Uff! Long time no see, huh? So sorry about the delay... for those of you who haven't read this in Nihao My Lex, my grandmother who pretty much raised me since birth died. On top of it all, dad had a bloody clot in his chest arteries and so went through a coronary bypass surgery. Thankfully, it was preplanned and not an emergency, but still... It doesn't help that he's a bad patient, always wanting to get back on his feet and do something. Sigh.
Well, that's my sorry Real Life story.
Granted, that wasn't the only reason for the delay, but it was a good part of it. I committed a big blunder. My baby cousin, who's only eight, somehow managed to hoodwink me into watching the Twilight saga in a theater that was showing Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse back to back. And I thought the books were sub-par...
Seriously, the only reason I finished this chapter was because I already started it before going to that torture chamber from hell. Never again. I had to purify myself with endless hours watching Battle Royale, Eyeshield 21, and Katekyoushi Hitman Reborn before I could hear the word vampire without cringing. The horror... Master Stoker must be rolling in his grave...
Anyway, I've screwed around with Jasper's past, hopefully no more so than Meyer did with her own creation, and came up with something a bit more believable. For the hardcore Jasper fans, you're welcome to refute the changes I've made.
Jasper appreciated loyalty. It was a very honorable, and above all, essential to continued survival quality. When knee-deep in mud, starving, and expecting to get your head lopped off at a moment's vulnerability, it was good to know that the soldier next to you not only wasn't planning your imminent death but would also have your back. He'd taken that for granted as a human. Filled with patriotic self-righteousness and safe in the assumption that everyone else felt the same, he'd been ill-prepared for the moment he was turned and joined Maria's army of resentful mutineers in the making.
Abusing the newborns that weren't equipped with special abilities or anything in particular that would make them irreplaceable to the army wasn't the only nerve-wracking thing he'd endured. The newborns were easy to deal with compared to Jasper's fellow "officers." Those guys had one hand patting each others' backs in congratulations and another tucked behind their backs with a knife ready to strike at the first sign of a fuck up. All of them were turned without consent. All of them hated the war they previously had no part of, and frankly, wanted nothing to do with. All of them wanted Maria and her sisters dead, raped, humiliated, and forgotten.
The Jasper of the Southern Vampire Wars would have said something along the lines of "Forgiveness? What is this forgiveness you are speaking of? I don't believe I am familiar with that word. Mercy is also rather unfamiliar now that I think about it."
When Lucy and Nettie had rebelled against their sister, Jasper had smiled when those bitches finally gave him a good reason to tear them limb from limb. He hadn't felt as satisfied as he did when he killed the whore that sired him, however, that little revolt had allowed him to get closer to Maria.
What an arrogant fool. She though that he honestly believed she loved him. Him, the empath, the truth finder. It was as insulting as it was nauseating.
She'd been easy to fool, too. All it took was expanding her hubris and the blinders never went off. She never realized that it was an open secret among her army that Jasper was just waiting for the right moment and SLASH! The bitch is dead.
Last he'd heard, Willa had taken over Maria's territory, after properly disposing of competition of course. Jasper had taken one good look at the black woman he would have considered his inferior in another life and decided that a piece of land was not worth his life. The illusion mistress had enough patience to fill the sea and the motivation to have anyone responsible for her misery suffer a thousand hells. She hated anyone that ever owned a slave or condoned to slavery by omission. It was a wonder the southern parts of the USA still had humans.
Luckily for him, Peter had fallen in love with the then newborn Charlotte and his intervention had put Peter in his debt. A debt that had gotten Jasper out of the line of fire as soon as Maria's remains flew, forgotten, to the four winds.
After living with close enemies for decades, Jasper vowed to himself that he would never, ever, take loyalty for granted ever again. He'd even gone to check on his remaining family once. His father had died not long after learning of Jasper's death. His only brother got married and inherited the estate and the plantations. Jedediah had been ecstatic about that little tidbit. Oh, he'd been devastated when Jasper didn't return home, but everyone cries differently when there's money to receive. Of course, when the war was over and he actually had to pay the help for their services, baby brother started singing a different tune over his new responsibilities. It didn't help that he lived with mother and she never let him forget about the Whitlock family's former glory.
Permelia had been married long before Jasper joined the army. It had saddened Jasper to see his sister with a man she didn't and could never love, silently suffering the indignities of his infidelities and repressing her own sexuality out of an unhealthy instruction that women who enjoyed sex were no better than prostitutes. A part of Jasper had wanted to go to her, tell her that he wasn't dead, not really, show her a way out… but how could he do that when he himself was depressed over his vampirism? No. He'd done enough damage when he'd been alive, pressuring Permelia to marry and honor the family name. The results were a depressed sister with no real friends in her corner, children she couldn't stand and who viewed her (almost correctly) as a controlling tyrant, and dashed hopes of a family that lost its importance.
He'd been a man of his time, Jasper could concede to that. It'd been a horrible time. A time of racism, sexism, and repression of all sorts. But that didn't excuse him for the damage he'd done, conditioning or no conditioning. His other two sisters had been able to get past that.
Hester might have been the youngest but she had been the wiliest of all the Whitlock siblings. Long accustomed to the imposed stigma of self-effacing and self-sacrifice that came with being born with a double X chromosome, Hester took advantage of the frailty everyone though she possessed to secure her own interests. She'd always known that, though her parents and brothers really did love her in their own way, the only one that would be looking out for her own self interests and only hers was Hester herself. Her own safety and desires were secondary to anything else by virtue of her being a woman.
It was no surprise when the little opportunist married her guileless, suggestible, and (most important of all) well off Yankee of a husband. If Jasper had been smart, he would have inspected his sister's loyalties instead of military news to gauge how well the war was going. Hester never supported or condemned the Confederation Army in public, she'd waited until the Union acquired the Mississippi River to very loudly claim her allegiance to the Union. That right there should have been a sign for Jasper to offer the Yankees his unconditional surrender. Too bad his father's enraged letter didn't reach him with that information before he was turned. So many things could have been different if only he'd gotten that missive immediately. It would have been impossible at the time, but hindsight was 20/20 and frustrated folks with what ifs.
His eldest sister remained a suffragist, she'd been disowned when he last saw her but that did not in any way deter her. She'd gone to New York and joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Brownell Anthony's National Woman Suffrage Association. Fidelia never married, remained a proud spinster to her last happy days. She was never satisfied with small victories, believing that women will truly be equal when a daughter was held at the same value as a son. As soon as Jasper had heard of the Suffragettes' victory in 1920, he'd smiled and longed to cry. At 82, Fidelia had borne witness the fruits of the women's rights movement. It was a poignant moment. She was dying when her life began to ameliorate.
Even so, out of all his siblings, there was none he was more proud of than Fidelia. He regretted shunning her and her decisions. He regretted helping father pressure Permelia into becoming the perfect Southern Belle in response to Fidelia's beliefs, thus creating the irreparable wedge between the sisters. He regretted the petty rivalry he'd had with Jedediah over an inheritance that had come to mean nothing. He regretted ignoring Hester and thinking her a disloyal shrew for having self-preservation instincts.
Jasper supposed that the real curse behind vampirism wasn't the cannibalism but rather the memories. Even with all the memories that he'd lost as a newborn, he'd regained them back out of spite and diligence. They were his saving grace against his enslavement to Maria. But also, they were condemnations. It wasn't pleasant being on the other side of the ownership and it wasn't pleasant losing his rights. It'd been the wake-up call he and plenty other people didn't get until much later, and even then it had only been properly drilled into their skulls during the Civil Rights Movement.
He remembered when he'd had to whore himself to Maria just to keep his secure position as her second-in-command and lover to keep himself safe. He'd wanted nothing more than to vomit after the first time he'd forced himself to ejaculate inside her. No wonder Hester wanted to pick and choose her husband. No wonder Fidelia wanted nothing to do with marriage. No wonder Permelia had been terrified of her arranged marriage.
What had he done?
Jasper had been a loyal man by the 1860's definition of the word. He'd put country, honor, and god before anything else. Now, what he wanted most in the world was to be a loyal man by its true definition. Not to abstracts he had only vague ideas about but to people. To people that actually mattered and cared and loved him.
That was why, when faced with the prospect of smuggling a baby dragon from Hogwarts to Romania in order to keep gullible Hagrid out of trouble, Jasper hadn't hesitated to sign up on the new adventure.
So what if dragons were the most dangerous of creatures to beings that were highly flammable. Jasper wasn't letting his friends handle this alone.
Raoul Urquhart was not a recognizable public figure like the Minister of Magic. He wasn't even a visible Shadow King like Lucius Malfoy or Albus Dumbledore. He owned his own bar in Parallel Alley, home of the struggling muggleborns and squibs that had opted to stay in the oppressive Wizarding World rather than take their chances in the Muggle World. It was the wizarding underbelly, a bigger tragedy than Knockturn Alley one might say. So many of these individuals didn't end up with substandard salaries and degrading jobs because they were incompetent. Many of them were above-average wizards and witches with fair scores on their OWLs and NEWTs. However, fair scores weren't enough for the "wrong sort" to get the jobs their scores should enable them to acquire. The only way a halfblood was preferred over a pureblood was if the former had an Exceeds Expectations over the latter's Acceptable. If it was a muggleborn competing with a pureblood, the muggleborn had to have an Outstanding to the pureblood's Acceptable to even be considered.
Squibs were barely tolerated as is, some families that actually cared about their "ineffective" progeny bemoaned the fact that they couldn't kill the poor bugger out of mercy and spare 'em the pain of living with its disgrace and the world's prejudice.
Raoul had counseled many a squib to forget this world and earn an education in the Muggle World. In that world, at least, there were laws, actual written laws, against discrimination of any sort. Didn't mean that it didn't happen, muggles were just as prejudiced as the next wizard, but if there was evidence of discrimination occurring, the lawsuit would cost the offender too much to risk.
Many squibs and muggleborns had long since given up on wizards in general. It was thanks to Raoul that there was something resembling a network among the minorities; although it as mostly poor halfbloods with not connections, muggleborns, and squibs. There were half a dozen werewolves within the network, nothing much but at least it was expanding thanks to Lucas.
Some muggleborns came from middleclass families that could support their children after they've wasted years of schooling in a world that would never accept them. Some stayed with their families until they finished their vocational or university studies and got the jobs they've worked their arses for. Others got jobs mostly through their parents. Others had friends in really high places or had family members that owned companies.
Those were the lucky ones.
The ones who came from families with smaller pockets didn't have the luxury of going back to school or negotiating for a better job. Some slummed it at the Wizarding World, fighting tooth and nail for their meager means, living with resentment growing in the pit of their stomachs, and living under Raoul's powerful but limited protection. In that sense, there wasn't much difference to the living conditions between squibs and muggleborns.
