A Note To My Previous Readers Before We Begin:
This story is somewhat different than my other stories. It is set in a completely different society, with a completely new cast of original characters. I hope you enjoy it, of course, but I thought I should let you know that there is a slightly different vibe in A Foreign Language. Also, I will probably only post updates every two or three days rather than every day, as I am currently devoting an unholy amount of my to my jobs. Jobs with an 's'. That said, welcome back! Please read the warning page, as usual, before you get started.
Warnings: (PLEASE read this!)
This story is a sequel. There are original characters that were introduced in Save Me or in Brothers and Sons, and you will have a hard time figuring out who they are without reading those stories first.
This is an alternate universe-type story. While the previous two stories were slightly AU, this one goes into a foreign country and I invent an entire system of government and education for the magical United States, as well as a large number of original characters. There is a link to a list of original characters on my profile page, so that you can keep track of them. However, use this list carefully. It contains spoilers for the story.
This story talks about drugs and drug abuse, up to and including overdosing and hospitalization, as well as treatment for drug addiction. If any part of this subject is upsetting to you, do not read this story, as it is a very large portion of the plot.
This story contains references to suicide. If this subject upsets you, I would suggest simply being cautious when reading this story, but if it really upsets you, don't read it at all. No characters commit suicide during the course of the story, but there is discussion of a character who did.
This story contains a teenaged girl who talks about and attempts to have sexual relations with a male teacher at her school. If this subject upsets you, avoid this story, as it will factor into the plot.
One of the characters in this story is a disabled student who has been labeled with an offensive nickname. Within the story, this nickname is treated casually by the students, including the target, but I know some people will be offended by it. While in real life, I would smack anyone behaving that way, I also strive to make my stories as realistic as possible and so must face reality and write about how mean people are to each other sometimes.
This story will have some language. This doesn't bother most people, but if it offends you . . . just don't read anything Harry or Draco say, because they continue to swear no matter how much their wives threaten them with death, dismemberment, and sleeping on the sofa. And definitely don't read anything Peter or Tuck say.
With all that said, I consider my warnings for A Foreign Language complete. I will not be posting any extra warnings at the beginnings of chapters unless I feel they're warranted. If you didn't read this page, it's not because I didn't tell you to.
Once again, the link to the list of original characters (which contains spoilers) is located on my profile page.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks very much for reading my story! I hope you enjoy it!
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He turned the music on his stereo up as loud as possible. For a brief, blissful few seconds, it covered the sounds of Vince and Marybeth fighting with each other. Then someone pounded on the door hard enough to make the one picture hung on his wall vibrate. That would be Vince. He reached out and slapped the volume control on the stereo down with a scowl he wouldn't have dared to have on his face if Vince could see him. It was a cheap-ass stereo, anyway. The bass went all fuzzy when you turned it up too loud.
The fighting resumed, with Marybeth now screaming at Vince not to take his problems out on the kid. Vince usually maintained at this point in their arguments that he deserved it for being an insufferable little punk, which was not what Vince signed up for when he agreed to take in a foster kid. Tonight, however, he returned to the closed door and apologized for overreacting in the loud, precise tones of someone who obviously doesn't really mean it.
He leaned back on the bed and allowed himself to grin, for just a moment. Vince and Marybeth were starting to get a little afraid of him. All the stories of kids shooting up their homes and schools were making an impression. He apparently displayed some of the classic symptoms of a kid who'd grab a gun and open fire on everyone who'd pissed him off, like the lack of friends and interest in normal things and respect for authority. For now, it was keeping Vince and Marybeth off his back to let them think that. But he would never shoot up that hellhole of a school.
Shooting them would be too easy.
He wanted those kids to suffer for the way they acted. Rich, preppy kids, always looking down on you, just because you didn't happen to live with the parents you'd been born to. Just because you liked to listen to some music the rest of them weren't listening to. Just because you . . . well, it was probably his fault, he admitted to himself. He was kind of an asshole most of the time. But you couldn't really blame a guy, could you? He'd spent fifteen years getting tossed around like a hot potato and had finally ended up with Vince and Marybeth Miller, the smarmiest couple in this smarmy town, who considered it their civic duty to take in a poor foster kid and make sure he got a good education.
He wanted to make them pay. And he would. Just as soon as he figured out how to control it. Control the thing that made foster parents freak out and ship him off to the next family. Control the thing that he had worked so hard to hide, the thing that made him introverted and on his guard so he could keep his secrets.
He didn't know what to call it, this thing he had. It could do different things, at different times. Kids had been making fun of him for years because of his freak accidents. He was unexplainable, and people didn't like unexplainable. They didn't talk about it. Didn't think about it. They just passed you on to the next victim. Vince and Marybeth hadn't discovered anything, which first of all made him think he might be getting better at controlling it, and also made him tolerate the stupid school that he'd normally try to get himself kicked out of. At least he was staying in one place. With the same people, even if they did argue all the time. At least it was a place to keep his stuff and come to every night. If he didn't know any better, he'd call it a home. And it was his as long as nobody knew what he was and what he could do.
