Chapter 5: TOSS

The week went by slowly, the first years still learning more magical theory than anything else. Dana and Alaric saw the others, except those they had class with, once or twice, in the corrifors, in the Great Hall. They gave each others a nod, and it stopped there.

Dana made a point to avoid the second year Gryffindors at all cost.

Then friday arrived. Dana was a bit nervous, she had to admit, to officially meet the rest of the Twice Over Society – or, as Donovan Lowe called it, TOSS. First because she wouldn't be able to avoid Lexi there, second because she really, really wondered what the others considered a proper introduction for people like them. Donovan assured her that almost everyone in the group had done some serious shit, but the girl couldn't help to wonder: what did "serious" mean to them? To a bunch of normal people, one or two murders were some serious shit... Damon Salvatore had had the blood of hundreds on his hands. Not quite the same thing.

A little before breakfast, Dana, Donovan and Root were in a corner of the Slytherin common room, ostensibly away from the others students – the girls Dana had started to make friends with had seemingly understood to leave her alone when she was with the two boys. Besides, it was early, not everyone was up yet.

Root muttered something under his breath, and Donovan rolled his eyes.

"Oh come on, Root, you can't possibly have killed more people than Reese did. And he's certainly not the worst one in our bunch, so honestly, I think you're safe."

This, Dana caught herself thinking, was the reason they kept away from the other Slytherins.

"Yeah, maybe, but John..."

Donovan winced, and Root corrected himself.

"...sorry, Reese killed for his country. Because it was his work, you know, or at least to protect someone. I was a killer for hire for almost two decades before I finally learned I could be a better person."

"And Dana and I were vampires. We've probably killed more people than you, Reese, Lowe and Ric together. Don't be stressed about it. Besides, the older ones will be the first to talk."

Dana scowled.

"Easy for you to say, you knew about who you used to be long before we did. You're used to it."

Students started coming into the common room, heading to the Great Hall. Donovan sighed, and they stood up to go and get something to eat too.

Still, they weren't done talking yet.

"One thing you need to know: our age when we died certainly doesn't mean anything this time. Be particularly cautious aroud Gabrielle, at least at first, because she's completely out of our league. Like, Lexi's the second oldest, almost five hundreds years old, but Gabrielle was alive even before Humanity came to be, in her world."

"What was she, exactly?"

"That's for her to say, I'm afraid. You wouldn't want me to be the one to spill you were a bloodsucker to the others before this evening, would you, Dana?"

"Not particularly, no."

The three first year Slytherins ate their breakfast quickly, before ducking out of the Great Hall. The room was great and all, but nor particularly suitable for this kind of conversations. Dana caught Alaric's eyes just as she was leaving...

Donovan stopped in a recess, and Root almost walked in Root, who raised an eyebrow at her. Dana pretended she hadn't been distracted, and Root's amusement turned into a smirk.

"Do you 'like' Alaric more than we know, Salvatore?"

Dana did her best to stare at the brown-haired boy blankly.

"We're eleven, Root."

"Which only means that you're going to be all over the poor boy when puberty kicks in, since you're already making him lovey-dovey eyes."

Dana squinted at Root. Root squinted at Dana. Donovan sighed, and smacked them both on the back of the head – easy for him, he was taller than them both. Root and Dana squinted at Donovan.

It didn't seem to faze him much.

"Could you two focus for a moment? I want to give you a fair warning now, but if you're not listening..."

"A fair warning about what?"

Root seemed put off by the mention of a "warning", like, what, were there rules in their supersecret undead-or-not-quite club? Samantha Groves had never liked rules, and Samuel Groves didn't either.

Donovan winced.

"About Peeves. Dumbledore cast a repelling charm, special poltergeist edition, on the room TOSS uses, as soon as he understood what Lowe's and Reese's club really was about, to keep the pest out and protect out secrets, but Peeves still knows there's a secret for every member of the club. And if he can't come in, he still makes sure to see who enters every year. He might pester you after that, and you'll definitely have your own thought-by-Peeves nickname, because he knows we're 'interesting'. So watch yourself when you go to the room at six o'clock, and make sure not to let him bully you. If you stand your ground, he'll be less likely to target you more."