The network Raoul had set up helped, but only so far. If a muggleborn or squib or the occasional halfblood needed legal help, a lawyer from the Muggle World would help out with the similar legal jargon. If someone was injured, plenty of muggleborns became doctors that would come and heal someone as much as they could for a generous discount. Whenever a plausible position opened in the Muggle World, the Insiders would set the word out to hopeful potentials.
Just last week, Ashlee McPherson got a post as a manager at an ice-cream shop. She was being paid double what she earned in her job as a clerk in Flourish and Blotts. Another muggleborn, Simone Burton, had pulled some strings to help Ashlee get employed at the shop her cousin had shares in.
If that was cronyism, well then how else could these kids fight against discrimination? You shut up and protect your own. That was the simple secret to survival.
The lads of Michael Merriweather's group were one of the few muggleborns and squibs that managed to find acceptable jobs in the muggle world while coming from families of low income (or being disowned sons). They'd joined the muggle military.
As Michael had so aptly said: "At this point, I have two choices: I can either end up in jail or in the army. I choose the army."
Raoul had wished them luck with free Firewhiskey for two days.
Britain was not a good place to be muggleborn or squib. Raoul himself had many things that kept him from getting a good job in the magical world, but he wouldn't return to the muggle world for personal reasons either.
There was only one solution left. Rather than serve Heaven, he'd reign in Hell.
That was why even Albus Dumbledore wouldn't disrespect Mr. Urquhart with tardiness or ignoring a summons.
Sitting in the old but clean bar, Dumbledore nervously noted the lack of children and patrons. Had he been anyone else, Albus would have been covered in cold sweat.
This was not good. At this hour, there would be children of overworked parents or children of prostitutes in the bar, drinking pumpkin juice with cauldron cakes and receiving an informal-only-because-there-was-no-classroom muggle education from the retired but alert Mrs. Glenna Hull.
The children were banned from the bar when something violent might happen.
Albus fingered his hidden portkey.
There were no patrons asking for liquid strength to get through the day or paying for meals. It was 12 in the afternoon, the time where most employees got their lunch break.
When the bar was empty in those circumstances, delicate information was involved.
Albus still remembered the day Walden McNair had called Raoul a mudblood. Raoul had calmly gestured Mrs. Hull to take the children for a walk and, once the children stopped eavesdropping, had Mr. McNair restrained and just as calmly cut off the vile man's tongue.
The Death Eater had learned fear then, when he was surrounded by too many mudbloods, all balls of resentment and hatred, just waiting for an excuse, any excuse to torture the murderous bastard to death. He never came back, or asked for his tongue back, realizing that Raoul letting him go hadn't been an act of soft mercy but rather a warning.
To the world outside the Alley, Raoul was another muggleborn bar owner of relative success. To Parallel Alley, Raoul was the Law.
Albus didn't fidget, but even he had to admit that McNair's preserved tongue nailed on the bar's wall was disturbing. It remained far away from the clean glasses hanging from the wooden rafters. Likewise, it never came close to the bottles stacked together by brew, quality, and alphabetized. The tongue lay there, not intruding upon the organized space it shared, but counseling the customer that the barista was not a man who suffered insults.
"You're a busy man and I have to pay my taxes so that the Ministry can squander my money on useless projects," Raoul said. He gave Albus a glass full of rum and drank his own shot.
"Yes," Albus said, "Perhaps commencing this meeting would be a wise investment of our time."
"Did you know the Dursley family abused Harry Potter?"
"I beg your pardon?" Albus hadn't spat out his drink because he'd had the foresight not to put it near his lips until Raoul said his piece.
"You heard me. Did you know your new student, someone under your protection while he attends your educational institution, was abused by his relatives before arriving at Hogwarts?"
Albus remained silent before he sighed, "Poppy."
Raoul didn't say a word.
"Is she certain?" Albus asked, a quiet desperation in his eyes.
"Malnourishment. Overused muscles. Low sugar count. Second degree burns on his hands from handing heavy metals near a hot object, say a stove. Better night sight than day sight. Clothes that are three sizes too big and ragged with age in spite of the relatives purchasing a new state-of-the-art toy for the cousin every week. Hogwarts letter, if you had bothered to check, addressed multiple times to the "Cupboard Under the Stairs." Neighboring children confirmed that cousin Dudley Dursley bullies everyone in the block but his special target is Harry Potter. Adults told that Harry Potter is a trouble maker and is currently attending St. Brutus' Institute for Criminal Boys. Harry Potter himself possesses a dangerously low trust and dependence of adult figures. He does not suffer from anorexia or bulimia either, rather he hoards food and eats anything filling that is in front of him, so the starvation was not self-imposed."
Albus' knuckles were white, his eyes arctic cold.
"You can either take the boy away from those beasts or I take those animals to the nearest Auror and feed them Veritaserum. Your choice," Raoul laced his fingers together and stared his old professor in the eye.
"You do realize what would happen if the media got a wind of this, don't you?"
"You're under the mistaken impression that I actually give a toss about muggles."
"Ah, but a negative view on muggles does indeed affect the muggleborn community."
Raoul snorted, "With all due respect, Professor, a little more public disdain isn't going to make much of a difference. For all the equal opportunity there is at your school, the rest of the world is still stuck in the dark ages."
"And what of those that have succeeded?"
"Great contacts, excellent forgery skills, and extensive etiquette lessons. Not too different from your own mother if I'm not mistaken. She took the secret of her heritage to the grave."
Albus nodded, though it pained him to agree.
"Raoul, I understand what's at stake but I assure you I did not place Harry with them lightly."
"Are your reasons a good justification for the equivalent of placing Ariana with the muggles that essentially turned her into a squib?"
Albus flinched, his magic rising with his shame and rage but he controlled it. He deserved that.
"I need him to be with his blood relatives or his mother's sacrifice won't protect him as well as it should," Albus turned pleading eyes on the impassive man before him.
He would never say it was "For the Greater Good" to this man. The realities he saw daily made such a statement laughable.
"All you need is their blood? Then kill the filth and have the woman's blood placed in a jar. That should follow the rules of the ritual."
"Only living blood will work," Albus said. Life energy was a powerful tool against magic created by death.
"Then have the muggle authorities arrest the worms and have Harry and his cousin live together in a safe environment."
"Relatives are separated in foster systems."
"Stop acting as though you don't have a finger in that pie."
"Not as much as I would hope."
"Then you leave me no choice," Raoul said, "You have until the end of the school year to come up with an acceptable solution. If you do not have one I agree with, I will bring my last proposition. If you will not find it acceptable, I willgo to the press and insure that those monsters are placed right next to the Lestranges."
"Do we understand one another?"
"You don't know—"
"You're right, I don't know and I don't care. I don't know how you can care about an abstract People when you could be helping a hurting child that is right in front of your nose."
Albus tensed at the raised voice. Only an idiot would make an enemy of the Parallel Alley response to the Chicago Daleys.
It was even more foolish when the man had the moral high ground.
Some part of Albus, the part that had Ariana imprinted evermore behind his retinas, was relieved for the solution. He hadn't wanted to confront his own criminal choices, but forced he could keep the blinders. For his own sake.
"I don't suppose I could convince you that young Malik would find it advantageous to have a Hogwarts education."
"You know my position. It is useless without a muggle one."
"Full ride scholarship."
"And the rest of my kids?"
By the time Draco Malfoy realized his bout of mumps had not been in fact natural, it was too late. Harry, Jasper, Daphne, Blaise, Morag and Cynthia had already successfully smuggled Norberta the Norwegian Ridgeback out of Hogwarts with no small help from the Weasley twins.
Charlie Weasley had been so proud to see his baby brothers cooperating with generous Slytherins. Daphne had left the Astronomy Tower with starry eyes.
Snakes did not rat out other snakes. Not even if said snakes had been in cahoots with mischievous lions.
For the next three weeks, Snape kept giving the sextet these looks that could compete with a basilisk. The kids had to up their game in Potions just to prevent the man from docking more points from their grades. Morgana knew he took enough from invented slights and errors.
Blaise and Morag immediately complained to their very influential parents. Morag might have cared little for standard grading but she did not want to disappoint her father over something so petty. Blaise had made it clear to his year mates that his mother would hear of this and her reaction would not be pretty.
Jasper had to appreciate the irony of his current position.
Whatever Ilaria Zabini or Maximilian McDougal had said to their dour Professor had curbed his creative grading though the dark looks remained, more poisonous than ever.
Apparently, only his godson was allowed to tattle. Hypocrite.
Although the man kept his complaints to a minimum when Harry won the match against Ravenclaw before a single quaffle was thrown over a hoop.
Everything was as calm as a boarding school could be… even with the kids going to visit Fluffy every chance they got. Mostly to keep Daphne from stealing the pup for herself.
Aside from that, everything was normal. Hence why Jasper was so jumpy. It was too calm. Someone, and by someone he meant Quirell who still felt like two souls inhabiting one body and who still gave Harry migraines if they were ever in the same room, was going to do something sinister. It isn't paranoia if someone is out to get you.
Thankfully, Blaise and the girls hadn't laughed off his concern and merely created a barricade between the boys and Quirell by sitting in front of them and at their sides while Jasper and Harry where next to the door. Personally, Jasper would have felt better having the kids protected behind him but he appreciated the gesture for what it was.
Of course, when Hagrid off-handedly mentioned that some (desperate, nothing to lose) beast was killing the unicorns and feeding off their blood, alarm bells started ringing for the group. Harry in particular was worried that because the unicorns had been fed upon "vampire style" that Jasper would be the prime suspect out of prejudice. He needn't have worried, Flitwick, Sprout and Pomfrey had risen to Jasper's defense before Snape could utter an accusation.
Jasper was a vampire. Unicorn blood only gave more life force to the dying. Jasper was in perfect health for a childe and he was, unless if someone chose to scorch and decapitate him, immortal. In conclusion, unicorn blood was about as useful to Jasper as a solar-powered flashlight was to a desert-dweller.
Unfortunately, after that episode, Jasper was loath to tell the rest of his friends about his mandatory liquid dietary needs. Daphne, he knew, would be alright with it… more than alright with it really. She'd try to adopt him and cuddle him as soon as she figured it out. Morag was too rational to discriminate her friend. At most, she'd beg him to try out some (maybe harmless) experiments on him to sate her insatiable curiosity.
It was Cynthia and Blaise's reactions he wasn't too sure on. Cynthia had grown up in the muggle world, where vampires starred in gory horror stories that only ended quasi-happily if the monster was slayed. On the other hand, entering the magical world had changed her perception of many a subject. She was a big question mark in that respect.
Blaise, no matter how privately kind, had grown up viewing vampires as a real threat. From what Jasper had gleaned from his research, calling a Frenchman a Théophile was as insulting as calling any German a Gellert. Théophile Comeaux was a 15th century vampire that gave his race the same bad rep that Fenrir Greyback gave werewolves. Had the foul vampire not already had the victims' mothers utterly destroy him during the 18th century, most people would assume that Jasper had been turned by the man. Even now, when the authorities didn't know what vampire sired the unwilling or caused senseless destruction, irregardless of gender, it was called a Théophile.