Except his best friend, that is. Best friend, pretty much his only friend, and he knew about it. He'd shown him. And what a stupid move that had been. His best friend had stuck by him for the last year through everything, through those privileged little bastards mocking them and tormenting them. His friend had lost any standing he'd had in favour of hanging out with him, and they'd had some good times. They had been there for each other, and that wasn't something he took lightly. So he'd shown him, in a moment that left his mouth dry and his heart pounding.
And now his best friend had to pay, too. He'd thought the other boy was his friend, even dared to hope that he would think it was interesting or cool. Instead, he'd reacted with fear and anger. He'd left. He wasn't there for him anymore. And so he would pay, just like all the others would.
He wondered if there were others like him. Others who could do what he could do. There didn't seem to be any way to find out. If it worried them like it did him, if they wanted to hide it like he did, they'd never find each other. He had toyed with the idea of putting an advertisement in a big newspaper and seeing who'd respond, but who had that kind of money? Well, Vince and Marybeth did. But not him. He didn't deserve it, at least not until he got an attitude adjustment. That was Vince's expert opinion, of course.
He looked at the picture on his wall. The one picture he kept. The only picture he had, of anything. It was his mother. He'd never known her. He didn't know how he'd gotten the picture. He'd just always seemed to have it, riding around in the shabby backpack that had gone with him everywhere until whoever he'd been living with when he was twelve—Ms. Sadie, wasn't it?—had thrown it away along with most of his clothes. The picture fascinated him. It wasn't that he had any romantic sentiments of finding his mother someday. He just wondered who she'd been. If she'd been like him.
His mother was standing in front of some sort of Institute. He could see the word "Institute" on the sign behind her. She was young, maybe fifteen or sixteen, his age. She was happy. She was also wearing some kind of cape or cloak or something. A piece of clothing he had never seen outside of this picture. It made him think. Was she like him? Was the Institute a place for people like them? Was she wearing a uniform?
Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. Maybe he was just a freak.
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He threw his backpack down beside a fallen log and dumped the load of sticks he'd been gathering. He quickly dug out a shallow fire pit and built the sticks up for a campfire. He untied his sleeping roll—a shabby homemade camping bed consisting of the lining he'd ripped out of a previously comfortable mattress and two blankets—from his backpack and laid it out on an area he swept free of debris with his feet. He pulled a bag of soy nuts and dried fruit—gag, but it was the only portable food in the house—out of the bag and munched on a handful of it. Then he glanced around.
There was really no point to glancing around, of course. He was out in the woods. He was alone. But he was paranoid about this stuff, understandably so. It didn't do to have witnesses, as his friend had made so clear a few days ago.
He concentrated everything he had on the pile of kindling in front of him, staring at it, hardly breathing, his hearing faded out and his body perfectly still. In his hand was a stick he'd held so often that the surface was smooth and polished.
"Flame," he whispered. Nothing happened. But he had learned to be patient. He focused all his concentration on moving the energy from his body through the straight stick he'd had as long as he'd had the picture, pointing it towards the kindling. "Come on, flame."
Then it happened. There was a spark and a little puff of smoke, and then a tongue of orange flame started creeping up the pile of kindling and growing outward. He waited only a moment, then set a few larger sticks on the pile. Then he looked over the darkening patch of woods at the pile of larger wood he'd left under a tarp to dry out a couple of weeks ago. He pointed the stick at it. The mysterious stick that was part of his secret.
"Come here," he said in a low, intense voice. "Log, come here."
Slowly, ever so slowly, the log on top of the stack lifted itself from the others and floated through the air toward him. Excited with this progress, his concentration slipped, and the log thunked to the ground. He swore, and redirected his attention to getting his (his what? His life source? His energy? His magic?) ability to move through the stick he pointed and reach into the log. To lift it from the ground and carry it toward him. Finally, it fell at his feet, and he added it to the fire.
This was why he'd come out here to camp for the weekend. To practice. He was better with changing people's minds, or something like it. He'd experimented with that, when he could get away with pointing a stick at people and not being seen. Usually under the bleachers. That was how he'd shown his friend what he could do. They'd been smoking under the bleachers, and the baseball coach had been yelling at someone. He had pointed his stick (his magic wand?) at the coach and said "Cheer up." And it had happened. He'd stopped yelling, started acting too cheerful, almost like a happy drunk like the foster dad he'd had when he was nine. He hadn't spoken to his friend since.
He came out here to practice the physical stuff. The moving things around and starting fires. He didn't know what all he could do, what there was to do. He just played around and experimented to see if anything would happen. He wondered if it was like working out. Like if he moved enough logs, he'd be able to move something larger, then something larger. He worked hard at it. It was the only thing he really worked hard at, much to the chagrin of schoolteachers and foster parents everywhere. This was the only thing he really wanted to learn.
He wanted a teacher. Someone who could show him what to do. Because he couldn't be the only one. His mother had been like him. He knew it. But if there were others like him, they weren't walking up to him and telling him about it. Why did this have to be so hard? Why didn't they have some kind of system? America had a system for every damn thing, why didn't the government have a department for this or something? It pissed him off.