Root and Dana shared an incertain look, remembering too clearly the poltergeist from last wednesday – apparently Peeves had a schedule for the new year: pester the new Gryffindors the first day, after the feast, annoy the Ravenclaws on the second day, sneer at the Slytherins on the third, and stalk the Hufflepuffs on the fourth.

Needless to say the two kids hadn't appreciated the attention.

"He'll target us more than the other students?"

Donovan shrugged.

"Well, us and whoever is unfortunate enough to end up on his radar. Potter will certainly get it too. Too famous to pass up, and completely star-eyed at this point. For us, there's only Gabrielle whom he doesn't bother; the others try not to care so much, because Peeves gets bored if you don't react. He leaves you alone for a few days, then tries again..."

"What's so special about Gabrielle Shurley?"

Donovan laughed drily, and Dana thought she wanted an older sibling too, to tell her about the traps beforehand. Too bad she was the first and only child of Alba Salvatore.

"From what Lowe told me, Gabrielle's worse than Peeves when she wants, that's why."

Their lessons this days went quietly, except that one incident when Root threw her textbook at Malfoy, and Donovan and Dana hid the evidence before Professor McGonagall could prove anything.

After lunch, Dana slipped away from the Slytherin table, and joined Alaric who was already waiting for her outside. They had some time left before their last lesson, Transfiguration for him and Charms for her. They went and sat in the grass for a time.

Ric was the first one to speak about his classmates.

"Joshua's a bit weird, and fancy himself a famous reporter, but I like him enough. I'm not so sure about the other boys in my dormitory, though."

Dana chuckled, and tossed a handful of herbs on her friend for no particular reason.

"I'm sharing my time between Leane, Daphne, Mary and Julia, and Root and Donovan. These two are fun, you know. And it's nice knowing someone who has the same... gender problem as me."

Root, as the boy had confirmed, had been a woman in his first life.

"Donovan's a bit disdainful at times, but I'm pretty sure it's been etched into him at birth, because it's almost as if he doesn't want to appear full of disdain and anger, but his face is just... stuck... like that? Anyway, wasn't there another one in your House too?"

Ric nodded slowly, busy with getting the grass out of his hair. It was a bit weird seeing him with longer hair, Dana thought – then again, it was weird too to be seeing him as a eleven years old boy. And Dana guessed it was even weirder for him, since this time around, she was a girl.

"James Norrigton, second year. I didn't get much out of him, to be frank, but he seems to be a stern guy. All I know for now was that he had a non-accidental encounter with a sword that put an end to his life, and that he doesn't like cursed ships."

"This sound... piratey?"

Ric grimaced, and threw the last remaining blade of grass back at her.

"That's what I said too. You should have seen the dirty look he gave me..."

"Caroline-level?"

Alaric laughed, and got up.

"Anyway, I think we should be going. Wouldn't want to be late to class."

Dana groaned, rolled on her side in the grass, and made a point to demonstrate how exactly she felt about that. Ric didn't seem impressed.

"See you at five thirty, one-eyed witch statue? We'll go to the club room together?"

"Alright. I'll tell the boys."

Alaric had a hard time paying attention during the next class, very curious about what would happen at the Twice Over Society, about the kind of people who were part of it, but since he was a good student, he didn't miss much – though McGonagall eyed him doubtfully once or twice. Ric smiled sheepishly, and focused back on the lesson each time, which was apparently enough not to get told off.

After Transfiguration, the boy managed to finish half his homework for the next week before heading to the meeting point. He had no idea what Dana had been doing, waiting for the meeting hour, but he would bet she hadn't been studying. Her loss, she'd have to spent more of her week-end working, while Alaric would be free to roam through the castle.

He scooped up his books and pieces of parchment from the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall – he quite liked doing his homework there, surprisingly, but that probably had something to do with the fact that few students were present. Beginning of the year, last day of school in the week, Alaric knew the excuses all too well. He had already been a student and after that a teacher in his first life.

