Did father show you anything more than how to bleed?”
Xander rolled his eyes, “He started on about footwork, and talked about lessons.”
She smiled lightly, “Perfect. Pay attention to him, Alexander. Father is perhaps one of the finest swordsmen alive today.”
“I believe it.” Xander grumbled as he reached for another bandage.
“Ah! Alexander, I’ve been looking for you!”
Xander started as Gomez entered the room, “What for? Come to finish me off!?”
Gomez laughed, “Course not, my boy, I’ll do that next lesson. No, I wanted to introduce you to Cousin Itt.”
Xander stood up, turning around to say hi to this Cousin, and froze dead as he found himself staring at a walking, five foot tall, bundle of hair.
The hair suddenly jabbered something Xander couldn’t hope to decipher in a fast machine gun burst of what Xander could only suppose was words of some kind.
“Quite right!” Gomez responded, “Well boy?”
“Bring out the pup, lad, you think Itt here has all day?”
Xander blinked, still confused.
Wednesday sighed, “Cousin Itt came to see Fenrir, Alexander. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” Xander said slowly, still staring.
Itt chattered again.
“No, no, of course not. You look absolutely spiffy as always,” Gomez assured the hair ball.
The cold tone broke Xander out of his reverie and he shook himself, “What? Oh, yeah... sure.”
He whistled once, and there was an almost instant reply as Fenrir bounded into the room while yapping happily. The hairball turned toward the dog and chattered again, causing the pup to skid to a stop and growl as his hackles came up. That didn’t seem to perturb the Addams cousin, however, and Xander took a step forward as Fenrir began to circle around.
“It’s alright, boy. Not gonna let him, er... it, hurt you.” Xander said, causing Fenrir to relax and Itt to go off on another chattering spree.
“Itt, not it.” Wednesday growled instantly, in a tone low enough that the other’s didn’t hear.
“Uh...” Xander blinked, staring at her.
“His name is Itt.” She hissed as Itt produced a dog treat from somewhere and tossed it to Fenrir.
“That’s what I said?” Xander offered weakly.
She gave him a glare that clearly showed how little she bought into that story, and he buckled.
“Sorry. I’ll remember.”
Wednesday nodded curtly, and Xander recognized the matter was closed. For now.
Meanwhile Gomez was listening intently to Itt as the furball chattered away.
“You don’t say,” Gomez said, sounding shocked.
Itt chattered on a little more.
“You don’t say.” Gomez replied, this time sounding amazed.
Itt nodded, more of a bob Xander noted, and went on again.
“You don’t say.”
By this point Xander had had enough, he wanted to know what was up with his dog.
“What? What is it?”
“He didn’t say.” Gomez shrugged.
There was a long moment of silence as Cousin Itt snapped around and seemed to somehow glare at Gomez while Wednesday delicately pinched the bridge of her nose as if to stave off a headache.
Gomez, for his part, grinned widely as if he’d just delivered the best punch line ever.
Itt sighed audibly and turned to Wednesday, chattering away.
Wednesday nodded in understanding and looked over to Xander, “Everything is fine with Fenrir.”
Xander, distracted from glaring at Gomez, let out a sigh of relief. “Thank god.”
“It seems he’s made a Familiar Bond with you,” She explained, “which has altered his aging to match your own. It’s not precisely rare, but not terribly common either.”
“So he’s going to age as I do?” Xander asked, considering it. That didn’t sound too bad at all.
Itt chattered again, then Wednesday nodded.
“Precisely. Cousin Itt says that he should be due for a growth sport quite soon, as should you.” She said, “Though he mentions that there could be some unexpected incidents since Fenrir is a magical creature.”
Wednesday rolled her eyes, “Dire wolf, if you’ll recall.”
“That’s not a normal breed of wolf?”
The Addams scion just rolled her eyes and sighed.
Draco Malfoy’s mind was reeling as he tried to understand all the things his mother had laid out, knowing even as he did that there was no way his father would agree with even half of them. There was a cold logic to his mother’s statements, though, a sort of certainty that he couldn’t refute.
One thing that he found disturbing, though, wasn’t the differing beliefs of his parents so much as the level of bitterness his mother seemed to hold. He’d never noticed it before, as she had always held herself as the perfect pure blood wife and mother. The way she spoke of the Black line, though, seemed to physically hurt her.
It did hurt him, though he wasn’t sure why.
He was a Malfoy. The Malfoy heir even. To the Black line, if the family still existed, Draco was under no illusions of his importance there. If the family were still intact, he would be a moderately important tool and nothing else.
His mother’s words still shocked him on that account.
“Muggleborn have their place, Draco. Make no mistake of that,” She had told him hours earlier. “Take yourself for example. As the Malfoy heir, no Matriarch of the Malfoy Line would permit you to be wed to a muggle born...”
Draco had been indignant in his reply, “I should hope not!”
His mother had merely smiled slightly, “A Matriarch of the Black Line, however, would indeed consider a match between you and, perhaps Granger, as a suitable... even desirable, match.”
Draco still shuddered to think of his mother’s words, even now unable to find any suitable way to respond to them.
She had, of course gone on, “As a member of a Cadet line of the Blacks, that would be your duty. Cadet branches exist to test unknown blood lines, and to filter out unwanted traits. Within a few generations, one of your get would, ideally, be bred back into the main line in the hopes of preserving the best traits of yourself and your wife.”
Draco shuddered; thanking Merlin that he was the Malfoy heir and not some play toy of the Black line. The very IDEA of being married off to some mudblood...
It made him physically ill.
Narcissa laughed softly to herself, remember the look on her son’s face from their earlier discussion.
Draco was many things, she supposed, but flexible was not among them. As a mother, she doubted she should take quite so much pleasure in his discomfort, but the bulge in his eyes at the mention of the muggle born’s name had been too funny. She had used Granger intentionally, of course, knowing from Draco’s previous rants that, one way or another, her name would evoke an emotional response.
Narcissa wondered if Draco had quite realized yet how open he left himself when he allowed someone to affect him so deeply. Likely not. She wasn’t sure if he harbored some hidden crush on the girl, or more likely just a deep envy of her intelligence. Likely the latter, Narcissa supposed, though the former was far from impossible.
The Malfoy Matriarch sighed as she fastened her cloak and made her way down the alley and into Muggle London.
She easily found her way to the hidden bistro buried deep in one of the city’s back streets and walked in.
“Ah, Madam Malfoy.” The Maitre D’ smiled warmly. “Your table is waiting, and Madam Tonks has already arrived.”
“Thank you, Charles.” Narcissa said her voice polite but cool.
She walked past the man into the dining area and made her way through to the semi-private table where her sister was sitting.
The two sisters smiled at one another briefly, then laughed softly.
“Your regular orders, my Ladies?”
“Yes, Charles. Thank you.” Andromeda said as Narcissa nodded.
“Very well, it won’t be a moment.”
“Take your time; we have much to catch up on after all.” Narcissa told him, her eye gleaming as she looked back at her sister.
Andromeda nodded in return, “Indeed.”
The holidays progressed quickly, Xander found, and as normally as one could expect when one was hanging around the Addamses. Despite the ban on explosives in the tower, Pugsley and Fester had found a nice little quarry a few miles out of London which served as a nice testing spot for various explosives the duo cooked up.
“What are you two up to today?” Xander asked, swooping down on the two and hopping off his broom.
He had to admit, flying was one of the big bonuses about having magic, but he really wished it wasn’t on broomsticks. Comfort charms be damned, the stupid thing rode up his crotch and kept binding up the Wizard’s robes in really uncomfortable places.
Unfortunately there simply was no spell to ‘superman’ the whole process, at least not under his own control. As far as Xander had been able to find, it was patently impossible to levitate or otherwise ‘fly’ under one’s own magic. He could do it to someone else, or they could to him, but something about trying it on himself would case the magic to be annulled by his own core.
“Hey Xander!” Fester grinned, hunched over as he sidestepped from one charge to the next, “You’re just in time. We’re going to be trying semtex today!”
Xander blinked, looking at the dull white blocks of putty. “Hey, wasn’t the semtex you used last Christmas like orange?”
“Yup!” Fester grinned widely.
“Why isn’t this stuff that color?”
“Couldn’t get a permit to buy any in England.” Fester replied.
“So... you what? Brought this from the states?”
Xander sighed, “Where’s it from?”
“Black market.” Fester grinned, “Only the legal stuff is color coded. Military semtex doesn’t have the coloring, or the chemical markers to trace back to its source.”
Oi. Xander pinched the bridge of his nose.
Fester finished up and turned back, “See how I did that? Always be very careful with the wiring, boys. Last thing you want is a misfire.”
“Yes, Uncle Fester.” Pugsley replied dutifully.
Xander leaned in slightly, “Triple twist with a cap?”
“Right you are, you remembered!” Fester grinned gleefully.
“Yeah well, blow me up once, shame on you... blow me up twice, shame...”
“On me!” Fester cackled, pulling them back. “Come on, come on.”
Xander let himself be dragged away, snagging his broom as they moved back to the safe zone. Safe being by Addams definition, mind you. Hunkered down behind a boulder, Fester produced an old plunger style detonator and grinned.
“Ready!” Pugsley grinned.
“Are we far enough...”
Apparently, in Addams talk, what Xander started to ask translated directly to ‘ready!’ because Fester instantly depressed the plunger. The explosive crack made him jump slightly, pressing closer to the boulder, then the shock wave rolled over them and popped Xander’s ears.
Fester was yelling and dancing with Pugsley as Xander’s hearing came back, and the two looked at him and yelled something.
“Watch out for falling debris!” Fester repeated himself.
Xander blinked, then looked up and yelped. He dove to one side just as a chunk of rock the size of his head slammed down into the boulder he’d been sheltering behind and splintered into shards. Xander rolled to his feet and glared at Fester.
Fester shrugged, “Very slim chance of being hit.”
“Slim. Slim he says,” Xander muttered, shaking his head.
“If you boys are quite done,” Wednesday’s voice rang clearly through the general melee as she swooped in on her own broom, riding side saddle with a level of dignity Xander wished he could approach, “Father says we’re going to Diagon today to do some shopping.”
“Cool.” Xander grinned, “I need to get to Gringotts and check out this cash I’m supposed to have.”
“I’m certain the Goblins will be able to answer your questions.”
Diagon at Christmas time was a site, though the more Xander thought about it, the more confused he got.
“Something bothering you, Son?” Gomez asked as they navigated the throngs.
“Well, yes Sir. Christmas is a Christian holiday, so why are witches and wizards so big on it?” Xander asked, looking around.
“Complicated question, my boy.” Gomez replied, “Do you want the short answer, or the long one?”
“They’re not big on it.”
Xander waited, but it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get much more than that. “Ok, longer than that.”
Gomez smirked, “Part of it goes back to the fact that Wizarding society as we know it today really didn’t begin until a little over a thousand years ago, which was well after the entrenchment of Christianity into the society in which most wizards come from.”
“Hogwarts is a thousand years old,” Xander frowned, “the school is as old as wizards?”
“Well no, there were wizards around long before that, just not connected as a society the way they are today.” Gomez told him, “Druids and Shamen, priests and seers, they were all around but mostly they were part of world society in general. So now, for bonus points, what caused the separation of the two societies?”
Xander grimaced; this was NOT covered in history class. “Uh. Witch hunts?”
Gomez glared at him, “Come now, lad, aren’t you paying attention in history class?”
“They don’t teach that in history.” Wednesday spoke up.
“What!? It’s the single most important event in Wizarding history, and they don’t teach it??” Gomez blurted, drawing attention. “What about the classes from Salem?”
