Interlude, pt 3

A familiar sight greeted early risers at the Durmstranng Academy as they looked outside to check the day's weather. After six years, the blonde head out running around the grounds was a common sight. Alexandra Tremaine was considered odd by most of the students at the school. Her insistence on maintaining a body that any smuggle personal trainer would like to have, combined with a major Healing talent and an obsession with being perfect in anything she did definitely placed her on the odd side.

Alex was aware of how she was seen, but it didn't bother her. Every Healer had a talent called Empathy, which allowed them to read the emotional state of anyone around them. Alex was aware that while they might think she was odd, most people liked her, and the ones that had been healed by her talent without having to explain to the school Mediwizard how they acquired their injuries were at the top of her list of admirers.

Alex finished her run, and went to her room. She still had the only single person room in school, because while her nightmares were fading, one of the Empathy boosted dreams was more than anyone wanted to experience. Alex's room reflected her personality, being neat, clean and organized to an obsessive degree. Not many sixteen-year-old people had everything they owned lined up, from the uniforms in the closet, to the late night snacks hidden in the third drawer of her desk.

The decorations on the walls continued the theme, being diagrams of Quidditch plays, and of the various parts of the human body. Other charts were of common herbs and other magical items. Ami Durmstranng, her closest friend had once remarked that Alex's room bore a striking resemblance to a classroom. In the corner next to Alex's desk was a human skeleton that Alex had named George. As part of a test of her abilities, Alex had charmed the skeleton to clean the room and take messages when she was gone.

George could also braid her hair and do several little tasks on command. Alex had once charmed the skeleton to follow her around to classes and carry her books, but the teachers had put a quick stop to that idea.

Alex showered and dried, then had George do her hair. Before she got dressed, she examined her body for flaws. Alex was a tall woman, standing two inches over six feet, and had the graceful curves of an athlete. Those curves, along with the honey-blonde hair, caused many male students to stare. Alex had never really noticed that, as her sole concern with her body was that it does what she wanted it to, and at peak efficiency. The idea that she might be beautiful had never occurred to her.

When she was done, she dressed quickly in a school uniform, and went to breakfast. In the dining hall, she sat down and ate in her customary silence. When she was finished, she looked up at her friends. Mat Robere and Ami Durmstranng were watching her. Alex raised an eyebrow. "What? Do I have something on my face?"

Ami shook her head. "No, we were just wondering what living with you would be like."

Alex grinned at her friends. "I thought you two were planning on living together after school." Ami and Mat had been dating for nearly a year now, and they still had the same sweetness and light about them that they had had the first day.

Ami blushed, but nodded. "Of course we are."

"Then why are you wondering about living with me?"

Ami looked at her oddly. "Where are you going to live after school?"

Alex shrugged. "I don't know yet. It will depend on what hospital I work at."

Mat smiled at her. "Going to find a place with grounds you can run on, but within an efficient distance of work?" Alex nodded, not missing the mildly sarcastic note, but deciding to ignore it.

"That would be perfect, yes." Alex started another topic, and her friends dropped it. "Are you two still coming to Lucraig with me?"

Mat answered her. "Yes, but you have not told us why we're going there, or how."

Alex handed Ami a note. "Read this."

Ami read the short note aloud. "Dear Alex, I know this is a few days early, but Happy Birthday. I'm sending a longer letter on your birthday, but since you have to go to Lucraig to pick up your birthday gifts this year, we thought we'd send you the weekend before your birthday rather than after. Enclosed you will find a Portkey to your first stop, and when you're done there, they will have a Portkey to your next destination. You can take your friends if you want to. In fact, knowing you as I do, I would like it if you took Ami at least. Love, Uncle Gary and Aunt Diane."

Mat asked if Alex knew where they were going yet. Alex grinned at him. "Not a clue, but if you're in such a hurry to find out, quit eating so we can go."

Mat stood up. "Well, if that's all we're waiting for, let's go."

The three of them took hold of the Portkey and vanished. They reappeared in Lucraig, the Berlin version of Diagon Alley. They were standing in front of a tailor shop, and they stepped inside.

"Alex Tremaine?" asked the woman standing just inside the shop.

Alex raised one eyebrow. "Yes, how did you know?"

The tailor smiled. "Your Uncle left a description when he made the arraignments. I am supposed to outfit you with all new robes, for daily and formal wear." The next two hours were very long for everyone, as Alex just wanted basic robes, in just two colors, the red of the school, and the leaf green of a Healer. The clerk and Ami finally convinced her to get at least a couple of things that were nice as well as functional. By the time the tailor handed them the note and Portkey to the next stop, her eyes were glazing over.

"The hard part is over, now on with the fun." Alex read the note, and they ported to the next stop. This was a bookstore, where Alex had a large box to fill. From there, another Portkey took the three of them to a restaurant. After they ate, the next key took them to a Quidditch supply shop where Alex got the biggest shock of the day so far.

"Miss Tremaine? How are you today?"

Alex smiled, as she answered the polite young man standing there. "Fine thank you."