Yeah, with that kind of social history and conditioning, Jasper could understand why more than a few wizarding children would feel uneasy (read: terrified out of their wits) at the thought of being within arms' reach of a vampire.
Jasper resolved to ease his friends slowly to the idea while surviving secondary school.
Sigh. Alright. He was a remorseless murderer. He could admit that. He'd owned slaves and fought to keep them. He was a manipulative bastard on so many levels and he deserved to atone for the shit-load of crimes he'd done in human and vampiric lifetimes.
All the same. This was cruel and unusual.
Hence why he had to suck it up, grin and bear it. Women did it all the damned time… guess that's why they're the real powerful sex.
So there they were, in the Slytherin First Year Boys' empty dorm, working on their homework and possible future projects so that their GDPs wouldn't suffer if Quirell chose to do something stupid before exams.
Before Yule holidays, Morag had gotten Flint to give her the homework and essay topics the more rigid professors assigned. McGonagall, for example, had many years of teaching under her belt and had found a rhythm and a fool-proof lesson plan that hardly ever changed aside from a tweak here or there. The same could be said for Flitwick, Sprout, and Binns… although the latter was the most extreme example of repeating a syllabus anyone had ever seen.
Whenever they'd question her as to how she'd gotten Flint to fork over the papers without extracting a favor, Flint would get this hunted look on his face and his hands would twitch as though he was prepared to permanently silence Morag if it came down to it.
It was rather scary how much dirty laundry that girl found from simple observation.
Jasper was just glad she was on his side.
Harry sighed, flexing his cramped hand after he finished another Charms essay that would be assigned around May. He added it to the stack with a blue post-it.
It was hard doing yet-to-be-assigned homework while completing the regular ones for Snape and Sinistra and keeping up with Quidditch Practice. Thank Merlin Jasper had bullied him into getting a head start during Yule.
He wished he had thought to buy a fountain pen like Cynthia had. Her essays looked much neater than his by half with a much flowery calligraphy. The platinum bracelet with the crescent moon charms that Blaise had gotten her never came close to the ink. When asked how she did that, she'd just laughed and replied "with practice."
Apparently, before she got her Hogwarts letter, she'd been all set to attend Wolverhampton Girls' High School.
Morag, upon learning that Wolverhampton was a prestigious secondary school with only 108 seats available for prospective applicants, had given Cynthia the bitter news that, actually, she might have been better off going to Wolverhampton rather than taking her chances in Magical "I am so Prejudiced and Proud of It" Britain.
"What?" Cynthia whispered. She heard Morag's very logical, very maddening explanation. Her brain just refused to process it.
Morag nodded, guilt shining from her insomniac eyes. She regretted destroying the hope in her friend's grey eyes but it was better she hear it from a friend, with plenty of time to prepare for this seditious world, rather than get the nastiest shock of her life while recently graduated and hunting for employment.
Jasper's lips were pressed together tightly to the point that his mouth was a horizontal white line. Cynthia's despair washed over him, quiet but with a mounting buzz. The implications had yet to hit home but it was only a matter of time before the jerky ripples turned into turbulent waves of misery.
Harry's furious outrage, Blaise's cool disgust and Daphne's boiling wrath joined the symphony of emotions. Morag might have been quiet but the resigned fury bubbling beneath her indifferent veneer spoke louder than any words.
Jasper struggled to keep himself in check even as his own indignation urged him to rage on his friend's behalf. Hell that could be him, that was him, the muggleborn.
The word felt like the shackle that it was. The political correctness hiding the rejection of the Other. At that moment, Jasper would have found mudblood the lesser insult, at least it wasn't hypocritical enough to pretend it wasn't a slur.
Cynthia's eyes watered, the salty taste filling Jasper's nostrils and he pushed down his useless emotions. What Cynthia needed was a shoulder and a plan to rectify her misinformed (criminally so) decision.
Daphne came to the rescue. She scooted closer to her friend and hugged her. Cynthia stood still, as though she hadn't felt the tactile comfort but Daphne held on. Soon, Cynthia's shoulders trembled, her sobs only audible to vampiric ears, a struggle to keep what was left of her dignity. Daphne said nothing, not even the ever popular shushing sounds, she just rubbed her back and let her get it out of her system.
Morag flinched and lowered her head in shame. She refused to look in Jasper's direction.
Blaise remained immobile, his mind swirling with problems he never had to think about before he befriended people outside his typical rich pureblood acquaintances.
Harry gripped Jasper's hand, worry and horror giving him a tight grip. Had Jasper been human, he would have needed to flex his hand. As it was, he held Harry's hand, giving his friend the contact he needed.
Harry reached with his free hand and touched Cynthia's shoulder and awkwardly rubbed it. Daphne shot him a proud, grateful look that warmed him.
"I'm sorry," Morag raspy whisper felt like a scream.
"No," Cynthia said. She pulled her tear-streaked face away from Daphne's shoulder, "I'm… glad you told me now. It's just, I mean. Fuck. I chose a bloody illusion over the real deal and I just feel so damned stupid," she laughed, "Can't complain about future crappy jobs after this, eh?"
"Of course not," Blaise snapped, "If anyone is at fault it's whoever explained our world to you and your parents."
"Yeah," Harry said, "Even Hagrid never mentioned any of this."
"I only know about it because the wife made a comment about it," from Morag's frown, it was easy to guess that the comment had not been pleasant.
Jasper didn't take away Cynthia's sadness, it was her right, but he did send her small tendrils of comfort. He felt her knowing appreciation along with everyone else's but now was not the time to fess up to something that had become an open secret.
Cynthia slowly uncoiled from Daphne's comforting arms, her arm hastily rubbing away her tears. She put on a straight face in spite of the puffy red eyes and the mild mucus running down her lips. Blaise gave her his handkerchief. Before she could clean herself up, Daphne took the cloth and gently wiped her face.
Cynthia appreciated it. No matter how mortifying it would normally be to be babied in front of her friends, it reminded her of her mother and she reveled in the familiar comfort.
"Is there anyway you can re-apply to Wolverhampton?" Jasper asked.
"After I told them I would be going to another school?" Cynthia said, "Even if they were amenable, there's almost no transfer opportunities and even then, it's only to really brilliant girls like Morag or Granger."
"And how are they going to know you aren't?" Harry asked, "I mean, they'd accepted you, so you're a prime candidate. Besides, you get better test results than some of the smartest students, how are they going to be able to tell?"
One of Cynthia's greatest strengths was her ability to see patterns and work with them. As a young child, while intelligent, she had not gotten jaw-dropping grades that have become the standard for prestigious schools. It wasn't so much that she was pressured by her parents to get into said prestigious schools, she was more gently coached that those schools would really help her in the future.
Cynthia had always been intelligent. It's just that above-average intelligence is not the same as genius with eidetic memory.
So, she chose the next best thing. Cheating. From 2nd to 3rd grade, she'd cheated her way into becoming one of the top 10 percent students of her primary school. By the 4th grade, though, her tactics had changed. She'd noticed that sometimes, tests were a little too repetitive, questions almost verbatim to the ones she got on her regular homework.
Figure out the pattern, less time wasted memorizing things that won't end up in the exam.
Without worrying about getting caught, Cynthia's new technique shot her up to the 5 percent of her grade.
It is always the lazy who come up with the most ingenious plans.
"Harry does have a point," Jasper said, "If Wolverhampton is as prestigious as you make it sound, chances are Granger was also accepted. And I'm willing to bet you two aren't the only ones that had to give it up for Hogwarts or another magical institution. Who's to say that someone in that school doesn't have an inkling that something strange is happening."
"For one or two students?" Cynthia deadpanned. Daphne tightened her hug.
"That gave up their chances at learning among the best of the best for an unknown? With students like Granger leaving, what do you think the school administration is going to do?" Morag said, "They'd be researching the competition."
Blaise caught on and smirked, "Yeah, someone must have put the pieces together. If that's the case I'm sure we can come up with an agreement of some sort."
Cynthia snorted, "Hate to break it to you but my parents don't have that kind of money. They're dipping into my college fund just to make sure I can go here."
"What am I, chopped liver?" Harry said, "I could pay for it. My parents were loaded and the interest has only gone up in ten years."
"You could, with the family vault," Morag said without letting Cynthia get a word edgewise, "But your trust fund only has enough for seven years at Hogwarts and some extra cash for emergencies and luxuries."
Harry scowled. He hated being dependant by law to useless adults like the Dursleys. He hoped they never learned of the Potter vaults or else he'd lose all of his inheritance to those cockroaches.
Daphne interrupted Cynthia, "My family's only a bit better than the Weasleys' financially speaking… although that could just be because the moms stopped at two instead of seven."
Morag nodded with a pensive frown, "Father might be sympathetic but it's one thing for his illegitimate, and therefore out of his control, daughter to befriend a muggleborns but for him to become said muggleborns' patron? He might not support Voldemort but he has important colleagues that are."
"Step-father number four is a former Death Eater," Blaise said, "But mamma should make him useful within the end of the school year. He's already past the year-mark, anyway."
Jasper twitched. He knew that Blaise's mother was a professional Black Widow, but to hear his friend talk about it so casually…
Hell, who was he to point fingers. Slaves were a fact of life for him before he got the metaphysical kick in the ass.
"I'm not a charity case, you know," Cynthia bit out.
"No, you're our friend," Blaise said, "Just like Jasper's our friend. And last I checked, friends help each other in any way they can when the shit hits the fan."
"…Blaise, I'm not the one that got into the secondary schooling version of Harvard," Jasper said.
"So?" Daphne said, "Best mates with three purebloods and the most famous kid in our generation won't do much for your chances in the future. Not unless there's a huge revolution before we graduate."
"What we need is an effective manner to finance Cynthia, Jasper, and maybe Harry's muggle education without losing wizarding privileges," Morag said.
"How? Harry can't access his vault until he's seventeen, fifteen if he can get a good barrister to argue his case as the last of a Noble House's line," Blaise said, "And the rest of us can't ask our parents either."
They sat in contemplative silence. Even Cynthia let go of her pride and conceded that she did not want to end up like many a poor wretch in Parallel Alley.
But she would pay them all back for their help. One way or another.
"The Stone!" Harry cried.
"The Stone?" Blaise gaped. Surely even Harry wouldn't have the stones to do that.
"What?" Harry said, leaning against Jasper for support, "We're not going to steal it, just borrow it for a bit. It'll be safer with us than with Quirell."
"We would require a lot of lead," Morag said, "We'll also need to take transfomogical weight differences into account."