He allowed himself to get angry, and fed off it. Usually he could do better when he was upset. The anger fed through the stick and made his . . . his magic stronger.
"I want some real fruit," he snarled, pointing his stick at the bag of trail mix. Tiny shriveled bits of apple swelled and became big, juicy chunks. Surprised, he dropped the stick. He'd never done anything like that before.
"You want to take better care of that," an amused voice said behind him.
Startled, he fell off the log when he tried to turn around too quickly, and he joined his stick on the bed of decomposing pine needles. He grabbed hold of it and pointed it at the figure approaching him.
"Be afraid of me!" he shouted, trying to channel his emotion toward the person.
The woman—it was definitely a woman—held up her own stick and said something that sounded like a foreign language. There was a flash of light around her, and whatever it was that he'd directed at her seemed to bounce off a force field surrounding her. He stared. She could do it, too. She was like him.
Mother. The word flashed in his mind, but he dismissed it immediately while she continued to approach and the firelight fell on her face. She was much too young to be his mother, and she didn't look anything like the picture. She was pretty. Really pretty, actually. She was maybe thirty, good and curvy and with a spill of multi-hued brown hair that caught the firelight awfully attractively. God, she had the best tits he'd ever seen. Granted, most of the boobs he'd seen were attached to fifteen-year-olds, but still . . .
She grinned when she saw the direction of his gaze. "Boys," she sighed. "You could be in mortal danger right now, and that's still all you can think about."
"Well, I am sixteen," he pointed out, standing up and brushing pine needles off his clothes. She didn't seem to be about to kill him or anything.
"Making me technically old enough to be your mother."
"So I'll try to get some milk out of them," he said boldly, hardly believing the words were coming out of his mouth. Honestly, he'd finally met someone like him and this was all he could say?
She smiled lazily, confidently. "Maybe later. Right now, we've got things to talk about."
"How did you do that?"
She raised an eyebrow, both at the question and at his gesture for her to sit on his fallen log and share the fire.
"I might choose right now to point out that your powers are so unfocused that an infant could probably shield itself against you," she said dryly, "but I think what you're asking is what I did, not how."
He scowled, but she answered while he was still framing an appropriately insulting reply.
"It's called a Shield Charm. It's one of the first things you learn."
"Who learns?" he challenged. "Nobody taught me a thing."
"So I can see." And she suddenly looked a little sad, like she was sorry for him. "It happens that way more often than you'd think. I didn't start learning until I was your age, either."
"How'd you learn?"
"Somebody found me, and taught me. Just like I've found you."
He stared at her. Was she offering to teach him? Had the fulfillment of his craziest hope fallen into his lap this easily?
"You're speechless," she smirked, obviously enjoying her control over the situation. "Well?"
"You'd teach me? About . . . what it is I can do?"
"Magic, dear boy. You can do magic. What is your name, anyway?"
"Renegade," he smirked back. "At least, that's what you can call me."
She smiled a genuine smile, a smile of pleasure. "You're smart, boy. I like that. If that's what you want to be called, then I will, but you might sit down and think of a less ridiculous nickname for yourself. I'm not afraid, so I'll actually introduce myself. I'm Annie."
"Why would you be afraid?" he pointed out. "I can't do shit to you."
"Not yet, anyway."
"Why are you here? How did you know I was here?"
"I didn't," she shrugged. "I was on my way elsewhere, and I figured these woods would be out of sight so I could take a break. I saw your fire and came over to see what it was. I saw you moving those logs, and transfiguring those apples. Can I have some, by the way? I'm starving."
"Help yourself," he said automatically, handing over the Ziploc bag. "Doing what to the apples?"
Annie grinned at him. "Oh, you have a lot to learn."
She looked at him with a face that abruptly went serious, deadly serious. "Do you want to learn, Renegade? Will you do everything I tell you without question and put all your effort into learning what I have to teach you?"
"I . . ."
"Your life as you know would be over, boy. Is that what you want?"
"Hell, yes," he said quickly. "My life sucks." She drew her brows down at that. "I mean, yes, Annie. I want to learn. I'll do anything."
She smiled again, and bit into a piece of apple. The juice ran down her chin and he stared at it, stared at the drop on her lucscious neck glistening in the firelight.
"Good. Go home and pack your things, boy. We'll leave tonight."
He thought about that. Thought about leaving the place he'd almost started to consider home, with its torturous responsibilities and the constant arguments. He gave her what he hoped was a rakish look that would not betray his virgin status.
"I might have to be gone for a few hours. What will you give me to convince me that you're not a dream?"
She caught the insinuation, and she laughed. It was a deep, throaty, seductive laugh, and she was definitely doing it on purpose, the bitch. She had no intentions of letting him do anything more than stare.
"Here," she said, and leaned forward. She placed a deep sucking kiss on the skin below his ear, making him gasp for breath and shudder. "Now I've marked you as my apprentice. Hurry up. I want to leave as soon as possible."
He stared at her with amazement and excitement.
"Back in a flash."