"I have instructions to tell you that you are to pick out an entire Keeper's outfit, and any accessories you may need." Alex grinned, and spent just a few minutes picking out what she wanted. When everything had been packaged up to send to the school, the man came up to them again. "By the way, there was one more thing." He handed her a long rectangular package. "Your Aunt thought you'd prefer to carry this."

Alex opened the package, and her eyes got wide. Ami and Mat were on the other side of the package, and couldn't see what was in there. Alex reached into the box, and pulled out a gleaming new broomstick. Mat and Ami blinked, and then stared. Mat found his voice first. "That's a Firebolt, isn't it?" Alex nodded wordlessly, and it took the grinning shopkeeper a minute to get her attention and hand her another note and Portkey.

Alex held the broomstick, and handed the note to Ami to read. "Dear Alex, we thought the best Keeper in Durmstranng deserved the best broomstick, but you'll have to take at least one hand off of it to get to your next stop. Love, D&G." This Portkey took them to the little shop in Drakknair, where Alex rushed inside to show Mr. Derring her new Broomstick. Mr. Derring smiled. "That's very nice, but I have something for you that you might like better."

Alex raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Better than a new Firebolt?"

Mr. Derring handed her a small box. Alex opened it, and for the second time that day, her eyes popped open. She set the box down, and pulled out a green Magicrystal set in a golden chain. Alex could feel the magic of the Crystal responding to her Healing talent. Alex held her new broom in one hand, and settled the chain around her neck, where it shrank to fit her perfectly. Alex stood there, holding the broom in one hand and the Crystal in the other. Mr. Derring smiled and winked at the other two. He placed a larger box on the counter. He got Alex's attention, and spoke. "This is my gift to you, Happy Birthday Alex my dear."

Alex looked at the box. "What is it?" He grinned at her. "You're going to have to open it and see."

Alex's eyes were far away, as she absently handed the broom to Ami. Keeping one hand on the Magicrystal, she opened the box, and found a complete set of Quidditch balls. Mr. Derring spoke again. "This is the set used in the world cup a few years ago, between Bulgaria and Ireland."

Alex's eyes lost the absent look. "You mean the one where Victor Krum got the snitch, but Ireland won?"

The elderly shopkeeper nodded. "Yes, that's the one."

"Mr. Derring, this is too much."

The old wizard made a dismissing motion with his hand. "Posh. You've been a good friend, and a good customer for six years now."

Alex thanked him, and then smiled. "Speaking of good customers, do you have anything new?"

"Over there, those three bins have all the new things, but I won't have any new books until Tuesday."

Alex smiled. "I'll be back in on Saturday then."

The three students started looking through the bins with the new items in them. After a few minutes, Ami held up a heavy black briefcase. "Alex, what is this thing?" Alex looked at her find.

"It's a laptop." Ami looked blank. "A muggle thing, used for a bunch of different things." Ami lost interest, but Alex kept looking over the laptop. "Hey, this is nice, CD burner, printer, scanner and a webcam, plus all the software and even a spare battery." Ami and Mat were looking at her blankly.

Mat shook his head. "You know of course, that we have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

Alex grinned at them. "It's a muggle thing."

Mat rolled his eyes. "That means you're going to spend the next hour dickering with Mr. Derring over the thingie."

Alex took the laptop to the counter, and began the bargaining that both of them enjoyed. After they settled on a price, and Alex had given the computer to the house elf for delivery, the friends took the Portkey that Mr. Derring had and went to the next stop.

This turned out to be a very nice restaurant and the three friends enjoyed a great dinner. After the meal, they took the Portkey that had been left at the restaurant, and found themselves back at Durmstranng. They had not been on the grounds five minutes when a student came running up.

"Alex, the Mediwizard wants you in the hospital wing now." Alex handed the Firebolt to Ami, and ran for the school's infirmary. When she got there, she found many students waiting to be seen. She checked the triage list, and started on the student that was most seriously injured and was not being worked on.

As she started healing the student's broken arm, she asked, " What happened here?" The student she was working on answered her. "One of the seekers in a Quidditch game pulled a Wronski Feint, and the other seeker crashed into the stands trying to pull out."

Alex continued to heal students, unaware of the glow at her neck, as her talent drew on the Magicrystal's energy. The Mediwizard was quick to figure out what it was, and he kept her until the last of the students was healed. No of the injuries had been life threatening, and everyone was sent back to their rooms after they had been healed. Alex and the Mediwizard discussed the crystal and training Alex in its proper use, and then Alex headed for bed. She was beginning to feel the familiar weakness that always came after she used her gift for an extended period.

Alex found her packages and a message waiting for her in her room. Ami still had her new broomstick, and in order for Alex to get it back, She'd have to find Ami the next day. Alex grinned as she started putting all of the new things away. Despite the bone deep weariness that came from over using the healing talent, Alex simply could not leave all that stuff just lying around.