“Those are mostly American Wizarding History. I believe that they expect Hogwarts to teach us the rest.”
“What do they teach??”
“Goblin rebellions mostly.”
Gomez paused, actually shaking slightly as he slowly changed color. Seeing any color in the normally pale man’s skin was interesting, but Xander didn’t think the puce look was healthy. “The more I learn about this school of yours, Dear, the less I like.”
He sighed, shaking his head, “Wands my dear boy. Around eleven hundred years ago, give or take, the first modern wands were developed.”
Xander frowned again, then looked over his shoulder back to where he had bought his wand. “But, isn’t there a sign about ‘fine wands since 40 BC’?”
“Ah yes, the Ollivander’s.” Gomez rolled his eyes, “Nice folk, but a little dreary. The family began creating Staves in 42 BC, however Staves while based on many of the same principals as wands were much more power intensive.”
“I don’t understand, Sir.”
“Call me, Gomez, lad.” Gomez quirked a grin as his cigar twitched in response. “Simply put, only a tiny fraction of people can use wands, we call them wizards today. Only a tiny fraction of THOSE people can use a stave, in fact I think there is only two in England today who could. Your headmaster Dumbledore, and Nicholas Flamel. We call those people, legends.”
“Not much of a market for Staves then, huh?”
“Not much, no lad.” Gomez grinned, “Actually, as the legend goes, the original Ollivander created only one, as much by accident as anything else, and it found its way into the hands of Merlin. The family knew that they had magical potential, however, and spent generations refining their work. The breakthrough of wands came about with the help of Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin during their younger days, before Hogwarts.”
Xander frowned slightly, considering that carefully.
“Now, mark me, lad.” Gomez said seriously, “Because for your sort, that is perhaps the most important event in history. Most wizards without a wand? Nothing more than peasants working the land. With a wand? Well, you get what you see here today.”
Xander looked around, all the decorations lit up around him, the entire place animated without any hint of technology or electricity, and he rather imagined that it probably had been very much like this ever since Diagon Alley was created.
“Now, back to your original question, most wizards came from normal society and they brought along the various Christian influenced holidays with them, and even as they began to drop Christian beliefs, they kept the link to the holidays.”
“Cool.” Xander said as he thought about it. “I kinda thought it was something to do with the old druid holidays, like Christians were supposed to have co-opted in the first place.”
Gomez shot a sharp glance at the young man, then smiled, “Sharp, lad. I like that. But no, modern wizards have mostly lost all touch with Druid and Celtic rituals, the same as the rest of the modern world. Some tell themselves that story, mind you, because they hold no love for the church and don’t like to admit any connection, but it’s all bunk. Now, if you want to learn about real druid rituals, I know a few people.”
Xander swallowed at the nearly feral grin on the man’s face and shook his head, “maybe later, Sir.”
“Pity. And how many times must I tell you, call me Gomez!”
Wednesday cleared her throat, and the two looked at her.
“We’re here.” She said, nodding up.
The two looked up, spotting the Gringotts sign.
“Ah, yes. Come along then,” Gomez said, “Right inside.”
Gringotts was certainly not what Xander had come to expect, though in fairness he really had no idea what a Wizarding bank would look like. The little Goblins running around sneering at people didn’t really fit any of the images he’d come up with.
Mr. Addams led them up to a teller and glanced at the name plate idly as the Goblin finished scratching out something or other on parchment.
“Yes, Gilfarb,” Gomez said airily, “be a good fellow and see to this document for the young man.”
The Goblin, Gilfarb, scowled at Gomez and took the papers from Xander’s hand. He glanced through them quickly and scowled again. “This is a draft on a different bank.”
“Is that an issue?”
“There are transferee fees.”
“Of course.” Gomez said dryly, “You are bankers.”
“Will the young man be wanting to open a vault?”
Gomez glanced at Xander, who just looked confused. “No. I believe a transfer of, we’ll say five hundred galleons will be sufficient.”
The Goblin scratched out the paperwork in record time, then handed it and a quill over to Xander. “Sign this.”
Xander reached for the paper, but was blocked by Gomez who scanned the paper quickly.
“Now see here, Goblin.” The normally jovial man snarled his face suddenly very much a mirror of the goblin he was facing, “Transaction fees are one thing, but they don’t give you the right to fleece the boy!”
“I assure you, that is our standard...”
“Twenty five percent!?” Gomez cut him off, “You’ll take two POINT five and be happy with it.”
“Or what, Wizard?” Gilfarb challenged.
“Don’t insult me, Goblin. I’m no Wizard, I’m an Addams.”
Gilfarb paled to an almost pastel orange at that and his mouth shut instantly, his teeth vanishing from sight. After a moment he spoke again, hesitantly, “A... Addams? Which family are you...?”
“I’m the American Patriach, Gomez Addams. And if you like our accounts as they are, you’ll take two point five and not try to cheat a friend of the family.” Gomez replied, his tone suddenly dead even.
“Yes Sir. Two point five will do nicely.” Gilfarb said, hastily scrawling out a new paper and pushing it across.
Xander slid it to Gomez this time, who nodded, then Xander signed. He received his money directly and the three made their way out of the bank.
“Are Goblins always like that?” Xander asked hesitantly when they were clear.
“Bankers are always like that,” Gomez responded, his tone again jovial. “You just need to know how to handle them. Goblins are a little different, though.”
“Well, lad, you know the expression humans like to bandy around, Respect is earned?” Gomez asked.
Xander just nodded.
“Well, humans don’t really believe that. For humans, respect is lost.” Gomez said with a grin, “We tend to give people we don’t know a certain level of respect until they’ve earned more, or lost what they started with. Goblins, though, don’t work that way. With a Goblin you always start at zero, so mark that boy, if you have to deal with them in the future.”
“Oh.” Xander said, feeling a little at sea.
He understood the meaning, he supposed, but it was a weird way of looking at things. “That kinda sucks.”
“Maybe, but earn a Goblin’s respect and they’ll never cheat you, they’ll never stab you in the back, and they will never betray your trust. Still, never give a goblin any respect he hasn’t earned,” Gomez finished, “That’s a mark of weakness to them. And they’ll mark it, and you, for an easy target.”
Xander swallowed, but nodded, “Alright. I’ll try and remember that.”
“Good lad,” Gomez grinned, “Now, on to some shopping, shall we?”
Shopping took the rest of the day, but it whizzed by like lighting until they were back in the tower. Xander once more found himself creeped out, yet occasionally awed by the Addams as they went about the preparations for their yuletide celebrations.
He found himself wondering what the Addamses really celebrated, however. They weren’t remotely Christian, that was certain, yet they bedecked themselves in all the trappings of the holiday with vigor and joy. They even went so far as to put a Santa hat on Lurch, or someone did. Xander privately wondered if the big guy had noticed it yet sometimes, but didn’t want to be rude by asking.
From Mr. Addams’ comments earlier, Xander thought that they might actually be celebrating the winter solstice, but at the same time that didn’t seem quite right either.
It was only a few days to Christmas when he finally broke down and asked them.
Gomez had looked at him queerly; surprised by the question, but it was Morticia who spoke up.
“Why Alexander, we’re celebrating family of course.”
Xander just stared blankly.
Fester looked at him oddly, then grinned, “You didn’t think we were celebrating a religious holiday did you? Please. Christmas isn’t about religion. How many folk worship Sandy Claws anyway?”
“Precisely, Fester old chum,” Gomez broke with a wide grin, “Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t even born in December, lad. Christmas is as much a Christian holiday as Halloween, which is to say... not at all. This is a time for friends and family, Alexander.”
Xander didn’t really have a response to that, so he just nodded quietly.
Sometime later, Wednesday moved over beside him and spoke softly as she watched the decorations across the room.
“Do you miss your family?”
Xander had to consider it, “A little. But things were always tense around the holidays.”
“I don’t know. Not for sure,” Xander admitted, “But I think it had a lot to do with my family being from magical families, and maybe they were missing their families.”
Wednesday just nodded and fell silent.
The two sat together for the rest of the night, just quietly thinking about the past, the present, and the future.
Christmas day came quickly after that, and like the year before it was one of the more pleasant ones in Xander’s memory.
Since neither he nor Wednesday had shown any interest in high performance brooms, their gifts this year had been new school trunks with four compartments each. One bookshelf, two normal trunk sections, and one room sized section Xander found absolutely incredible.
“How do they make it so much bigger inside than out?” He blurted, not for the first time, as he withdrew his head from the room sized compartment.
“Arithmancy.” Wednesday replied calmly.
“Huh?” Xander blinked.
“It’s all maths, Alexander.” She said simply with a shrug.
“Oh.” Xander pouted, sighing. “I suck at math.”
“How do you know, I doubt you’ve ever tried this.”
“They did the tests at school and everything.” Xander shrugged, “I’m not, you know ‘special’ or anything, but I’m not so good with math or spacial whatsit.”
Wednesday regarded him stonily for a long moment, “I think you would learn to trust yourself over some test given to you by people you neither know, nor have any reason to believe in.”
“Why would they lie?” Xander blinked.
“I did not say they did. However, were it me, I would do my best to prove the matter to myself.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Xander replied, trying not to feel down.
“Enough of that for today, children.” Morticia came to his rescue. “Let’s finish with the presents.”
Holidays with the Addamses were creepy, but surprisingly enlightening.
With Christmas past the rest of the holidays swept by in a blur, leaving the second part of the school year upon them before they really knew it. Xander didn’t know about Wednesday, but he had far more mixed feelings concerning the return to school that he normally had.
On the one hand, it was still school.
No matter what else was going on, it was school and school was, by definition, boring.
Still, it was MAGIC school.
Xander had to admit, short of having classes on The Enterprise or something, that was about as cool as you could make school.
But damn it, it was still SCHOOL.
This cycle of thought was playing through his mind the entire time he and Wednesday were waiting for the Express to leave and return them to Hogwarts, the slightly geeky goofball in him railing against the bizarre new love of learning Xander had picked up since being introduced to magic.
He really had no idea where it came from; he had after all spent a good many year making sure that he didn’t catch it from Willow.
“Jessie would be so disappointed in me.” He murmured softly.
Xander looked sideways at Wednesday, surprised that he had spoke aloud, then grinned. “My pal back home, he’d be horribly disappointed in me for looking forward to school. We were dedicated underachievers together.”
She raised an eyebrow, “And were you good at it?”
Xander blinked, “Uh, I suppose so.”
“No you weren’t.”
Xander blinked. “Huh?”
“If you were dedicated to underachieving, and were also good at it, then you were achieving what you set out to do. So you weren’t very good at underachieving.”
“Uh...” Xander stared for a long moment, then finally blinked. “Brain... hurts.”
Wednesday just shrugged as the train lurched on the tracks and they were once more heading for school. “At least that’s evidence of having one.”
Once more, Xander found himself swearing that the girl beside him was having a good laugh at his expense, even though she was physically doing nothing of the sort.
The school looked majestic as they approached, the fresh snow coating it from tower to cornerstone, with lights dancing off the powdered white. Xander had donned his Slytherin robes, but underneath he was packing all the layers he could muster as he felt like he was freezing his appendages off with each passing moment.
“Stupid snow.” He said through chattering teeth, “I’m a Cali boy for crying out loud. This just sucks.”
Wednesday rolled her eyes and casually waved her wand at him, casting a warming charm.
“Ahhh...” Xander moaned, “That’s so good. How’d you do that?”
“I’ll show you later.” She said, shaking her head.
As the two approached the castle they saw Harry and Ronald coming in their direction from inside. Xander nodded coolly to the Gryffindors as they paused.
“I just wanted to give you this.” Ron said, shoving his broken wand at Xander.