Just as he walked out of the Great Hall, someone put a hand on his shoulder.

"Alaric Saltzman, right?"

Ric turned back on his heels, his eyes fixing on the slightly older girl who had followed him out of the Hall. Familiar.

Light blond, round face, brown eyes and tan skin. Second year Gryffindor, her tie badly knotted, and golden, definitely muggle earrings. Oh.

He smiled awkwardly.

"Lexi, right? We've met, just before..."

The former vampire nodded. No need to elaborate. They both knew what Ric was talking about.

"Yeah, I'm Alexia Branson. Do you know how to get to the club room?"

"...Theoretically. I mean, I know where it's supposed to be, but I've never been there myself, not yet. I... I was supposed to meet with the three others in my year at the one-eyed witch statue, and Donovan would have showed us the way."

Alaric wasn't sure if talking about Dana right now would be a bright idea, considering Damon Salvatore had been the one to kill Lexi Branson. So he decided not to talk about the other girl yet, unless the Gryffindor asked.

"Lowe's little brother, eh? Yeah, I guess his brother showed him the club room already. Still, I'd rather come with you, just in case."

Ric managed half a smile, already wondering how Dana would react when she'd get there and see Alexia Branson standing next to him. Although, the reunion of the two was kind of inevitable anyway, so perhaps it'd be better if they got rid of it already?

As they walked to the statue, the older student mused aloud.

"So, four new kids this year? It's the most we've ever got. Lowe and Reese were only two, then it was Carter and Shurley, and last year, Norrigton, Harvelle and me. This time there's you, obviously, Lowe Jr, and who else?"

"Donovan, Dana, and Root, I mean, Samuel are in Slytherin."

Alexia frowned, but shrugged. Considering they weren't all coming from the same worlds, she had probably assumed the two she didn't know about weren't from her world.

After all, it was "Dana" Salvatore, not "Damon", and Ric hadn't said her last name.

"What kind of nickname is Root, exactly?"

Or there was that. Of course. Root did have an odd nickname, Alaric had to admit.

"No idea."

The girl shrugged, and continued.

"I can already tell you there will be Wren Lowe and Balthazar Shurley in two years, because their siblings are already there, but apart from that? I'm not totally sure how this all works. The only thing we ascertained was that we're all 'dead'. After that..."

They arrived in sight of the statue, and Ric's heart missed a beat when he saw that the three Slytherins were already present. Meaning, Dana was here, and the girl's eyes were glued to Alexia as the two of them made their way towards the others.

Ric managed a feeble "hey", then took a step back as the two girls stared at one another.

Sensing that something was happening, Root and Donovan shared a worried look.

Then Alexia's lips curled into a smile, and the older girl almost purred her next words.

"Damon... So surprised to see you. Weren't you a bit more... boyish, when you killed me?"

Dana's face seemed to hesitate between an awkward twitch of the upper lip, and an irritated scowl.

"Would you believe me if I told you I didn't do it on purpose?"

Alexia cocked an eyebrow at the younger girl.

"You very plainly explained to me why you had to kill me right before you stacked my heart, so what do you think? That aside, I must say Slytherin does suit you."

There was a silence after that, and while none of the girls made a move against the other, while not even their stances were aggressive, the boys weren't fooled. The tension was building up, and if the girls didn't know what to do with it for now, it certainly wouldn't last. If things went on any longer, someone would get punched, at the very least...

"I see you're being friendly here."

Everyone, and I instist, everyone started at the soft, low voice that came from behind Alexia Branson. Ric turned on his heels immediately, Dana's, Donovan's and Root's eyes shot up and past Alexia, who herself seemed to relax after the fright... yet not entirely. Like, she knew who was behind here, and she knew there wasn't a threat, but still – deep down, she was still unerved.

"Reese."

The fourth year Gryffindor, indeed, was the one standing behind the second year. No one had heard or seen him approach – Root didn't seem surprised by that, Dana noted.

"Lexi. I see you've taken the initiative to lead our new members to the club room, so why don't we do just that?"