A couple of hours passed, and Alex's eyes opened, glittering with green fire in the dim light. She pulled a secret panel out of the back of the closet, and took some things from the hidden compartment. She dressed quickly in the black robes and mask. Pulling the hood up over her head, she looked in the mirror. The tall figure could not be identified as a man or woman, and the mask hid everything except the burning eyes. She picked up the Riddle books and two others, which had also been in the secret area, and took a Portkey from the pocket of the robes.

She activated the Portkey, and appeared in a room. The room had no door, and no windows, leaving a Portkey as the only means of entry. The walls, floor and ceiling were a uniform dark red, the color of dried blood.

There were five figures in the room when she arrived, and their robes matched the room. They jumped nervously as the sable hued figure appeared, and stiffened to attention. The voice that came from the black robes didn't sound human at all, being devoid of tone, accent or inflection.

"Report." Was all she said, and the closet red robed figure stepped forward.

"Everything is green, and on schedule in Alpha cell Jezebel." Jezebel/Alex stared at the Alpha leader for a minute, then nodded once.

"Very well. Next report." The figure that stepped up slowly could not be seen, due to the concealing robes and mask, identical to Jezebel's robes, except for color. Even without being able to see the person under the robes, the air of tension was plain to see in the bearing of the person.

"Bravo six is missing, everything else is green and on schedule Jezebel."

Jezebel regarded the person before her for a long time, as Bravo one began to tremble. Jezebel finally spoke. "How long has Bravo six been missing?"

Bravo one replied, "Twenty-four hours."

Jezebel was still for a long time, and then began issuing orders. "You have 72 hours to find Bravo six and return him here. I will interrogate him myself. You may call on the other cells for assistance, as long as you do not break operational security. Find him, or your blood will be used in the next safe room." The threat was delivered in the same emotionless tone as the instructions, and was somehow more threatening because of it. Jezebel listened to the reports of the last three scarlet robed figures, and considered them all for a few minutes. Jezebel spoke again, issuing orders. "Delta one, be prepared to leave Delta cell in the hands of Delta two, and move to Diagon Alley in three days. The rest of you will stand ready to assist Bravo one in her search, and be prepared to help Delta one if he should need it during the move. Further recruitment is on hold until Bravo six is found. Phase one is complete. Continue training until further notice. That is all." The five cell leaders wasted no time porting out of the room.

As soon as the red robed leaders were gone, Jezebel pulled her wand and cast a spell that raised a desk and chair out of the floor. Sitting down, she pulled out the Riddle books, and the two new books she had written in the last few years. She kept the Riddle books merely as a reference, having long ago gotten everything she wanted out of them. Now, she merely used them to be sure that she did not duplicate an already explored dead end path.

Fifteen minutes before her deadline to be back, she put the books away, and opened a drawer. Taking the scroll in the drawer out, she made three swift notes, and returned the scroll to the drawer. Shutting the drawer, she stood up and cast the spell that sank the desk and chair into the floor. Jezebel looked around, and used the Portkey to return to Durmstranng. Jezebel changed out of the black robes and put them away, thinking about her plans. Jezebel went to a great deal of trouble to make sure nobody, not even Alex knew she was there. Alex had noticed the blackouts at first, but as Jezebel became better at hiding, Alex assumed the blackouts were going away. Jezebel was hiding for two reasons. First, as long as nobody knew about her, they could not do anything about her, as she plotted to rule the world. Second, even if the worst happened, and she was caught somehow, Alex would take all the blame.

Jezebel was working on carrying on Voldemort's research, although her primary interest was in making a new body that fit her idea of what a woman should be. Eternal life was secondary to her goal of the perfect body, or even any body she did not have to share. As she got into bed, she cast the healing spell that refreshed Alex's body, as if she had not lost four hours of sleep. Jezebel withdrew into the corner of Alex's mind she used, and reinforced the wards that kept her from being found. Satisfied with the night's work, Jezebel curled up and dreamed as their body went to sleep.

Alex woke the next morning and started her daily routine while she thought about where to find Ami. After she exercised, showered and got dressed, Alex went down to the dining hall to eat. She had just finished eating when she became aware of the shadow looming above her. She looked up, and up to find a very tall boy standing next to her.

He looked at her and said, "I just wanted to thank you for yesterday."

Alex's confusion must have been plain on her face, because the tall boy waved an arm at her.

"I was the broken arm in the Infirmary." He said.

Alex tilted her head, and reached for his arm. "Is it normal today?"

The boy pulled his arm away gently, smiling at her Healer's dedication. "It's fine, thanks to you."

Alex stood up, shaking her head. "You don't need to thank me for that." She looked at the boy again, surprised. At 6' 2", Alex was not used to looking up at many people, but this boy was at least two inches taller than she was. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name." Alex said, trying to remember if she had seen him around the school.

He grinned. "No reason why you should, I'm a fifth year student, and we don't run with the same people. My name is Matthew Mannick, but most people call me Matt." He looked at her, and flushed a little. "I was wondering if you had a few minutes."

Alex looked at him, catching a general feeling of embarrassment warring with nervousness and hope. "That depends on what you mean by a few minutes."

Matt actually blushed this time. "As long as it takes for me to work up the courage to ask you out."