Xander accepted it with a nod, “thanks. You have a good match with your new one?”
Ron nodded, actually smiling in the company of a ‘snake’, “Oh yeah. It’s fantastic, nothing like the old one.”
“Good. Then there’ll be no more accidents.” Xander said pointedly.
Ron reddened, but nodded, “No more accidents.”
The redhead turned away, but Harry paused for a moment then looked back at Xander.
“Thanks, mate. He really needed that wand.”
“I don’t give damn what he needed, Harry. Hermione is my friend and Ron was a menace with this thing,” Xander said, holding up the wobbly wand. “Safest place in the school was wherever he was trying to curse. Worse, he’s got a temper and tends to go for his wand first. You and Hermione were going to get hurt sooner or later.”
Harry just shrugged, “Ron wouldn’t hurt us.”
“Right. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but I wouldn’t want Jesus Christ himself at my side if he had a backfiring gun and an itchy trigger finger.” Xander returned dryly. “Friends like that do your enemies job for them.”
Harry hesitated, “I’ll talk to him.”
“That would be my advice, dude. Remember, he’s got a new wand so no excuses. He hurts Hermione or Wednesday, and I’m gunning for a lion pelt.” Xander promised.
Harry nodded and followed his friend as Wednesday stared at Xander evenly.
“I am quite capable of looking after myself.”
Xander smirked, “I know it, but sometimes it takes an outsider to make people see things that should be fixed.”
The Addams scion stared for a moment longer, then nodded curtly and the two proceeded into the warmer environs of Hogwarts as they prepared for the winter term.
After getting settled in, his new trunk replacing the old with all his belongings stashed inside it, Xander headed out of the Slytherin dorms and into the school, just getting used to being in the castle again. Unsurprisingly he found himself in the library, and smiled when he spotted Hermione at their normal table with a stack of books practically hiding her from sight.
“Hey Herms,” he said, dropping into the seat across from her, “How was the holidays.”
She looked at little frazzled as she looked up at him, but she quickly smiled, “Xander! God, it’s good to see you. Is Wednesday back too?”
Xander nodded, idly plucking a book from the stacks and checking it out. “Petrifactions? Doing some research into the ‘incidents’?”
Hermione nodded, sighing, “There are just so many possibilities, but they’re so obscure! It’s taking forever to rule each one out.”
Xander grunted, flipping through the book. “Our professor from Salem seemed to think that it was probably one of the kids of the terrorist twits you guys had here fifteen years ago.”
“Ron and Harry thought it was Draco,” Hermione whispered, leaning forward slightly.
Xander laughed sharply enough to get hissed at by Madam Pince; he winced but shook his head.
“No way, Draco couldn’t keep a secret if his life was on the line.” Xander said, still chuckling. “If he’d been doing it the only mystery would be why he hadn’t been caught yet.”
Hermione giggled slightly, “That’s pretty much what we figured out.”
Xander eyed her carefully for a moment, then shrugged, deciding that she’d tell him if she wanted to. “Anyway, Wednesday says it’s a snake.”
Hermione’s head shot up, “A snake?”
“Yeah, like a Basalip or something.” Xander shrugged.
“A Basilisk.” Hermione hissed tightly, eyes wide, “I think that would do it.”
“She and the Professor said that there should be deaths, though, if it’s a Basilisk.” Xander said, “Anyway, don’t know anything about them.”
“I think I have a book here somewhere... oh drat, where could it be??”
Xander smirked slightly, shaking his head. “Let me know if you need any help.”
“What? Oh, right. Sure...”
Xander chuckled softly and pulled out the Grimoire and laid it out on the table in front of him, he had come up with a few thoughts for one of his ideas and wanted to do some checking.
The term started off smoothly, thankfully, with no more accidents. The winter was still making it difficult to cultivate the mandrake required for the restoratives that the victims would need, which was seriously of the bad, but beyond that things slid back into a routine.
Draco was still prancing around like he owned the castle, and pretty much everyone else was still ignoring him. Xander had happened on him terrorizing the first years a few times, especially those Muggleborn and mixed bloods who had the misfortune of being sent to Slytherin, but had managed to deflect him each time with little effort.
For some reason Draco seemed unwilling to get into any debates with Xander, and had apparently also decided that violence wouldn’t be useful either. That surprised Xander, to be sure, but he figured he’d take what he was given and be happy for it.
He never noticed the relieved looks on the first years face when he would walk into the common room, or the fact that many of them tended to choose to study wherever he was spending his time. It was something that didn’t go unnoticed by everyone, however.
“Is Harris building a cabal?”
Daphne Greengrass shook her head as she glanced across the room to where Xander Harris was reading the same book he always seemed to have in his hands. She turned her focus back to her friend, Tracy Davis, “No. I don’t think so at any rate. Believe it or not, as far as I can tell he honestly doesn’t notice.”
“But look at them.” Tracy said, nodding to the group of first and second years who were arrayed around Harris.
“I know, but honestly, he’s a bit thick.” Daphne said, delivering her considered opinion. “I don’t know what the hat saw in him, but it wasn’t ambition. Or if it was, it was buried under so much cunning that he’s just a brilliant sneak.”
“This IS Slytherin.”
“You don’t really think that a twelve year old is that good, do you?”
“I suppose not,” Tracy conceded, then scowled, “But it’s a whole lot nicer to consider than that he’s bumbling around like an idiot and doing by accident what we’re all trying to do on purpose.”
Daphne chuckled, “It’s possible, I guess, that stunt he pulled at the start of the year was brilliant.”
“How did he pull that off anyway??” Tracy demanded, “The only people who know, or claim to know, are Jacobs, Harrow, and Draco... and the first two aren’t talking while I don’t believe a word Draco says.”
Daphne closed her mouth, her eyes moving away.
“You know!” Tracy hissed, leaning in.
“It’s actually kind of obvious once you know the answer,” Daphne said softly. “They didn’t do anything much, just redirected the Twins pranks away from our table.”
Tracy stared, blinking. “That’s it?”
“But.... but, that’s so simple!”
“Shhh!” Daphne shut her up. “And yes, it was. Which is why no one figured it out.”
Tracy leaned back, eyes falling over to Xander, “So is he some sort of genius, or the living embodiment of Occam’s Razor?”
Daphne frowned, “What?”
“It’s a philosophy thing,” Tracy told her, “basically it says that if you have two answers that are equally likely to be true, you’re best choosing the simpler of the two until more evidence is available.”
“Well Xander certainly is the simpler of the two,” Daphne snarked as she nodded from Xander over to where Draco was holding court at the far end of the room.
The room quieted for a moment as the boys looked nervously over at the two witches as they broke down in uncontrollable giggles.
Valentine’s day arrived in the castle, much to the delight and disgust of the school. Delight and disgust because Professor Lockhart took it upon himself to cheer things up and turned the entire place into a nightmare from the most twisted minds at Hallmark. Lurid pink was the color of the day, with actual dwarfs running around singing poems and generally embarrassing the hell out of half the school while the other half laughed.
Xander watched in mild amusement as Harry was the recipient of a particularly horrid piece of writing, then felt something of a chill as one of the Dwarfs cleared his throat from the Ravenclaw table and attracted the attentions of many in the hall.
It had stopped right in front of Wednesday, and was preparing to read from the paper in its hands when she interrupted it.
“Life is short enough,” She said coldly, “Must you really hasten the approach of the spectral hand of death?”
The cupid costumed dwarf swallowed hard and shook his head, ripping up the paper in his hand. He turned to Lockhart, “I quit!”
Xander smirked, then exchanged a curious glance with Wednesday. She arced and eyebrow at him, which he interpreted to mean ‘did you send that?’. He shook his head slightly, twisting his head slightly and exposing his neck.
She nodded, receiving his message loud and clear.
‘Of course not. Do I look like I want my throat slit?’
With the horror of Valentine’s day past them, and classes settling down to the normal routine, Xander finally found time to do some work with Ron’s old wand. The Ash wand was held together by the spello tape still, and he had to carefully unstick that and peel it slowly off to reveal the damage. The wood had been totally shattered, but the unicorn tail hair was still intact and held the two ends together.
Xander supposed that was what allowed the wand to still work, though it obviously became unreliable after the break. Probably because proper wand movements would be next to impossible with the tip of the wand wobbling slightly, though it was possible that the magic simply didn’t jump across the break in the wood properly.
“What ARE you doing, Harris?”
Xander glanced up as Draco approached, “Just pulling apart an old wand.”
“That’s Weasley’s isn’t it?” Draco sneered, as he usually did. “I noticed he had a new one. Why’d he give you that?”
“I asked.” Xander shrugged, “Wanted to see what these things were like on the inside.”
“Why ever would you want that?”
“Funny,” Xander drawled in an imitation of Draco’s tone, “You sounded exactly like Ronald there for a moment.”
Draco reddened, his hand wrapping around his wand, “Are you calling me a Weasley!?”
Xander considered it, not reaching for his own wand, “Well, I don’t know how far the inbreeding actually goes...”
The Malfoy scion shook, wand out in his hand now, “How DARE you?”
“Draco,” Xander sighed, “Think about it. Why would anyone want to see how wands are made?”
Draco rolled his eyes, “That’s what I asked!”
“And I’m asking you to answer it.”
Draco cooled down a little, then shrugged, “I suppose if you wanted to be a wand maker it would be important.”
“One good answer.” Xander agreed, “Any others?”
Draco just shrugged.
“Did you know that the current wands haven’t really changed in over eleven hundred years?” Xander asked, “Before that it was mostly Staves, and only a handful of wizards could use them.”
“Everyone knows that, Harris.”
“I didn’t,” Xander shrugged, “And I suspect that most muggle born don’t know it either.”
“Why would I care what they know?”
“You wouldn’t, but the point is that not everyone knows it.” Xander said, turning his focus back to the wand. “This little stick changed the world, it’s probably the single most important item in the entire Wizarding world, and no one cares how it works?”
“Why should we?” Draco asked with that permanent sneer he maintained, “Tools are there to be used.”
Xander shrugged again, “No reason, I guess.”
Draco smirked at him, confident at having won the argument, and pranced off with his nose in the air. Xander watched him go for a moment before returning his attention to the wand. He noted that the unicorn hair had been pulled just slightly out of the wood, which meant that the two pieces could no longer be fit together properly without bending the hair.
Another point of failure, probably.
There were no books on basic wand making in the library, Xander had discovered, so he knew too well that most of this was just guess work at best. As near as he could tell, the secrets of wand making were controlled by certain pureblood families.
The Ollivander’s in Britain, The Marceau family in France, and the Gregorovitch family in Eastern Europe had a rather tight grip on the construction of those little pieces of irreplaceable wood and magic. Wands in the states were mostly imported, Xander had learned after a discussion with Professor Hardy, though there were some wand crafters who had setup shop in various places in the American Wizarding World.
Crafters were different than the Three Families of Wands, according to Hardy. They custom designed wands for their users, which roughly approximated the same quality as a matched Ollivander wand, however it took several weeks to craft each wand, where as Ollivander and the others of the Three Families could make a wand with their technique in as little as an hour.
Of course there was no guarantee that said wand would match with a given wizard, but the sheer number of wands they could make, combined with the huge backlog each of the Three Families had from generations of wand makers, nearly guaranteed a good match for any wizard or witch who came in the door.
For that reason, the cheaper yet equally effective wands from the Three Families basically owned the market in Europe, most of Africa, and much of Asia. Only in the Americas, Australia, and a few oddball places did crafters survive due to import tariffs and other local restrictions. If he had bought his wand in the States, Xander found out, he would have paid closer to a hundred galleons for it and would have had to wait several weeks at a minimum if he commissioned it from a crafter.