"And a place to hide it," Jasper said, sold on the idea, especially if it gave him the excuse to kill Quirell before he tried anything.
"We could use Dymphana and Blaise's gifts to find the perfect hiding place," Daphne gestured to the platinum ring with a refined laurel motif on her left ring finger.
Morag's earrings of the same material as Daphne's ring were hidden behind perpetually messy and neglected black hair.
Blaise fingered the masculine chain around his neck for reassurance that there wasn't someone spying on them and their barmy and illegal plan.
Harry immediately began talking about transportation and maybe using Jasper's cottage as a temporary dumping space. Cynthia looked horrified and awed and pumped at the challenge. Jasper and Daphne smiled over their embraced friends. Morag was designing the most improbable and ingenious plan on a piece of paper that would later be burned.
Blaise sighed. It sucks to be the only sane one.
Jacob was numb. He was aware of the blood, he was aware of the great hunk of metal digging into his arm, he was aware of the alarmingly shorter breaths his mom's unconscious body was producing, he was even aware of the screaming and sobbing and apologies and oaths of never, ever, drinking again. Even the distant sound of sirens couldn't crash through the wall of nothingness because nothing mattered anymore.
His mom was dying. She wouldn't make it. He knew it with the same certainty he knew that the sun would rise from the east everyday. The stench of death and decay and goodbye filled his nostrils even as he wanted to shut down all sensations.
Someone help, he mouthed, no sound coming from his throat, not even a whimper.
He didn't cry and he was ashamed. It was his fault his mom was bleeding, broken, and her lips were turning blue. If he hadn't gotten so sick she wouldn't have needed to go to the hospital. His fault.
I'll do anything just help please help save my momma I'll do anything anything please just stop the blue her lips are not blue I'll do anything!
Jacob lurched. The raspy voice was close to his ear. Goosebumps bloomed from his back from the close resonance.
He turned around, his ten-year-old mind shrieking at the sight of the man's translucent body and robes. The coldly sympathetic zoisite green eyes glanced at his mother. Jacob could barely move. He shifted a bit, moved as much as his body and the heavy metal would let him until he was blocking his mom from the ghost as best as he could.
"You said you would be willing to do anything in order for your mother to live, is that right young man?"
Jacob stilled. He'd seen enough movies and series and read enough books to know that when some creep said anything conveniently after someone said they'll do anything didn't bode well.
Sarah Black gasped, fighting for air and more precious seconds as the living, fighting so that the paramedics could save her and she wouldn't die and leave her babies and her Billy.
Jacob's apprehension left as desperation clawed its way up his throat.
"As I said, you would be willing to do anything for your mother's life?"
Jacob nodded, his speech taken from him. What else could he do? In the movies, it was always the guy who promised anything that got the brunt of the deal. But these guys, the deal-makers, they didn't lie. If he promised him his momma would live, she would. It was his fault momma couldn't breathe and bleed and if he hadn't been sick and if she hadn't protected him she'd be alright. It was his fault, he should be a man and take responsibility for his mistakes.
If Billy Black ever learned of Jacob's reasoning, he would forever curse himself for ever uttering such a useless platitude to his son.
The man made a sharp gesture, nothing mystical about it, but Jacob felt a current of something pass him. He turned and saw her, his momma, his most beautiful, coolest, strongest woman in the world, still as death but breathing, the bleeding stilled as if someone had hit the pause button.
"I put your mother under the stasis spell. After all, if she died during negotiations this would all be a moot point."
"Now, here's what I propose," the man said as though the whole matter was already resolved and he was just reiterating as a formality, "I will leave the stasis spell until those ridiculously slow muggle healers transport her to the medical facility. Likewise, when the healers do attend her, I will be casting other spells to insure her survival irrespective of whichever incompetent she is assigned to. In return, you will leave this world and champion another. Though you will not be the one to destroy the great evil in your new home, you will be a knight, if you will, of the one who will vanquish Voldemort."
Leave this world? Jacob suddenly received images of a world hidden in plain sight. A world with magic and myths and wonder and prejudice. Glancing at the ghost's knowing gaze, Jacob somehow know those images were not from his own imagination but real.
Leave momma? Leave daddy? Leave Rachel and Rebecca even though they were girly and nerdy and kinda mean and teased him all the time? Leave Quil and Embry?
His momma's blue lips. His daddy crying, and daddy never cried, over the loss of his wife. Rachel and Rebecca, withdrawn and teary. Rebecca, mascara-free since she was thirteen, wearing frumpy clothes and not caring about her appearance and that was wrong because she should care 'cause she wouldn't be Rebecca if she didn't care. Rachel letting her grades slip and her dream of going to college and leaving the Rez and making something out of herself all slipping through the grief.
Daddy all alone even among family 'cause his better half wasn't there.
"You could, of course, return to your home world… after you've accomplished your mission."
What was the damned mission? Jacob snarled.
"I will debrief you once you've accepted and accommodated yourself to your new world," he paused, letting it all sink in.
"One more thing: Claim you're amnesiac."
Jacob choked on a sob, his fingers found his mom's. He couldn't reach far enough to hug her. So he squeezed her free hand and said a broken "I love you."
The ghost looked pained, as though he understood but it was probably a trick of the light.
In the blink of an eye, Jacob disappeared.
Some part of Sarah, an instinctive maternal part that realized her cub was gone, screamed.
Parallel Alley could be a daunting place for the unaccustomed. For one, the "alley" is actually the size of a small village. It was a place with seemingly no order and stalls competing with establishments lucky enough to have a roof over their heads made of bricks. Prostitutes walked and advertised as though they were luring customers for something as mundane as a new fast food chain. Bartering was done in quick loud voices, voices that elbowed away the stragglers and attempted the same for the competition. Everywhere there were people who looked like they wanted to pull out their wands or the brass knuckles and deal out some damage but for the grace of a stern god. That god's name is Raoul Urquhart.
Pureblood children of Malfoy's ilk would sometimes wander to the forbidden alley full of mudbloods and blood-traitors. They always strutted in, chins held high with the assumption that their parents forbid them from entering to prevent their precious angels – more like malicious little spawn that deserved a good smack every once in a while – from tainting themselves.
Jacob found himself surrounded by snotty and rich looking kids in dresses. As silly as the, admittedly masculine, dresses were, even Jacob's untrained eye could tell that those kids were wearing more money than the entire Rez' residents could ever scrounge up in a year.
"Awww," drawled a rat-faced boy, "Look at the poor ickle mudblood, all alone without his mummy."
"At least he knows to bow to his betters," another boy said.
"Poor baby, his mum doesn't love him enough to care for him."
"I can't believe they let his kind dress like that."
Jacob frowned. He was still kneeling as though he was in pain but there was no blood on him and he didn't feel the injury he was sure he had just a minute ago. Even his sickness was gone, his lungs free to let air enter unobstructed into his body and his head was clear, no longer burning with a high fever. He tried to regain his bearings. One, it looked like he was not in Kansas anymore. Hell, he probably wasn't anywhere near the good ole US of A. He could be wrong, but the posh accents sounded British and really, this was the suckiest way of visiting a foreign country ever. But, the most important fact his brain processed was fact number two, he might not have understood the first insult, but he did get the "his kind" and "betters" parts.
Growing up, Jacob had luckily not encountered any bigot who'd ever made him feel inferior over the color of his skin, his tribe's culture, or for being poor. Those three things were simple facts of life. Sure, it would be nice if he could afford to buy the newest video games that came out every month like Nick Church from Forks. But the fact that Nick could and Jacob couldn't didn't imply that Nick was superior to Jacob, no, it was a simple, if unfair, fact that never destroyed the equal footing both boys shared.
This… Jacob felt his blood boil. He lost his home, the last time he saw his momma she was still bleeding and he didn't know if the man kept his word, and now these racist idiots wanted a piece of him?
In Parallel Alley, Irwin McNair found out that he could still sing soprano.
Jacob took advantage of the boys' shock to slug one in the nose and tackled the one that made a crack about his mom.
Jacob felt someone try to shove him off the boy but he didn't care. He elbowed the boy as hard as he could, feeling something, maybe the jaw or a tooth, cracking under his joint with satisfaction. He kicked out and managed to hit someone and crouched in preparation for another tackle. He snorted when he noticed that already three of the five boys were down, the pathetic little pansy-assed bastards.
Jacob grinned a feral smirk, enjoying the taste of fear he smelt from the twerps.
"Y-y-you, what did you do?" the boy with the deceptively wholesome good looks was ready to flee, "My father will hear of this! You mark my words, he will make sure filth like you won't pollute our good society."
"Like yer racist daddy would've "allowed" that anyway."
Jacob and the boys snapped their heads to the figure reclining on the wall. Slicked back hair left a boyish face free to scowl and glare without obstruction. Jacob blinked when he noticed the new guy wearing worn jeans and a green shirt, the most normal wardrobe he'd seen since he got here. The boy looked to be Jacob's age but his scowl made him look older, menacing.
The new guy left his perch and prowled towards the rich boys, looking like he'd take any excuse to gladly snap their necks and throw their rotting corpses to the lake.
The Ritchie Rich posse sat there frozen, all of a sudden their brains working overtime to tell their idiot vassals that this was a bad idea.
"It takes ten seconds to get out of this alley," the new guy said, "But, since roaches are supposed to be fast anyway, I'm giving you five."
"What did you call us?" the boy Jacob secretly dubbed as Dumbass said.
"Do you know what we are mudblood?"
"Who do you think you are?"
"Look what your friend did!"
"My father will—"
Dumbass never got to finish. A jean clad leg rose up and kicked the robed idiot's stomach. Green Shirt got out of his sidekick stance to roundhouse the last guy standing when he tried to flee. Then Green Shirt grabbed the coward and smashed his head on the concrete at least five times. Jacob snapped into action and smashed his foot on the rising bully. Any idiot who talked shit about someone's mom deserved worse than a kick in the nadgers.
Green Shirt broke another guy's nose and had another bully down for the count by hitting his ear. His uppercut sent another of the Ritchie Rich brigade flying and falling over one of his buddies. Jacob was about to shout a warning when a coward tried to sneak up behind his savior, but Green Shirt never lost momentum. He turned the robe inside out, blinding and constricting the bully, before he then kicked his stomach and smashed his palm to the Idiot Prince's spine.
Green Shirt then spun and backhanded an oncoming enemy and grabbed him in a chokehold. He then rushed to a wall, bully and all, and crashed the pureblood's head on the bricks until he saw blood and his enemy was unconscious.
Oh yes, daddy would hear a lot of interesting things alright.
Green Shirt threw his quarry at the purebloods' feet. Jacob released his own prisoner with a punch. The remaining conscious boys huddled together, horror lingering like the most exquisite of aromas.
Green Shirt smirked, "Five." The boys flinched.