John Reese had a sweet, deceiving smile, Ric decided. Not that the smile itself was a lie, because it was genuine, if controlled, but it also wasn't the smile of someone with a peaceful mind. It belonged to a man – a teenager, for now, but it wouldn't always be so, and it hadn't always been so – who smiled, not because he was happy, but because it was the social thing to do.

Alexia Branson finally lightened up, and a cheerful smile took over – not that she wasn't aware of the threat Reese could be, but simply that she knew she had no reason to fear him. Alaric knew the feeling; in Mystic Falls, with all the supernatural beings who could rip your throat in a blink, it was a given. Someone could be dangerous in potential, without actually be a danger to you, simply becaue they had no reason to go after you – and you'd better hope things remained so.

"Of course, Reese. Time to meet the extended family, kiddos!"

Donovan gave Alexia a disbelieving look, and followed Reese as the older boy turned around, heading for the stairs. Ric slid in a pace next to the second year gryffindor girl.

"Is his hair really silver, Alexia?"

He was curious, and it didn't seem dyed.

"Call me Lexi. And yes, it's really silver. Now. It used to be black, but... Well. That's personal. Let's just say that while our previous lives certainly hold the most terrible events, our current lives aren't always perfect either."

Lexi glanced at the older boy, who had Dana, Root, and Donovan just behind him. Funny enough, when you think about their respective tie colors; three Slytherins following a Gryffindor's pace. Maybe they had seen something in John Rykes.

Not that Dana would ever admit anything, if Alaric talked about it.

Ric especially noted the worried look on Lexi's face, as she looked at Reese. She did know what the whole silver hair thing meant, then. It wasn't only her knowing that Reese didn't want to talk about it. Perhaps the older boy would eventually talk about it... Once he'd have gotten to know the new kids, not any sooner.

"And I guess 'Reese' is personal too?"

John Rykes' name was, well, "John Rykes". And "Reese" didn't mean anything in particular; it was, in fact, another last name – but not Rykes'. There had to be an explanation there...

Lexi laughed quietly at that question.

"Reese and his aliases... That, I can tell you he'll explain this evening. This one has more to do with his previous life. And, possibly, something to do with the fact that 'Mr Reese' is pronounced like mysteries. Though the reason why Reese doesn't go by Rykes is personal..."

And there it was again, the worried look in Lexi's eyes. Alaric was slowly becoming aware that, indeed, if the others didn't have the same problem as he did, they certainly had their own issues even in this life. Just like Dana hadn't ever known her father, didn't even know who her father was...

The door they stopped at was on the second floor, and had a wooden sign engraved with the words "Twice Over Society – members only."

Lexi and Reese didn't open the door yet, though, sharing an annoyed look...

...And Peeves appeared out of nowhere, yelling "Boooh!" at the teens with a manic grin on his face. The poltergeist looped around them, barely avoiding Root who didn't move an inch, a scowl already inked on her face. The older students sighed. Peeves somersaulted, and ended up nose to nose with Reese... Except the poltergeist was upside down.

"Well isn't that Scary Johnny and Scary Lady with the young ones! I'll~ find~ out what you're hi~ding~ one of these days~! It's a pro-mise."

Reese, completely composed, turned the handle.

"Certainly Peeves. But for now, we don't have time for your antics. Come in, kids."

Dana, Root, Donovan and Alaric were ushered inside by Lexi, who glared at the poltergeist before slamming the door closed. They heard Peeves' last words as an ominous prophecy for a dark future.

"I'll start thinking about the kids' nicknames now, pinky swear!"

Alaric didn't want to know what the bloody menace would come up with for him.

There were five other teenagers already in the room. John Lowe waved from a comfortable scarlet armchair, and invited the newcomers to join them.

Ric heard Dana whisper "sorry for... you know" at Lexi – it made him smirk – as he sat down in a plump blue armchair. There were four different colors, one for each house, and it reminded him that all kind of people were in the same situation as him. He could already tell that however this was all going to turn out, it would certainly be... interesting.