Xander couldn’t put his finger on it, but there were whole aspects of the Wizarding world that just seemed off somehow, and this was one of them.
He kept trying to compare them to stuff in his comic books, but really couldn’t get the reality to match up with the fantasy. It kinda disappointed him, really, he had been seeing the magical world as an extension of his comic book fantasies, but something was just... wrong.
He sighed, scratching down some notes in the Coven Grimoire and settled back into the chair to think.
He opened his eyes and flicked over to see Daphne sitting across from him.
“Thanks, it was a gift.”
“I don’t believe I’ve seen one like it before, is it a muggle pen?”
He nodded, “A fountain pen, invented a long time ago. Marks just like a quill, but you don’t need an ink pot, it holds the ink inside.”
Daphne nodded, leaning forward to get a closer look. “And you use it for class?”
Xander smirked, “Not Professor Snape’s, but I do use it for his homework. Have all year; he’s never noticed a difference.”
She smiled slightly, tipping her head slightly as she leaned back. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with Draco.”
“Translation,” Xander said with a grin, “my Slytherin side made me listen in, along with everyone else in the common room.”
Daphne smirked tightly, glancing around as several other students suddenly found very interesting things in their own books to focus on. “Precisely.”
“So what of it?”
“I’m just curious, really,” She admitted, “What do you hope to learn?”
Xander shrugged, “Don’t know. Just seems wrong, somehow, to wave these around and not have some idea how they work. You know, in my school back home, I took ‘muggle’ classes, including some science courses. They always tried to explain HOW something works, even if it’s just a really simple explanation that leaves out the details. I guess I’m used to that.”
She nodded slowly, eyes hooded slightly as she considered his words.
Xander knew she was smart enough to have noted that he admitted to taking normal classes, but he was banking on her being smart enough to read more into what he’d said than he meant. He’d learned that Slytherin’s tended to do that, and if she did than he expected she would draw conclusions that would lead her away from the truth of his family situation. The last thing he needed was for the house to figure out that his parents were squibs, as that was really only slightly better than their being muggles.
“I guess that makes sense.” She said after a moment, “Is schooling that different in the States?”
Xander considered for a moment, thinking about the classes he had to take now. “Well, I’m taking classes in physics and chemistry even now, as well as biology.”
“You are? Wait... what are those?”
Xander raised an eyebrow, he’d known that the wizard world didn’t put much stock in ‘muggle’ sciences, and with some good cause really. Magic really did violate many of the rules of science so utterly that it made the courses seem stupid. Hardy had been adamant there, though, that the ‘laws’ in the books were in fact accurate despite the appearances.
Magic didn’t follow Newton’s laws of motion, for example, or really any of the common ‘laws’ of the world. Apparently magic fell into a category Hardy called ‘High Energy Physics’ for the most part, where the laws of nature were markedly different. Xander hadn’t understood a word of it, though, and Hardy had told him that he wasn’t expected to unless he went to a Doctorate program and beyond in certain specialties’.
At any rate, what surprised him here was that Daphne didn’t even know the words. She wasn’t a stupid girl, and you’d think that one some level or another she’d have at least heard the basics about them. He had, after all, probably before he could say the words. They were the sort of thing you were bombarded with in what Xander was rapidly thinking of as ‘the real world’. Biology? Spiderman, Frankenstein, almost every monster flick he’d ever watched were based on some screwed up version of biology. Chemistry was the basis for all kinds of stuff in horror movies and comics, from the acid blood in Aliens... which, now that he thought about it, was also a weird kind of biology... to the Joker’s maniac persona in Batman. Physics, well that was the basis of every sci-fi flick he’d ever watched, of course.
And she’d never heard of any of them?
“Uh, well, Chemistry is sort of a ‘muggle’ version of potions,” Xander answered, “it’s the basis for, well a LOT of stuff they make. Physics is how the world works, you know... if I push you I have to brace myself or I’ll also push myself away from you? Stuff like that. And, well, biology is just how livings things work. Sort of like Care of Magical Creatures, I guess.”
Daphne frowned, but nodded. “Those muggles, they can be kinda cute with their playing around, can’t they?”
Xander blinked, “Uh... I guess...”
The Gryffindor/Hufflepuff game was on them shortly after that, and Xander joined most of the school outside to watch it. He wasn’t really into sports, but he had to admit that as far as sports went, Quidditch was probably one of the more fun to watch.
As they were getting ready to get the game underway, however, they all saw professor McGonagall stride out onto the field with a megaphone and the crowd hushed.
“Quidditch is canceled!” She called out, then ignored the protests as she told them to make their way back to their dorms.
Xander watched as he got up and started to move with the group, eyes on the professor as he spotted Harry chasing after her. On a hunch he broke from the pack and followed at a distance. Harry and Ron went with their head of house to the infirmary, and Xander moved in quietly just close enough to see through the door.
Inside he could hear their gasps of shock as he spotted Hermione on the bed, arms sticking up in an awkward position, her eyes open and unmoving.
“She’s been petrified, I’m afraid.” McGonagall said from inside the room.
Xander’s knuckles turned white as his face rapidly paled to match, and he fell back from his position and retreated towards the Slytherin common room.
Professor Hardy had dealt with students for some thirty years and had seen most everything there was to see in that regard. So, when Alexander Harris kicked open the door to his classroom at their regular time and strode in looking like he wanted to murder someone, Hardy merely raised an eyebrow.
Alexander simply growled, slamming his books down as he paced back and forth furiously.
The ice cold tone from Hardy’s second student at Hogwarts brought both of them up short, and even Alexander seemed to freeze for a moment as his fury seemed to cool.
“Damn it, Wednesday!” The angry flared back up again, “She’s our friend!”
“And anger, undirected, will do neither her, nor you and I, any good.” Wednesday countered calmly.
Xander slumped, “She’s our friend.”
Hardy sighed, shaking his head, “You knew the last girl to be petrified, then?”
They both nodded, and Xander turned to him.
“Sir, did you hear back about those calls you were making?”
Hardy winced, but nodded, “Yes. The CMDC keeps certain potions on ice in Atlanta, including petrifaction cures, but there’s a problem.”
“The local ministry has a ban on imported medicinal potions,” Hardy sighed, “or, rather, they insist on a two month quarantine to ‘assure against tainted imports’.”
“You called more than two months ago,” Xander countered, “Why isn’t it through?”
“Because this type of potion doesn’t keep that long without some rather extreme refrigeration,” Hardy explained.
“Bureaucrats.” Wednesday said flatly.
“Quite.” Hardy sighed. “In point of fact, I have two doses available. They were shipped to the embassy in a diplomatic pouch, one for each of you.”
“Give mine to Hermione.” Xander said instantly.
“I wish it were that easy, son.” Hardy said wearily. “For either of you, I could force the situation. You’re American citizens, and are both technically my wards while you’re here in Britain. I can’t do anything for a citizen of the UK without the consent of their guardians, and I’m not likely to be even told who Miss Granger’s parents are, let alone where they live.”
Xander let out another curse, slamming his hand into the desk. “Just GREAT.”
“Patience,” Wednesday suggested, “She will be fine, the petrifaction causes no lasting effects.”
“That’s true,” Hardy interjected. “Given the current climate around here, she’s probably safer than most.”
Xander settled down, nodding.
He knew that was true, of course. The Ministry had sent in Aurors to arrest Hagrid for the crimes, and Dumbledore had been given the boot by the governing board of the school in the day following the attack on Hermione. Draco was prancing around like a peacock in full strut, bragging about how his father had given Dumbledore the boot.
For now a peace was holding, since McGonagall had received the temporary placement as Headmistress, but Xander was privy to a lot of background information and he knew that Draco’s Dad seemed intent on putting a pureblood sympathizer into the position. If THAT happened, Xander was checking out and going home. He’d be sending notes to Hermione’s parents advising them to get her out of the country at the same time, cause there was no way the school would be fit to live in if someone like Professor Snape took over the position.
Xander didn’t have anything personal against the professor, but the way he favored the purebloods was painfully obvious, and if people like Draco thought they didn’t have to worry about the rules anymore? Anarchy, at best. Tyranny at worst.
He took a breath, “Can you get that potion here, Sir?”
“It’ll only keep outside our cold storage for five days, Alexander.” Hardy said quietly. “We have to store it in freezers normally intended for cryogenic containment of samples.”
“Five days.” Xander sighed, “And when did they expect to be able to mix their own here?”
“By the end of the month.”
Xander shook his head, “I hate this.”
“Not much to like, son.” Hardy shook his head, “Now, not to be an ogre, but we do have some work to do. Have you both done your reading?”
Xander was still in a sullen mood after the class as he and Wednesday walked back toward the library.
“So when do we start?”
Xander looked sharply at her. “Start what?”
“Hunting down the Creature.”
Xander paused, leaning on a wall for a moment. “You still think it’s a Basilisk, then?”
“I know it.”
“And the lack of deaths?”
Wednesday shrugged, “The mind of a Basilisk is easy to understand, the mind of a human who orders one about? That can be more complicated.”
“Yeah,” Xander said slowly, his jaw tightening. “Someone’s pulling its strings, aren’t they? Someone ordered it to attack Hermione.”
“How big are these things anyway?”
“That would depend on age,” Wednesday shrugged, “Like many magical creatures, Basilisks are quite long lived, and they do not stop growing.”
“If the legends are true, it’s been here, what? A thousand years?”
“Then it would be quite large.”
“Hard to hide.”
Wednesday shrugged, “Old castles have a tradition of secret passage ways.”
Xander nodded, “Alright. So we just have to find some secret tunnels, track down a big killer snake, kill it... then find the person ordering it around and, what? Catch them?... Kill them?”
Wednesday raised an eyebrow at the hesitancy in Xander’s last question, “First we determine who they are, then we decide on how to proceed.”
Xander nodded, “How do we find the passages?”
“That,” Wednesday admitted, “Will be the difficult part.”
They duo marked off their usual table in the library and began to do research as best they could, focusing on the location of the victims, as well as the few details they could locate on the last time this had happened.
“I wish I could speak with Hagrid,” Wednesday said while reading.
“No way he did any of that,” Xander shrugged, remembering how the big man had treated the first years. “Hagrid’s a soft touch.”
“True, though it is remotely possible he did something by accident.” Wednesday countered.
Xander had to concede that point, but just shook his head. “Doesn’t matter, he’s not here. One fatality the last time, Myrtle Rountree.”
Wednesday frowned, looking up, “Myrtle?”
Xander nodded, “Yeah, why?”
“There’s a ghost, she haunts the girls’ bathrooms.”
“They call her Moaning Myrtle.”
“Sounds like a lead.” Xander said, pushing the books away.
She nodded and the two packed up their books and quietly left the library. As they walked, Wednesday continued to consider the situation.
“To order the basilisk, we must be looking for a Parselmouth.” She said out of the blue.
“Parselmouth, someone who speaks to snakes. A speaker.” She said, “It’s a rare talent that follows certain bloodlines.”
“You know which ones?” Xander asked, drawing out his Coven book.
“Just checking.” Xander scribbled down a couple notes, and closed the book. “Ok, so other than a parcel package, what else can we guess about this guy?”
“Most likely pureblood, of course, though if he or she is smart they may be hiding their affiliations.”
“Right. Sneaky dude pretending to be a good guy, check.” Xander replied.
Wednesday rolled her eyes, nodding at a door ahead of them, “We’re here.”
The two cautiously made their way into the bathroom, and Xander frowned. “Hey, this is where we near got killed by that troll last year.”