Alex blinked. She had been asked out before, but one of the problems with being an Empath was knowing what people felt about you. Most of the boys that asked her out were in lust, or merely trying to get to the untouchable. The few that had not been had not been able to deal with Alex's obsessions, and constant studying, and had soon drifted away again. Alex reached out, examining Matt's feelings with her Empathy. She found a desire to get to know her, curiosity, and under that, a mild desire to be with her. While he did like her body, he wanted to know her more than he wanted to touch her. This was such a novel thing that Alex reached out and examined his feelings again to confirm what she'd found in him.

When the second touch found the same thing, she smiled at him. He might change later, but right now, he would be a friend first. "I'm on a hunt, want to come along?" Matt blinked, and asked what they were hunting. Alex grinned as she started walking. "Come with me and I'll explain as we go." Alex explained what Ami had done, and what she had to do. Matt thought about it for a minute, but decided that since he didn't know Ami, he'd be more useful as a sounding board for Alex's ideas.

Alex had already decided to eliminate some of the more obvious places first, and they started walking, covering the common rooms first. When they didn't find her there, Alex decided to try the Quidditch pitch next. The two of them chatted as they walked, getting to know each other. Matt was not as smart as Alex was, but he was smarter than most people in school. Alex and Matt walked into the Quidditch team room on the north side of the Pitch, and Alex cast the spell that lit the room.

"Surprise!" Nearly twenty people had been hiding in the dark room. Alex jumped, and relaxed as she realized this was not a threat. Ami came up and explained that since her birthday was on Tuesday, and between classes and the Quidditch game that day, there just would not be time for a party. Ami grinned. "So we decided to hold it a couple of days early, so we could have a really good party." Alex smirked at her friend. "Please Ami, like you need an excuse to dance."

Ami shrugged unrepentantly. "It does make it more fun if I have a legitimate excuse."

Alex introduced Matt to her friends, and they were having a good time at the party. As word spread that Ami was throwing a birthday party, and whom it was for, more people started showing up, until Alex was shocked at the number of people that showed up. Ami just shook her head. "Alex, I keep telling you, you have to get out and have some fun. Without me or Mat pushing you, when was the last time you did something just for fun?"

Alex stared at her. "I have fun, I play Quidditch."

Ami rolled her eyes. "Yes you do, and you spend more time practicing than most people spend at their jobs." As they talked, some of the couple had cleared a dance floor, and as the music started, Matt asked Alex to dance.

Alex was looking everywhere but at Matt. "No, but only because I don't dance."

Matt looked at her. "At all?" Alex shrugged. "I never had the time to learn. I always had something more important to learn."

Matt stared at her for a minute, and then got a sly smile. "You do realize that dancing is good exercise, improves hand to eye coordination, and builds muscular endurance don't you?"

Alex looked at the slow dancing couples on the floor. "Oh of course," She said sarcastically, "How could I have missed the exercise value of swaying?" Matt just grinned at her, and went over to the students running the music. A few minutes later, he was back, and the music changed to a faster tune. Matt pulled Alex onto the floor, and started showing her the steps.

When Ami and her Mat came back from the quiet corner they had taken a few minutes in, Matt and Alex were on the floor, and Alex was questioning Matt about the steps, and putting as much work into getting this right as she did everything else she did. Ami and Mat watched them for a few minutes, and then looked at each other.

Mat smiled at Ami, and spoke quietly, under the cover of the music. "It looks like the other Matt will be good for her."

Ami nodded. "I hope so, I was beginning to thing she's never find anyone." After the party ended around lunch, Alex, Ami and Mat took their broomsticks out to the Pitch so Alex could get used to her new Broomstick.

They asked Matt if he wanted to join them, but Matt just shrugged. "I don't have a broomstick." He said. "My family is not rich, or even well off, and it's all they can do to get me through the school year." Alex studied his emotions for a minute, and smiled. She got her old broomstick, a Cleansweep 750, and gave it to him, with a condition.

"When you get another broomstick, you have to give this one to somebody that needs it. You can't sell it, you have to give it away." Matt's pride warred with his desire to have his own broomstick, and finally he agreed. The four of them had a good time playing broomstick tag and other games until Matt, who was not used to flying so much, was too tired to continue. As dinner approached, they took their broomsticks back to their rooms.

Matt, Ami and Mat were back first, as Alex had the furthest to go. Ami stood in front of Matt. "Alex likes you, and we trust her judgment, but if you hurt her, we will make your life unbearable." They also warned him about asking about her parents. "If she wants to tell you she will, but don't push it." Alex guessed the topic by the sudden silence when she came up, but just shook her head at her friends. They went to dinner together, and afterwards, Alex went to the library to study. Matt showed up about ten minutes later, with his own books, and they passed a quiet hour studying. Alex was deep into a Transfiguration paper, and didn't notice when Matt stopped studying the books and began studying her. Matt was drawing on a large sheet, and watching her intently. Alex finally noticed, after more than two hours.