The armchairs were roughly placed into a circle, with two low tables in the middle. The others students had put their school bags down around them.

John Rykes went to sit next to a black third year girl – dark coffee tone – with shortish hair sitting in a yellow armchair. Root took the green seat on his other side. Donovan sat between Root and his brother, who was discussing with another third year hufflepuff girl – golden eyes and dark blond, straight, long hair, not very tall – who was huffing at something he said. Then there was a second year girl in a red armchair – light skin, light brown eyes, light blond hair, light everything. Norrington grumbled something from the next seat, his hazel eyes lost somewhere on the ceiling. Lexi fell in the next armchair, Dana followed her, and finally it was back to Alaric.

Reese gestured for Lowe to start.

The fourth year Gryffindor cleared his throat.

"So. I've already explained who we are, and what we all have in common, but let me say it one more time, just to be clear: we've all lived another life, in another world, and it didn't end well. Now, we were reborn in this world, in a family that might or might not have anything to do with our first family, and we only remembered who we used to be after something, an event, a reunion sometimes, triggered us. Not always pleasantly so."

Reese, Norrington and Lexi, as well as the other blond girl, had a dark look on their faces, but didn't comment. Personal, Alaric reminded himself.

"It won't be easy, but we've been given a second chance, and personally I intend not to be the psychopath I became in my first life. And here, together, we can talk about what we can't say to anyone else; it's where you can come for help if you're having difficulty dealing with this."

Dana refraigned from rolling her eyes. She could already tell she would need some help. You didn't go from Damon to Dana without some confusion, and while for now she was alright with it... Well. Damon had undergone puberty too, once upon a time. She didn't even want to start thinking about the consequences this time.

And that was only her gender issues.

"On a side note, the Headmaster does know about our... condition. If you're ever in a problematic situation and can't reach any of us, please go to him for help."

As if, all the eleven years old children in the room thought – it reassured them, though, to know that Dumbledore would help them if they asked... Something they obviously wouldn't do.

Lowe put his feet up on the low table, and the black girl gave him a dirty look, which he totally ignored. Just to spite the Hufflepuff, Dana surmised, the blond girl who wasn't Lexi did as much, a smirk on her lips – Dana would have done the same, if she hadn't been the newbie. Well, she guessed, she would do it next year.

"Now, let's present ourselves, starting by the older ones, and no, your age before you became who you are now doesn't matter anymore. Which means..."

Lowe's eyes slid shiftily to his fellow gryffindor boy. Reese rolled his eyes.

"Sure, John, I'll start."

Lowe smirked.

"...And the Official Peeves Nicknames are mandatory."

Reese stared – not glared, because Reese didn't glare, he simply stared with that little air of disappointment and / or menace, and you just knew – at the other John.

Root frowned, undeterred by the Stare – he knew it too well, and while it still did have its effect if he was the target, he had learned to ignore it as long as he wasn't the victim.

"The official Peeves nicknames?"

The black girl offered Root a bitter smile and an anwer.

"Peeves nicknames us all, and there are various iterations for each of us, but there are some that come up more often than the others. They are the OPN."

Root looked vaguely terrified by the idea.

Reese waited for them to be done worrying – it was definitely worrying – about the OPN, then spoke up again. All the eyes were back upon him, even those of the older members of TOSS. Alaric guessed they were interested in the way he'd turn his story around this time... and by how much he was going to say. Nothing assured him that the presentation speeches were the same every time.

"Hi. I'm John Rykes, but everyone call me Reese, except the idiot over there, and Peeves, to whom I am, alternately, Johnny John John, Scary Johnny, and the Smirk, the Stare, that kind of nicknames."

Reese didn't look particularly happy with that. Alaric could understand why.

"My father was American, and my mother British, both purebloods. War casualties. I currently live with my uncle. In my first life, I was... I was many things, but first of all I was a soldier. Also a police officer. A CIA agent. Then a vigilante, some would say. I had many names, and 'Reese' was one I used for a bit more than ten years. I can kill you hundreds of different ways, even now, and I assure you I'm not joking on that matter. I've killed several dozens of people in my various lines of work, to the point that I can't count them even as I remember each of them. I did this job because someone needed to do it, not because I liked it, but I was also very good at it. I never felt much remorse, which doesn't mean I like taking a life. I'll do it if I have no other choice... but I won't loose any sleep over it. I hope I won't have to this time around, though."