Wednesday sniffed, causing Xander to hide a grin. The youngest of the Addamses was still more than slightly ticked at having missed a shot at the Mold in his Shorts dude who’d involved the troll.
She didn’t say anything about it though as she looked around, “Myrtle?”
They waited, but there was no response.
“Hey Myrt!” Xander called.
There was a bubbling as one of the toilettes began to overflow, and then in an explosion of water a ghost appeared and charged up in Xander’s face.
“Oh sure!” She called, “Don’t bother to learn poor moaning Myrtle’s real name, why should she care if you call her funny names, she’s just a ghost...”
“Chill, Spooks.” Xander cut her off, grinning. “I call everyone by funny names.”
The ghost paused, head cocking, “Really?”
“Well, almost everyone.” Xander admitted, then pointed at Wednesday. “She scares me.”
Myrtle turned to look at the dark Ravenclaw, let out a screech that nearly sent Xander scrambling for cover, and dove back into the toilette.
Xander worked his fingers around in his ears, then glared at Wednesday, “What the hell was that?”
“Addams are often trained in necromancy.” She replied, “It’s a natural gift.”
“Oh.” Xander rolled his eyes, “Some gift. You scared our lead down the toilette.”
He walked over to the toilette and shook his head, “I hope you got a plunger, cause I ain’t going after her.”
After leaving the girl’s washroom, their abject failure in coaxing Myrtle back out of her hidey hole, the duo spent the next couple days trying to brainstorm another lead when matters were forced on them. The rumors of the mysterious ‘chamber’ abounded, and the fact that ‘she’ would rest in the chamber forever.
The identity of the girl in question was the subject of rumors, but in short order it became obvious that there was only one missing student.
Xander blinked when Wednesday delivered that information, “You sure?”
She raised an eyebrow and said nothing.
“Right. Of course you are.” Xander rolled his eyes. “Ok, new plan. Let’s move.”
“Where else, we find Harry and follow him.”
“I fail to see how that will help.”
Xander half smiled, “You ever hear the expression ‘better lucky than good’?”
“Harry’s lucky.” Xander said, then shrugged, “Both kinds of luck, in spades, but he’s lucky. Ron’s little sister is in the Chamber, right?”
“I see your point.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” Xander smirked, nodding to the door of the library.
Finding Harry and Ron wasn’t hard, figuring out what the hell they were up to on the other hand was another matter.
“What are they doing?” Xander hissed from where he and Wednesday were shadowing the duo.
“I believe that they’re going for help,” Wednesday replied, disgust in her voice.
“From Lockhart!?” Xander returned, equally disturbed.
The dark girl didn’t answer as the two reappeared from the DADA professor’s office, holding wands on the so called professor.
“The very fact that two second years got the drop on him should clue them in to the fact that he’s not going to be much use.” Wednesday said dryly.
“Better lucky than good,” Xander replied in a soft hiss before the twosome broke cover to follow the group.
They were led through the halls until they wound up right back at Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, much to Xander’s disgust. Xander and Wednesday crept forward in time to hear an argument going on inside.
“So how do we get in??” Ron grumbled, kicking at a fixture.
“I don’t know,” Harry replied, equally perturbed, but calmer about it. “But it has to be here somewhere. Myrtle said...”
“I know what the moaning ghost said, Harry!”
Xander shot Wednesday a dark look as he whispered, “Oh look, some people don’t scare the ectoplasm out of the only witness around. Imagine that.”
Wednesday scowled at him and calmly laid a hand across his thigh, then squeezed. Xander’s eyes bugged out as he crumpled to the ground, teeth clenched in pain. When she let go he took a few breaths, then nodded, “Good point, it’s probably time to let go of that and move on. Never dwell in the past, that’s what I always say...”
She rolled her eyes slightly and focused back on the argument in the bathroom.
“It’s impossible, I tell you,” Lockhart was saying, much calmer now than he had been earlier, “Only the Heir of Slytherin can open the Chamber, accept it and move on.”
“Move on!?” Ron snarled, jabbing his wand at the professor, “That’s my SISTER you’re talking about!”
“Yes, yes, tragic I admit, but there’s nothing to do.” Lockhart said, obviously faking a sad tone. “However it would require at least a bloodline trait of the Slytherin family to gain access.”
“How do you know that?” Harry asked suspiciously.
“Well obviously I know how to do my research,” Lockhart sniffed, “My books didn’t write themselves, you know.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if they did, you git.” Ron growled.
“What traits did the Slytherin line have?” Harry asked, his tone a little desperate sounding.
“Well, several really. The line is one of the oldest pureblood lines in existence, you know.” Lockhart said, rolling his eyes. “Most famous is Parselmouth, of course, then...”
“Wait, what’s Parselmouth?”
“Talking to snakes,” Ron answered, “Only dark wizards do that.”
There was a long silence from inside the room.
“Uh... but I can do that, I think.” Harry’s voice said, sounding very small.
“What!?” Ron and Lockhart yelped together.
“I mean, I did it once I think.” Harry said, “When I was younger.”
“But... but... that’s a dark wizard ability.” Ron hissed.
“Look, do you want to save your sister or not!?”
They didn’t hear another else out of Ron, but instead heard movement followed by a soft hiss and then a harsh grating sound.
“Blimey.” Ron said softly. “You found it, Harry!”
“Yes well,” Lockhart spoke up, “Glad I could help, and I’ll just be going now and...”
“Move it!” Ron growled, “You go first.”
Wednesday and Xander waited until they heard three whooping yells, then ducked inside. They found a gaping hole and tunnel where the fixtures had been.
“My my,” Wednesday said, her voice idly interested. “Harry Potter is a Parselmouth. Fascinating.”
“We going down there?” Xander asked, looking down the tunnel, “Cause I’m not really fond of sewers, you know.”
“Honestly. There are no sewers in Hogwarts, especially not in an area of the castle this old.” Wednesday replied, “When the castle was built sewage was handled entirely externally.”
“Oh.” Xander nodded, then grimaced, “Still looks like a sewer.”
Wednesday sighed, then jumped. As she spun silently out of sight Xander grimaced again and followed suit.
At the bottom they slid to a stop and got to their feet in a hurry as they heard shouting just ahead. The two drew their wands and quickly jogged down the path to find Lockhart threatening the two boys with a wand, obviously about to cast a spell as he sneered at them.
Xander glanced at Wednesday, who looked at him, and they both nodded together and aimed their wands.
The two bone splitter curses slashed out, one striking the professor’s right arm, the other his left. Xander winced slightly as Lockhart’s arms were suddenly jerked straight out in either direction and snapped with a sharp tug. He howled in pain as he collapsed, his wand clattering across the floor.
“Buh... buh... bloody hell!” Ron swore, face sweating slightly.
“This yours?” Xander asked, hefting the fallen wand.
“Yeah,” Ron nodded.
Xander tossed it back to him, then looked down at Lockhart, who was moaning in pain as he tried to cradle his broken arms, which only resulted in twisting them more than they were already. “What were you two thinking, bringing this waste of good O2 along?”
“Waste of what?” Ron blurted.
“Never mind,” Xander shook his head. “So, this is the Chamber, huh?”
Harry nodded uncertainly, “We think so. See the snakeskin?”
Xander looked over and paled as he saw the size of the skin in question, “That’s one big snake, Wednesday.”
“Indeed. It would appear that the legends are true. A Basilisk would have to be almost a thousand years old to be that size.”
“Right.” Xander looked around, eyeing the walls. “New plan. We grab Ron’s little sister, run like hell, and then maybe collapse this tunnel. It doesn’t look too stable; I think we could do it.”
“But...” Ron started to object.
“Look, I’m not too keen on killing a thousand year old snake, ok?” Xander cut him off. “Anything that lives that long, it’s meaner than me.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Harry said, looking at Lockhart’s whimpering form.
“Oh please.” Wednesday rolled her eyes.
“We going to do this, then?”
Ron and Harry exchanged glances, then nodded.
“Alright then. Onward and, well... downward.” Xander said with false enthusiasm.
“What did you hit him with anyway?” Ron asked as they walked away from the moaning Professor.
“Bone splitter curse,” Xander shrugged, “Wednesday showed it to me. It’s a tournament legal version of the Fragier Ossi curse, cause it’s non lethal.”
“What if you hit him in the head?” Harry asked, grimacing slightly.
“Skull fracture,” Wednesday answered, “Unless they hit the ground badly, that’s all.”
“That’s bloody enough if you ask me.” Ron replied.
“And the other one?” Harry asked, curious.
“Bone fragmentation curse,” Xander answered, “You don’t want to know what that does when you hit someone in the head.”
Harry and Ron turned a little green, but nodded as the group came to a stop at a set of doors.
“This the place?” Xander asked, looking up.
Wednesday rolled her eyes, but said nothing.
“I guess so.” Harry shrugged, “More snake speak, you think?”
“Likely,” Wednesday said, eyeing the ornate craftsmanship.
Harry hissed at the door’s snake carving, and for a moment nothing happened, and then a loud clunk sounded and the doors slowly opened on their hinges. The four kids looked at each other nervously, then pushed forward past the doors and into the Chamber.
“Oh bloody hell.” Ron whispered.
“Yeah, I can rock with that.” Xander replied.
“Impressive.” Wednesday said softly, eyeing the large room interestedly.
“Guys! It’s Ginny!” Harry said, surging forward. The three others chased after him, spotting the girl’s form on the ground, and the teenage form standing over him.
They led with their wands, eyeing the unknown person warily as they approached.
“Back off! Get away from my sister!”
The teen looked at them calmly, eyes alighting on Harry and automatically rising to his scar.
“The Great Harry Potter,” The boy smiled, “I’ve heard so much about you from dear Ginevera here.”
“You’re... Tom? Tom Riddle?”
The boy nodded.
“You know this dude?” Xander asked, wand dropping slightly.
“He was Slytherin head boy back when Hagrid was in school.”
Xander’s wand jumped back up, “He don’t look that old.”
“Ginny! Ginny! Wake up!” Ron said, nudging his sister gently as he knelt by her side.
“She won’t wake.”
“What did you do to her!?” Ron snarled.
“She’s not...?” Harry swallowed.
Riddle ignored Ron, eyes only on Harry, “Dead? No. Not yet.”
“What are you, dude? A ghost?” Xander asked, eyes flickering over to Wednesday.
“A memory.” Riddle responded softly, eyes moving over to take in the other two present. “And you are?”
“Harris.” Xander said curtly.
“I know a Harris,” Riddle said, losing interest. “Useless near squib.”
Xander shrugged, “Oh joy. Blood supremacist I assume?”
“Only as it suits me.” Riddle said in response. “I believe in power, boy.”
“What did you do to Ginny!?” Ron cut in, wand stabbing forward as he rose to his feet.
“Forget him, Ron.” Xander advised. “Grab your sister, we’re out of here. Madam Pomfrey can look after her.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” Riddle said.
“Look, Tom, we have to get out of here!” Harry said urgently, “The Basilisk...”
“Won’t come until it’s called for.” Tom said calmly.
“It was you.” Wednesday cut in. “You’re the so called ‘Heir’.”
“Why yes, I am.” Tom said with a cool smile. “And you are?”
“Wednesday.” She told him, “Wednesday Addams.”
Riddle’s eyes widened slightly, “Are you really? My my, There’s hasn’t been an Addams at Hogwarts in... well, ever, I think. As a member of a renowned dark family, you must appreciate the genius of what I’ve done.”
“A memory couldn’t control the Basilisk,” Wednesday said idly, walking around the fallen girl. She paused and looked up sharply, “Possession?”
“It is nine tenths of the law, or so they say.”