"Yer new to this place right? Bet this is the first time your useless trophy wife mommas ever brought you near here, huh. Well, guess what. Ye can strut around all ye want, flaunt about yer great-granddaddies being big so-and-sos, and show off yer money. But ye know what, in this here place, this place yer mommas don't want ye to come, we don't buy yer bullshit. Here, in this place of, what did ye call it? Oh, yeah. Place filled with mudbloods and blood-traitors, right, see, we know the truth about yer kind and we don't pretend to like it. Yer scum, all of ya pureblood fuckers. Yer parasites that suck on people's lives and hard-earned work just because ye deigned ta be born ta rich purebloods. Honestly? I can't wait until yer kind finally inbreeds 'ta extinction. 's the least you worms deserve. Now get the fuck outta here. Insects are not welcome."
One of the idiots looked like he wanted to say something stupid but his much smarter friend slapped a hand over his mouth and dragged him away. Jacob noticed more than one tear slip from swollen eyes. Obviously, Green Shirt had done more than hurt their bodies.
Once the last pureblood left the alley, Green Shirt grabbed Jacob's wrist, "C'mon."
"Muggleborn, right?" he dragged him deeper into the alley amongst the chaos, "Yer pretty young, didja get yer Hogwarts letter and yer folks didn't take it well?"
"Hog-what? What're you talking about?"
Green Shirt narrowed his eyes, "American? Mate, ya might as well've stayed back west. At least there, muggleborns have rights."
"No-I well," Jacob then remembered the ghost's last words. He was wary to trust anything that man said but what else could he do?
"See, I don't remember anything. I mean, I know my name's Jacob Black, but that's all. I don't remember how I got here or even how I got to England or where I live or… anything."
Once his brain finally understood that he was far away from home, dimensions away, Jacob felt his breathing quicken and his eyes moistened. He wasn't crying, 'cause crying's for babies and he was fine he just wanted his momma and—
"Aw, shit," his companion cursed, "Hey, hey, c'mon, I didn't mean ta make ya cry. No, no, don't, aw, dammit, can I knock ya out? Or something? Shit, where's Lucas when ya need'im?"
Nonetheless, Green Shirt patted his back and made something resembling shushing noises. It was the worst comforting Jacob had ever received. The arms were too short and muscular to be his mother's, the innate roughness didn't even allow him to pretend it was his manly but gentle father. The twins always knew how to comfort him, even when they were bring mean, but that's 'cause they were girls and just knew what to do. Even Quil and Embry weren't as unintentionally insensitive… but he appreciated the human contact, needing an anchor to these unfamiliar, intimidating waters. It took him a while but eventually his breathing calmed. Survival instincts kicked in, shoving away his despair and telling him to use his energy for something useful, like finding food, water, shelter, and protection.
"Ok, see, yer all better now. C'mon, I'll take ya ta the geezer. If anyone can figure this out is him. 'K? Maybe some asshole misdirected an Obliviate and sent ye here ta hide the evidence."
Jacob didn't say anything, he let himself be lead to what looked like an old fashioned bar. The sign was worn with age but clean and clear, The Jackal's Claw spelled out in black print over oak.
"By the way," said his companion, "My name's Eliza. Eliza Carpenter."
"Um," Jacob wondered how to word this without offending his new friend, "I thought Eliza was a girl's name."
Eliza smirked, "It is."
Jacob stared. No matter how he looked at her, he couldn't find anything that was even remotely girly.
"Just don't let anyone outside the alley know," Eliza playfully tapped her lips in the shush gesture and opened the door, "Oi, old man! We got another stray here."
Raoul didn't look up from polishing a glass, "What else is new?" He made a mental note to prepare for another stuffy trophy wife coming in to "complain" about her brat(s) getting their arses handed right back at them. They tended to do that when there was blood on little Eliza's knuckles.
If those hussies actually deigned to teach their kids something resembling manners, courtesy and discipline, his kids wouldn't need to teach it to them the hard way.
Eliza and Jacob sat down in front of the bar and received two glasses of milk with a touch of vanilla extract. "Jacob doesn't remember nothing but his name and he's American."
"Anything, Eliza. Doesn't remember anything," Raoul pinched the bridge of his nose and mumbled something about irresponsible adults. "Can you remember your last name, son?"
Jacob nodded, "It's Black, sir. Jacob Black."
"Black?" Raoul asked. Sure, it was a common enough muggle name but all the same. "Any idea about your parents' names?"
Jacob looked down, sad. He was glad that he found an adult who was willing to help but if the ghost was telling the truth, and so far it looked like he was in another world altogether, then even if this kind man helped him, nothing would yield from his search.
Raoul was about to retract his insensitive question when Jacob said, "Billy. My dad's name is Billy. Mom's name is Sarah."
It was only years of experience that let Raoul keep his poker face. Billy Black? Not Regulus "Billy is my not-so-clever transparent undercover name" Black. Now that he look at the child, Jacob did have the subtly delicate features of the Black family, features that made handsome boys look aristocratic even on a bad facial day. He also looked like a kicked puppy, much like Regulus did when he sought his brother's attention but didn't receive it.
And who knew what happened to the younger Black heir all those years ago? Walburga Black had claimed until she was blue in the face that he had died a true Death Eater, fighting for pureblood supremacy until his last breath. Raoul had always thought it was a case of the lady doth protest too much and now he knew why. Not only had Regulus abandoned ship, he'd eloped with an American, maybe a muggleborn or someone close to the Muggle World, and had this little ankle-biter. No wonder the old battle-axe had taken this secret with her to the grave.
Good thing that bitch was already dead. Raoul would have hated to have to go through the trouble of breaking in to Grimmauld Place just to make sure that foul woman couldn't get her poisonous claws on her innocent grandson.
He stared at the kid. Yeah, amnesia his ass. Parents probably told him to lie and find someplace to stay. Jacob's clothes didn't look like something that came out of a designer brand priced store but they weren't rags either. His skin had a healthy glow and his body was scrawny only from age, nothing nefarious. Clearly Jacob was used to eating three meals a day. He didn't have the jumpiness of a street kid, the paranoia that someone was going to hurt him if he let his guard down. His scrapes and bruises, not counting the resent ones he'd acquired from another set of bigoted children, were from roughhousing and the typical childhood accidents kids got when they wanted to test gravity and trees. He also trusted adults to take care of things. Everything about the kid spoke of a healthy, maybe even loving, home life.
Something must've happened to the parents. Considering who his father probably was, Raoul wasn't surprised.
Raoul sighed. When he promised himself he'd make a great life for himself, come what may, he never imagined something like this mess falling to his lap.
"Something curious has happened to our new champions' dimension, Salazar," Helga said.
Salazar tensed, "Oh?"
"Yes," Helga nodded, "One Isabella Swan's life force has lowered drastically. Poor dear won't live past her sixteenth birthday. Her mother will perish soon after as well."
"You don't say."
"Curiously enough, they are descendants of that Count you sent through the Veil."
Salazar kept silent.
"The Count that tortured the location of some safe havens out of muggleborn children and then set raids… pillaging, raping, and killing even more of ours in his wake."
"Jasper is a fine lad, Helga. You made the right call," Salazar said, "But someone needs to champion muggleborn rights exclusively or our world will never progress."
"True, but remember, Jasper might have the body of a little boy but he's really a man. Jacob is an actual little boy."
"As is Harry."
Helga nodded sadly.
"I might have been right about our safety," Salazar said, "I might have been right but my actions have brought more problems than solutions."
"No parent should ever have to bury a child, much less three and pieces of them at that."
They sat in companionable silence. Rowena and Godric had the good sense to let Helga lead the conversation instead of bulldozing into it as the eagle and the lion were wont to do.
"It's wrong of me," she said, "But I'm glad that foul bloodline will finally come to an end."
"He killed yours too, Helga. It means you're not a monster."
Helga smiled, "Don't forget. You need to debrief Jacob soon."
Salazar smirked, "Oh, I don't know. The boy's doing fine on his own. I never fooled others into thinking I'm the last heir of another world's wealthy family… by accident at that."
The school year went by so quickly that before the poor students knew it, it was exam time. Jasper walked around like a man prepared for the gallows. Not so much because he was nervous, no, his were a cakewalk to his adult mind, but every other kid and teen in the damned castle was convinced that if they failed their exams, they might as well forfeit their lives. Jasper hated exams. He didn't think he'd ever find something more nerve-wracking than Valentine's Day but he was, unfortunately, proven wrong.
It got to the point where he was glued to Cynthia and Morag's side. Their determination and insouciant attitude were a welcome distraction from the incessant terror. You'd think these kids were going to war or something.
Of course, the regular exams were nothing compared to the abject horror that Snape's induced. Even Cynthia was shaking in her pumps at the sight of the parchment. Morag remained as disinterested as ever, as though she were watching the exams happening to others instead of participating herself. Neville Longbottom had caused not one but three explosions during exam. One from his own potion, the other two from its residue flying into Pansy Parkinson and Vincent Crabbe's individual potions.
Naturally, Longbottom received a very sound Troll for his efforts. On the bright side, Parkinson and Crabbe had to retake the practical exam later, alone and with Snape giving them his full attention. Without Bulstrode and Malfoy fixing their mistakes, it was doubtful those two would get away with even a Dreadful.
Snape might play favorites but even his selective eye wasn't that blind.
Jasper wondered, if only for a moment, if Neville had staged the event on purpose.
Finally, Friday came not too soon and the Slytherin first years finished their last exam of the school year. Now if only some kids would stop fretting over their pending grades, Jasper would feel great.
Harry tapped his shoulder, "Now."
Jasper raised an eyebrow, "Now?"
Daphne nodded, "The profs are going to be busy grading. Now's the best time."
"For the record, I think this is insane and my arm is twisted," Blaise said.
"Of course," Morag said, "More time for me to examine the Stone."
"Lemme get the gold first, then it's all yours," Cynthia said.
Daphne was carrying what had to be her own body weight in lead and Dymphana. Blaise carried the rest in a feather-light, shrinkable trunk affectionately nicknamed "The Black Hole" by Cynthia and Harry.
Of course, when they opened the door to third floor corridor, they Slytherins got the shock of their lives seeing Fluffy napping at the sound of the conjured harp.
Jasper snarled when he scented Quirell in the room. That dirty little—
"Come on," Morag snarled, "If we hurry we can get the Stone before the thief."
Blaise, taken aback from Morag's uncharacteristic wrath, still felt the need to point out, "We are thieves."
"For Cynthia and Jasper's Justice and my Research. It's justified."
Daphne cancelled the harp's magic and cooed at the awakening Fluffy. "Fluffy-wuffy, when the bad man that got past you gets out, can you hold him still? You can eat him if you want."
Fluffy purred and playfully butted her hand.
Jasper choked a laugh. Harry looked down at the endless fall they would have to take. He took out his wand and shouted, "Lumos Maximus." Inhuman shrieks caught their ears. Blaise quickly cast a stasis charm, keeping the light from extinguishing. Spirits, Harry loved charms.