Dana blinked. That was... honest. In a way. Also very vague. True. Mostly. She surmised.

Reese brought a hand to his chest, as if searching for a phantom pain.

"I've been shot, cut, stabbed, beaten, tortured, and about everything you can think of of that kind. Twice, I've been aimed a missile at. The second time, I stayed where I was, knowing full well what was awaiting me."

There was a moment of silence – Ric surmised there would be one for each story. He didn't see what kind of comment you could do after such a presentation, not without feeling foolish or heartless.

Then Lowe took over.

"I'm John Lowe. Peeves calls me John John Johnny or Bloody Johnny, depending on his mood and mine. My brother Donovan and my sister Wren are both like us all, but they weren't family the first time around. I used to be a police detective in Los Angeles. Then there was a cursed Hotel, where ghosts roamed like the livings, taking lives and playing with minds. A serial killer of the worst kind started whispering into my ear, and because of the effects of the Hotel, I didn't notice anything until it was too late. I had become the killer's substitute, a serial killer in my own right. Particularly gruesome crimes, because that was what the ghost wanted me to do. I was also the detective trying to arrest said serial killer. I eventually understood; I snapped. I finished the ghost's work, and walked away, but due to circumstances, I continued killing, only, trying not to go after innocent people, not to do anything uselessly horrible."

Just terrible enough, anyway. They all understood that, they could just tell from his tone.

"After one year, I was gunned down by my own precinct. It was neat. Don't make the mistake to think I'm free of my demons this time around. They only haven't been triggered, and I intend to keep it that way."

The golden-eyed girl was next.

"Gabrielle Shurley. I used to be, you know, the archangel Gabriel, until my traitorous brother Lucifer killed me, because he's an ass. Doesn't matter if you don't believe me. My little brother, Balthazar, was an angel too, but you'll see that with him in two years. I was male, back then, but to an angel gender doesn't have the same... importance. It's accessory, I'd say. You might hear Peeves call me Her Lordliness or Loki-sama, because he's an ass. I may have yelled at him in Japanese my first week here, and I did use to pass myself off as the north god of mischief. And apparently Balthazar and I were reborn in a family with strong healing magic. Perhaps something to do with our former nature."

The black Hufflepuff's back stiffened in her armchair as she took her turn.

"I'm Jocelyn Carter, but you can call me Joss. Peeves tends to call me Law and Order, so you're warned. I was a police detective in New York. I interrogated Reese once, then found out he had warrants against him in several countries just after he had left the precinct. Somehow, I started working with him to prevent violent crimes, but not before I got him shot by the CIA. Finally, one day, I brought down an entire organization of corrupt cops... which got me killed, and Reese wounded. I still don't know what the guy did to avenge me, by the way..."

Carter squinted at Reese, who did a remarkable impression of "I've got no idea what you're talking about". Needless to say, Joss Carter knew better.

Lowe's eyes fell on James Norrington, who stiffened and scowled, but still spoke.

"James Norrigton. The blasted nuisance called Peeves thinks himself droll by calling me Herr Kommandant with a bang, even if I'm British, and commodore would be more apt. I used to sail for the East India Company, until I crossed path with a particular pirate, a number of cursed individuals, a ship of death and a heart in a box. Let's just say I ended up killed by Davy Jones and my own sword, and all that to save the girl and my honor at the same time."

The blond girl who wasn't Lexi raised an eyebrow at the Ravenclaw and shook her head, before looking at the younger teens in the room.