Wednesday looked down at the redhead, “She opened the chamber and controlled the basilisk.”
Ron reddened, “No way! My sister would never have...!”
“Silence, fool.” Tom snapped before focusing back on Harry and Wednesday. “It was easy really, if a bit dull. She’s such a silly little girl...”
He assumed a mocking pose, raising his voice slightly to imitate his victim, “Oh dear Tom, how will I ever let Harry know how I feel? What if he doesn’t feel the same about me? He so cute, and he’s the boy who lived...”
Tom rolled his eyes, “Frankly, I was shocked. I didn’t believe it was possible to be nauseous without a body.”
Wednesday smiled slightly, “She fought you.”
The memory of Riddle glared suddenly, “She failed pitifully!”
“No one died.” Wednesday said her voice suddenly clear as if a light had lit in her mind. “The Basilisk is insane, I’ve heard it ranting. It’s a killer, and yet no one died. She fought you, right to the end.”
“And she FAILED.” Tom growled, “Soon she will be dead, and I’ll be back... and the Wizarding world will tremble at my feet.”
“You’ll be stopped!” Harry yelled.
“By who? YOU!? Don’t make me laugh, boy.”
“Dumbledore will stop you!” Harry said.
“That old fool was chased from the castle by a mere MEMORY of me!” Riddle snarled back. “He couldn’t stop me before, and he won’t be able to now.”
“Haven’t you figured it out yet, Harry?” Tom sneered, “I don’t care about Dumbledore. This is all about you.”
Harry fell back as the others looked confused, “M... me? What do I have to do with it?”
“Everything.” Tom said, stepping toward Harry. “As soon as she wrote about you, I knew that I had to arrange this little meeting. I had to know, you see. How did a little BRAT like you take down the most powerful Dark Lord of all time?”
Harry swallowed, “What do you care? Voldemort was after your time!”
Tom sneered again, “Voldemort is my Past, Present, and Future you idiot boy.”
He drew out Ginny’s wand and flicked it through the air, writing out his name.
Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Then, with a series of wand gestures, he rearranged the letters.
I Am Lord Voldemort.
The group read the changes in stunned silence.
For a second.
“So this is the dude with Mold in his Shorts?”
Ron gaped at Xander in total shock as Wednesday smirked just slightly and Harry stifled a snicker.
Tom, however, spun on him, “You DARE!?”
“Hey look, you’re the dumb dork who picked a name that easy to make fun of, man.” Xander told him. “You should have stuck with Tom. Hard to make fun of Tom. Of course the Great Dark Lord Tom doesn’t have much of a ring to it, so I guess I understand. Still, man, you should have picked something scarier.”
“Indeed.” Wednesday said simply, “Flight from Death is hardly fear inspiring.”
“It means flight OF DEATH!”
“No.” Wednesday shook her head, “That would be Vol du Mort. Vol de Mort is flight FROM death.”
“ENOUGH!” The memory of Tom Riddle screamed, stamping its feet with depressingly little effect since he was lacking much in the way of a body.
“I think we hit a nerve.” Xander mock whispered.
“I believe you’re right.” Wednesday replied.
“Silence!” Tom snarled, then turned on Harry. “Now speak! Tell me, boy, how did you survive!? Twice we have met, in your past and my future, and twice I have failed to kill you. What makes you special!? How is it that you, of all people, can survive the greatest sorcerer ever?”
“*CoughArrogantCough*” Xander said into his hand.
Tom ignored him, focusing on Harry. “Speak boy. SPEAK!”
Harry straightened his back, glaring right back at the memory of his parent’s killers. “You’re not, you know.”
“You’re not the greatest. Albus Dumbledore is! Everyone says so. You were afraid of him when you were alive, and your shade still cowers in some dark hole today, afraid of Dumbledore!” Harry yelled, “You’re a coward. You always were, and you always will be!”
Riddle screamed in frustration, “Albus Dumbledore is NOTHING compared to me! I am the most powerful sorcerer of all TIME!”
“And modest.” Xander said, looking at Wednesday, “So modest too. Don’t you think?”
Wednesday rolled her eyes, “For a certain meaning of the word. He’s certainly a modest sorcerer, at least.”
Tom glared at her for a moment before her words penetrated, then he let out another scream and spun around.
“Speak to me oh Slytherin, Greatest of the Hogwarts FOUR!”
The sound of stone grinding on stone began to echo through the chamber.
“Get between the girl and the snake,” Wednesday instantly ordered, her wand leaping up, “And close your eyes unless I say otherwise!”
“Our eyes!? What about you!?” Ron blurted.
“My family doesn’t petrify easily.”
“Amen to that,” Xander muttered, eyes slamming shut. “I’ve seen stuff at their place that would scare the venom out of this thing, trust her.”
“Trust her?” Ron moaned, “You’re telling me that our lives are depending on someone who can scare a bloody Basilisk, and ‘trust her’ is the best you come up with!?”
“Shut up, Ron!” Harry snapped, “Do what she says, that thing doesn’t sound happy.”
“It’s insane.” Wednesday’s voice spoke up again, “As you would be if you were locked for your entire life in a hole like this, subsisting on vermin and magic. Alexander, straight ahead of you, slightly up. Bone splitter.”
“Difindo Ossi!” Xander snapped, his wand dancing out. “Did I hit it?”
“No, but you made it turn around.”
“I’ll take the consolation prize.”
“Where is it!? Where is it!?”
“SHUT UP RON!!” Xander and Harry snarled together.
Contrary to her appearance, Wednesday Addams was worried. It was true that she wasn’t susceptible to petrifaction, and even the Basilisk’s killing stare would have diminished effect on her, but neither did she have access to anything that would seriously injure the great snake. She watched it as it moved around them, staying mostly to the shadows, but noted that the thing was larger than she’d thought. It was certainly as old as the legends said, and judging from its insane rambling had been locked down here almost the entire time.
For a moment she wished that she were a Parselmouth, rather than just had the gift of tongues all Addams had, but set that thought aside. The snake was quite simply mad. There would be no bargaining with it.
“You’re only prolonging the inevitable.” Tom Riddle said, shifting his attention to the Addams scion. “Mere students have no chance against a Basilisk, let alone one this powerful.”
Wednesday ignored him, though she would much rather have cursed him. “Potter, Weasley, do either of you know any useful spells?”
“What would be useful?”
“Oh lord, we’re dead.” Xander moaned.
“Hey!” Ron bristled, eyes still shut. “We can take you anytime you slimy snake!”
“With what? Rictumsumpra??” Xander countered.
“This is not helping.”
“Sorry.” Xander said, noting the tone in her voice.
“We just have to hold on,” Harry spoke up, “Dumbledore will find us!”
“We’re in the Chamber of Secrets, Dude!” Xander countered, “If he didn’t find it fifty years ago, what makes you think he’ll find it now?”
“Dumbledore is a stupid old fool,” Tom Riddle’s voice said smugly. “Accept your fate, you are already dead.”
“SHUT UP!” Harry snapped, “Dumbledore is a great wizard! The most powerful one alive! He’ll find us, and if he doesn’t he’ll still stop you!”
“You’re a deluded child...!” Tom’s voice began, only to be cut off when a pure sweet song cut through the air, softening all other noises in the chamber. “What!?”
“It’s Fawkes.” Wednesday said, eyes climbing to the bird as it circles. “The Headmaster’s Phoenix. Watch out, Harry! It’s dropping something.”
Harry flinched as something landed on his head, but kept his eyes shut. “What is it?”
“Hello again there, Mr. Potter.”
“H... Hat?” Harry asked, feeling the rumpled cloth on his head.
“Indeed, The Headmaster’s birdie thought you may need something from me. Just a moment now and all will be clear.”
Wednesday’s eyes widened as she watched the Phoenix turn on the Basilisk, slamming into its eyes and scratching viciously. “I think you can open your eyes now.”
The other three blinked, looking around, and soon found themselves enthralled by the battle in progress. The Snake’s eyes were destroyed by the bird’s assault, but it retaliated with a vicious twist of its body and slammed the phoenix across the chamber.
“Fawkes!” Harry screamed out, charging forward.
“This is the Headmaster’s help?” Tom asked dryly. “A battered old hat and a crippled songbird. Even without its gaze you stand no chance against the basilisk!”
Xander and Wednesday had stepped forward, ignoring the blathering memory, and were raining bone splitter curses down on the large snake with depressingly little effect.
“How the hell do you kill one of these things!?” Xander yelled.
“The crow of a rooster,” Wednesday replied between curses.
“Oh great.” Xander muttered, “And we didn’t bring one of those with us WHY!?”
“Someone killed them all weeks ago, there are none for miles.”
As they bantered back and forth the snake had decided to take the fight to the two main threats, twisting violently as it rocketed across the chamber directly at them.
“We should move.” Wednesday declared quietly as the snake closed the distance in mere seconds.
“Right with you!” Xander yelled, diving into her as the Basilisk drove straight at the Addams girl.
Wednesday sprawled out of the way, leaving Xander in her place as the snake reared up, its mouth opening wide to reveal gleaming and dripping teeth.
“Difindo Ossi!” Xander let out, wand leveled at the snake’s mouth.
The Basilisk let out a roar of pain or rage loud enough to shake the world and began to violently curl around on itself as the spell struck on its upper fangs and split it from the beast’s mouth. Xander stared stupidly at it for a moment until Ron and Wednesday grabbed him from behind and yanked him out of the way of the mass of muscled coils.
“Whoa!” Xander muttered from where he was sitting on the ground, “Did you see that?”
“Very nice spell, too bad you forgot to move afterwards,” Wednesday told him dryly.
“Yeah, mate,” Ron muttered, “A bit thick, that.”
Xander shot him a dirty look, but was distracted by the snake getting its act together again and rising up to strike at them.
As it crashed down, however, Harry dove in between them with a sword in his hand, driving it up into the snake’s mouth and through its brain pain from the underside. For a moment it seemed to pause, then the huge bugger crashed down on Harry, practically burying him and crushing down on the others.
“Mate!” Ron yelled, lurching to his feet, pushing himself free of the coils.
Xander groaned from where he was pushed into the ground, dragging himself out from under the huge serpent, and glared at Wednesday who had somehow managed to be in the one spot the snake didn’t hit.
“How do you do that?” He asked the serene looking Addams, spitting out blood from a split lip as he bled from multiple scrapes.
“Do what?” She asked calmly.
“Never mind.” Xander sighed. “Yo, Ron! Harry ok?”
There was a long silence.
“Ron!?” Xander started climbing over the snake, stopping when he spotted Ron kneeling over Harry. “Jesus, Harry you don’t look too good.”
The black haired boy smiled weakly back, “Thanks a lot.”
Xander’s eyes followed the blood trail on the other boy, to where the Basilisk mouth was closed over his arm, and saw the tooth that had penetrated Harry’s arm.
“Damn.” He whispered.
“He’ll be dead in moments.”
Xander growled, sending a bone splitter into the memory of Tom Riddle. The spell phased through him easily, leaving the memory to smirk.
“Help me up.” Harry said.
“Mate, you need to stay down.”
“I said help me UP.”
Ron swallowed, but nodded, helping Harry up. Xander grimaced when he saw the tooth still jabbed through Harry’s arm, broken off from the snake itself. The redhead helped his friend out from the mess of dead snake, Harry pale as a ghost as he glared at the memory of Tom Riddle.
“You won’t win. I won’t let you.” He gasped out.
“Big words from a child only moments from death, boy.”
Harry cast around and found what he was seeking. With a surge of strength he broke from Ron’s grip and stumbled to the ground, grabbing the diary from where it lay beside Ginny Weasley.
“What are you doing!?”