When she did, it broke her concentration. After more than fifteen minutes, in which she read the same paragraph three times, she finally looked up at him. "Why are you staring at me?" Matt smiled, and turned the paper he'd been drawing on towards her. The color drawing was a head and shoulders shot of her studying, and Matt had captured the focused concentration of her studying perfectly. Around the corner of the picture, were four smaller head and shoulder portraits, each capturing a different look. In one she was smiling, another had her head cocked, and her eyebrow up, and Matt had captured her look so well that you could almost hear Alex asking something. The last two corners had a drawing of her in a pensive mood, almost somber, and the last was a shot of her laughing, and her hair being blown around her face. Alex could almost see that one, from when they were out on the Quidditch Pitch, and she'd been running from the other Mat.

Alex studied the picture. Alex could sometimes draw a straight line, if she had a ruler, but even she could see that Matt was very good at this. "What are you going to do with this?"

Matt looked at her, and then looked away. "I'm going to keep it, and hang it on my wall, if you don't mind."

Alex smiled, and started bargaining. "Fine, but I get one like that of Ami and Mat together."

Matt smiled back. "Deal." They talked quietly for a few more minutes until the library was closing, and then Matt walked Alex back to her room. When they got there, Alex walked in and invited Matt in. Matt looked up and down the hall, and sighed. "That's not a good idea you know. You don't have any roommates, and having a guy in your room alone late at night is just asking for talk."

Alex blinked. "Mat's been in here plenty of times."

"Mat and Ami, right?"

Alex thought about it for a minute. "Well, yes."

"I'll just stay out here in the hall then." Alex shrugged. She leaned on the door, and they talked for a few more minutes before they said goodnight.

Later that night Jezebel got up and Portkeyed to the red room without bothering with the black robes, knowing none of her troops would enter this room without being told too. The daily reports were lying on the floor and Jezebel looked them over. Everything was going well except for the still missing Bravo six. Jezebel frowned, thinking of the damage that missing wizard could be doing. She had told her underlings that they had three days though, and she would stick to that. Jezebel's ultimate goal was to rule the world. The entire world, wizard and muggle both.

She had spent a lot of time reading everything about the great leaders, and why they failed, and Jezebel did not intend to fall into the traps that they did. She was perfectly willing to take 30 years if that's what it took to win, or three hundred years. Alex's memories of the Military academy and the constant lectures from the Captain gave her a base in strategy and constant reading since then had extended that knowledge. She had chosen the cells because this was the easiest way to insure that nobody would do too much damage if they went to the other side. Each of her cells had a specialty, and a secondary task. Finding enough dark wizards was an ongoing problem, as the Voldemort War had taken many of the best dark wizards, and what was left was too scared, too weak, or just pathetic. Two of Jezebel's cells were wizards, and the other three were squibs or muggles that knew about wizards, and didn't care about killing people.

Jezebel had quickly figured out that she would never have enough dark wizards to take over even part of the wizard world. A little thought though, had given her just what she needed. The two worlds were sharply divided, and Jezebel was going to take advantage of that fact by using muggles with guns to take down wizards, and save the wizards for the muggle world. Already Jezebel had enough cells in place to take most of the European wizard community, and she did not see any problem with the Eastern countries, or the African wizards.

Her only sticking points were Diagon Alley, and the North Americans. Diagon Alley had seen too much during the Voldemort War to allow dark wizards to gather again. Even Knockturn alley had been cleaned up following the war. Anyone discussing dark affairs in Diagon Alley these days was liable to end up hexed seven ways from Sunday.

The Americans were an entirely different headache all together. Bloody individualistic gits. Every one of them thought they should be in charge, and they had grand ideas about Curses and the pure of heart. It really was enough to make one wish they had gotten into the big war with Russia. Maybe if they were all glowing in the dark she could at least use them for target practice.

Jezebel snarled under her breath at the thought of the Americans again. It was going to take years to conquer that continent if it wasn't hit hard during the opening moves. At least she had finally gotten a toehold in Diagon Alley, having found an old Death Eater. The old man was willing to help, and Delta one would take it from there. Delta one had a knack for finding the truly useful kinds of people.

Jezebel frowned at the thought of his replacement for the Russian cells. Delta two was ok at his job, but he was lazy. She made a note on her scroll to have him present when she interrogated Bravo six, and to have him present for the opening of the Diagon Alley red room. Watching those two events, and a few pointed words should keep him on his toes. Jezebel finished her planning for the night, and Portkeyed back. Once back, she refreshed the body, checked her wards again, and released control to Alex's sleeping mind.

Alex woke in the morning from a dream that disturbed her more than a little bit. In the dream, she had been picnicking with Matt, Ami, and her Mat. The four of them had been laughing and having a very good time, until Ami and Mat had gone off for a bit of privacy. Matt had moved a little closer, and began playing with her hair. When she looked at him, she had been caught by the look in his eyes, and been frozen as he bent down and kissed her, gently at first, and more firmly. A rush of blood made her light headed, and his arms came around her. She was kissing him back, and the kissing was creating new feelings in her, feelings she'd never had before, and as his hands started running down her body, the alarm had jolted her out of the dream.