"I'll jump first," Jasper said, "I'll catch you and we'll continue."
With Quirell plotting, Jasper didn't want to take any chances. Not that it would stop his friends from following him, but at least this way he'll be there to protect his kids.
"You sure?" Cynthia asked.
"He does have a stronger musculature than Blaise and Harry," Morag said, "Although it's debatable whether he has more brute strength than Daphne."
"Thanks!" Daphne beamed.
Dymphana snorted and jumped down. Daphne shrieked and followed her with Jasper jumping after her. He needn't have bothered. Daphne curled up into herself and rolled, landing in a crouch without even a single scratch. Jasper's inner child bristled. He hadn't been that sturdy as a child. Daphne was not human! He was sure of it.
Jasper heard Harry shout that he was coming in and caught his friend before he impacted on the ground. Like Daphne, Harry had been prepared to take the fall and roll with it. Jasper set him down and prepared for Morag. Then came Cynthia who, aside from having the wind knocked out of her from the impact between her body and Jasper's arms, was flushed with excitement. The Devil's Snare kept shrieking and didn't dare come near the kids. It took some coaxing but Blaise finally swallowed his apprehension and jumped down… Alright, it was more a case of Fluffy pushing him down the hole with his snout, but let's allow our favorite Zabini keep his pride, shall we?
Blaise glared at Jasper's smirk. The blond didn't say anything, just followed the rest to the next room.
The room was filled to the brim with mechanical buzzing sounds that came from metallic birds. Upon closer inspection, they weren't birds at all but keys with wings. There were six brooms in the middle of the room. Jasper didn't believe in coincidences. The Headmaster was an even bigger manipulative bastard than he gave him credit for. The vampire could admit, he too had played similar games with some of his soldiers when they needed motivation or they doubted the cause, but those had been grown men (at least of their era) who had willingly signed up to fight. Harry, Blaise, Morag, Daphne, and Cynthia were just little kids.
As he aged, there were some things Jasper found unforgivable. Involving children in conflicts they had no business being involved in was one of them.
"… what we need is an old-fashioned key," Cynthia said. "Do you see it?"
Jasper saw the key with the broken wing at the same time as Harry spotted it. Harry went for the brooms but Jasper stopped him, "Wait. The brooms might be enchanted. If we grab 'em, the key'll act like a snitch. We can't afford to waste time."
"What do you propose we do? Summon it?" Harry said.
"I knew we should have studied that charm," Morag grumbled.
Daphne raised her arm, elbow at the same height as her shoulder. Dymphana hopped on her arm, used it as a springboard, and snatched the slow key midair. She spat the key at her mistress' feet and groomed herself with a superior tilt to her chin.
"That works too," Cynthia said as she opened the door.
Harry groaned at the sight of the giant-sized chessboard and its players with the too pointy weapons.
"Even a blitz game will last ten minutes," Morag said, "That's too long if you take into account the time it would take an adult to finish the challenges. By the time we finish playing, the thief will be long gone."
Cynthia huffed, made quick eye contact with Harry before she pointed her wand at him, "Wingardium Leviosa."
With smooth control, Harry landed behind the white pieces without the statues going for their weapons.
Blaise gaped at Cynthia, who shrugged, "What? It's common sense!"
Between them, the sextet levitated each other until they were all on the other side of the room. Dymphana snorted at her silly humans and vampire and strutted the distance without a single sword being drawn. Jasper hated that damned feline.
Blaise opened the door and slowly stuck his head out, dreading the next challenge.
There was a fallen troll with a bloody club a few feet away from it in the room.
Blaise quickly bound the troll with all the restricting spells he knew. Jasper grabbed him and dragged him along with the rest away from the danger zone.
They all gasped at the frozen fire that passed through them until they entered a small room with a table full of vials and a strip of parchment. Harry held it up so everyone could read it.
Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, which ever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting bidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine's left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onward, neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.
Morag grabbed the smallest bottle that was hiding behind the burgundy square one that contained nettle wine. "This one will take us forward and," she grabbed the medium sized purple bottle that had triple the amount of liquid as its opposite, "this one will take us back."
They all stared at her incredulously. Huh?
"It's an easy process of elimination," Morag said, "Frankly, I'm disappointed in the Professor. I was hoping he'd be more of a challenge."
Cynthia poked her in the cheek, "She's so lifelike."
Jasper looked at the meager portion the small bottle contained and frowned. At least this way he could confront Quirell without worrying about his friends but, "Morag, which ones have poison?"
"The rest of the round ones."
Harry grabbed one, gave the second to Morag and the third to Blaise.
Jasper tore two strips from his shirt, uncorked the square bottles, and stuffed the long pieces of cloth into their openings. He handed them to Daphne and Cynthia, "In case the thief comes near you."
"You want us to Molotov cocktail him!" Cynthia cried.
"That troll wasn't unconscious, it was dead. Whoever this guy is, he means business."
Harry grabbed the small bottle and uncorked it, "You guys stay here or go back. I'll get the Stone."
"What are you—"
"Don't do anything stupid, Potter!"
Harry didn't feel Jasper grabbing him while drank the potion but he did feel his friend hiss the closer they came to the black fire. Harry made a split second decision and crushed his lips to Jasper's, giving him some of the potion he hadn't swallowed.
Their friends' cries muffled the closer they got to the new room until there was nothing but silence.
The oval room was golden, not a gaudy golden but a softly elegant tone helped by the airy feel of the place and the columns near the walls. Harry and Jasper didn't take much stock of the lovely scenery. There, at the center of the room, was the same mirror that had shown Harry his parents and Jasper his dead family. Quirell was in front of that mirror and, what was worse, had been expecting them. Jasper snarled and got in front of Harry.
Even a non-empath could tell the man with the cold eyes was up to no good. The outright killing intent leaking from his every pore made Jasper bare his elongated fangs. Harry had been coiled up and ready to fight the second he recklessly decided to take the potion.
"Harry Potter… we've been expecting you," Quirell's eyes narrowed when they found Jasper's face, "But the mudblood is a surprise."
Jasper squeezed Harry's wrist to keep the boy from lunging the rogue professor.
Harry twitched the closer he came to the professor, his scar hurt something fierce and he didn't see the Stone anywhere. He used his voluminous school robes to hide his hands clenching on the poison's stopper, ready to uncork it at a moment's notice. Jasper approved of the action thoroughly.
"Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that you came here to stop me," Quirell said, all the while not even a hint of a stutter came out of his vocal cords.
The Weasley twins owed Blaise twenty galleons.
Whip fast, Quirell cast a Bombarda in the boys' general direction. Harry ducked out of the way and Jasper dodged in the opposite direction. The residue of the bullet wind hex made them momentarily lose their balance. Ropes captured Jasper even as he straightened himself out. He screeched in pain as the ropes turned into a bluebell fire, harmful and paralyzing but not lethal.
Harry whipped his wand at Quirell but the turbaned man smirked, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Potter. It would only take a flick of my wrist and the mudblood loses his hands and feet." He paused dramatically. Harry clenched his teeth even as his hidden hand opened the stopper with his thumb. "Or should I say bloodsucker. Come now, Potter, don't be so surprised. I played an incompetent idiot, I'm not one."
For the first time in his life, Harry wanted with every fibber of his being to murder someone.
"What do you want," Harry stated, keeping one firm eye on Jasper and another on Quirell's hands.
"Use the boy."
Under other circumstances, Harry would've jumped. He didn't. His stone cold eyes never wavered from their scouting points.
Quirell's wand was pointing at Harry, "You heard my master, brat. Come. Tell me what you see in the mirror."
Fool. Now that he wasn't pointing at Jasper, Harry felt a little more secure in his next move.
Jasper hissed, his fangs leaking venom. He forced himself to calm down. The worst thing he could do right now was lose his cool. As much as it grated him to be the hostage when he was supposed to be the protector, Jasper didn't dwell on what ifs and instead focused on what he could do.
He pumped at Quirell's arrogance – no, not just his, that other soul's as well. He elevated it, slowly, counting the rising tide to Harry's steps until the vile man was drowning in his own sense of superiority and control he didn't notice he was blind to important small details.
He was a wreck over Harry's renewed confidence and wrath, but he left it alone. Keeping Quirell and the other creature supercilious to the point of stupidity was taking all of his control. He couldn't slip, it could mean Harry's life.
Yeah, that's it bastard. You're the stronger one, you're in control. What can a little kid do to you? Come on, let your guard down. That's it, good boy.
Harry looked into the mirror that had showed him his family. True to its powers, it didn't show his mum's bright smile or his dad's soft eyes. Right now, Harry's deepest desire was to see himself standing over the dead bastard and Jasper safe.
Harry's mirror self looked up from the mutilated carcass. He smirked at his real self, reached for his pocket and took out a deep red ruby. Only it was no ordinary ruby he was holding, it was the Stone! Mirror Harry winked and put the Stone back in his pocket. The real Harry felt an added weight in his own pocket.
"I see myself killing you," Harry splashed Quirell's face with the poison, some of it entering his mouth.
Quirell shrieked and the deep resonant voice from before was screaming at him to kill the boy.
Harry ran behind the mirror and pushed at it with all his might. The mirror, magical or not, still obeyed the laws of gravity and fell on Quirell.
Harry didn't check to see if he was dead. He ran towards Jasper and shouted, "Finite Incantatem!"
The ropes and the flames vanished. Jasper stumbled forward and barked, "Duck!"
Harry didn't ask questions. A sharp red light flew over his head and buzzed by Jasper when he dodged it.
Quirell was a broken, bleeding mess. His turban fell to the ground in a frumpy smudge of purple silk, revealing a grotesque head sticking out of the back of Quirell's skull.
Harry would've gagged if he wasn't feeling homicidal.
The face grimaced what could've passed for a smile with too may teeth to be friendly, "Harry Potter, we meet again."
"I'd ask who you are if I cared," Harry snarled. He felt tranquil in a way that had nothing at all to do with Jasper.
Quirell shuddered. Those green eyes all of a sudden resembled the one unconquerable curse that hadn't worked on the boy.
"Do you know who I am, impertinent brat! I am Lord Voldemort."
Jasper would have snorted if he wasn't too busy keeping the two-faced man on a hubris high. Harry's anger spiked, however, to a level that was nearing killing intent. Jasper growled. No way was this monster going to push Harry to kill. Jasper would slaughter him before that happened.
"See what I have become?" Voldemort said. "Mere shadow and vapour … I have form only when I can share another's body ... but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds … Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks … and when I have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own—"
"Sorry," Harry smiled, the pointy grin reminded everyone a little too uncomfortably of Goblins, "But that won't happen. See, in order for the Stone to work, you need a body to manipulate it. No body, no working Stone, no new body."