Harry jerked the tooth from his arm, smiling a death’s head grin at Tom, and jabbed it into the diary with the last of his strength. The Diary began to smoke instantly, and Tom began to scream. In seconds there was black smoke rising from the ruined book, and a spirit like form erupted from it, howling in pain, and then vanished.
Harry collapsed back as the others stared in shock.
“Whoa.” Xander muttered.
There was silence for a long moment, then the phoenix song erupted again as Fawkes circled around and landed by Harry. The bird looked the boy up and down for a long moment, the tilted its head sideways and shed a single tear into the wound.
“It’s... its closing up.” Ron said, leaning over Harry’s arm.
Xander slumped down on the coil of deadly serpent and let out a sigh. “Yeah. You know what, next year, leave me out of you adventures. K?”
Ron stared at him, gaping for a long moment, but Xander just ignored him as he thumped the side of the snake idly.
“Oh yeah, and just FYI,” He said, “I’m staking a claim here and now, I’m getting me a pair of snakeskin boots out of this deal at the very LEAST.”
Escaping the Chamber proved to be a bit of a trick, given the fact that the tunnel back to the girl’s washroom was slime covered slide. Ron and Wednesday carried Harry out that far while Xander put the unconscious form of Ginny Weasley over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry like he’d been taught in gym class and followed along.
“How the hell are we going to get up that?” Xander muttered, looking at the slide with distaste.
“I doubt that Salazar would have designed his chamber with this as the only way in and out.” Wednesday replied, looking around.
“That doesn’t help up much,” Ron complained, “Unless the snake over there has some Slytherin secrets to spill.”
Xander and Wednesday exchanged glances, but neither commented.
“Any alternate is probably guarded the same way as this one,” Xander said instead, “So with Harry out cold, unless either of you two can speak snake, we’re looking at the only way out.”
Ron grimaced, and Wednesday shook her head.
“No, the Addams’ never developed a talent for Speaking, per say.” She said, shrugging her shoulders, “We can understand almost any language, and make ourselves understood, but we don’t actually speak the other languages. That’s why Father loves French so much, he’s never been able to speak any language but English but always had a fascination with the romance languages.”
Xander half smirked, “I think your Dad loves French cause your Mom is the one speaking it.”
Wednesday smiled slightly, then shrugged.
“Ok,” Xander looked up the tunnel, “That’s a long way up and we’ve got two people who need medical attention in a hurry. Suggestions?”
“One of us could climb out,” Ron said, brow furrowed, “Go for help?”
“Maybe.” Xander nodded, “You think you could make it up that thing?”
Ron grimaced, “I don’t know, but we’ve got to try, right?”
“Unless we find another option, yeah.”
“So I’ll try.”
“Wednesday?” Xander asked, “Any ideas?”
She looked up the tunnel, shrugged, “Wingardium doesn’t work on people, Mobilicorpus will help for a bit, but that’s well out of its range.”
“We could chain it.” Xander suggested, “Lift each other up in steps.”
She nodded, “true. Or we could ask the Phoenix.”
A trill of amused joy filled the air, startling Xander, who spun around. “Huh?”
“I suspect that he’s been following us for a reason,” She said.
“Son of a... I never saw tweety sneak up on us,” Xander muttered. “How can he help?”
An impromptu lesson in Care of Magical Creatures later, Xander watched as Ron hung on to Harry in a death grip while Fawkes extended a tail feather to him. He grasped it and with a breath of surprise they vanished up the tunnel in a rush. Fawkes was back in instant later and the remaining three were rushing through the air with an ease that surprised Xander. It was like he was floating; even his grip on Ginny Weasely wasn’t weighing him down in the slightest.
At the top he grinned at the bird, “That was a rush, Tweety. Thanks.”
Fawkes trilled out another uplifting note, then pecked him on the head before vanishing in flames.
“Ow! What the hell!?”
“Come on,” Ron cut him off, “We have to get them to the infirmary.”
They burst into the infirmary, shocking Madam Pomfrey into immediate action as they deposited the two onto the beds and them collapsed themselves. It only took moments for the doors to burst open again, the headmaster leading a whole clan of redheads along with Professors McGonagall and Snape.
“Sir!” Ron blurted, “Mom, Dad! We got Ginny... we found her!”
“Yes, we see Mr. Weasley,” The kindly old man said, smiling, “May I ask how...?”
“Weren’t you kicked out of the school?” Xander asked his mouth running ahead of his brain.
Dumbledore looked at him intently for a moment as everyone else scowled openly at Xander.
“Indeed I was, Mr. Harris. I came back as soon as I heard of Miss Weasley’s predicament.”
Xander nodded, laying back as he waited for Madame Pomfrey to have a moment to patch up his minor scrapes. What the headmaster said made sense, he supposed, except that if he hadn’t been able to do anything to help the others, what did he expect to be able to do for Ginny Weasley? Probably a family thing, he decided, as he watched the Weasley clan pour over their injured daughter/sister.
Ron was telling the tale, and Xander just tuned him out as he lay back and watched Wednesday from across the room. She was looking back at him with that dark intensity of hers, and for the moment the others in the room faded away. They didn’t matter; the only ones who mattered were the ones who went down into the chamber.
Even Ron, Xander thought with a quirk of his lips.
Wednesday seemed to pick up on his thought, eyes turning to the redhead for a moment as he extolled on the ‘battle’, then she rolled her eyes expressively and lay back to rest. Xander did the same himself, only listening long enough to hear that Harry and Ginny would be fine before he let himself doze off.
The next few days were a blur, people coming through and asking questions, other’s celebrating, most just staring at the subjects of the latest rumors. Hermione and the other victims were returned to normal and rejoined the school, much subdued from their former attitudes, and Harry was released from the infirmary to wild acclaim when he joined the school for his first feast since the incident.
Xander was getting the cold shoulder from his house, as was becoming normal he found, since the rumors had him working with Potter and that was tantamount to betrayal most vile. He shrugged it off, spent his days with Wednesday and Hermione, and tried to relax. Harry’s awakening was the time they were waiting for, though, so he and Wednesday ambushed Harry, Ron, and Hermione right after the feast.
Harry turned, smiling, “Xander. How are you?”
“I’m good. You?”
“Better. I didn’t see you much while I was in the infirmary,” Harry said, sounding hesitant.
“Nothing personal, dude,” Xander half smiled, “But I knew you’d be ok, and frankly it’s getting dangerous around certain members of my house who shall go unnamed.”
Harry grimaced, “Sorry.”
“Nothing to do with you. My choice, dude.” Xander shrugged, “But look, we’ve got to talk.”
Harry nodded and they retreated to a more quiet position.
“We want to go back down there,” Xander said.
“Are you bonkers!?” Ron blurted.
“A Basilisk of that size should not go to waste.” Wednesday said calmly.
“Waste? It’s a dead snake.” Ron countered, “Good riddance.”
“Dude, I told you. I’m getting my boots out of this mess, at the least.” Xander countered, then shrugged, “besides, I need some magical material for some side projects. I scored a couple unicorn hairs from Hagrid, and some other random stuff, but a thousand year old snake? Come on, tell me that doesn’t sound like some powerful stuff?”
Harry shivered, “I don’t know, Xander. I don’t really want to go down there.”
“Don’t have to.” Xander said, “Just open the door; we’ve worked out how we’ll get back up. Come back later and make sure it’s open for us. Deal?”
Harry shrugged, “I guess.”
“Barmy, the lot of you.” Ron said, rolling his eyes.
“Honestly, Ronald,” Hermione cut in, “They’re right, you know. But do you know how to properly harvest the materials? This sounds like something the Professors should...”
She cut off, nearly jumping out of her skin when two large and gleaming knives appeared in Wednesday’s hands.
“I have experience.”
Everyone, Xander included, moved quickly away from the dark girl. Xander shook his head, “Jeez, Wednesday, that’s just creepy!”
“I know.” She smiled.
Harry swallowed, “How long do you need?”
“Five hours if I do it alone, seven if Alexander helps.”
The plan made they waited until the weekend to execute it. Xander and Wednesday went down alone on Saturday morning, with Hermione fretting and Ron shaking his head as Harry closed the passage behind them. They found the snake again and Wednesday went to work while Xander poked around for the most part, helping only when the girl had a specific job for him.
The Chamber was a mess, all things considered, but that was to be expected he supposed. After a thousand years things were going to be a little run down. Xander checked out some of the side tunnels, and found that they extended out some distance from the castle in all directions.
“I think it’s a bolt hole,” He said, coming back to where Wednesday was joyously cutting into the big snake.
“That is likely,” She told him, excising a venom sac with quick motions.
“No way anyone built this place after the castle was constructed,” Xander mused, “At least not normally. Maybe with magic, I suppose.”
Wednesday was humming slightly to herself, not responding, but he wasn’t really expecting her too.
The day passed quickly like that, until they were done. The materials were properly stored in their trunks, and they made their way back to the tunnel. This time they were ready and proceeded to leapfrog each other, and their trunks, up the tunnel with a combination of mobilicorpus and wingardium spells, along with sticking charms so they could rest for a few minutes at a time.
At the top, Xander knocked on the secret door and it instantly opened to reveal Harry.
“We’re good. All done.” Xander said, “Thanks, man.”
Harry shook his head, “You two helped save Ginny, thank you.”
“That thing hurt Hermione,” Xander said, glancing at Wednesday. “Nothing hurts one of our friends and gets to brag about it, even if it is a giant snake.”
The Addams girl nodded once in satisfaction, “Exactly.”
The Final exams were canceled, something that didn’t bother Xander so much on one level, but did leave him wondering how in the hell the school could work out where people were in a given grade if they did that. Hermione, in between bouts of sulking, explained to him that the yearly scores didn’t actually have any impact on their grades.
In actuality only the OWLs and NEWTs counted, and those were tested in their fifth and seventh years. The regular class scores existed merely to allow professors to gage who needed more attention in preparation for those two events.
He filed that away as interesting, especially when he learned that OWL and NEWT exams were standardized at the ICW level.
The remainder of the school year degenerated into a series of practical reviews while they were in class, and hanging out with friends while outside of class.
Two days after they had finished harvesting the Basilisk components, however, Xander and the others realized something shocking.
In the Great Hall the students were eating supper when Dumbledore rose up and gave a little speech about the Chamber, and the heroics of those who had gone down to save Ginevera, but as he was finishing his speech he paused and looked to his right briefly at an empty seat.
“Alas,” he said, “No luck has been had in the search for our Defense Professor, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. We can only hope that he is once more out saving lives and doing good in the world.
A series of snorts and outright laughter echoed through the hall, but Xander Harris was sitting bolt upright with wide eyes. A quick glance around told him that Harry and Ron were doing the same, though Wednesday had already gone back to eating.
Xander looked at the Gryffindors, and they stared back at him, and the same thought blasted through their heads.
We left Lockhart in the Chamber!!
“Should we go after him?” Ron asked when they got together after.
“After him where?” Xander asked, “He wasn’t there when we went down after the Basilisk.”
“Where could he go??” Harry blurted.
“I wandered a bit; there are tunnels ALL through that place, probably going for miles.” Xander admitted. “He could be anywhere.”
“We can’t just leave him down there.” Harry groaned, “Damn that prat. He’s torturing us even while he’s gone.”
Xander sighed, “I guess we’d better tell Dumbledore.”
They went to the headmaster’s office and were mildly surprised when the Gargoyle jumped aside as they approached. The group had to duck aside when Arthur, Molly, and Ginny Weasely came down.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Ginny,” Arthur scolded his daughter, “How many times have I told you to be careful of intelligent magical items when you can’t tell where they’re holding their minds?”