She dressed for her morning run quickly, trying not to think about the sensations running through her body when she woke up. After her workout and run, Alex dressed for class and went down to the dining hall. She saw Mat and Ami in their seats, and across from them was a curly haired head that made her heart quicken. She sat down and ate in her usual manner, aware that Matt was watching her. When she was done, her three friends wished her Happy Birthday. Mat and Alex began their pre game talk, a general chat about the team they would be playing this afternoon. Matt was watching them, and sketching again. Alex and Mat discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each team.

In Durmstranng, each year had it's own team, and usually the older teams took the Quidditch championships. That had changed in Alex's third year, when she began making the strategies that allowed the Wyverns to compete with the older teams. The Wyverns were the team for Alex's year. Durmstranng had seven teams, all named after magical creatures, and after a team left at the end of their seventh year, the name was given to the next first year class. This afternoon, Alex's team was playing the seventh year team, the Dragons. All during the discussion, Alex was aware of Matt watching her and sketching.

After they were done, Alex dragged Ami into the girl's room. When they got there, Ami looked at her quizzically. "What is with you? We've been friends for 6 years, and you've never needed me to use the bathroom with you before." Alex blushed, and muttered about talking to her without the guys hearing. Ami raised an eyebrow, and stared at her. "When you got your period, you told me and Mat, when Rachel needed you to remove the splinters after the nude broomstick flyby bet, you told Mat and I about it in such graphic terms that Mat ran away. What could be so bad that they can't hear it?" Ami stared at her still blushing friend and began to smile. "Or is it just one Matt you don't want hearing us?"

Alex turned a deeper crimson, and looked at Ami helplessly. "I don't know what to do, I've never even thought about this before."

Ami blinked. "Never?"

Alex shrugged. "Until Matt, There wasn't anyone that liked me for me more than they wanted to touch me. With my Empathy, I can't be fooled about that, and I never wanted that kind of relationship."

Ami grinned evilly. "Bet you wouldn't mind if Matt tried a little. touching." Alex managed to get redder, and buried her face in her hands. She told Ami about her dream of the night before.

Ami grinned, but took pity on Alex's confusion. "Alex, he likes you, so just be yourself, and he'll let you know how he feels. Fairly soon too, if his roommates are right."

Alex was puzzled. "What do you mean?"

Ami smiled innocently, as she headed for the door. "Apparently, he's running out of room to hang pictures of you in his room." Alex blinked, and followed her friend out. She caught up with Ami, and walked for a few seconds in silence, while she absorbed that bit of news.

Suddenly she turned very red, and grabbed Ami's arm, bringing the other girl to a stop. "Do you mean everyone knows about Matt and I?"

Ami grinned. "Alex, you're smart, the best Quidditch player in over 300 years, including Victor Krum, and you are pretty as well. However, you've never even dated anybody. The whole school is waiting to see if Matt has whatever you're waiting for."

Alex rolled her eyes as they reached their first class. "How should I know? I don't even know what I'm waiting for." Ami muttered something as they entered the classroom, and from her gleeful humour, with its sexual overtones, Alex was certain she didn't want to know what it was.

Alex founding concentrating on the classes hard, as thoughts of Matt kept intruding at the oddest times. After the day's classes were over, she headed for the Quidditch pitch to set up the pre-game Meeting she had started when she became captain of the team. She had the boards up, and was ready before any of the other players showed up, and was trying to concentrate on the upcoming game, and what they needed to do to beat the seventh year team, when the rest of the team started coming in.

The first two to come in were the Beaters, Mat Robere and Monica Heinlein. They were discussing the habits of the Dragon's Beaters, and settled into their seats as the chasers came in. Rachel Monagan, Harry Snodgrass and Duncan Wilson were a first rate team now that Rachel was not dating one of them. She had flipped back and forth between the two boys so many times that people began to wonder why she didn't just date them both. As was usual, Isaac Robinson was the last person to show up. Isaac was a good Seeker, but he was always either just on time, or late. Alex began the meeting, and the next twenty minutes were reviews of everything they knew about the Dragon team and their habits.

After they finished, Alex led the stretches she insisted on, and then led her team onto the Pitch. Alex was a marvel on a broomstick, and having the Firebolt didn't help the other team any.

As the announcer said, "Keeper Tremaine was bad enough before, but the way she's flying with that Firebolt, I think the only team member she needs is the seeker." For the ninth consecutive game, Alex held the opposing team from scoring at all. The final score was 270 to nothing, and a dejected group of Dragons landed to congratulate the victors.

Mat grinned at them. "Don't feel too bad guys, just imagine what's going to happen next week. We have to play the first years."

The dragon Captain shook his head. "No you're not. The Headmaster said you are too good, and he would not allow the kind of massacre that match would be. You'll be playing the 5th years again."

Mat considered that, and shrugged. "They aren't as good as you are, so we'll still win."

The Dragon captain looked over at Alex, who was being hugged by the other Matt. "Personally, I'm hoping Matt distracts her at least a little. It would be nice to score on you guys at least once this year." Mat laughed as Ami came up to hug him. Alex led her team into the team room, and they went over the game. When that was finished, Alex stayed behind as the rest of the team went to change. She was just finishing her notes on the game when she became aware of a presence in the doorway.