"Eleven years old and you're already attempting murder?" Voldemort said, amused, "Slytherin has done wonders if even Dumbledore's Golden Boy can forget about his morals."
"Not Slytherin. You."
Jasper tensed from his spot near Quirell. As Harry said, without a body, Voldemort was no threat. He'd been moving closer to Quirell surreptitiously ever since Voldemort started talking. Voldemort had eyes only for Harry. Quirell was hanging on to life by a thread, his senses dulled with pain, the poison slowly killing him.
Apparently, Snape was a sadistic bastard who enjoyed the thought of thieves dying slow and agonizing deaths.
"You shouldn't have touched a hair on Jasper's head," Harry said. "In fact, this is your last warning. Stay away from my friends."
"And if I don't?"
Voldemort's bellow spurred Quirell into casting a shield but it was not fast enough to keep Jasper out. They'd forgotten all about the vampire he was so quiet. Their arrogance in thinking they could handle two little boys, albeit one a vampire and the other a miracle baby, had been their downfall.
Jasper pounced on Quirell and sank his fangs on his neck, moaning as fresh if tainted human blood filled his lips for the first time in too long. Quirell's shield evaporated and Harry shut Voldemort up by smashing the bottle with some lingering poison in his face. Glass dug into Harry's hand at the impact even as Voldemort's only physical manifestation received more damage. Jasper smelt Harry's blood and concentrated solely on draining Quirell.
Quirell's body began spasming. His jerky writhing different from the weak bucks intended to dislodge Jasper. It was erratic, like the nerves were reacting to stimulus with no mental command behind it. He was dying.
Black smoke sprang from Quirell's bald head, briefly turning its huge head in Harry's direction only for a stunner to dispel it. It returned into one unit and flew through the ceiling.
Cynthia wasn't ashamed to admit that she had retched when Harry and Jasper carried a dead Quirell from the other side of the black fire. Daphne's skin took a peaky green tinge. Morag, while not as sickened by the corpse as she should be, was still morbidly fascinated at how fast the body was decomposing, almost as though it had been dead for a long time instead of freshly slayed. None of them missed the parallel puncture marks on their former professor's neck or the blood on Jasper's lips.
Harry was still coming out of his rage, the stench of death and socially ingrained guilt overriding adrenaline and the primal need to survive. Jasper was trying to calm everyone down, delaying panic attacks as it sunk in that murder had no statute of limitations.
It was Blaise who took charge. Cadavers were nothing new to him. As much as his mother had tried to shield him from her profession, he had been exposed to the basics of husband slaying. He'd gotten involved when one of his bastard step-fathers had, when the wards to his old room gotten rusty, tried to kill Blaise in order to have a child with Ilaria that will inherit everything and then leave him free to dispose of the Black Widow. Needless to say, Ilaria Zabini had not been amused. Although the wards had been old, Ilaria never trusted any of her targets with her son, always keeping him at rooms' distance from them and shielded. As soon as the son-of-a-camel opened eight-year-old Blaise's room, Ilaria's personal alarms went off and she promptly slaughtered her mark.
It had been an unplanned murder. No prearranged setting to make the death look accidental. That had been Ilaria Zabini's first and, hopefully last, passionate murder.
Blaise remembered seeing his mother work although she had not let him participate. He was glad for that childhood scare. It would serve him well now.
Blaise took Cynthia and Daphne's bottles of wine and took out the cloths from the necks. He poured the alcohol over the corpse until it was drenched in it.
Jasper saw this and nodded, "'ve set the other room on fire." He took his cue from Blaise and opened the bottle that contained the potion that would let them go back. He gave it to Morag first, the least shocked out of all of them, and she gulped it down and force fed it to Daphne next. Cynthia and Harry took enough so that Jasper and Blaise wouldn't be stuck in here. Jasper drank his fill and Blaise took the last swing.
They all got to the left side of the room, right where the purple fire was. All were ready to run to the other side. On Jasper's signal, Blaise flicked his wand, "Incendio!"
The Slytherins never saw the body burn as they were too busy running.
They got to the other side, Dymphana waiting for her mistress and her friends with a bored look on her face.
They were all quiet.
Harry twitched his injured hand, "I hope I didn't accidentally poison myself."
The rest sucked in alarmed breaths.
Morag turned to Jasper, "I don't suppose you can simply suck out the venom instead of the blood?"
Jasper could've kissed her.
To say that the half hour before the professors stormed into the invaded cellar was stressful would be akin to saying Voldemort was a bad man. For Jasper, everything was a blur as he painstakingly took out every shard of glass in Harry's left hand and then sucked out the remaining micro pieces of glass and the, thankfully, negligible amount of venom underneath his skin. It was a struggle to keep his fangs to himself but, being already full from feasting on that degenerate, he'd forced himself to pull away even when he'd swallowed small drops of blood that came with the venom.
Morag and Cynthia hadn't wasted any time as they used the Stone for its intended purpose. Gold after gold of different sizes entered The Black Hole as soon as the Stone changed the lead's genetic makeup. Every once in a while, Morag would pause to study the Stone, only for Cynthia to smack her and order her to keep going until they ran out of lead. Daphne, to their surprise, was skinning the dead troll. Apparently troll-hide, while not as valuable as dragon-hide, made for a pretty penny what with its great resistance to most mild magical attacks. She was methodically separating pieces away by size and placing them in plastic bags Blaise had places inside The Black Hole just in case.
While his friends were busy, Blaise was formulating a plan of action. They could all deal with expulsion: it might be for the best for Cynthia and Jasper or maybe they could go to either Salem or Beauxbatons, Daphne could also go to those two institutions since their rivalry with Hogwarts might help her application, only an idiot would turn away the Boy-Who-Lived, and Morag and himself had greater options thanks to their respective parental units and their influence. No, the problem wasn't expulsion. The bloody problem was if they were taken to court for killing their professor. Sure, Blaise, Cynthia, Daphne, and Morag hadn't been in the room, but they had helped Jasper and Harry get this far. Plus, if anyone else had gone through the fire, they would still have had to kill the madman. That made them all accomplices.
When the girls saw him rationalizing himself into a frenzy, they ordered him and Harry and Jasper to help out with the gold. Daphne joined them once she finished with the troll. She quickly set it on fire and then cleaned herself until even the stink of troll was out of her skin. Together, they managed to change all the lead into gold in record time.
Just in time for Dymphana to bite onto the Stone as soon as the last bar was in The Black Hole and run through the open door.
Jasper hissed. He hated that damned cat!
Daphne cried out and ran off behind her Fan-Fan with an enraged Morag and a panicked Blaise at her heels. Harry, still a bit woozy, nonetheless made a dash behind them with Jasper close-by in case he collapsed. Cynthia pocketed The Black Hole and ran at a slower pace.
The first years skidded to a halt when they reached the giant chess board with a game being played. It wasn't the game itself that shocked them, it was the players. Dumbledore was the Black King, a fitting role for the Light Side's Shadow King. McGonagall was the Left Rook. Sprout was the Right Tower. Flitwick was the Left Knight. Snape, in a telling move, was the Black Queen.
Dumbledore beamed at them, "Ah! My dear children. If you wouldn't mind waiting a few minutes? I do believe I only need two more moves for a checkmate."
He only needed the one.
Jasper had to, once again, eat his words in regards to the blasted feline.
The professors would have a hard time believing that the students had even thought about taking advantage of the Stone's properties if they had been too busy A) running away from Quirell and B) chasing after the stupid cat who decided the most important artifact in Alchemical history was her new chew toy.
"So, Miss Dymphana," said Dumbledore, giving the kneazle the proper respect he would give any other bipedal homosapien, "Then took the fallen Stone from the floor and then ran off with it. Professor Quirell tried to follow her but Messrs Potter and Whitlock distracted him long enough for Miss Dymphana to get to the other side of the fire, whereupon she was fed the potion to leave the Potions Challenge, is that right?"
Harry kept a blank face, nothing, not even his eyes, gave away a hint of emotion. He merely nodded in response while his friends chorused with yeses. As soon as his hand was clean of any toxins and bandaged, he had been the first one to be called upon to give his testimony and promptly omitted their real intentions towards the Stone – he gave a great cock and bull about how they all had gone to visit Fluffy and then, upon finding her asleep, tried to chase after the thief at Hogwarts. He briefly mentioned about the parasite known as Voldemort but forgot anything to do with Jasper's particular diet and why that was pertinent to the report.
Snape was no fool.
"And then, Mr. Potter?" he drawled, "What other illegal heroics did you perform?"
"If by illegal you mean roughing up the man that was trying to kill us, yes we did," Jasper said. He received the glare with grace. Snape was good, but he was trying to intimidate a little boy he hated out of association to his former rival's son. Epic. Fail.
"What do you mean by roughing up?" McGonagall asked, making a mental note to tease and then scold Severus for alienating his own snakes to the point that they disrespected him. For all that he claimed James was a bully, Severus was surpassing him.
"He wasn't expecting a bottle to the face," said Harry. Just not which bottle.
"So he wasn't," Dumbledore knew he was only getting a grain of the truth but he let it slide. He could read the mistrust in Harry and Jasper's eyes as well as the fear in all of the children's eyes. They'd had to kill Quirell to survive and now they were afraid of repercussions.
That was why when it looked like Severus was going to tighten up the interrogation, he received a blue reproachful glare. After all, considering some of the things he did, without being forced into a corner, the man had no room to throw stones.
"And then?" Filius encouraged.
"And then Harry and Jasper rushed through the fire, we gave them the antidote and we ran like the Kwn Awn were at our tails," Blaise finished. Had he been anyone but the son of the Black Widow, the Professors would have believed him. Unfortunately, his dishonest face was exactly like his mother's and so the experienced Order members recognized it before he opened his mouth.
"So he set himself on fire?" Snape said sarcastically. His cold black eyes distracted others from Dumbledore using Legilimency on Harry. The old man got as far as Harry splashing the poison in Quirell's face before Jasper subtly stepped in front of his best friend and grinned with his open teeth.
Dumbledore nodded, making it look as though he was processing what Blaise was saying. He got the message.
Meanwhile, "Fanatics," Blaise shrugged, "Who knows what they're willing to do?"
"Professors," Morag said, "You do have to admit, the fact that the person previously known as Quirell was waiting for Harry down there is quite alarming. Irregardless if the entity he was hosting was Voldemort, it still tried to kill us and was among us all year. Likewise, Harry always got migraines everytime that man was within vicinity. He even gave himself away during the first Quidditch match. Quite the security leak, wouldn't you say?"
At this, the professors felt their hackles raise at the offensive, especially one coming from the favorite daughter of a very influential man.
"Aren't Hogwarts' wards supposed to be the best in the country. What happened?" Cynthia frowned.