“I’m sorry Dad.” Ginny said miserably.
“Gin!” Ron blurted, “I didn’t know you were out, are you ok?”
“I’m fine.” She said, sneaking a glance at Harry, then looking straight at him. “Thank you for saving me, Harry.”
“Wasn’t just me, Gin. Ron, Xander, and Wednesday were right there with me.” Harry told her with a friendly smile.
“Well, thank you anyway.” She said, then looked at the other two, “And thanks.”
“You’re my sister, course I was gonna go.” Ron mumbled.
Xander just shrugged, “No problem. I had my own reasons for going down.”
“Well whatever they were, we can’t thank you all enough.” Molly said, gushing. “You helped save our Ginny.”
Xander just shrugged a little, not knowing how to respond.
“Are you going to see the Headmaster?” Arthur asked.
“Well go on up, but you’d better hurry,” Molly advised, “I think he’s meeting with Lucius Malfoy later.”
“Ok, thanks.” Harry said, hurrying up with the other two following.
Albus stared at them, his eye twinkle dancing as bright as ever.
“So, to be clear,” He said, “You broke both of Professor’s Lockhart’s arms and left him to wander through the catacombs under Hogwarts?”
Harry grimaced, “Well...”
“He had it coming.” Ron blurted, “The git was going to Obliviate us!”
“Harry,” Dumbledore sighed, “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to open the entrance for us so we can locate our missing professor.”
The headmaster chuckled, “it’s just as well, I believe that Severus wanted to go down and see what he could recover from the Basilisk.”
The three student’s eyes bulged and they looked at each other for a moment.
“Uh... Of course, Sir.” Harry blurted, swallowing hard.
Dumbledore looked between them for a moment, then leaned back, “In the meantime, Harry why don’t you stay. I believe that the meeting with Lucius would be very... educational for you. You two may go.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Xander and Ron said together, practically bolting for the door.
Once outside then paused, looking at each other.
“Blimey! Snape is going to skin us when he sees that you already got the Basilisk!”
“I just hope we can get out of school before it comes to that,” Xander said, shaking his head. “Maybe we can convince him that Lockhart got to it first?”
Ron grinned, “I’d love to see the ponce run when Snape found him.
The remaining days passed without incident; as Dumbledore had decided to get Harry to open the chamber and leave it open over the holidays so the teachers could examine the forgotten section of the school while they searched for Lockhart. Xander sort of hoped that the idiot didn’t get himself killed, but really what was he thinking running off when the slide was the way in?
He and Wednesday sat together on the train as it pulled away from Hogsmeade, heading back toward London, and Xander had to admit it had been an interesting year. He had learned a ton of stuff, granted most of it hadn’t been from his teachers but what the hell, they’d had some good times, an adventure or two, and things had worked out.
Not too shabby.
He was getting along, more or less, with his house... minor speed bumps like helping Harry in the chamber aside. He had some good friends, and he knew that Hermione and Wednesday weren’t going to turn on him for sure. Harry was an ok sort, and even Ron was starting to seem like a decent guy.
He did have some things on his mind, though. Some worries, some dark concerns.
First, what was he going to do to his Uncle, because there HAD to be some retaliation there. He had an idea, but wasn’t sure if it was over the top or not.
Second, though, was bothering him deeply.
Something Arthur Weasley had said to Ginny was preying on his mind.
Don’t trust magical objects that show intelligence when you can’t see where they hold their brain.
Xander looked down at the book that had been so important to him over the past two years and glared at it. Finally he sighed and opened it to one of the interactive sections, then pulled out his fountain pen.
With careful, neat lettering, Xander wrote in the section.
Who are you?
The trip back stateside was uneventful, and within hours Xander and Wednesday were at Salem, wandering across the campus and waiting for a meeting scheduled with the Headmaster. Arthur Fitzpatrick watched them for a while, observing the two from a distance. He’d heard a lot about both of them, through Professor Hardy as well as others.
The young Addams girl had a frightening intellect, quite possibly in every meaning on the expression, and her records bore that out. Harris, on the other hand, had been an average student in non magical courses by all accounts. According to his teachers he was a slacker, and while certainly not stupid he wasn’t particularly intelligent either.
Arthur wondered if the teachers were incompetent, or if the introduction of magic had changed the child profoundly. While he wasn’t a genius, Alexander Harris had proven to be quite impressive in hands on magic. Various reports indicated that the boy could cast a Protego, Stunner, and some other advanced dueling charms well beyond his experience.
His practical test results bore that out, though his theoretical knowledge was spotty at best. Some people just learned better from doing, Arthur knew well, and he suspected that Mr. Harris was one of those.
The Headmaster of the Salem Institute smiled crookedly and strode out into the quad toward his two wayward students.
“Ah, Miss Addams, Mr. Harris. Good to see you both again.”
“Sir.” They both said, nodding respectfully.
“I wished to see how you both were doing, in the wake of the events at Hogwarts this year. I understand it must have been stressful.”
They glanced at each other, then shrugged as one.
Franklin, that’s creepy. Arthur thought, shaking off the shiver.
“We’re fine, Sir.” Wednesday said.
“Good, good. I understand that the Hogwarts tests were canceled this year?”
“Yes Sir. Headmaster Dumbledore believed that the school had been stressed enough,” Wednesday told him in a dry, almost sarcastic tone.
“Yes, well, Albus generally does as he thinks best. I would prefer if you two were to take some short practical tests here before you leave for the summer?” Arthur asked, “Strictly speaking, I can’t require it, and neither do I want to add to your stress as you said, but it would be very good for your records, and my paperwork, if you consented.”
Again the two did that simultaneous glance then head bob as they responded together.
“Of course Sir.”
The tests, all Oral and practical, were easily accomplished for the duo and the teachers confirmed on the spot that they were where they should be at least and not to worry about it. As they had been told at Hogwarts, the only test results that counted were first the OWLs, and then later the NEWTs. All other examinations were for internal school use only, and didn’t have any real impact upon graduation.
The two spent the rest of their time, while waiting for Wednesday’s family to arrive exploring the school grounds and library. Since they had been informed that they could borrow books for summer reading, as any student was permitted, Xander quickly located some books on Wand Crafting for himself, and noted idly that Wednesday was digging into the schools index of rarer potions tomes.
“Will they let you borrow those?” he asked, curious.
“Unlikely, however as we are students here, technically speaking, we can come in at anytime during the year to do research.” She told him, “I am merely determining what is available.”
Xander nodded, “Cool.”
She eyed his books briefly, “Are you intending to replace your wand?”
Xander shrugged, “I don’t know. I just want to learn a bit about it.”
He drew his wand, flipping it idly over his fingers as he looked at the piece of wood. “Pretty much the only thing that separates us from anyone else out there is this stick. I know I’m not powerful enough to ever learn anything more than the most basic of wandless tricks, so without a wand I may as well go back to Sunnydale.”
Wednesday considered his words and while she didn’t entirely agree with what she felt he meant, she knew that his stated words were factual. Few wizards ever learned wandless casting, it was frightfully consuming on a Wizard’s energy. It wasn’t that it required more power, though it did, but rather that the focus required was mentally exhausting.
Only the most powerful AND disciplined minds ever mastered true wandless magic.
She was rather fond of Alexander, but knew that he had neither the power nor mental control required. One of those may be corrected, but short of a very few extremely dark rituals, the other never would. She herself was on the cusp; her mental capacity was likely sufficient, however she didn’t believe she had the magical stamina make wandless casting practical.
“I understand.” She said finally, “you wish to understand what sets you apart.”
“Well, yeah, that and I think wands are freaking cool.” Xander grinned.
She resisted the desire to pinch the bridge of her nose and groan, Alexander had a way of testing even the limits of her control.
The Addamses came later that day for Wednesday and they said goodbye, exchanging promises to stay in contact regularly. Then Wednesday was gone and Xander retrieved the port key that would sweep him across the nation.
A word activated it and in a cyclone of motion Xander landed in the Magical district of Sunnydale California. Not that it was much of a district really. More like a back alley several blocks west of the Bronze, right on the edge of the warehouse district. Perhaps two dozen Wizards in total lived within Sunnydale’s city limits, most of them probably wanted by some law enforcement group somewhere.
Still, the Alley had wards keeping out non magical people and demons alike, which made it one of the safest places in the area according to what Xander had been told.
He dusted himself off from the landing, nodded to a passing witch who had seen better days maybe a century earlier, and made his way to the edge of the wards. He tapped on the footstone at one corner and waited for the doorway to appear. He stepped out into a dirty restroom that had a permanent ‘closed for repairs’ sign right under the word ‘ladies’, grimaced slightly, and walked out into the bar with Fenrir chasing after him.
“Hey Willy,” He said, nodding to the man behind the bar.
“Hey kid, back already huh?” The squirmy looking man said, nodding to him.
“Yeah, all good in the Dale?”
“Same ol. No big news.”
Xander nodded, not really pausing on his way by. “Well I’ll see you later, Willy.”
“Be watching for ya, kid.”
Xander waved slightly, not looking back. He didn’t notice, therefore, that Willy had paused in his wiping down of the bar to jot down a note on a pad he kept nearby.
“Mom! Dad! I’m home!”
Jessica Harris came out of the kitchen, smiling at her son. “Hey, Honey, how was the trip back?”
“It was a port key,” Xander said dryly, pointing to the scuffs on his pants where he’d hit the ground.
She smiled in response, “I remember those. A little dizzy?”
“A bit, it’s not too bad. The one from England was worse.” Xander admitted.
Jessica nodded, “You went through international boundaries, and probably some hefty wards.”
“Oh yeah? They put up wards around the country?”
Xander’s mother frowned, “Not exactly, from what I recall. But there are many layers of wards all through New England.”
“Oh,” Xander shrugged, “Well anyway, it wasn’t too bad.”
“How did you do in school?”
“Decent, I guess. I’m better in practical stuff than bookwork, so those classes have better marks.”
“You’re not letting your bookwork slide are you?” She asked sternly.
Jessica was surprised when Xander laughed.
“Mom, if you knew my friends, you wouldn’t ask about that.”
She was about to ask for clarification when Anthony and Sam came in from the back.
“Son, good to see you home.”
“Thanks, Dad. Pretty good to be back.”
“Not missing the magical world already?” Anthony Harris asked, a bit of a bitter tone in his voice.
“Nah. Honestly, I’m missing TV right now.” Xander grinned.
Sam laughed, “That’s a sensible kid. You get my ‘present’, kid?”
Xander glared at Sam, “Oh yeah, and we need to have words.”
“What? Wasn’t it enough?” Sam asked, looking genuinely confused.
“Sam! You... You put a...” Xander grimaced before blurting, “SEX drug in my name!”
Tony and Sam burst out laughing as Jessica sighed, rolling her eyes.
“Come on, kid, it ain’t that bad. You can’t say the money wasn’t good.”
Xander sighed, “A hundred and fifty thousand galleons? Yeah, that’s pretty good.”
“Golden Eagles, actually.” Sam corrected, “Comes out around a hundred and thirty thousand Galleons, depending on the exchange. Don’t know for sure what the going rate is in dollars, it fluctuates according to the value of Gold. That’s pretty damn decent though. And it’s just the advance; once that stuff passes the FDA you get five percent!”
Jessica could see Xander grimacing again and broke in, “I don’t entirely agree with Sam’s actions, Alex, but he did do well by you. And the money will ensure that your future is provided for.”
“I just want to know what the hell you were trying to cook up in the first place,” Tony cracked, and started laughing.
That broke Sam up, and in a moment Xander and his mother were watching them, one with a resigned look on her face, and the other with one that promised retribution.