Alex looked up to find Matt standing there watching her. He smiled, and spoke. "I was wondering if you were ever going to finish that, it's nearly dinner time." Alex smiled back, and told him to give her five minutes. She rushed her shower, and was back quickly, and the two went to dinner. Alex ate her dinner in her customary silence, and after her friends were done, the quartet went to the library, and for the first time, Alex didn't bury her nose in a book, but quietly sat talking to the others. Matt was sketching, and Ami and Mat were sharing a chair.

She was not aware that she and Matt were talking about things she'd never mentioned to anyone else, nor did she notice when Mat and Ami stopped talking to them, and just watched Alex falling for Matt. Mat and Ami sat in the chair, whispering together, and watching the other two talk.

Ami reached for Mat's hand, and spoke softly, her lips close to his ear. "Remember when we did that? I seem to recall we talked for days."

Ami's Mat smiled, and turned his head to whisper at her. "Yes we did, although I don't think we talked about skeletons named George." Ami grinned, and was about to say something else, but Mat chose that minute to kiss the side of her neck, distracting her completely. Matt drew until nearly midnight, and finally presented the picture to Alex. It was a large drawing of Mat and Ami in the chair, and their shared love was evident in their faces, and the intertwined fingers. As was Matt's habit, he had put smaller pictures in the corners. One corner had Mat in uniform, hitting a Bludger, and Ami was on her broomstick in the opposite corner. The other two corners had pictures of Mat and Ami walking hand in hand, and the last was of them kissing gently.

Alex was enchanted with the picture, and hugged Matt to thank him, without even realizing what she'd done. The group finally broke up, and Matt walked Alex to her room. At the doorway to her room, Matt said goodnight, and Alex turned to thank him again for the picture. Alex had the drawing in one hand, and her notes on the game in the other, so when Matt reached for her chin, she stood there, heart racing, as he slowly lowered his lips to hers. Matt's lips met hers in a gentle kiss that made Alex go weak in the knees.

He kissed her for a long minute, as she closed her eyes, feeling a nearly unbearable pleasure spreading throughout her body. When he pulled away, she opened her eyes, and smiled at him. Matt smiled back, and they kissed again. This was a shorter kiss, and when Matt stopped this time, he opened her door for her. Alex went inside, set her things down, and turned to say something to Matt, but he was gone. She closed the door, and leaned on it, still feeling Matt's lips on hers. She hung the picture and got ready for bed in a daze, remembering every second of her first kiss.

Jezebel arose later that night, frowning as she considered this complication in her plans. Jezebel had been using a touch of magic, and some subliminal pushing to keep Alex from getting involved with anyone, but the attraction between Alex and Matt had been too strong for the small bit of magic she could do without making it obvious that something was wrong with Alex.

Jezebel thought about this new wrinkle for a very long time, and finally decided that it would not be that bad, unless the two started spending the nights together. If that happened, she would not be able to work at night, and she would have to take steps. Jezebel decided that if Matt started spending the night, She'd simply have him killed.

As she prepared to go back to bed, she had a sudden thought. She could take the body over, and kill him herself, making sure he thought Alex was doing it. That would be a perfect way to repay him for interfering in her plans anyway. Jezebel drifted off to sleep, contemplating the method she would use to kill him.

As Alex and Matt fell in love, the next four months went by in a blur for them both. Between Classes, Healer training, exercise, Quidditch and Matt, Alex was doing something all day. Matt started exercising with her, at first merely to have more time with her, but as he started to fill out, he got into the exercise for its own sake. Alex took Ami into Lucraig on weekend to help her shop, and the next night, Alex came to dinner in a dress.

As she stopped in the doorway, looking for Matt, the hall went silent as the students saw Alex in something besides a uniform for the first time ever. Matt came over from his seat, and took her hand, leading her to a seat. They sat as the students resumed talking, although many of them were watching the twosome. Ami overheard one first year asking what the big deal was.

A nearby fifth year answered him. "In the six years she's been here, nobody except maybe Ami Durmstranng has ever seen Alex in anything but uniforms. Matt Mannick is a very lucky guy." Ami turned back to watch her friend. Alex and Matt had their chairs turned half towards each other, and were holding hands. Ami raised an eyebrow as she watched Alex absently feed Matt something from her plate, and Matt returned the favor.

Ami looked at what Matt was feeding Alex, and nudged her Mat. "Does Alex even like bread pudding?"

Mat looked over at the lovebirds. "I don't think so, but I can't say anything, I barely remember eating our first couple of meals together." He looked at them again, and turned to Ami smiling. "Maybe it tastes better from his fork."

Ami smiled at him. "Let's find out." She fed Mat a bite.

A prefect sitting nearby grinned at them. "Here now, none of that. They only get away with it because nearly everybody in school owes Alex for some healing at one time or another, and we're all rooting for her."