"Oh, spirits, imagine what would have happened had he asked one of us to stay behind after classes?" Daphne gasped. It was a bit over the top, but it did its job. The professors all started shifting uncomfortably. Even Snape winced at the thought. It might have been for the brat's training and to figure out what the Dark Lord was up to, but it had still been a dangerous gambit to let that man near the students.
"Great. Does that mean more psychos are going to try to kill me?" Harry groaned, "What do I have to do, leave the country?"
At that, Albus Dumbledore froze. Even Snape stiffened at the political ramifications of the Boy-Who-Lived essentially telling the world he felt unsafe in British soil.
"Don't worry, Harry," Jasper patted his back, "If all else fails, we can transfer to Salem. I hear they also added a complete muggle education into the curriculum."
"You're just saying that because you want your turn at playing host," Blaise teased.
"So?" Cynthia said, "At least if I go there, I won't have to worry about being stuck in Parallel Alley with no prospects elsewhere."
"It is notoriously hard to get a working visa for muggleborns," Morag said, "Especially considering how many of them try to leave here for good."
Pomona Sprout had her hands interlaced in front of her mouth to hide her smirk. Filius Flitwick didn't bother to hide his "I told you so" frown. The other three were very uncomfortable with this conversation.
"Humans hosting spirits are very rare," the Herbology Professor said, "As you said, only an extreme fanatic would go through such a contract. As the interrogation is now over," she gave the Potions Master and her boss a very pointed look, "You should know that once a spirit ceases to possess its host, the host's body starts to die."
"The organs fail, the blood stops circulating, the—"
"They get the point, Severus," Flitwick said. The children must have gotten a good look at Quirell before they ran, at most Severus received a flinch or two from Greengrass and Moon. But it was a knowing flinch rather than a horrified one. Glancing at his colleague, Filius was willing to bet an entire year's worth of salary that Severus had said that to verify his suspicions.
"So it wouldn't be out of the norm for Quirell to kill himself rather than suffer a slow death," Jasper said.
McGonagall's lips tightened. Snape scowled. Dumbledore lost the twinkle in his eye.
Flitwick and Sprout just nodded. Had they been anything but Slytherins, Dumbledore would've let them off without even a slap to the wrist. After all, he wasn't hypocritical enough to punish children for falling to his machinations. It was not just the color of their ties, though, it was the unrepentant, unbending, self-preserving attitudes that made the old Headmaster feel the slight pangs of uneasiness. Minerva had disproved of the plan from the start and now that she was seeing the undesired fruit, Albus was most definitely going to hear a lot more opposition from his right hand woman.
Funny thing is, had this group been his godson's, Snape would've defended them with the ferocity of a mama bear. Heck, had none of them even had any sort of biological connection to the Potter family, Severus would've still protected his snakes out of sheer principle.
Had it not been unprofessional to so in front of students, Pomona would've slammed her fist over her idiot colleague's greasy head. Didn't the moron notice Harry's eyes growing distrustful and distant every second that passed? Didn't he notice the other children's?
No. They already were wary of him even before they entered the Headmaster's office.
Severus sneered at the Potter boy but inwardly shuddered when that green gaze, chilled with indifference, writing him off from the boy's mind. He might have looked like the bastard, but it was difficult to withstand his mother's eyes staring at him in contempt, finding him unworthy, Lily finding him unworthy.
He barely heard the rest of what was said. Pomona and Filius escorting the children out while Albus took the Stone and Minerva berated him. They were Lily's eyes only by color but the way they calculated someone, an adult someone's, worth all of a sudden reminded him of eyes he once found in the mirror. By the time he figured it out, Lily's boy wanted nothing to do with him.
Albus stared at Raoul as though he was the one who'd gone senile. Raoul stared him down.
"Raoul, I know you are aware that Jasper Whitlock drained Quirinus Quirell dry."
Raoul smirked, "At least this way the rubbish will know to behave."
"They used the Stone."
"Aren't they a little young for a midlife crisis?"
"Not for that, they used it to turn what had to be 100 tons of lead into gold."
Raoul barked a laugh, "Well, at least those kids know what's really important."
"Even so, wouldn't it be better if he had adult—"
"Harry wouldn't trust an adult, much less one employed by you after that stunt you pulled. And with good reason at that."
Albus sighed, "And if young Mister Whitlock decides that the Dursleys are a danger to Harry and takes matters to his own hands? He's a child, he doesn't know that even when punishing someone there are limits."
"Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say," Raoul said, "Besides, your Silver Boy isn't so innocent either. He didn't exactly follow the 79 rules of safe and sportsmanship dueling when his best friend was at wand point."
It unleashed the killer within the boy.
Both men felt the tension of those unsaid words. Albus felt every bit of his years. If Voldemort had not kept the body alive, the mirror would've only ended his host's suffering sooner. Spirits what had he done? What had Slytherin turned him into?
"Even if he had been in Gryffindor or even in Hufflepuff, that boy would've still done his damndest to do the bastard in," Raoul said, "After all, his first friend was in danger, from an adult at that, the common monster that caused Harry's suffering. Trust me, the kid would've murdered anyone who tried that shit on his friends even before he was sorted into Slytherin."
"Speaking from experience?"
"You didn't answer my question, Raoul. What would you do if it came to that?"
"Oh, come now Albus, don't insult me. You honestly don't think I didn't have some of my lads in the force investigate them."
"Amazing the things you find about a person once you start to dig."
Harry and Jasper pushed their carts over the magical platform. Harry had Jasper's hand in a punishing vice but the blond took it in stride. He knew. He knew how it felt, seeing their friends with their families. Blaise with his happily widowed mother. Cynthia's mother showering her daughter with hugs and kisses while her father smiled. Daphne cooing at her baby sis in between her mothers' bear hug.
It was a bittersweet feeling. Happiness for their friends battling with envy.
Morag had given them an understanding look before she, too, bid their group adieu and went, holding her younger sister's and her father's hands, to find her stepmother and older sister.
It wasn't that Harry and Morag were ashamed of letting their friends know that their family lives were not stellar.
It was an open secret that Madam McDougal hated her husband's children with other women and had trained her own daughter into despising them as well. Blaise, Cynthia, and Daphne had their ow suspicions about Harry's home life and were no doubt planning a way of getting him out.
It wasn't that. Harry and Morag were just ashamed of their own abysmal relatives and would rather not subject their friends to their unwanted presence.
Morag even went out of her way to pretend Isabelle McDougal never existed while at Hogwarts, no matter if the elder wanted to taunt or talk to her. All of a sudden, Isabelle got the urge to bond with her sister when it became obvious she had befriended the Potter heir.
Cynthia wondered how someone like Isabelle ended up in Ravenclaw. Harry wagered that the hat put her there because she was hungry for a particular knowledge, namely the formulaic one found in romance novels, and because there was nowhere else to put her. Daphne didn't care, she wanted to murder Isabelle for squandering her duties as an older sister.
Jasper smiled at where his mind went and sent a small ripple of affection to his friend. Harry's grip lightened even as his face became stony when his eyes found Vernon Dursley. Although it was a Vernon Dursley he wasn't familiar with. This version of the rotund man was sweating bullets, fear touching Harry's nose as he gazed at the man who looked like Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell would be preferable to his current predicament. That pleased Harry immensely.
Hence why the older gentleman with a very unconvincing friendly air and the ominous hand on Dursley's shoulder became Harry's hero.
"And there're the lads," the man's smile became genuine, only to turn demonic when speaking to Dursley, "I trust that, as a non-abusive adult, I can trust these two magical children to your care?"
Dursley looked like he wanted to oppose to that request, and the insinuation, very much but he swallowed his words and whimpered.
"Children are precious, don't you think so? Especially when their under the care of someone who is not family and has a dubious character. Why, I know many a folk who would be watching such a person like a flock of vultures just to make sure nothing happens to the poor lambs."
Dursley paled enough to rival vampires.
The man let go of Dursley, wiped his hand, turned to the boys and gave them a package, "I do hope you have a nice summer, lads. If you need any help purchasing school supplies, go to the Jackal's Claw in Parallel Alley and as for Raoul Urquhart."
With a final cheerful (read: a miasma of rage promising pain and despair) smile at Vernon Dursley, Raoul disappeared to the afternoon crowd at the station.
Coward's courage rising at the man's departure, Vernon was about to order the boy to leave the other freak and get to the car.
He was stopped dead in his tracks when the blond boy's previously blue eyes turned crimson and his open-mouthed leer showed very sharp teeth and elongated canines. Add the pale skin and this aura of death and even Vernon's uninspired mind went back to his childhood nightmares caused by Bela Lugosi's Dracula.
The coup de grace came from Harry, who Vernon, despite stating otherwise, always thought of as meek weak thanks to his and Petunia's efforts. There was nothing remotely meek about Harry's Gorgonian glare.
Harry tapped Jasper's hand and together they walked towards Dursley's company car.
"The 'Puffs have a better team than I thought," Harry said, ignoring the useless man he was unfortunately related to.
"Duh, anyone that's underestimated that much has got to be hiding something," Jasper helped his friend put their collective luggage in the trunk. Thankfully, Daphne had been more than happy to take Hedwig for the summer, provided they called Cynthia (who will then floo the others) at least once a day to let them know they were alright.
So, with Dursley looking like a man who's seen death itself and was no expecting to live long, the boys left King's Cross behind.
Harry, curiosity getting the best of him, opened the package and a bag of floo powder with instructions on how to use it and directions for public fireplaces met his eyes.
Harry grinned at Jasper and rested his head on his best friend's shoulder. Best. Summer. Ever.
So, what do you think? Is it sub-par to the earlier chapters? I'm not all that convinced about the scene with the professors after they got the Stone back... but no matter how I rewrote it or planned it, it still wasn't satisfying. Could you guys give some constructive criticism in regards to this scene?
I was originally planning on Eliza being a sort of Hibari-esque character but then she went and turned into a Yuusuke... must be the YYH roots showing.
Eh well. All's well that ends well.
I wanted this team to get the Stone for their purposes instead of turning into altruistic little champions. Plus, I wanted to start nurturing little Harry's hidden badass. Honestly, I want to start writing him smashing idiots to the cement the second they insult his precious people.
If you'll notice, the only physical characteristics the girls have are Morag's black hair and Cynthia's grey eyes. And yet, you all know what the boys look like (yep, Louis Cordice is just too perfectly Blaise that it's useless to change something that works and gave me wet dreams). However, I didn't want to give the girls attributes that would violently overlap with their Aiji counterparts (even if Morag isn't in the main quartet in that 'verse). Grass' Daphne and Aiji's Daphne are already overlapping in personality... oro. That's why I made Cynthia into a muggleborn instead of an almost squib from a privileged family and even changed her name.
Sooo, what I'm going for is, could you, my dear readers, give me suggestions as to what you think they should look like? Could you also do the same with Eliza and Raoul?
Thanks! I hope you liked this chapter!