"My name is Joanna Harvelle, everyone call me Jo, and I'm muggle-born. Peeves thinks of me as The Enemy since I started a war again the pest. I used to be a hunter, meaning I lived in a world where the supernatural wasn't friendly at all, and a few people in the know did what was needed to take care of the monsters lurking in the shadows. Which means exorcisms as well as beheadings. I'm used to do the dirty work no one else wants to do, because I couldn't just pretend I didn't know what was out there, what was killing innocents. Long story short, the Apocalypse happened, and I blew myself up after having been torn open by a hellhound."

Gabrielle winced visibly at that, and Ric deduced they came from the same world.

He also noted that the number of names starting with "Jo" in their group was alarmingly high.

Lexi stretched in her seat.

"Pleased to meet you, again. I'm Alexia Branson, muggle-born, and I like Lexi better, please. Peeves nicknamed me Scary Lady. In my old world, I used to be a five hundreds years old vampire; tried not to kill humans; failed rarely, but still too often. Then a youngster killed me, framed me for his own murders."

The look Lexi sent to Dana make little place for doubts as to who was said youngster.

It was time for the newcomers to present themselves, though, and Dana chose to see the older girl's accusation as a way in, as an invitation to take her turn.

"Well, you heard Lexi... I'm Dana Salvatore, but I used to be Damon Salvatore, the one hundred and seventy something youngster. To tell you the truth, I spent about one hundred and fifty years of that time being an asshole, all that because I was convinced the woman I loved was stuck in a crypt because of my brother, and so I hated the whole world. No point in being a vampire if it's not with Katherine, but can't kill myself either because the lovely individual might escape at some point. Only thing, she didn't actually love me, was only using me, didn't care in the least. I somehow ended up becoming someone halfway decent, became Ric's best friend, found love... then I died again, the Other Side collapsed, and I ended up... here. As a girl."

Even as Dana tried to tell that with an air of nonchalance, her voice stuttered a little on some words, and some sentences sounded more like questions than affirmations. No one mocked her, of course. It was her first time doing that, laying down the bare bones of who, where and why. Of how she had become Dana Salvatore, in this life, with a second chance.

The first time was always difficult.

The second time too, for the matter.

"I... I don't want to excuse my actions, but I was truly heartbroken back then, and being a vampire, in our world... It was a lot of very strong emotions. If you didn't have control over them, it could become very ugly, very fast. And that's exactly what it did."

Dana seeked Alaric's eyes. The blond boy smiled thinly, and prepared himself to speak too.

His story wasn't pretty either, and, he had discovered with surprise, very similar on some points with John Lowe's. At least, that was one person who'd understand...

"I'm Alaric Saltzman, but people usually call me Ric. I was a history teacher, and I became a part-time vampire hunter after my wife was killed by one. I tracked him down, found him, tried to kill him... Then I learned that Isobel wasn't dead, but rather undead, and that she hadn't loved me enough to stay with me over her obsession with vampires. That Damon Salvatore hadn't killed my wife, but had given her what she wanted. Somehow Damon and I became best friends... Except I had a ring that resurrected me if the cause of death was supernatural, and I died a good number of times. A ghost from the Other Side twisted my mind and my personality, and before I knew it, I was a serial killer. I tried to kill a bunch of my friends, and eventually ended up getting turned into an Original Vampire, meaning stronger and sturdied, on top of murderous. They barely stopped me... and I died."

He wasn't going to talk about his current problem. Not yet. Perhaps never.

But they had to know that.

As Donovan started speaking, Alaric caught John Lowe looking at him, a comprehending look in his eyes. Yes, as Ric had guessed, he knew who he would be talking to if one day he had to address his days as a serial killer... They had something really unusual in common, the two of them.

Dana and Ric listened as Donovan repeated the story he had told them at the beginning of the week, the slytherin boy looking at Dana under a new light as he did that. Damon's Katherine was Donovan's Elizabeth, in more than one way.

Then Root finished, telling how he used to be a girl, how his childhood friend had been murdered and her faith in humanity broken, how she had been a depraved hitwoman for years after that. How she had ended up on Reese's path, and Hannah's body had been found thanks to him. How they had worked together, uneasily at first, then to the point of dying for the same cause.

When they all left the Twice Over Society, Reese turned the armshairs back to a light brown color.