Ami shrugged and smiled at Mat with a devilish gleam in her eye. "That's ok, we can find out in Drakknair next weekend."

As the final days of school came and went, Alex and Matt spent a lot of time discussing what they would do over the Holidays. Alex had an internship at the hospital in Lucraig, and Matt was taking a job to help his family out, so they were both going to be busy, but they made plans to meet as often as possible. They also promised each other they would write as often as they could. On the last day of school, the foursome spent the last hours together, although the two couples were not really aware of the other couple. The two boys were leaving via Portkey for their destinations, and Alex was taking a different Portkey. Ami of course, lived in the family mansion at the edge of the grounds, and would simply fly. Matt was holding Alex, and kissing her when he pulled away.

"I have something for you." He said, as he reached into his pocket. "I've been meaning to give you this for awhile, but I had to finish paying for it first." He handed Alex a small box, and Alex opened it to reveal a silver ring of delicate filigree surrounding a star sapphire. Matt placed the ring on her finger, and drew her chin up again, as he had done the first time they kissed.

"I love you." He said quietly, even as his lips touched hers again. Alex trembled as she heard the words she'd been waiting nearly four months for.

When he pulled his lips from hers, she hugged him tightly and spoke. "I love you too." She pulled away long enough to pull a box from her pocket. She smiled at him. "I wasn't sure if I should give you this now, or wait. I didn't want you to feel guilty if you didn't have anything for me." One of the things that made dating a Healer nice was the Empathy they all had. A Healer was always aware when they did something that hurt their significant other, and were adept at avoiding those situations. Matt smiled and opened his gift. Inside the box was a necklace that matched the Magicrystal one that Alex never took off. Alex read the shock in Matt and was quick to speak. "It's not a real Magicrystal, just a copy. It does have a charm on it though. If you place it on a letter I send you, and activate it, and image of me in that dress you like so much will read the letter to you." Matt smiled, and hugged Alex again. The couple went back to kissing the last hour away.

After the two boys had left with their group, Alex stood looking off into the distance.

She turned to Ami, with the remains of the tears she had shed as Matt left still on her face. "How did you deal with your first summer apart?"

Ami sighed, and smiled wryly, remembering the first time she had been separated from her Mat for any amount of time. "I did things, and more things, so I didn't have time to think about it."

Alex considered that. "Did it work?"

Ami smiled at her. "No, but at least I got some stuff done that year." The two girls chatted (Mostly about the two Matts.) until it was time for Alex's Portkey group. As Ami watched her friend vanish with the others, she thought back over the last six months. Grabbing her broomstick, she flew home, still thinking about the last year. "Whatever happens next year, I think this will be our best year ever."

Epilogue pt 1

"What do you mean, he's gone?" The warden was nearly screaming.

"Sir, prisoner 8675309 was in his cell pacing at the 1100 check. At 1200 hours, when we went to serve lunch, he was gone. It took us nearly an hour to open the door. It's been so long since it was opened last, that the lock had rusted. We have checked the room three times, and there is no hole anywhere in it larger than eight centimeters across." The senior finished speaking and shrugged helplessly. "I cannot explain it Sir."

The warden was deep red by then, and his growling tone would have done credit to a werewolf. "I suppose he escaped with magic maybe?"

Epilogue pt 2

The thing strapped to the large table had been a man once, but judging from the sounds it was making, it was not rational anymore. The captain continued to struggle against his bonds, even as he looked in vain for a door in this scarlet room. He stilled for a second as a blonde woman suddenly appeared in front of him. He stared at the woman, and nothing human was in that stare.

Jezebel evaluated her father carefully, and sighed. She reached out with the Healing talent, and brutally wiped away nearly 7 years of madness with the talent. She didn't worry about the long-term effects of what she did, because he wasn't going to be around long enough to worry about it. As sanity returned to the Captain's eyes and mind for the first time in years, he looked at Jezebel, and a glimmer of recognition appeared in his eyes. He opened his mouth, trying to say something, and shut it again.

"Still held by that old spell are you." Jezebel smiled at him, and there was no more humanity in that smile than there had been in his eyes a minute ago. "Good. You always did talk too much. I have certain experiments that I am going to perform on you. I need to examine the limits of my healing talent. How many times can I heal one person, how much damage can I heal, things like that." Pale green eyes studied the man tied to the table, as she began laying out a number of objects ranging from a scalpel to a small sledgehammer. The man on the table struggled to say something, and Jezebel cocked her head at him. "What's the matter? Itty bitty boy got something to say?" She released the spell that kept him from speaking of any wizarding things, and waited.

"When I get free from here, I'm going to kill you." The captain had never stopped trying to get free of his bonds, and Jezebel smirked at him. She picked up the small sledgehammer and rested it on his knee. The captain stilled, watching the hammer, as Jezebel spoke again.

"I suppose that I should make sure you can't do anything then, shouldn't I."

Jezebel smiled as the captain braced himself and said one last thing. "I won't scream for you girlie."

Jezebel raised the hammer high, and brought it down. It did not take long for the blood splatters to start. The screaming took a little longer, but neither of them stopped for a very long time.